Answering a few questions after the Chicago Bulls' 83-81 win Thursday over the Detroit Pistons . . .
Bulls bounce into No. 1 race
Bulls center Ben Wallace made a shot off the top of the backboard in the fourth quarter. Clearly, the new Starbury IIs he was sporting have special powers. Was Chicago destined to win?
What a shot. The look on Rasheed Wallace's face when it went in -- his head kind of drooped down. It's at a point like that you think something else is working here. When teams compete at the highest level, sometimes it's just the bounce of a ball in the end that's the difference. A very entertaining game.
He had 19 boards and six points. There's little about Ben's offensive game in Chicago that's worth TiVoing.
But he couldn't score when he played with the Pistons, either. The real issue is the growth of the rest of the Bulls' team. We don't know how good Chicago is going to be. You have to watch the growth of Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon, the flashes you see from rookie Tyrus Thomas, the development of Luol Deng. That's why you saw how reluctant the Bulls seemed to be to pull the trigger on a deal for Pau Gasol. When you don't know the ceiling on your talent, making a big move is a danger.
An example of this dilemma is a player like Chauncey Billups. He was traded multiple times before it was clear he was a championship-caliber player.
Three years removed from their title together, Ben and 'Sheed seem to be enjoying their rivalry.
There's a bond you build when you go through winning a championship. There's a special bond that exists between Pistons players and Ben. However, the competitive spirit of both to win comes out on the court -- you're not just trying to beat a friend. It's a friendly competition, but still a rivalry nonetheless.
Chicago looks like it could be a No. 5 seed, and possibly face the Pistons in the East semis, right?
From the Bulls' standpoint, a No. 2 or ever No. 1 seed is not out of the realm of possibility. Chicago, now three games behind Detroit, put itself in a better position with this win.
Bulls rookie Tyrus Thomas had his moments, pulling down six boards in 15 minutes, sending home a late alley-oop. How do you see his development?
It's important that he's not so overwhelmed by the game that he forgets what it is he does well. His strength is his athletic ability. He can play to that, being an energy player, getting offensive rebounds, having an impact -- all while developing his skills. This game is not just about the stats. Ben Wallace has made a career of it. Tyrus can too, and he has more offensive potential.
When I look at Detroit, the main concern in the days ahead is the effects of injuries. They're good enough to beat anybody when healthy and right. Will they be healthy enough to secure home court? A three-game lead with a good team is a huge lead, and I don't expect Detroit to lose four in a row.
ESPN analyst Greg Anthony finished his NBA career with the Bulls in 2002. Questions above posed by ESPN.com editor Andrew Ayres.
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When he wasn't leading the Warriors' break, Baron Davis (21 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds, eight turnovers) took a break and cheered on his team's thrilling 124-119 win over the Suns.
A sample of John Hollinger's call on the Top 25 best contracts, from the viewpoint of team ownership . . .
7. Steve Nash, Suns ($10.5 million)
Ben Gordon, an 87 percent free-throw shooter this season, opened the door for the Pistons by missing three consecutive foul shots in the final three minutes of the game. Amazingly, Gordon isn't the best foul shooter to have done so this season. Wally Szczerbiak (.897) missed three straight free throws in the closing minutes of a Celtics victory over the Trail Blazers on New Year's Day.
Bulls clinch playoff berth vs. Pistons
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Warriors guard Jason Richardson takes aim for one of his franchise record eight 3-pointers (in 13 attempts, good for 36 points) in the 124-119 win over Phoenix.
Quote of the Day
-- Andrew Ayres
How did Kevin Willis look in his Thursday audition for the Mavericks?
Two observations from Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson:
"He looked good."
"Body-wise, he still looks like he's in his young 30s."
Willis will complete Part 2 of his audition Friday before the Mavs play host to New York. But the initial signals coming from the team that would appear to need less help than any other team in the league suggest that we should probably get used to the idea of the 44-year-old joining Dallas.
"We came away pretty impressed," Nelson said.
The Mavs insist they're in no rush to make a firm decision on Willis, but they have grown increasingly intent on finding a third center with D.J. Mbenga lost for the season. Dallas doesn't want to be exposed on nights when Erick Dampier and DeSegana Diop find foul trouble.
They began looking at recent retirees after deciding that they didn't like the options available in the D-League, only to find out -- like Chicago -- that Antonio Davis intends to stay retired. Dallas didn't get much further with Brian Grant, either.
Fran Fraschilla and Chad Ford break down NBA prospects in the Final Four. Plus, Fran picks who'll win the title and the tourney's MVP trophy.
John Paxson (Ill.): Will I have the opportunity to draft Roy Hibbert, or will he be gone by the time I make our pick? He would fit in nicely, wouldn't he? Thanks for the inside info!
Chad Ford: He's a good fit for the Bulls. He can score in the paint and is a good passer out of the post. At 7-foot-2, he also will be disruptive defensively. However, he's not a dominant low-post scorer or rebounder, and I don't think he's ready to play right away, so he's not a cure-all for the Bulls. I think most of the guys who would be will be off the board before the Bulls pick.