Skip to content
Bulls look, play like their old selves
There weren't any "Gor-don, Gor-don" chants at the Staples Center for a Saturday night Bulls game against the Clippers.
"I thought about it," Ben Gordon admitted before the game here after weeks of speculation about a potential Bulls trade for Lakers star Kobe Bryant. "I don't know what to expect. I'm not sure the crowd will be chanting our names like we've been hearing [Kobe's] in the United Center when we played badly. I'm prepared for anything. After the stuff we had at the United Center, I don't think it would affect us if we hear stuff."
The Bulls arrived on the Staples Center basketball floor and they heard something nice for a change, the sound of quiet fans in a decisive 92-73 victory over the Clippers to move them to 2-6 on the season.
It finally was an aggressive, enthusiastic effort led by Ben Wallace, the lately disgruntled center who had expressed dissatisfaction about his playing time and role after Thursday's loss in Phoenix.
Wallace, with nine points, 13 rebounds, six steals (tying a career best) and three blocks, ran Clippers center Chris Kaman into early foul trouble, disrupted almost every inside pass and was like a jumping jack, popping up on rebounds and batting them back to teammates.
The Bulls dominated early with a 29-16 first-quarter lead and reaching 45-26 in the second despite some unruly antics with Andres Nocioni, who had 21 points, getting a flagrant foul on an enraged Ruben Patterson and then Tim Thomas drawing one in retaliation by aggressively bumping Nocioni. The pesky Argentinian absorbed another flagrant foul later from Kaman.
Luol Deng muddled through after a quick start with back pains that had him taking treatments during breaks. He is doubtful for Sunday.
But the Clippers, despite Corey Maggette out injured, rallied back on long range shooting by Thomas to trail 51-40 at halftime and then draw within seven in the third before Ben Gordon, who led the Bulls with 25 points, closed the quarter with a three-point play for a 70-59 lead.
The pregame questions Saturday were about Bryant and the Lakers though the game was against the Clippers, who share the court with the Lakers, the Bulls' hosts Sunday night.
In its weekend TV listings, the Los Angeles Times noted the trade talk with the Bulls and summed up the Sunday game as, "Here is the chance for the Lakers and their fans to scan the merchandise."
There are no discussions going on anymore between the Bulls and Lakers, or, league insiders believe, the Lakers and any team involving Bryant, who has been playing well as the Lakers have gotten off to a nice 5-3 start.
"During the preseason, it certainly was a distraction," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of the trade talk after Friday's victory here over the Pistons. "I think we've overcome that in a very interesting and unusual way. Kobe has gotten his game back and voice back on this team."
Nevertheless, the Bryant trade-rumor virus has spread east as a breathless radio report last week had the Pistons ready to send Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton and draft picks to the Lakers before Bryant used his no-trade clause to reject the deal. Much like the similarly fictitious media and Internet reports of an imminent Bryant deal to the Bulls last month, there was no truth to it.
One wonders if the Pistons will return home to "Kobe, Kobe" chants at the end of their current road trip if they slump. That display clearly irked some Bulls players, who didn't seem to mind booing but thought calling for another player was an insult.
For his part, Bryant said after the Pistons game that the Bulls coming to town carried no special weight or significance, though Bryant is friendly with some of the Bulls players mentioned in various reports and is expected to speak casually with them this weekend.
"It's the same thing I was thinking going into [the Pistons' game]," Bryant said.
Asked if there was truth to reports he wants to or is interested in playing for the Bulls, Bryant said: "I'm not going to say anything without adding fuel to the fire. I'll defer that to Lakers' management."
Bryant later did laugh off a bogus report in a Sun-Times gossip column that he could be buying Michael Jordan's Highland Park mansion.
"Crazy stuff," he said.