Out, out, brief candle!
Preseason's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
---- Macbeth, pining for opening day
Preseason is a loathsome beast. It's waiting in a long line for a something that may or may not be good--you get bored, fret about the pace of the line, defend your place, suspicious of others trying to cut their way in, but most of all you look to the front, hoping for a glimpse of the thing you are waiting for. You start talking to your neighbors, sharing your speculations, but soon find out they are as clueless as yourself. So you hunker down and wait for the doors to open, for the music to begin, for the event to finally start.
Kirk Hinrich is going to have a banner year off of the bench.
Do you remember this guy?
Kirk has shot lights out from 3 this preseason (59%), and his points/36 stands at 18.4, which is nearly 5 points higher than his 13.5 from last year. Now this is a small sample size and one achieved without playing with Derrick Rose, so I wouldn't make too much of it, but Kirk is playing with a swagger that has carried over from last year. He is playing loose, looking for his shot and doing good things on both ends of the floor. I think I like Kirk better like this, looking for his own shot than when he is serving as the primary facilitator and initiator. Coming off the bench should make foul trouble less of an issue as well. As long as he stays healthy, I see Kirk getting 30+ minutes as the team's 6th man and top scorer and stabilizer off of the bench.
Taj Gibson is going to play meaningful minutes.
The skinny, geriatric rookie-that-could used the opportunity created by Tyrus's hip flexor injury to make a solid case for inclusion in the regular season rotation. Yes, he fouls too much and occasionally struggles to bring in passes, but he has shown himself to be relentless and scrappy on defense and surprisingly composed and efficient on offense. The latest draft pick of the Paxson era has many similarities to its first: like Kirk Hinrich, Taj had plenty of college experience, a reputation as a strong defender, and was rejected by a large portion of the fanbase as inferior to younger prospects with more assumed upside but medical red flags (T.J. Ford and DeJuan Blair).
Beyond draft similarities, both guys have a tendency to beat themselves up (or at least look disgusted with themselves) over mistakes and play a chippy, elbows out style of defense that irritates opposing players. With a renewed emphasis on defense, it will be interesting to see if Taj does end up in the starting 5. Though his high foul rate will ensure a cap on his minutes whether Taj starts or not, with Kirk coming off the bench, Vinny may like the thought of having one of his irritants on the floor to begin the game.
James Johnson will struggle to see the floor.
The 11:22 James saw against Orlando may well be a harbinger of things to come. James is potentially one of the most willful players on the team, a guy who can do almost anything on the court but doesn't yet know how to put it all together at the NBA level. In fact, there isn't a single facet of his game (tipback dunks excepted) that James can count on right now as an NBA-caliber skill. Given Kirk's value and Salmons's ability to slide down and provide shooting from the 3-spot, James will have to earn his minutes in practice and may not see the floor much to start the season. That said, I'm still high on his overall future, and it's nice to know that if one of our forwards goes down with injury, a Johnson, not a Linton but a James, stands ready to answer the call.