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Root for Duhon's new team

Chris Duhon started at point guard for the Chicago Bulls and logged 34 minutes in the franchise’s first playoff win since the dynasty days of Michael Jordan Sunday afternoon. Duhon scored seven points, grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out six assists and had two steals against an athletic and talented Washington Wizards backcourt.

After Duke’s loss to Connecticut in the Final Four more than a year ago, I (and many others) thought that this would be the end of Duhon’s time in the basketball spotlight. I imagined he might have a solid career overseas or be able to hang around on NBA rosters as a backup or even third-string point guard. During his senior year at Duke, he failed to show any confidence or proficiency shooting the ball and almost disappeared off the radar screens of NBA scouts and GMs. He just wasn’t a big standout in college in my mind and didn’t have an NBA game.

I was at the NBA draft in New York last summer, and I almost passed out waiting for Duhon to get picked. Listening to Tom Tolbert and Steven Smith go back and forth is only enjoyable for so long. When Duhon was selected in the early second round at No. 38 overall, I silently cheered and hoped he would have a chance to play a little, even though the Bulls had a crowded young backcourt with Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon.

No one would have predicted that Duhon would play in every game this season, log 73 starts, lead all rookies in assists per game (4.9) and be seventh in the entire league in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.34).

Now I find myself rooting for a team that used to torment my New York Knicks to no end. I hated how Jordan used to annually send my team home for the off-season. But these Bulls are nothing like the team Jordan was on, and there are more reasons besides Duhon and his currently injured teammate Luol Deng’s Duke connections for which I find myself constantly pulling for Chicago.

For starters, the core of the Bulls consists of former college standouts. Rooting for Hinrich, Gordon, Duhon and Deng in the NBA is, in my twisted mind, like rooting for college basketball. Sure the Bulls have Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry (who is currently on the disabled list), who both made the jump from high school to the NBA as raw talents, but all the success for Chicago came when polished former-collegiate athletes arrived.

The success of the Bulls this year may change the way NBA executives rebuild teams. In recent years, many teams, including the Bulls, have tried to rebuild through high school talent and potential. Although this seems to work for the occasional LeBron James, Dwight Howard or Kevin Garnett in the draft, many teams are set back who rely on 18-year olds to build a franchise (see the Atlanta Hawks). Perhaps the success of this year’s Chicago Bulls may even encourage athletes to further develop and fine-tune their basketball skills in college.

Go Bulls.

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