A once heated rivalry could warm up the frigid east coast this Christmas.
The stocking-stuffer game between the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks has the makings of a glimpse at future battles amongst these once bitter rivals.
As you finish opening gifts and get out of those footy pajamas, give the booyah network a look-see as the Bulls and Knicks start off the five-game Christmas schedule. A day normally serving up only two to three games, Christmas boasts some heavy hitting games, but the early game is usually a game between teams that appear to be on the rise in the NBA.
Today is no different.
Each team is led by stars who have supporting casts that would make any Christmas season bright. The combos of Derrick Rose-Carlos Boozer and Raymond Felton-Amare Stoudemire are the focal points for each team. Not only are the supporting casts good, but they are young and good.
The Bulls boast Joakim Noah (injured, but still a young stud), Taj Gibson, Omer Asik and C.J. Watson, while the Knicks young corps includes Toney Douglas, Danilo Gallinari, Landry Fields and Wilson Chandler, among others.
With all the positives the two teams bring to the Christmas table, there is the hope of getting the rivalry to what it once was back in the 1990's.
Epic battles between guards John Starks and Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen posterizings of Patrick Ewing and raucous crowds were just a few of the many highlights of an almost decade-long rivalry that disappeared as quickly as Derrick Rose on a fast break.
The guard battle is set to be a good one. Rose and Felton are two of the better guards in the league today, and show no signs of slowing down. Rose continues to show his elite status, and Felton is flourishing in a non-Larry Brown ran offense.
Both teams boast major scorers in the paint, as well. Amare Stoudemire has been a scoring machine, showing many analysts and fans that he was not a product of the Phoenix Suns' run-and-gun, no defense system. Playing in a very familiar system with head coach Mike D'Antoni helps, but the talent that the Suns had was arguably better than what Stoudemire is surrounded by now. Any way you slice it, Amare has made New York relevant again.
Carlos Boozer has been an offensive lightning rod since coming back from an injury that benched him through Thanksgiving. The pick-and-pop partner of D-Rose has been playing well in every facet of the game (minus the defensive lapses), and has given Noah a lot of breathing room under the rim.
The one negative that those two have is their lack of interior defense. Rebounds are nice, but so is preventing shots.
That is where the Bulls are clearly better. The Knicks have a young project in Andy Rautins, who could potentially blossom with Stoudemire, but is nowhere on the level of a healthy Noah.
A match-up that should stick out to most is at the small forward position, where Gallinari and Bulls forward Luol Deng do their business. Deng has had a revival of his own this year, as scoring and health have been on his side. Galli is still having his growing pains—his scoring and other stats have plateaued—but should continue to get the opportunity to show his extended shooting range.
A lot still needs to happen for both of these teams to come even close to attaining the respectability that their forebears had, but a glimpse into the future, like today's game, will hopefully make the Christmas season, in a sports aspect, a bit brighter.