Windy City ready to rekindle Bulls-Knicks rivalry in G-League playoffs
Bulls vs. Knicks is a classic playoff rivalry.
In the NBA, those teams will be squaring off in the draft lottery. But the G-League playoffs will feature a version, as the Windy City Bulls make their playoff debut at the Westchester Knicks on Wednesday (6 p.m., ESPNU).
This would be a good time to bring out Scottie Pippen and John Starks to serve as celebrity superfans.
"Around that time (the 1990s) I was like 3 or 4 years old, so I wasn't thinking about basketball," Windy City Bulls point guard Walt Lemon Jr. said. "But I definitely picked up on it. It's definitely a Chicago-New York rivalry going on. I'm glad I'm from Chicago."
Lemon attended Julian High School and Bradley University. He helped turn Windy City's season around, arriving in a trade when the Bulls were 5-11. Windy City had lost Tyler Ulis early in the season with hip surgery. Lemon started the year as a Boston Celtics two-way player, but was released and then acquired by the Bulls in a trade.
Windy City played at Westchester on Mar. 7 and lost 127-118. The Bulls went 1-2 against Westchester this season, but the G-League playoffs are single elimination. The winner of this game plays at the Lakeland Magic on Friday.
"It's a good thing that we just played them so we're kind of familiar with their sets and how they guard us," Lemon said. "It all boils down to how we come out from the start and how hard we play and how much we compete. That's what it comes down to."
Windy City features some familiar names. The top scorer at 21.1 points is 6-8 forward JaKarr Sampson, who was in training camp with the NBA Bulls. Lemon averages 20.1 points and 8.9 assists.
Rookie forward Kaiser Gates (12.7 ppg) also spent preseason with the Bulls. Windy City has a couple guys from elite college programs, Mychael Mulder from Kentucky and C.J. Fair from Syracuse. The two-way players, Brandon Sampson and Rawle Alkins, round out the bulk of the playing rotation.
Since clinching a playoff spot at home on Mar. 15, Windy City lost three in a row. Had they won all three, they'd be playing at home Wednesday.
"We've got to get back to the basics a little bit," second-year head coach Charlie Henry said. "Obviously it's not how you want to enter the playoffs, but it's either going to make us or break us. I think our guys are going to come out with really renewed energy and focus."
Henry worked for both Jim Boylen at the University of Utah and Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State. He came to the Bulls with Hoiberg and spent his first season on the NBA bench, before he and Bulls assistant Nate Loenser essentially traded jobs.