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TELANDER: A full-court prez on Election Night

Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich fights for loose ball with Magic forward Glen Davis Tuesday. | Gary Dineen~Getty Images

Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich fights for a loose ball with Magic forward Glen Davis on Tuesday. | Gary Dineen~Getty Images

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Updated: December 8, 2012 6:46AM



NBA hoops on Election Night is a pretty weird thing.

Bad blocking calls seem irrelevant when the leader of the free world is, pardon the cliché, going one-on-one with a fellow nicknamed ‘‘The Governor.’’

The lefty-righty matchup (we’re talking about handles here, folks — please!) dwarfed the Bulls-Magic game that the Bulls won 99-93. Indeed, there seemed to be as many people in the United Center crowd asking neighbors who was winning in Ohio as there were asking about Derrick Rose’s knee. Amazing!

But since President Barack Obama was here in Chicago, playing pickup ball with a gang that included Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former Bull Scottie Pippen, the basketball motif had worked its way into politics.

And vice versa.

As the teams warmed up, it seemed appropriate to take a random sampling of voting choices.

Here came Bulls senior media relations director Tim Hallam. His answer:

‘‘Personal.’’

Magic rookie power forward Kyle O’Quinn?

‘‘I didn’t vote.’’

Three more Magic players, sitting in front of their lockers:

Heads all shaking, no.

All right, America!

The game was perhaps less fulfilling than that. The Bulls’ identity, which is still evolving in the vacuum of the injured Rose, looked close to anonymous.

The team hustles, but it’s hard to tell what its strengths are just yet. Scoring is not one of them. Or at least, guaranteed scoring.

The Magic is a team that is barely recognizable from just over a year ago. Center Dwight Howard went off on his Superman extravaganza to the Lakers, and the team has changed drastically in his vacuum. Consider Tuesday’s starting lineup of DeQuan Jones, Glen Davis, Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo and E’Twaun Moore.

The Bulls played the Magic last spring and held it to a team record-low for opponents, 59 points. But at halftime of this game, Orlando led 48-45. Last spring, the Magic was a team that had quit. This one is frisky. But the Bulls should still blow the youngsters away, not hang on and make the last minute so dramatic.

As Bulls general manager Gar Forman said before the game, ‘‘The core of our team returned this year, with four starters. Of course, Derrick’s out. Carlos [Boozer], Rip [Hamilton], Luol [Deng], Joakim [Noah] all came back in good shape. And the new guys on the bench have started to build chemistry with the guys who are here.’’

Which should mean it’s time for the Bulls to bury some teams. The ugly loss the other night to a lowly Hornets club confused a lot of us.

Defects for the team have appeared. Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson are not an equal substitute for Rose’s explosive scoring. Though, on second look, the springy little Robinson’s excitability might be a very good thing for this methodical team. The guy jacked up a three-point attempt in the fourth quarter when the ball had barely cleared the half-court line. And Captain Kirk? Steady and selfless.

But who scares you to death on this Bulls team? Nobody right now. Rose can make all the difference, but that won’t be for months.

Yet as they pulled out the win over the previously unbeaten Magic, the Bulls showed how a lot of games likely will be — down to the wire, defense and rebounding the key, hope somebody gets hot.

When the 7-foot Noah corkscrewed in a ‘‘Tornado’’ from 18 feet and Li’l Nate drove into the big guys and dropped in a layup for a quick eight-point lead with two minutes to go, something became apparent. These Bulls will be unpredictable.

If that’s how you get to 3-1, with three more home games before the ‘‘Circus Trip,’’ so be it.

The presidential votes should be certain, though.

Bulls official scorer Bob Rosenberg (hit with a cream pie in the face before the game): ‘‘Obama.’’

WBEZ radio reporter Cheryl Raye: ‘‘Obama.’’

Deng (British citizen): ‘‘I can’t vote.’’

But if you could?

‘‘I’d vote for Obama.’’

Dave Cella, Comcast cameraman: A simple point to the four-year-old Obama button on his neck strap.

This is getting boring.

Forman? ‘‘Oh, no!’’

Magic center Vucevic?

‘‘I voted in Montenegro. For Milo Djukanovic.’’

Impressive. Let it be noted, elections mean a lot more in countries that are not as peaceful or democratic as ours. And that’s a good thing.

Djukanovic, by the way, is the man who apologized to Croatia last summer for the pain and suffering caused by the former Yugoslavia’s invasion of Croatia and the siege of Dubrovnik in 1991.

That was a good thing, too.



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