Start Gray? Think about 2004-05

K.C. Johnson wrote today that the Bulls may start Aaron Gray.  I know he started with some success in Friday’s Pacers game, but I thought that statement wis ridiculous when I first read it.  The Bulls are a team that prides themselves on defense.  They’ve been the number 1 or 2 D in the league for the past three years.  Now we’re supposed to believe that they’d start a guy who, for all the good things he does in the post, can hardly move when he’s not using at least one foot as a pivot.  Not to mention he’d be starting over the experience of Joe Smith, the outstanding athleticism of Tyrus Thomas, or the intensity of Joakim Noah when he doesn’t posess any one of those three qualities (yet)?  Then I started thinking about how the Bulls used Eddy Curry in the ’04-’05 season and Skiles’ potential plan started to make a lot more sense to me.

This guy might start for the Bulls?!?  If you remember 2004 you’ll see that Gray starting might not be so bad.

In ’04-’05 the Bulls consistently threw the ball down low to Curry to start the game.  Often he’d get the ball in the post four of the first five Bulls possesions.  Usually he’d score.  He’d rack up 10 quick points in the first quarter and Skiles would pull him.  He’d play consistently, though somewhat sparingly, through the second and third quarters and then see little to no time in the fourth.  This strategy for using Eddy Curry originally drove me crazy becuase I couldn’t see why Skiles didn’t want the easy points Eddy could bring.  Later I came to realize its beauty.

Eddy was a one trick pony with the Bulls,
but what a trick it was.  Chicago’s lacked
lacked a player with anything resembling
that trick since they shipped Curry out in

Curry was an even less complete player that season than he now.  Sure, he could score with ease because of his wide body and soft touch.  However, he brought next to nothing to the table in terms of defense and rebounding.  A center who doesn’t rebound is simply a liability when the game is on the line.  The worst part was that he didn’t even seem to exert effort in those areas.  I believe I remember Skiles once responding to the question, “What could Eddy do to become a better rebounder?” by saying, “Jump.” That’s what I call a lack of effort.

Nevertheless, the team with the most points wins the game and Curry could score points.  Hinrich, Nocioni, Gordon and Deng all averaged a combined 20.0 points fewer that season than they did last season.  Scoring was something the Bulls desparately needed.  However, if they were say down by 2 with a minute to go in the fourth quarter and Jeff Foster grabs an offensive rebound because Eddy didn’t jump, well let’s just say Skiles wasn’t about to let that type of situation ever happen.  So he used Curry very early in the game to get the offense going before Curry’s liabilities and lapses would hurt the team too much.

Curry’s inside scoring opened up opportunities for the largely perimiter-oriented rest of the team.  Of course, that’s what effective post players add to any team.  Skiles coaching brilliance came from his balance of using Curry early and more well-rounded players later.  I’d compare it to an NFL team committing to the run early in order to open up the play-action plays later in the game.  The opposing team would know that the Bulls are willing to go down low, have plays designed to do so and, even if Curry isn’t in the game, his efforts in the first quarter proved the Bulls are willing to try it.  That means the opposing defense has to respect the player under the hoop at least a little bit – just like an opposing secondary would have to at least watch out for a run istead of going directly into pass coverage – and couldn’t swarm to the perimiter players quite as quickly.  The smidgen of extra space that this respect created for guys like Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich and Erik Piatkowski was just enough to help the Bulls win a shocking 47 games that season.

Now, to get back to the Aaron Gray situation, I believe Skiles is thinking about the ’04-’05 season while mulling the possiblity of starting Gray.  Is Aaron the most complete PF/big man on the team not named Ben Wallace?  Not by a long shot.  However, has he shown he can be an effective low post scorer as well as a better rebounder than Curry was?  Absolutely.  So when Skiles is thinking about how well his Curry strategy worked three seasons ago and looking at a current roster that features highly improved and deeper offensive forces, how can he not put two and two together.  I’m not saying whether or not he should start Gray, just that the idea makes sense when you look at the late Eddy Curry era Bulls. 

Some good quotes and info from K.C.’s article:

Benny the Bull might be faster baseline to baseline.

"We liked what happened at the beginning of the game the other night,"
Skiles said. "We thought Ben Wallace and Aaron played well together.
Ben is a good passer. And he found Aaron once the other night. Ben
also knows our offense well. 
"We have to decide, balancing both units, do we want a couple of
defensive players in the starting lineup or do we want more offense.
Aaron has shown—and I think he will in the regular season—that he
can score. Do we want to use that to start a game? It's something we
have to think about."

Despite fouling out against the Pacers, most infractions coming from
poor or slow defensive rotations, he's averaging 10.8 points, 5.8 rebounds
and 3.8 fouls in 18 minutes per exhibition. He's also shooting 61.3 percent
in five games.

7 Responses to “Start Gray? Think about 2004-05”

  1. 2 312chill
    October 25, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    I’ve seen that before. Good stuff. I think i remember reading that the NBA actually fined him for that even though none of it had anything to do with the league.

  2. 3 Joe P.
    October 27, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    It’s alive!!!! Kobe trade talk that is. ESPN sources (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3082513) have indicated that the Bulls have been speaking with the Lakers about acquiring Kobe. I am happy to learn that Paxson is intelligent enough to keep evaluating the team and possible trade opportunities objectivly. There had been speculation (some by you) that Paxson may have too much of an ego to trade major pieces of a team that he had personally hand crafted. Ongoing trade talks are an indication that Paxson is at least willing to consider a big-time trade, which is a good thing.

    That being said, I will be super pissed if the Bulls get rid of Deng. Barring injury, Deng will be phenominal. Plus he is intelligent, hard-working, and unselfish, which are traits that are far and few between in basketball stars. Eitherway I am excited to see what happens.

  3. 4 Joe P.
    October 27, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    IT’S ALIVE!!!!!! Kobe to Chicago trade talk that is… (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3082513) I for one am happy. This shows that Johnny Pax is able to swallow a part of his ego and take an objective look at all the possibilities to make the team better. There was speculation that Pax wouldn’t be able to trade big pieces of the Bulls, a team that he personally hand crafted. The fact that they are at least talking with the Lakers show me, at least superficially, that Pax is will to make a trade at the right price.

    The article also mentions that these talks have been on-going. I am also encouraged by the Bulls ability to keep “mega-deal” trade talk secret. It show me that the organization is all on the same page and doesn’t have any leaks. A good sign.

    That being said, I still don’t think the Bulls are planning to make a move. Paxson has recently made long-term offers to both Deng and Gordon. If they sign a deal, they cannot be traded until after the deadline.

    Finally, if the Bulls trade Deng I might have to go unibomber on Paxson and Reinsdorf. Obviously, I am kidding, but trading Deng would be terribly stupid.

  4. 5 Joe P.
    October 28, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    Its alive!!!! Kobe trade talk that is. You see the the Bulls have an ongoing dialoge. Apparently, Kobe has also said that he won’t come to Chicago – trade veto – unless Deng also says. I really hope they can figure something out. Kobe, Deng, Wallace, Smith, and Noce would be a championship team. Especially if we can keep Sefalosha and Noah.

    Either way, I think the Bulls are looking really good in pre-season. I am starting to think, although I like Kobe to the Bulls, that we are good enough as is.

  5. 6 312chill
    October 28, 2007 at 8:53 pm

    I’m going to post on this either later tonight or tomorrow. My opinion stays the same as it has in previous posts. I’d love Kobe, but only at the right price and the right price in my opinion is probably 30 cents on the dollar in terms of the amount of talent being traded. Deng cannot be included. Thomas or Noah can go, but not both. Hinrich cannot go because a very solid PG is necessary to make a championship run. We can trade all the draft picks they could ever ask for because we have plenty of youth (as long as we have either Noah or Thomas for the future).

    That said, I like how they look. I think this exact roster will have a shot at a championship for the next three years at least, and probably it will get stronger as those three years go by. I’d hold off on a trade until the Lakers get desperate.

  6. 7 312chill
    October 29, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Joe P.,

    Sorry your comments didn’t initially show up here. I just saw that they were marked as spam and thus blocked. I’ll try to check the spam filter more frequently. This was the first time it blocked something that was actually legit.

    To anybody else reading the comments, Joe’s not repeating himself. His first two attempts didn’t make it onto the site at first.

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