Archive for December, 2007

28
Dec
07

Was trading Skiles for Boylan the right move Mr. Paxson?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow. This season has not gong as I predicted. Not at all.

I expected the Bulls to be a very good team in terms of their record. They are not and will be lucky to end the season at .500.

I expected them to play with levels of passion, effort and intensity that would rival or beat any other team in the league. Every night. I’m not sure I’ve seen them play at that level in a single game, not to mention each game.

I expected young players whose numbers went up every year of their professional careers – Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni – to continue to improve. Hinrich and Gordon have been inexplicably bad and Deng and Nocioni have seen slight drop offs in their level of play.

I expected the sophomores on the team – Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha – to show some improvement over last season after reading about each having strong summers while competing in different environments. Thabo has disappeared and Tyrus is, at best, looking exactly the same as last season.

I expected Ben Wallace’s abilities to continue to slowly decline, but to still be worthy of starting every night and continue to help the team, significantly. Instead Wallace has been possibly one of the worst players on the team while getting far more minutes than anyone with his production in the league. The heartbreaker about Wallace is that nobody would have expected the scrappy, effort-player from Detroit to turn apathetic and lazy once another team paid him big money. Sure, he’s getting older. Nevertheless, his play has reeked of indifference and lethargy.

I expected one of the better outside shooting teams in the league to continue to be able to shoot. Somehow they forgot.

I expected a team that was either first or second in the league in defensive field goal percentage over the past three seasons to continue to play great defense. It just hasn’t happened.

So, in the words of John Paxson, obviously I’m very disappointed.

Was Scott Skiles responsible for all of these problems? No. He was responsible for some of them. So what can the Bulls do to get better? You can’t fire the players. – – Though I demand they threaten to pull a Tim Thomas/J.R. Smith on Ben Wallace unless he starts playing better immediately. They need to tell him, regardless of $16 million a year and 4 PREVIOUS Defensive Player of the Year Awards, they will send him home if he doesn’t work his ass off. – – You can’t trade any of them for fair value right now since not a one is playing up to his abilities. You’d get nothing valuable in return. Paxson wants to keep his job so he pulls a classic GM panic move and fires the coach. It was a panic move pulled by many before him. Let’s call it the Kevin McHale. I’m sure there are more historic examples, but McHale has clearly become an expert.

One more thing I didn’t expect was Skiles getting fired before the all-star break. I believed, right up until the announcement was made, that Skiles had earned more trust from Paxson and Reinsdorf than would warrant a coach being fired this early in the season. I’m not saying that he didn’t deserve to be fired or that it was unfair, just that it surprised me.

In my opinion, the question is how does this move make the team better? Yes they were playing terribly and something had to change. But who is going to come in and coach them to better play right now? I hopefully will get one more thing I don’t expect, but I don’t expect Jim Boylan to make them better immediately or at any point this season. The team is really stressing that Boylan is his own man and not Skiles Jr. That may be true, but he’s also not much of a change no matter how you look at it. Paxson has said repeatedly he wasn’t going to go outside for a coach this season. I say what’s the point of firing the coach if you’re not? You’re going to get the same play you’re already getting and it’s a sign you’ve given up on the season. The only thing Pax could have been thinking with this move is that it would spark the players and he’d get that high level of effort back. Obviously based on the blow out in San Antonio, that hasn’t happened.

Today the team announced the big change that is going to turn things around. Chris Duhon is going to start while Ben Gordon is going back the 6th man role. Everything will be different now! I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I was to see that Ben Wallace wasn’t the one to move to the bench. Duhon for Gordon? Been there, done that. It’s not that it’s a bad move; in fact I would have done that too. It just shouldn’t have been the only move. Nocioni, Gray or Noah in the starting lineup for Wallace would have helped. Look, the team is already dysfunctional and not playing well together. Moving Wallace to the bench would piss him off and cause further disturbance. However, he’s also a very proud man and would either give his all from that point forward or give up and go home. Either way the Bulls get better immediately.

The bottom line is that I think changing coaches in the middle of the season probably wasn’t a good idea, especially if they weren’t going to bring in an outsider to do the job. Changing coaches after only 25 games definitely was a bad idea because, in my opinion, it equates to giving up on the season. I would have let Skiles coach out the season not because he deserved it or because of some deep faith in his abilities, but because the current situation is no better and is in fact probably worse.

If Paxson felt completely secure in his job I don’t think he would have fired Skiles this early. ESPN’s Mark Stein writes that we should now focus the bull’s eye on John Paxson. I know I will. And it won’t be because he’s drafted or signed the wrong guys. When he signed Wallace everyone around the NBA knew he overpaid but almost all still thought it was a good idea. I wanted to draft Brandon Roy with the number two pick, I really did. However, I wasn’t too disappointed with getting Tyrus Thomas and I didn’t read, hear or see that many others disappointed with it. Paxson really did try to get Garnett and passing on Kobe was probably a good thing given the circumstances. I think he offered Gordon and Deng fair money at the time given their performances and the time left on their contracts. His moves haven’t always worked out, but most of them looked smart at the time, knowing then what we did.

Paxson has two major flaws on his record that I will continue to hold against him and that, in my opinion, he has to make up for soon in order to warrant keeping his job. First, though he always says he’s not going to loose a player for nothing, he lost Tyson Chandler for nothing. He traded Chandler for J.R. Smith and P.J. Brown. The Bulls promptly cut/bought out Smith. Smith wouldn’t have fit well on the team, but that’s losing half of a player for nothing. They were left with a valuable trading chip however in Brown’s large, expiring contract. Brown was a veteran leader, sure, but he wasn’t worth not trading. When Paxson failed to package Brown’s contract and some other player or players for more help for the team he failed miserably. Brown essentially retired at the end of the season and the Bulls have nothing to show for Tyson. Many people say Chandler never would have flourished under Skiles as he is now, but I guarantee he’d be bringing more to the table than any other big man currently on the roster.

Paxson’s second blemish was his selfish firing of Skiles. As stated above, I believe this move was made solely for Paxson, not for winning or for the good of the team. If Pax can somehow pull the Bulls out of their current state, all will be forgiven. If not, these two moves SHOULD have him following Skiles out the door. Right now, sadly, this looks like the most interesting Bulls story to follow.

20
Dec
07

Grayt game – Bulls find what they were missing, for one night at least

What a difference a double team makes. Wasn’t it refreshing last night to see someone on the Bulls getting double teamed in the low post? A beautiful sight occurred when Aaron Gray was doubled in the 4th quarter and shot it out to the subsequently open Hinrich for three. The Bulls found, for one night at least, what they’ve been missing since 2005. Shortly after that three the Wizards played Gray straight up but had to foul him to prevent a basket. This sequence allowed the Bulls to slow down a close game in the 4th quarter and thus hang on for a win. All the critics have been saying how badly the Bulls need a low post presence in order to be a truly good team and I think I’m finally ready to admit that acquiring one is their only shot. Since there was nobody really available I held on to the belief that the Bulls could be good enough without such a presence. I’m no longer sure if that’s possible.

Gray was amazing last night but as Stacey King pointed our towards the end of the game and Skiles pointed out in the post-game interview, he won’t be that efficient every night. He’s still a rookie, is very slow, and was playing against a small Wizards team. He may turn into the presence the Bulls need in the long run, but he won’t be the permanent answer over the remainder of this season. That said, he sure earned more rotation minutes last night.

Skiles now has a big problem on his hands. It’s a good problem to have but it’s still a problem. With Gray, Thomas, Noah, Smith and Nocioni all playing well, how does he find time for all of them? On top of that, Wallace is playing terrible basketball and is perhaps the only big on the Bulls that for obvious reasons can’t be cut out of the rotation. So far Skiles has addressed the problem by altering the rotation every few games in order to give time to the guys who’ve been playing the best recently. This strategy, I believe, has hurt the Bulls consistency, which has really been their greatest weakness so far this season. Skiles is paid to figure out these problems and I’m not, so I’ll leave the solution up to him for now, but I really hope he can figure something out.

Other player notes from last night:

Hinrich – Didn’t put up huge numbers but had a good overall game. I think he’s pulled out of his slump finally.

Gordon – Good game offensively and on the boards. He needs to either grow a few inches or suddenly become a defensive expert. I don’t see either happening. The Bulls need his offense but he just can’t hang with other guards on the defensive end sometimes.

Deng – Solid game, but not outstanding. He is, however, starting to show the consistency again that made him so great last year. If he can manage to have games like last night be his down games he will really become a star.

Nocioni – Didn’t have a strong game but didn’t hurt the team much either. He settled for the outside shot too much against a team that wasn’t going to stop him if he attacked the basket.

Smith – Showed in limited minutes the same consistency we’ve come to expect from him at this point.

Gray – Wow. If he could perform like that every night the Bulls would be a dominant team. All-star level performance? No. Game changing performance? Absolutely.

Thomas – Good game on both ends of the floor. He showed a great chemistry with Gray. For some reason he kept trying to dribble the ball up the floor. That has to stop. As Stacey kept saying, “find the guard.” Thomas was really feeling it from 18 ft. last night. He showed the jump shot we heard so much about over the summer but that has been missing this season so far.

Duhon – Didn’t stand out but played well enough while he was out there.

Noah – Really would have liked to see him play more than 8:00. Looked good in his limited time except for when he tried to post up. He possibly wanted to show that Gray wasn’t the only one who could do it.

Sefolosha – Outstanding for the last 24 seconds of the game. Actually, I felt sorry for him. Why bother putting him in for 24 seconds of a done deal?

19
Dec
07

The problem with the Detroit Pistons

Chauncey Billups referring to his upcoming game against the Boston Celtics, from espn.com’s Daily Dime today:

I love these games," Detroit's Chauncey Billups
said. "I really don't like playing against .500
teams or under-.500 teams, because what do you
have to win? Even if you beat them, people say
you should have won by more. This is a game
against the best team in the NBA . . .

This attitude and arrogance is why the Bulls beat the Pistons twice already this season despite the fact that Chicago has yet to come together as a team or find any consistency. What do the Pistons have to win against teams under .500? How about the game.

I think Chauncey was lucky the Pistons paid him last offseason for his prior service, because with his attitude and age I don’t think the few teams that had cap flexibility would have shelled out very much money for him.

Before anybody blasts me in the comments section, yes, I am aware that the Chicago Bulls currently have more problems than the Pistons. At least effort, passion and a desire to win aren’t among those problems.




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