14
Jan
08

Veteran leaders lead charge to suspend Noah – Bulls struggling on defense

Coverage on NoAdamsGate from ESPN and the Tribune.  Not a lot of new info, just new quotes from players and coaches. 

This is being turned into a way bigger deal than it actually is.  Overemotional rookie blows up at coach.  Super-respectful veteran would-be team leader thinks it’s unacceptable and leads a charge to teach the kid a lesson.  Overall, this reaction from the team is probably good for everyone involved, but it’s also probably unnecessary.  The best possible result would be to turn the season around like they did after HeadbandGate.  The worst possible result would be, well, it can’t get much worse than how the Bulls are playing.

Which brings us to the real story here, the Bulls-Hawks game.  Wow.  That was some terrible basketball.  The Hawks were extremely hot in a poorly officiated first quarter, so you can’t blame the Bulls for dropping behind.  But both teams in that quarter played sloppy, terrible basketball.  While things got a bit better after the first, they still allowed the worst 3-point shooting team in the league to shoot 63% from behind on arc on the night.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, where’s the defense?!?  The Bulls have all of the same quality defenders as last season and their new additions are all upgrades in terms of defensive ability.  What is happening?  Who do we blame?  What can Paxson or Boylan do to fix this problem?

People have been clamoring for Gasol now that it’s clear Kobe isn’t going anywhere.  Would Pau Gasol have changed the outcome of yesterday’s game? No.  He’s a good shot blocker but a so-so team defender.  He’s not the fastest guy in the world and the Bulls were getting burned up and down the court by an extremely athletic Atlanta team.  Gasol wouldn’t have done any better with that than Joe Smith.  The only way Pau would have helped the Bulls to win that game would be by scoring 45-50 points while still moving the ball and allowing other players to get their shots.  He’s not going to do that.

Yes, the Bulls need a more consistent low-post scorer.  However, the bigger problem at this point is the long stretches of terrible defense and questionable decision making.  The most frustrating thing about the situation is they still have the talent to be a good team.  Sure, maybe if these players were playing the way they could they still wouldn’t win a championship.  However, they’d be able to go deep in the East and have a shot at it.  Then we could all whine about wanting a scoring big.  For now Bulls fans need to decry their poor team play and continuing failure to perform to their abilities.

Thinking about the Bulls as a team is too depressing for now so let’s look at some specific players:

Joe Smith – He’s significantly better than I thought he’d be.  However, if the season doesn’t turn around immediately the big minutes Smith is earning with his efficiency will only serve to hamper the development of several young players on the team.  It’s impressive and great that Joe Smith can pull of 17 pts, 9 boards, and a couple of blocks on any given night, but if the team still isn’t winning shouldn’t a lot of those minutes go to Gray, Noah and Thomas at some point?

Andres Nocioni – How anybody could say he’s making way too much money under his new contract is beyond me.  He’s averaging under $8 million a year, yet cares more and plays harder than anyone else on the court almost every night.  Even when his shot is off he brings intensity to the game and the team that the Bulls desperately need.  5 years is a bit long, but unless things change drastically I can’t see this team not needing him.

Adrian Griffin – I think he went above and beyond the call of duty in organizing a player’s meeting to suspend Noah for an extra game.  I don’t think it will harm the team, but I also don’t think it was necessary.  However, veteran leaders are extremely important on young teams like this.  Grif does a great job of stepping up and offering that type of leadership.  Unfortunately he’s a bit player on the court.  If only some other vet on the team with a more well-known name would become a leader . . .

Thabo Sefolosha – I still have high hopes for Thabo but the man has to learn how to shoot.  He’s regaining his dominant defense and he’s not making terrible decision with the ball anymore but he’s shooting 29% on the season!  I like him as a player but if he can’t knock down an open shot every once in a while he’s not going to see the court.

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