Archive for the 'basketball' Category

10
Dec
08

Bulls beat Knicks and Basketball Business

I went to the game last night.  I walked there from my apartment.  The weather was awful and I had a complete layer of ice on by the time I got to the stadium.

Fun game but it would be nice if the Bulls even tried to play defense.  Fortunately the Knicks don’t play any either so it all worked out in the end.  Drew Gooden had a great game, Larry Hughes was surprisingly solid again.  Let’s hope he’s playing himself into a trade.   As for Gooden, I’m starting to hope the Bulls re-sign him after this year.  He likely/hopefully won’t be hugely expensive and he’s very productive if not consistent.  He’s a likable guy and his facial hair is sure to entertain.  I don’t see the downside really.  Plus, if they let Gooden and Ben Gordon walk I think the Bulls would average about 65 points per game.

Chris Duhon added a very nice game to what has so far been a very nice season for him.  I’m glad for him because I never thought he got a fair chance in Chicago and never understood why so many Bulls fans were haters (eh hem blogabull).  Last year he was playing hurt when Ben Gordon among others was milking a minor injury in order to avoid risking some poor stat games.

There were problems with the Bulls last night other than defense, unfortunately.  I’m no coach, but they seemed to avoid running any set offense a bit too much for my taste.  I don’t mean that they were pushing the ball too much, but instead that when they did get into the half-court the plan seemed to be that they’d just see what developed.  Against a team with half a defense I think Chicago could have been blown out last night.

Also, Thomas and Sefolosha did not play at all.  Sefolosha not playing why I’m really hoping they’re trying to showcase Hughes for a trade.  As many have pointed out in the world of Bulls fans and followers, the team needs to figure out who works around Derrick Rose for the long term.  I assume they already know Larry Hughes is not in that group.  However, even if he is in that group, they still need to carve out time to figure out whether or not Sefolosha can be.  He simply hasn’t played enough so far this season to know.   The same goes for Thomas except he has seen more time than Thabo.  Finally, these two not playing against the Knicks is even more frustrating because they would have matched up perfectly with a very small New York team.

It just seems like Vinny is still figuring out how to coach in general, not just in the NBA, while simultaneously preventing some of his young players from getting development/entitlement minutes in a season that holds a 7th seed and first round loss at best.  It’s just frustrating, that’s all.

**************************************************************

I wish somebody would pay me to be knowledgeable about the NBA.  Not about basketball in general, but just this league.  I wouldn’t want to travel around as a beat reporter explaining what happened or to try to coach rich athletes with big egos.  Instead somebody should pay me just to be a general reference about anything to do with the NBA.  That would be fun.

The reason I bring up this fantasy is that I found a very extensive, awesome and interesting FAQ document about the NBA salary cap today.  I was very pleased with myself when I discovered that I already knew basic versions of the answers to pretty much all 106 of the Qs on the FAQ list.

NBA Salary Cap FAQ
www.cbafaq.com

It’s worth checking out if you’re almost ridiculously obsessed with (I’m going to be purposely annoying the) “The Association”.

This web site also pointed me to some pretty cool other resources:

Patricia’s Various Basketball Stuff
http://www.eskimo.com/%7Epbender/index.html

A fun resource up updated stats, links and information about the current NBA season and past seasons.

The NBA Players Association
http://www.nbpa.com/

You can read the entire Collective Bargaining Agreement if you want.  It has other content at least I find interesting as well.

RealGM’s CBA and Basketball Business Forum
http://www.realgm.com/boards/viewforum.php?f=4

A venue in which to discuss all things to do with NBA business that features some very knowledgeable participants.  Worth a look and some time.  People will answer your questions.

If anybody else out there has other similar links that you’ve found useful or interesting, please let me know.

28
Oct
08

Chicago Bulls 2008-2009 Season Preview

UPDATE: Multiple reports are out that Thabo Sefolosha will get the starting role next to Derrick Rose tonight over Kirk Hinrich. While it’s interesting that Thabo will get a shot, and not a horrible idea, he did not play all that much during the preseason. This is just another example of what worries me about Del Negro as a coach. It’s not that he won’t have good ideas or cannot communicate well with his team, but it seems like he just doesn’t know what he’s doing a lot of the time. Hopefully he’ll learn quickly, because I think it will be a long year otherwise. Thank goodness it’ll be fun to watch Rose regardless of the team’s record.

Projected Starting Lineup

5 – Drew Gooden

4 – Tyrus Thomas

3 – Luol Deng

2 – Kirk Hinrich

1 – Derrick Rose

Projected Bench

Guards

Ben Gordon

Larry Hughes

Thabo Sefolosha

Forwards

Andres Nocioni

Thabo Sefolosha

Michael Ruffin

Centers

Joakim Noah

Aaron Gray

Not Gonna Play

Demetris Nichols

Cedric Simmons

Michael Ruffin

9 Luol Deng SF 23 6-9 220 Duke $9,385,000
Deng needs to take another step this season. He gained good leadership experience over the summer with the British national team. Now he needs to bring that experience to the Bulls. The two players with the most years of NBA service on this roster, Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden, aren’t going to get that job done. Deng also needs to be more aggressive on offense. Too often he catches a pass, dribbles once and shoots. He needs to work on his triple threat game more instead.

90 Drew Gooden PF 27 6-10 250 Kansas $7,151,183
Gooden is the team’s most accomplished low post scorer. This ability will earn him minutes and seems to have earned him a starting role on opening night. We’ll see if Del Negro gets fed up with his lack of concentration the way Gooden’s past coaches have. Gooden is talented and in a contract year. I expect motivated play from him, but nothing we have not seen before.

7 Ben Gordon SG 25 6-3 200 Connecticut $6,404,750
Ben Gordon will score. However, will the team jerk him around after all of the contract issues over the summer? I envision a Reinsdorf-Paxson-led minimization of Gordon’s role unless they plan to trade him during the season, which is sounding unlikely. Anybody else think the toe stub thing was extremely strange? Poor Ben. Nobody is going to pay him his $10 million, but he also does not deserve the way the Bulls have treated him.

34 Aaron Gray C 23 7-0 270 Pittsburgh $711,517
Gray lost 30 pounds over the summer and while he was not overweight before, he was probably one of the slowest players in the NBA. His speed should be improved, but he is not going to outrun anybody. I think it was KC Johnson who recently humorously wrote that Derrick Rose might lap Gray in a down court sprint. Gray is a solid backup Center with a soft touch and a big body. The only problem is the Bulls do not seem to have a starting Center.

12 Kirk Hinrich PG 27 6-3 190 Kansas $10,000,000
So Hinrich is coming off the bench? I think if that’s how they’re going to use him, they need to try and trade him. Maybe he is too small to guard 2s every game and has had trouble adjusting to playing off the ball, but he is too valuable to play bench minutes. Sure, he would be a great backup PG, but does anybody else see that going over well for the long-term? This situation concerns me. That said, he did have a down year last season. If he does not revert to his prior form, maybe he will be best suited to come off the bench.

32 Larry Hughes SG 29 6-5 185 $12,827,676
While I do not wish the man harm, pain or misfortune, his injury was kind of a blessing in disguise. It will allow Del Negro to look at a back court situation he wishes he had. A situation with a manageable four guards deserving of time instead of five. While Hughes has really surprised me with his effort on both ends of the court in preseason – what is it, 2002? – he is still far and away the least valuable guard in the rotation. Too many bad, forced shots and too much defensive risk taking for glory steals. The Bulls would trade him if there were any other team in the league willing to take on his contract. Unfortunately the only team out there who might consider it would be Cleveland for Ben Wallace.

35 Demetris Nichols SF 24 6-8 216 Syracuse $711,517
May he’ll develop out of nowhere? Not going to see much playing time.

13 Joakim Noah PF 23 6-11 232 Florida $2,295,480
Noah has me worried. He was supposed to have the starting Center job all wrapped up but now it looks as if natural Power Forward Drew Gooden will start there. Though entering his second professional season, Noah is said to have major conditioning issues. And this from a lanky guy whose major assets are energy and grittiness? He was arrested in the offseason for carrying an open container and was found to have a joint hidden in a pack of cigarettes on his person. While the joint does not worry me the cigarettes do. This guy might actually be the one who would START smoking after becoming a professional basketball player. I still have very high hopes for what Noah will eventually bring to the team, but I am worried, very worried.

5 Andres Nocioni SF 28 6-7 225 $8,000,000
I expect Nocioni to settle in to a solid 7th man role, bringing energy and scoring off the bench while annoying other teams best scorers part-time with his in your face defense. He is not a great defender, but he can bug the hell out of some guys. He and Deng have the best rotation situation of any position on the team.

1 Derrick Rose PG 20 6-3 190 Memphis $4,822,800
He needs to start from day one. Looked great in preseason, showing the ability to get to the rim almost any time he wants. His defense still has a ways to go, but he will create a lot of open outside shots for teammates with his penetrating ability. If the season goes wrong, Rose will leave us fans with at least something entertaining to watch regardless of the record.

2 Thabo Sefolosha SG 24 6-7 215 $1,931,160
I guess Thabo is a starter. Interesting. This is a role he can grow into and be strong in. However, with guys like Hinrich, Gordon and Hughes on the bench behind him, how much time will he have to do so? Great defender. Good ball handler and passer. So-so shooter. Last season he showed the ability to get to the rim but had some trouble finishing. He has all the tools though we are still waiting to see him put them all together. Now is his chance.

15 Cedric Simmons SF 22 6-9 235 N.C. State $1,742,760
See Demetris Nichols but take away two years.

24 Tyrus Thomas PF 22 6-9 215 LSU $3,749,880
I expect a huge year from Thomas. He had a very strong preseason, showing a ton of energy and more desire than he has in years past. However, even though his mid-range jump shot is improving, he is settling for it way too much. I think his FG % in the preseason was in the mid-30s. That is not going to cut it. He needs to play to his strengths – opportunistic interior offense and help side defense – and bring the other aspects of his game along slowly. Playing with Derrick Rose should really help Thomas. These two, hopefully, will turn into THE duo for the Bulls for years to come.

Coach: Vinny Del Negro
I am worried. Very worried. Let’s hope I am wrong. He seems smart and likable. The players seem happy with him for now, which is all you can ask so far. However, tonight will be the first regular season basketball game he will coach at any level. When Michael Jordan decided to try and play major league baseball the White Sox manager at the time said, “I’m interested to find out if baseball is as hard as I think it is.” While I am no kind of basketball coach, right now I’m interested to see if being an NBA coach is as hard as I think it is.

Average Age: 24.3

Average Height: 6-7

Average Weight: 218

Source: ESPN.com – Height, weight, age and salary vary based on source.

Team Preview:

The Bulls are one of the youngest teams in the league this season and over the upcoming 82 games that fact is going to be visible in their play. However, recent Bulls teams that won 47 and 49 games were also very, very young. The main difference this year will be a head coach who has yet to coach a regular season basketball game at any level as well as an excessive depth of talent. In fact, the combination of those two features will ultimately spell doom for this team’s playoffs hopes.

The Bulls are crazy deep at every position, yet unfortunately lack any transcendent stars. Sure, Derrick Rose looks like he’s going to be a star in the near future, but is probably a year away at the very least. While most teams would probably envy the depth that the Bulls roster features, a head coach is totally new to the profession might have trouble with it. Del Negro’s inconsistent rotation over the course of the preseason doesn’t point to good things for the regular season. He’ll have some tough decisions to make with more players expecting not only major minutes, but to start than he has roles to fill.

The balance of this talented roster is indeed fragile. You have Thomas, who is entering his third season, a season by which players who are going to be strong pros usually start to show it. He’ll be facing off against Drew Gooden for minutes in a contract year for Gooden. The Bulls have two promising young centers in Joakim Noah and Aaron Gray, yet Del Negro seems poised to start the undersized Gooden at Center. This decision of course would leave two men who each thought he had a chance to start competing for backup minutes. And that’s just the frontcourt situation.

At the three, they have Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni. This position probably will feature the most stable rotation. Having just signed a large extension, it should be clear to everybody that Deng is the starter. Nocioni puts forth as much effort as anybody on the team, but is unfortunately only a so-so defender. That said, he brings an excellent scoring burst off of the bench. The only wrench that could be thrown into this rotation would be Thabo Sefolosha being forced to play more at the SF position than his natural role as a 1 or a 2, which brings us to the guards.

Five guards on this roster have realistic expectations of starting. Hinrich and Hughes have started since sometime in each of their rookie seasons. Rose, the number one pick in the draft, has every reason to believe he should start after a very impressive preseason. Ben Gordon, coming of an unsuccessful negotiation for a contract averaging over $10 million per year, is both in a contract year and clearly believes he is worthy of starting.

Of course a coach with a talented, deep young team needs to try out different lineups in preseason to see what he has. However, Del Negro has gone far beyond testing the waters. Multiple players have started, gone to the bench and started again in this short exhibition season. Minutes for certain players have looked just like what Tyrus Thomas has said he hates most:

You can’t produce consistently if you don’t play consistent minutes. It’s impossible, regardless what people say. You play me five minutes and then say I’m inconsistent? That’s crazy. You won’t be consistent playing 30 minutes a game for three games and then five minutes a game for the next six. It’s not going to happen.

This roster has too many quality players, especially guards, for everyone to stay happy. Del Negro is going to have to piss off a couple of guys. However, he can keep the faith of the rest of his players by establishing both a starting lineup and a regular rotation early in the season. A rookie head coach is going to need his team to buy in. Unfortunately, it does not look like Del Negro is going to give his players the consistency they desire as he keeps talking about how the lineup and rotation are going to have to be fluid and change from game to game. I think the chemistry on this team will start to suffer early in the season and will never recover. During the offseason the Bulls will purge about half of this team and move forward with the core they truly hope to rebuild around.

Predicted record for 2008-2009: 35-47

02
Oct
08

Gordon accepts one-year qualifying offer

Ben Gordon, up against a deadline, reportedly signed the one-year qualifying offer of $6.4 million late last night.

This is better than an extended hold out and worse than just about anything else.

Gordon is now in position to leave the Bulls at the end of the season with nothing to show for the former #3 overall pick. Sigh.

Here’s how I imagine this season going:

Ben is a true professional. A short professional by NBA standards, but a professional nonetheless. Therefore, he will show up and work hard. Accept the 6th man role he will be given yet again. Only this year the Bulls have two too many guards in the back court and a rookie coach. All of the guards’ minutes will vary greatly and many different rotations will be tried over the course of the season.

None of the guards will be very happy with this situation because, as I’ve written before, NBA players seem to want minutes and a set role more than anything else (besides money). However, Ben Gordon will have reason to be even more upset than the others. He is going to have to depend on a big year in order to get big money as an unrestricted free agent this summer. The overflow of guards on the Bulls roster is going to make having that big year extremely hard for him. At some point in the season we’re going to hear some grumbling from Ben. It won’t be too bad because, as I’ve said, he’s a pro. But we’ll hear some. His situation will be too desperate to unfold otherwise.

The biggest problem, in my opinion, with the above scenario is that it will cause Gordon to resent the Bulls more than he probably already does. This resentment would mean that when he’s shopping around for contracts this summer, if the Bulls and another team offer him similar money, you have to assume he’s going with the other team. Not only would that decision cost the Bulls their best scorer, it would also leave them with nothing to show for a high draft pick who also turned out to be a very talented guy.

That’s not how you want to run a championship NBA team.

24
Mar
08

www.firejimboylan.com

This is getting ridiculous.

I run three blogs and have grown to love blogging. I take it as seriously as my free time and availability allow and I am often offended by the ill will many newspaper reporters hold towards bloggers. Nevertheless, everyone needs to realize that although blogs are a wonderful tool, any pissy guy can start one in about 4 and a half minutes. The amount of coverage that http://www.firemyteam’scoach.com blogs are getting from non-bloggers is unbelievable. Just because one fan makes such a blog does not make it a news story. I support and love the interactions between blogs and bloggers. The problem is that there are countless high quality blogs out there that are much more deserving of the mainstream media’s attention than these firethecoach blogs.  Instead of focusing on the highest quality or even most visited sports blogs, the big media outlets focus on these sensational blogs while separately condemning blogging as a practice.  I know that many newspapers and media powers have blogs of their own.

I’m this close registering http://www.firejimboylan.com just so I can rake in the cash from the ads I’ll be able to sell once ESPN and The New York Times cover it and drive up my traffic. I’m not questioning the motivation or passion behind the bloggers who have started these other sites, just the filtering system that other types of media outlets are using. If everyone else is getting some, why shouldn’t I?

NOTE: I have no intention of actually starting http://www.firejimboylan.com. If that site does come into existance, it will not be run by me. That said, I’m linking it here so we can all easily check back to see if anybody comes up with and carries through with the idea.

18
Mar
08

Bulls 97 – Hornets 108 – Unfortunately, winning without a star in the NBA is not a realistic possibility

The Bulls blew this game and there was no excuse.  HOWEVER, the refs helped them out.  Hornets were getting no calls on all sorts of fouls the entire game, especially new NBA golden boy Chris Paul.  I point this out not in an effort to complain about unfairness, I’ve long since given up on the NBA ever attaining fair, quality officiating.  Instead I think the behavior of last night’s crew of referees (Bennett Salvatore,  Leon Wood, and Mark Ayotte, for reference) proves yet again that this is a league in which you must have a superstar player to have a successful team.  The Bulls do not have such a player.

While most NBA fans have known about this requirement for a long time, I’ve stubbornly resisted the theory.  My resistance was a result of enjoying watching team basketball more than watching one amazing athlete charge to the hoop while four other guys on his team stand around.  Think the Cavs or the Heat.  I don’t want to sound like Larry Hughes, but that’s not what basketball is about.  I can appreciate watching a transcendent talent as much as the next person, but that type of talent should sustain a team through offensive droughts as opposed to dominating the ball all game.  Think Jordan during his early years in the league vs. his championship-winning years.  Despite what David Stern says, I believe through and through that the NBA unofficially wholeheartedly disagrees with me.

The NBA wants superstars it can use to sell the game, which makes sense from a business perspective.  I believe that somehow the referees know it is in their best interest to help these superstars emerge and stay as visible and successful as possible each game.  Do I think the NBA takes the refs aside to explicitly list its favorite players and give marching orders?  No.  But David Stern and his people have some influence here and I will never believe otherwise.  In order to win throughout the regular season and even more so in a seven game playoff series a team has to have a star player to get the preferential treatment from the officials.  Once the star stars getting the love from the refs it spreads to the rest of the team.  This requirement existed just as much during the Jordan years as it does today, but in my opinion it’s hurting the game.

———————————————————-

Game observations

Chris Paul, for all my whining, is amazing.  His ball handling abilities are ridiculous.  His court vision appeared supernatural as he shredded the Bulls weak defense with no-look laser passes and alley-oops.  But for all of his freakish abilities he seemed to have just as many character flaws last night.  Despite getting as much star treatment from the refs last night as I’ve seen any player this season get, he still complained about supposed missed calls so much you’d think he was on the Pistons.  It really was tiring.  Also, one of the qualities that makes him so good but that also makes him hard to root for is that he is a cheap shot artist and acting artist.  He got away with murder all night not only because he’s a star, but also because he’s outstanding at sneaking in reaches, holds and slaps and flops at just the right moments.

I like Jim Boylan and wish him success in the future, but he’s in over his head right now.  His attempt at a rotation last night was laughable.  When you have one of the best guards in the league tearing up your defense, why don’t either of your best perimeter defenders (Hinrich and Sefolosha) play even 17 minutes?  Larry Hughes is a good player who can do certain things well, but the Bulls need a coach who is not afraid to bench him when he’s hurting the team.  Last night he was hurting the team for almost the entire game yet Boylan rarely sat him, instead rewarding his poor shot selection and lackadaisical defensive effort with minutes.  It’s not as if there was no quality alternative.  The Bulls are stocked with guards!?!  Being the highest paid player on the team should not necessarily guarantee you minutes every night.  For some reason the Bulls have a big problem understanding that.
I continue to wonder what this team can do in the offseason.  If they get rid of Ben Gordon who carries them through games like last night?  Nobody else currently on the roster can score like that as consistently (note that I wrote as consistently instead of consistently).  Sefolosha and Hinrich probably have some value around the league right now, but who plays man-to-man (not passing lane) defense and who in the world distributes the ball if those two are gone.  Obviously Deng isn’t going anywhere because Paxson would rather shoot himself.  They likely will package Tyrus with somebody so he can go to another team and average 12 and 13 like Tyson Chandler.

If I’m in charge I would amazingly keep most of what’s currently here together.  The other options don’t look to be that great and I think with a leadership change there’s enough talent here to be good.  They don’t have that star player is wrote is so necessary, but they don’t have a way of getting him any time soon.  In my opinion they need to do whatever possible to get rid of Hughes, whether it’s a buyout or another bad contract attached to a more acceptable attitude on the court, his presence will hurt the team. Unfortunately I think unloading him will be next to impossible and will not happen.

07
Mar
08

With Wallace gone, the Bulls are finally starting the best available center

Bulls 107 – Cavs 96

A game like last night’s is a great reason for the first official post at the new address.

If you’ve looked at this site often over the course of this season you know that I was adamant about getting Ben Wallace off the floor. I didn’t think anybody would take him in a trade, but I was wrong. No matter how it was done, I’m just glad he’s no longer taking up minutes that should be going to Bulls players who actually care to try hard. Like say, Joakim Noah . . .

noah vs. wallace

Just like Joakim Noah in this picture,
the Bulls came out on top by making him
the replacement for Ben Wallace as their
starting center

This isn’t the first time I’ve compared their stats from a game, but it’s the first time I’ve happily been able to do so when Ben’s numbers were for another team.

Ben Wallace in 27:32:
1-4 from the field
10 boards
2 pts
1 asst

Joakim Noah in 32:24:
5-9 from the field
20 boards
13 pts
1 asst

So in similar minutes Noah basically doubled Wallace’s production, and that was a great game for Big Ben this year. If Wallace was still on the Bulls he would have played 33 minutes last night while Noah played 17. Thank goodness he’s gone.

Another interesting stat comparison for the two last night was +/-. For anybody who doesn’t know, +/- is a statistic made popular in hockey that many people are now using when looking at the NBA. It measures the score differential of the player’s team while he was on the floor. I’m not sure how useful it is with basketball (for example LeBron James’ +/- last night was -21), but it’s interesting to note that Ben Wallace had a -12 in that game while Noah had a +17. To me that disparity exemplifies the difference in their games at this point in their careers even if the stat is somewhat empty. Noah is going to work his ass off in order to help the team. Wallace is going to try and rely on his skills and experience and no longer bring that high level of effort he used to. I’m not sure why he’s more apathetic these days (I have my theories though), but I’m glad he’s being apathetic now for a different team.

As a rookie, Noah is going to be inconsistent. Nevertheless, he’s a much better option for the Bulls moving forward than Wallace was. He actually has center height whereas Wallace never did. I believe in his prime Noah will be very similar to Wallace in his prime. In an ESPN chat last summer I got a question answered by David Thorpe regarding Joakim Noah. I asked if he thought Noah could develop into a solid starter and replacement for Wallace or if he was destined to be an energy guy off the bench. Thorpe said he thought Noah could be a starting center on a championship team someday. I couldn’t agree more.

04
Mar
08

New Domain Name

I have updated my domain name in order to make things less confusing. I figured nbullsa.wordpress.com would make more sense for NBullsA Basketball than 312chill.wordpress.com did. The old site still exists and contains all of my old posts. You can visit it here in order to see the older content.

I’m still working on getting all of the features (and more) on this site that I had on the old one, so please be patient.




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