Archive for the 'kirk hinrich' Category

28
Apr
09

pissed (tell me you don’t know why) – bulls v. celtics – game 5

well that sucked.  i don’t know what could be done to make it better.

[PICTURE OF BLOODY BRAD MILLER AND KIRK HINRICH COMING SOON]

brad miller is (UNOFFICIALLY) flagrantly fouled

brad miller is (UNOFFICIALLY) flagrantly fouled

here’s a thought, someone with a lot more money than i have should put out an ad series: “nba playoffs – where shi*#y officiating happens.”

don’t get me wrong.  i’m not saying the bulls got screwed over start to finish.  it was more or less equally bad for both sides.  but it hurt the bulls in the end because they got the bad calls last.

look, i think all most of us want is for the games to NOT be decided by the referees.  i believe it’s hard being an nba ref.  so, what i demand as a fan is that they call the game consistently.  again, will it be easy? of course not.  but that has to be the goal.  it almost never seems like it is to me.

sometimes one team seems to get the benefit of the doubt.  it could be because that team is a more veteran team or did a better job complaining to the league offices after the last game (or randomly complained that two of the officials at the last game were chicagoans – stupid celtics).  OR, it could be one player gets the benefit of the doubt because he’s the most talented person on the floor, influencing refs to avoid calling fouls on him and rush to call fouls against him.  OTHER TIMES, the officiating crew on a particular night just refuses to call things consistently, regardless of which player or team they’re calling against.  this last case is what occurred in the bulls game tonight.

CONSTANTLY picks, shooting fouls, blocking fouls or charging that occurred or didn’t to some extent were being called in exactly the opposite manner one or two plays later.  you couldn’t help but believe that whichever team or team’s player RECENTLY did the best job of complaining earned that team the right to get a “make up” call soon thereafter.  REGARDLESS of legitimacy.

all i’m saying is, why aren’t nba officials held to the same IDEAL standard as the home plate umpire in an mlb game?  we know everyone is human and has different judgments, vision, opinions, etc.  what we demand out of our umpires is that when the ball is up and in at a given spot and called for a ball against one player, every pitch in that location is called a ball for the rest of the game.  does it always happen?  of course not!  but that is the widely accepted standard.

the thing that drives me crazy about my beloved nba is that this consistency consistently isn’t expected, certainly doesn’t occur, and doesn’t even seem to be hoped for anymore by nba commentators and analysts.  i could give you quotes from nba writers i correspond with defending the refs.  well, defending might not be the right word.  it’s more that they tell me, “yeah, it’s messed up.  so what would you do about it?  david stern has nothing either.”  i say, “NOT GOOD ENOUGH.”

we know from the tim donaghy scandal, these guys make somewhere in the $200K per year range (i have no idea why).  that amount is good enough to force them to work 300 days or so per year (anybody who disagrees is free to switch jobs with me, i’ll do yours, believe me, especially if it is watching nba games).  if they don’t like it?  what was that other high paying job that refereeing basketball games made you qualified for again?  oh yeah, that’s right, nothing.  work your ass of for this money or walk away. it’s your choice and that’s what we (should) demand.  you’re not just influencing the 30 players or so in the stadium that night.  you’re influencing the emotions of millions of fans.  you have to work for that right.  it is not, nor should it ever be, a given.  when they aren’t officiating, make them study tape, watch pickup games, i don’t know, anything to get better.  hell, bottom string PLAYERS make less than that and are CERTAINLY held to higher standards (except for brian scalabrine who is in the league only so the moronic celtics fans DESPERATELY want to BELIEVE they have an irish person [i have no idea if he has irish ancestry or not] on their team).  the point is, DEMAND BETTER.  i just don’t see the nba doing it.

someday i’ll learn.  as of today, i can’t quite give it up.

P.S. – what happened to KG?  there was a time i believed he was the ideal nba player.  he really cared about winning.  he was the consummate pro.  now?  he’s a little other word for a female dog.  end of game 1 when the celtics were losing to the “lowly” bulls? he couldn’t stand it and ran to the locker room out of the public eye.  end of game 5?  ONLY ONCE HE KNEW they were going to win, was he on some BS.

so youre yelling at ben gordon because hes playing hurt and youre not?

so you're yelling at ben gordon because he's playing hurt and you're not?

P.S.S. – sorry for all of the parentheses today.  i was in the mood to not care.

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.

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.

04
Feb
08

Another call for Paxson’s demise (with a little Reinsdorf bashing thrown in)

Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley says,

We had conversations with Chicago which were non-satisfactory.
They didn't want to take on the luxury-tax situation and Los
Angeles was. In his league, if you're in a big-market area you
can afford to do those hings. We negotiated as hard as we could
for quality players and Chicago) refused to give up anybody in
their core group. What they offered us were guys who play on the
second and third team, so we turned them down.

Heisley’s completely right.  In Chicago the Bulls could still make plenty of money even if they had to pay the luxury tax for one season (this one).  Based on other sources, what Heisley was referring to was the Bulls re-signing PJ Brown to a prorated portion of a one-year contract in order to make the slaries match up for a Gasol trade.   If the Bulls did that they would go over the luxury tax limit for this season and thus have to pay some penalties as well as miss out on their share of penalties other teams (like the Knicks) will be paying that are divided amongst all under the limit teams.

You know what, too freaking bad.  Look, as a Bulls and Sox fan I’ve come to learn that Reinsdorf is ridiculously cheap for owning teams in a market like Chicago.  If you’re not Michael Jordan (or apparently Ben Wallace) he’s not giving you reasonable money.   Nevertheless, this is a new level of cheapness.  We’re talking about a one year hit in order to be a contender for the next five or so seasons.  After this year Brown’s contract would be gone and I’ve already described and losing Duhon and Ben Gordon’s contracts after this season would free up nearly $8 million.  Hinrich and Ben Wallace each make $1 million less next season than they do this season.  Where’s the problem?!?

Once more, I have to explain what should have happened.  Heisley clearly shows in his above comments he was willing to work with the Bulls.  My thing is, they didn’t even have to go into the luxury zone with a PJ Brown contract to get him.  This failure is completely Paxson and/or Reinsdorf’s fault.

Heisley says they wanted somebody out of the Bulls core group.  How about Ben Gordon? He’s a young player from the Bulls’ core who would be an ideal 6th man for Memphis or who Memphis could let go at the end of the season for cap relief.  Gordon is a restricted free agent at the end of the season which means the Bulls have to extend him to a long-term deal or he can sign their qualifying offer, which would extend his contract one more season at 125% of what he’s making this season.  However, the Grizzlies could also choose not to tender him a qualifying offer which would mean he’d become an unrestricted free agent and come off of their books.  There goes $4.9 million.

The Bulls would also include Chris Duhon.  He’s a borderline core group/second team player.  Memphis probably wouldn’t be interested in him as they already have two young point guards, but his contract also comes off the books at the end of the year.  There goes an additions $3.25 in cap relief.

Now we’re up to $8.15 million in cap relief for the Grizzlies, plus the option to keep an attractive young player in Gordon if they do want to pay him.  Kwame Brown is making $9.05 million this season.  Therefore, the Bulls could have offered Memphis pretty much the same cap relief the Lakers offered with the added benefit of an attractive young player (as opposed to one of the bigger busts of all time) as part of the relief.

Next, the Bulls offer the Grizzlies their choice of Tyrus Thomas or Joakim Noah.  Tyrus Thomas makes $3.5 million this season and Noah makes $2.14 million.  Both make more than Crittenton’s $1.29 million, but the Grizzlies are log jammed at point guard and in need of somebody to replace Gasol’s minutes in the front court.  Thomas and Noah offer that replacement and are they type of young, high upside players the Grizzlies are looking for.  Crittenton doesn’t offer that replacement and, based on his draft position, has less potential as well.  Finally, if Memphis is looking to dump salary and nothing else, Thomas or Noah would command a better draft pick from another team than Crittenton would in a player-for-pick trade.

One of the main reasons the Grizzlies made this trade is they have high hopes for Marc Gasol.  If that’s the case, I have to believe Thomas or Noah’s higher potential over Crittenton would have to balance this aspect of the trade out.  Even if Heisley and GM Chris Wallace really like Marc Gasol, the added advantages of my offer over the Lakers offer would have to be too much to pass up.

The Lakers also threw in their first round picks in ’08 and ’10.  I believe the ’08 is top three protected and the ’10 is top ‘6.  They may be the other way around, but it doesn’t matter.  I would have thrown in those picks from the Bulls unprotected.  If Chicago has Gasol the picks would be mid-round at best/worst.  Again, my offer would trump the Lakers.  Not only would my picks be unprotected, but in my opinion it’s safe to assume that the Bulls with Gasol would have a worse record in those seasons than the Lakers with Gasol will.  Therefore the Grizzlies would come out with better picks by taking my offer.

All of these factors combined would seem like far, far too much for Heisley and Wallace to pass up, but that doesn’t matter.  The point is the Bulls DID have the pieces to beat the Lakers offer and just refused to make the move.   This fear, this inactivity, this reluctance to let go of any player he drafted should seal Paxson’s fate.  Yes, Reinsdorf is a cheap owner, but I figured out a way for the Bulls to have made this trade without even going into the luxury tax.  Paxson MUST be fired, it’s the only logical next step if this team is ever going to get better.

24
Jan
08

Who should the Bulls trade and who should they save – thoughts inspired by Bulls 108 – Indiana 95


What we saw in last night’s Bulls-Pacers game was a glimpse at what could be an enticing future for the Bulls. I think everyone who follows this team can admit at this point that there are some major problems. Definitively identifying those problems is somewhat harder, but it’s clear that a change is necessary. Although Hinrich’s not going to go off for 38 every night, I think the core that we saw contribute the most last night will have what it takes in the long run. Personally, out of the players currently on the Bulls roster I’d like to see them hold on to:

Joakim Noah (C, PF)

Tyrus Thomas (PF, SF)
Andres Nocioni (SF, PF)
Luol Deng (SF, SG, PF)
Thabo Sefolosha (SF, SG, PG)
Kirk Hinrich (PG, SG)

Deciding to keep these players over some of the others on the roster is accepting taking a step backwards and going back into development (not rebuilding!) mode. However, Ben Wallace is terrible. Joe Smith is great, but won’t be anymore by the time some of these other guys are good enough. Ben Gordon, though I really like him, is going to need a Tyson Chandler-like change of scenes. He might eventually accept a 6th man role somewhere happily, but it won’t be on the Bulls and it won’t be on a team that’s below championship-caliber. He’d have too many memories of saving the day as a starter and turning down $10 million annually. No, a change of scenes is best for all parties involved and, despite his limitations, BG has rare scoring abilities.

The rest of the Bulls are nice but replaceable pieces. Aaron Gray can provide help off the bench, but if you’re either a great talent evaluator or you’re lucky you can find a guy like him in every year’s draft at the end of the first round. Adrian Griffin is a solid veteran but definitely replaceable. It’s almost impossible to know anything about Demetris Nichols since I’ve never seen him play, but you have to also figure he’s replaceable for that very same reason. I like Chris Duhon and would accept him as a backup pg, but it’s just not destined to be with the Bulls. His contract is up this year which serves the double purpose of making him an attractive trading chip and less valuable to the Bulls when looking at their future.

Actually, the two remaining Bulls who I haven’t mentioned yet – JamesOn Curry and Viktor Khryapa – I’d like to see the team hold on to. Neither has much trade value right now. Khryapa has hardly played this season so his value is down. However, I’ve seen what he can do and think he can still be a solid role player. Based on the little I’ve seen of Curry, I think he could be a great replacement for Ben Gordon. He’s a dynamic scorer, though a tweener guard who may not be a great defender. I think he could provide a nice scoring spark of the bench.

So under my plan the Bulls roster would be:

Joakim Noah – proving to be a very solid defensive/center/rebounder-type to replace Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace – nobody is going to take him in a trade
Tyrus Thomas – I honestly believe he’ll develop either into a solid starter or a great 6th man type
Andres Nocioni – I don’t see how the Bulls could afford to give him up as right now he looks like the only one who cares
Luol Deng – clearly has the most potential on a team that desperately needs someone to evolve into a star
Thabo Sefolosha – looks like he’ll become a Doug Christie-like player but with the ability to direct the team from the point at times
Kirk Hinrich – showed last night that he can put up points when he needs to and is still the best pg and perimeter defender on the team. He’s signed long-term to a relatively friendly contract as well.
JamesOn Curry – a cross between Ben Gordon and Jannero Pargo, bringing instant offense off the bench but not much else
Viktor Khryapa – does a little bit of everything and kind of resembles James Posey

That means the Bulls would be looking to trade Ben Gordon, Joe Smith, Chris Duhon, Aaron Gray, Adrian Griffin, and Demetris Nichols. Obviously they couldn’t trade all of these players in one season, especially when the deadline is only a month away and some of these guys have next to no value to other teams. However, some assembly of the above athletes could score the Bulls a useful if not star player. Good enough to get Pau Gasol? Probably not. Tracy McGrady . . . just kidding. I love watching T-Mac but he’s way too injury prone and paid way too much to be worth the risk.

Thoughts?

17
Jan
08

Ben Wallace, 36 minutes, 7 boards – Joakim Noah, 16 minutes, 8 boards

Bulls 126 – Heat 96

I missed the game again. What can I say, I’ve been busy. It’s a shame too because even if this game was against the woeful Heat, Sam Smith says, ” It was that and more for arguably the best all-around effort the Bulls have had this season.” He also wrote, “Andres Nocioni . . . had 20 points and could have bitten the head off a live chicken with his feet in boiling water.” I’ve never heard that expression before, but it sounds like Nocioni’s play must have been interesting at least.

A few observations from the highlights and box score:

Minutes – Ben Gordon is still coming off the bench, yet he played 36 minutes again. It almost seems like he was promised 36 mpg as long as he would come off the bench. It’s time for him to get his starting job back. He played 5 more minutes than anybody else in the game despite not starting! Ben Wallace did play almost 33 minutes (which I understand is only 3 less than 36) but based on the box score he wasn’t in the game. He looked active in the highlights, which is the one thing you ask from Wallace, yet he still only had 7 boards and 1 block in 33 minutes. And why in the world is Ben Wallace getting the second most minutes of any Bull anyway?!!? It’s time for Big Ben and The Daddy, Shaq Diesel to hang ’em up. Unfortunately the combined $68.5 million the two are owed by their teams over the next two years tells me they’ll be sticking around.

Starters – Thabo Sefolosha started for the injured Hinrich. Thabo played and shot well so it’s hard to blame Boylan for starting him. Nevertheless, I’m getting the same feeling with the Bulls starters this year that I had with the Bears starters this past season. You’d like to see new players in the starting lineup because their play coming off the bench was so great that they earned the job. Instead we’re seeing starters play so poorly that we turn to the next guy in line as a last resort. Grossman, Griese, Grossman, Orton. Hinrich, Duhon, Gordon, Sefolosha. You get the picture. Did Joe Smith impress the staff so much he was inserted as a starter, or did Tyrus Thomas play so inconsistently that they couldn’t afford to start him anymore? Was Sefolosha playing so well that he was the logical choice when Hinrich went down, or do they not trust Ben Gordon to motivate himself when he isn’t being disrespected by playing off the bench?

If I were setting the lineup I would have either moved Deng to the 2 guard until Hinrich comes back and stuck Nocioni in at the 3 or I would have put Ben Gordon back in as a starter. Sure, I’d up Thabo’s minutes as he’s been playing well lately and the team needs him to contribute, but turning to him as a starter is either a last resort-type of move or a sign that the coaching staff is, or perhaps has been told to, look to the future instead of trying to win now.

Deng – Deng had 21 pts and 8 dimes. Sometimes assists just come in the flow of the game and I didn’t see this game so I don’t know how he got them, but 8 assists sure sounds like something you’d like out of a guard. If they’re experimenting at this point anyway, I don’t see why they don’t try Lu at the 2 a little bit.

Noah – Joakim had 8 boards, 1 more than Ben Wallace, in exactly half the minutes that Wallace played. Rookie or not, slightly annoying or not, he wants to win and as a fan I have to respect that.

16
Jan
08

The problem(s) with the Chicago Bulls

– –

I missed all but a couple minutes of last night’s Bulls-Magic game, but unfortunately couldn’t miss the result. I think I’m officially giving up on the season now. The small spark that the players got from the coaching change is long gone and they’re back to getting blown out again like they were with Skiles. Beyond that, Boylan hasn’t shown me that he’s a better coach in any aspect of the game than Skiles was. I know it must be hard to take over in mid-season, but it’s not like these players are new to him. Coaching has not helped this team early in the season or recently. However, we have to blame the players as well.

There are some confusing issues with the players on this team and how they’ve performed this season. There is more talent on the roster than there was last season. They lost P.J. Brown, Malik Allen, Michael Sweetney and Andre Barrett. To this point they’ve gained Joe Smith, Joakim Noah, Aaron Gray and Demetris Nichols. Joe Smith has been in my opinion the MVP of the Bulls this season (that’s not a good thing) and has easily replaced P.J. Brown’s solid but unremarkable production. Malik Allen and Mike Sweetney didn’t add much to last year’s team and have again been easily out produced by Gray and Noah. Barrett didn’t play and Nichols doesn’t play, so they’re a wash. If the ’07-’08 Bulls are more talented than the ’06-’07 Bulls, why are they losing so many more games?

Another problem is that not a single player on the Bulls has improved his play over last season. That’s a major problem when you have a team composed almost exclusively of young talent. I know it’s about more than stats, but Gordon, Deng, Nocioni and Hinrich each significantly improved their numbers every season prior to this year. So far in ’07-’08 each has seen his numbers regress. Additionally, Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha have shown no progress from their rookie campaigns. Thomas doesn’t seem to have the mental stability to handle this season’s less predictable rotation and would benefit from more minutes. Sefolosha, in fairness, has been playing better over the last few games but is still shooting under 30% from the field. Finally, the single biggest problem concerning the returning players has been Ben Wallace. He understandably is showing his age, but the maddening thing is he doesn’t seem to care. It appears as if he only tries for about half of one out of every five games. He pulled a bait and switch on the Bulls and now that the season seems to be lost he needs to find a seat next to Nichols while the young bigs get a chance to develop.

The chemistry certainly seems to be a problem, which is again confusing. I think that chemistry amongst the players and with the coaches is the only logical explanation for their clearly lowered effort level this season. But who or what is causing the problems? I know we just had NoAdamsGate, but I don’t think Joakim Noah is a huge problem. I could be wrong, but he strikes me as more emotionally unstable than a destabilizing complainer who could hurt the team chemistry. Even if he is a distraction, he couldn’t cause enough trouble to lead to this record. Beyond Noah, I don’t see where the problems could be coming from. Duhon would have a right to be upset if he lost his rotation spot to Sefolosha without a chance to earn it back, but that didn’t happen. Sefolosha as well has had his shot and is even getting a second chance now. Ben Gordon had to understand his move back to the bench and seemed to take it in stride even if he wasn’t happy about it. Hinrich hasn’t complained and I don’t see any reason he’d have to. You have to be kidding me if you tell me Aaron Gray is a distraction. Obviously I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, but it seems inexplicable that the team chemistry is gone. Something has to be done about it.

– –

16
Jan
08

Recommendations for solving the Bulls chemistry woes

– –

If chemistry problems are this issue, what can be done? Below are some of the recommendations I would make to Bulls management regarding the players. I’ll leave the issue of what to do about the coaching situation up to them for now.

Ben Gordon – Gordon has to go, either at the trading deadline or after the season. It’s not that he’s a bad player or a bad guy, he’s one of my favorite personalities on the team. For all of his defensive and ball handling shortcomings, the Bulls would be getting blown out by 45 on a lot of nights instead of 20 if it weren’t for his scoring. Nobody else currently on the roster can replace it.– –Nevertheless, the Bulls are not about to offer BG7 $10 million a year again after moving him to the bench. Ben is a proud person and a devoted business man. He will either turn down significantly less money in order to become an unrestricted free agent in ’09 or carry a serious chip on his shoulder for the rest of his time with the Bulls. Gordon has never done anything to disrupt the team chemistry in my opinion, but I don’t think that will remain the case if he has to take $5 or $6 million annually to stay with the Bulls after being offered 10. He’d probably rather take that money from another team if given the choice. Therefore the Bulls have to get something for him before he becomes a distraction and while they can still get something.

Ben Wallace – If somebody will take Ben Wallace, the Bulls have to give him away. His unexpectedly rapid decline will force the team to bench him and severely limit his minutes well before his contract expires in 2010. No single player has the ability to upset chemistry in the Bulls locker room than Wallace. Well he’s not the most apt to make a big scene in public, his track record shows that he’s willing to make a stink in practice or public if necessary when it suits him. Just ask Flip Saunders. If the Bulls can’t sell him for an equally bad though perhaps shorter contract they need to discuss buying him out at the end of the season. They’re not going to get much value for him at this point.

Tyrus Thomas – Now that the season appears to be down the drain, Thomas needs to start getting good minutes on a regular basis. It appeared the team knew what they had in Tyrus at the end of last season, but he’s shown he’s more of a wildcard than any of us probably predicted. The team needs to figure out now what he can add and what he will be able to add in the future so they can start planning either how to replace his predicted production or how to keep a space in the rotation available to him. Also, regular minutes should go a long way to improve his demeanor. I wouldn’t recommend giving him the dreaded entitlement minutes, but exploration and development are necessary at this point.

Joakim Noah – Noah should be the C of the future for the Bulls. He has what it takes to become a Ben Wallace in his prime-type player plus about 4 inches. Sure, he’s not polished right now but he’s certainly ahead of where Wallace was at his age. His lack of professionalism is something that can, and I believe will, be improved over time. Finally, he doesn’t seem to me to be the type of player who needs consistent minutes as a rookie to stay motivated (not that anyone should). The Bulls need to keep him in the rotation but should have some flexibility in his playing time until they can figure out a way to reduce Wallace’s minutes.

Kirk Hinrich – Hinrich needs to start but should be able to handle reduced minutes from what I’ve seen. He’s not going to be the one to cause chemistry problems and, despite his struggles this season, is still a very solid player. As a captain he needs to start the rest of this season and for the foreseeable future unless some star players are added to the roster. However, if Thabo needs some minutes he should be able to get some at Kirk’s expense without causing too many problems.

Thabo Sefolosha – More minutes are an absolute necessary for Sefolosha. Similar to Thomas, we’ve unexpectedly seen his performance drop off this season. Several sources have reported that Skiles completely broke his confidence. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but the only way to get it back is to play. Again, like Tyrus, we need to see if Thabo can be a starter down the road or will be limited to a defensive stopper off the bench who can be used to stick on guys like Kobe and perhaps Kevin Martin or Kevin Durant down the line.

Aaron Gray – I actually don’t think Gray needs any more time than he’s already getting. He has a solid low post game but is too slow to be a starter. He’s a good option off the bench and should continue to develop slowly along those lines.

Andres Nocioni and Luol Deng – Keep these guys in the game. Perhaps think about Deng at the 2 and Noce at the 3. Regardless, these two bring what the team needs, energy and consistency respectively. Nothing will keep morale up and good chemistry going like effort and production.

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.




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