Archive for the 'luol deng' Category

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.

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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
Feb
08

Sefolosha should continure to start, Gordon should go

Bulls 97 – Blazers 100

Good effort last night by the Bulls.  They were extremely shot-handed, which I’ll get to in a  moment,  but still stuck with a surprisingly solid Blazers team.  The Bulls story of the night in my opinion was Thabo Sefolosha.  Sure it was only one game, but he had 22 pts on 9-17, 6 assts, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 4 boards and only 2 turnovers.  Those are some good, starter-worthy numbers.  Here’s to hoping we see Thabo starting at the 2 guard for the foreseeable future.

One of the main reasons I want to see Thabo starting at the 2 is that I now want Ben Gordon off of this team almost as much as I want Paxson gone.  Of course Gordon isn’t going anywhere until Pax does because we all know John isn’t trading any player he drafted or signed.  I have to admit that my comments these days are the result of my extreme frustration with this season and I probably won’t agree with them all a couple of months from now.  Nevertheless, a lot of Bulls have been missing games with injuries lately and I don’t think most of them would be missing some of these games if the Bulls were in third place in the East.  Chief among these offenders, I believe, is Ben Gordon.

Ben Gordon recently said,

It has been hard watching, especially because we have been having
trouble scoring, but I need the wrist to be 100 percent
so I'm not thinking about it and it doesn't affect my shot.

After making these comments he came back for two games and averaged 26.5 points while shooting 49% from the field including 75% from behind the arc.  It doesn’t look like his shot was affected too much.  However, after pulling out prior to last night’s game he said,

I probably need to stay off it for a little while, especially with it
being my shooting hand. Say we make a playoff run. I
don't want to be worrying about it down the stretch."

When he says, “Say we make a playoff run.  I don’t want to be worrying about it down the stretch”, I take that to mean, “If we were contending I’d play through the pain, but right now I just need to make sure I only play when I’m 100% so my numbers look as good as possible going into contract negotiations this summer.”

That would be an acceptable stance from, say, Vince Carter.  With Carter you know what you’re getting and know what his personality is.  However, these Bulls players were supposed to be different.  They were drafted or signed over more talented players because they are supposed to have more character and desire to win.  I believe Gordon started out this way but has since grown more selfish.  At this point BG7 and his expiring contract should be traded to another team where he can become somebody else’s sixth man prima donna.  The Bulls already have Ben Wallace to fill that role and it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere.

Answer me this Gordon, how exactly is the team going to make a playoff run if you and your 20 ppg (and only 2.9 assisst/game) are sitting out while the team is already missing Luol Deng?

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 Gordon to join Luol Deng on Great Britain?

Rumors have been around for a long time that Ben Gordon might join the GB national team ever since Luol Deng committed to it. Gordon was born in England whereas Deng’s family was granted political asylum and moved there. Until today I’ve yet to see any evidence that Gordon could or would follow Deng in this matter. Deng, after all, had to become a citizen officially and get a British passport before he could play with GB. While Gordon was born in the country, he moved with his mother to the states while still a baby. I didn’t know if he had a passport and he’s been cryptic in his comments on this topic so far, possibly holding out hopes for making Team USA.

However, in a chat on ESPN.com today Marc Stein provided more positive evidence that we could see BG join Deng and help GB make some noise in the world of basketball:

Ethers (London): What are the chances of Ben Gordon playing for Team GB seeing as his
chances of playing for USA Basketball are slim?

SportsNation Marc Stein: (11:29 AM ET ) Our man in England (Ian Whittell) says it's very
likely to happen and I defer to his expertise on this one. Gordon already has the
proper passport and has expressed an interest to play for them thanks to some
seriously lobbying from Luol Deng and GB coach Chris Finch. There's a chance it could
happen as soon as August or September when qualifying for Eurobasket 2009 starts.
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.




June 2017
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