Archive for the 'playoffs' 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.

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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

27
Aug
07

Posey – add a little get a lot

James Posey is exactly the type of player that I didn’t think the Celtics would be able to acquire this summer.  I didn’t think Boston would spend enough money to get such a quality player, or on any one player for that matter.  I also didn’t think Posey would have to take as little money as he reportedly is getting.

Posey will help that team immensely.  He brings defense and attitude.  He’s somewhat like the enforcer on a hockey team.  If you mess with his star player he’ll come back at you, even if it costs him a suspension.  With three aging and ever more brittle stars the Celtics will benefit from Posey’s presence and reputation.  He’s a dirty player, which makes opposing fans (like me) hate him, but he does the dirty work so that the faces of the franchise don’t have to.

Though Posey wouldn’t be a centerpiece of any NBA team, he makes me believe Boston will do much better this season than I originally thought.  He immediately becomes the fourth best player on the roster and is the definition of a role player.  He’ll actually help the team whereas, I believe, Scott Pollard and Eddie House will just take up roster spots. 

He’s touted as a defensive specialist and while he’s a good defensive player I’d say “specialist” is a bit extreme.  To bring this conversation back to a Bulls perspective let’s remember what Luol Deng did in the playoffs against the Heat while being guarded primarily by Posey:

26.3 ppg
9.0   rpg
3.0   apg
1.2   spg

Deng’s performance was more of a sign of how good he’s becoming than it is an indicator of the quality of Posey’s defense, but it also shows us Posey is not necessarily a “stopper”.  Nevertheless, the Celtics just moved up a couple of spots in my preseason power rankings.

I have to emphasize for all the Bulls fans out there that I HATE James Posey as a player.  What I’m trying to get across in this post is that he’s a much more valuable player than I thought Boston would pick up and that, with what they already have, he’ll do a lot for that team.  With multiple offensive stars already there he can do the same things he did for the Heat and that role seemed to work out pretty well for him.

By the way, what’s going on with the Heat this summer?  Posey, Jones and Kapono all gone and they countered that by adding Smush Parker?  I’m sure they have luxury tax issues but why even field a team or bother to pay Shaq and D.Wade if you’re not going to be competitive?




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