Posts Tagged ‘erik piatkowski

23
Oct
07

Start Gray? Think about 2004-05

K.C. Johnson wrote today that the Bulls may start Aaron Gray.  I know he started with some success in Friday’s Pacers game, but I thought that statement wis ridiculous when I first read it.  The Bulls are a team that prides themselves on defense.  They’ve been the number 1 or 2 D in the league for the past three years.  Now we’re supposed to believe that they’d start a guy who, for all the good things he does in the post, can hardly move when he’s not using at least one foot as a pivot.  Not to mention he’d be starting over the experience of Joe Smith, the outstanding athleticism of Tyrus Thomas, or the intensity of Joakim Noah when he doesn’t posess any one of those three qualities (yet)?  Then I started thinking about how the Bulls used Eddy Curry in the ’04-’05 season and Skiles’ potential plan started to make a lot more sense to me.


This guy might start for the Bulls?!?  If you remember 2004 you’ll see that Gray starting might not be so bad.

In ’04-’05 the Bulls consistently threw the ball down low to Curry to start the game.  Often he’d get the ball in the post four of the first five Bulls possesions.  Usually he’d score.  He’d rack up 10 quick points in the first quarter and Skiles would pull him.  He’d play consistently, though somewhat sparingly, through the second and third quarters and then see little to no time in the fourth.  This strategy for using Eddy Curry originally drove me crazy becuase I couldn’t see why Skiles didn’t want the easy points Eddy could bring.  Later I came to realize its beauty.


Eddy was a one trick pony with the Bulls,
but what a trick it was.  Chicago’s lacked
lacked a player with anything resembling
that trick since they shipped Curry out in
2005.

Curry was an even less complete player that season than he now.  Sure, he could score with ease because of his wide body and soft touch.  However, he brought next to nothing to the table in terms of defense and rebounding.  A center who doesn’t rebound is simply a liability when the game is on the line.  The worst part was that he didn’t even seem to exert effort in those areas.  I believe I remember Skiles once responding to the question, “What could Eddy do to become a better rebounder?” by saying, “Jump.” That’s what I call a lack of effort.

Nevertheless, the team with the most points wins the game and Curry could score points.  Hinrich, Nocioni, Gordon and Deng all averaged a combined 20.0 points fewer that season than they did last season.  Scoring was something the Bulls desparately needed.  However, if they were say down by 2 with a minute to go in the fourth quarter and Jeff Foster grabs an offensive rebound because Eddy didn’t jump, well let’s just say Skiles wasn’t about to let that type of situation ever happen.  So he used Curry very early in the game to get the offense going before Curry’s liabilities and lapses would hurt the team too much.

Curry’s inside scoring opened up opportunities for the largely perimiter-oriented rest of the team.  Of course, that’s what effective post players add to any team.  Skiles coaching brilliance came from his balance of using Curry early and more well-rounded players later.  I’d compare it to an NFL team committing to the run early in order to open up the play-action plays later in the game.  The opposing team would know that the Bulls are willing to go down low, have plays designed to do so and, even if Curry isn’t in the game, his efforts in the first quarter proved the Bulls are willing to try it.  That means the opposing defense has to respect the player under the hoop at least a little bit – just like an opposing secondary would have to at least watch out for a run istead of going directly into pass coverage – and couldn’t swarm to the perimiter players quite as quickly.  The smidgen of extra space that this respect created for guys like Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich and Erik Piatkowski was just enough to help the Bulls win a shocking 47 games that season.

Now, to get back to the Aaron Gray situation, I believe Skiles is thinking about the ’04-’05 season while mulling the possiblity of starting Gray.  Is Aaron the most complete PF/big man on the team not named Ben Wallace?  Not by a long shot.  However, has he shown he can be an effective low post scorer as well as a better rebounder than Curry was?  Absolutely.  So when Skiles is thinking about how well his Curry strategy worked three seasons ago and looking at a current roster that features highly improved and deeper offensive forces, how can he not put two and two together.  I’m not saying whether or not he should start Gray, just that the idea makes sense when you look at the late Eddy Curry era Bulls. 

Some good quotes and info from K.C.’s article:

Benny the Bull might be faster baseline to baseline.

"We liked what happened at the beginning of the game the other night,"
Skiles said. "We thought Ben Wallace and Aaron played well together.
Ben is a good passer. And he found Aaron once the other night. Ben
also knows our offense well. 
"We have to decide, balancing both units, do we want a couple of
defensive players in the starting lineup or do we want more offense.
Aaron has shown—and I think he will in the regular season—that he
can score. Do we want to use that to start a game? It's something we
have to think about."

Despite fouling out against the Pacers, most infractions coming from
poor or slow defensive rotations, he's averaging 10.8 points, 5.8 rebounds
and 3.8 fouls in 18 minutes per exhibition. He's also shooting 61.3 percent
in five games.
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