Posts Tagged ‘kobe bryant

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.

14
Jan
08

Veteran leaders lead charge to suspend Noah – Bulls struggling on defense

Coverage on NoAdamsGate from ESPN and the Tribune.  Not a lot of new info, just new quotes from players and coaches. 

This is being turned into a way bigger deal than it actually is.  Overemotional rookie blows up at coach.  Super-respectful veteran would-be team leader thinks it’s unacceptable and leads a charge to teach the kid a lesson.  Overall, this reaction from the team is probably good for everyone involved, but it’s also probably unnecessary.  The best possible result would be to turn the season around like they did after HeadbandGate.  The worst possible result would be, well, it can’t get much worse than how the Bulls are playing.

Which brings us to the real story here, the Bulls-Hawks game.  Wow.  That was some terrible basketball.  The Hawks were extremely hot in a poorly officiated first quarter, so you can’t blame the Bulls for dropping behind.  But both teams in that quarter played sloppy, terrible basketball.  While things got a bit better after the first, they still allowed the worst 3-point shooting team in the league to shoot 63% from behind on arc on the night.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, where’s the defense?!?  The Bulls have all of the same quality defenders as last season and their new additions are all upgrades in terms of defensive ability.  What is happening?  Who do we blame?  What can Paxson or Boylan do to fix this problem?

People have been clamoring for Gasol now that it’s clear Kobe isn’t going anywhere.  Would Pau Gasol have changed the outcome of yesterday’s game? No.  He’s a good shot blocker but a so-so team defender.  He’s not the fastest guy in the world and the Bulls were getting burned up and down the court by an extremely athletic Atlanta team.  Gasol wouldn’t have done any better with that than Joe Smith.  The only way Pau would have helped the Bulls to win that game would be by scoring 45-50 points while still moving the ball and allowing other players to get their shots.  He’s not going to do that.

Yes, the Bulls need a more consistent low-post scorer.  However, the bigger problem at this point is the long stretches of terrible defense and questionable decision making.  The most frustrating thing about the situation is they still have the talent to be a good team.  Sure, maybe if these players were playing the way they could they still wouldn’t win a championship.  However, they’d be able to go deep in the East and have a shot at it.  Then we could all whine about wanting a scoring big.  For now Bulls fans need to decry their poor team play and continuing failure to perform to their abilities.

Thinking about the Bulls as a team is too depressing for now so let’s look at some specific players:

Joe Smith – He’s significantly better than I thought he’d be.  However, if the season doesn’t turn around immediately the big minutes Smith is earning with his efficiency will only serve to hamper the development of several young players on the team.  It’s impressive and great that Joe Smith can pull of 17 pts, 9 boards, and a couple of blocks on any given night, but if the team still isn’t winning shouldn’t a lot of those minutes go to Gray, Noah and Thomas at some point?

Andres Nocioni – How anybody could say he’s making way too much money under his new contract is beyond me.  He’s averaging under $8 million a year, yet cares more and plays harder than anyone else on the court almost every night.  Even when his shot is off he brings intensity to the game and the team that the Bulls desperately need.  5 years is a bit long, but unless things change drastically I can’t see this team not needing him.

Adrian Griffin – I think he went above and beyond the call of duty in organizing a player’s meeting to suspend Noah for an extra game.  I don’t think it will harm the team, but I also don’t think it was necessary.  However, veteran leaders are extremely important on young teams like this.  Grif does a great job of stepping up and offering that type of leadership.  Unfortunately he’s a bit player on the court.  If only some other vet on the team with a more well-known name would become a leader . . .

Thabo Sefolosha – I still have high hopes for Thabo but the man has to learn how to shoot.  He’s regaining his dominant defense and he’s not making terrible decision with the ball anymore but he’s shooting 29% on the season!  I like him as a player but if he can’t knock down an open shot every once in a while he’s not going to see the court.

29
Oct
07

Kobe Bryant, Ben Gordon & Luol Deng – Trades and Contracts

So the internet is buzzing with Kobe trade speculation again after ESPN’s Chris Sheridan reported the Bulls and the Lakers are talking.  While I think it’s Chris’ job to write this type of article and am not blaming him for doing so, everyone else needs to calm down.  I’d say the odds of this trade happening anytime soon are 100:1 and the odds of it going down before the season starts are 10000:1.

Hopefully the Bulls and the Lakers are talking.  Fans of every team in the league should hope their GM is talking to the Lakers.  That doesn’t mean anything is actually going to happen.  I can guarantee you that the Bulls are not giving up Deng, Gordon, Thomas and Noah.

I’ve gone in to more depth before about what the Bulls should or shouldn’t give up for Kobe and you can see that here.  If you know more details about who can and can’t be traded because of contracts please post them as comments.  I know Nocioni can’t be traded for a while since his contract is new.  I don’t think that would be true about Gordon or Deng if they get extensions because those wouldn’t kick in until next year (right?). 

Until some actual news or new developments happen regarding a Kobe trade let’s all focus on contracts for Gordon and Deng.  I think this situation provides an interesting dilemma for Pax.  Very few players from the class of ’04 have signed extensions despite being able to for the first time in their careers.  I think GM’s are unwilling to risk overpaying after seeing guys like Varejao and Pavlovic unable to do much with their restricted free agency.  For all the drama that accompanied Mo Williams’ restricted free agency, he’s still on the Bucks, right?  The strategy is to let the market set the price for players instead of paying them based on speculation of what they’ll produce. 

I think this strategy is unwise for the Bulls when it comes to Deng and Gordon for two reasons:

1 – They’ll be much more expensive next season than they are today.  Sure, they could get hurt this year and then may have to take less, but barring an injury they’ll both likely put up better numbers than they did last season and thus demand larger contracts.  This scenario is particularly likely for Deng.  Gordon probably will produce more this season, but his inability to guard bigger SGs may be exposed even more and hurt his perceived value.  Either way, if you’re not trading for Kobe, locking these guys up is an absolute must do for the franchise.

B – We’re not talking about Varejao and Pavlovic here.  I think it’s clear that the Lakers would have been willing to go over the cap this past offseason to sign a restricted free agent like Deng to a huge contract if it would have kept Kobe happy (or at least quiet).  Next year who knows which teams will be in the same situation.  If the Lakers can somehow make it through the season with Bryant still on the roster they could pick off a Bull with a big contract then.  Gilbert Arenas is keeping his options open and the Wizards may need to replace him if he leaves or need to add a player to placate him if he demands a stronger team.  The point is, these guys are desirable talents that other teams will want.  Pax needs to be thinking about the summer Rashard Lewis had much more than the summer Sasha Pavlovich had.  

K.C. Johnson wrote today:

Paxson's negotiating philosophy follows the belief
that an extension two seasons before it's mandatory
has to involve some give-and-take. The money is
guaranteed. A player's health and production isn't.

His philosophy is probably appropriate in most situations.  However, the agents representing Gordon and Deng should see the Bulls are somewhat backed into a corner.  The bottom line is the Bulls need Luol Deng and Ben Gordon.  We know they’re not going to sign a high-impact free agent from another roster in the summer of 2008.  Paxson has shown that he’s unwilling to trade these players for another star.  Given that he won’t add a star player via trade or free agency, what choice does he have?

I say he should just pony up and pay the men.  Give them a bit more than he wants to and the line he gave Hinrich about taking one for the team so they can have the flexibility to continue to get better with minor tweaking.  Shape the contracts so they increase over the years as Ben Wallace’s decreases and other free agents come off the books.  All that means is in a few season instead of having solid veterans on the bench like Adrian Griffin and Viktor Khryapa  they’ll have undrafted rookies on minimum contracts.  They’re not going to play anyway, so isn’t that stomachable?  Isn’t locking up Ben and Luol worth practicing with a Thomas Gardner instead of a Grif?

Winning in the NBA costs a lot of money, but it also makes a lot of money, especially in a market like Chicago.  You’re either going to have to pay potential future all-stars like Gordon and Deng or you’re going to have to pay current all-stars like Kobe.  The Bulls need to pick one and move forward.   

22
Aug
07

The Celtics and Team USA

Today in Chris Sheridan’s column he pointed out that Team USA may have some trouble successfully blending the playing styles of Kobe, LeBron and Carmelo:

The uninformed might wonder: "How could they possibly lose with those
three playing together? To which the informed might reply: "Hey, that's
three guys on the court at the same time who, no matter how good they
are, all need the ball in their hands to be effective. It'll be tough
to make that work."

When you read Team USA’s dilemma, what current NBA roster does it remind you of? I know there’s some team that now has three superstars who have throughout their careers always had possession of the ball more than anybody else on their team. Now, suddenly those three players, – just like Kobe, LeBron and Carmelo – are being thrust onto the same team and everyone is as sure that they’ll easily win the Eastern Conference as they were Kobe, LeBron and Carmelo would easily handle the Select Team.

The difference between the Team USA trio and the Celtics trio is that the Celtics will have an entire season to work out the kinks while Team USA will have 10 games. So let’s say that the Celtics do work out the kinks. Paul Pierce becomes the dominant ball handler. When KG gets good position he’ll get the ball in the post and hold it until he shoots or is double teamed. If he’s double teamed he’ll kick it out to the three point line for Ray Allen. Sounds like a great system, right? It is, BUT it will be a vast waste of Ray Allen’s talents if things work out this way. He will be paid like the superstar he is, while playing the game that Jason Kapono plays. Think he’ll get tired of that at some point?

The other possibility is that they never can adapt to not having the entire offense run through them thus never develop a good chemistry. Either way it doesn’t matter because no chemistry means an 8 seed even in the East and good chemistry means a second round playoff series loss because they don’t have a bench. I don’t mean to hate on the Celtics, but Sheridan’s analysis of the Big 3 on Team USA perfectly illustrates my previous arguments about the Celtics and there’s really not a lot of NBA news to write about right now.

Oh well, at least Team USA has a bench.

17
Aug
07

Would the Lakers trade Kobe for Joakim Noah?


Luol Deng is now a British
citizen so he can play on the
2012 UK Olympic team.

Bulls news is as slow as ever. I found this article today about Luol Deng and the 2012 British basketball team. It’s a little hard to get excited for a team that will exist 5 years from now, though if you’re a basketball fan in the UK I guess you take what you can get. I love Lu and have every confidence that he’ll be an all-star very soon, but this description is a bit optimistic in terms of his potential even if you are a Bulls fan:

But the 22-year-old hopes it will be the first step on the road
to the 2012 Olympic Games, and the start of a revolution in British
basketball.
When the London Games come around, the Sudan-born player
will be 27, and on the basis of his current form, would
walk into any Olympic team in the world.
Last season he was the National Basketball Association's
Sportsman of the Year, and is poised to sign a new four-year
contract, which would put him above Premier League stars
such as Wayne Rooney and John Terry in terms of earnings.
But for £70 a day, Deng has chosen to play for Britain, a
country which, in its one previous Olympic basketball
tournament - also in London, in 1948 - lost all three games.
The burning question is - why?

Manute Bol and Luol Deng are both from
the Dinka tribe in The Sudan. Manute
taught Luol how to paly basketball.
Fortunately Deng is a bit taller than Mugsy.

Somebody needs to tell them across the pond that the NBA’s Sportsman of the Year has nothing to do with the winner’s basketball abilities. If Deng were an American it looks like he’d have a shot at the 2012 Team USA. But walk on to any team in the world? Hopefully, but it certainly doesn’t look like a given yet.

Luol Deng is to British basketball as Luol Deng is to
these two guys next to him.

Let’s talk about a Kobe to the Bulls trade since there’s nothing else to focus on and Kobe hasn’t backed off his trade demand despite multiple opportunities. Remember, Bryant has a no trade clause and has made it clear several times that Chicago is his #1 option.

Let me start off by making it clear that I don’t think this trade will ever happen. If the Lakers demand anything over Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas I don’t think Paxson would go for it. Paxson has put several years and a lot of effort into composing a team of his type of players. High character guys from winning backgrounds who won’t rock the boat. He believes in his plan and his team. He’s shown in the past two seasons that he won’t deal his players even when he has a great opportunity. I’m not saying that he should or shouldn’t trade for Kobe, just that he won’t.

If I’m running the Bulls I engage in serious trade talks with the Lakers, even if I’m going in thinking there’s a 1% chance anything is going to get done. Ben Gordon is definitely on the table because Kobe would replace everything BG7 brings to the team and more. I love Little Ben, but Kobe is Kobe. I could give up either Tyrus or Noah, but not both. The team needs one quality big man for the future, at least. I could include Ben Wallace but they wouldn’t want him. Duhon would have to be a part of the trade because he only has 1 year left on his contract and would add PG depth to a Lakers team that desperately needs it. I don’t think Nocioni could be included because his contract is brand new, but if he could be I would make him part of the deal. I’d have to include a lot of spare pieces because Kobe makes so much and his contract would have to be offset.

Basically I’d offer everything except the below players and throw in every first round pick for the next 5 years. Considering how strong the team would be and the youth it would still have, I’d have no use for the draft anyway.

Ben Wallace – The Lakers wouldn’t want him and he’d help a lot in what would be the first of several inevitable Finals runs.

Kirk Hinrich – As the Celtics will find out this season, you can’t win a championship without a quality point guard. Duhon is good but I don’t want him in charge of a championship team.

Tyrus Thomas OR Joakim Noah – Since the Bulls don’t have any superstars, exciting young players are what the Lakers would demand in return for Kobe. Tyrus is as exciting as they come and Noah was a huge college star. Both would be appealing to LA. The Bulls have to keep one in order to secure a well-rounded team 5 years from now.

Luol Deng – Because he’s still only 22 and clearly getting better by the day I wouldn’t involve him in any trade. Sure, Kobe is better than Deng probably ever will be. Nevertheless, if I’m running the Bulls, Deng is not in this trade.

Thabo Sefolosha – I would only throw Sefolosha in at the last second if he was a deal breaker. As Kobe gets older and doesn’t have enough energy to play 100% at both ends of the floor this team would need a defensive stopper like Sefolosha. Also, it’s looking like Thabo could spell Hinrich at the point, which would be important if Duhon was included in the trade. Sefolosha could also play the two and the three making him an ideal 6th man. He would bring very necessary depth to the team.

We’d be looking at a team that not even Tim Donaghy could touch. It would line up like this:

C – Ben Wallace
PF – Tyrus Thomas or Joakim Noah
SF – Luol Deng
SG – Kobe Bryant
PG – Kirk Hinrich

6th Man – Thabo Sefolosha
Bench – Anything left after the trade. The Bulls are one of the deepest teams in the NBA right now and a couple of quality players would be left after a trade, even with the boatload of spare change they’d have to give up.

That’s what I’d present to the Lakers organization. That’s probably similar to what Kobe is imagining when he pictures himself in a Bulls uniform. However, Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak would turn it down and I’d go into the season perfectly happy with what I have.

Paxson won’t even go that far. I’m sure of it, not mad about it, just sure of it. Kobe might imagine the Bulls giving up that package + Deng and still think he brings enough that he could make up for what the team is losing. As great as he is, that Bulls team seems too similar to his current Lakers team.

So what you see right now when you look at the Bulls roster is what you’ll see on opening night and very likely what you’ll see the day after the trade deadline. Personally, I’m happy with what I see.

14
Aug
07

Losing faith in Team USA

Team USA made some surprising announcements yesterday.  They stated that Kirk Hinrich, Shane Battier and Greg Oden are withdrawing from this summer’s team.  Also, they told us that Nick Collison would be added to the senior team’s roster.

I’m pretty sure that Oden already announced his withdrawal a few weeks ago, so I’m not sure why Team USA would announce it now. 

Hinrich and Battier started games last summer in the World Championship tournament.  They were also considered the two best defenders on last year’s team.  It seems strange they would pull out now and their withdrawal brings up some interesting questions about the current philosophy of Team USA.

Nick Collison was added to the team???  Was this a last second attempt to by Team USA to try and keep Collison’s college roommate happy?  No, but that’s about the only way I can make sense of the addition.  I’m all about mixing role players with stars on the Olympic team, but Collison?  He very well might not even start in Seattle (or OKC or wherever) this season. 

Sam Smith quotes Jerry Colangelo in his article today:

"We are adding another 'big' in Nick Collison, and he'll
participate in the August training," Colangelo said.
"We're excited about his addition. He has had a lot of
USA Basketball experience. He's physical, and he handles
the pick-and-roll as well as anyone. He's been added to
the senior national team for a reason."

In this quotation Colangelo makes a few things clear.  Collison is definitely being added to the senior team, so we shouldn’t be thinking he’s another practice squad (junior team) member for the superstars to beat up on.  Also, Collison is being added for his size, pick-and-roll abilities (or possibly abilities defending the p-a-r?), and his Team USA experience.

Maybe the Team USA experience (played on the ’03 Tournament of the Americas championship team with Jason Kidd) will help him, a bit.  Beyond that experience his participation doesn’t make sense.  There are lots of big guys out there.  He can handle the pick-and-roll?  Honestly, I think they threw him in because he’s white.  This team represents the country and if you look at every Team USA since the original dream team you’ll find a couple of white guys that make you wonder if there weren’t other players who could help the team more.  I think that being white helped Hinrich make the team last year and Mike Miller make it this year.  The strange thing about Collison is that he doesn’t bring one strong skill that he can use to fill a role, thus becoming a role player.  Hinrich is a premier defender.  Miller is one of the best three-point shooters in the league.  Collison is a solid all-around big man coming off the bench on a good team. 

It just seems like there had to be better players out there who brought well-rounded games and still had a specialty.  I think Tyson Chandler is a great fit for this team because he can do a little bit of everything but is an outstanding rebounder and good defender.  Collison can do a little bit of everything but is . . . 

On to the pride of Iowa.  Hinrich hasn’t commented yet on why he withdrew from Team USA.  Since he played last year he’ll still be allowed to participate in next year’s Olympics because he played one of the two seasons leading up to the games.  It works the same for Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant who didn’t play last summer. 

The rumor is that Hinrich saw a tough fight ahead with Deron Williams just in order to make the team and then a lot of time on the bench behind Kidd and Chauncey Billups.  Hinrich got married this summer and also may want to spend his time with wifey before the long NBA season ahead.  He may have just been offended.  After coming out, working hard last summer and starting three games in the tournament, he played the second fewest minutes in the organized team scrimmage a few weeks ago.  Only JJ Redick, who should have no chance of making this team, played less than Hinrich. 

The other factor that may have been crucial to Kirk’s decision is the wear and tear that year-round competitive basketball supposedly puts on a player.  I’m neither an NBA player nor a professional athlete of any kind, so I really can’t comment from experience.  However, I have read many times that the grind of the NBA season can wear on players as they get old.  Hinrich is by no means old, but he’s not a rookie or young player either.  The NBA season is also supposed to be harder than other professional sports mostly because of the traveling.  While an NBA player has more off days than and MLB player, the NBA player often has to visit four different cities in one week.  The MLB player stays in each city he goes to for at least three days.  Also, in basketball you’re running constantly.  In baseball you don’t have the same kind of physical fatigue.  In football and soccer you do, but you don’t play as frequently. 

Hinrich shot only 37.6% in the playoffs and many have attributed that low number to being worn down from nonstop play over the year.  At 26 and guiding a Bulls team on the brink of breaking through to the elite level perhaps Hinrich views this as a time to focus on the being prepared for the season.  His absence will make me somewhat less interested in Team USA, but all the more excited for the Bulls season. 

The larger issue that Team USA’s announcements bring up is that of the composition of the team.  Last year Colangelo and Coach K harped on having a well-rounded team that played defense in addition to offense.  Not a team of only all-stars, but a team with stars and role players, scorers and defenders, rebounders and hustle guys.  However, two of the best defenders left the team possibly as a result of being neglected.  They’re being replaced by offensive-minded all-stars like Michael Redd and Kobe Bryant.  Nobody’s saying Kobe shouldn’t be on this team, just that if you put it together in the image of 2002 and 2004 you’re likely to get the same results.  Adding Nick Collison to the roster isn’t fooling anybody either.  He won’t play while Amare and Dwight Howard will.  Hopefully we’ll get a different result than in years past despite the fielding the same type of team. 

31
Jul
07

Kevin Garnett and the Bulls

Now that everything is official and real let’s look at this situation from the Bulls perspective.

Right now Skiles and Paxson should be thinking that they’re team certainly isn’t in a better situation than it was last week, but there’s nothing to worry about.  The Bulls match up well against this new Celtics team.  Ben Wallace, Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas will provide a nice Garnett stopping team, especially since none of them will need to cover Kendrick Perkins.  Luol Deng’s defense came a long way last year and he should be able to match up well against Pierce.  As long as BG7 can carry the scoring load on nights they play Boston (Ray Allen isn’t known for his defense) Hinrich can focus on covering Allen.  They’ll have Thabo coming off the bench as a defensive stopper with length to shut down Pierce, as he’s done to Kobe, and Allen, as he’s done to D.Wade.  Rajon Rondo’s game even should be limited enough – at least for this coming season – that Ben Gordon will actually be able to cover him. 

This is where the Celtics weakness will show.  They will have 2 of the three best players on the court almost every night and they’ll likely have 3 of the top 5 every night.  Their problem is they’ll also have the two worst players on the floor on their team at all times.  They’ll also have 8 of the twelve worst active players on game night on their roster nearly every night. 

The Bulls on the other hand, as I’ve pointed out here, have one of the deepest teams in the NBA.  Garnett is an intimidating defensive presence down low.  Problem for the Celtics is that the Bulls don’t go down low very often and if they do it’s with a flying Tyrus.  Not even Garnett’s going to stop that once it’s off the ground.  Beyond KG the Celtics will be a weak defensive team and the Bulls will simply have too many weapons for them to cover, even if they don’t have any 27 ppg scorers, former MVP’s or 3-point champions (yet, Gordon will wear this crown someday).

25
Jul
07

Would Donaghy trade Kobe if he ran the Lakers?

If you follow the basketball/sports media closely like we do you have to be tired of all the Donaghy coverage by now too.  90% of what’s out there is talk about how much trouble the NBA is in, how many fans they’re going to lose and what could happen if this or that group is implicated along with Donaghy. 

Enough already.  Things may get worse for the NBA.  They’ll eventually get better.  Regardless, unless you’re David Stern or somebody who works for him things aren’t any worse for you than they were before.  If your team was screwed by Donaghy they didn’t get screwed any worse when news came out about his so far still alleged illegal actions.  Your team still lost and it’s not going to change. 

What’s worse is that the media forgot anything else happens in the NBA besides gambling scandals.  Should the basketball media be covering the Donaghy story?  Absolutely.  But shouldn’t they continue to cover other basketball news?  I know it’s the offseason so there’s not much going on but still, throw us a bone.  What happened to the Kobe and KG speculation?  We’d even settle for a fantasy basketball outlook at this point and we’re not fantasy players.  Give us something other than Donaghy to think about for 5 minutes!

In this desperate time Marc Stein at least took a less somber/comical approach to the issue and gave us a much needed change of pace

How do you say Donaghy?
Admit it: If you were watching David Stern's news conference Tuesday, you
thought that he was mispronouncing Tim Donaghy's last name on purpose. 

You figured that was Stern's shrewd way to spite the allegedly crooked
referee he can now only pray was operating as a "rogue, isolated
criminal."

I can certainly admit it.

The true story, sadly, isn't that sinister. Turns out that the way Stern
kept saying it -- DAHN-AH-GEE, with a hard G -- is the correct
pronunciation of Donaghy's last name.

All of us who have been using DAHN-AH-HE for days have had it wrong.

 Let’s get back to talking about basketball and basketball teams instead of gambling.  This is David Stern’s problem, not ours.  If you only watch the NBA because you believe Stern when he says his league has the best refs in the world of sports then you’re not a basketball fan.  If Stern wants to trade jobs (and more importantly salaries) we’ll take on the scandal.  Otherwise can somebody tell us where Paxson is at in extension talks with Deng and Gordon?  Is Joakim Noah’s shoulder healed yet?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller . . . Bueller . . .

13
Jul
07

Some of last year’s doormats much improved for ’07-08

The offseason is a time for limitless optimism when looking at your favorite team, or any team for that matter. For most teams the 2007-2008 season won’t go as well as they’re picturing now. For a few teams it will go even better than they’re imagining. We can’t say for certain what will happen but here are 4 teams we expect to improve significantly compared to last season.

Should be better in ’07-’08:

Charlotte Bobcats



The Cats should be much better this season, but it probably won’t be due to
Morrison’s play. He’s likely to see more time on the bench this season.


When the Cats selected Bandan Wright it immediately looked like Michael Jordan placed his UNC affinity above the good of his team. However, a short time later when news came out that Wright was being traded for Jason Richardson things started to look better. Richardson does come with some question marks. Will Richardson get hurt again? Will he play the way he’s played for most of his career and like he did at the end of last year? Or, will we see the same underwhelming player the Warriors saw for the first 3/4 of last season? Sure, it was a risky trade but it’s a risk Charlotte needed to make.

They’ve amassed some exciting young talent in Okafor, Felton and Wallace who has turned out to be an amazing pickup from their expansion draft. Sean May is still a question mark due to his frequent injuries but he could turn out to be very good as well. The problem facing the cats going into this draft is that all of their core players were 25 and under. They needed a veteran to stabilize the team and step up in crunch time. They found one in Richardson. The result looks to be a very well-balanced team. They have a great true point guard in Ray Felton, a Michael Jordanesque player in Richardson (don’t get pissed off, all we’re saying is their STYLES of play are similar), an incredibly athletic slasher in Wallace and a dominant defensive player and post presence in Okafor. If May can stay healthy and add some low post scoring this could be a very, very good team in a year or two.

Portland Trail Blazers


Brandon Roy should have a much easier time
this season with more help around him.

A lot still has to shake out before we know what the ’07-’08 Blazers team will look like. They currently have about 20 players on their roster and a ton of untested rookies whose performance will be hard to project. However, they do have a few core players who will give them a similarly balanced attack to the Bobcats.

Greg Oden had some trouble in summer league but everyone seems to agree that he will still be a great, great player in the NBA. His limited offensive game as of now shouldn’t hurt the team much because fellow post player LaMarcus Aldridge has shown some great offensive talent in summer league to complement his strong rookie season. Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy is a solid all-around player and traditional two guard. All this team needs to become a perennial powerhouse in the next couple of years is a very solid point guard. Many rumors circulated just prior to the draft that the Blazers were shopping Jarrett Jack hard, which raises questions about the guard that add to his so far inconsistent play. However, Oden, Aldridge and Roy combined with the wealth of young talent on the Portland roster should be enough for them to compete right away while looking for an improvement at the point.

Memphis Grizzlies



Rudy Gay will be one piece in a well-balanced attack for Memphis this season.

There’s a lot to be excited about if you’re a Grizz fan, especially compare to what you had to be excited about 3 months ago after you didn’t win Oden or Durant.

It looks like Memphis isn’t letting Pau Gasol go anywhere. They picked up Milicic who as we all know still has a lot to prove. However, Darko only just turned 22. New Memphis coach Mark Iavaroni is looking to run an up-tempo offense that should cater to Darko’s skills. He’ll work the high post while Gasol works the low post. They should form an intimidating big man combo and be hard for smaller teams in the league to stop.

Memphis also has sweet shooting 2 guard Mike Miller in the fold, plus #4 overall pick Mike Conley. Conley is looking strong in summer league and likely will get the starting job as a rookie. Finally, add SF Rudy Gay to the mix, coming off a solid if unspectacular rookie season, and the Grizzlies have a very solid starting lineup. The odd man out would seem to be Kyle Lowry, who is also doing very well in summer league. However, the Grizzlies can dangle Lowry as trade bait in order to pick up a scoring spark off the bench from a team that needs a young point guard (Portland?). The bottom line is Memphis should be better right away and have a lot to look forward to years down the line.

Chicago Bulls – You had to know this was coming


Viktor should see more playing time this season and
the Bulls will be better. We’ll see if Khryapa gets credit
for the improvement or if it happens in spit of him.

While the Bulls were anything but a doormat last season, they look like they’ll be significantly better this year. We’re projecting 55+ wins for Chicago in ’07-’08.

The biggest difference this coming year should be the continued development of Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas. Both Deng and Gordon showed significant progress to their games last season. Both are still very young, especially Deng. Look for Gordon to again average in the 20’s with Deng reaching that level as well. Hinrinch will continue his stellar point guard play and should put up similar numbers to his last two seasons.

Tyrus Thomas has been tearing up the Orlando summer league. He’s shown a hugely improved mid-range jumper he developed in the offseason (see below post for details on Tyrus offseason development). Pair his new found shooting ability with his incredible athleticism and he should be in intimidating offensive and defensive force in the league this year.

The Bulls also should have possibly the best bench in the NBA this year. They’ll feature either Andres Nocioni or Tyrus Thomas depending who starts at the 4. Either one should be a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. Thabo Sefolosha should build on his very solid rookie season while seeing more minutes this year. Joakim Noah is a perfect bench player at this point in his career. While he won’t bring much scoring he will bring a ton of energy and great defense. Chris Duhon, if he’s still on the team the start of the season, is an incredible point guard for a backup. Viktor Khryapa should see more minutes this year with the departure of several former Bulls power forwards and should display the form that made him a starter a couple of years ago in Portland. Seriously, what other team will feature a bench with 5 players who would be a starter on at least one team in the NBA?

Chicago is still lacking that dominant low post scorer that so many teams covet. However, in addition to their deep bench they will also feature one of the league’s premiere defenses. This D, which will be particularly strong in the key – should make up for their relative lack of consistent low post scoring. Ben Wallace, super-blocker Tyrus Thomas, Jaokim Noah and Andres Nocioni will be one of the better defensive rotations at the 4 & 5 positions in recent memory. Last season Luol Deng took one of his weaknesses, his defense, and made it one of his strengths. His long arms and increased defensive awareness have made his a similar defender to Tayshaun Prince. Hinrich was all-defensive second team and will be that or first team this year. Thabo Sefolosh quickly earned a reputation as a “stopper” for subduing Kobe in the regular season and Dwayne Wade in the playoffs. Finally, Duhon is also a superb defender on smaller guards. The Bulls scoring may be inconsistent at times, but their defense, effort and energy never is.

Barring any unforeseen major changes the Bulls will be one of the top 5 teams in the league this year.

02
Jul
07

Noah & KG

McHale wanted Noah, dress and all
 
KG back when he was about Joakim’s age

KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote a very interesting article about Joakim Noah after speaking to Billy Donovan.  We highly recommend checking it out. 

Now that the draft is behind us and preseason is still a ways away there’s not much to focus on other than trade and free agency speculation.  KG is still more or less without a home because after the Wolves tried so hard to trade him prior to the draft it would just be awkward for everyone if he suited up in a T’Wolves uniform this season.

Chicago remains a prime destination in hypothetical media trade talk as it has in KG speculation for the past two years.  The Bulls have the young assets to make things worthwhile for Minnesota.  They are in the Eastern Conference so the Wolves wouldn’t have to trade Garnett to a divisional opponent.  However, if the do trade KG they will be a ways away from competing with the young talent they’d have left and thus probably wouldn’t be excessively concerned that Garnett’s new team may beat them for the next couple of seasons.

Mark Stein of ESPN.com reports that Kevin McHale was trying to acquire all three former Gators in last Thursday’s draft:

Wolves VP Kevin McHale even half-admitted what he was going
for when he spoke with Minneapolis reporters late Thursday
night, saying: "If we had more picks, we would have [taken
Al] Horford and [Joakim] Noah, too. We were working on that."

Thus the Bulls would seem like an even more logical pick in a Garnett trade because it’s now clear that Minnesota covets Noah.  For argument’s sake let’s assume the salaries all add up with whatever sign and trades need to be worked out.  Who would the Bulls, and more importantly John Paxson, want to give up along with Noah to get KG?

Who’s not going anywhere
Based on previous trade talk for Pau Gasol and everything that Paxson seems to be saying we can assume Luol Deng will not be included in any trades.  Pax refused to include Hinrich in talks regarding Zach Randolph, and while Randolph is no KG we can still take Paxson’s stance as a sign Hinrich is likely here to stay as well.  Ben Wallace also would not be involved in any trade with the Wolves as they’re clearly trying to go with a youth movement that wouldn’t have room (or money) for Big Ben.

Who could be included
As the Bulls leading scorer you’d have to assume the deal would include Ben Gordon.  Noah also seems logical since McHale publicly stated he was trying to get the former Gator.  Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha proved to be very intriguing prospects last season and would look good to the Wolves.  Nocioni doesn’t fit the mold of what Minnesota is looking for in that he’s right around the middle of his career in terms of age, but he may need to be included for salary purposes.  P.J. Brown similarly could be included in a sign and trade if he’s willing.  According to various online sources any deal Brown would sign would have to be for at least three years but could have only one year guaranteed.  Thus he could be used to create an expiring contract and cap flexibility next year for the Wolves.  The Bulls could use Brown this way more easily than other teams because for teams over or near the cap re-signing a player is easier  than signing a free agent is.  Brown has yet to make any statement regarding how he’d feel about such a situation, but it’s hard to believe he’d turn down a year of maybe $12 million. 

We need to remember that Garnett can opt out of his contract after this season.  After quietly working away in Minnesota for the past three seasons without complaining it seems unlikely KG would feel he owed anything to the Bulls after a year.  Giving up let’s say Noah, Gordon, Thomas and Sefolosha would be a high, high, price to pay for one year of Garnett.  Many may think it’s not enough for KG because there’s no all-star involved.  However, if you look at those four players in three or four years and you look a a likely diminished Garnett playing on the Suns it won’t look like such a good trade.  Even if Garnett does stay, what does the team look like?  Hinrich running the point, Deng slashing and KG posting up.  There’s no shooting guard left on the team and there’d be no money to go out and get one.  Assuming they’d re-sign Nocioni he would be the entire bench offensively.  If they re-sign Duhon that would make a nice team.  With two years of guaranteed Garnett it would be a deal that Paxson would probably have to make given Ben Wallace’s age.  However, with one year left for KG we don’t think Pax will or should make the move. 

As of today NBullsA predicts: 
Paxson stays with the team as it is.  He views Noah as an eventual replacement for Ben Wallace.  Pax drafting Noah this year is a sign that he’s changed his focus from winning it all right now to letting his mostly young team mature together to win it all in a few years.  Yes, this strategy wasted the Ben Wallace money and gave away Tyson Chandler for nothing.  However, Paxson tried to get Gasol for P.J. Brown last season and couldn’t work a deal he was OK with.  At that point he shifted gears.  The fact that he didn’t go out and get Zach Randolph when he was easily attainable is further proof of Paxson’s strategy.  Out of the young core he still may trade Ben Gordon because of his size, but the other pieces are in place.  Noah will step in for Wallace eventually and provide defense and rebounding without a lot of offense, just as Wallace provides now.  Hinrich will run things and Deng will be the leading scorer.  Sefolosha may step in as a point forward allowing Hinrich to shoot more.  Tyrus will either be a starting PF in an up tempo style or else an explosive 6th man of the year if Paxson can manage to find a low post player.

As for KG . . .
Minnesota can’t keep him.  Boston is starting to look possible again.  Like Chicago it is in the East.  Garnett vetoed it once, but unlike Kobe he doesn’t have a no trade clause.  Plus, Garnett said no to Boston before the acquired Ray Allen.  We’re still skeptical that the Ray Allen/Paul Pierce combo will work out but it shows that the Celtics are trying to do what KG wants by winning right now.  Boston would give up Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff’s expiring contract and change for KG and may take the risk even if he continues to say he wouldn’t stay. 

The other most likely possibility is L.A. with Kobe.  The Lakers don’t look like they’re trying to trade Kobe yet.  If they quickly get Garnett for Bynum, future picks, and everything else on the team except for Odom, Kobe would probably accept it and be quiet. 




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