Posts Tagged ‘scott skiles

07
Aug
08

Bulls to start ’08-’09 season against Skiles’ Bucks

No new interesting news.

A lot of outlets are forcing a story over the fact that the recently released 2008-2009 NBA schedule features a Bulls vs. Bucks opening for the Bulls.  This is potentially interesting because the Bucks are now coached by Scott Skiles.  Bah.  Seeing Rose and Vinny Del Negro start their Bulls careers will be much more interesting than Skiles back in the United Center.

Think about Scott Skiles and his time with the Bulls.  The man gave a less interesting interview than Lovie Smith and his, “We’ll all see the answer to that on game day” quotes.  While Skiles was often pleasantly candid, he was almost never emotional or exciting to hear from.  My guess is he likely would secretly relish a win on October 24th, but we won’t see or hear much of anything to let us know.

At least we have Olympic basketball coming up to take our minds off the nothingness of Bulls news right now.  (yes I stole the link to the schedule from TrueHoop)

25
Jul
08

Still no new developments . . .

News out of the Chicago Bulls camp remains unsettlingly slow. No contract developments for Deng or Gordon. No trade or sign-and-trade rumors involving the Bulls. More seemingly overconfident silence from John Paxson and company.

I think that drafting a 19-year-old wiz kid does mean the Bulls should build around their youngest players (Deng, Thomas, Noah) however, it doesn’t mean they can let Gordon or Deng for that matter leave for nothing in a year. It’s time to get something done, especially with Deng’s recent threats about cutting off negotiations when the Olympics start. If you have to trade them, you have to trade them. Just get something done.
Monta Ellis just signed a deal that will pay him an average of $11.17 million over the next six years. Is it just me, or is Ellis just like Ben Gordon without three point range? I understand that re-signing him was vital for the Warriors after they lost Baron Davis, but $11 million +? I think they’ll be regretting that move in a couple of years. He’s an undersized, one-dimensional scorer. The Bulls offered Gordon $10 million a year last summer and I thought that was fair. I think they should offer a similar deal now or else trade him. That would still be overpaying, but at least he can score inside and out. Who is Monta Ellis and his 23% 3-pt shot helping when someone gets double teamed?

Ian Thomsen is making some very early NBA predictions and he has the Bulls finishing 12th in the East, ahead of only Miami, Charlotte and New Jersey. That’s behind the Knicks, Pacers and Bucks amongst others. Maybe one of those three will finish ahead of the Bulls, but not all of them. As of now I’m predicting a borderline playoff finish this season, but certainly not 12th place.

Does anybody else think Miami and New Jersey might be better than the Pacers and Knicks? There’s a chance Ricahard Jefferson and Scott Skiles transform the Bucks, but who exactly is helping Indiana and New York get in the playoff conversation this coming season? TJ Ford is a quality point guard but he has nobody to pass to except Danny Granger. I like Chris Duhon a lot, but the Knicks still have every problem they had last season except Isiah Thomas.

Derrick Rose apparently signed a shoe contract with Adidas. I like it. I like Nike too, but they have plenty of high-profile endorsers. Now I’ll be able to add a pair of Rose’s next to my T-Mac’s.

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.

– –

03
Jan
08

Paxson and Boylan must pick a path to take with Thomas

Chicago 109 – Charlotte 97

First I have to say, great game by Joakim. I’m not sure why he hasn’t been playing more. Much like Aaron Gray’s huge game a little over a week ago, Joakim’s success tonight was largely based on the fact that most of the people guarding him were significantly smaller or slower than he is. However, the cause of his success should not discourage Bulls fans. First of all, it’s an asset to have a 6’11” C/F (or a 7’0″ C for that matter) no matter what. Are they going to have better games when 6’7″-6’9″ guys are guarding them? Yes, that’s the point. Second of all, while Joakim doesn’t have the dominant low post skills the Bulls desire, he has amazing skills for a 6’11” player. He’s a good ball handler for his size, a great passer, and brings instant energy to the entire team whenever he enters the game. Plus, he showed some patience in a couple of low post plays last night that I didn’t think he had.

So the Bulls now have to figure out what to do with Tyrus Thomas. Boylan seems to have settled in with a rotation at the C/PF position of Wallace, Smith, Gray and Noah. This rotation has been working well, but Tyrus is too talented and was too high of a draft pick just last season in order to bury him on the bench. The way I see it, the Bulls can pick one of two paths. They can do whatever they can to win it all – not just make the playoffs – now, or they can continue to build/grow the team for the future. I’ll be fine with either strategy, but it’s pointless to just let Thomas waste away next to Demetris Nichols.

Boylan seems to think that the players up front who will help the team win the most are Wallace, Smith, Gray and Noah in that order. You can’t blame the coach for playing the players who give the team the best chance to win. Boylan and Paxson discussed who would get more or less playing time after Skiles was fired. Therefore, we can assume that they are on the same page regarding not playing Tyrus and regarding winning now. If that’s the case, they must trade Tyrus Thomas for something. His trade value isn’t through the roof right now, but he’s shown enough for other teams to realize he has a high upside. Paxson needs to identify what position he thinks is the weakest and fortify it by trading Thomas out of a spot that is currently log jammed.

Tyrus has this great upside and the Bulls problems right now seem to be more about concentration and motivation than a lack of talent, so why not just hold on to him for a rainy day, right? Wrong. I don’t think Thomas has the right mentality to wait a couple of years for his turn and still get better as a player everyday. Very few players probably have that mentality, and being a college superstar and former #3 pick don’t make things any easier for Ty. Trade him before the deadline and get something useful back, even if it’s a first round pick.

If the Bulls are indeed playing just to make the playoffs and thus really attempting to allow this same core to continue to mature together and get better, then they must play Thomas more and Wallace less. If this is the strategy John Paxson handed me, I would still start Wallace and Smith, play Smith about the amount of minutes he’s currently getting, and play Wallace less. That way the veterans still get their respect, but the young players get the minutes they need in order to develop.

It seems to me that the problem is the Bulls are stuck right in between the two strategies. Paxson and Boylan both desperately want to make the playoffs in order to keep and earn their jobs respectively. However, I think they both believe that this team is not going to make it to the finals this year, therefore they’re not willing to trade potential future talent for 1-2 year serviceable players. If I were in either of their situations I’d probably do what they’re doing. Self-preservation, right? But as a fan this approach is maddening. Either do what’s right for today or tomorrow, not half of each. We’ve been to the first round and second round of the playoffs, I want either third round this year or finals within two years. Preparing Thomas to either be dominant two years from now or trading him for more helpful pieces this season is vital in accomplishing either of those two goals.

I know that Deng, Gordon and Duhon all would need new contracts after this season in order to keep things going. I know that being the GM is not an easy job and things are always more complicated than they seem. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that Tyrus Thomas can be an influential player in this league and the Bulls are currently wasting his potential.

28
Dec
07

Was trading Skiles for Boylan the right move Mr. Paxson?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow. This season has not gong as I predicted. Not at all.

I expected the Bulls to be a very good team in terms of their record. They are not and will be lucky to end the season at .500.

I expected them to play with levels of passion, effort and intensity that would rival or beat any other team in the league. Every night. I’m not sure I’ve seen them play at that level in a single game, not to mention each game.

I expected young players whose numbers went up every year of their professional careers – Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni – to continue to improve. Hinrich and Gordon have been inexplicably bad and Deng and Nocioni have seen slight drop offs in their level of play.

I expected the sophomores on the team – Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha – to show some improvement over last season after reading about each having strong summers while competing in different environments. Thabo has disappeared and Tyrus is, at best, looking exactly the same as last season.

I expected Ben Wallace’s abilities to continue to slowly decline, but to still be worthy of starting every night and continue to help the team, significantly. Instead Wallace has been possibly one of the worst players on the team while getting far more minutes than anyone with his production in the league. The heartbreaker about Wallace is that nobody would have expected the scrappy, effort-player from Detroit to turn apathetic and lazy once another team paid him big money. Sure, he’s getting older. Nevertheless, his play has reeked of indifference and lethargy.

I expected one of the better outside shooting teams in the league to continue to be able to shoot. Somehow they forgot.

I expected a team that was either first or second in the league in defensive field goal percentage over the past three seasons to continue to play great defense. It just hasn’t happened.

So, in the words of John Paxson, obviously I’m very disappointed.

Was Scott Skiles responsible for all of these problems? No. He was responsible for some of them. So what can the Bulls do to get better? You can’t fire the players. – – Though I demand they threaten to pull a Tim Thomas/J.R. Smith on Ben Wallace unless he starts playing better immediately. They need to tell him, regardless of $16 million a year and 4 PREVIOUS Defensive Player of the Year Awards, they will send him home if he doesn’t work his ass off. – – You can’t trade any of them for fair value right now since not a one is playing up to his abilities. You’d get nothing valuable in return. Paxson wants to keep his job so he pulls a classic GM panic move and fires the coach. It was a panic move pulled by many before him. Let’s call it the Kevin McHale. I’m sure there are more historic examples, but McHale has clearly become an expert.

One more thing I didn’t expect was Skiles getting fired before the all-star break. I believed, right up until the announcement was made, that Skiles had earned more trust from Paxson and Reinsdorf than would warrant a coach being fired this early in the season. I’m not saying that he didn’t deserve to be fired or that it was unfair, just that it surprised me.

In my opinion, the question is how does this move make the team better? Yes they were playing terribly and something had to change. But who is going to come in and coach them to better play right now? I hopefully will get one more thing I don’t expect, but I don’t expect Jim Boylan to make them better immediately or at any point this season. The team is really stressing that Boylan is his own man and not Skiles Jr. That may be true, but he’s also not much of a change no matter how you look at it. Paxson has said repeatedly he wasn’t going to go outside for a coach this season. I say what’s the point of firing the coach if you’re not? You’re going to get the same play you’re already getting and it’s a sign you’ve given up on the season. The only thing Pax could have been thinking with this move is that it would spark the players and he’d get that high level of effort back. Obviously based on the blow out in San Antonio, that hasn’t happened.

Today the team announced the big change that is going to turn things around. Chris Duhon is going to start while Ben Gordon is going back the 6th man role. Everything will be different now! I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I was to see that Ben Wallace wasn’t the one to move to the bench. Duhon for Gordon? Been there, done that. It’s not that it’s a bad move; in fact I would have done that too. It just shouldn’t have been the only move. Nocioni, Gray or Noah in the starting lineup for Wallace would have helped. Look, the team is already dysfunctional and not playing well together. Moving Wallace to the bench would piss him off and cause further disturbance. However, he’s also a very proud man and would either give his all from that point forward or give up and go home. Either way the Bulls get better immediately.

The bottom line is that I think changing coaches in the middle of the season probably wasn’t a good idea, especially if they weren’t going to bring in an outsider to do the job. Changing coaches after only 25 games definitely was a bad idea because, in my opinion, it equates to giving up on the season. I would have let Skiles coach out the season not because he deserved it or because of some deep faith in his abilities, but because the current situation is no better and is in fact probably worse.

If Paxson felt completely secure in his job I don’t think he would have fired Skiles this early. ESPN’s Mark Stein writes that we should now focus the bull’s eye on John Paxson. I know I will. And it won’t be because he’s drafted or signed the wrong guys. When he signed Wallace everyone around the NBA knew he overpaid but almost all still thought it was a good idea. I wanted to draft Brandon Roy with the number two pick, I really did. However, I wasn’t too disappointed with getting Tyrus Thomas and I didn’t read, hear or see that many others disappointed with it. Paxson really did try to get Garnett and passing on Kobe was probably a good thing given the circumstances. I think he offered Gordon and Deng fair money at the time given their performances and the time left on their contracts. His moves haven’t always worked out, but most of them looked smart at the time, knowing then what we did.

Paxson has two major flaws on his record that I will continue to hold against him and that, in my opinion, he has to make up for soon in order to warrant keeping his job. First, though he always says he’s not going to loose a player for nothing, he lost Tyson Chandler for nothing. He traded Chandler for J.R. Smith and P.J. Brown. The Bulls promptly cut/bought out Smith. Smith wouldn’t have fit well on the team, but that’s losing half of a player for nothing. They were left with a valuable trading chip however in Brown’s large, expiring contract. Brown was a veteran leader, sure, but he wasn’t worth not trading. When Paxson failed to package Brown’s contract and some other player or players for more help for the team he failed miserably. Brown essentially retired at the end of the season and the Bulls have nothing to show for Tyson. Many people say Chandler never would have flourished under Skiles as he is now, but I guarantee he’d be bringing more to the table than any other big man currently on the roster.

Paxson’s second blemish was his selfish firing of Skiles. As stated above, I believe this move was made solely for Paxson, not for winning or for the good of the team. If Pax can somehow pull the Bulls out of their current state, all will be forgiven. If not, these two moves SHOULD have him following Skiles out the door. Right now, sadly, this looks like the most interesting Bulls story to follow.

20
Dec
07

Grayt game – Bulls find what they were missing, for one night at least

What a difference a double team makes. Wasn’t it refreshing last night to see someone on the Bulls getting double teamed in the low post? A beautiful sight occurred when Aaron Gray was doubled in the 4th quarter and shot it out to the subsequently open Hinrich for three. The Bulls found, for one night at least, what they’ve been missing since 2005. Shortly after that three the Wizards played Gray straight up but had to foul him to prevent a basket. This sequence allowed the Bulls to slow down a close game in the 4th quarter and thus hang on for a win. All the critics have been saying how badly the Bulls need a low post presence in order to be a truly good team and I think I’m finally ready to admit that acquiring one is their only shot. Since there was nobody really available I held on to the belief that the Bulls could be good enough without such a presence. I’m no longer sure if that’s possible.

Gray was amazing last night but as Stacey King pointed our towards the end of the game and Skiles pointed out in the post-game interview, he won’t be that efficient every night. He’s still a rookie, is very slow, and was playing against a small Wizards team. He may turn into the presence the Bulls need in the long run, but he won’t be the permanent answer over the remainder of this season. That said, he sure earned more rotation minutes last night.

Skiles now has a big problem on his hands. It’s a good problem to have but it’s still a problem. With Gray, Thomas, Noah, Smith and Nocioni all playing well, how does he find time for all of them? On top of that, Wallace is playing terrible basketball and is perhaps the only big on the Bulls that for obvious reasons can’t be cut out of the rotation. So far Skiles has addressed the problem by altering the rotation every few games in order to give time to the guys who’ve been playing the best recently. This strategy, I believe, has hurt the Bulls consistency, which has really been their greatest weakness so far this season. Skiles is paid to figure out these problems and I’m not, so I’ll leave the solution up to him for now, but I really hope he can figure something out.

Other player notes from last night:

Hinrich – Didn’t put up huge numbers but had a good overall game. I think he’s pulled out of his slump finally.

Gordon – Good game offensively and on the boards. He needs to either grow a few inches or suddenly become a defensive expert. I don’t see either happening. The Bulls need his offense but he just can’t hang with other guards on the defensive end sometimes.

Deng – Solid game, but not outstanding. He is, however, starting to show the consistency again that made him so great last year. If he can manage to have games like last night be his down games he will really become a star.

Nocioni – Didn’t have a strong game but didn’t hurt the team much either. He settled for the outside shot too much against a team that wasn’t going to stop him if he attacked the basket.

Smith – Showed in limited minutes the same consistency we’ve come to expect from him at this point.

Gray – Wow. If he could perform like that every night the Bulls would be a dominant team. All-star level performance? No. Game changing performance? Absolutely.

Thomas – Good game on both ends of the floor. He showed a great chemistry with Gray. For some reason he kept trying to dribble the ball up the floor. That has to stop. As Stacey kept saying, “find the guard.” Thomas was really feeling it from 18 ft. last night. He showed the jump shot we heard so much about over the summer but that has been missing this season so far.

Duhon – Didn’t stand out but played well enough while he was out there.

Noah – Really would have liked to see him play more than 8:00. Looked good in his limited time except for when he tried to post up. He possibly wanted to show that Gray wasn’t the only one who could do it.

Sefolosha – Outstanding for the last 24 seconds of the game. Actually, I felt sorry for him. Why bother putting him in for 24 seconds of a done deal?

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.
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).

24
Jul
07

Donaghy and Hinrich

There are only two big NBA stories out there right now.  Tim Donaghy and Team USA.  If we approach these stories from a Bulls point of view we have the “Headbandgate” game and Kirk Hinrich.  Let’s look at Headbandgate first.

The Tribune’s K.C. Johnson informs us that Donaghy worked three Bulls games last season.  Of those three the Headbandgate game clearly stands out.  For anybody who doesn’t remember the game that came to be known as Headbandgate (it’s an annoying name, we know) was a Bulls vs. Knicks game on November 25.  Ben Wallace had apparently become upset with both Skiles and Paxson in the preceding days.  He knew the Bulls had a rule against wearing headbands (a terrible rule by the way.  there’s no way to explain it other than they don’t want their players to look like thugs).  Wallace brought a headband to the game and put it on.  Skiles pulled him and told him he had to remove it.  He removed it but was benched again soon.  The Bulls new $60 million man played under 30 minutes that game and wasn’t happy about it.  When he did make it back into the game he put the headband back on in a direct defiance of Skiles’ orders.  Skiles soon pulled him and he didn’t see the floor again.  Interestingly this game served as a turning point for the Bulls season and Wallace’s relationship with the team.  He became much more involved after that game and the Bulls turned around from their awful start to the season.  Wallace made a statement to team management that he was a veteran and 4 time Defensive Player of the Year.  He would not be treated like a rookie.  The Bulls listened and shortly after the incident Wallace was saying he knew it would help the team.

Lost in all the headband hype was the fact that the refs made some quirky calls during the game.  The Bulls were up by 22 at halftime, but the Knicks attempted 16 free throws in the first 5 and half minutes of the third quarter while the Bulls attempted only two.  Skiles was called for two techs in that span and thus ejected by Donaghy’s crew.  Donaghy’s crews called more technical fouls last season than any other crew.  Without seeing the footage we can’t tell which ref called Skiles for the techs, but we do know that Skiles thought one was fishy. 

That night he said, “The ejection, I deserved. I deserved the second technical. I didn’t care for the first one that much. He was joking with me, I joked with him and he gave me a technical. Technically, you’re not allowed to comment.”

Was Donaghy trying to bring the scores closer together to cover a point spread?  Who really knows, but that game could very well go into a handful of games that will be used as evidence against him. 

NBullsA was upset to find out that an NBA ref was involved in a gambling scandal, however not surprised to find that a ref may have been intentionally influencing the outcome of games for personal or private reasons.  The biggest problem in the NBA is the inconsistency of how the games are called.  The inconsistency is so glaring that we have no doubt that it’s not random.  We never thought of gambling interests before.  Instead we assumed NBA league office mandates that playoff series should be extended whenever possible and stars SHOULD NOT foul out of games.  Also, we were pretty sure that certain refs had issues with certain players and let their whistles settle the score.  Whether it’s personal vendettas, league mandates or mob influence the NBA needs to fix the officiating problem. 

On to Team USA.  Kirk Hinrich started in the Blue vs. White game for the Blue team.  He had one nice alley oop pass, but that was about all he did.  He played the second fewest minutes of anyone on the team (two more than JJ Redick), shot 2-7 with 3 turnovers to his one assist.  However, both Hinrich and Chris Paul played very well and had outstanding assist-to-turnover ratios in last summer’s competitions.  With a team featuring so many other explosive scorers you figure they’d need a passing point guard who is a great defender. 

However, this year’s team features Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams, all of whom are bigger than Hinrich and Paul while providing similar skill sets.  Paul is unavailable this summer, but you still have to figure that the eventual 12-man roster won’t feature 4 point guards.  Will Hinrich make the team over the bigger names, perhaps receiving credit for participating last year as well as this year?  At least if he doesn’t make the cut he’ll have more time to recuperate for the upcoming Bulls season. 

Another new addition to this summer’s team is former Bull Tyson Chandler.  Many have speculated that Team USA needed a player like Chandler because they didn’t have a true shot blocker last season.  Chandler did have 2 blocks and led all rebounders with 13 in the exhibition, but Dwight Howard had 2 blocks as well.  We think Tyson is a great player and defender.  He could help the team a lot but he’s a bit overrated as a shot blocker.  He’s never averaged over 1.8 blocks per game despite being a defensive specialist who is over 7 feet tall.  Last season he averaged a career high 35 minutes per game but was unable to top his blocks average from ’04-’05 when he played 27 minutes per game.  We feel Team USA should keep him on the roster because they’ll have plenty of scoring and his defense would be key.  However, with player like Amare Stoudemire, Howard and Chris Bosh all looking like locks it’s very possible Chandler will be cut. 

16
Jul
07

The blog that’s not afraid to root for the Bulls

We’re not afraid to root for the Bulls around here and why should we be?  It’s the offseason, a time of excitement and optimism.  There are a lot of good things being said about this team by those lucky reporters who are paid to follow and watch the NBA.  So we say, “Go Bulls!” and we hope you’ll join us.

John Denton recently summed up the Orlando summer league for ESPN.  While he said the league was not particularly exciting, two young Bulls did make his all league team:

Here are the players who separated themselves from the relatively no-named
pack this year:
Power forward: Tyrus Thomas, Bulls -- Even in the low-key offseason,
Thomas was as prickly with the media as ever. But that couldn't detract
from the fact that he was hands down the best player on the floor in the
three games he played. The Bulls are convinced that his basketball skills
will eventually catch up to his off-the-charts athleticism, and he
certainly showed signs of that this week. His ability to make the
midrange jumper now made him almost impossible to guard off the dribble.
If he can hit that shot, he said, it would make it harder for coach Scott
Skiles to keep him out of the starting lineup next season. And no player
drew more oohs and aahs than Thomas this week with his jaw-dropping
blocked shots. His stuffing of Indiana's Shawne Williams a foot above the
rim will undoubtedly be one of the lasting memories of the week.
Small forward: Thabo Sefolosha, Bulls -- Sefolosha didn't always shoot
the ball particularly well, but his nifty passing and decision-making
clearly made him a favorite this week. The Switzerland native bounced
back from a stinker on Thursday with a dazzling 25-point, seven-rebound
effort. He routinely snaked his cat-quick frame into the lane and got to
the free throw line 10 times.
With Thomas, Sefolosha and JamesOn Curry all playing well this week, it
reaffirmed Bulls GM John Paxson's abilities as a top talent evaluator.
And when Noah, who worked out furiously twice a day during the camp,
mends there will be an even greater logjam of young talent on the roster.
With Kirk Hinrich's extension and Andres Nocioni's new contract kicking
in, and Ben Gordon and Luol Deng up for new deals, don't be surprised if
Paxson soon peddles some of his young talent for a player who can give
the Bulls some pop in the low post.

These comments are further support of our statement that the Bulls are possibly the deepest team in the NBA.  Paxson does know how to draft and has made the right choices in every draft he’s been in charge of.  We can see how his stockpile of young talent may make it look like he’s getting ready for a trade and we believe that earlier in the summer he was.  However, with what’s available now Paxson will probably keep quiet and let his young team grow together for the time being.  A big trade may take place during the season, but who could Paxson go after today?  Jermaine O’Neal is still available but Paxson probably isn’t biting on him with the injury issues and huge salary.  It seems that the Gasol deal has already been explored and won’t happen.  The Milicic signing may change things but don’t look for Gasol to end up on the Bulls this summer.  The only way he’ll make it here is if the Grizzlies get off to a slow start and he starts to complain again. 

NBullsA is not blindly optimistic.  We’ll call out Paxson or the Bulls when we feel they miss a good opportunity, as we did when they let Zach Randolph go to the Knicks for nothing.  However, we do take issue with bloggers and columnists who complain, complain, and complain about what the team is doing wrong without offering better options.  Too many out there were unhappy with the Noah pick because he didn’t address the need for low post scoring, yet they didn’t go on to explain what they should have done.  Many have complained about re-signing Nocioni, but what should the Bulls have done with the money?  Who was there to get who would help the team more than Noce?

Oh well, on to more good news.  Marty Burns recently referenced the Bulls offseason success in his mailbag:

The Magic and Grizzlies seem to be the big winners so far in free agency. What
other teams have been the biggest winners?
-- J. Evey, Valparaiso, Ind.
It's still too early to tell, since not all the moves have been made yet.
But the Bulls could turn out be one surprise winner. And not just because
they managed to re-sign Andres Nocioni to a very reasonable five-year,
$38 million deal. GM John Paxson has to love the Milicic signing. For one,
it takes the 7-foot prospect off a fellow Eastern team. More important, it
leaves the door open just a crack that Chicago might be able to revisit
those talks for Gasol. With Milicic on board, Memphis now has a decent big
man to replace Gasol in the event the Grizzlies were to decide to move him
later.

 Again, we don’t think the Gasol thing is happening this summer, (though we wouldn’t mind if it did for the right price) but the significant item that Burns points out is that Nocioni’s contract is very reasonable.  It allows the Bulls flexibility to extend the contracts of Luol Deng and Ben Gordon and it makes him even more appealing should they decide they do want to trade him.  Once more Nocioni comes across as likeable to Bulls fans because he made this reasonable deal possible while more money sat on his table from Memphis.  He only needed to demand a no-trade clause to reach Mark Buehrle status (OK, he’d need a little more talent too). 

The interesting thing to watch in the coming months will be how Paxson approaches possible extensions for Gordon and Deng.  He’s made it clear that Deng is untouchable.  That would seem to imply that if he does offer extensions to both players Deng’s will be more lucrative than touchable by defult Gordon’s.  He’s claimed that all the offseason moves so far do not limit him from working out fair extensions for Deng and Gordon under the luxury tax, so we can infer that he’d like to extend them both.  However, what if he gives Deng an extension but not Gordon so as to keep little Ben cheaper and thus more appealing to potential trade partners?  It doesn’t seem like something Paxson would do but extending him won’t help any trades get done.  What if he offers extensions to both but Gordon’s is significantly lower than Deng’s?  How will BG7 react?  Watching the potential soap opera play out will be interesting.  However, with the characters and personalities that Ben Gordon and Luol Deng have it’s unlikely much will be public or messy. 




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