Posts Tagged ‘washington wizards

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?

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.   

31
Jul
07

Team to beat in the East? It’s just hype.

Again, once the Garnett trade happens the Celtics will be a successful regular season team and probably win one or two playoff series.  They HAVE NOT, however, become “the team to beat” or favorites in the East.  Yes, the trade is exciting.  Superstars don’t change teams everyday.  But people need to calm down and look at this situation realistically.  Everywhere I look I’m reading that if LeBron could take the Cavs to the finals last season with no supporting cast then this Celtics team will go undefeated in Eastern Conference competition.  There are so many flaws with that logic I don’t know where to start.  LeBron last season was a more dominant player than any of the three players who will be on the Celtics were last season or will be this season.  Also, LeBron didn’t have much of a supporting cast but he had a hell of a lot more than the Celtics will have beyond Pierce/Allen/Garnett.  LeBron had Zydrunas Ilgauskas while the Celtics will have Kendrick Perkins.  LeBron had Donyell Marshal, Anderson Varejao, Daniel Gibson and Damon Jones coming off the bench.  Now these guys aren’t going to win any sixth man of the year awards but the Celtics will have . . .oh yeah, they won’t have a bench left after this trade.  Under contract the Celtics will have Brian Scalabrine, Tony Allen (coming off of knee surgery), Leon Powe and Brandon Wallace.  Cleveland’s supporting cast sounds pretty good now, huh?


Now that the deal is done Brian Scalabrine
is poised for greatness in his new role as
the Celtics 6th man

The other problem with the logic if LeBron could do it with that Cavs team then the Celtics will reign supreme is that people are forgetting that the Cavs path to the finals was only so easy because of luck.  First they faced the Wizards without Arenas who was at least as valuable to his team as LeBron was to the Cavs.  Then they faced a Nets team that didn’t really care.  Once Vince Carter beat his old team in Toronto he accomplished all he cared to.  Why put off the summer any longer.   Finally they faced one good team in the Pistons.  However, the aging and arrogant/apathetic Detroit team was worn down from from an energetic Bulls team and believed they were so good they didn’t have to try in order to win the series.  Overall the Cavs only had to play one out of the 5 best teams in the East on their way to the finals.  That will not be the case for the Celtics in the ’08 playoffs.  The team to beat in the East will probably still be the Pistons but it’s a Conference that’s very much up in the air.  I don’t believe the Pistons will win the East nor do I believe the Celtics will. 

There are too many talented young teams in the East for old teams like those two to make it to the Finals.  Even a team like the Magic, if it somehow reached the the conf. finals, could take that Celtics team. Howard would negate KG, Lewis would match Pierce and Redick or some other one dimensional shooter would match Allen.  Ray Allen is a great player, but with the talents that Garnett and Pierce bring Allen is not going to have more of a role than a spot up shooter.  With each team’s big 3 doing the same things the thirty-somethings would simply tire out before the twenty-somethings.  Not to mention the Magic would have a good coach in VanGundy while Boston is putting up with Doc. 

The new look Celtics are very exciting but lets see them in action before crowning them Eastern Conference Champions.   

30
Jul
07

Garnett to Boston makes sense but . . .


Just give Joakim Noah a couple of years in
the NBA and he’ll look pretty like this too. 

Things are still slow out there in the world of NBA news.  At least there’s a new rumor today that doesn’t have anything to do with Tim Donaghy.  Kevin Garnett might be traded to the Celtics!!!  Essentially it’s the same trade that was on the verge of happening prior to the draft but with a couple more players thrown in to replace the pick. 

The details vary based on the report but Minny would definitely be getting Ratliff’s expiring contract and Al Jefferson.  Beyond that, reports are all over the board.  The Boston Globe’s reports seem very optimistic for the Celtics.  One even has Al Jefferson not included in the deal, being replaced by a #1 pick.  Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Rajon Rondo and Gerald Green are the other names floating around. 

Basically the deal is all of the Celtics young talent and maybe a future #1 pick or two for Kevin Garnett.  It’s a high price for the Celtics to pay.  Garnett is one of the premier players in the game and with someone to carry the scoring load he’d be even more valuable.  As sad as it will be for Minnesota fans to see a loyal, hard-working fan favorite go, this is an opportunity that Kevin McHale has to jump at. 

If McHale can get back 3-4 quality young players, an expiring contract and maybe a pick or two he will have gone a long ways (well, maybe just a ways) towards making up for all the terrible, terrible general managing he’s done in Minneapolis.  Sure, nobody wants to lose KG but McHale has put the team in such a bad spot that he could never surround him with half of what the Wolves will have if they make this trade. 

The situation is a bit more complicated for Boston.  They’d be giving up every asset they have for the future (beyond the next 2 years) and possibly any ability to rebuild if draft picks are included.  If they make this trade they are taking a one year shot at an NBA title.  The team they’d have will only be worse in ’08-’09 than they will be in ’07-’08 and they’d continue to decline from that point while other strong young teams in the East (Bulls) improve.  Because of the bleak future beyond the next season or maybe two it seems like it would be a bad idea for the Celtics to make this trade.  However, Danny Ainge already jumped on board the bad idea bus when he traded for Ray Allen and as long as he’s already stuck he may as well take KG along for the ride. 

Ainge gave up on building a team around the wealth of young talent he had when he traded the #5 pick and Delonte West for Ray Allen.  Ainge had been trying to keep veteran Paul Pierce around while slowly building a young contending team.  Pierce finally had enough of it and made his feelings known this past season.  At that point Ainge should have traded Pierce and continued with his youth movement.  Instead he decided to make the team older and picked up Allen.  

Once he made the Ray Allen trade there was no turning back.  He had to try and win it all with Pierce and Allen in the next year or two.  He probably figured because of his poor track record he’d be fired before his young team came around anyway.  Once you know you’re on the edge of losing your job why think about the future?  Therefore if Ainge gives up everything on his team that will have any significant value in 5 years he’ll have a one year window and a decent shot to win the Eastern Conference.  There’s no turning back, he needs to make this trade desperately.  The team as it currently stands won’t beat the East’s best.  The price he faces for Garnett is high – especially if they don’t work out a contract extension prior to completing a trade – but it’s Ainge’s last and only shot at success. 

 As we’ve said, McHale has to make this trade.  However, letting Garnett slip away from Timberwolves fans will go down as his biggest failure.  Garnett is the ultimate team player and the wounds this trade would leave on Wolves fans can not and should not heal quickly.  What we want to know is, if Ray Allen was available prior to the draft why didn’t McHale go after him?  Sure, his pick was two lower than Boston’s (#7 vs. #5), but he could have sweetened the deal with other pieces.  Allen and Garnett would have been a better duo than Sprewell and Garnett ever were.  Most importantly Minnesota could keep Garnett while giving him some help.  Ultimately rebuilding with what youth they have combined with what they get from Boston will probably be best for the Wolves.  Nevertheless, you have to believe that there was something that could have been done to keep KG in Sota with his faithful.

With the trade Minnesota will join Portland and Seattle as teams in the West that are extremely young but have very bright futures.  Those three teams should be able to peak right around the time the current powers in the West start to go downhill. 

 Assuming Boston is able to hold on to a halfway decent point guard they should be a very fun team to watch as well.  Allen, Pierce, Garnett at the 2, 3, 4/5 will be hard to stop.  They’ll need to jell soon however because the East is getting better.  See any other entry on this blog for the current improving state of the Bulls.  The composition of the Knicks is flawed but they’ll have enough firepower to cost some good teams regular season wins this year.  Atlanta may finally have enough pieces to make something out of their tremendous depth of talent.  The Pistons look to have one more good year in them.  We have to assume the LeBron will only be better this year than he was when he single-handedly carried the Cavs to the Finals last year.  Orlando might be better than last season, with an improved Dwight Howard and added help from Lewis.  The Wizards remain intact and if Arenas can fully recover from his injury they should regain the strong form they showed the first half of last season.  Toronto is bound to be a top tier team for the next several years along with the Bulls.  The Heat and Nets are on their way down, but other than those two the East is getting stronger.   The Celtics better win now if Ainge’s master plan has any chance.

The Kevin Garnett trade probably will happen because it makes sense and will help two teams in desperate situations.  With Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge running the show, however, you never know if the move that makes sense is the move that will happen.




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