Monday, November 27, 2006

Big Angry Ben

With all the hoopla surrounding Big Ben - from Sam Smith essentially calling for his head to some bloggers hailing him as a modern-day Rosa Parks ("stupid rules are meant to be broken") - I thought it might be interesting to hear what others think about the rift.

Personally, I think Ben was frustrated and acted pretty damn childish. He knew the rules coming into the year, yet he decides to act out after a six-game slide and his first zero rebound game in eight seasons? While the rule is silly, it should have been taken care of behind closed doors when he signed his insanely large contract (which he has not come close to earning).

The Bulls need an inside presence more than ever and Ben needs to act with some maturity and humility. Maybe that's asking too much from him, I don't know. We've witnessed his past run-ins with coaches. I'm hoping it's not.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I like winning by 42 more

A few quick thoughts about a poor showing in game two:

Orlando was much quicker than the Bulls, specfically Howard on the block and Nelson on penetration. Howard's footwork is great and when he gets by you -which is often- he gets to the rim in a hurry. Wallace looked, dare I say, overmatched.

Give Orlando credit for their shooting (59 percent from the floor), but it's much easier when you're getting open looks. Nelson's penetration killed us here; it always seemed like we were one step behind on our help rotations.

Gordon was spectacular early, which was good too see after Tuesday night. Hinrich looked tired to me.

I know the Bull's team FT percentage wasn't horrible last season (73.8 percent), but I think think improving at the line needs to be a point of emphasis for a team without a really dominant inside scorer. When we get into the lane and get hacked, we need to get some points out of it.

Darko's mohawk was hilarious and not nearly as badass as Ocho Cinco's.

I love the NBA package week-long free preview. We're trying to goad one of our roomates into asking for the package for a Birthday/Hannaukah gift. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"Who The Hell Is Scoring On This Team?"

In Part 2 of his NBA season preview, Bill Simmons cites the Bulls as one of the five teams he believes will fail to meet up to everyone's expectations. He writes:
Lemme get this straight ... they won 47 games two seasons ago because of their defense and fourth-quarter scoring ... then they dropped to 41 wins because the rules changed and they couldn't match baskets with better offensive teams ... so the solution was to trade for P.J. Brown (complete non-factor on the offensive end), spend $60 million on Ben Wallace (ditto) and draft Ty Thomas (another rebounder/leaper) with the No. 2 pick? Who the hell is scoring on this team???? Why am I the only person who seems to be wondering about this? Hey, if they can contend for the 2007 title with a team built for 2003 rules, God bless 'em. I'm just not seeing it.

Well, Bill isn't as special as he thinks he is, as Trib columnist Sam Smith brought up the same concern a few weeks ago while broaching one of his most inane trade ideas yet: Luol Deng, Michael Sweetney and somebody else for Corey Magette. (This might even be worse than the Gordon, Deng and Noce for Paul Pierce deal that he kept pushing last year. Why the gigantic hard-on for PP, Sam?)
But back to Simmons: I don't think we should get irrationally exuberant about the Bulls' offense based on last night's game. Despite Riles, the Heat can be really bad defensively, and most teams in this league don't start two guys drawing Social Security at the point and center positions (or for that matter, Antoine "Ole" Walker at the 3). But this notion that the Bulls won't be able to score is pretty weak.
For starters, the Bulls were not a bad offensive team last year. Their FG percentage was low, but they averaged almost 98 points per game, putting them ahead of the middle of the league in 13th place. Their problem last year was turning the ball over, which might still be an issue, and giving up too many offensive boards, which Wallace, Brown and TT will help put an end to. That latter was really a killer, because depsite the fact that they were great in limiting their opponents' FG percentage, they were 16th in scoring defense, giving up 97 PPG. That, and other teams really keying in on stopping Gordon in the 4th, is likely what accounts for the six-game swing over the last two years.
To get back to Simmons' question, though, a better question would probably be, "Who The Hell [Outside of Wallace and P.J.] ISN'T Scoring On This Team?" Last night, Gordon went 1 for 9, and yet the Bulls still broke 100. I don't think we can count on Du scoring 20 a game, or single-handedly stopping an opponent's desperate run to get back in the game, but he's healthy and improving, and combined with Ben Go, the two will average a lot more than the 26 they combined for last night. Hinrich won't average 26 a game, but there's a good chance he'll be hovering around 20, and it's guranteed that Deng will average more than 12 (his total from last night) and Noce will get more than 9 (the same). And no, I don't think Sefolosha will be averaging a point a minute this year, but Simmons himself admits the Swiss Mister can shoot. And while Wallace is outright hilarious on the offensive end, his outlet passes are guaranteed to start a couple of fast breaks each game.
Will the Bulls be an offensive juggernaut this year? Not likely. But they won't be slouches either, and with their defense, and a pitiful Eastern Conference, that should be enough for 50-55 wins this year.

Detroit fans are reeling

As someone whose spent four years watching trashy guys with gelled hair and big silver chains walk around Southeast Michigan with Wallace jerseys on (no large Gordon at UConn t-shirt underneath of course), nothing is sweeter than listening to Piston fans rationalizing the loss of their idol and the face of their franchise. While the contract is monstrous, the interior defense was shockingly good last night, which is what you pay for with Big Ben. It'll be interesting to see how they deal with Howard tonight. I saw him play in person at the tailend of his rookie year, and his athleticism can make Tyrus look like Bagaric.

The depth also stood out. When Ben goes 1-9 and you throw up 108, you know you got some players sitting next to Pete Meyers.

A good quote by Skiles to leave you with. "It's one game, we're 1-0, yippee," coach Scott Skiles said. "This is an unrelenting league. We move on." What an ass.


More First Impressions

I would sum up my first impressions by saying: It's nice! I like!

Quick factual correction, the "welcome to the NBA" moment Brian describes below was against Thabo, not Ty Thomas, though it still was a pretty awesome moment. Thabo did kind of make up for it by stripping that poor rookie point guard on the Heat when he tried to cross him over. (How many raw inches of limbs are there between Thabo and Thomas, by the way? It's like their wing span takes up the whole court)

I agree re: depth and rebounding. Also their defense looked suspiciously like the defense of their lakeside neighbors, the Bears. Every time a Heat player caught the ball with what looked to be a bit of daylight there were suddenly three or four players around him.

Finally, a prediction and you heard it hear first. Kirk Hinrich is an All-Star this year.

More later...

First Impressions...

...of a 42-point beatdown (108-66!) of the defending Champs on the road.

1) The Bulls can really rebound this year, and they're looking to run right away off of them. Enthusiasm here should be somewhat tempered by the fact that the Heat's transition D is notoriously bad, particularly when they're complacent, as they certainly looked this game. But Big Ben is great at the outlet pass that revs up the break. If they can do it again consistently tonight against Orlando---a younger, hungrier and (aside from D Wade) more athletic team than Miami---then we should have a better idea of what we can expect throughout the season.

2) Ty Thomas actually gives the ready-made, brain-deadening phrase "freakishly athletic" profound meaning. His block on Shaq was truly one for the ages. (Also one for the ages, though, was D-Wade's strip of Thomas for a fast break dunk. It was a "Welcome to the NBA" moment, although it's good that Thomas had his when the game was already well in hand.) [See post above.] But his freakish athleticism might also get him in some serious trouble in the NBA, much like the shadow side of large-scale technological improvements is the possibility of large-scale, technological disasters. His blazing speed and dynamic ups mean that when he gets fouled hard, he plummets to the earth faster than (and from just about as great a height as) Icarus. (And indeed, one game in, he's already broken his nose, which means we should look forward to him sporting a Rip mask the next couple weeks.) I'd be surprised if he doesn't miss a lot of games this year due to injuries because until he puts on some more muscle mass so that the can absorb the hard blows he's going to regularly receive while going hard to the rim, you can expect him to have some utterly horrific crash landings.

3) A Thomas injury, however, wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, because the Bulls are incredibly deep this year. Ridiculously so. And I for one want to see some more Viktor Khryapa, who had as many assists as Hinrich in 20 fewer minutes. (And they weren't goofy big-man assists either, dished out to some wide-open jump shooter. These were drive-the-lane-and-find-the-cutting,-open-man-for-easy-dunk/layups assists.) Sefolosha also looks pretty intriguing, although it would be nice to see him against players other than Heat scrubs.