Sunday, October 31, 2010

Watch Your Back, Monta Ellis...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


That was a great first game, save that 18-4 run the Bulls let the Thunder go on in the last six minutes or so. Some quick thoughts:

** Joakim Noah was frickin' awesome, 18 pts., 19 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, as well as a number of redirections at the rim for misses. And his 7 of 13 line from the field would've been better, except that a number of his misses were offensive tips at the rim that just didn't fall. Pretty incredible.

** Rose was a mixed bag, jaw-droppingly awesome at times, groaningly undisciplined at others. After a slow start, he seemed to take over the game, then got into some foul trouble with some ticky-tack calls, then heated up again, and then was pretty terrible during crunch time. Twelve of 31, and only four trips to the line, isn't going to get it done, to say nothing of his 0 for 4 line from three point land. I feel like one or two of those were good shots, but the others were forced, and those are just wasted possessions. He's just gotta harness things a little more and he'll be unstoppable. I'm keeping the faith.

** Taj made a nice recovery from a crappy preseason for the first three quarters, then shit the bed in the fourth, making one of only three shots, bricking two much-needed FTs, and making an excruciatingly bad turnover at a crucial time. Still, overall he shot 66% from the field, scoring 16 pts. and hauling in 11 boards. But his 14 and 8 line thru three quarters was much more impressive. It'll be nice when Boozer's back on the court for the big minutes and Taj can do his good work in spurts off the bench. As a third big, he should be fine.

** Korver's minute allotment seemed kinda weird, only 16 overall, but many coming toward the end of the game. He shot okay, but missed his only three point attempt and seemed to have trouble shaking Thabo off screens. I guess OKC is a tough matchup for him, seeing as Durant plays the 3 and that's Kyle's best position. Be interesting to see how Thibs uses him moving forward.

** Overall, Deng did a great job on Durant, who got his 30 but needed 24 shots to do it and turned the ball over 6 times as well. But it was sad to see Deng's 3-pointer leave him, as he had some good looks but they just didn't fall. Here's hoping the hot shooter from the preseason can re-emerge soon.

** CJ Watson looked a little shaky in his first stint, although he did get on a little hot streak that kept the Bulls in the game when it looked like OKC might build a big lead. His second stint in the 2nd half, though less explosive, seemed more stabilizing. Rose's foul trouble kept Thibs from playing the two together, which might've actually been effective against the Thunder.

Overall, the Bulls looked great for 3 and a half quarters, playing their first game in a tough environment. (Given the ridiculous FT disparity, it certainly seemed to rattle the refs.) The end was pretty ugly, but I can't complain too much as a) I didn't really expect them to win this game and b) they were a much more watchable team for the first 40 minutes than they've been in years. I'm still very excited for this season to unfold.

Monday, October 25, 2010

"What Should I Do?"

I don't know, but I know what you shouldn't do: Stab an entire city in the back in slow motion on national television. It's not always what you do, but how you do it.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Preseason Review

So I watched the game against the Pacers last night, but that team is just gonna be awful this year, so it doesn't make much sense to dissect just why the Bulls looked so good against them. Instead I thought I'd just go through the roster and assess how each player did this preseason. Without further ado:

Derrick Rose: Yeah, he's fucking awesome. It's a bit of a bummer that his bragged about 3 point shot doesn't appear to have actually materialized, although I'm not entirely willing to write it off for this season just yet. He took more than 2 a game, and though the percentage was terrible, I am glad to see he has the confidence to take them. Obviously if the execution's not there, then yes, it becomes a problem. But that's nitpicking; He got to the line pretty regularly this preseason (about 5 times per game, in only 28 min. per game) and his court vision looked improved as well. Don't think he'll ever be a 20 pt., 10 asst. guy, but he could be a 25 pt., 7 asst. guy this year. I would take that.

Joakim Noah: Also, pretty fucking awesome. Averaged almost a double-double in 28 min. a game, and was just behind D-Rose in assists per game, at 4.2. A little unefficient on the offensive end, but again, that's nit-picking. I think he'll be fine.

Luol Deng: Just had a monster preseason. Over 50% from three point land, and though the sample size was small (8 games), the attempts per game sample (almost 4) was pretty damn good. He appears to be comfortable taking three pointers in this offense, and though he obviously won't hit 50% this season, if he can even continue to hit them in the high 30s range, it is a great shot for him. Meanwhile, he got to the line a ton (even if you discount his 12-for-12 rampage at the FT line last night) and always appeared active defensively. As a 2nd option offensively (or 3rd once Boozer comes back), he looks more than up to the task.

Taj Gibson: I thought Taj looked pretty shaky, but between his coming off the injury and then possibly having it flare up again, that's understandable. If you thought Taj might improve considerably from last year's (fine) rookie performance, I think you might be disappointed, but so long as he can replicate what he gave last year, I'll have no complaints.

Keith Bogans: Bogans shot 50 percent from 3 point land, taking about 2.5 per game. His defense seemed hard-nosed and pretty serviceable, and...yeah, that's about it. He's a boring, but dependable player, who fits in well on this roster. He might start at the start of the season, and later on, he may not even play, but he doesn't seem to care about that, which is commendable. Just in general, the apparent lack of ego on this team is pretty cool to see.

Kyle Korver: 'Twas a tale of two preseasons for Korver. In the first couple games, he looked unstoppable. Then he got a cyst on his ankle, which he said bothered his shooting for a couple games. He looked pretty good, though not amazing, last night, but I would settle for pretty good if it means he doesn't have to miss a bunch of games for surgery. His defense is pretty awful, despite the fact that you can tell he expends quite a bit of energy on it. But that's no matter: Keep trying at that end hit 40-plus percent on your threes, and this team should have no complaints.

Omer Asik: Omer surprised me with his play, but he's still incredibly rough. He's a fouling machine on the defensive end, which is to be expected, and he appears to have no offensive game if he's not right around the basket. But if he's around it, he can finish strongly and he does have a knack for getting himself nice separation on pick-and-rolls. He also seems like a pretty damn good rebounder and a serviceable shotblocker. Basically, like a number of Bulls, he's a limited player who can still be effective in spot minutes/situations. I like the big fella and plan on being incredibly patient with him this season.

C.J. Watson: Frankly, he was downright Pargo-esque this preseason, although he's on a new team, was injured for a bit, and is playing a position (point guard) that he's not really suited for. He showed flashes that he can be an excellent scorer in transition and I'm still intrigued by him and Rose getting some minutes together, as they'd form one of the quickest backcourts in the league. But he really needs to start scoring more efficiently or else the Bulls are going to have to do something about their backup PG situation; they should probably do something, anyway.

Kurt Thomas: He shot 47% from the field this preseason, which seems shocking to me, because every time I watched, it seemed like he was missing a wide open midrange jump shot. But 47% is okay. He still rebounds the hell out of the ball, and though on defense he's now a step slow and foul-prone, he is the type of fouler who lets you know you got fouled, which is pretty awesome in that testosterone-fueled, lizard-brain kind of a way.

Brian Scalabrine: Scalabrine is the personification of just about every idiotic sports cliche you've ever heard: "heady," "gets the most out of his talent," "an extension of his coach out on the floor," etc. You pry it from the dead, lumpen prose of Rick Morrissey and it fits Scalabrine. That said, it's hard not to like the guy. In just about every game I saw this preseason, he made at least one really great play on the offensive end (a pass for an open bucket, a cut for an open bucket, etc.) that came about solely through his knowledge of the game. But what's impressed me most about him is his defense, in particular (and actually only) his pick-and-roll defense, which basically provides a clinic in how Thibodeau would like it to be executed by his big men: Show on the ball-handler extremely hard until the picked defender can recover, then run like hell to get back and cover the man who picked you. If Brian Scalabrine has to play a ton of minutes on this team, something will have gone horribly, horribly wrong, but I no longer think that every time he's out on the court something will go horribly, horribly wrong.

Ronnie Brewer: Brewer was injured, then looked like crap as he was getting his legs under him, but he finally showed some flashes last night. Super quick, made some nice passes, and even hit a jump shot or two. My guess is he'll have to work get himself back in the rotation, but he could easily be starting for this team in a month or so, if not sooner.

James Johnson: In a way, I saved the best for last. J.J. has been a fucking revelation the past couple preseason games, and if the Bulls don't extend his contract for next season, I will be pretty pissed. That's saying something considering I didn't have an opinion on the matter one way or the other about three weeks ago. Offensively, he's hitting shots and making quick decisions with the ball, be it driving or passing. He rarely turned the ball over, which is astonishing given how careless he was with the rock last season. And his on-the-ball defense looked pretty damn good to my eyes. I don't know whether he has a place on this team if everyone's healthy, but since that's often a rarity, I think he's going to find some minutes and use them productively. At this point, I'd actually be hesitant to trade him for Rudy Fernandez, given that a) Rudy seems like a prima donna and J.J. seems like a pretty fucking awesome dude and b) I can't say with certainty that Rudy will be a more effective player. The dude worked his ass off this summer, and though he arguably should've been in this type of shape to start his career, it seems to me he "gets" it now, and I think the Bulls as an organization would be giving off a good signal to the rest of their players by rewarding J.J. with a third year.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Pick and Ro' Under Thibodeau

Great stuff from Sebastian Pruti at NBA Playbook, looking at how the Bulls are doing when it comes to defending the pick-and-roll in Thibodeau's scheme.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


So I caught my first glimpse of the Bulls last night and only saw the first half, and keeping in mind the rather huge caveats that it was a) only a preseason game that was b) against the Raptors, who look like they might be the worst team in the league, I was really, really impressed. Some scattered thoughts:

1) Kelly Dwyer has it exactly 100% right: The difference between VDN and Tom Thibodeau is night and day. The Bulls offense looks like a thing of beauty, with lots of movement, cutting, backscreens, and quick passes. And I love how much of it is being run at the top of the key through Noah, who looks like he's going to average at least 5 dimes a game this year. Taking advantage of his height and passing ability is really, really smart, and I also liked how they let Noah take the ball upcourt if the Raps tried to double team Rose on the inbounds pass after a bucket. He's got both the handle and the court vision to make teams pay for that, and it's that type of diverse skill set (along with his rebounding, and his improving offensive game) that make Noah, barring injury, worth every penny of his new deal.

2) Yes, Asik is extremely rough around the edges, but he looks like a legit rotation player to me, if not now then relatively soon. The shotblocking was great to see (coming as it did from both on the ball and from help defense), his defensive rebounding looked solid, and he seems to have a nice, innate sense of positioning/off the screen movement on offense. And though I know his 3 of 4 night from the charity stripe was an anomaly, I have to say that I thought his form from the line looked pretty good; seemed to be using his legs and it looked like he had a decent follow-through on his release. WE CAN BUILD ON THIS!

3) Between Korver, Bogans, Watson, Rose, and Deng, it appears as if the Bulls three-point shooting, which looked to be a potential Achilles' heel coming into this season, should be adequate. There are obviously still some question marks, but Rose and Deng each look to be improved enough to the point that they are now viable threats from that range. Neither will put the fear of God in opponents, but both seem to be confident that, if left open, they'll hit it. And the type of open looks from three-land that Bogans is consistently getting (coming largely courtesy of Rose's unstoppable penetration and kick) should be there all season. Indeed, in a way, it seems like Bogans might almost be the perfect type of 2 guard to pair with Rose: a nice defender, doesn't need the ball on offense, but dangerous enough from distance to provide the spacing Rose needs to operate effectively. And I love the way they're using Korver as a Ray Allen/Rip Hamilton-type threat, running him all over the court offensively through a gauntlet of screens.

4) Overall, it looks like this Bulls team has the potential to be much better than the sum of its parts. A lot of their regular rotation players have significant flaws in their game, but it seems to me that not only are many, if not most, of these weakness largely offset by the strengths of their teammates, but that the strengths of some teammates can play directly to the strengths of the more limited players (a la Rose and Bogans). The Boozer injury had really bummed me out, but after seeing what I witnessed last night, I can't wait for this season to start, even without him. And then to think what they might be with him...well, it's exciting.