Sunday, December 31, 2006

We must protect this house!

I think Saturday was an important win for this young Bulls team. There was a lot on the line coming into the contest; it was a division rival, the team's star was active for a change -- unlike the Raptors and the Heat most recently -- and a W would have given the Bullies the most wins in the East. And they came out and played a really great game. While Deng shot it superbly and all three backup forwards made a big impact covering for the banged up Wallace, I was really impressed with the play of Duhon. While he only shot 2-9, he dished out 11 assists to only two TO's in over 41 minutes, really attacked the rim on more than one occassion and controlled the tempo nicley during that big run at the end of the third and into the fourth. If Duhon continues his steady play, I think it will only strenghten BenGo's analysis of the Hinrich v. Gordon trade situation, even in spite of the news of the groin injury that has probably affected Kirk all year.

Looking at the standings, the Bulls are now 14-2 at the UC (winners of seven straight), 16-4 against teams from the East and 5-1 in their division. To me, this just proves that they are winning the games that they are supposed to win. It's certainly refreshing after last season, when they blew too many games at home, but I think the next big test will be to convert those games that keep getting away. That's why I think in the long run, the Pistons game next Saturday could be seen as the least important matchup in the coming week. If the Bulls can compete against a Western conference power like Phoenix on Tuesday and then steal a victory from the Nets in Jersey, they will set themselves up psychologically for a really good strecth over the next few months.

Friday, December 29, 2006

(cough) bullshit

CnnSI has an interview with Riles up. I assume this interview was done before the Bulls/Heat game on Wednesday. If not, Marty Burns gets a big thumbs down for not calling him out on this - You gave Bruce Bowen his first real NBA break (with the Heat in '97). What did you think of Knicks coach Isiah Thomas' accusation earlier this season that Bowen intentionally sticks his foot under shooters when they're attempting jump shots?

Riley: I don't get caught up in that. I've learned one thing as a coach: If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything. I used to say a lot of things when I was young. Bruce is a hell of a defender. I don't think there's any controversy. I don't think he does it intentionally. I just think opposing coaches get upset with it.

Must been a different Riles, than the A-hole who has been calling Kirk dirty. Things are gonna be realt chippy if the Heat and Bulls meet in the playoffs.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bulls-Heat Running Diary

I made my first trek out to the United Center last night for the Bulls-Heat and I thought I might take a page out of Simmons' bag of tricks and keep a running diary of the proceedings. Here is what transpired.

6:35-We just got to our seats. They are pretty quality: second tier, just above where the Bulls enter from the locker room. Wallace just came out, sans cornrows. He proceeds to miss his first four jumpers.

6:37-Bill Wennington is wandering around courtside with a pair of brown slacks and a tan shirt. We agree that he looks a lot like his namesake, the Beef Wennington.

7:02-The folks at the UC just ran a long video montage of Benny the Bull highlights set to "Get Up Offa That Thing" by the hardest working man in show biz. I'm a little teary-eyed.

7:15-The Bulls squad all run in from the tunnel carrying t-shirts that they then chuck into the stands. I feel a little bit like I'm at the circus.

7:36-My brother and I contest that the best thing about the Bulls intro is not the Allan Parsons's Project but the Pink Floyd-sampeled away team intro music. By the way, Dorell Wright is getting the start.

7:42-D-Wade hits the side of the backboard on his first attempt from the floor. Let's hope it's an omen.

7:46-Luol just cut across the lane and snagged a ball out of the air instead of punishing it into the fifth row. I feel like an old man, but doesn't it seem logical to try and catch a ball if you can get both hands in the air like that? You don't see it very often.

7:48-I forgot how crazy it is to watch NBA sets in person. There are just a ridiculous amount of backscreens.

7:51-My girlfriend just told me that I "kind if look like Noce . . . but cuter." That's rough.

7:53-Kirk and Wade just got tangeled up and Wade looks to be holding his arm or wrist. My friend Bill thinks he got hit in the junk, but he looks to be in some serious pain. Everyone's favorite Bruin Jason Kapono checks in.

7:56-Just as I mock Wright, he's having a great first quarter, really attacking the rim. Who knew.

8:01-They just showed Wale and Thomas Jones sitting courtside. HUGE ovations from the UC crowd. Jones is wearing a Pirates hat for no real reason.

8:05-The bulls just played a good stretch of defense to take a 22-20 lead near the end of the first. Thabo is running the floor really well.

8:08-Down three at the start of the second, Wade is still not in. I wonder if we will see him at all.

8:13-The Bulls get a quick six before a Riley TO. This team seems lost without Shaq and Wade. Tyrus just had a sick oop. He is crazy athletic.

8:20-Two quick Bulls threes open up a 20-4 run and a 19 point lead with just over seven minutes left. The Heat is just having awful possessions.

8:26-Michael Doleac is Larry David bald.

8:29-Noce just got away with a charge and Haslem is understandably upset. My brother yells at him to "throw your mouthguard again." Classy.

8:30-57-45 at the half. BenGo filled it up in the second quarter.

8:56-At the start of the third, Jason Williams is hoisting. Good times for all.

9:02-The Bulls can't adjust to the zone and the Heat cut it to single digits with just under seven left. Really? With Chris Quinn, Doleac and Wright in the game?

9:16-All the plays they usually run for Wade, they are running for Kapono. He's heating up too, keeping them right in the contest. This is bad.

9:24-Gordon and Kirk sub in with about 10 minutes left. Will they be the spark that the listless team needs?

9:26-Williams just hit three trey's in a row, one in transition where I don't think he even saw the rim. We're only up two. AHHH.

9:27-Posey just absolutley LEVELED Deng across the court from us and is immediately ejected. That looked really bad. I think it's the hardest fould I've ever seen in person. A mother of a few teenagers just shot me a glare for loudly swearing at Posey. What a cheap bastard.

9:30-Deng gets up to shoot free throws to a standing ovation. Thank god.

9:40-Two bad calls on our end, one extending the Heat possession and one on a Noce tie-up they called a foul, leads to three points and a tie with 4:30 left.

9:45-Gordon with the floater in the lane for 30. He has such a quick first step. Noce fouls out on the next possession after a few tough calls. A quiet game for both him and Luol really.

9:47-Riles is trying the hack-a-Ben and it's working. He went one of four and aired two of them. But then Wallace comes up with the big steal and assists to little Ben! Up three with just over two minutes.

9:53-Williams gets Deng on a mismatch and hits a jumper from the elbow with 1:26 left to go up by one. He is killing us in the second half.

9:54-But Gordon with the answer! A one-hander in the lane and a foul. Gordon looks like he did his rookie year in the fourth. Bullies up two.

9:56-Bulls get a stop and then they iso Ben up top. He trips, the Heat double too early thinking they can trap him near halfcourt and he finds Tyrus underneath! Tyrus drains both free throws (big time for the rook) to take the four point lead with 24.5 left.

10:01-After a FT exchange, the Heat can't corral the rebound and Ben knocks down two more for his 40th of the night. That will do it! Bulls win 109-103 to move to 17-12. A strange, but exciting, fourth gets them the W. I hope Deng is ok.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


A solid win for the Bulls last night. I know it was beleaguered by Stacey on the broadcast, but when the Bulls guards get to the rim, it makes the offense WAY more efficient. It was all over after Ben's second quarter, where he hit everything -8 of 9 - in sight. Veteran Gerald Wallace had some kind words for Ben afterwards too.

"We were joking after the game, 'Was MJ out there tonight?'" Charlotte guard Gerald Wallace said. "It sure seemed like it. He's tough to guard. He just raises up and shoots whenever he wants to. And he's a great shooter. Plus he's a great penetrator, so it's kind of hard to defend him."

Kirk was sluggish again (perhaps he read BenGo's post and lost some confidence?) but it was nice to see Thabo pick up the slack, especially in that active second quarter. And it's always nice to come back to the United Center, where the Bullies are 10-0 against Eastern Conference squads.

Yet the biggest gift was getting the chance to play Charlotte, who looked downright awful. I really don't like the makeup of their team. They have a bunch of solid players that can't really score (Okafor, Wallace, Felton, Michigan's own B-Rob) and then some guys that can shoot it but do nothing else (Morrison, Carroll, Big-O). Only Mays and Knight can really do it on both ends, but Brevin isn't going to take over games and Mays is still developing. But as an avid college basketball fan, watching the Bobcats did get me thinking. Which NBA team could put together the best college all-star team? Now, I'm not talking retrospectivley; I mean the NBA players that were the most effective in the NCAA's.

After only quickly scanning some rosters, my first inclination is to go with the post-trade Nuggets. They are not deep, but their top five are scary good, with Iverson, Hodge, and a front line of Camby, Carmelo and K-Mart. Another solid squad without much depth is Miami. Simien, Shaq and Mourning could hang with the Nuggets big three and Wade and Kapono are a formidable backcourt (well, if it's Kapono pre-junior year). Two other teams that lack the star power but have lots of depth are also two bad Atlantic teams, the Celtics and the Knicks. The boys from Boston could play Tony Allen, the dominant Gomes, the Kandi man, Wally, Pierce, Delonte West and Powe, but they are disqualified for having the gunner that was Allen Ray and the bad shooting Rajon Rondo. The Knicks could throw out Francis, Marbury, Nate Robinson or Q-Rich at the guard and Frye, Jeffries or Balkman up front.

I'm sure I missed a few. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

People of the Year? Us! F--k You!

First off, props to the mothership for being recognized externally for, let's face it, what was already an undeniable, objective fact. I'd say all the contributors here played their parts, but let's give a special nod to Noce, for being that extra-nasty content provider. He'd be missed greatly, except we got Big Sweet waiting in the wings, salivating at the chance to knock down the clutch J. One question remains however: Will the team fold without Coach Skiles expertly aiding Pax at the helm? I sure hope not, but I rue the loss of his sage wisdom (as well as the leave-taking of the only other regular office persona who gives a fig about ball.)

And since I'm already in the fits of a self-congratulatory orgy, let me toss one more writhing, naked body onto the pile: Despite its irregular posting, TYI has nevertheless managed to be the most prescient prognosticatin' Bulls blog on all of the internets. We predicted big things this year from Deng and El Chapu (check); argued--contra-Simmons--that the O would not be a problem for the Bulls this year (check); calmly explained why--contra Yglesias--AI is no answer for the Bulls (check); correctly chided Bears fans to chill out over their bloodthirst for the head of Brother Rex (check); and even predicted why the Bulls could be on a 12-game winning streak going into tonight's Lakers game (check minus one: They've won 11 out of the 12). Hell, we even have an exception that proves this rule: Noce's pronouncement that Hinrich would be an All-Star this year (in a conference with the likes of D-Wade, Iverson, Agent Weirdo, Kidd (who's like a rebound shy of averaging a triple double this year), Michael Redd, Vince in a contract year, Rip, Joe Johnson and Chauncey.)


Speaking of Kirk, let me get off the back-patting tip and try some provocatatin'. Like Skiles and Big Sweet (See posts below), I don't want the Bulls to make a move this year. Not for AI. Not for Garnett. Not for anyone. I want to see this team play and mature together over the rest of the year and see how it plays out. If it's another first round exit, then fine, make a move, but I'm seeing a Conference Finals in our future this year, and I wouldn't be shocked if they made it to the Finals. That's how good I think this core can be, and there's a chance for them to be that good for a while. all of the trade talk, there are always three main names from our core guys bandied about: Deng (less so now, but I think he's still viewed as expendable for the right superstar, which is still insane, b/c in 2 more years, he will be the right superstar), Nocioni and Gordon. In any event, I was tooling around the other day, and the thought arose: Why isn't Hinrich ever considered as expendable as these other guys?

Check out the stats. The top five Roland Order ranks, in descending order, are Deng, Gordon, Nocioni, Duhon and Hinrich. (Until recently, Hinrich's was negative; as of this posting, he's +0.9.) I know that these stats are not the be-all and end-all, but they're certainly intriguing and they make me wonder why, say, Gordon is so often considered to be much more easily replaced than Kirk. Indeed, it very much seems to me to be the opposite: I feel like you could find a 1/2 guard who, while he doesn't quite excel like Kirk on both ends of the floor, gives you a close enough approximation, with only a minor drop-off; but finding a pure scorer like Gordon, it seems to me, is pretty hard. There are not a lot of players like him.

The stats bear this out. The Bulls score more than 4 more points per 48 minutes when Gordon is on the court than when's he off. (And strangely enough, their defense actually improves by nearly one more point when Gordon is on the court, although as Gordon is often on the floor in crunchtime and the game is on the line, I would imagine the more concerted effort of the other defenders might help explain this.)

Now check Hinrich. Hinrich's effect on the offensive end is negligible, with the Bulls scoring less than 1 more point when he's on the court than when's he's off. And strangely enough, the Bulls do better defensively when's he's off the court than when's on, allowing 2 less points. Even this, however, is probably negligible, and can be explained away by various anomalous factors. My point is, Hinrich doesn't seem to cause a major statistical swing one way or the other, unlike the 4+ point swing you get on the offensive end when Gordon's on the court. And seeing as the Bulls' vulnerability appears to lie on the offensive side of the ball, wouldn't it make sense to secure one of the players who decisively helps you in that area.

Now, again, this isn't a plea to trade Hinrich. He's a great player, and I want the Bulls to stand pat. But if the Bulls are forced to make a trade---either to move up to an elite tier, or just because of cap space---I wonder whether Hinrich should be considered untouchable.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Thank You Isiah

I'm happy with the team staying put (I think they'll end up in the top three in the East), the Iverson deal is just a distraction; anyone who understands the Bulls knows that Garnett is the only player available who could take us to the championship level.

Garnett for P.J., Sweets, Noce, Gordon and maybe the '07 first rounder. That's essentially three starters if you figure that the $11 million in expires gets you a pretty damn good free agent.

So the Bulls look like -

B. Wallace/ M. Allen
Garnett/ T. Thomas
Deng/ Krappy
Duhon/ Grif
Kirk/ Sefo

That team wins the East and it solves the Bulls looming cap problems next year. They can't sign all three of Deng, Gordon and Noce. Sefo is the future at the 2 and Deng is going to be an all-star soon, the Bulls should sign him a to five-year extension right now.

It gives the Wolves -

Mike James/Hudson/ Foye
Gordon/ Jaric
Noce/ Ricky Davis
Craig Smith/ Sweets/
Mark Blount/ P.J.

Not bad. But next year they get one or two bigs in the draft, that $11 million free agent, trade some of the extra guards...

Mike James/ Foye
Gordon/ McCants
Noce/ Ricky Davis
$11 million/ Craig Smith
Mark Blount/ 1st round big man/ big man back up in trade

Pretty damn decent huh?

AI doesn't fit

With rumors flying, the resident student (who will find anyway possible to avoid studying for his awful Stats 350 final) felt it necessary to respond quickly.

Now, let's set the record straight. I love Allen Iverson. He's a small guy's dream; he's relentless, fearless, flashy, hilarious-everything I'm not and would love to be. You think I'd be salivating at the chance to watch AI get to the line 15 times and score 30-plus every night in the Bulls black and red.

But in the end, this deal just would not make any sense for the Bulls, despite what the Prospect staffer thinks. For one, our scoring has not been the issue this season. The Bulls are fourth in the East in scoring, fourth in scoring defense, and first in differential. The days of Corey Benjamin and Marcus Fizer are behind us. Second, the Bulls system - not Skiles- would poorly accomodate the Hoya. As Sam Smith points out, the Bulls motion offense revolves around player and ball rotations and their pressure D requires honest, up-tempo ball pressure. While Iverson is great on the defensive end, he is more adept at playing the lanes than sticking dudes one on one. And we know that he needs the ball in his hands constantly. The last thing the Bulls need is to take developing stars (Deng and Noc specifically) out of the offensive rhythm.

Not to mention the contract. Ivo is 30 with two more years and $40 million left on the deal. That means that over half of our salary cap through '09 would be tied up with two players over 30 that have glaring gaps in their game. The Inquirer reported that a deal was possible for Gordon, Brown, Big Sweet and the Knicks pick, which looks essentially like a promising AI for Gordon and the pick trade (both the others are expiring contracts). But AI, despite how good he is, will not make the rest of the rotation better. KG, on the other hand . . .

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Garnett is good

I was really excited to flip on WGN Saturday night. The offense has been gelling, Deng is developing into a stud, and the Bulls finally were showing some life. But I also realized that it was the second leg of back-to-back games, a death wish for the Bulls of late. Which Bulls team would show up?

It was clear early that we were getting the team without any legs. The Bulls' sets looked decent, but they just couldn't hit much of anything in open space. Even with the push in the third with the small lineup (which I loved by the way; it reminded me of Nova last year), they didn't have enough gas to finish.

A few thoughts.

1) Malik Allen is a pair of sweat pants away from the Men's 40 and over league. Maybe it's the mid-calf level socks, but he looks older and older all the time. That doesn't mean he can't still be an asset -I think he can be for short stints - but he just looks hilariously ancient.

2) Deng is really coming into his own, making the 3 by far the Bulls' deepest posistion. If we're not going to use him, can't we unload Griffin for a pick? I'm not sure of his contract status, but he started on a playoff team last year, so there's value there.

3) At one point, Wayne and Johnny Red screwed up where Craig Smith went to college. Come on guys, he was the ACC player of the year last year. I know you've been at it a while, but a little preparation is all I'm asking for.

4) Garnett didn't shoot it well at all tonight, but still made a huge impact, including 11 rebounds and 8 dimes. This just shows us how valuable Big Ticket can be, and why a possible trade is so intriguing. The whole Iverson fiasco may screw up a possible deal, as Sam Smith points out, but what if that doesn't go down? Should the Bulls make a run at KG?

The Toros definitely have all of the parts the T-Wolves desire: young talent, draft picks, and expiring contracts. With Deng developing so quickly, it brings up an interesting logjam on the wing. Noce is going to demand a lot more cash come 2007 and isn't really cut out to play the four (at least with Ben's lack of size/offense). I love the makeup of the team, but I'm not sure if they have the tools to make the jump.

A couple of ideas I've heard floating around look similar to John Jackson's. By giving up Tyrus, an expiring contract like Sweetney, Noce (who I think is going to be a stud), and the first round draft pick, you run the risk of losing out on a dominating front line (Oden could fill the 5). But KG is only 30, is still ridiculously good and driven, and would give the Bulls quite a starting five of Captain Kirk, Ben, Lu, KG and Wallace. They would have to be the favorites in the East.

The other options don't seem as appetizing for the price (Ray Allen, Paul Pierce). But KG could bring the Bulls back to the promised land, while leaving in place the major building blocks for the future.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

United Center debut

Got to the game well before the 8 pm start on a very chilly Chicago night. Started off with a nice sandwich and a 12 ounce Budwiper, which set me back $12.50.

The crowd was into the game at the tip and the Bulls raced out to an early 15-4 lead. Big Ben set the tone with a nice dunk on the Bulls first possesion, one of many dunks and fast-break layups throughout the game. The Sixers don't excel at playing D.

The excitement seemed to deaden as da bulls were up by 23 at end of the first. Thoughts on six in a row and a .500 record changed to, is Krappy or Malik active tonight, I wonder who's gonna get the garbage minutes.

A.I. got quite a cheer from the youngsters in the upper deck during the intros. And he deserved it. He is unbelievably smooth on offense, once he gets the ball in his hands and starts moving towards the basket, it's over. He pulls up so quickly that it seems impossible to block his shot, and if you're close enough to get a hand on it, he'll blow by you anyway. They wouldn't win 5 games this year without him. Dalembert is a nice big, but other than that, they really suck. Webber is garbage and Iguodala didn't impress me much, but Cheeks is the biggest joke. Du was Iguodala to start the game, so maybe, just maybe, I'd post him up, but not once did they even try.

They really need to blow the Sixers up. If they can get Jefferson, Green and a pick for A.I. they need to do it.

Tyrus looked real good, he just plays faster than everyone else. His breakaway dunk was amazing, I really thought A.I. would catch up to him. Big Ben had some real nice moves in the first quarter, and a monster block in the second half. BenGo
was lights out and Deng just got whatever he wanted. The team certainly seems to be rounding into shape.

The sword swallowing act at the half was really disturbing. I was surprised at how much shit goes on during every timeout. Constant motion of the court; blinky, flashy on the socreboard at all times. I understand that they got to keep the kids and non-hoops fans entertained, but it's hard to focus on the game - from our seats at least. Can Stern please pass a rule outlawing the music during the game!

Robbie Gould (it's pronounced Gold, Frenchy) got the biggest hand of the night when the jumbotron showed him during a time out; it was difficult to cheer the Bulls on earnestly when they were so clearly superior to the "team" they played.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Switching Gears...

...Okay, I know this is supposed to be a Bulls blog, but I wanna talk about Brother Rex for a minute. Now it's obviously pretty reasonable to argue that if Rex continues to play like he did yesterday, the Bears don't have a shot of winning the Super Bowl. (Strangely enough, though, the NFC is so bad--and the Bears defense and special teams are so good--that it's equally conceivable that he could play like he did yesterday and the Bears could still make it to the Super Bowl, particularly if they hold on to homefield adavantage.)

That said, do those who are begging for the Bears to pull him really know what they are asking for? That is, have they ever rooted for a (professional) team that was helmed by Brian Griese? Being (also) a Dolphins fan, I have, and let me tell you, it's no fun. In fact, it's a lot like rooting for a team with Joey Harrington at QB: You are constantly waiting for him to fuck up, and you are a lot more suprised when he doesn't than when he does.

Despite Rex's occasional Quinn-osity this year, he's five TDs shy of beating Greise's all-time, single season record of 23. (That was back in 2001.) Granted, he's only two INTs short of beating Griese's record, but he already has thrown for more 20+ yd plays and more 40+ yd plays than Griese ever has in a single season. And while Rex may not be the Bears QB of the Future, three teams have already tried Brian Griese at that role: One of them preferred to go with Jake Plummer, one of them opted for Jay Fielder, and the last one felt Chris Simms gave them a better chance to win. In other words, not only does Griese have a history of failure, but those better than him have a history of failure.

Rex Grossman very well may not be the answer, but those who believe Brian Griese is are delusional.


Back to the Bulls...Take a look at the rest of their December schedule. Fifteen games left, and it looks like they could easily go 13-2, maybe 10-5 if we take into account some freakish anomalies. But they really need to minimize those and feast on the weak during this stretch. There's a lot of home games in January too, but they're a lot tougher (Phx, Det, SA, Dal, Hous, and Utah, as well as Miami, with Shaq coming out of his 1st half hibernation right around this time) and February is a real bear, with another (albeit easier) West Coast swing. Things get easier the last two months, and that's usually when Skiles teams kick into full gear, but it would be nice if we didn't have to sweat so hard to get a 7 seed this year. Anyway, here's hoping we're riding a 12-game winning streak when Mamba rolls into town on Dec. 19; it's certainly possible