What's that saying? A picture is worth a thousand words? Well see above.
The Bulls defense so far this season has been spectacular. It started off shaky...but oh my. They have caught fire.
The Bulls currently rank 2nd in defensive efficiency, only behind Doug Collins' Sixers. And I'm gonna let you in on a little secret, no way can the Sixers keep pace with the Bulls. The Bulls have played the most games in the NBA thus far and only 5 games at home. The Sixers are currently slightly ahead of the Bulls and have played two less games, and they're a young team. They're about to come crashing down to Earth once their schedule picks up.
But put that aside for now and picture this...no comments
"Chris Paul is really the only other guy in the league, other than Derrick Rose, who has also that competitive edge."
Kobe's got a man-crush? Interviewed after the Clippers loss, that's Kobe Bryant talking about himself...and Chris Paul...and our boy. Can you really disagree? No. I would maybe put one other guy on that list in Kevin Durant. Although Durant is a little too nice, but you can tell he's hungry.
But else can we say about this comment? Not only is it a huge compliment and some well-deserved recognition of Derrick Rose, but it's also a huge slap in the face to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. When Kobe talks, people listen. Check the resume. And I hate to make everything relate back to the Heat, but it's true. Kobe left them out of the mix for a reason. Those two are more concerned about being buddies and having people like them, rather than do whatever it takes to win. Dwyane Wade 5 years ago maybe would have been on Kobe's list, but not Dwyane Wade today. Not Dwyane Wade after the superfriends. Let's just say, Kobe's comment made me pretty happy, especially because he couldn't have been more right.no comments
Always a scary image, isn't it?
Well, it's nice to sweep a back-to-back-to-back. I say that like we get a lot of those. But nonetheless, it's important, considering the health issues the Bulls are facing right now. And yes, it was against the collective drec of the league, but all three games were won without Rip Hamilton, and the third was won without Derrick Rose. So the Bulls are hanging in there.
Wilbon wrote a great article about how the key to this season is for the Bulls to keep pace, or outpace, the Heat. I couldn't agree more. He made several comparisons, including the Celtics and Lakers intently eyeing eachother's daily performances back in the day. I think the more appropriate comparison is the Pistons-Bulls rivalry of the late 80's and early 90's. Although that rivalry was a little different as the Pistons were back-to-back world champions, and the Heat really haven't won anything. So it's not like the Bulls are trying to knock them off their pedestal. Although, I guess they are the Eastern Conference Champions. But they really haven't proven much yet.
Nonetheless, the Bulls, as Wilbon points out, should be paying very close attention each daily detail that leaks out of South Beach, as I'm sure the Heat are keeping a close eye on the hourly updates on Derrick Rose's toe, although they would never admit it.
Although the Bulls are 10-2 and hold the best record in the league...yes, even better than the Heat, who sit at 8-3...the naysayers have come out of the woodwork. This is how you can tell a team has reached elite status. This is also how you can tell a team has some lofty expectations. When fans and media stop focusing on the fact that your team holds the best record in the league and is playing at an elite level, and instead, are fixated on nagging injuries and nitpicking the sub-par play of specific players, you know you are definitely contending for a championship. Of course, at this point, fans should absolutely be nitpicking and fixated on injuries, as having these issues in the post-season will almost surely prevent the Bulls from toppling the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, assuming they make it that far.
So exactly what are fans fixating on? The following:no comments
No revenge for Jannero Pargo. At least not tonight. The Bulls continue to find ways to win.
Look, I know it's exciting. But for a season that started a week and a half ago, I've had more excitement than I could handle. This 66 game schedule shit is not for the weak-hearted.
More importantly, this team is an enigma. Yes, they are good. No, they are VERY good. But they do some bad things. No, they do some VERY bad things. They are a team that is 5-1, but they are team that could easily be 3-3, and maybe even should be. But that doesn't matter now, does it? Check out this box score via espn.com:no comments
Happy New Year Bulls fans. Home opener tonight. There's nothing more electric than the fan atmosphere at a home opener for the Bulls, who happen to have the greatest fans in the league. However, there is also no bigger letdown than to have a home-opener spoiled, the way the Bulls did two nights ago to the Clip-show.
What a game. We should've figured Derrick would come out rarin' to go the way he did. Everyone's been hyping up Chris Paul for two months or so now. Every national writer seemed to have forgotten about Derrick Rose and his MVP season last year, and immediately turned their focus to Chris Paul and where he would land. How many writers have referred to him as the "best point guard alive" the past few months? No way Derrick hasn't noticed. So Rose vs. Paul was a perfect opportunity for Derrick to remind everyone just who the best point guard alive really is.
I think he accomplished just that. 29 points, 16 assists, 8 rebounds, 8-14 shooting, 10-11 from the free-throw line, 3-4 three-point range, a steal, and terrific all-around defense on Chris Paul. Quite possibly the greatest all-around game that Derrick Rose has ever played in the pros. He had more assists than shots he put up. That pretty much doesn't happen for a player who is the main source of offense for his team.no comments
Talk about highs and lows. All within a 24 hour span.
I will give the Bulls credit where it's due in a solid comeback win against the Lakers. But can we really call it a comeback? They were up by 7 at the half. I guess it was a comeback from a terrible 3rd quarter in which they only scored 12 points against the slow and bumbling Lakers. They finally went on a run about mid-way through the fourth and rode Luol Deng and Derrick Rose to a victory. But on opening day, late Christmas afternoon, it was hard to ignore several glaring red flags.
For one, the Bulls scored 32 points in the second half. That's after scoring 56 in the first. It still ceases to amaze me how a team can follow up a very impressive 34 point quarter with a polar opposite, miserably bad quarter immediately after. I mean you score 34 points in the 2nd quarter, and you can't even score more than 32 in the entire 2nd half? Something ain't right.
Several things were quite apparent. First, Joakim Noah looked very average. I mean VERY average. Possibly below average. He looks out of shape and unable to keep up with the pace. I'm not quite sure what he was doing during the offseason, but it's pretty clear that it hasn't been kind to his conditioning. He looks terribly winded and very inefficient. Too many fouls, not enough rebounds, not sliding his feet quick enough to fill the gaps on defense. He was dominated by Pau Gasol the first night and Josh McRoberts certainly looked better than he should have. Imagine what it would have looked like if Bynum wasn't suspended. We'll get to Noah's shortcomings in night two shortly.
Rip Hamilton had a rough game guarding Kobe. He got in early foul trouble and didn't play all too much. Can't really get on him too quick for faltering in the first game of the season against the toughest defensive assignment in the league.
Boozer was alright. Defensive mistakes galore, which was tough to watch after enduring an entire season and dreadful post-season full of them. Omer Asik did a good job of making up for the Bulls' overall defensive complacency. He played terrific D on Pau, but of course was non-existent on offense. If he could develop a little mid-range jumper or just one or two post-moves, he could be a top 3 center in this league. It's rather unfortunate when you think about it.
Luol Deng looked tough. Along with a new haircut, he seems to have acquired a new swagger and an additional 10 lbs. of muscle. His play looks much smoother and he looked incredibly confident. He shot the ball consistently well, played great defense on whoever he guarded, and was constantly crashing the glass. He looked flat out incredible and finished with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists, and a block. How's that for a line.
Derrick of course came through in the clutch. It was great to watch him sink that near-impossible tear-drop shotput hook over seven footer, and make it look easy. With 5 seconds still left for Kobe to play with, I almost certainly thought he would come back and make the Bulls pay for leaving too much time on the clock. Deng came through with a great defensive play and amazing concentration to time his jump perfectly with Kobe's release and still maintain the frame of mind to block the shot yet avoid any significant contact that would put Kobe at the line. Derrick came out the hero, but really he completely lacked aggresiveness the entire game. And anyone who watched saw that Deng was the actual hero of the game. Rose's stat-line was significantly inflated due to four three-point field goals he knocked down throughout the game. I would much prefer Derrick pass that shot up and get to the rim and draw contact, as he did 90% of the time last season. But he seemed to fall in love with the three on opening day, and it turned out alright for him and the Bulls. All seemed well for about 24 hours.
Then came this...
For whatever reason, the Warriors seem to be built to destroy the Chicago Bulls. They killed us last year early on in the season, and we just can't find a way to beat them in Oakland. It's almost as if they were specifically assembled to counter every attack the Bulls are able to put forth, yet also their counterattack is one the Bulls just can't seem to slow down. From the opening tip, the Bulls defense was completely and utterly unable to slow down the Warriors on a single possession for the entire first half. It was an absolute clinic.
The Bulls did a good job of keeping up for 3/4ths of the way through the 1st quarter. It was lights out on both sides. But everyone knows that there's no way the Bulls can keep up that sort of pace. Their offense is very methodical and meticulous. In the end, we all know that they will have to grind it out to get a good shot or rely on Derrick to penetrate and either draw contact or find an open-cutter or spot-up shooter. By about the second quarter, it became clear that the Warriors were WAAAAAAY too fast for this Bulls team. The Bulls weren't even every able to get set and attempt to grind out some good shots.
The Warriors hands were all so active that it seemed like every other possession resulted in a turnover. They eventually got into the Bulls' heads and the Bulls never recovered. They were just flustered. The only player that seemed unphased the entire game was Luol Deng. He apparently didn't skip a beat from his performance the night before and turned in pretty much a repeat performance. He carried the Bulls all game. He finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds and was lights out from the field going 10-15. I've never seen him shoot with this much confidence, not even last season. Other than that, that's where the bright spots end.
First off, Stephen Curry and Monte Ellis...each...looked head and shoulders above Derrick Rose. Derrick, most certainly, played like the 5th best player on the court that night. Curry and Ellis are both offensive juggernauts. An incredibly skilled and dangerous backcourt that is most certainly going to cause fits for many teams in the upper echelon of the league this year. Curry finished with 21 points and 10 assists and Ellis with 26 points and 7 assists. They went a combined 17-29 from the field. Their offense was stellar. Each player is incredibly smooth, quick, and shoots the ball well consistently. I hate to say it, but it made me jealous. No matter how good Derrick is, you never know what you're going to get from his jumpshot on any given night. But with these two, oh, you know. You definitely know. Not only that, but Curry had 6 steals on the night. He flat out torched Derrick Rose. Torched him, and made him look silly on many plays.
On the other hand, the supposed guard in the league, Derrick Rose, went 4-17 from the field for 13 points. He was not aggressive at all until it was way too late in the fourth quarter, and he took WAAAAY too many jumpshots. Of course, he fell in love with three, probably due to some overconfidence developed from his previous night's performance, and ended up going 1-8 from long range. It was ugly. And while Curry stole the ball 6 times, Derrick stole the ball 0 times. And Curry is not a defensive juggernaut. In fact, he's not a defensive anything. Sure, he has quick hands, but Derrick is possibly the fastest player in the NBA with or without the ball. He could've blown by Curry on any given possession, but for whatever reason, almost never did. He simply chose not to, instead relying on Luol Deng to carry the load and attempted to get Rip Hamilton and Carlos Boozer involved. Yeah good luck with that.
Rip played a little better and provided some offensive spark with 10 points, but that's not nearly enough from him.
Carlos Boozer, on the other hand, was in la la land. 3-7 for 6 points and 3 rebounds in 26 minutes. That is TERRIBLE. No other way to put it. And this is all while his peer, in both skill and paygrade, David Lee, finished with 22 points and 7 rebounds. Just as both Ellis and Curry looked head and shoulders above Rose, Lee looked head and shoulders above Noah and Boozer combined. Noah did manage 10 rebounds, but once again looked slow and out of shape and was huffing and puffing his way up and down the court. Boozer and Noah combined for 6-14 on the offensive end with 13 rebounds. Lee was 8-16 with 7 rebounds. And Lee simply dominated whoever was guarding him throughout the entire game hitting from both the post and from 18 feet out with no problem whatsoever. No one on the Bulls can do what he does.
So what have we learned from the first two games? Well...for one, Derrick Rose seems to think that becoming a facilitator more than a scorer is going to help the Bulls win. It won't. The Bulls need his scoring more than anything. He is 85% of this team's offense. That goes for both putting the ball in the basket or just simply having plays run through him. He needs to score at least 20 points a game for this team to have a shot at winning on any given night. It's unfortunate, but it's reality. The Buls just aren't talented enough offensively to get it done any other way, and they need to stop pretending that they are. The Warriors are talented enough offensively to get it done many ways, but the Bulls need to rely on Derrick. Period. He needs to get into that mindset and be aggressive from start to finish and take every opportunity the defense gives him. Once the opponent is on their heels a bit, then you can start to get your teammates involved. But then, and only then.
What else? Joakim Noah looks very sluggish. It might take a week or two, but until then, I'm worried about every matchup with Joakim. I expect him to get into foul trouble on a nightly basis for the next week or so. It's disappointing that he's not an optimal shape, but I expect his rebound total and his defensive presence to improve with each passing game. Not sure how long the Bulls can afford to wait though in such a shortened season.
What else? Boozer needs to stop shooting fadeaway jump shots and start cutting to the rim and establishing himself in the post. He thinks he has the range, but he doesn't. It was pretty apparent after the house he built himself on the bench with all the bricks he put up Monday night. Not to mention, his defense is atroscious. The one play where he didn't even attempt to step up and pick up Curry when he slashed to the rim on a fast break was pathetic and if I were Thibodau, I would've pulled him for the rest of the game after that ridiculous stunt. I would make him watch film of that garbage for 2 hours straight and sit in a room with him and just rewind it and replay it over and over. For 2 or 3 hours. That might get it through his thick of skull that he needs to step up and play defense on every possession, ESPECIALLY when he's the last line of defense.
What else? It will take more time than we thought to get Rip Hamilton flowing in the Bulls' offense. But it will happen slowly but surely.
What else? Thibodeau has too much faith in his bench. The Bulls bench is tough, and scrappy. But sitting Derrick Rose for a long stretch when your team is down by 14 is inadvisble. He did it in both the first half and the second half against the Warriors. It prevents Derrick from getting into a rhythm and you're missing your primary source of offense. He has to realize that Luol Deng, as good as he's playing, is a secondary scorer and can't carry a team's offense for long stretches. This habit of sitting him until half way through the 2nd quarter or after 6 minutes into third until 8 minutes left in the 4th, regardless of whether the team is losing and needs him to get back into it, is VDNesque. The best coaches adapt to game situations and he did that well for the most part last year. I'm not sure what he's doing in these first two games.
Finally? And I'm sure Thibs is stressing this as we speak, DEFENSE DEFENSE DEFENSE. That has been this team's identity since Thibs' arrival. It has been absent the first two games. That's troubling. I expect significant improvement in game 3 against the Kings.
Based on what I've seen so far, it will be an interesting season indeed. The Bulls currently look like a middle-of-the-pack team at best, and that would be terribly disappointing after last year's leap forward. However, it has been a small sample size, so they could make a significant improvement with a few more practices and games under their belt. But in a shortened season, a small sample size might be all you need. I hope not.no comments
Pardon the lame pun, but I thought that's one of the reasons we signed him.
In a previous recent post, I likened the Rip Hamilton acquisition to that of Dennis Rodman, in that he came from a hated Pistons team and has always been an arch-rival, but now has a chance to take a Bulls team to the next level. And similar to Rodman, we got him for pretty much nothing. No offense Will Purdue.
Nonetheless, we are talking about a player who averaged 14.1 ppg last season in what was considered the worst year of his career. Not only that, but he played in just 55 games due to the complete breakdown of his relationship with ill-fated head coach John Kuester. Kuester, asside from fellow unich head coach Jim Boylan, might just be the worst head coach of all time. His overall demeanor made it somewhat clear why someone might decide to lead a mutiny against him. Not that I condone that type of behavior. But we're talking about a guy who has always had the reputation of being a class-act and incredibly professional with a strong work ethic. Whatever happened, I blame Kuester. For the drama and for Rip's bad season.
My point is, Rip never really got into a rhythm last year because of all that nonsense, yet still, averaged 14.1 points a game in the 55 games that he did play. And that's after his minutes started getting limited due to being forced to the bench by Kuester. He also shot 43% from the field last season, close enough to his career average of 45%. On top of that, his 3-point % shot up to 38% up from his career average of 34.7%. These are not the stats of a player who is in serious decline.no comments
Looks like Bill Simmons is echoing my sentiments exactly. In fact he makes every single point I previously made a few days ago, and we both whole-heartedly agree that Dwight Howard refusing to consider Chicago makes absolutely zero sense. The only reasonable conclusion? He has some serious beef with D-Rose...that or there's just something we don't know.no comments