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Bulls Wed Dec 09 2009
The Bulls are a fitful and frustrating team to follow. They have incredible and untapped talent that, for now, is growing fallow on the hardwood of the United Center. Walk with Tailgate as we investigate further...
Chicago's winter sports teams are hurting --save for the first-place Blackhawks-- the Bears season is already at zombie-dead and craving brains, while the Bulls death-slog through their brutal (and annual) "Circus Road trip" has killed off any early season twinkle in their eyes and spring in their step. The Bulls have lost 8 of 10 and are facing a grim schedule for the next week: @ Atlanta, Golden State, Boston, LA Lakers, Knicks, Hawks (again), fans should be asking for copious boxes of Kleenex and VDN's resignation for Christmas. But how did a decent, if not amazing, start slide so quickly into oblivion? Afterall, the Bulls are notoriously slow starters, yet, this season, any hopes for a midseason turnaround strike hollow. The reason? Simple lack of offensive punch, yeah, that's right, Chicago is the third-least productive offense in the league.
Basketball, in general, and the NBA, especially, is a sport that rewards the offensive-minded. Think: the electrified-pinball-era 2005 Phoenix Suns, the mythical Golden State Warriors of 2007 and the cardiac arrest-paced Denver Nuggets of this season. Sure, incredible defenses win championships (What up, 2004 Detroit Pistons; San Antonio's siege warfare methods have bejeweled Tim Duncan with 4 rings) but for the majority of the hard-scrabble, "just get into the playoffs" squads, points are the way to go.
For the Bulls this season the offense has been running like an anti-perpetual motion machine, it just won't start. Now, of course, some of this is attributable to the departure of one Ben Gordon, who for his many, many faults --unaware of "defense," offensive black hole, petulant, pricey-- was the most consistent scorer for the Bulls the past few season. BG7 was/is a gunner extraordinaire and if his shot was dropping, bang! 40 points appear like magic. Chicago has nobody on the team right now with that weapons-grade ability. Still, there's no reason whatsoever for the Bulls to be this bad.
Now the Bulls shedding Ben Gordon and letting him sign with the Detroit Pistons this past summer was a smart move for the future, believe me, Detroit has its own problems to worry about. But how do the Bulls right the good ship: SS ScorePoints? Here a few suggestions:
Tall People are Good @ Bball, ergo REALLY Tall People are Really Good!
I like John Salmons a lot, probably too much considering his career trajectory, but for the love of Pippen he should not be the team's third most frequent taker of shots, particularly, when he's shooting a third of those field goal attempts from beyond the 3-point arc. "Bad John. Bad!" Even more galling? The two locker room leaders for shots taken? Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. I like 'em both, but, uhh, the Bulls have a front court of tall options to score points. To wit:
Joakim Noah: Fact of science: Noah has pogo sticks for legs, he never tires and he's criminally under-utilized in the Bulls offense. Look, all those missed 3s by Salmons are more than likely going to have a long arc and end up in the hands of the other team's point guard, who's been coached to lurk by the three point line and keep an eye out for long rebounds off long missed shots. With Noah, his misses will be in the interior where Rose (an underrated rebounder for a guard), Deng, Salmons, Gibson, Noah himself can scrap for the board and put it back up for a second chance point. There's no reason to not get Noah the ball more often in the low post. The Eastern Conference (save for Orlando, Atlanta, Boston, Indiana and Cleveland) is not "loaded" with spry, aggressive and capable bigs that can offensively wreck. Del Negro, are you taking notes? Get Noah the ball.
Luol Deng & Derrick Rose are Knives. Knives are Great for Slashing
Deng and Rose are not taking nearly enough close-range shots (with 10 feet of rim). Set 'em loose, Del Negro. Rose is faster than approx. 99.9% of humanity. Once in the lane, Rose is bound to get a shot up, fouled while shooting, pass out to Deng for a short jumper or dish to Noah/Gibson for some Smucker's Jam. Meanwhile, Luol, if he can remember his old game, is entirely capable of breaking ankles off the dribble against slower forwards and making lay up after lay up.
Vinnie Del Negro Has Gotta Go!
Vinnie's on the record saying he's not worried about his job security. Great! that makes one of us, Skippy. VDN lucked into a fortunate situation last year, Rose was on fire and Paxson made some decent moves at the trade deadline to acquire Brad Miller, John Salmons, and some cap space, they slid into the 6 seed thanks to an epic collapse by the Detroit Pistons and duked it out in an epic first round series with a KG-less Boston Celtics squad. Vinnie this season has looked lost in the high beams of raised expectations and he has not been able to create an environment of competitiveness with a young core including Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. More damning is the fact that with one of the more incredible talents in the league (Rose) Del Negro has done nothing more to develop this Bulls offense or even Derrick Rose himself. VDN needs to be shown the door, yesterday, or even before the start of last season.
Our fair city's young Bulls are a rudderless ship in the torpid sea of the NBA with Eastern Conference sharks like Cleveland, Orlando, Boston and Atlanta smelling blood. A righteous and intelligent captain needs to step in and right this listing craft before it's too late.