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Bulls Sat Feb 23 2013
Non-story after non-story this week, this Bulls team just can't seem to separate themselves from blog gossip, or the Miami Heat. A trade deadline came and passed seeing the Bulls, for the first time in franchise history, heading into the luxury tax after not being able to move some contracts. Derrick Rose practiced 5-on-5 and apparently he looked "really good" but still may sit out the season. The team won two road games but all anyone cares about was the loss to the Heat. March Madness has begun early for the Bulls (although the Cinderella teams that will ruin our brackets in three weeks will do it by better three-point shooting than this team could ever muster.)
In the two wins this week against weak teams, the Bulls recorded an assist on 67 plays, and turned the ball over 21 times, including a paltry six times in the Bobcats game. Every player in the eight man rotation had a decent game in at least one of the contests. Perhaps the Bulls' knack of losing against bad teams is behind them. It's safe to say this team understands the importance of the next eight weeks and won't let excuses get in the way of beating teams they should be beating.
I was fortunate enough to pay $300 o the secondary market for a pair of nosebleed seats for Bulls vs. Heat on Thursday night. The arena, normally low energy until the second quarter when the suburban I-290 crowd finally stop-and-goes their way into the building, was near capacity by the time the opening tip was tossed. The first quarter featured the same amount of excitement as that epic 2009 playoff series against the Boston Celtics.
Spoiler alert to no one: it got ugly for the Bulls after that. Rip Hamilton and Carlos Boozer, who weren't traded to lowly teams despite persistent rumors, played surprisingly aggressive. Hamilton took it to Dwayne Wade hard, and Boozer was crashing the boards like he did in Utah. It was great to see (tucked away in the section 320 -- too far back to grab a survivor t-shirt let go from the rafters with a parachute) Hamilton still has that fight in him. But a 3-for-8 shooting night with three turnovers and three assists, against the team's biggest rival, is proof again that he's a liability. In fairness, the whole team was sloppy save for Joakim Noah (11 points, eight rebounds, eight assists).
The term "a guy who can create his own shot" has been use to describe what this team lacks, outside of Robinson and Marco Belinelli's erratic shot selection. However, after seeing the team's effort against the stifling Heat defense, this team has trouble making open shots. Is there a silver lining? Of course there is. As underwhelming as Kirk Hinrich has been this up-and-down season, if he would have played in the game, he would have done better job defensively on Wade or Mario Chalmers than Hamilton and Robinson did. Robinson had to start the game and got into foul trouble early so his impact was limited. Had Hinrich played, Robinson would have came in with the second unit and been more effective -- well, as effective as Robinson can be.
The Bulls and Tom Thibodeau get two more regular season chances to figure out a way to beat the Heat in the playoffs. Unorthodox rotation tweaks, players having career nights, and shooting lights-out from three (which this team seems incapable of doing) may be their only hope. A healthy Heat team is unstoppable, however a completely healthy Bulls squad has unknown capabilities. So at least Bulls fans can hang their snap-back cap on that.
Once again the Bulls organization's move this trade deadline was to not make any changes. This non-move would irk other fan bases who are one piece away from winning a title, but not Bulls fans.
So when Derrick Roses' brother, Reggie, freaks out and talks to anyone who'll listen, and says that the absence of a trade may mean the absence of a Rose return, you can't help but go "is this even worth a 140 characters on Twitter?" Bulls management did what they had to do to secure future cap flexibility. They tried to get below the tax by dealing Hamilton to the Nuggets, but the Bulls balked at including a first round draft pick to close the deal.
JJ Redick three-point shooting may have helped the Bulls, but would it put the team over the hump? Did the team drop the ball by not trading offensive fixtures Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson for Andrea Bargnani and John Lucas III? Was the savior a guy who never took his team the conference finals in Josh Smith? So with all due respect to Reggie Rose, no team was going to give the Bulls an All Star for the protected Charlotte Bobcats pick and/or Jimmy Butler or Marquis Teague. Decorated Spanish League stud Nikola Mirotic is untouchable, and honestly, would you throw him in a trade to rent Josh Smith for half a season potential without Rose returning? The team would only give up Hamilton if they didn't have to send a first-round pick to do it. Those who argue that it would have opened up playing time for the team's other shooting guards need to remember that Hamilton's poor shooting is doing all the paving for the other players to play.
This week was full with ups and downs, traveling and travel calls, bad defense and players' brothers going on the defensive, and most noteworthy, tax checks and reality checks. The luxury tax penalty was a first for the Bulls and perhaps a positive sign to come for Bulls ownerships or a sign of doom and gloom like this past money saving off-season. The blowout to the Heat is a wake-up call the current Bulls squad better answer if they a chance to win more games against the Heat in the playoffs than anyone expects them to win.