Saturday, November 29, 2003

Addition by Subtraction, Finding a Role...and other cliches The Jalen Rose-to-Toronto trade rumors which have been on and off for weeks finally became reality this afternoon. Here's how the trade breaks down:
Chicago recieves: Antonio Davis, Jerome 'JYD' Williams, Chris Jefferies from Toronto for: Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall, Lonny Baxter
It will become official when the league office opens up on Monday. So in two days a new coach rolls in to town, and our 'star' player gets traded. I've already gone over in recent days the significance of the Skiles hiring, but this trade is another action that is reflective of what John Paxson wants out of this team. To generalize: one less scorer who needs the ball, and more role players who will defend and rebound for a team that sorely needs it. roster implications Here's what the depth chart looks like now:
C: Eddy Curry, Antonio Davis, Corie Blount PF: Tyson Chandler, Jerome Williams, Marcus Fizer SF: Scottie Pippen, Eddie Robinson, Chris Jefferies, Linton Johnson(IR) SG: Jamal Crawford, Kendall Gill PG: Kirk Hinrich, Roger Mason Jr.(IR), Jay Williams(IR)
Antonio Davis becomes the primary backup frontcourt player for the team, and even a starter possibly if Tyson's back keeps acting up. While he is only 6'9", Davis has played the center position for several years in Toronto, and shouldn't be too much of a size disadvantage in the East. I think he's a nice insurance policy to have on the bench when Curry gets into early foul trouble. He also takes away all of Corie Blount's minutes, which is a plus. It think this role (buzzword of the day) is more within his means in this stage of his career than in Toronto as a starter playing nearly 36 minutes a game. And now he can't complain about the exchange rate or whatever his problem with Toronto was. At power forward, a position where the Bulls had a glut of players (as if a team with their record could have a glut of anything), and essentially dealt 2 of them for 1. Jerome Williams was a fan favorite in Toronto for his energy and ability to handle the 'dirty work' during the games. I'm pretty sure this means he has little offensive game to speak of, but that's not a bad price to pay for the defense and rebounding he supposedly can provide. Its also important to know that his "JYD" (JunkYard Dog) nickname is a legit NBA nickname, which is key. I always liked Marshall and he was a great mid-level signing last offseason, but Williams would've needed his minutes to play, and it appears he was a bad influence on this team. First after nearly fighting former assistant Bill Berry last year, and his comments a few days ago regarding Scott Skiles were probably not looked upon highly by Pax. Chris Jefferies will probably be a non-factor, although he's an athletic wing-player in the Eddie Robinson mold. This season has been spent on the bench or IR in Toronto with whatever mysterious injury they give players they don't want on the floor. As for the backcourt, I could possibly see them activating Mason and placing Blount, Jefferies or Fizer on the IR, just to get some emergency pg minutes out of somebody. Right now I am listing Crawford and Hinrich as the starting backcourt, although what might happen is letting Pippen handle the ball with Gill and Crawford starting. Hinrich played well against San Antonio on Wednesday, but is still not ready to play starter minutes at the point. What this trade means for Jamal Crawford I'll go into detail later. salary implications (All these figures are taken from HoopsHype, which may or may not be correct) Rose's salary was one obvious reason for this trade, yet Antonio Davis makes nearly as much making 12m in 03/04 and 04/05, and 13m in 05/06. Davis' contract has an interesting story, because he was actually rumored to be considering the Bulls in the summer of '00, so much that he was angered that the Bulls didn't offer him a contract, but Krause thought (and rightfully so) that Davis was using the Bulls to get leverage in negotiaitions with more attractive teams. Just add that bad contract with the list of those who the Bulls lucked out on by not overpaying (Eddie Jones, Tim Thomas, Austin Croshere, etc...). But in a delightful twist of irony, the Bulls will be paying him after all, until after the 2005-2006 season. Jerome Williams has a nearly equally horrendous contract, a deal that goes all the way through the 06/07 season, escalating to 6.425m in that final year. Jefferies is on his rookie contract (he was selected in the 2002 draft), making under 1 million until he is up for his team option after next season. Here's a handy table (i apologize for the huge space before the table, I blame blogger) of the cap savings over the years (assuming no contracts are extended and Jefferies' option isn't picked up):
Davis/Williams/Jefferies $18,240,360 $18,499,040 $19,075,000 $6,425,000
Rose/Marshall/Baxter $18,388,179 $19,032,000 $15,694,250 $16,901,500
Bulls' Savings $147,819 $532,960 (3,380,750) $10,476,500
As you can see, the Bulls' are actually losing money in the 05/06 season, but have big savings the next year when the only contracts left are for Rose and Williams. the big picture With Rose gone and a new coach coming in, its expected soon that this team will actually have defined roles and a standardized rotation, which will do wonders for this team. But even more importantly is John Paxson counting Jamal Crawford on being the team's #1 perimeter threat and facilitating Jamal's move to shooting guard. I'm willing to give it a try, because Crawford certainly has the size and skills to both score and defend in this new position. So as a final verdict, I think this trade was a marginal success simply for the team's attitude, rotation, and salary structure. Paxson also mananged to not trade any of the 3 C's and take apart the foundation of the team. However, what will determine if the trade will make the team significantly better in the long run will not be because of Antonio Davis or Jerome Williams, but the development of Jamal Crawford. UPDATE(12/1 10:40): For a look from the other side, check out analysis from RaptorBlog

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I'm Sorry, All I can Think About Today is Hee Seop Choi Not much news, local columnists are in general agreement over the(all but certain) hiring of Scott Skiles as head coach. Dare I say.....Rick Morrissey(?!?) says it best:
This guy is different, and the best way to gauge that is by the reaction of several Bulls, who reportedly are quaking in their designer shoes over the thought that Skiles might be the boss soon. They know that he knows they have played like a bunch of wimps. If he does get the job, Skiles eventually will be run out of town for being too hard on today's "modern athlete." That's not a prediction, that's a certainty. In between, the Bulls will get exactly what they need: a coach who knows the game and won't take spit from anybody.
That's pretty much what I was saying yesterday. He isn't going to be coaching this team for the next 5 years, but in today's NBA, how many coaches can you say that about? For another perspective, check out this article asking Phoenix Suns' players about Skiles. Although I must say if Jason Kidd or 'Starbury' don't like you as a coach...well that doesn't really mean anything. non-coaching stuff Well we'd all like to think that the Bulls simply are waiting for a new coach and some trades to happen before re-starting the season, but alas they have more road trip games to lose. I won't go into detail the games, but before everyone goes nutso, remember who they're playing. Their last 3 games have been against the Lakers, Kings, and Mavericks. Even if the Bulls played up to their potential I wouldn't like their chances. And tonight's game is the wrong end of a back-to-back for the Bulls against your world champion San Antonio Spurs. Sadly, it appears that a trade may not happen soon, yet until the Bulls get a coach and stop playing Western Conference powerhouses, don't give up on the season just yet. Also, keep in mind that a grand total of 3 teams in the east have a winning record. - and in case you dont know who Hee Seop Choi is, go here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Scott Skiles...of 'NBA Jam' fame Man, he was a beast in that game. Anyway, Skiles is leading the candidates so far for becoming the next head coach of the Bulls. I have to say I like the idea a lot. But there are reservations, since he is indeed kind of a nut-job. Skiles is well-known as a hardass when it comes to coaching, but he alienated the players he coached in Phoenix and was known to have taken losses really hard. However, his personality is certainly something these kids on the team could use, even if they dont like it. Maybe he's even mellowed out a bit. But if this guy does come into town and runs things his way, he can't have players like Jalen around to whine(and its looking like he wont be). But more importantly than Jalen is that whoever comes in here (unless they stick with an interim) is the last chance for Crawford, Curry, and Chandler to get their acts together. My Man Sam(tm) spells it out all plain and simple-like:
Now Paxson also must make a trade—whether it's Jalen Rose, management's favorite future former Bull, or Jamal Crawford, Eddie Robinson, Marcus Fizer or Donyell Marshall, the new usual suspects for a daring heist. It's time to push everyone closer to the edge of the plank and make them watch someone go over. But even that might not matter to enough players, which may be the larger problem. That's why someone tough—like former Suns coach Scott Skiles—could become the Bulls' new coach. It's time to hold everyone accountable. No more strolling out of the arena without shoes, as Curry tends to do at times because, he said, his feet bother him. No more showing up assistants, as Marcus Fizer did recently, quietly drawing a big fine from the team. Cartwright tried—and deserves credit. He called them out. He sent them home from practice when they didn't work hard or talked back. He fined them, benched them. He was one of the league's toughest men when he played. He was a leader and a three-time champion, who endured years of struggle with injuries and bad teams in New York without complaint. He's a mensch. Even outside New York. But he takes the fall for being too nice. He tried to talk to Rose and Robinson and Fizer. Paxson doesn't appear as tolerant. Much will be asked of him now. He could have waited out the season. This was Krause's team and Krause's coaching staff, after all. Less than a month into the season, Paxson fired the coach and tried to trade the starting backcourt. Those kids had better be ready. This may be their last chance. They won't be able to get another coach. It's their turn to go next.
While I don't see Scott Skiles as the coach to lead this team eventually to a championship (god it sounds a lot crazier to say that now than it did a month ago), he is the kind of coach to save this season and get them to the playoffs. The kind that will finally let the fans see if these guys can actually play, or if rebuilding plan #2 is a failure.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Team Bad = Coach Gone That's pretty much how it works in the NBA. The Bulls fired Bill Cartwright this morning. He was hired a little under 2 years ago, and had a 51-100 (.338 win%) in what was his first stint as a head coach. and to show what a volatile industry this is, Cartwright was the longest-tenured coach in the Central Division. With a new GM this year, and with expectations deseveredly high, this season was known to be make or break for Cartwright. With weekend losses to the Lakers and Kings, the Bulls' record dropped to 4-10, which is unacceptable for Paxson and to the Fans. And while it ideally should be deemed the players' fault, the team is still underperforming given the talent on paper, and that usually means the coach gets the boot. In his 2 years as coach I was never proven by Cartwright that he could actually coach. That doesn't mean he can't be a good coach, I just didn't see the team being especially motivated, or his tactical decisions and player rotations making much sense. Assistant Pete Myers will coach the team on an interim basis, and Pax hopes to have a new coach in place by the end of the week. I think it is obvious that Pete Myers will not be coach the rest of the year, and that the new coach will not be someone from within the organization. I don't know if it was Jerry Krause (looking for loyalty) or Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf (looking for cheap) who set the hiring policy, but looking at the previous coaches (Doug Collins, Phil Jackson, Tim Floyd, and Cartwright), they have all been first-time head coaches who were brought up in the organization (or in Floyd's place, Krause's fishing buddy). There's nobody in the organization now ready to take over, and this team needs a coach that fans know *can coach*. That may seem obvious, but we never knew if Floyd could coach, or if Cartwright can coach. Now Tim Kraus, along with many others I'm sure, are saying the obvious choice is Doc Rivers. Doc's made it known that he doesn't want to coach this year, but like any coach I'm sure he can bow down to the almighty dollar to come back. This seems like a good option, yet like I said when he was fired, I'm not even sure if Doc Rivers can coach. My first choice to coach is a veteran of the NBA, or 'retread' if you will, to come in here and see if these kids can actually play. Its hard to see if Eddy, Tyson and Jamal can play or if they have just not been properly coached all this time. Just please lord (or Pax), don't hire Isiah. UPDATE(3:37): ESPN's Peter May has a big list of candidates, broken down by category. I, for one, vote for the 'crusty young guy' or 'crusty old guy'. Either way, somebody crusty. Trade Talks As it was becoming apparent that Cartwright's time was up, the writing's been on the wall for Jalen Rose. I still defend trading for Jalen in the first place, and defended him in this preseason when it was debated whether he'd be willing to be a secondary player on this team. This year though he's not playing well and seems to still be playing selfish ball. But I think more important than all that is Paxson's realization that him and Jamal Crawford cannot co-exist in the same defensive backcourt. (And may mean Crawford moving to the 2)Combine that realization with his attitude and contract, and Rose looks to be traded sooner rather than later. From what I've been reading, the Toronto deal rumored since Friday isn't off yet, and will still look to be Paxson's best option rid himself of Rose. I won't speculate on names, since there have been about 20 linked to all the deals, but I still expect something to happen between these two teams, for reason of desperation if anything. Personally, I would like to see Antonio Davis and Morris Peterson to be included in any deal. Lots happening in Bulls-land, and no I don't see it as pulling the plug on the season, but a great chance to improve the team. Really, I do!