Tuesday, December 28, 2004

In terms of ugly games, that was the equivalent of TJ Kidd

I wondered last night if the Nets would come out sluggish, but didn't think the Bulls would follow suit, especially with a near-sellout crowd welcoming them.

But they did, and a completely winnable game was given away by the Bulls like their 24 turnovers. In a game that had a first quarter end in a 12-12 tie, and a halftime score of 31-30, the Bulls almost managed to overcome their own hideous play and looked like they had a win in hand in the 4th quarter. While failing to establish themselves down low against the much smaller Nets, Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich were intent on winning this game on their own.

Ben's game was pretty remarkable, shooting 7-9 in a game where the combined shooting percentage was 38% by all other players for both teams. Every minute he was in the game was noticeable compared to his replacements, mainly Chris Duhon. Skiles put Gordon in for Duhon earlier than normal in the second half (5 minutes in),  but the case can be made that it wasn't soon enough. What this game showed me most about Gordon's importance is when the Bulls needed to finish it off. Constantly in foul trouble, Gordon was pulled by coach Skiles with 6:45 left in the 4th with 5 fouls, only to see him foul out a minute and half after he was put back in. It was at this point (3 minutes left) that you could feel the game slipping away. Hinrich had a fantastic night (30 points), and Curry can always be competent down low (when you get him the ball in the right place), but without Gordon those two were unable to step up and fill his role. Meanwhile the all-star trio of Vince Carter, Jason Kidd, and Richard Jefferson turned it up on both ends to give the Nets the lead for good.

Kirk Hinrich's foul troubles are well known, but Ben's game tonight got me wondering how often he's been hacking:

Fouls Minutes Fouls/40
Chandler 81 678 4.78
Nocioni 64 571 4.48
Gordon 64 579 4.42
Curry 71 650 4.37
Hinrich 97 908 4.27
Davis 52 555 3.75
Duhon 53 588 3.61
Deng 44 722 2.44

(min 500 minutes, doesn't include tonight's game)

So being behind only the notoriously hacktastic Chandler and Nocioni, Gordon obviously needs to cut down on his fouls, as he had his 6 in only 24 minutes tonight. The off-the-ball fouls really hurt him, but you have to wonder how much of that is due to lack of referee respect, Gordon's carelessness, or the fact that his matchup is always someone bigger and stronger than him.

That all said, the way the Nets played (or were defended) tonight, there's no reason the game should've been that close for it to matter. The Nets started out 0-10 and the Bulls could only get a 6-0 lead, failing to use their size advantage throughout. And the numerous turnovers by Nocioni (4), Deng (6) and Curry (5) almost give credence to Skiles keeping the untalented Duhon on the court, at least he treats the ball like it has some value. I wish I could say differently, but his won't be the last time it happens during the season, teams can and will underperform and still remain close. And when that happens its obvious that the Bulls live and die with Ben Gordon. But increased contributions from the other players on the court can make unnecessarily close games like these happen less often.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Good news

The New Jersey Nets may be a little sluggish for Tuesday night's game against the Bulls, having spent the previous night in overtime against the defending champs. Plus Vince Carter got injured again. Its just a leg cramp, but they (and I mean 'they' as in Charles Barkley) don't call him half-man, half-injury for nothing.

(hat tip to my Dad)

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Bulls Blog: home of the historic '2004 winning streak'

Oh well, it had to end sometime. The Bulls vaunted 5-game winning streak was halted by one of its own victims, as the Milwaukee Bucks rebounded from last week's loss at the United Center to win Sunday night's game at home 99-92.

Like President Roosevelt's fireside chats, I was only able to access the game via radio. The Bulls radio crew does a real good job (even throwing in some Marcus Fizer jokes), but it doesn't replace television, unfortunately. Eddy Curry started the game red-hot, and had 12 points in the first quarter. At first I wondered why Eddy wasn't in the game more than 24 minutes after that output. But the Bucks scored 36 points that quarter, and I'm guessing coach Skiles had to wonder what the point was of having Eddy on the floor if he was just gonna be a matador for Bucks players going to the basket. I can't accurately(again, due to no Comcast) say that it was Eddy's fault the Bucks started out so well, but when stuff like this happens, its usually Eddy's fault :).

The star of the game was obviously Michael Redd, who continued the trend of opposing guards blazing their Bulls counterparts with a 39 point game, 1 short of his career high. He was a big part of that start by the Bucks, and had his team up by 18 in the second quarter. The Bulls chipped at the lead until finally tying it in the 4th, but it was Redd again who closed the game out.

Will Ben Gordon become the Bulls version of Redd? He certainly gave it his best effort, and has become the go-to guy for the Bulls down the stretch. And for me it isn't a scary thing anymore for the Bulls to be in a close game. Gordon has shown that he is willing, and able. But one problem with that is he has to be as clutch defensively as he is offensively. Else bigger guards like Redd will fire back whatever Gordon can dish out.

Lets hope that this 'streak' will be the first of many. The only reason it has significance thus far is that the Bulls have 9 wins total. And they'll need a few more 'streaks' to touch the holy grail of .500 basketball.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

All I want for Christmas...

Tonight is a big basketball night for me. First off, there is of course the Bulls game against Detroit. Ben Wallace might be out, which I'm sure will bring a smile to Eddy Curry's face. Can they keep 'the streak' alive at 5? I hope so so I can continue to write cheesy sentences like the previous one.

And also tonight is the annual Braggin' Rights game between Illinois and Missouri. Like the game's sponsor, Busch Light, the game could be watered down due to Illinois superior talent (the Illini have won 4 straight). But also like Busch Light, the game will be delicious since the game will  be attended by rabid fans on both sides and I would assume both teams will have similar energy. Maybe not  such a competitive game though, I think Illinois will win by 20+.  

Will the Bulls do the same? Along with a laptop under the Christmas tree that result is a fantasy. But....they could give em a game.

This will be my last post before the holidays, so I'll use it as another chance to sappily thank my readers. With the recent upturn in play by the Bulls I've noticed my web counters going up, which is a pretty good gift, albeit not laptop-good.

parting shot: someone send this headline to Jay Leno.

Monday, December 20, 2004


So maybe we all can officially get excited now. The Bulls have a 4 game winning streak, their first since 1998, after beating the Portland TrailBlazers 92-87.

This was not a perfect victory by any means, yet the Bulls always seemed in control. They led the game big early after big starts by Kirk Hinrich and Antonio Davis only to have it slip away to a 1-point halftime deficit. The Bulls flipped the usual script of coming out flat to start the 2nd half, this time being the aggressors as Eddy Curry led them to a 10 point lead going into the fourth. The Blazers, who were without Shareef Abdur-Rahim today, managed to make it close, but late scoring by Ben Gordon put the game away. Gordon nailed a long 3 to complement a variety of floaters in the paint, and was scoring to the point where it was clear Portland had no answer for him - on his way to 23 points on 10-15 shooting. Even Eddy was converting his touches at the end of the game, and finished with a strong 18 and 8.

(Side note on Gordon: While he did play extremely well tonight and has emerged as the 'closer' this team desperately needs, this game still showed some weaknesses. First off he has to get to the line more, especially since he's such a good foul shooter. He has only attempted 43 FTA compared to 230 FGA before tonight's game, and had 1 FTA tonight. Also, his defense against opposing pgs need work, as Damon Stoudamire went off for 22 in 29 minutes.)

But while I'll have a little smile all day tomorrow after this win, I couldn't help but be a little miffed to read AP game report and Tribune headline focusing in on a face in the crowd: Michael Jordan.

I'm not gonna go off and claim that Jordan doesn't deserve to be a part of the organization, although there is a case to be made for that. I'm happy that seeing Jordan there got the crowd pumped, and seeing him there cheering his boy Ben Gordon did bring a smile to my face.

But I can already predict Jay Mariotti's column tomorrow proclaiming how Jordan being at the game signifies a brand new day of Bulls basketball. That his appearance validates the good feelings this team is starting to generate around them. But this win, this streak,  and more importantly, obvious improvement in play, shouldn't be about Michael Jordan's enjoyment. It should be for Hinrich, Gordon, Deng, Coach Skiles and most importantly Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler, who (for albeit a short time) seem to showing what Jerry Krause had crazily envisioned when he acquired them.

This is a new Bulls team, and its possible due to their youth and lack of talent they will not keep their winning ways. But if they do.... Michael Jordan, like us, is merely along for the ride.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


The Bulls go for 4 in a row Monday night at home against Portland. (perhaps not so)Surprisingly if it is achieved it'll be the Bulls first 4-game winning streak 1998, and therefore the first time since the dynasty.

Saturday night's win against the undermanned Pacers wasn't pretty, but like in the Milwaukee game its nice to see the team winning games they should. In the past I would suggest that maybe the Bulls should be careful tomorrow whereas not to get overconfident after the meager achievements they've been racking up lately, but this year's squad doesn't seem to need such advice. Skiles and Paxson seemed to have assembled a team that plays hard no matter what: never getting too up or down in the roller-coaster ride that is the NBA season. Perhaps now I'm the one who's overconfident, but I go into games now not dreading horrid offensive starts.

Speaking of starts, Antonio Davis may be unavailable for the vaunted 4-in-a-row try after getting whacked in the jaw, but the Bulls have surprising depth:

If Davis is out, the Bulls might continue bringing Tyson Chandler off the bench, a role in which they like his enthusiasm and energy. If that's the case, veteran Othella Harrington will start, good timing for a player who produced a big fourth quarter Saturday night after barely playing this month.

The Bulls have had success in their three straight victories by dusting off a seldom-used veteran in the fourth quarter, when the young players have started to play like, well, young players.

"We talked about that with the team," Skiles said. "It was [Adrian Griffin] in Memphis, [Eric Piatkowski] against Milwaukee and [Harrington] against Indiana. This is a nice spot for me to be in as a coach. There's nobody on my roster that doesn't deserve to play. There aren't two or three guys who aren't doing their jobs, showing up late, messing around.

"I go home feeling bad that I can't get certain guys into the game because everybody's doing what they're supposed to be doing. These veterans are setting a good example. Some nights, they don't get to play. But every time I've looked down there and put one of them in, they've contributed big."

Replacing AD with Harrington isn't just avoiding a dropoff, its a definitive upgrade. Harrington is 2nd on the team with a +/- ratio of +11.5, well ahead of Davis at -0.9. Davis has played far more minutes which certainly hurts his case, having someone like Harrington to plug in when needed is a nice luxury for such a bad (or at least poor record) team. 

While I agree with the decision not to change Tyson's role off the bench (if it ain't broke...), Tyson may be relied on for major minutes against the Blazers. Their frontcourt of Zach Randolph and Theo Ratliff is going to be a big test, and Tyson might be pressed into action early if Randolph starts hot. Skiles should consider putting Eddy Curry on Randolph. Randolph uses his size to muscle other forwards into position, something he can't do with even a slimmed-down Eddy. And surprisingly enough Eddy has been playing good defense lately, most notably his improbable work on Kevin Garnett last week. Another matchup to look for will be Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni on Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Portland likes to put a big lineup out there with Rahim playing alongside Ratliff and Randolph, so Deng and Noc will have to do their best not to be overwhelmed by Rahim's post ability.

Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks has an ace up his sleeve on the defensive end with Ratliff. Ratliff's shot-blocking ability will make Eddy think twice before going for his patented right-handed jump hooks. If he tries to go right at Ratliff with tunnel vision he may get frustrated early and eventually drift into a night of ineffectiveness. Eddy will have to do a good job of recognizing the defense and making sound passes, something he's been doing pretty well lately(notice all of my kind words for Eddy?).  Now it's another matter of whether Tyson can actually catch that pass....

The Blazers aren't dominating at 12-11, but they will be a great test assuming they will not take the Bulls lightly like Minnesota and Dallas undoubtedly did. I'm not placing this matchup in the 'should-win' category like the last 2 games, but on the other hand momentum can be a powerful thing, and its always nice to see a post-dynasty futility mark fall by the wayside.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Plenty of room on the bandwagon

I didn't originally have tickets to tonight's game against the Bucks, but I decided to go a mile north to the United Center and get me some.

I can't believe I'm excited to see a team with 5 wins, but its not as much that as the fact they are looking like they are starting something special. And from reading the comments today there is a little buzz about the recent stretch.

Should I question our collective sanity? Or does this just show how pathetic this franchise has been lately when a couple of wins can give reason for optimism?

Either way, this is a winnable game, and worse case scenario I get to see Michael Redd. In fact, if the Bulls do lay a suck-bomb on the court tonight forget everything I mentioned above.

Update: Bulls win! I'm 3-2 for the year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Passion of the Pax

Much has been made over the past few days regarding the Bulls shoddy treatment by the referees in the Dallas game. I have pretty much maintained a cynical point of view believing that NBA refs are what they are and they have their tendencies. And one of those tendencies is the star treatment. The Bulls have no stars, so they should expect few breaks.

I heard on WSCR today that GM John Paxson was going ballistic after the game about the team's lack of respect by the officials. The initial shock of blowing that game probably led to this outburst, so I'll chalk it up to simply defending his team. The fact remains though that if the Bulls want calls, they have to be earned. It may not be right, but its the truth. And if they start winning consistently the calls will come.

And in some respects I understand the ref's point of view. I've never officiated a basketball game (I was a soccer referee for 5 years though), but I can imagine it being insanely difficult. With the speed and power of NBA players the need arises for calls to be anticipated. And corners like favoring the stars need to be taken sometimes.

I want to add something to this from Sam Smith's book 'The Jordan Rules". You may not believe it, but  I haven't read it before, and for those who don't know it details the first Championship season of 1990-91. So far it's pretty fascinating stuff (I'll provide a full review when I finish),  especially today when I came across this passage about one John Paxson:

"[Paxson]'s reputation with the referees was no laughing matter to him. He is slower than many of the guards he faces, so he often gets beaten and ends up fouling. His reputation for being a slow player who doesn't jump well had created an attitude among many referees that if there is contact, it is initiated by Paxson. And it doesn't help that Paxson has been considered a marginal player throughout most of his career.

"You get tired of all this star stuff," says Paxson. "I know I can play pretty good defense, and then if I'm a step to the side it's a call. I know I ought to keep my mouth shut, but when you're out there those things bother you." And more often than not, Paxson complicates the situation by loudly pleading his case.

"He's got a reputation for challenging the referees," notes [then coach Phil] Jackson, "and they don't like it. So he probably needs to take the calls and live with it."

I know, what are the odds that I would come across those pages today.

Pax obviously knows that this star system of officiating has existed for a while, but perhaps has never gotten over it. That said, he wouldn't have become the player he was if he let his opinion of NBA officiating get the best of him. It would serve the team best if Paxson takes the Zen master's advice and maintained a cool head, otherwise his players may start worrying more about the whistles than the wins. 

Speaking of wins......the Bulls beat the Grizzlies in Memphis tonight 96-88.

I couldn't see the game, thanks to Dish Network and Comcast Sports Net. Most of you probably thought that my beef with them was old news, since I hadn't mentioned it lately. But due to games either being shown on WGN, WCIU, or me being there in person, I haven't had a problem in a while. Apparently the two sides had a deal in place, but then Comcast pulled out. Or at least that's what the dish people told me, so maybe I'd get a different story from another source. Either way, I doubt this would be happening if the Bulls weren't at their customary place at the bottom of the standings.

But maybe that status will change. The real lean part of the schedule is coming up, and its hard not to notice that this should be their 3rd win in a row against teams that made the Western Conference playoffs last season.  I for one am happy that the trade deadline isn't till February. Plenty of time to find out if maybe that horrible start to the season was not the true reflection of this team.

So check out the newspapers links on the left for game analysis. And there's always comments. What did you guys see last night that was encouraging?

Monday, December 13, 2004


I had a post all thought up in my head. How Skiles finally showed some flexibility by putting Ben Gordon right back into tonight's game against the Mavericks after taking him out at the 4 minute mark. How Ben responded with some big shots. How this victory finally showed a sense of momentum for a team that hadn't won two games in a row yet, and now had done so against western conference powers.

But then Michael Finley happened. But before that was the true turning point. When Tyson Chandler grabbed an offensive rebound with under 24 seconds left. If  he had called time out the Bulls could've retained possession and forced Dallas to foul. Instead Tyson tries to go up with it again. He probably got fouled, but that's a call you just can't expect when you're the Bulls. And when he lost the ball and it bounced to Finley, Eddy Curry makes a frustration foul on him 90 feet from the basket.

The game wasn't lost then, but it meant that the Bulls had to out-execute the Mavs down the stretch. And I knew even with Ben Gordon out on the court this time, that was a longshot.

A lot of things went right in this game, can the Bulls focus on that instead of another loss? Does 5-14 mean much more than 4-15? The initial heartbreak will be tough to get over, but hopefully they can see that they outplayed the Mavs tonight and use that for the rest of the week.

A win would've been nice though :)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A revelation or two

If you had asked me on Friday that the Bulls would win a game this weekend, I would've made a healthy wager on them taking out the Sixers that night. I figured that perhaps after their blowout win against the Cavs the team would be carrying momentum into beating a fellow struggling Eastern Conference team.

While the Sixers looked as bad as advertised, the Bulls still lost to them, despite a late run in the 4th quarter that at least showed once again that this is a team that will not give up. However, when they had a chance to win, there was nobody on the court who could create a shot. Hinrich was probably the best option, but he was called for a critical (and I say BS) offensive foul.

Saturday against the Timberwolves, that 'closer' emerged: Ben Gordon. With 31 points in 31 minutes, Gordon had the best game of his young career. While the Bulls had opened up a 20 point lead in the first quarter, it was Gordon who kept the game out of reach when Minnesota made its predictable comeback in the second half. He was making shots from the outside (4-4 from 3), and inside with a variety of jumpers and floaters in the lane. Most importantly, he showed a quick first step that nobody else on the team can claim. The kind of step that breaks down a defense and creates plays. The kind of step that wins close ballgames. It's been a running theme by me over the season: I don't know why this kid isn't on the floor more. Who knows what could've happened if he was out there to finish out the Philly game?

Here's what I said before the season about Gordon:

Ben Gordon was picked #3 in the draft to fill the scoring void, but has shot terribly in the preseason so far. I have a feeling though that after an initial struggle he will provide a breakout game that will enable him to at least provide a reliable, offensive-minded 6th man off the bench.

Note how I said 'at least'. Trying not to look to much into one game (remember Jay Williams' triple-double against Jason Kidd and the Nets?), but maybe we'll look back on this Minnesota game as the notice of his arrival. And a notice to Skiles to get him on the court.

Beyond Gordon, the teen towers, Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler, also played well against Minny. When I heard Skiles on the radio pre-game show saying that Curry was going to start the game guarding Kevin Garnett, I was expecting Curry to look as lost as a fat kid playing dodgeball. But he actually did well, and maybe used the defensive challenge to help him on the offensive end, as he got the Bulls off to that hot start making his first 4 shots. Its tough to get that excited about it though, since in the game against Philly him and Chandler were busy getting their shots thrown back at them by Samuel Dalembert. I hope the right scouts see Curry at the right games, because nobody goes from prospective world-beater to invisible from game-to-game like Curry.

More on Chandler though, who has just been fantastic. Courtesy of Doug's Stats, here are his numbers over the past 10 games:

Mpg Pts Fg% Reb
30.3 11.1 50% 11.5

He has been a consistent rebounder for the team, and was as much of a part of that Wolves game as Gordon. I think it would serve Paxson wise to start negotiating a contract extension soon. Tyson wants to be here, and wants to win. He's young, big, and if the team acts fast, he can be had cheap. Even if his game merely stays the course that will be a huge asset for the future. If he ever gets some hands, the rest of his game could round out as well. I know Pax wants to hold off until the new CBA is negotiated, or maybe still is thinking of using Chandler in a trade while his value is gaining steam. But that could turn out to be a mistake.

I'll be at the UC for Monday night's game against Dallas. I'm not expecting a victory, but it would be nice to see some momentum carried over from a win. And I'm really up for seeing a lot of Tyson Chandler and Ben Gordon.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


The Bulls had a rare blowout win, 113-85 over the listless Cavaliers. The Bulls led the entire game and were completely in control, although even up 22 in the 4th quarter I had reason for concern. But the Cavs just didn't really look like they wanted to be there, possibly because they had a close win the night before. It was nice to be at the United Center and not be in a manic-depressive state. Just a fun time: Eddy got some garbage baskets at the end, Tyson was ripping rebounds away from people, Nocioni baited Lucious Harris into a technical, and Ben Gordon had a ridiculous lob catch that finally showed me a taste of what must've wowed everyone before the draft. Good games all around, especially by Ben Gordon who had a team-high 21 in 31 minutes. Hopefully that will mean more minutes for him in the future. I think he's better than Jay Williams already, and I'm guessing I won't have to call him 'bricklayer' Ben anymore.

It'll be interesting to see if the Bulls can finally use the momentum of a win to get a streak going. Even a two game streak, which is entirely possible since they are facing the Sixers at home. Its their annual game on national TV (per NBA rules even the Bulls have to have at least one), so it'll be nice if they can put on a show and force the ESPN talking heads to say something nice about the Bulls for once.

So this is a fun day like after the Laker game, but it'll be even better if they can carry some of it on the court for Friday.

Scroll down for my calling out of Jay Bilas. Not often I get two posts in on one day, I know.

You can't spell 'Bilastrator' without BS

This article from Jay Bilas is disappointing, considering the fact that he is ESPN's best NBAdraft pundit. Maybe that says more about ESPN than it does him. Reading like he had nothing worthwhile to write about this week, Bilas sets his sights on the evil NBA:

This is not an excuse. It's a fact. The NBA has distorted everything in college and high school basketball, and it has been a nightmare for college coaches. On most every campus, there are players thinking about the making it to the NBA, rather than making their teams and teammates better. When a coach tries to teach or gives an assignment, the player is often more concerned about how it will affect his development and his timetable for making it to the League.

I'm not denying this happens, but is Jay just realizing this now?

Because I agree with him. Get the kids who want to attend college and play college basketball, not just want the NBA. Of course you know what that means though. Letting them enter the draft early (even, my god, skipping college), and having the NBA create a true developmental system.

An old saying said by...some old people is that 'college is wasted on the young'. In my world, its wasted even more on the young at just want to be basketball players.

But those steps would pretty much relegate college basketball to the status that college baseball has wouldn't it? I don't personally think that's such a terrible thing, but for Bilas and ESPN, who know that college hoops butters their collective bread, I'd think they'd rather complain about the problem than truly rectify it.


Monday, December 06, 2004

I'll always pick lack of energy over complete crap

Saturday's game against the Wizards was the basketball-watching equivalent of a punch in the stomach. The Bulls started out very well, and held a double digit lead in the second half, before an unequivocal collapse in the 4th. That quarter was plagued with long scoreless stretches to the point where the game was over with 2 minutes still remaining. That quarter, while depressing, provided me with some lessons about how this team can avoid more collapses.

First off, I don't know what kind of scandalous photos Chris Duhon has aquired to blackmail coach Scott Skiles. Skiles, if you're reading this...they can't be so bad that you have to be forced into playing Duhon so many minutes. He played 34 minutes on Saturday, including most of the final disastrous quarter. Duhon finished with a line of 2 points (on 1-5 shooting), 1 rebound, and 5 assists (more than canceled out by 5 turnovers). Again, this was in 34 minutes. In the fourth when it was obvious the team was having trouble scoring, I may have said "why is Duhon still in the game" about 20 times before coming to the horrible realization that Skiles was planning on keeping him in there for the duration (Ben Gordon finally did come in after the loss was a formality). Here's Skiles on why Gordon wasn't in the game for that stretch:

"I do want Ben out there, But he was 4-for-11 and didn't have much energy overall."

Now in fairness to Skiles, Gordon was also careless with the ball, having 6 turnovers in his 26 minutes. But I can't see any reason why he wasn't out there when it was painfully obvious that the team needed help scoring. Duhon should never be playing that much on any NBA team. While he may be valuable for his ability to run the offense and be careful with the ball, that is a skill only needed when Kirk Hinrich is getting a quick breather. Otherwise Duhon brings nothing to the table. His defense is passable, but not as good as Skiles claims (a net +/- of -2.2, and opposing PGs have a PER of 17.9). He can't shoot a 3, can't finish his floaters around the basket, can't get to the line, and defenses recognize this and use his man to double on Eddy or Tyson. Gordon, even if he's having a poor shooting night, can at least give you more than Duhon. And in the dire straits the team was in down the stretch against the Wiz, I wasn't thinking about  'energy' like Skiles, I was wondering how the team was gonna get points. I like Skiles as a coach his worst tendency is to over-reward 'energy' and effort as opposed to talent. There are times when Gordon shouldn't be awarded minutes when he's playing poorly, but in this case it cost the team a win.

So with Gordon wondering where coach Calhoun would be doing right now, the Bulls were forced to turn to Curry as a crunch-time scorer, and he didn't look comfortable to say the least. Without the ability to recognize what the defense and decide whether to pass or make his move, he was easily double-teamed and forced into fallaways and hook shots at ranges that Curry simply can't convert at a high rate. Sam Smith sees this as proof of what he's been saying forever:

Look, we've known this since the Bulls traded for Jalen Rose: Curry needs a better scorer to play with, a player who can create a double team and allow Curry to feed off him. Curry is like the fish who trails in the shark's wake: He'll get the leftovers.

This was apparent at the end of Saturday's loss to the Washington Wizards. The Bulls drew up options for Curry, and he was unable to finish. Who else could they go to?

Based on what I saw against the Wiz, Sam's right. And while nobody is wishing for Jalen Rose back, the need for a scorer to help out Curry is obvious. And while Ben Gordon may not be ready yet, I'd rather give him a chance to fail instead of the predictable failure of Chris Duhon. At least until they trade for one.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

History lesson

If you have a subscription to ESPN insider, or know of...other ways to read this, Chad Ford spent his Thursday detailing how the Bulls got in this post-dynasty mess. Not only that, he offered some advice to Pax on how to get out of it. How nice of him.

The first part isn't bad, but my main complaint makes the gigantic leap of faith when discussing the Bulls' second round picks. Sure they could've drafted Gilbert Arenas or Michael Redd. But nearly every other team in the league can say that as well. I'm not denying things have gone wrong in these past drafts, far from it. But I will not pretend failure to get a second-round steal is a massive oversight by Bulls management. I mean....drafting Mario Austin over Zaza Pachulia? Aren't there bigger fish to fry here?   Well unfortunately, there are plenty, and while Ford does gloss over some important things (most notably the Jalen Rose deal), the piece is a nice read. Nothing new though if you've been visiting here for a while.

As far as the way to fix the Bulls, it basically boils down to trading Curry, Chandler, and Gordon for Nene, Chris Wilcox, Mickael Pietrus, and Andres Biedrins. Oh and don't forget the bizarre scenario of getting Toni(!) Kukoc back in town. And then of course to close things out he stresses the importance of stability, if that makes any sense after trading away half the team. I'll give Ford the fact that Curry will be traded, but lets wait awhile before giving up on our #3 pick. And that also goes for the guy who had 18 rebounds last night.

Hm....maybe even stay the course on Curry too?

What if Jerry Krause was right?


But it's these kind of nights--the Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 92-84 on Wednesday at the United Center-- that make you wonder

Could Curry and Chandler still turn out be as good as we were told instead of what we have seen? Could they be an inside/outside tandem worth the loss of Elton Brand? Could they be the next coming of Shaquille O'Neal and Bill Russell instead of Benoit Benjamin and Brad Sellers?

In any case, the Bulls must play them a lot to maintain their value ina trade--if there is one. The Bulls can't afford to keep giving away players with little in return. But what if they could do this with some consistency? The NBA would be back in Chicago.

Even though you can't help but feel the smirk this article was written with, Sam Smith is saying what Bulls fans have been struggling with forever. See...he may be a half-crazy, crotchety old man, but My Man Sam(tm) can still write.

But then again, on Monday morning we'll be seeing Sam's new "Eddy Curry trade scenario of the week"

Both Smith and Ford have been trying forever to write ways for the Bulls to get back to prominence. I am more inclined to give GM John Paxson some time, and see where the chips fall. He knows more about his personnel than anyone, as well as their market value. But heed this warning Pax, the fact that you've gotten so much attention just goes to show how we're all waiting for a rebuilding plan to work for once.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

A celebration.

Hey now, gotta take these victories and savor them. I was at the game in person tonight. And if you need a reference point to where I sat, it was about 10 rows behind where Ben Gordon blew that breakaway dunk. But I can laugh about that miscue now since they wound up holding on for a victory.

Sure the Lakers played the night before, and aren't that great in the first place, but at no point did the Bulls look like they couldn't handle them, which is a step in the right direction. Tyson Chandler was outstanding, especially on the glass. And of course he added to it by getting the oftentimes-sleepy United Center crowd rockin' like it was 1998. Ok...not that loud.

Luol Deng had another great game, as Scottie Pippen said in the telecast "This rookie has some balls. I will tell you what he has never met a shot he didn't like." (thanks to Tim for catching that). Ben Gordon was attacking the basket in crunch time, something his predecessor Jamal Crawford would never do.

And I topped off my night by watching (after recording) my Fighting Illini lay a beatdown on #1 Wake Forest.

Its late so I don't have much in the way of analysis or statistics to give ya, just wanted to open the forum up to Bulls fans (and observers). Especially at 2-10, its nice to talk about a win.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Catching up with an old friend

Had to mention Knickerblogger's usual spot-on analysis, this time of Jamal Crawford in his "way too early season review":

He has been good offensively, but his defense is porous. Crawford's thin frame is ill-suited to fight through picks, and too fragile to slow down a drive once the other team gets a step on him. Jamal has an excellent handle, but there is nothing more frustrating than having Crawford settling for a jumper (which comprise 82% of his shots), after he's faked his defender with a series of fancy dribbles. Crawford should force the issue towards the basket with his great passing and dribbling skills. In addition, he'd do well getting fouled driving to the hoop, since the guy makes a free throw shot look like a layup (86% FT).

Watching Jamal a bit this year, he is still uses his favorite move. You remember, the one where he dribbles through his legs twice to get the defender off balance, and then pulls up and slings a jumper. Sometimes it goes in (albeit at 40% this year), and he looks good. But now Knicks fans are getting a taste of what I had grown tired of:  the annoyance that is Jamal Crawford's untapped potential.


Monday, November 29, 2004

A silver lining, by any means necessary

Well the Bulls did predictably bad  on their Annual Circus Trip of Death, but did manage to get their first win of the season. So now at 1-10, it seems that there is little chance for anything to happen this season. However, I am on a neverending quest to drum up false interest and optimism in this team, especially since there are 6 more games that I have already purchased tickets for (and expensive ones at that), and don't want to come across as a *complete* moron for doing so.

So let's take a look at an easy scapegoat, the schedule. Here's what the Bulls have had so far, with their records:




@ IND (pre-fight)








@ GS

















Besides the obvious turkeys residing in Golden State and New Jersey, those are all very tough opponents, and most of them on the road. Not that the Bulls have exhibited any type of home court advantage in the recent past, but in theory there should be some relief in knowing that 11 of the 15 games in December are at home. And in January the schedule takes a much easier turn, with plenty of games against the East.

Speaking of the East:

(1) Indiana


(2) Miami


(3) New York


(4) Cleveland


(5) Orlando


(6) Washington


(7) Detroit


(8) Philadelphia


(9) Toronto


(10) Milwaukee


(11) Boston


(12) Charlotte


(13) New Jersey


(14) Atlanta


(15) Chicago



As bad as the Bulls have been, there are several teams I still think they can leapfrog pretty quick, namely Atlanta, Charlotte, New Jersey, and Milwaukee. The next tier of Toronto, Boston, Washington, Philly and New York (I throw them in since I loathe them) aren't exactly earth-shakers either. However this is nothing new to anyone who follows the NBA: the East is really bad. The key for the Bulls to gain some sort of respectability (and sadly that's all I'm asking for at this point) this season is to win most of the games they should win, as few as they may be. That means any home game against the non-elite Eastern Conference teams, and also road games against the truly horrid. Any winnable one that they may let slip away (like a should've win against Jersey in the season opener), can be made up by the random surprise win (Utah on the road).

I can take some solace in knowing as the team gets better, the schedule will also be easier. However, as I say that, there are fans in Atlanta, Oakland, Charlotte, and New Jersey who already have the Bulls circled on their schedule.

Hm...I didn't do a great job of building up that optimism, did I? But what I guess I'm trying to convey is that this early schedule has been tough for a young (and bad) team, and I doubt there will be more 1-10 stretches in the future. At least I sure hope not.

And that can bridge our sanity until the trading deadline, when some bigger questions can be answered.


Comedic note: Former Bull Chris Jefferies lasted until the 6th round in the NBDL draft.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

Holiday Hiatus

Well I had a Thanksgiving post ready last night but blogger wasn't cooperating.

But it turns out OK because now I can say I'm thankful for a Bulls win! And, of course, thankful for my readers (awwww).

Happy Thanksgiving, much turkey and beer to all.


Monday, November 22, 2004

When 'keepin it real' goes wrong

I am probably the last high profile basketball blogger to weigh in on the Pistons/Pacers brouhaha on Friday. Over at These Days is a nice roundup of reaction from around the web, and it gets pretty varied from slightly miffed (Shaddax himself) to the hellfire and brimstone that the mainstream has been pushing.

When I first saw the fight, I wasn't thinking about the thuggish players, the half-retarded fans, or the disappointed coaches. What I immediately thought of was how I'm going to have to have pounds and pounds of BS put on top of me by the ESPN empire. And the next time I sat at my computer (since Friday night was used for....recreational activities), I giggled in anticipation of reading what Jay Mariotti had to say. And I wasn't disappointed!

But eventually, of course, everyone will move on, the penalized players will return to their teams for those revenue-producing postseason runs and the sicko society of sports will survive the most chaotic incident I've seen this side of a European soccer stadium.

There's more gems like that in there. Now we will discuss the validity of the decrying the 'sicko society of sports' by someone who is on Around the Horn.

I'm not saying that this fight wasn't a big deal, I just hate the fact that I have to be told how its the second Pearl Harbor by dopes like Mariotti. As Shaddax said in his entry, less moralizing and more morals makes everything a lot easier, and on the plus side it doesn't make my brain and eyes bleed from being subjected to the sad sack tales of the sports media.

Now that I've gotten my pot-shots in, I'll try to do the same thing without being so annoying, starting out with quoting a fantastic article by My Man Sam(TM) on Ron Artest, who has rightfully become the poster boy of this incident:

 This is what we all were afraid of--what the Bulls feared when they traded Artest to the Indiana Pacers despite believing he could become an elite player--the rage, the uncontrollable anger that frightened everyone.

Now would be a good time for Sam to write a book like "the Artest rules", because I'm sure in addition to the stories he lists in the article there are many more. I have said the same thing before to many friends and here on the blog regarding Artest: The man is crazy. He is not misunderstood or oddly eccentric like Dennis Rodman. The man has serious mental problems that he has been advised to receive treatment for, but has refused any help from the Bulls or Pacers. Smith concludes his piece with this:

Perhaps we all should have seen this coming.

It never quite got there with Dennis Rodman, but the pleas for help seemed obvious. It's just that when the guy can get a key rebound or score a big basket or win Defensive Player of the Year--and you're paying him millions--it's difficult to send him away for the treatment he might need.

Don't blame the Pacers. No team does it.

After all, these are professionals--mercenaries, really--and they assume the risks.

But Artest seemed to be crying out for help. He asked for time off, either because he was tired from working with his new music company or to promote its new release this week. The Pacers gave him a few games off and everyone wrung their hands and asked how he could do that, or maybe this was a ploy to get attention for his label or what the heck, it's just Artest. It's not that the Pacers didn't know something was wrong.

Artest was a handful throughout last spring's playoffs, missing flights and challenging coach Rick Carlisle. He has tried to drive the team to trade him since. Teams were curious about the talent, but fearful.

Stories continued about Artest, and the team even put him off limits to questioners last week. Teammate O'Neal lashed out when an ESPN crew came in last week to ask more questions about Artest. The boiling point was nearing, but there's that thing about a watched pot. Then everyone turned their heads, and the pot exploded.

There will be plenty of time now for Artest to get help. We all hope he does this time.

The suspension to Artest perhaps wasn't the most fair thing on the surface. After all Vernon 'mad max' Maxwell only got 10 games for jumping in the stands. But given Artest's prior history I think this was the best solution for both him and the league. And commissioner David Stern himself has said that Artest's past played a role in the severity of the suspension. I'm guessing that deep down Stern hopes that Artest either gets help or goes away for good.

As far as the rest of the suspensions, they seem fair enough to me. While the aforementioned pundits decrying the event were simply annoying, there were others who tried to justify what the players did, or at least tried to place principal blame on the fans. And that stance is no less than completely wrong. I don't care to hear about 'street cred' or 'protecting yourself', or any similar garbage. There is no justifiable reason for going into the stands. None. Point them out to security and have them thrown out. The fans in Detroit who helped escalate the matter are reprehensible, and I hope that the video tape available gets them prosecuted. But controlling them is security's job, not the job of the player to have some brief moment of revenge for whatever 'disrespect' took place. If it gets to the point where the fans are throwing things, then get off the court. They should know that as a professional athlete, it has been long established that they are not on the same level as the fans. They need to be the professionals and walk away. Not try and seek out vengeance veiled as self-defense.

This would've been a normal NBA pseudo-fight if it had not spilled into the stands. A non-story, and certainly not a black eye for western civilization, or whatever hyperbole you or Jay Mariotti want to use. But that line was crossed and I feel sorry for the NBA, who has to deal with the PR ramifications. And I'm sure NBA is sorry that they let someone on the court who had the capabilities of snapping and crossing that line.


Friday, November 19, 2004

I would like a glass of 'scoring punch' please

Jannero Pargo has been activated from the IR for tonight's game at Denver, and is being replaced by Jared Reiner. Pargo probably would've started the season on the active roster, but Reiner got the final spot instead since Eddy Curry and Antonio Davis were suspended for the first 2 games. I, for one, would like to see Pargo get some burn tonight. Pargo isn't a classic point guard (if he was he wouldn't be the 12th man on the Bulls), but he has shown he can shoot. Given the alternatives of Chris 'warrior' Duhon and Ben 'bricklayer' Gordon, that's a skill in scarcity around here.

Also, the Trib is reporting that ComcastSportsNet has reached an agreement with Dish Network! That's good since I've missed a few Bulls games because of them, although I must say that so far I haven't exactly been 'missing' them.

If you came for a Sweetney v. Curry debate, just scroll down.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

A 'sweet' deal?

Oh lord, I really need to work on my headline writing.

As was reported in the Trib this morning (and bantered about in the comments of my previous post...I love when people leave comments!), Knicks GM Isiah Thomas has gone against earlier stances of his by admitting he'd now be willing to throw in PF Michael Sweetney in a proposed Eddy Curry deal. Sweetney is basically the only good young prospect the Knicks have, so I'm sure Bulls GM John Paxson was laughing at any other trash-combo that Isiah threw together previously for Curry.

Sweetney is kind of undersized and underappreciated around the league, but Knicks fans in the know really like him. Looking at his advanced statistics last year compared to Curry, you can see why:

Player Age G MPG FG% FT% P/40 R/40 A/40 PSA AST TO USG REB PER D-PER
Curry 22 73 29.5 0.496 0.671 19.9 8.4 1.3 1.08 5.5 14.3 20.4 12 14.78 1.1
Sweetney 22 42 11.8 0.493 0.724 14.5 12.7 1.1 1.09 6.6 15.1 15.4 18.2 17.13 2.22

All stats from John Hollinger's 2004-05 Pro Basketball Forecast.
PSA  - pts. per shot attempt (tops - B. Barry, 1.34)
AST - assist ratio (Damon Jones - 42.1)
REB - rebound rate (Fortson - 21.9)
USG - Usage rate (Iverson - 34.5)
PER - Player Efficiency rating (15.00 is an average starter)
D-PER - Defensive PER (which I haven't looked at much to be honest, and don't really trust yet)

Get the book, it'll explain everything a lot better! (and who else heard Kenny Smith at halftime talking about difference in number of possesions? Getting analytical on us Kenny, I like it)

These two are very comparable players since they have the same age and playing style, and these stats show some stark differences. Sweetney is the far better rebounder, and (from what I've read) also a better defender. He still needs to work on taking care of the ball, for if you're anywhere near Curry in those categories you need help. And probably doesn't have the post moves (or move) that Curry has, which accounts for Curry's higher usage rate.

I even tried to look at Sweetney subjectively tonight since they were on TNT, and at least saw that Sweetney wasn't half-retarded, which is a what I think the standard barometer should be when evaluating a Bull prospect from now on. Didn't get to see much of him, but noticed that for the most part he does look like he knows what he's doing, and the stats above seem to verify it too. Some other observations included seeing former Bull Jamal Crawford have a pretty good day, culminating in a bank-in three to win it, and ensuring that I'll get to hear a few "WHY DID WE TRADE CRAWFORD?!?!?!" calls to the radio tomorrow morning. 

Another observation was laughing at the Knicks' awful help defense. Curry won't help there, but sometimes Isiah sees something shiny around the league and must have it. After my initial look at Sweetney (and I would really like to hear a Knicks' fan's perspective) , I'm starting to hope that Isiah gets his man.  

This could all be Sam Smith-esque fantasy rumors. But it would be ironic if the Bulls traded Curry for Sweentey after they traded Elton Brand  4 years ago to facilitate Curry's arrival, when Sweetney basically maxes out as Elton Brand. But at this point getting that kind of talent for Curry would be pretty good.