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.