Thursday, January 08, 2004

If Ronald Dupree is Your Leading Scorer, You are a Bad Team I'm sorry, that just has to be a rule...or something. To be honest though, new Bulls' aquisition Ronald "don't call me Jermaine" Dupree led the team in scoring last night, with 18pts, along with 9rebs and 3ast. He was something the Bulls were lacking, someone who was slashing to the basket to collapse the defense. Plus he hustled around the court, made some jump shots.....very impressive stuff. But I'm ever the cynic with these types of guys, so I'll just say that the Miami Heat are only slightly above the NBDL. So what does that make the Bulls then, giving up 102 points??? The Heat haven't scored 102 points since Ronny Seikaly was dominating the paint. A team like that shooting 54% is probably a combination of luck and just terrible defense. One element of the Heat's offense that wasn't any form of luck was Lamar Odom, who was simply unstoppable last night. Every time the Bulls were getting close, Odom would answer. It was the kind of game that he has every so often that makes NBA types gush over his yet unfufilled talent.

I was expecting Eddy Curry to have a big game against arguably the smallest team in the league, comprised of the likes of Brian Grant and Loren Woods. And while he had a good night, getting 14 points in 20 minutes, he just never seemed to be a factor. Just like most 4th quarters, I wanted him to fight for position and demand the ball every time down the court. Instead he kind of loafed around until someone forced the ball to him. Especially against smaller defenders, Eddy should realize he is the highest-percentage scoring option on the team, and act that way. But I can't complain too much about Eddy because at least he put up numbers.

Now Jamal Crawford is a different story. He had yet another poor outing last night, with only 7 points. And I know this has to sound like a broken record on this site, but he went to the line 0 times. After having those 2 monster games a couple of weeks ago, Jamal is simply becoming a jump shooter...a bad jump shooter at that. And with that declining play lately it can only mean one thing, trade talk by Chad Ford: (emphasis added)

The strong play of rookie point guard Kirk Hinrich has put Jamal Crawford's future with the Bulls in doubt. Scott Skiles doesn't like Crawford's shot selection, nor his porous defense. The fact that he'll be demanding a huge contract next summer when he hits restricted free agency doesn't help his cause.

Crawford's big plus is his ability to play the point, but Skiles seems determined to keep Hinrich as the one running the whole show. Word is that Bulls GM John Paxson wants a more prototypical two guard and someone to take Eddie Robinson off his hands in return for Crawford.

There will be plenty of teams interested in Crawford, but the team that seems to have the best fit would appears to be Miami. If the Bulls are willing to swallow Eddie Jones' contract, a swap of Crawford, Robinson and Marcus Fizer for Jones and Caron Butler works under the cap. A Crawford-Dwyane Wade backcourt would be awesome for Miami, allow Lamar Odom to move back to his natural position at the three and even clears a little cap for next summer. The key to the deal would be Butler's health. He's struggled mightily to come back from knee surgery this summer, lowering his value considerably.

I kept that last paragraph in for your benefit, but won't regard that Miami deal as more than complete Chad Ford speculation. But Ford certainly has glowing words for Crawford...couple that with this quote:
Just one day earlier, Crawford received a flattering compliment from New York Knicks general manager Isiah Thomas. In explaining why he traded five players and two first-round draft picks to the Phoenix Suns primarily for star point guard Stephon Marbury, Thomas said, "If you expect to make the playoffs and compete for a championship, you've got to have an outstanding point guard like Jason Kidd, Jamal Crawford, Baron Davis, Steve Nash or Stephon Marbury.'' "I feel very honored to be mentioned among the league's premier guards,'' Crawford said. "Especially when the guy saying it is one of the greatest guards to ever play the game.''
Don't these quotes completely contradict what every Bulls fan has been seeing on the court lately? Jamal has had very good games, and even in his bad games he gives you moments that make you think he's the real deal. But one of the top guards in the league? Davis, Nash, Kidd, Marbury....Crawford?????. He definately has the talent, but he hasn't proven it at all. Not even close. Paxson has been hesitant to give Crawford an extension thus far because he wanted proof that Crawford can be a consistent scorer. And I'm confident that if Jamal doesn't get his act together by the end of the year and still demands "a huge contract this summer", Pax will be smart enough to show him the door.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

What was your Favorite Moment of the Linton Johnson Era? Linton Johnson was waived yesterday by the Bulls, which wasn't a suprise since his contract for the year would've been guaranteed on the 10th. It was the feel-good story of training camp to see Johnson work his way from complete obscurity to beat out 3rd-year guard Trenton Hassell for a roster spot. But that job was awarded not just because of his over-hyped 'work ethic', but also because he made his shots. In the regular season though his shot mysteriously dissapeared, shooting 24% from the field in 8.3mpg for 18 games. (meanwhile Hassell has started 24 games for the Timberwolves and is shooting 47%....but trust me I'm not pining for him back or anything). The article linked above reports that Paxson is going to sign Ronald Dupree of the NBDL. This season he's averaging 16.9ppg. (I can't find other stats, due to the worthlessness of the NBDL website). At 6-7, 209, he's probably going to play the SF spot....when he plays. I can't see him providing any more minutes than Linton Johnson did, but hopefully he can hit an open shot when he does see the court. Another roster spot could be freed up if the long-reported Jay Williams contract buyout actually happens. Other players of Pax's interest according to the Sun-Times, include Desmond Penigar, Lavor Postell and Briton Johnsen. Hinrich pub': Although neglected by 'NBA Fastbreak' last night as an impact rookie, Kirk Hinrich has risen to #3 in the rookie rankings. He's behind 2 guys i've never heard of. Tonight's game is in Miami against the Heat. Hopefully the Bulls can avenge the disaster a couple of weeks ago. Some good news (for the Bulls) is that Dwayne Wade was put on the IR last friday. (check out the Flash stuff going above that article...that's what I intimidatation, the Heat Experience!!!!)

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

I believe that was a picture of Jamal Crawford on my Ticket, not Rick Brunson

Three messages on my instant messenger when I got home from Monday night's Bulls win against the severly undermanned Suns:

-"Why would you want Brunson in the game?" -"Rick Brunson is the bane of my existence." -"ha did u throw a slushie at Skiles head?"

Does Scott Skiles see me in the stands and automatically call on #9? If any of you remember the last Bulls game I attended, I was extremely annoyed with the amount of minutes Rick Brunson got. Not only was Brunson in the game for 21 minutes, he played the entire 4th quarter. Both times Brunson got minutes due to a benching of Jamal Crawford. And in what has been the theme of the past week or so, it was because of Crawford not attacking the basket. In his 26 minutes of play, Crawford took 11 shots, and 8 of them were 3 pointers. He didn't go to the free throw line the entire game. The results were predictably poor, netting only 5 points before the benching. Needless to say that Skiles' reasoning behind the benching wasn't to put a better guard on the court, but to send a message to Jamal that this type of play is unacceptable. While this angers me as someone in attendance, as a Bulls fan I cannot complain with this move. In the long term, Skiles is thinking about Jamal Crawford's development above the performance of one game. While winning games this year is important (hell in the East they're not even out of it), if this benching makes Crawford a more complete scorer I'm all for it.

Hmmm....if you've been paying attention, you'll notice this is the opposite attitude than my opinion with Eddy Curry's minutes. And again tonight Eddy was taken out late for a more defensive lineup. So what is my real solution for this balance between development and winning? On the one hand, I want Eddy Curry in the game to provide scoring, yet on the other I don't mind when Jamal gets taken out when he's not playing up to his potential. Now while I do admit that benching Jamal in the 4th was a good idea, he should have been put back into the game when in the last 5 minutes. Maybe he can stay off the floor for punishment if he had a better backup, but it was obvious that Brunson was detrimental on both sides of the ball. By putting him back in to win the game I don't think Skiles would have cheapened the message of his benching, and maybe Jamal would've responded positively. That way the message can be sent, but also you don't need to put out a lineup that cannot score to save its life. Because in what is even more glaring in person, those lineups are terrible to watch.

But I will conclude with this: I trust Scott Skiles with this delicate process. And I can't say the same for when Cartwright was here.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Suns Make a Deal The Phoenix Suns will be severly undermanned tonight against the Bulls after trading Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway to the Knicks this morning. I will be attending the game tonight, so I have conflicting views. As an NBA fan, I'm honestly mad that I dont get to see 'Starbury', one of my favorite players. But as a Bulls fan this all of a sudden becomes a very winnable game. I had a mega-post yesterday, so if you haven't read that already, scroll on down.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Anatomy of (another) Collapse Man, another heartbreaker for the Bulls as they blow another lead at home, this time to the Celtics. After a fun win (well they're all fun) against the Knicks on friday when Eddy Curry had a great 4th quarter after Antonio Davis banged up his creaky knees. Davis was back for last night's game, and the team looked solid in the first half. Sure the basketball was typical eastern-conference poor, but the Bulls had a 14 point lead at halftime. The best part of the game was undoubtedly the 2nd quarter run by the Bulls (and a quarter where the Celtics scored 9 points total). I have to admit I wasn't watching the game closely enough to notice who was on the floor during this run, so I went to the play-by-play. I wont lie, I picked the starting and stopping points of analysis to make a point :).
(10:19) [CHI] Davis Substitution replaced by Curry (10:19) [CHI] Team Rebound (10:19) [CHI] Hinrich Substitution replaced by Crawford (10:19) Jump Ball Blount vs Davis (10:13) [CHI 23-24] Curry Dunk Shot: Made (2 PTS) Assist: Crawford (1 AST) (9:55) [CHI] Gill Foul: Shooting (2 PF) (9:55) [BOS] Mihm Free Throw 1 of 2 missed (9:55) [BOS] Team Rebound (9:55) [CHI] Gill Substitution replaced by Brunson (9:55) [BOS] Mihm Free Throw 2 of 2 missed (9:54) [CHI] Curry Rebound (Off:0 Def:2) (9:33) [CHI 25-24] Blount Layup Shot: Made (4 PTS) (9:29) [BOS] Mihm Turnover: Bad Pass (2 TO) Steal: Robinson (1 ST) (9:11) [CHI] Robinson Jump Shot: Missed (9:10) [BOS] McCarty Rebound (Off:1 Def:3) (9:04) [BOS] McCarty Turnover: Lost Ball Out of Bounds (1 TO) (8:48) [CHI 27-24] Blount Turnaround Jump: Made (6 PTS) Assist: Brunson (1 AST) (8:31) [BOS] McCarty Jump Shot: Missed (8:31) [CHI] Team Rebound (8:31) [TBD] Timeout: Regular (8:31) [BOS] McCarty Substitution replaced by Baker (8:31) [BOS] Mihm Substitution replaced by Blount (8:20) [CHI 29-24] Curry Layup Shot: Made (4 PTS) Assist: Crawford (2 AST) (8:04) [CHI] Blount Foul: Personal (1 PF) (8:04) [BOS] Banks Substitution replaced by James (7:49) [BOS] Davis Turnover: Bad Pass (1 TO) Steal: Crawford (1 ST) (7:32) [CHI] Brunson Turnover: Lost Ball (1 TO) Steal: Blount (1 ST) (7:24) [BOS] James Jump Shot: Missed (7:21) [CHI] Curry Rebound (Off:0 Def:3) (7:10) [CHI] Blount Jump Shot: Missed (7:08) [BOS] Davis Rebound (Off:0 Def:3) (6:59) [BOS 26-29] Davis Layup Shot: Made (2 PTS) Assist: James (2 AST) (6:43) [CHI] Curry Turnover: 3 Second Violation (1 TO) (6:30) [BOS] Welsch Jump Shot: Missed (6:28) [CHI] Curry Rebound (Off:0 Def:4) (6:18) [CHI 31-26] Crawford Jump Shot: Made (9 PTS) (6:04) [BOS] Baker Layup Shot: Missed Block: Blount (2 BLK) (6:04) Jump Ball Blount vs Baker (6:04) [BOS] Team Rebound (5:54) [BOS] James Layup Shot: Missed (5:51) [BOS] Blount Rebound (Off:3 Def:2) (5:43) [BOS] Davis Layup Shot: Missed (5:41) [BOS] Baker Tip Shot: Missed (5:41) [BOS] Baker Rebound (Off:1 Def:0) (5:40) [CHI] Curry Rebound (Off:0 Def:5) (5:35) [CHI] Team Timeout: Regular (5:35) [CHI] Blount Substitution replaced by Williams (5:35) [CHI] Brunson Substitution replaced by Hinrich (5:35) [BOS] Welsch Substitution replaced by Pierce (5:22) [CHI 33-26] Curry Layup Shot: Made (6 PTS) Assist: Robinson (1 AST) (5:02) [BOS] James Jump Shot: Missed (4:59) [CHI] Williams Rebound (Off:2 Def:3) (4:36) [CHI] Curry Jump Shot: Missed (4:33) [BOS] Pierce Rebound (Off:0 Def:1) (4:25) [BOS] Pierce Turnover: Bad Pass (1 TO) Steal: Williams (1 ST) (4:17) [CHI 35-26] Crawford Jump Shot: Made (11 PTS) (4:00) [BOS] Davis Turnover: Bad Pass (2 TO) Steal: Curry (1 ST) (3:54) [CHI 37-26] Robinson Layup Shot: Made (2 PTS) Assist: Williams (1 AST) (3:50) [CHI] Team Violation: Delay of Game (3:50) [BOS] Team Timeout: Regular (3:50) [BOS] Davis Substitution replaced by McCarty (3:50) [BOS] Baker Substitution replaced by Welsch (3:50) [CHI] Curry Substitution replaced by Davis
To summarize, Curry comes in for Davis and makes a basket to give the team a 23-24 lead. His totals for the next 6 and a half minutes (including that basket) are 6pts in 3-4 shooting with 4 rebs and 1 TO. And as a 'bottom line' stat, he left the game with the score at 37-26, or in hockey terms a +10 rating while in the game. His (admittedly) poor defense didn't seem to help the Celts much since they only scored 2 points in this span. Now Lets look at the 4th quarter, at another critical junction:
(6:51) [CHI 67-68] Gill Jump Shot: Made (6 PTS) Assist: Fizer (1 AST) (6:37) [CHI] Gill Foul: Personal (3 PF) (6:31) [CHI] Curry Foul: Shooting (5 PF) (6:31) [CHI] Curry Substitution replaced by Davis (6:31) [BOS] James Free Throw 1 of 2 missed (6:31) [BOS] Team Rebound (6:31) [BOS] Mihm Substitution replaced by Blount (6:31) [BOS] James Free Throw 2 of 2 missed (6:29) [CHI] Davis Rebound (Off:1 Def:6) (6:09) [CHI] Fizer Jump Shot: Missed (6:07) [CHI] Davis Rebound (Off:2 Def:6) (6:04) [BOS] Blount Foul: Personal (4 PF) (5:56) [CHI] Crawford Jump Shot: Missed (5:53) [BOS] Welsch Rebound (Off:3 Def:3) (5:38) [BOS 70-67] James Jump Shot: Made (11 PTS) (5:13) [CHI] Gill Jump Shot: Missed (5:13) [BOS] Team Rebound (5:13) [CHI] Team Timeout: Regular (5:13) [CHI] Fizer Substitution replaced by Williams (5:00) [BOS 73-67] James Jump Shot: Made (14 PTS) Assist: Pierce (2 AST) (4:35) [BOS] Pierce Foul: Personal (3 PF) (4:35) [CHI 69-73] Williams Free Throw 1 of 2 (7 PTS) (4:35) [CHI 69-73] Williams Free Throw 2 of 2 (7 PTS) (4:20) [BOS] Pierce Turnover: Bad Pass (2 TO) Steal: Crawford (2 ST) (4:16) [CHI] Crawford Turnover: Lost Ball (2 TO) Steal: James (2 ST) (4:13) [CHI] Davis Foul: Shooting (3 PF) (4:13) [BOS 74-69] James Free Throw 1 of 2 (15 PTS) (4:13) [BOS 75-69] James Free Throw 2 of 2 (16 PTS) (4:00) [CHI] Davis Turnover: Bad Pass (2 TO) Steal: James (3 ST) (3:54) [BOS] James Layup Shot: Missed (3:52) [CHI] Crawford Rebound (Off:0 Def:4) (3:48) [CHI] Davis Jump Shot: Missed (3:46) [BOS] McCarty Rebound (Off:1 Def:7) (3:37) [BOS] Pierce Layup Shot: Missed (3:35) [CHI] Williams Rebound (Off:5 Def:6) (3:31) [CHI] Gill Layup Shot: Missed (3:30) [BOS] Welsch Rebound (Off:3 Def:4) (3:29) Jump Ball Williams vs Welsch (3:29) [BOS] Welsch Turnover: Lost Ball (2 TO) Steal: Williams (3 ST) (3:05) [CHI] Williams Jump Shot: Missed (3:03) [CHI] Williams Rebound (Off:6 Def:6) (3:02) [CHI] Williams Jump Shot: Missed (3:00) [BOS] McCarty Rebound (Off:1 Def:8) (2:44) [CHI] Gill Foul: Shooting (4 PF) (2:44) [BOS] Team Timeout: Regular (2:44) [BOS 76-69] Pierce Free Throw 1 of 2 (25 PTS) (2:44) [CHI] Williams Substitution replaced by Robinson (2:44) [BOS 77-69] Pierce Free Throw 2 of 2 (26 PTS) (2:31) [CHI] Gill Jump Shot: Missed (2:28) [BOS] McCarty Rebound (Off:1 Def:9) (2:17) [BOS 79-69] Pierce Jump Shot: Made (28 PTS) Assist: James (3 AST) (2:04) [BOS] Welsch Foul: Personal (1 PF) (2:04) [CHI] Crawford Free Throw 1 of 2 missed (2:04) [CHI] Team Rebound (2:04) [CHI 70-79] Crawford Free Throw 2 of 2 (16 PTS) (1:52) [BOS 81-70] Pierce Driving Dunk: Made (30 PTS) (1:46) [CHI] Hinrich Turnover: Stepped out of Bounds (6 TO) (1:24) [BOS] McCarty Jump Shot: Missed (1:21) [CHI] Crawford Rebound (Off:0 Def:5) (1:19) [CHI] Team Timeout: Short (1:19) [CHI] Crawford Substitution replaced by Johnson (1:16) [BOS] Blount Foul: Shooting (5 PF) (1:16) [CHI] Gill Substitution replaced by Jefferies (1:16) [CHI 71-81] Hinrich Free Throw 1 of 2 (5 PTS) (1:16) [CHI] Davis Substitution replaced by Williams
In this 7 and half span, Davis comes in the game and does the following: 0pts on 0-1 shooting, 2 rebs, a TO and a shooting foul. And accumulated a -9 rating as the Celtics put the game out of reach. I know this is very crude analysis, and doesn't take much into account besides the end results, but I just remember in this 4th quarter hoping and praying that Curry would be put back into the game for Davis while the game slipped farther and farther away. All a fan needed to do is look back one night to see how Curry helps out in late game situations. I know that Skiles (and Cartwright before him) prefer a veteran and 'defensive' lineup to close out games, but you also need somebody in the frontcourt who can make the defense respect you. And nobody expects Antonio Davis to make a play late in the game. When he gets the ball in the post, its obvious that he's going to be looking to hand it off to Jamal Crawford or another jumpshooter. What Curry can do is command respect (and double teams) from the defense to make plays himself or free up the perimeter. And I value that more importantly than whatever Davis can bring with 'intangibles'. Look, I like the trade bringing Antonio Davis here. And he is undoubtedly a better defender and rebounder than Curry. But I had a different role envisioned for him than how he's being used now:
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.
Like many problems with this team, this situation should be alleviated somewhat by the return of Tyson Chandler. Even without Chandler though, Antonio Davis' minutes should be reduced to make more time for Eddy Curry. Hopefully this changes as he gradually gets his stamina built up, but putting Curry in at the end of games not only would help the team win games right now, but further his development as the future of the franchise. (whew). Tommorow's game is at home against the Phoenix Suns. This will be my second game at the United Center this year, hopefully it turns out better than the last one.