Friday, March 05, 2004

Marcus Fizer, R.I.P.

A Bulls career came to an end today, as Marcus Fizer was placed on the IR with the typical mysterious injury they give to guys who aren't injured. This was to make room for 6'10" Paul Shirley, recently signed from the ABA. This is the same ABA that Kobe Bryant's 49 year old dad scored 18 points in a game a few days ago. So I suppose the the talent level there is only slightly below the Bulls. (zing!)

But this is a sad end to one of my favorite Bulls players, Marcus Fizer. He is a restricted free agent this summer, and there is no chance the team will match any offer by another team. And Marcus sees the writing on the wall:

            "July 1 is the day I'm shooting for," Fizer said before the Bulls played New Orleans on Wednesday. "I can't wait. That's like Christmas to me.

            "I'll probably be already down here. I don't think I'm getting in a boat, but I'll be somewhere in the general area. I won't be in Chicago, I know that."

When you've been near the cellar for as many years as the Bulls have, you accumulate a lot of lottery picks. There's been Brand, Artest, Crawford, Chandler, Curry, Jay Williams..etc. Marcus Fizer, selected as the 4th overall pick in the 2000 draft, always seemed like an afterthought. This is partly because the 2001 draft was so awful, take a look at the top 10 picks:


1. New Jersey Nets      PF Kenyon Martin, Cincinnati
2. Vancouver Grizzlies   PF Stromile Swift, LSU
3. L.A. Clippers            SF Darius Miles, East St. Louis, Ill.
4. Chicago Bulls            PF Marcus Fizer, Iowa State
5. Orlando Magic          SF Mike Miller, Florida
6. Atlanta Hawks           SG DerMarr Johnson, Cincinnati
7. Chicago Bulls             C Chris Mihm, Texas
                                      Traded to Cleveland
8. Cleveland Cavaliers    PG Jamal Crawford, Michigan
                                      Traded to Chicago
9. Houston Rockets        C Joel Pryzbilla, Minnesota
                                      Traded to Milwaukee
10. Orlando Magic          PG Keyon Dooling, Missouri
                                      Traded to Los Angeles Clippers

Lord have mercy, that's a terrible group. Urban legend in the Chicago area has it that then-GM Jerry 'crumbs' Krause was pining for Miles, and after he was taken it became a best-available scenario. Marcus was definitely lottery-pick material, he had a fantastic college career at Iowa State, but with Elton Brand on the team the pick seemed odd at best. The most likely scenario is that Bulls and former Iowa St. coach Tim Floyd pressured Krause to take Fizer. Hmm...what if they had taken Mike Miller instead, they wouldn't have to worry about their SF problems they've had the past 5 years (and don't say Ron Artest).

So ever since he was drafted, Fizer was rumored to be traded. He was supposedly going to the Blazers on draft day for Jermaine O'Neal. Every draft day and trading deadline since then he was rumored to be part of a deal, including this past deadline. Meanwhile Fizer never lived up to his promise, but nonetheless looked like an effective scorer and even was considered as the top 6th man in the league last season before an ACL injury ended his season. This season he started slow as he recovered from the injury, and never got in Coach Skiles' rotation since then. Throughout his tenure, I always thought he never got a fair shake from the organization. The one thing I liked about Marcus is that he never complained about his role on the team, which is rare considering his draft status. He seemed adept at filling a role on the bench, and sometimes its hard to get a young player to accept that.

But this isn't to say his game didn't have deficiencies. He was always undersized as a PF, and could never adept to moving to the SF position. And his explosiveness that allowed him to go past larger defenders may have been hampered since the knee injury. This was in fact his worst shooting season of his career. Fizer was a good rebounder, yet he couldn't really guard anybody. And his lack of passing is legendary at the  United Center, go to a game where he gets the ball and all you hear is the people going "there goes the black hole".

But like I said, Marcus was always one of my favorite Bulls. And I hope he finds a home this summer where he can get the playing time he deserves. In a league where Rick Brunson can get his 15 minutes a game, you have to think there's a piece of the NBA pie for Fizer. One possible destination is the New Orleans Hornets, to be reunited with his biggest supporter Tim Floyd. Another is a shot with the expansion Charlotte Bobcats. One thing I do know is that we may have seen the last of Marcus Fizer in a Bulls Uniform. We hardly knew thee....

Note: check out a new basketballblog on the block, the KnickerBlogger. Aside from an awesome name, he is really putting up great stuff on there. Even though its about the hated Knicks, its very entertaining and informative. And he uses tables! Check out today's offering where he and Scott from Raptorblog switch places. How come I've never been asked to guestblog? :)

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Blount Waived

PF/C Corie Blount was waived today by the Bulls. Blount was injured 3 days ago during practice. I guess he was pretty hurt. Corie actually had a decent year for the club, and was practically lights out when he had that open jump shot. Again he was forced to play too many minutes (along with Antonio Davis) due to the injuries and general ineffectiveness of Curry and Chandler.

Anyway it was suggested in the comments of my last post that the Bulls' waive Chris Jefferies instead of Blount. Corie was signed to a 1-year deal with a team option for next year. Jefferies however is still on his rookie contract and is guaranteed for next year. If the Bulls waived him he would be still paid next year, like Dalibor Bagaric

So the roster spot vacated by Blount may be used on ABA big-man  Paul Shirley...if that excites you. Or maybe even former Bull Lonny Baxter??

Monday, March 01, 2004

The BluePrint

Good to be back. The Bulls are currently playing the Cavs as I'm typing this, but in my area the game isn't shown. But I think its fitting that I'm not even seeing the game because in all actuality the individual games don't matter anymore. What is more important than one game is the states of these two similar teams. Even the most insanely optimistic of fans cannot see the Bulls reaching their preseason goals of the playoffs. But the time of reflection on what went wrong and what needs to be done can be done at greater depth and breadth at the end of the year. For now I want to discuss a team that is close to reaching the goal that the Bulls set: tonight's opponents, the Cavs. 

How similar are the two teams? Well speaking in the terms of current rebuilding phase, they are both teams that are looking to make a return to respectability. They have both very young talent as well as some imported veterans. And hell, the two GMs are brothers.

Cavaliers Roster            
    2003-04 Roster          
   4 Tony Battie C-F 2/11/1976 Texas Tech '98 6
   1 Carlos Boozer F-C 11/20/1981 Duke '03 1
   44 Ruben Boumtje Boumtje(IR) C 5/20/1978 Georgetown '01 2
   3 J.R. Bremer(IR) G 9/19/1980 St. Bonaventure '02 1
   5 Kedrick Brown G-F 3/18/1981 Okaloosa-Walton CC FL (J.C.) '03 2
   52 DeSagana Diop F 1/30/1982 Oak Hill Academy HS (VA) 2
   11 Zydrunas Ilgauskas C 6/5/1975 Lithuania 5
   23 LeBron James G 12/30/1984 St. Vincent-St. Mary HS (OH) R
   24 Jason Kapono F 2/2/1981 UCLA '03 R
   0 Jeff McInnis G 10/22/1974 North Carolina '97 6
   14 Ira Newble F 1/20/1975 Miami (Ohio) '97 3
   12 Kevin Ollie G 12/27/1972 Connecticut '95 6
   2 Dajuan Wagner G 2/4/1983 Memphis '05 1
   55 Eric Williams F-G 7/17/1972 Providence '95 8


I'll start with the vets first, and how they compare  the Bulls. The Cav organization can really thank Celtics GM Danny Ainge for giving them 2 hard-working role players in Tony Battie and Eric Williams in the Ricky Davis swap. These are the types of players that coaches love, especially former Celtics coach Jim O'Brien who said that dealing Williams and Battie away was the leading factor in his abrupt resignation. Are Battie and Williams better mid-season additions than Antonio Davis and Jerome Williams? I think they're actually quite even, although in terms of age and salary the Cavs players have the advantage. They also have good veterans in the backcourt with the recently acquired Jeff McInnis and former Bull Kevin Ollie. Actually along with J.R. Bremer they have 3 point guards better than Rick Brunson. But is the difference in bench players really accountable for the two teams' contrasting fortunes? There's actually a far more obvious reason.

What wins in the NBA is the stars. Obviously the term 'star' is relative, its probably better to say 'core players' of the team. And that moreso than the supporting cast is what separates these two teams. On the Bulls' side you can say that the team's fortune rides on Curry, Chandler, Crawford, and Hinrich. It says volumes that Hinrich is probably the most consistent of the group, and as a result the team play is inherently inconsistent. For the Cavaliers, they obviously have a young star in James. But they also have consistent play from Carlos Boozer and Big Z. Boozer in fact is emerging as one of the premier young frontcourt players in the East. James' brilliance this year has really given the team something that the Bulls are still looking for in their young players, a leader to take them to the playoffs.

So while on the surface the teams have similar personnel and status, the Cavaliers are on the brink of the playoffs for a reason. Their marquee talent is simply outplaying the Bulls' counterparts all year, and that makes more of a difference than any fine tuning the brothers Paxson could do to their teams. Hey...but it looks like the Bulls won while I typed this all up :)