Tuesday, September 21, 2004

How To....Pt. 2

Kevin Pelton (of Page23 fame, and now employed by the (super)Sonics) had the following to say[see what happens when you leave comments? -ed.] regarding my last post concerning the hoops community's fixation on Jerry Krause:

The "championship or bust" mentality is one of my least favorite things about American sports and just not a good way to think in my opinion. Only one team a year is going to win it all, so if you position anything else as not enough, you're setting yourself up for failure. There is a substantial difference between being a playoff team and being a 20-win team.

What I meant by highlighting Krause's singular aspirations for a championship was not necessarily 'championship or bust'. I'm assuming what Kevin is referring to is the attitude similar to that the New York Yankees have entering each season. In a team like that with an owner like that, not winning the championship every year is followed by roster overhauls that seem like the transactional equivalent of a temper tantrum. What Krause meant (and I'm guessing, of course) by trying to building a champion was not without a corollary knowing that it couldn't be done in a day. When evaluating your team, whether it is a 20-win or a playoff one, its not enough to question where the team is, but also look where it is going. And for that second question,  Krause's target was a championship. I don't think he necessarily believed in that to the point that he lost sense of the intermediate goals (as in, say, making the playoffs for once) along the way.

Kevin offers up his usual superior (superior to me at least) writing in the Krause epitaph he wrote following Krause's resignation in spring 2003. One point in the article that I neglected prior was Krause's track record hiring coaches. It does serve Krause's legacy well that he hired Phil Jackson, but unfortunately I think he tried to use that same hiring philosophy (taking a chance on an unproven) to mangle his next hires: Tim Floyd and Bill Cartwright. I can't believe I forgot to mention Floyd as one of Krause's blunders, but that's probably because I've been trying my damndest to purge him from memory.

I didn't want my previous post to be a similar retrospective on Krause's career, which is why I didn't delve into the Jalen Rose trade. What I wanted instead was the opposite, for national coverage to focus on where this team is going, instead of picking on the surly, slouchy, fat man who was on the receiving end of ridicule even when the team he ran was winning 6 championships. Although I guess by devoting all these words lately to Krause, I have gotten sucked in to the same thing I was trying to stop :-) .

Sunday, September 19, 2004

How to get your Bulls Article noticed:

Step 1: Talk about how Jerry Krause's supposed ineptitude.
Step 2: Repeat Step 1.

This seems to be the theme in the post-dynasty era. It is hard to find anything written about where the Bulls are going, instead of rather where they've been. First it was the breakup of the Dynasty, and how former GM Jerry Krause caused it to end before its time. After that got tired (although obviously not for everyone), the new premise became bemoaning the breakup of a 20-win team featuring Elton Brand, Ron Artest, et. al. I guess its the fail-safe way for writers to get attention to their article. Most casual readers demonize Krause, so in a way it makes sense. I would just like to see once in a while that this team gets judged at face-value instead of dredging up past misfortunes. 

The really disappointing thing about this particular article is that for the most part is actually very good, and not completely unfair to Krause like, say, a comparable Jay Mariotti column would be. Unlike most revisionist retellings of the post-dynasty years, this actually shows the method to what Krause's perceived madness was:

"Despite drafting the consistently solid, if unspectacular, Brand in 1999, Krause came to believe Brand wasn't a championship power forward, so he was traded. "

Well he' right about Brand so far, isn't he? Problem is Tyson Chandler (although some would say that the Brand trade was really for Curry) isn't exactly a championship power forward either.

"Despite acquiring the versatile Miller and drafting the defensive firebrand Artest, Krause thought a team of 20-year-olds needed a scorer who could drop 19 in his sleep, so both were dealt in a package for Jalen Rose (no longer with the team, either). "

Oh man, what a great team we had with Miller and Artest. Oh wait, that team was TERRIBLE. Even worse, it was boring and struggled to score 80 on a given night. Krause was right about that team needing a scorer, but was way off on Jalen Rose being that missing piece. That trade really was an interesting one from many angles, and deserves its own post one day.

"And despite initially showing the kind of faith in Crawford that helped him become a burgeoning scoring machine, Krause's impatience with his pet project prompted him to draft Jay Williams instead of Dunleavy. The alienation that set in with Crawford soon turned him into a shoot-first chucker bent only on piling up the statistics necessary to earn the type of moronic contract the Knicks just signed him to this summer."

First off, even though Jay Williams went Evil Kenievel on us, is Dunleavy setting the world on fire? And I don't think anyone could fault drafting Jay Williams at the time. Unlike Krause's 'projects', Williams was the first lottery pick available to the Bulls to be advertised as being an immediate star. (only Ben Gordon comes close) In fact I remember at the time there were fans dreading that the Bulls would win the lottery that year and draft Yao Ming instead of Williams. The worst part about this argument, though, is the implication that it was Krause's fault Jamal Crawford turned into a 'shoot-first chucker'. What's more likely is that Jamal turned into a shoot-first chucker because he is a shoot-first chucker. If the competition at his position really drove Jamal to act that way, then he obviously lacks the mindset to be a contributor on a championship team anyway.

Being a championship team, that was always Krause's one goal, and this is also correctly said in the article. Having your lineup as Miller/Brand/Artest/Crawford/Dunleavy is better than what the Bulls have now, but isn't going to get you any banners, and Krause knew that. What attributes he had in his vision though, were blemished by his poor (okay...awful) execution.

The REST of this season preview (you know, regarding this years team) is well thought-out and highly recommended for reading. There is a great point made about the potential problem with Coach Skiles' style, and for good measure some nice cheap-shots at Eddie Robinson and Chris Jefferies. (I won't comment on the line regarding Pippen's desire to stick it to Reinsdorf. No need opening that bag of cats again). In fact, if there's nothing much else to write about this week, I'll delve into these points in more detail.

Even though Krause left a little more than a year ago, there are only 3 players left from his tenure, proving that this is John Paxson's team now. Hopefully the upcoming season will cause next season's preview to focus not on Krause, but how Paxson turned it around.