Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I come not to bury Luol Deng, but to praise him

In honor of the Bulls fallen rookie, here's my post from a month ago that goes into just how important Luol Deng is to this team. No need to re-hash what we already know.

But in regards to his replacement, Andres Nocioni, the prospects are worrying at best. While another solid rookie, Noc is obviously no Luol Deng.  Nocioni's poor offensive efficiency (10.08 PER) undoubtedly contributes to the fact that Deng leads the Bulls in +/-.

On the other end of the court, Nocioni is a rugged defender (and superior to Deng), to the point where one might even call him a dirty defender. Not that it stops the Bruce Bowens of the world from being important stoppers on playoff (and in Bowen's case, championship) teams, but Nocioni needs to be careful. As the only true '3' left on the roster (I'm guessing Skiles will try and mix in Griffin and Pike in that spot as well), Nocioni can't let his aggressive mindset get him in foul trouble. It will be a fine line for him, since his reckless abandon is what has made him productive, best shown at his veteran-like ability to coax referees into charging his opponents with offensive fouls. Just remember the way he hassled Lebron James last week. But sometimes his exuberance can get out of hand, as in tonight:

The game had an ugly ending. Haslem was ejected with 2:52 left after retaliating for a hard foul committed against Wade by Nocioni.

Wade drove into the left corner and was fouled hard by Nocioni, who then struck Wade a second time -- this time in the back, knocking him to the floor. Haslem charged toward Nocioni and shoved him, sending him sprawling over some cameramen seated near the baseline.

Nocioni was called for a flagrant foul and a technical. He was not ejected, but was escorted off the court by Bulls team personnel.

I didn't watch much of the game tonight against the Heat, expecting a beatdown for the Bulls (who were without Curry). I had early optimism after learning Shaq was out, but after a 20 point deficit at the half my attention was fully elsewhere. From what I heard on the post-game, Nocioni's hard foul on Wade was in retaliation to a previous foul. Whether Noc was justified or not (and I surely don't blame Haslem in the least for protecting his team's star), this is the type of situation he needs to avoid the rest of the way. While hurting the Bulls on the court when compared to Luol Deng, Noc is sorely needed on that court in Deng's absence. Else we'll be pining for the days of Linton Johnson.