Posted by sportsmaven on May 22, 2011
You heard it here first if you already haven’t witnessed it firsthand tonight. The NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals are over. The Chicago Bulls have no chance of winning against this Miami Heat team. Not in a seven game series. Not when the Bulls vaunted defense is neutered by NBA referees when they decide to play defense. Not when the Bulls don’t follow their game plan. Not when the Bulls again can’t make a basket. Not when the Bulls are bullied, pushed around, out-muscled, out-hustled and out-classed. Not if they play defense like they did tonight.
Believe what you want about the Bulls, but know this: The Bulls are in the midst of learning a serious lesson and if they don’t get their act together soon, their season will be over. When you turn on your TV tomorrow, I can almost guarantee that you will hear ESPN’s Skip Bayless say the series is over and he won’t be the only one that holds that opinion.
ESPN, TNT and Comcast Sports Net, analysts have all talked about the benches being a factor, but they are absolutely wrong. What it comes down to is Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh vs. Derrick Rose, and the level of defense each team plays and that’s it. The rest is all coffee house chatter. The problem with this Chicago Bulls team is that I don’t trust them. Not in these playoffs. They have played two good games in a lackluster first round matchup against an inferior Indiana Pacers team. They played two somewhat dominant games in the second round against a very beatable Atlanta Hawks team that played even less physical than the Pacers. The Bulls played their most dominant game of the post-season in Game 1 of the Conference Finals and haven’t shown up since.
For the last three days leading up to Game 3, I’ve heard the Bulls talk extensively about wanting to push the pace, attack before Miami sets up their half-court defense, be aggressive. What I saw tonight was the Bulls walking the ball up nearly every possession, settling for jump shots, no movement of the ball, and no drive, kick and shoot. Too many missed shots under the basket. As for the Bulls players, what happened to Joakim Noah and Luol Deng? Kyle Korver’s shot still MIA. Carlos Boozer offensive game appeared tonight, but as usual, his defense was atrocious.
On defense, the Bulls had too many breakdowns, bad or no rotations, little help defense and virtually no aggression. Nobody in a red jersey touched Chris Bosh tonight and it showed. Little intensity, passion and desire in the 4th quarter equals yet another winnable loss. Miami seemed to get to all the loose balls and seemed to have all the bounces go their way.
As for the Heat, give them credit, they executed their game plan. They let go of Game 1, made their adjustments and cranked it up a notch. They executed the Bulls game plan better than the Bulls did while they were at it. They played defense the way the Bulls have played defense the entire season, something the Bulls have seemed to forget to play at times throughout the playoffs.
Now that the Heat have figured the Bulls out, shut down Derrick Rose and wrestled home court advantage away from the Bulls, how will coach Tom Thibodeau and his young team respond? So far, the Bulls have had absolutely no answers for the Heat’s adjustments, nor have they matched the Heat’s intensity and hustle. Game 4 becomes critical, the most important game of the season. And by the way, all the pressure is squarely on the Bulls. I can guarantee you this, the Bulls will learn a lesson on Tuesday night. Only time will tell if they are mentally strong enough to learn the lesson now, next year or if they will ever learn it.
Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: Atlanta Hawks, Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, Comcast Sports Net, Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, ESPN, Indiana Pacers, Joakim Noah, Kyle Korver, Lebron James, Luol Deng, Miami Heat, NBA, TNT | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on July 8, 2010
Who in their right mind would dare write anything suggesting that the Chicago Bulls might be better off without LeBron James? After all, LeBron James is considered by nearly everyone in the world outside the city of Los Angeles to be the best basketball player in the world. How can the Chicago Bulls be better off without LeBron? Well the answer to that question depends on the LeBron James that you get — the best basketball player in the world, who wants to legitimize his basketball legacy by winning — and winning multiple NBA Championships, or the LeBron James that is morphing into this persona of a global media icon?
In past interviews leading up to his free agency, LeBron has spoken about cemeting his legacy by winning multiple NBA Championships. He has also spoken about building himself up as a global icon and his desire to be the first billionaire athlete. What I’m unclear about is which is more important, and that unclarity should be resolved in about 8 hours, when LeBron picks his “choice” on ESPN.
Chicago seemed to be the early favorite in the LeBron derby, offering the best roster that would allow James to compete for titles immediately. As rumors persisted that Chicago was moving down the list of possibilities, the Bulls reportedly reached agreement with former Utah Jazz PF Carlos Boozer on a very cap favorable 5 year, $75 million deal, filling a major hole in the Bulls lineup, a hole that has existed for years. With a young nucleus of PG Derrick Rose, C Joakim Noah, surprising rookie PF Taj Gibson, and even SF Luol Deng, if he ever reaches his potential, Boozer provides the grit and determination of a back-to-the-basket inside game that the Bulls have lacked since the Jordan days.
Adding LeBron James to the mix would vault the Bulls to the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, especially if you get the best basketball player in the world version. Even with all the hype, the circus-like atmosphere and potential disenfranchisement of many basketball fans for the garish way in which this free agency season ended up for the Big 3 of LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, the Bulls may somehow be better off without LeBron.
If LeBron chooses Miami and links up with Wade and Bosh, there will be one less team (The Cleveland Cavaliers) competing for dominance in the Eastern Conference. In addition, the “Three Amigos” and a remaining roster of minimum salary players is still not guaranteed to be a championship roster, not to mention the potential ego clashes once play begins. Anywhere else, LeBron is no better than his situation is in Cleveland — other than Chicago. If LeBron chooses not to come to Chicago, the Bulls can spend their remaining $18 million of cap space on getting quality role players (a pure shooter or two, backup center for instance) that truly make the difference between contending and winning championships (ask Kobe Bryant about Ron Artest and Derek Fisher). Finally, the Bulls would not have to deal with a circus-like environment that would enevitably follow James wherever he goes.
Believe it or not, the Chicago Bulls are in the driver’s seat tonight so to speak. They have the least to lose in the LeBron sweepstakes. If LeBron is not in Chicago, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it might be the beginning of a run of championships that could potentially rival the Jordan days.
Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, Cleveland Cavaliers, Derek Fisher, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, ESPN, Joakim Noah, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Luol Deng, Ron Artest, Taj Gibson | 6 Comments »
Posted by sportsmaven on January 26, 2009
This has not been the best of weeks for a beleagured Chicago Bulls basketball franchise. This week may be, perhaps the most trying and challenging week in the last 10 years since the drama filled Bulls championship run ended in 1998. With tonight’s 109-108 OT loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Bulls end the week with a five game losing streak. The Bulls have looked unprepared, disjointed, and uninspired. And now, G Ben Gordon airs his dirty laundry out on a rookie head coach in a profanity laced tirade over his objections to a fine for being late for the team flight. The argument just happened to occur in plain sight of the local Chicago sportswriting media. It may be an inflection point for a franchise that has seen more turmoil of late than championship caliber basketball.
Chicago Bulls forward Thabo Sefolosha (2), guard Kirk Hinrich (12), and forward Tyrus Thomas (24) look on from the bench in the final seconds of their 109-108 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in overtime in an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)
Where did it all go wrong for the Chicago Bulls? The Bulls ended the 2006-2007 season with a record of 49-33, one win away from the magical 50 win mark, an acheivement the Bulls have not accomplished since 1998, the year of the 6th and final NBA Championship. In the 2006-07 playoffs, the Bulls swept the defending NBA Champions, the Miami Heat decisively in 4 games. In the Eastern Conference semi-finals, the Bulls ran into a buzzsaw, losing the first three games of the series to the Detroit Pistons, but showed great heart and fight by coming back to win the next two games, including a game in Detroit, before bowing out of the playoffs in a 95-85 Game 6 loss. These Bulls were positioned to skyrocket back to prominence in the Eastern Conference, with some experts picking the Bulls as a favorite to win the conference in 2007-08.
The Bulls took three steps back in 2007 and continue to take yet another step back this season, and it clearly shows when looking at the performance over the last season and a half. There are three reasons why the Bulls are in a free-fall. They are:
1. Lack of growth and development from the core players of this team. F Luol Deng eventually received his long term contract, signing a 6 year, $71 million contract in July 2008. He’s proceeded to become oft injured and his improvement has stalled as his missed time increased.scoring, rebounding and assist totals have decreased three years in a row. G Ben Gordon signed the one year tender again, after initially stating he would not play for the Bulls again, and remains a perfect 6th man that demands to be a starter, a scorer extreme, and defensive liability. C Joakim Noah has made virtually no progress in improving his game, irking veteran teammates with untimely, unwise criticism, while averaging 5.8 pts and 5.8 rebounds in his very short, very unenergetic career. F Tyrus Thomas is one of the most athletic players in the NBA, but after 2/12 seasons, 187 games, he is shown only incremental improvement. Add in the inconsistent play of G Thabo Sefolosha, the young core of the Bulls team has shown a clear lack of development.
2. When the Bulls fired Scott Skiles, management removed one of the only legitimate symbols of a winning mindset. Coaching in the NBA is part knowledge of the game and part psychologist, and Skiles had a history of taking talented teams and getting them to buy into his program of selfless sharing on offense and hustling, all out play on defense, which ultimately leads to winning. He lifted a struggling Phoenix Suns team to the playoffs, but was fired after the team stopped responding to his demanding, hard-charging style and started to tune him out. The same thing happened in Chicago. Now Skiles is the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks and he has the Bucks in the 8th and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference if the season ended today. The Bucks appear to be responding to Skiles coaching style quite nicely. After Skiles, the Bulls needed to either reshape the roster, or hire a coach to take them from Point A to Point B. What they did was whiff badly on their first to choices for coach (Mike D’Antoni and Doug Collins) ultimately taking a chance on a rookie coach (Vinny Del Negro) who has never coachedbasketball on any level, who has a reputation for being a communicative “players coach”, the philosophical opposite of Skiles. To date, that risk appears to have not panned out, with speculation of DelNegro losing the team already and rumors that he may not be around to finish the season.
3. Management has failed to acquire one superstar who can carry a team and provide leadership on the floor. Bulls General Manager John Paxson has tried to bring an atmosphere of winning back the Bulls organization. He has focused on drafting and acquiring players that have played for high profile, winning collegiate basketball programs such as Duke Blue Devils (Deng and G Chris Duhon), Connecticut Huskies (Gordon), national championship runner up Kansas Jayhawks (G Kirk Hinrich and F Drew Gooden), and the national champion Florida Gators (Noah). While the group of players Paxson acquired are solid basketball players, they are all role players of a supporting cast lacking a true superstar caliber player. Paxson, like his predecessor, Jerry Krause, has whiffed on acquiring ultratalented superstars such as G Kobe Bryant and F Kevin Garnett, instead, opting for a past his prime C Ben Wallace, who signed such an albatross contract, that Paxson had to take on the equally bad contract of G Larry Hughes to move Wallace. The Bulls did luck out in winning the 2008 NBA Draft lottery, yielding Chicago-native G Derrick Rose from University of Memphis. Rose is young and an up and coming superstar, but is not there yet. Until he gets there, the Bulls will struggle with the roster they have today.
The remainder of this Bulls season should be focused on finding out if Vinny DelNegro is the right coach, identifying players on the current roster who can play with Derrick Rose, and positioning themselves as far under the salary cap as they can get in 2010, when they can grab any one of a host of superstars from a free agent class headed by F LeBron James, F Chris Bosh, F Dirk Nowitzki, G Dwayne Wade, amongst others. Anything outside of this may signal the end of the John Paxson era in Chicago.
Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: Ben Gordon, Ben Wallace, Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, Chris Duhon, Connecticut Huskies, Derrick Rose, Detroit Pistons, Dirk Nowitzki, Doug Collins, Drew Gooden, Duke Blue Devils, Dwayne Wade, Eastern Conference, Florida Gators, Joakim Noah, John Paxson, Kansas Jayhawks, Kevin Garnett, Kirk Hinrich, Kobe Bryant, Larry Hughes, Lebron James, Luol Deng, Miami Heat, Mike D'Antoni, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA, NBA Finals, Phoenix Suns, Scott Skiles, Thabo Sefolosha, Tyrus Thomas, University of Memphis, Vinny DelNegro | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on August 24, 2008
The US Men’s Basketball team won gold tonight. They beat an upstart team from Spain. I just finished watching the game and don’t recall the final score. What I do recall is not how we won, but how we competed. The US Men’s Basketball team was nicknamed “The Redeem Team”, with the notion that this team was to reclaim the gold for the once storied and dominant US basketball program. They were to restore the pride lost in the 1972 games, the 2004 Olympics, the World Championships. They were to right all the wrongs made in American basketball since the original Dream Team of 1992, called the best team ever to step foot on a basketball court. What they did was so much more.
This team brought back respectability, sportsmanship, and dignity back to American athletes. Each man put aside their personal interests in favor of the goals and accomplishments of the team. No players stood out more in that endeavor than Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. The loudest cheers from the NBA crazed Chinese audience was for the two best players on the planet and rightfully so.
The Olympic Games are the embodiment of good sportsmanship and fair play. It’s an opportunity to put the harshness of political differences aside for a brief moment, a time to rally around patriotism and love of country. The U.S. basketball team taught us all that and more. They taught us to love and appreciate basketball at it’s patriotic best once again.
Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: Basketball, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Olympics | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on February 6, 2007
The Chicago Bulls continue their march through the Western Conference on their current 7 game road trip. They must have taken some cues from their football bretheren in Chicago, as the Bulls were beat pretty handily by the Utah Jazz 100-95. Coach Scott Skiles said the Bulls played hard, but not smart. (sound familiar?). Basically, they could not keep up with 6’11″ Jazz C Mehmet Okur yet again. The book is out on the Bulls – exploit them in the middle, especially late in the game. The Bulls still lack a back to the basket post-up player.
With the trading deadline a couple of weeks away, I can tell you right now that I don’t like a Pau Gasol trade at all. He couldn’t cut it in Memphis. Some believe that he doesn’t want to be “The Man” and that going to a team where he can be a second or third option would benefit his game. My feeling is that the Bulls have enough guys on the team who are second or third options. What the Bulls need is someone who is feared, someone who can take over when the game is on the line. Seeing as guys like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Gilbert Arenas, and others are locked up with their perspective teams, it only makes send to go after a guy like Kevin Garnett, to be that go-to guy. Meanwhile, the Bulls are 28-21 and 2-2 on the 7 game road trip.
What do you think about a Kevin Garnett scenario to the Bulls? It’s got to be better than Pau Gasol……thoughts?
Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: Chicago Bulls, Gilbert Arenas, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Mehmet Okur, Pau Gasol, Scott Skiles, Utah Jazz, Western Conference | Leave a Comment »