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 April 21, 2008
The NBA playoffs started this weekend and noticeably absent are the Chicago Bulls. While the best teams in the NBA begin the “money” season, teams like the Milwaukee Bucks hire disciplinarian coaches like Scott Skiles. Other teams like the Chicago Bulls are holding their off season team meetings and wondering what to make of the mess of a wrecked season.
In the NBA, like other major professional sports leagues, teams win with a combination of athleticism/talent and desire. With talent and desire, you are the San Antonio Spurs or the Boston Celtics. With lack of athleticism/talent, but an abundance of desire, you can be teams like this year’s Philadelphia 76ers and in the past, teams like the Chicago Bulls. Teams with neither talent or desire become the Memphis Grizzlies or the New York Knicks.
What exactly happened with the Chicago Bulls this season? The Bulls were a team with little talent but with great desire. They worked, hustled, played defense according to the gospel of John Paxson and Scott Skiles. It brought the Bulls 49 wins last season, a playoff series win against the rapidly aging Miami Heat, and a heated playoff series loss to the Detroit Pistons. Entering this season, the Chicago Bulls had a high draft pick, compliments of the New York Knicks and all their starters returning from last season’s successful run. Many picked the Bulls to win the Eastern Conference and advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since the Michael Jordan era.
Then, two things happened that led to the downfall of this year’s team. First, Bulls GM John Paxson knew that he needed a superstar talent to lead this team. Every successful team in the NBA, short of the Detroit Pistons, have a superstar player, a team leader, the guy that will take over in crunch time of a game and impose the will to win on his teammates. Paxson missed badly on acquiring C Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves and whiffed a couple of times on trades for C Pau Gasol. Paxson had drafted some very nice complementary players from solid, winning college programs after cleaning up the mess left by previous Bulls GM Jerry Krause, but none had proven to be the superstar, athletic talent that teams require to compete in the upper echelon of NBA championship contenders. Paxson correctly determined that he needed to acquire that superstar player, and as timing would have it, during the NBA pre-season, Kobe Bryant, arguably the best player in the NBA was vocally unhappy with his situation and publicly stated he desire to get out of Los Angeles. To his credit, Paxson inquired about the availability of Kobe Bryant and rumors ran rampant over the airwaves. Bryant was sure to be traded, as there has been no love lost between Bryant and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, supposedly Jackson had enough with his moody star player. The table was set for a blockbuster deal with prime players identified from the Bulls being some combination of Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich, and Ben Wallace. Luol Deng and Ben Gordon were also offered what each player considered lowball contract offers going into the preseason, but combined with the trade talks, led to a bad taste in every player’s mouths. In the end, the teams never came to terms on players and the deal fell through as the season began.
The second thing that happened was most likely residual from the events above, for some reason, most every player on the Bulls had stopped responding to the playing and coaching style that brought great success to the Bulls. The Bulls stopped hustling for loose balls, stopped playing hard nosed defense, lacked hustle, with team play virtually non-existent. Both Deng and Gordon admitted that the Kobe Bryant trade rumors plus the perceived lowball contract offers affected their play. Each played as through they had to individually prove they were worth not only bigger contracts, but to justify not being traded for Bryant. Their play dropped off dramatically, along with the other potential players in the trade, Kirk Hinrich, Ben Wallace, and Tyrus Thomas and the fate of Coach Scott Skiles and the Chicago Bulls was sealed.
So where does that leave the Bulls now? John Paxson had two of the most difficult tasks to complete in last year’s off-season. He needed to find a superstar, talented player and needed to move Ben Wallace and his albatross contract. Paxson was successful in unloading Wallace to the Cleveland Cavaliers after this season was lost, but has been glaringly unsuccessful in getting that superstar athletic stud talent, and without the high draft picks that can yield that player in the NBA draft. If the Bulls get lucky to land one of the top 2 picks and be in a position to get C Michael Beasley or G Derrick Rose, they can still leverage a combination of Larry Hughes, Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, or Drew Gooden to land a second superstar type player to fuel their rebuilding process. The Bulls need athletic, talented players that have the desire to compete and win every night and need to complement those players with a supporting cast of complimentary players. Right now, they have the complimentary players, but they still lack the superstar.
The Bulls also need a coach that will bring the team spirit back, a coach that can get the players to buy into the team concept once again. Rick Carlisle is available, as is Larry Brown as well as a slew of other ex-NBA coaches that work for ESPN, TNT, or any other network that employs ex-basketball coaches. This offseason is mission critical for GM John Paxson. If he doesn’t get it right, his next moves will be as ex-GM of the Chicago Bulls.
Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: Basketball, Ben Gordon, Ben Wallace, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Sports, Derrick Rose, Detroit Pistons, Drew Gooden, ESPN, Jerry Krause, Joakim Noah, John Paxson, Kevin Garnett, Kirk Hinrich, Kobe Bryant, Larry Brown, Larry Hughes, Los Angeles Lakers, Luol Deng, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Michael Beasley, Michael Jordan, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA, NBA Finals, New York Knicks, Pau Gasol, Phil Jackson, Philadelphia 76ers, Rick Carlisle, San Antonio Spurs, Scott Skiles, TNT, Tyrus Thomas | 4 Comments »
Posted by sportsmaven on February 9, 2007
Well, not exactly a smackdown directly from the Maloof brothers, but the Bulls were smacked down last night by the brothers prize possession, the Sacramento Kings. The final score of 86-77 speaks volumes on the problems this Chicago Bulls team faces. This was a game that the Kings desperately wanted to give to the Bulls. The Kings built a couple of double digit leads before letting the Bulls right back into the game each time. The Bulls shot 33% from the field, by far their worst shooting game of the season, and still managed to be in the game until the end. The Bulls slogged through 102 rim rattling, clunk sounding brick jobs called shots, thanks to a 21-4 edge in offensive rebounds, and managed to get only 34 of those clunkers through the rim. The Bulls shot an even worse 22% from 3-point land and 45% from the free throw line.
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Ben Gordon, the Bulls leading scorer was the biggest culprit, going 3-16 from the floor and finishing with 7 points for the game. The way the Bulls are currently structured, they are a perimeter oriented team. With the loss of Andres Nocioni to injury, there are even MORE of a perimeter oriented team. When perimeter oriented teams struggle with their outside shots, like the Bulls did last night, you must have someone step it up and take the ball to the hole, or the end result will be difficulty scoring. And this is what happened to the Bulls. Ben Gordon, bless his heart, has the mind of a shooter. To his credit, he kept jacking up shot after shot, and 3 of those shots actually went in. But I didn’t see Little Ben go to the rim once last night and that’s a HUGE problem when your jumper left the building with Elvis. In addition, it seemed as though Little Ben carried his offensive struggles to the defensive side of his game, as Sacramento’s backcourt of Kevin Martin and Mike Bibby scored 29 and 21 points respectively.
It’s tough to play without an inside game (although Luol Deng had exactly a 20 and 10 night last night) as the Bulls often do the past couple of seasons. When you’re outside game deserts you, and you can’t take it to the rim, then you become the Chicago Blackhawks, or on a more relevant parallel, you are as well fed as Ron Artest’s Great Dane, Socks. Like the wise sage Charles Barkley said last night on the TNT post-game show, “if you can’t score, you can’t win”. I love Sir Charles’ directness and he is right…….
Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: Andres Nocioni, Ben Gordon, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Elvis, Great Dane, Kevin Martin, Luol Deng, Maloof, Mike Bibby, Ron Artest, Sacramento Kings, Sir Charles, Socks, TNT | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on January 25, 2007
Tonight, I watched a Chicago Bulls team that has me maddeningly frustrated. Going into tonight, the Bulls were 6-7 for the month of January. They have last 4 games where they have had double-digit leads. They have lost to lesser teams such as the Indiana Pacers and two losses to the New Jersey Nets after building 18 point leads. So, enter the 35-8 Dallas Mavericks, arguably the best team in the NBA this season. End results, Bulls 96, Mavericks 85. This is the maddening inconsistency that has defined the season for the Bulls so far.
Scott Skiles proves with each and every day that he is one of the best coaches in the NBA. To have a team this inconsistent, with huge flaws, in the thick of the division and conference race, is nothing short of remarkable. Tonight, the Bulls outrebounded the Mavericks 59-45. They held the Maverics to 31.2% shooting, by far the Mavericks worst shooting game of the season. By far, their glaring flaws also stand out in a game like tonight: 66 of their 96 points scored by their perimeter oriented Big 3 highlights the Bulls top area of weakness, an inside scoring presence. Ben Wallace is an island, being asked to single handedly be the Bulls rebounding and interior defensive presence, like the last man standing at the Alamo.
Pau Gasol? Is he the answer? He could be, but personally, with the Minnesota Timberwolves firing Dwane Casey, if I were John Paxson, I would be speed dialing Kevin McHale to inquire about what it would take to get Kevin Garnett and get that done — now. The Eastern Conference is open and Garnett is the presence the Bulls would need to take the load off of Ben Wallace as well as provide the inside scoring presence the Bulls would need. Reggie Miller from TNT stated tonight that if the Bulls had Garnett, they would be the hands down favorite to win the NBA Title this season……
Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: Alamo, Ben Wallace, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Dwane Casey, Eastern Conference, Indiana Pacers, John Paxson, Kevin Garnett, Kevin McHale, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA, New Jersey Nets, Pau Gasol, Reggie Miller, Scott Skiles, TNT | 1 Comment »