June 3, 2013
The Chicago Bulls 2012-2013 campaign has officially come to a close. Now that we are weeks removed from the end of the season and have had time to be reflective, it’s time to take a look back at the performances of the members of this Bulls squad and brief look ahead at the future. The following is the third part of a series of 11 posts detailing this year’s squad. Each player is assigned a season grade based off of their performance on general preseason expectations.
Previous player capsules can be found here: Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer
Name: Luol Deng
Height/Weight: 6’8″ / 220 lbs
NBA Seasons: 9
Regular Season Stats: 75 games, 16.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.4 bpg, 42.6 FG%, 81.6 FT%
Post-Season Stats: 5 games, 13.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.8 apg, 0.6 bpg, 38.1 FG%, 40.0 FT%
Season Grade: B
As a whole, Deng’s numbers were solid but are nothing to write home about for a player making as much money as he is. However, given his health situation from the lockout shortened season it was expected. If you’ll recall last season Deng tore ligaments in his wrist but opted to forego surgery in the regular season to continue to play and help the team. By doing so, Deng never gave himself the opportunity to get healthy. Compounded with the league high minutes per game he played, Deng found himself in a statistically down year. In a calendar year Deng would have been able to get his wrist surgery during the offseason and (hopefully) be healthy by the time preseason rolled around. Unfortunately the 2012 Olympics were held in London which meant the British National Basketball team automatically qualified for the Olympics, an opportunity Deng was not about to let slip through his hands.
By skipping surgery this past offseason and given that he would likely lead the league in minuters per game once again and the possibility of injury, Deng set the expectation on himself that he would have a season similar to the 2011-2012 one. Deng proved almost everyone correct. In all major basic and advanced statistical categories Deng showed minuscule changes in his performance though he did continue to show he could defend just as well as ever (despite some injuries to his hip during the season).
I feel bad as Luol Deng’s grade for his performance this season is fairly loaded. As stated above player grades are assigned based on the general preseason expectations for each player and, this season, Deng essentially played the way many thought he would. But as far as overall season goes Deng is one of a handful of players that probably deserves an A+ for the fight and valor he’s shown all season. As noted above, Deng came into this season already at less than 100% and continued to go downhill from there as the season wore on. But rather than complain or take a night off for things as serious as a broken thumb (which the world didn’t learn of until much later in the season) Deng continued to persevere game after game. Even after a botched lumbar puncture during the playoffs Deng tried to work his way back onto the court as soon as possible. The man truly is Chicago’s Iron Man and, for his sake, I hope he can remain healthy moving forward.
There have been talks of Chicago potentially looking to move Luol Deng with the emergence of Jimmy Butler, but nothing has been confirmed nor denied thus far. As of right now it looks like Deng and his expiring contract will remain with the Bulls for at least one more season though things could change. My personal desire for Deng’s (immediate) future is that he finally opts for that wrist surgery he’s put off for over a year and that he takes enough time off to get fully healthy and prepared for what is hopefully a long playoff run next season.
The Chicago Bulls 2012-2013 campaign has officially come to a close. Now that we are weeks removed from the end of the season and have had time to be reflective, it’s time to take a look back at the performances of the members of this Bulls squad and brief look ahead at the future. The following is the second part of a series of 11 posts detailing this year’s squad. Each player is assigned a season grade based off of their performance on general preseason expectations.
Previous player capsules can be found here: Joakim Noah
Name: Carlos Boozer
Height/Weight: 6’9″ / 258 lbs
NBA Seasons: 11
Regular Season Stats: 79 games, 16.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.4 bpg, 47.7 FG%, 73.1 FT%
Post-Season Stats: 12 games, 16.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.1 bpg, 49.4 FG%, 68.9 FT%
Season Grade: B+
For the most part Carlos Boozer’s year wasn’t too bad. Based on the averages he almost averaged the double-double he was originally signed to produce for Chicago on a respectable shooting percentage. Boozer also had the fifth most double-double games in the league with 44, was top 10 for both total rebounds and rebounds per game, and, very shockingly, Boozer was also 19th in the league for defensive rating and 13th with defensive win shares. It’s safe to say that Boozer had a good season especially relative to the expectations he had in the preseason and that he probably deserves a higher grade than given. Unfortunately there are a few things that just cannot be overlooked:
- Boozer’s defense still just wasn’t that good. While Boozer did rank in the top 20 for both defensive rating and win shares, both of those statistics are heavily determined by team play. Individually, Boozer’s defense continued to be porous as he has repeatedly allowed opponents to blow by him into the paint and/or rotated too slowly onto an opponent, if at all. Boozer has proved to be the beneficiary of Tom Thibodeau’s system and the steller defensive play of his teammates, especially Joakim Noah.
- Boozer failed to play consistently in the playoffs yet again. A big gripe fans have had over the past three years with Boozer is his knack for “disappearing.” Boozer did play well in the playoffs this time around, especially the first round against the Brooklyn Nets. But once again when Chicago needed him to step up in an important series against the Miami Heat, Boozer’s game was nowhere to be found. The result was another 4-1 exit against Miami.
While some fans are calling for the organization to use the amnesty clause on Boozer it looks like he’ll still be around for at least another season. Aside from improved play and the fact that he’s one of the few Bulls players to be able to play without injuries for extended periods of time, Boozer’s game is would be fairly hard to replace this offseason given Chicago’s salary cap situation. As things stands, it seems as if the rumored “2014 plan” is still in full effect for Chicago.
The Chicago Bulls 2012-2013 campaign has officially come to a close. Now weeks removed from the end of the season, it’s time to take a look back at the performances of the members of this Bulls squad and brief look ahead at the future. The following is the first part of a series of 11 posts detailing this year’s squad. Each player is assigned a season grade based off of their performance on general preseason expectations.
Name: Joakim Noah
Height/Weight: 6’11″ / 232 lbs
NBA Seasons: 6
Regular Season Stats: 66 games, 11.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.1 bpg, 48.1 FG%, 75.1 FT%
Post-Season Stats: 12 games, 10.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.2 bpg, 43.7 FG%, 64.1 FT%
Season Grade: A-
In terms of points and rebounds output Noah’s season ended up being what most people expected it to be. However he outperformed most people’s expectations of him in just about every other regard. In terms of individual play he made large strides in just about every other aspect. One immediately noticeable improvement was with Noah’s passing game as he seemed to benefit from playing with several players skilled at cutting to the rim (ex: Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Marco Belinelli, etc.). In terms of assists, Noah posted a career high 4.0 apg which, had he played four more games on the season, would have tied him with Marc Gasol for most assists per game from a big man in the league. The biggest improvement was seen on defense where Noah posted career highs in both blocks and steals per game. Noah’s improvement on defense had him in contention for defensive player of the year for most of the year until injuries derailed him towards the end of the season. Overall, Noah’s play nabbed him his first selection to an NBA All-Star team.
More importantly Noah ultimately helped lead this rag-tag Bulls team to surpass league expectations. Few had Chicago pegged to be fighting for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference let alone get a solid hold on the fifth seed. Noah’s ability to lead and energize helped this team get behind Tom Thibodeau’s message that Chicago had enough to win.
Noah’s future is set in stone as he is currently signed with the Bulls through the 2015-2016 season. As for now Noah should take full advantage of vacation to rest his injured foot. Hopefully Noah will also look to use this offseason to work with trainers to improve his body’s strength and conditioning to avoid one of the various lower body injuries that have plagued him these past three seasons, particularly with his foot and ankle. Doing so could be crucial in any future title runs the Bulls look to make.
May 28, 2013
With the Bulls 2012-2013 season in the books, it’s time to look back at the year. For right now, with the season still visible in the rear-view mirror, it makes sense to discuss what will stick with us about this season.
What follows are the things I will remember about each player from this season, ranging from quick thoughts to very quick thoughts, both good and bad, big and little.
Nate Robinson: When he was signed, I didn’t think he would be much more than John Lucas III: a small scorer that would be a backup point guard; a guy who could occasionally fill it up and possibly steal you a game. But Nate was so much more. By season’s end he jumped into my top three favorite Bulls to watch this year (behind Noah and Jimmy). He was just pure energy and scoring, and even though the mistakes were plenty, he made games more fun—and fun was something often in short supply with this Chicago squad. At some points, it looked like he had enough energy to power a small country.
Nate did something people didn’t see coming: he ran the team well while also being himself. That’s not an easy task when you’re a shoot first, second and third point guard. Some credit goes to Tom Thibodeau, but Nate bought into the system and it paid off for everyone.
With his contract up and his bags most likely packed, I can honestly say I’ll miss him—something I did not expect coming into this season.
More quick thoughts on Nate: his Karl Malone layup. His feud with Steve Novak over a stolen celebration. Then discount double-checking into eternity against the Knicks. His sneaky jump ball. How he brought the Bulls back from 14 down very late in Game 4 against the Nets, scoring 29 points after the third quarter and in turn playing the lead role in the most exciting playoff game of the season. After the game he said “I always think I’m on fire, kind of like the old school game NBA Jam…Whenever I’m in the game, I just play with a lot of confidence.” (If one quote could sum up Nate Robinson, it’s that one, or “shooter shoot”) Swatting LeBron in the playoffs.
Marco Belinelli: Another guy probably on his way out,Belinelli didn’tlook like a valuable signing early on, but started to contribute when Rip Hamilton went down and was inserted into the starting lineup. I’ll remember his game-winners against the Pistons (with a great save from Joakim Noah) and the Celtics most of all. Oh, and his celebration against Brooklyn in the playoffs that he got fined for.
Luol Deng: Deng going down in February, bringing more Jimmy Butler into my life. Leading the league in minutes per game again, because Tom Thibodeau doesn’t care about your rotations or rest. A down year from beyond the arc. Another productive season—good defense and solid scoring.
Carlos Boozer: Another solid year from Booz, even though his shooting percentage took a big dip (his lowest shooting percentage of his career and just the second time he shot under 50 percent over a season—he shot 49 percent in 2008-2009 when he played 37 games).Boozer not driving to the basket for about 18 straight games, then unleashing a pretty nice dunk, making everyone ask “why doesn’t he drive more often?” SO MANY FADE-AWAYS. ‘Bum slaying,’ in which Booz puts up big numbers against subpar teams. The surprising opinion from many that he was an All Star, even though it was mainly just three really good weeks around when the voting took place. SO MANY SCREAMS. No-showing the first two games of the Miami series. Using the force. Boozington being one of the best teammates in the league, cheering on (read: screaming for) teammates and continuing to be professional throughout the very open “amnesty Boozer” talk. Being the healthiest Bull once again.
[Late addition from @JoeyLeCroissant on Twitter: Carlos Boozer accidentally punching the ref against Dallas]
Joakim Noah: Noah being the MVP of the team. His 30 point, 23 rebound game against Detroit and his two triple doubles—one of which being his amazing 23 point, 21 rebound, eleven block game against Philly that still blows my mind to this day. Jo playing 38.3 minutes per game before the All Star Break, then being named an All Star for the first time in his career. “Point Noah.” Playing just 32.6 minutes after the All Star Break because of injuries and because that’s the right amount of run a center with foot problems should be getting. Him fighting through plantar fasciitis through two entire playoff series and staying the Bulls’ MVP even with that injury. Coming up huge in Game 7 against the Nets (24 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks). Trolling Chris Bosh and the Heat in the playoffs. First team All Defense.
Jimmy Butler: Becoming my second favorite Bull to watch (and surprisingly close to Joakim Noah). Having that unexplainable talent of being in the right spot on the floor at all times. Playing 48 minutes per night (like a lot of nights) and becoming the new Deng. Turning into a consistent three-point shooter while (at least from my memory) hitting nearly all of his open looks from beyond the arc. His great perimeter defense. Posterizing Chris Bosh. Growing into the shooting guard of the future (hopefully).
Kirk Hinrich: The Bulls having a much, much better record when he plays, even with his awful shooting. All the different injuries because he plays with “so much heart and grit.” That one time he hit a jump shot this season.
Taj Gibson: Gibson never really looking right all season. He started off slow, got injured, came back slow…he just never had a rhythm all year. His “one amazing dunk per postseason series” habit continuing—especially his dunk over Kris Humphries, because we all want to dunk on Kris Humphries.
Omer Asik: Averaging 12.2 points and 14.0 rebounds per 36 minutes.Oh, whoops. Never mind. My mistake. He did that in Houston.
Nazr Mohammed: Rarely missing a shot in the preseason, making me say “hey, maybe letting Omer Asik walk won’t be the worst decision ever.” Missing everything to start the season, making me say “Man, letting Omer Asik walk was the worst decision ever.” That time that he dunked when I had no idea he could still dunk. Also, this move. Actually playing pretty well towards the end of the season and into the playoffs, filling in crucial minutes for Noah when he needed a rest. The joke he made at the start of the playoffs that he was the Bulls’ secret weapon and Thibs was waiting to release him. Being a lesser Kurt Thomas. His knuckleheaded play when he shoved LeBron James.
Rip Hamilton: Injuries.Rip playing in the Miami series, shooting 43 percent and yet somehow still convincing people that he still had value and that Thibs made a mistake not turning to him earlier.
Daequan Cook: An amazing amount of confidence for a three-point shooter that shot 28.6 percent from three. That time he was the Bulls’ leading scorer when Chicago got blown out by Denver. Seriously, this guy just kept chucking. How he went 1-10 in the playoffs, when all the Bulls needed from him was a few buckets. Him stepping out of bounds over and over again in the playoffs, making one wonder if he knew the width of a basketball court.
Trade exception from Kyle Korver off-season deal: Not as much production as I would’ve liked. Also, less of a lady killer than Korver.
Vladimir Radmanovic: He went 3-3 for 9 points in garbage time in the Game 2 blowout loss against Miami. And he was tall…that’s all I got on this one.
Marquis Teague: Great ability to get to the basket, without any other ability…except the ability to turn it over. Not doing much in his first season, but remember Jimmy Butler didn’t do much his rookie year, so hopefully Teague can make a jump and become valuable next year.
Derrick Rose: That time he—HAHAHAHAH…we laugh so we don’t cry. But honestly (and sadly), I’ll probably remember this season most of all as the “Will Derrick return tonight” year.
And that is extremely unfair to all the guys who actually played, because for all the reasons above—good and bad—they are what we should remember.
May 21, 2013
Former Heat player Alonzo Mourning was speaking to group of people at the opening of a Microsoft store in Miami when he was asked to comment on the endlessly spinning LeBron James versus Michael Jordan debate. Instead of taking a pass — probably the smartest move he could have made — Mourning said:
“You know, Scottie Pippen and I, we were just at Michael’s 50th birthday party, hanging out for a week, and we were talking. I’m going to tell you what Scottie said. I’m going to tell you what Scottie said. Scottie said that LeBron would’ve kicked MJ’s ass.”
After the expected cheering and applause, Mourning continued:
“I said, I said ‘Scottie, you’re right.’”
Following the laughter elicited by that comment, Mourning provided a little clarification:
“I said, ‘but because LeBron is my size.’ I mean, he’s 265, so when he’s playing point guard, it’s like a freight train coming. I couldn’t imagine doing the things he’s doing at my size.”
Nothing groundbreaking here. This is the standard response by people in the Pro-LeBron camp of this particular debate. Size and strength would be LeBron’s primary advantage in this theoretical one-on-one battle. But it’s all theoretical and not really worth digging into too deeply, even if people will never be able to stop taking about it.
Hey, I was a kid once, so I know action figure battles are crazy fun. When you have the toys, you want to see Hulk versus Superman. Snake Eyes versus Storm Shadow. Optimus Prime versus Megatron.
Past that, you sort of expect Mourning — who is considered one of the great players in Miami Heat history — to side with LeBron. That said, it was a little surprising that dragged Pippen into it, given that this was probably a private comment Scottie never intended to see in print. He’ll see it now.
Of course, Pippen did provide his own public commentary on this debate a couple years back:
“Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to play the game. But I may go as far as to say LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game because he is so potent offensively that not only can he score at will but he keeps everybody involved. You have to be on your P’s and Q’s on defense. No guy on the basketball court is a threat to score with LeBron James out there. Not only will LeBron dominate from the offensive end as well, but he’s also doing it on the defensive end, which really makes him the complete package. He’s able to get in those passing lanes, shoot those gaps and create transition opportunities where he is pretty much unstoppable.”
Naturally, the Pro-Jordan camp exploded at this seeming betrayal, and even former Bulls player Horace Grant (and good friend of Pippen) spoke up:
“Pip is my man, and we will always be close but I totally disagree. LeBron is going to be one of the top players to ever play the game. But Michael Jeffrey Jordan, who we bumped heads with at times, is I think in my era, the best who ever played the game. I’m kind of at a loss for words because Michael Jordan … when you win numerous MVPs and you’ve taken the team to six championships — and probably could have been eight if he didn’t retire those two years — and MVPs in the playoffs … and he made us better. Believe me, he made myself, Scottie, B.J. [Armstrong], even Bill Cartwright who I love, he made us better players. He gave us that confidence. But first we had to earn his trust. And once we earned his trust you saw championship after championship.”
Things got ugly enough that Pippen eventually defended himself with the following tweets:
“For all of you that don’t know, I played the game you keep watching and cheering.”
“Don’t get me wrong, MJ was and is the greatest. But LeBron could by all means get to his level someday.”
None of what any of these men said is all that unreasonable. People have opinions and they’re free to express them. Personally, I think these “versus” debates do a disservice to NBA history and the players themselves, but they’re always fun talking points…even if in the end none of it really means anything.
But MJ was the best.
May 20, 2013
Now that the season has passed, it’s time to start looking forward. Ironically, to begin doing that, we first need to look back at who did what last season.
Rose missed the entire season due to recovery from knee surgery. And he lost a little good will along the way. Nonetheless, everybody from Jerry Reinsdorf to the most casual Bulls fan is hoping and praying that Rose returns — and returns to his old MVP form — next season. He is the foundation of this franchise.
In many ways, Noah had his best season ever. He was selected as a reserve for the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He made the NBA All-Defensive First Team and was fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting. He had one of the franchise’s best-ever regular season performances in a road win over the Pistons (30 points, 23 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocked shots) and one of the greatest playoff performances Game 7 victory over the Nets in Brooklyn (24 points, 14 rebounds, 6 blocked shots, 2 assists, 1 steal).
Unfortunately, Noah’s season was once again plagued by an injury, this time an ongoing case of plantar faciitis in his left foot. Noah missed 16 regular season games and simply wasn’t himself in several others. He averaged career-highs in minutes (36.8), points (11.9), rebounds (11.1), assists (4.0), blocks (2.1) and steals (1.2), but he also set career-low marks in field goal percentage (.481) and turnovers per game (2.7). And believe it or not, his Offensive Rebounding Rate (12.2) and Total Rebounding Rate (17.3) were lower only during his rookie season.
Noah is an elite center — one of the best in the league — and he is the team’s emotional leader. However, he’s missed 70 games over the past four seasons and and the plantar faciitis injury is recurring. When healthy, Noah is among the best there is at his position. Can he stay healthy? We’ll see.
For the second year in a row, Deng led the league in MPG (38.7) and made the All-Star team. He is one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders and provides leadership by example. And, of course, everybody knows that coach Tom Thibodeau believes Deng is absolutely indispensable.
That said, there are some concerns. For example, his three-point percentage sunk to its lowest mark since 2006-07 and he accumulated the second-worst field goal percentage of his career. He also had a league average Player Efficiency Rating of 15.1 and ranked sixth on the team in Win Shares Per 48 Minutes (.105).
It’s hard to determine whether the heavy minutes and a lingering injury to his left wrist account for his struggles with shooting and overall efficiency, but they probably figure in there somewhere.
The good news is Deng will have the entire summer off to get healthy (and have wrist surgery if necessary), which means he might be even better next year than he was the previous two seasons.
One thing worth noting: Deng is one of the team’s better trade chips. He is worth less to the Bulls than Rose and Noah. He doesn’t carry the same stigma as Carlos Boozer. And his $14 million salary comes off the books after next season. Therefore, if the Bulls make any kind of major deal, there is at least some likelihood Deng will be involved.
Although fans (and even some experts) use him as a lightning rod for abuse whenever the Bulls fail to live up to expectations, Boozer had another steady season. He ranked first on the team in both Points and Rebounds Per 36 Minutes (18.1 and 10.9, respectively), and he was third (behind Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson) in PER (17.1). Despite his previous history of being an injury risk, Boozer has missed only three games the past two seasons, and he has also been a consummate professional on and off the court.
Of course, Boozer is still a statue on offense.
Despite his reliable productivity — his Per 36 Minute stats have been pretty constant over his entire career — Boozer’s contract is considered untradable. He is reportedly owed just over $32 million over the next two seasons, and the general feeling is that today’s NBA team won’t pay that kind of money for a defensive liability whose past is marked by injuries and big game disappearances.
Due to salary constraints, the Bulls wouldn’t gain much by using the amnesty provision on Boozer’s contract this summer. There’s a far greater chance they will do so next summer, which Deng’s and Kirk Hinrich’s contracts expire.
By most statistical measures, Captain Kirk had an awful season. He notched career-lows in field goal percentage (.377), Effective Field Goal Percentage (.461) and True Shooting Percentage (.493). Even his free throw percentage (.714) was almost 10 percentage points off his career average (.805). His PER of 10.8 was well below the league average and he missed 22 regular season games due to a variety of injuries. He also missed the final three games of first round of the playoffs and all of the second round due to a calf injury.
That said, his coaches and teammates were always high on his contributions in terms of defense and leadership. And there’s also the bottom line argument: During the regular season, the Bulls were 38-22 when Hinrich played and 7-15 when he did not. That’s a pretty dramatic swing.
The team still wants and believes in him. More importantly, it’s unlikely any other team would trade for him. So expect him to return next season. If he stays healthy, he’ll make a great backup for Rose and whoever starts at shooting guard (my guess is Jimmy Butler).
Hamilton missed 32 games due to injury and set career-lows in PER (10.6), True Shooting Percentage (.481), and Win Shares Per 48 Minutes (.016). Rip dropped out of the rotation before getting dusted off for the final two games of the Heat series. He showed he could still be somewhat useful in those games, but his ongoing injury issues combined with the general decline in his productivity and the emergence of Jimmy Butler have made him expendable. The Bulls will buy out his contract this summer. He won’t be back.
May 16, 2013
The Bulls went into their do-or-die Game 5 in the Miami both with and without the usual cast of characters.
Derrick Rose missed the game and by extension missed the entire season, leading at least one writer to describe his much hyped “Return” packaged by Adidas as a hoax. On top of that melodrama, Kirk Hinrich (calf) and Luol Deng (illness) never recovered enough to play a single second round game, which had to be extremely frustrating for the both of them.
Meanwhile, four starters — Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson — logged 40+ minutes, with Robinson sitting for less than a minute and a half and Butler again going the full 48.
The only surprise of the night was the unexpected resurrection of Rip Hamilton. Not only did Hamilton log 35 minutes off the bench in place of an increasingly ineffective Marco Belinelli, he scored 15 points on 12 shots and compiled a game-high plus-minus score of +12.
The Bulls were coming off the worst offensive performance in their playoff history, so virtually anything would have been an improvement, but they were actually pretty effective on offense. thanks largely to strong games from Boozer (26 points, 10-for-19, 14 rebounds), Robinson (21 points, 4-for-7 on threes, 6 assists) and Butler (19 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals), the Bulls scored at a rate of 108.7 points per 100 possessions (per Basketball-Reference).
And, believe it or not, the Bulls were in good position to win this game.
Despite a disastrous first seven minutes that saw them fall behind 22-4, the Bulls did what these Bulls have done for the entirety of the Tom Thibodeau era.
They refused to panic.
By the end of the first quarter, Chicago trailed by only nine points. After outscoring Miami 32-17 in the second quarter, the Bulls took a six-point lead into halftime. That lead expanded to 11 points (75-64) with just under two minutes left in the third quarter. And it seemed like the miraculous was about to happen.
Then Miami cranked up their intensity.
On offense, the Heat went to their old standbys. Shane Battier knocked down two threes thanks to a couple drive-and-kick moves by LeBron James. Norris Cole had a brief hot streak, hitting from 17 feet and then serving up a facial at the rim. Dwyane Wade — who had to retreat to Miami’s locker room between the third and fourth quarters to have his knee re-taped — emerged from his funk to hit two of his patented running one-handers and later had a putback dunk of a missed Cole jumper. And between all those plays, LeBron was directing traffic, driving the ball and drawing fouls.
In all, the Bulls were outscored 24-15 in the fourth quarter but still managed to be down only three points and have possession of the ball with 26.4 seconds left. Unfortunately, Thibodeau had already used all his timeouts, and the Bulls were forced to freelance on that final possession.
It was not a smooth possession by any stretch of the imagination. The Bulls players were running around helter skelter in a frantic attempt to get any kind of clean or dirty look at the rim. Robinson squeezed off a three-pointer that missed badly, but Boozer corralled the offensive rebound. The ball ended up in Butler’s hands. After freeing himself up with a few ball fakes, Butler jacked a triple of his own, which also missed badly. Robinson somehow ended up with the rebound, but there wasn’t enough time left to get any kind of shot.
Said Noah: “We kept fighting. And kept fighting.”
Added Boozer: “We grinded it out. We had chances. We just fell a little bit short.”
Just a little bit short in this game. And a lot short in this series.
And yet, despite the loss, Chicago’s performance in this final game far exceeded expectations. Which is something the Bulls had been doing all season.
Said Thibodeau: ”Obviously we’re disappointed in losing the series. But I was never disappointed in our team. I thought our team fought hard all year long. There was no quit in them.”
Added Boozer: “We’ve got warriors here. If we’re healthy next season, we’re going to be pretty good.”
Of course. But good enough to defeat the Miami Heat?
ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell doesn’t think so. Not as presently constructed. Of course, the Bulls won’t return next season as presently constructed.
For starters, barring an unforeseen calamity or setback, Rose should return in 2013-14.
Furthermore, Hamilton probably won’t be back — the third year of his contract isn’t guaranteed and I just can’t see the Bulls paying Rip $5 million next season — leaving the former Piston to wistfully consider what might have been.
There’s also a good chance Robinson won’t be back. Although he’d like to be.
Said Robinson: ”I would love to [come back]. Honestly, I really would. But knowing the guys that we have here, I know it’s probably limited space for me, but we’ll see how it goes. [I'll] talk to my agent and stuff like that and figure out what’s the best plan for me. God has blessed me this far [to] continue to play the game that I love. I love this team, I love these guys, and if I could stay here it would be wonderful.”
Although Robinson had a strong season and was often the team’s best offensive player, there are several reasons the Bulls might not bring him back. For starters, there could be a logjam in a backcourt that includes Rose, Hinrich, Butler (at times), Belinelli (if he is re-signed) and Marquis Teague.
Will the Bulls — a notoriously fiscally responsible team (read that: cheap) — want to pay him? Especially if they end up bringing Belinelli back?
And will Belinelli be back? Management likes his skill set, but Marco shot a career-low 35.7 percent from three-point range, and his Effective Field Goal Percentage also dipped to a career-worst mark.
Then too, the Bulls desperately need more three-point shooters. They ranked 21st in three-point percentage and 29th in attempts this season. That won’t cut it in today’s NBA. And anyway, Rose will need shooters to space the floor for his drives, assuming he returns to anything like his old form.
There are big questions and big if’s heading into this offseason. And, for better or worse, most of the improvement will have to come from within. The Bulls don’t have the financial flexibility to sign any high-caliber players, and they still wouldn’t be able to do so even if they used the amnesty provision to offload Boozer’s contract, so you can probably expect Carlos to return for at least one more season. My guess is that the Bulls will amnesty Boozer in the summer of 2014 when Deng and Hinrich’s contracts come off the books.
So while the roster will likely be shifted around and tweaked where possible, management will probably field mostly the same team with an eager eye toward the following offseason. Meaning the Bulls and their fans will have to rely on improved health, internal development and maybe one or two key role players who might be able to contribute.
To what result? Nobody knows.
Said Noah: ”It’s hard right now because we just lost. And it’s always hard to sit here knowing that your season’s over but there are a lot of positives. We’re a young team that has experienced a lot at a young age. When you see what a guy like Jimmy Butler brought to the table. … We’re going to come back healthy, we’re going to be able to compete with these guys for a long time and I think that one day we’ll get our shot.”
Only time will tell.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.
May 15, 2013
Rather than the normal rapid reaction, this one will just be a few quick thoughts.
First, a lot of credit to this Bulls team. They were shorthanded the entire season, but never used that as an excuse. They had their nights that they faltered and fell flat, but it’s games like tonight that show you how much fight and effort this team put in every time they went out on the court. When I look back in a few years, that’s what I will remember. That and Game 4 against the Nets.
The effort was always there from the players on this team. From the new guys like Nate Robinson (who when he was signed I thought he was just an overconfident shooter, but actually bought into Tom Thibodeau’s system pretty well—and provided much needed scoring), to Jimmy Butler (taking a huge step forward into a starting role, developing a reliable three-point shot and shutting down perimeter players), to Joakim Noah (who has been giving the effort his entire career but emerged as Chicago’s MVP this season, often facilitating the offense and leading the defense). Even guys who were planted on the bench for long stretches of the season like Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed stepped up into huge roles at times, including the playoffs.
This Bulls team wasn’t always the most exciting team, but they had their moments, and all you can ask of a team is that they fight until the very end. Chicago did that.
A long, injury-riddled season with tons of off-the-court news has finally ended for the Bulls. Here’s to a better 2013-2014.
Feel free to leave your thoughts on the season below in the comments
In pretty much a must-win game, Chicago put in its worst performance of the year, as well as one of the worst postseason games in the franchise’s history. Now they find themselves in a true must-win situation, facing elimination as they hit the road.
You can’t blame the Bulls too much, I guess, considering the number of injuries they are fighting through and that their third string point guard, who is known only for scoring, wouldn’t have been able to hit a shot on a Fisher Price net (which is more his size, actually).
Nate Robinson went 0-12, the Bulls shot 25.7 percent as a team, scored just nine points in the third quarter and finished with 19 made field goals. Oh and the Bulls point guard combo of Nate and Marquis Teague scored more points for Miami (two) than for Chicago (zero).
Tom Thibodeau was so desperate for offense that he played Rip Hamilton 22 minutes. Rip hadn’t seen the floor since Game 6 of the Brooklyn series—a series in which he played ten total minutes. So Rip Hamilton played 22 minutes in a single game after playing ten minutes in a seven game series—a series which included a triple overtime game. And the worst part about it: Rip ended up as the Bulls’ third leading scorer.
“Nobody said this was going to be easy,” Robinson said. “We’re professionals for a reason. We’ll go back to the drawing board and figure it out.” I’m not sure what the Bulls can draw up that will win them three straight games, unless Vladimir Radmanovic turns into a LeBron James clone. I’m not ruling that out, but I’ll say it’s unlikely.
The worst part about Chicago’s Game 4 no-show has to be the timing. Not just that it came at home in the postseason, but because this was a very winnable game. Miami didn’t play all that well, but then again, they didn’t have to. Dwyane Wade continued to struggle, finishing 3-10 from the field with six points. Chris Bosh shot well (7-10), but didn’t have a huge stat line (14 points, six rebounds). Norris Cole wasn’t hitting everything in sight (2-4, seven points). And Shane Battier could have been a member of the Bulls with his shooting (1-6).
“I don’t want them looking backwards,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t want them looking ahead. Just lock into the game that’s in front of us and concentrate on winning that game. We know we’re capable.”
The Bulls seemed capable to make this an entertaining series coming in and actually stole home court after Game 2, but they’ve lost the three games in this matchup by an average of 23.3 points per game. Too much might be piling up against the Bulls: too much talent on Miami, too many injuries for the Bulls.
Kirk Hinrich, still dealing with a calf bruise, and Luol Deng, recovering from an illness, are both expected to be out of Game 5.
It’s not just Game 5 the Bulls need to win now though. It’s Game 5, Game 6 and Game 7…against the defending champs. It’s been an uphill battle all year for Chicago, playing without their best player, working through a variety of injuries to a number of different players, but this particular hill is too big to climb.
There aren’t any moral victories in the playoffs, and if the Bulls continue to play like they did at home in Games 3 and 4, there won’t be any actual victories either.
If the Bulls do go down, they’ll go down fighting. But I tonight is their last game of the season, let’s just hope they shoot at least 30 percent.
The word that best describes the 2012-13 Chicago Bulls is resilient.
If you follow this team, you know what they’ve endured. The season-long absence (and continued distraction) of Derrick Rose. The dismemberment of the Bench Mob. Injuries (and re-injuries) to key players. Long minutes. Little rest. Everything short of hordes of locusts and meteor storms.
Through it all, the Bulls have endured. They won 45 games. Earned the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Beat the Nets in a do-or-die Game 7 in Brooklyn. Won Game 1 of their second round playoff series against the Heat in Miami.
And while the Bulls have talent, even without Rose, they have not been as talented as their playoff opponents. Having Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng out of action has only widened the talent disparity.
But what the Bulls lack in talent, they make up in sheer will power. That has been the defining characteristic of this team under coach Tom Thibodeau. Thibs always says the Bulls have more than enough to win — he probably would say that even if they had to suit up a few ball boys and a couple janitors — and the players believe it. Buy into it. Live it.
That said, Game 4 was the game when cracks began to form in that seemingly impenetrable wall of mental fortitude Thibodeau had built around his players. It was as if the team as a whole suddenly and unexpectedly realized how badly the odds were stacked against them.
It showed in every facet of the game. Yes, even the defense, despite the fact that Miami finished with only 88 points. The Heat still converted better than 80 percent of their shots at the rim (per Hoopdata) and scored at a rate of 106.5 points per 100 possessions (per Basketball-Reference).
Where the breakdown really showed was offense. Mind you, the Bulls have been a poor offensive team all season, and Miami certainly picked up their D in this game. But the Bulls were historically bad in Game 4. They compiled playoff franchise lows in points (65), field goal percentage (25.7) and third quarter point total (9). According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Bulls had never shot less than 30 percent in a playoff game, and they had scored below 70 points only once before, in a 95-69 loss to the Detroit Pistons back in 2007.
Check the shot chart if you have the stomach to do so. They Bulls were ice cold from everywhere.
Nate Robinson’s performance was symbolic of this group meltdown. Robinson — who has been the team’s best offensive player much of the season and certainly throughout these playoffs — went 0-for-12 from the field and was held scoreless in 32 minutes. He also had as many turnovers as assists (4).
As ESPN Stats and Information put it: “Nate Robinson’s 0-for-12 was two shots shy of the worst 0-for in NBA playoff history, a dubious mark shared by Chick Reiser (1948) and Dennis Johnson (1978).”
By the second half, Nate was gasping for breath and actually looked hesitant to shoot, which are two things I’ve never seen from him. It didn’t help that Miami’s defense was swarming him at every opportunity.
Said Shane Battier: ”Nate’s the one guy on their team who can put pressure on our defense off the bounce. He can create havoc. He gets inside the defense, he scores, he gets the crowd going and suddenly … It best serves us if we make him work, if we make him take a few more dribbles. It starts with Mario and Norris … when we get up into the ball handler we’re an entirely different team.”
Added Robinson: ”They did a good job defending of course. But I had a lot of open shots that I usually make and a lot of floaters that I usually make that I missed, but you can’t make every shot. At the same time you just have to know when it’s not your night and it wasn’t my night tonight. I just have to try to bounce back.”
Nate wasn’t alone in his offensive misery. Carlos Boozer led the team in scoring in Game 4 with 16 points but shot 3-for-14 from the field. Minus his Game 3 performance (21 points on 10-for-16 shooting), Boozer is averaging 9.3 points on 9-for-34 shooting. The Heat are pushing him out of his comfort zone near the basket and forcing jump shots over outstretched hands. And those shots aren’t falling.
But Boozer nixed the idea that he or the Bulls are running on fumes.
Said Boozer: ”Nah, not at all. It’s not over by a long shot. You saw what happened last series. We were up 3-1 against Brooklyn and there was a Game 7. For us, we just have to regroup and get the next game and bring it back here for Game 6.”
That’ll be a lot easier said than done.
If you want to talk about signs of offensive desperation, Rip Hamilton — who had logged a total of 10 minutes and 20 seconds of playoff action in two token appearances against the Nets — played 22 minutes in Game 4.
Said Hamilton: ”A lot of stuff in life you don’t understand. This is what I was brought here for. To not be able to play and help my teammates, it’s hard, it’s rough. But I try to stay positive. I don’t try to rock the boat. I just try be positive with them and let [teammates] know what they need to do out there and things like that. Tonight I got lucky. I got to go out there and play.”
Hamilton knocked down a couple threes, going 4-for-11 overall is unlikely to get him out of Thibodeau’s doghouse. If Rip plays in Game 5, his role and minutes will be limited.
ESPN’s Scoop Jackson warns not to give up on the Bulls in Game 5, but it’s hard to imagine what the Bulls could possibly have left. Rose isn’t going to suit up until next year. That much is obvious. Hinrich probably won’t be able to go. Deng might, but how much will he be able to contribute after losing 15 pounds and suffering through a debilitating illness?
Said Taj Gibson: “It’s hard to believe [all the injuries that have happened]. I don’t know, we’re just kind of putting screws and bandages everywhere. It’s frustrating. Every night, every day, we’re just trying to push through it.”
To a man, the coach and players will put everything they have into forcing a Game 6. But, unless they have one more miracle left in them, Game 5 will most likely be remembered as the last stand of the 2012-13 Bulls. There’s no shame in that. But it is a bummer.