Over the next few weeks, I’m going to provide a scouting report on all the current Bulls players. This should make it a little easier for me (and maybe for you) to sort through the pieces of Chicago’s jigsaw puzzle. I decided to start with the man who will replace the dearly departed Ben Gordon as the team’s starting shooting guard.
Name: John Salmons (pronounced SAL-muns) Position: SG/SF Height: 6’6″ or 6’7″ (depending on whom you ask) Weight:210-ish Birth Date: December 12, 1979 (29 years old) Birth Place: Philadelphia, PA Number: 15 Nicknames: Buck, Get Right, The Fish Man, Up Stream College: Miami (FL) Drafted: 2002, 1st Round, 26th overall by Philadelphia Experience: 7 seasons Previous teams: Philadelphia (2002-2006), Sacramento (2006-2009) Contract: $5.5 in 2009-10, $5.8 million in 2010-11 (player option) Expect: Pull-up jumpers, strong drives, solid man-to-man defense Don’t expect: Floor leadership, amazing ball-handling, a sixth man
Salmons has become a highly effective slasher. He can get to the hoop, absorb contact and finish with either hand. However, Salmons prefers to stop short of the basket, pull up and squeeze off midrange jump shots. In fact, according to 82games.com, 73 percent of his shots during his 26 games with the Bulls were jumpers. (He attempted jumpers 68 percent of the time when he was with the Kings.)
Despite his love affair with the jump shot, Salmons was a pretty efficient scorer last season, shooting 47 percent from the field and nearly 42 percent from three-point range. In fact, he led the 2008-09 Bulls in True Shooting Percentage and was second (to Joakim Noah) in Effective Field Goal Percentage. And while it’s true he played only 26 games in Chicago, his season totals still would have ranked him second in both categories.
So Salmons can penetrate, create his own shots and spread the floor with his outside shooting ability. Those are good things. Unfortunately, a decent chunk of his scoring comes from isolation plays that feature him dribbling, dribbling and dribbling some more until he can cut to the hoop or invent a jumper. During these isolations, Salmons can (and will) overlook cutting teammates and interrupt the flow of the offense. He sometimes commits needless turnovers by overdribbling or forcing a drive. He also has the tendency to disappear when his number isn’t called frequently enough.
On defense: Salmons is a solid — and sometimes exceptional — man-to-man defender, even when matched against premier wing players (such as Paul Pierce and Michael Redd) and talented point guards (like Steve Nash). He’s doesn’t possess blazing speed, but he has the lateral quickness and determination necessary to keep his man in front of him. In fact, his primary defensive strategy is to stop his man’s drive and force a contested jumper. Salmons is willing (and able) to fight through screens and body-up on his man when necessary. He’s not a great rebounder at the SF position, but he’s slightly above average when playing SG, as he will be this season.
On the downside, his team defense is average to below average. His rotations can be sluggish (and sometimes nonexistent) and he’s often so focused on staying with his own man that he fails to help out when his teammates get beaten off the dribble. Salmons tends not to play the passing lanes and doesn’t have great anticipation, so he won’t disrupt many passes or collect a lot of steals.
At this point, everybody knows that Salmons is much more effective starting than coming off the bench. To my knowledge, he’s never complained openly about his role (although it was reported he once stormed out of the lockerroom during his Sacramento days), but the change in his productivity has been pretty easy to track. In 2007-08 for the Kings, Salmons started 41 games (due to injuries) and subbed for 40. On a per-40-minute basis, he averaged 18.4 points on 49.7 percent shooting when starting, and only 12.4 points on 43.0 percent shooting in a reserve capacity. This Jekyll-and-Hyde behavior shouldn’t be a problem this season, since he’s expected to start.
Salmons is a quiet player who isn’t known as a motivational, team-leader type. Which is fine, because that’s not his role with the Bulls.
Note also that Salmons has a player option on the final year of his contract (2010-11). So unless he falls apart this season, he’ll probably opt out of his contract next summer. On the upside, that could spark a little Contract Year Phenomenon.
Salmons is a versatile player. He can defend (and defend well) at three positions (PG, SG and SF). He can drive and finish, create pull-up jumpers from midrange and stick it from long distance. He’ll probably never be an All-Star, but he can and most likely will be a very good utility/complimentary player.
Here’s what he had to say. Regarding the allegations of academic fraud: “That didn’t bother me at all, I know I didn’t do anything wrong. That was up to Memphis what they had to do. Coach [John Calipari] told me, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ I definitely wasn’t worried about it. I was still working out, so I just let [the scandal] pass.”
As for the supposed gang sign picture: “I couldn’t even remember the whole [NCAA] championship game, so I know I couldn’t remember that night, but I just got passed it. [I] talked to my mom, [she] told me just don’t worry about it, and I’m just looking forward to the future.”
Derrick also weighed in on the loss of Ben Gordon: “I guess they’re looking into the future. Ben is a great player, one of the best scorers I’ve ever played with, a great guy. He had to make a business move going to Detroit. I’m gonna miss him a lot. He took a lot of pressure off me last year, but we’ll have to see this year.”
For the most part, I’m fine with Derrick’s “answers” to these controversies, even if he didn’t really say much of anything. However…stating flat out that he didn’t do anything wrong could come back on him pretty hard if the investigation turns up any actual wrongdoing. I hope for his sake that what he’s saying is true.
They open the season on October 29 at home against what should be a much-improved San Antonio Spurs team. The next day they travel to Boston for a tea party with their old friends the Celtics. Only unlike last season’s first round playoff matchup, the Celtics will (probably) have a healthy Kevin Garnett as well as newcomer Rasheed Wallace. A few games later they get to play against LeBron, Shaq and the rest of the Cavaliers in Cleveland.
How’s that for a welcome back?
Here are some more month-by-month highlights:
As mentioned, versus San Antonio (nationally televised on TNT) and at Boston (on ESPN). Two games against championship contenders right off the bat. And the Celtics could be looking for a little payback for how the Bulls brashly challenged them in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
The Bulls play nine of their 13 games on the road, including the final six in a row due to their annual circus trip. Five of those six are on the West Coast versus the Kings, Lakers, Nuggets, Blazers and Jazz.
If you combine October and November, the Bulls play 10 of their first 15 games on the road and face 10 playoff teams (Spurs, Celtics, Heat, Cavaliers, Sixers, Lakers, Blazers, Jazz and the Nuggets twice). It wouldn’t be shocking for the Bulls to enter December with a sub-.500 record. Again.
The Bulls will appear on TNT three times (at Cleveland on the 5th, at the Lakers on the 19th and at Utah on the 26th). They will also be televised on NBA TV on the 23rd (at Portland).
The Bulls only have four road games this month (at Cleveland, Atlanta, New York and Detroit), but eight of their 15 games are against playoff teams (Cavs, Celtics, Lakers, Hornets and twice each against the Pistons and Hawks).
Ben Gordon will make his first return to the United Center on December 2nd. The Bulls will face him again in Detroit on New Year’s Eve.
The Bulls have a six-game home stand that features some “should wins” (versus Golden State, New York and Sacramento) and a couple “might not wins” (against the Celtics, Lakers and Hawks).
ESPN is showing their game against the Cavs in Cleveland on the 4th and NBA TV is televising their home game versus the Celtics on the 12th.
January: Uh oh…another 10 of 15 games on the road, including a seven-game Western Conference road trip to finish up the month (at Golden State, the L.A. Clippers, Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and New Orleans).
Only six of those games are against playoff teams (the Magic, Pistons, Celtics, Rockets, Spurs and Hornets), but a couple of the teams they face might make a playoff push this season (the Wizards and Suns).
The Bulls absolutely must take advantage of several games against inferior opposition (Bobcats, Bucks, Timberwolves, Warriors, Clippers and the Thunder twice) if they’re going to survive this stretch.
TNT is showing their game at Boston on the 14th, ESPN is showing them play in Phoenix on the 22nd and NBA TV is showing their game against the Rockets in Houston on the 23rd.
February: Seven games at home and seven games on the road. Some playoff opponents (Philly, Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Portland) and some non-playoff teams (Clippers, Timberwolves, Wizards, and the Pacers and Knicks twice each). All in all, probably the easiest month of the season to date. The bad news: it’s already February.
The Bulls will be televised once on ESPN (at Atlanta on the 5th) and twice on NBA TV (versus Miami on the 6th and at Washington on the 22nd).
The Bulls play nine games at home (versus the Hawks, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Jazz, Cavaliers, Rockets, Heat, Nets and Suns) and six on the road (at Orlando, Miami, Memphis, Dallas, Philadelphia and Detroit). In case you’re keeping track at home, that’s 11 games (out of 15) against playoff teams. Still, it’ll be nice to have two games against the Grizzlies.
The Bulls will make two appearances on TNT this month: at Orlando on the 11th and versus Miami on the 25th.
The Bulls finish the season with four home games (versus the Bobcats, Bucks, Cavaliers and Celtics) and four roadies (at Washington, New Jersey, Toronto and Charlotte). Two of those games — versus the Cavs on the 8th and the Celtics on the 13th — will be televised on TNT.
The schedule is front-loaded with a lot of road games, particularly in November and January. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team was struggling to stay above .500 come February. As always seems to be the case with the Bulls, the first half of the season is going to be a record killer and they might have to spend the second half playing catchup. Let’s hope that the return of Luol Deng, the free agent signing of Jannero Pargo and the addition of the rookies can give the team the depth and talent they need to make the playoffs again despite the early-season challenges.
From the Associated Press: “The Basketball Hall of Fame has opened a Michael Jordan exhibit before his enshrinement next month. The display features items from Jordan’s NBA career and from his time at North Carolina and with the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. There is also a batting glove from Jordan’s brief foray into baseball. The exhibit is made possible in part by a $250,000 donation from Nike and features several pair of the superstar’s Air Jordan shoes.”
Hall of Fame historian and archivist Matt L. Zeysing said: “It’s just a great project. The exhibit highlights Michael’s entire career, not just with the Chicago Bulls but in college at North Carolina, and with the U.S. Olympic Dream Team (in 1992). Michael’s appeal had crossover popularity. A young kid, living in the city, would grow up and love Michael Jordan, but the mother of that kid would love him, too.”
According to the Republican Sports Desk: “The Jordan display will include a 40-foot timeline, and examples Jordan’s line of basketball footwear. … Also available for viewing with be Jordan jerseys from throughout his career with the Bulls, Washington Wizards and Olympic team, and rings from all six NBA titles the Bulls won from 1991-98. … A four-minute movie will be shown continuously. Narrated by Jordan himself, the film shows highlights of his basketball career as well as other aspects of his legacy, including his brief attempt to play pro baseball in the mid-1990s.”
The Jordan exhibit will remain at the hall for several months after enshrinement. Maybe I’m being a little bit of a homer here, but I think the Jordan exhibit should be kept at the hall pretty much forever. I mean, he isthe best basketball player of all time right? Shouldn’t the Basketball Hall of Fame permanently celebrate the greatest pro baller to ever squeeze into short pants? I think so. Actually, I think the Hall should have a special exhibit for three pro players: Wilt Chamberlain (the greatest compiler of stats), Bill Russell (the greatest winner) and Michael Jordan (the greatest of the greats). But this is a good start.