December 16, 2011
Chicago takes on Indiana tonight in something called “professional basketball.”
It’s a rematch of round one of last year’s playoffs which the Bulls won 4-1. But that series was much more hard fought than that number makes it seem. Going into the fourth quarter of those games Chicago was down seven in Game one, tied in Game two and up one in Game three. Chicago won those first three games by 5 points, 6 points and 4 points respectively.
But Chicago definitely wasn’t playing their best basketball in the early rounds of the playoffs—or in the playoffs at all. Derrick Rose had to carry the team mostly by himself (not that this was any different from the regular season, but it was magnified in the playoffs), and he was more than willing to do that. Also, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah never seemed fully healthy, and Keith Bogans was starting at shooting guard.
One of those problems seems to have been corrected with the addition of Rip Hamilton. But it’s still unclear if the Masked Man will see the court tonight. According to K.C Johnson, Ronnie Brewer will start at shooting guard and Rip will be a game time decision.
It would be nice if Hamilton got some playing time today, especially with Rose. Those two need to develop chemistry, and they only have nine days left to do it before the season starts.
But the rest of the Bulls, who are mostly intact from last year, can hopefully regain the amazing chemistry they displayed throughout the past season.
Thibodeau also said rookie Jimmy Butler will see big minutes tonight. And Butler seems ready to go.
“It’s always go hard…” Butler said earlier. “Go hard in practice, go hard in games, go hard in everything you do. Take no possessions off and be a great teammate. Preseason game, practice, shootaround, all of that counts toward going hard.”
I think I’m going to like this kid.
In the end it doesn’t really matter who wins; just that everyone looks sharp and that no one appears to have spent the entire elongated offseason at a buffet.
It may just be preseason—but it’s still basketball!
Rip has spoken:
“I’m coming to do whatever the coach and the organization want me to do. If they want me to come in and play 20 minutes, I’m going to do that. If they want me to play 30 I’ll do that.
“Whatever the team needs, whatever the team needs, man, because the biggest thing I want is to win a world championship. I won it once, had an opportunity to win it again and didn’t. Now it’s the opportunity to feel good that you have a chance again. I’m excited.”
My take: This is the attitude Hamilton has to have for things to work out. If he’s being sincere, it’s a good sign and shows that the ugliness of last season — specifically his feud with the Pistons coaching staff — is behind him. It helps that, unlike the last few seasons in Detroit, Rip has a chance to be on a winning team again.
“I love the game of basketball. I think I can help this team in so many different ways, and I’m excited about it. They’ve got a great group of guys. Today, in the first day of practice, they really showed me they want to be out here. It wasn’t a thing where we all came out and showed up and everybody went through the motions. When the clock turned 10, 11 o’clock, they were ready to go. I liked it. I liked it a lot.”
My take: Welcome to Chicago, Rip. That attitude is what makes this team great. Everybody on this team, players one through 12, care. They really do. It’s rare. And special. If anything can bring the best out of Hamilton, it’s that attitude.
“I knew, my goodness, since I was 24, 25 and coach Larry Brown coached me, he really stressed defense. That’s how we won a world championship in Detroit. He really didn’t care about the offense. We knew we could shut teams down and in certain games your shot wasn’t going to fall and things like that, but you can’t let a team beat you by hustle and defense.”
You can’t see it, but I’m nodding vigorously.
The Bulls were already a great defensive team that, nine times out of 10, wins the hustle battle. If Rip can help improve the offense, this team will be scary good.
December 14, 2011
According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Rip Hamilton is expected to sign a two-year, $10 million deal with the Bulls later today, thus ending the team’s search for an upgrade at the shooting guard position.
Coach Tom Thibodeau and Carlos Boozer are both fans of Hamilton.
Former Bulls sharpshooter Steve Kerr thinks Rip will be a great fit in Chicago:
“I love the way (Hamilton) moves without the ball. I love the fact he doesn’t dominate the ball. If you’re going to have a backcourt partner with Derrick Rose, you want somebody who’s just going to catch and shoot or make a quick move. You can’t have somebody who’s going to dominate the ball, or put it on the floor because the offense will just stop.
“Rip’s a guy who can come off curls, screens and run all over the place, move the defense around so that even when he’s not scoring, he’s keeping people occupied, and that gives Derrick Rose driving lanes. I think it’s a great pick-up, assuming he has something left.”
Not everybody thinks the Hamilton signing will work for the Bulls.
Andres Alvarez of The Wages of Win Journal says nay. His argument is based largely on the fact that Chicago’s current crop of two guards — Keith Bogans, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer — were much more productive than Hamilton was last season based on David Berri’s Wins Produced metric.
That’s one way to look at it, I guess. Of course, despite all the dysfunction and turbulence in Detroit last season, not to mention reduced minutes, a reduced role, and a group of players that didn’t exactly fit together, Rip still compiled a better Player Efficiency Rating (15.8) than Bogans (9.0), Brewer (13.8) or Korver (13.0).
But when predicting Hamilton’s potential impact, it may be more important to consider his skill set versus what the Bulls already had at SG.
Now, is it true that Hamilton is a lesser defensive player than Bogans and Brewer? Yes, it is. However, the Bulls were ranked first in Defensive Rating last season because of Thibodeau’s well-designed team defense more so than any one or two players.
No, Chicago’s problems were on offense, where they ranked 11th in Offensive Rating. The Bulls had trouble spreading the floor in no small part because their shooting guard was usually an offensive non-entity.
Bogans could spot up for open threes. That is the extent of his offensive skill set.
Brewer can’t hit threes (6-for-27 last season) and has no mid-range game to speak of (30.8% from 3-9 feet, 33.3% from 10-15 feet, 37% from 16-23 feet). His admittedly solid ability to finish at the rim is hampered by the fact that he can’t get there on his own in one-on-one situations and doesn’t earn many free throws (2.7 per 36 minutes).
Kyle Korver can’t create shots or get to the rim (0.2 attempts at the rim per game last season), usually relying on a complex series of picks and screens to get an open look. Plus he’s a poor rebounder and can be absolutely abused on defense in one-on-one situations.
If you watched the Bulls last season, you know that, on offense, their inability to spread the floor hurt them. Especially against good defensive teams like the Miami Heat, their primary rival in the East.
Much was made of LeBron’s ability to shut down Derrick Rose in those fourth quarters of the Eastern Conference Finals. I won’t make excuses — like pointing out that Rose was exhausted from shouldering the entire offensive load all season and all playoffs long or that he was still hampered by a sprained ankle he suffered in the first round — but I will point out that LeBron’s job was helped by the fact that Chicago’s shooting guard (usually Bogans or Brewer) and center (Joakim Noah) were relative non-entities on offense…which allowed their men to repeatedly sag off and cut off whatever avenues Rose might have had.
The Bulls do not need Rip to be a 20-point scorer. They need him to be a legit scoring threat.
That’s why I put more stock in Kerr’s analysis than the breakdown of Hamilton’s Wins Produced. Rip isn’t what he was. We know that. But he’s an accomplished, respected player with championship experience. Defenses will pay attention to him. He never stops moving. He doesn’t need the ball. He can generate shots. He can shoot threes, hit from mid-range, and get to the rim. He is not great in any one of these areas, but he doesn’t have to be.
Again, as Kerr pointed out, Hamilton does not need to hold onto the ball like, say, a Jamal Crawford would. Which makes him a good backcourt mate for Rose, who almost always has the ball in his hands. And, due to his abilities and constant movement, his defense can’t just leave him, as Bogans’ and Brewer’s defenders could.
Over the past two seasons, Rips skills haven’t been as sharp as they were. It’s hard to say how much of that was incompatible personnel and a bad situation, although it’s reasonable to suggest those factors played a part in his seeming decline. But, again, he doesn’t have to be the 2004 Richard Hamilton. He just has to help spread the floor and take a little of the scoring burden off of Rose.
I think he can do that.
December 12, 2011
Jason Richardson is reportedly going to sign a four-year, $25 million contract with the Orlando Magic. So you can officially cross his name off the list of potential Bulls shooting guards.
Apparently, J-Rich decided to go for money over winning. After all, Dwight Howard has demanded a trade. So unless Orlando pulls off an amazing trade for several quality players, the Magic aren’t going to be very good this season. And maybe not for a long while to come.
As ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell points out, finances will likely prevent the Bulls from acquiring other high profile targets such as Arron Afflalo, Jamal Crawford and Nick Young. Which makes Rip Hamilton the team’s most likely target. And all signs point to Hamilton inking a deal with the Bulls.
Additional reports indicate the Bulls may go after Howard.
That’s not going to happen.
As Friedell writes:
Again, according to capologist Larry Coon, in order to make the numbers work in a deal which would include Hedo Turkoglu (there’s little doubt the Magic would include Turkoglu’s contract in any proposed deal for Howard) the Bulls would give up Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Omer Asik and Taj Gibson, plus probably a draft pick or two. Does Smith really want to build his post-Howard Magic squad around Deng and Noah? Both have had injury problems in the past; but what is surely more alarming to Smith is the fact that Deng and Noah have guaranteed contracts worth more than $100 million over eight years.
Not to mention the fact that Asik and Gibson are due for big raises over the next year. Does Smith really believe that the best deal to make revolves around that kind of guaranteed money within his own conference?
There are major questions whether Howard would even want to play in Chicago, and the deal outlined above simply wouldn’t be that attractive to the Magic…not if they’re going to rebuild. So let’s assume Dwight won’t be walking through that door any time soon. As in ever.
Neither is Kurt Thomas, who plans to sign a two-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers. I’ll miss Big Sexy. He was professional and tough, and he really came through when Noah was injured last season. Still, Thomas is the league’s oldest player, and with the emergence of Asik, Kurt was a luxury more than anything else.
One major non-luxury is the future of Derrick Rose. But the Bulls are on the verge of taking care of that. According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Rose will win on the bottom line soon. General manager Gar Forman said the formality of Rose’s five-year, $94 million extension is being finalized with Rose’s agents, Arn Tellem and B.J. Armstrong.
Said Forman: “Derrick is the centerpiece of what we’re putting together here. We want Derrick to be a Bull for a long, long time. It’s very important that we put the right pieces around Derrick.”
My take: We will soon see a Bulls team that look very much like last year’s squad…except that Hamilton will replace Bogans as the starting two guard. Which means, as long as everybody stays healthy, the Bulls can be as good as anybody.
December 10, 2011
The Detroit Pistons are buying out Rip Hamilton’s contract.
ESPNChicago, the Chicago Tribune, and the Detroit Free Press all agree: Hamilton will most likely end up signing with the Bulls.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes:
Terms of the buyout of Hamilton’s $12.6 million contract were not disclosed, but a league source said the Bulls likely will offer a two-year deal in the neighborhood of $10 million to recoup most of what Hamilton gives back.
Hamilton’s midlevel exception over the next two seasons would limit the Bulls’ exposure to luxury-tax levels, particularly when Derrick Rose’s maximum contract extension begins in 2012-13. Restricted free agents Omer Asik and Taj Gibson also need new deals then.
Does Rip meet the Bulls needs? Let’s ask ESPN’s John Hollinger:
Hamilton averaged better than a point every two minutes and threw in the 11th-best pure point rating at his position for good measure. At 33, he’s lost very little to age at the offensive end.
While he’s a solid 3-point shooter (38.2 percent), it’s not a shot Hamilton seeks out. Instead he runs off curls or through some other maze of screens to get himself clean midrange looks. He had a harder time than usual converting them last season, making 39 percent of his 2s from beyond 10 feet, although part of the reason was that he had to create some of them for himself at the end of the shot clock; Hamilton is much better off the catch. He’s one of the league’s fittest players and can run all day, so his off-ball movement often exhausts opposing defenders.
Defensively, Hamilton didn’t always seem engaged and he suffered mightily in strength matchups. What he can do, however, is stay in front of quick guards. With Detroit’s freakishly huge point guards, this frequently allowed him to switch defensive assignments and check the other team’s point man.
Their are a few red flags. Last season, Rip’s scoring was down (14.1 PPG versus 17.7 PPG for his career), his attitude became toxic, and he openly fueded with Pistons then-coach John Kuester.
Quite a fall from a former champion who was once known as a model teammate.
I’m sure the Bulls are assuming (or maybe just hoping) that Hamilton got caught up in all the dysfunction and losing that haunted the Pistons the last couple seasons. That team was a mess.
The Bulls, on the other hand, may be the tightest team in the league.
Regarding the reduced scoring, that seems to be a function of his reduced role and minutes, because his Per 36 Minute stats are pretty close to his career numbers.
At any rate, Rip would be a major upgrade over Keith Bogans. And Derrick Rose is a fan:
“Rip is a winner. I can’t say nothing bad about him. He’s got a championship. It’s great. He knows how to win. He came from winning programs. And if he comes along, I know that we’ll be happy to have him.”
December 9, 2011
The Miami Heat got stronger by signing Shane Battier.
The New York Knicks added Tyson Chandler.
The Los Angeles Clippers came to an agreement with Caron Butler.
The Los Angeles Lakers traded for Chris Paul.
No, wait. David Stern blocked that trade. Which was an absolute travesty, even if made me breath a sigh of relief because it kept CP3 off the Lakers.
The point is, several teams are being aggressive in their attempts to upgrade.
The Bulls, so far, have done nothing.
And although not every move is striking fear into my heart — the Heat taking a chance on Eddy Curry and the Milwaukee Bucks coming to terms with Mike Dunleavy Jr. spring to mind — I’d sure feel better if the Bulls seemed to be doing, well, anything.
Fact: Chicago’s biggest Eastern Conference rival is the Heat.
Fact: Miami was already the better team — they proved it in the playoffs last season — and now they’ve added Battier, a quality role player, elite defender and great locker room presence.
The Bulls already struggled to score against the Heat. Now, as ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell pointed out, Miami can use Battier to guard Luol Deng and move LeBron onto Derrick Rose full time, while Chris Bosh can negate Carlos Boozer and Dwyane Wade can smother any player the Bulls can currently use at shooting guard.
Unless Joakim Noah spent the summer learning post moves from Hakeem Olajuwon, the Bulls are going to really struggle to score points against the Heat.
Now, more than ever, management needs to do something about the shooting guard situation. The match-ups versus the Heat are now far too lopsided for the Bulls to expect to win by trying harder.
Patience and careful thinking has served the Bulls well. But, assuming the goal is to win a championship, a bold and decisive move needs to be made.
Otherwise, the Bulls may as well concede ownership of the East to the Heat.
December 8, 2011
Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald wants to quash the Jamal Crawford-for-Ronnie Brewer trade rumor:
“On rumored Jamal sign and trade, probably wishful thinking from Hawks/Jamal camp. Crawford is a Bulls candidate, but not trading Brewer for him.”
The Bulls only have their $5 million mid-level exception to use…and it’s unlikely Crawford would sign for only $5 million a year. So unless management decides to part with a tradable asset like Brewer, I’d hold off on pre-ordering a new Bulls jersey with Crawford’s name on it.
According to David Aldridge of NBA.com, Caron Butler has officially fallen of the Bulls’ radar.
Butler is expected to sign a three-year, $24 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes:
After meeting with Caron Butler on Monday and coach Tom Thibodeau personally calling Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford and others, the Bulls currently have no more free-agent visits scheduled.
The strategy appears to be to let the market come to them as they try to upgrade at shooting guard, armed only with salary cap exceptions. With other candidates like the Suns’ Vince Carter not officially waived yet, management sounds confident one player will sign for the right price for the chance to play for a title contender alongside Derrick Rose.
According to league sources, the Bulls have not yet offered the $5 million mid-level exception to any player, including Butler, who is meeting with the Nets on Wednesday and Thursday. Meanwhile, last season’s starter, Keith Bogans, continues to work out at Berto Center and looks to be in great shape.
Glad to hear Bogans is in great shape. I’d feel better if he’d added the ability to create his own shot.
Other than that, all we have to go on is rumor. And on that subject, Steve Kyler of Hoopsworld has been tweet ing up a storm. He claims the Bulls and Hawks are discussing a sign-and-trade deal that would bring Jamal Crawford to Chicago in exchange for Ronnie Brewer and other bits and pieces (possibly C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik).
Crawford has definite upsides. He’s a big guard who can create shots out of thin air stick threes under pressure. He seems like a great fit for the Bulls, right?
Here’s a excerpt from ESPN’s John Hollinger’s player profile on Crawford:
He lost 4.4 points off his 40-minute scoring average, partly because he was asked to play a less active role offensively and partly because he didn’t make up for it with greater shooting efficiency (in fact he shot worse).
Additionally, his rebounding went from merely poor to You Can’t Be Serious. Crawford is 6-6 and athletic; nobody expects him to outmuscle Kevin Love on the block, but you’d think a few boards would come his way just by dumb luck. Instead he rebounded only 3.4 percent of missed shots when he was on the floor, the single worst figure in the entire NBA. In a league that employed J.J. Barea, Earl Boykins, Aaron Brooks, Patty Mills and Pooh Jeter, among others, Crawford — who, again, is 6-6 — managed to land at rock bottom.
This was not only the worst figure in the NBA last season, it was very nearly the worst in history by a player 6-6 or taller. However, it turns out that there was another 6-6 Hawk who was even worse — Randy Wittman posted a 3.3 in 1986-87, as did one other player (Jim Paxson in 1989-90). So Crawford will have to be content with the four-point play record.
The rebound rate ties in with another phenomenon — Crawford just doesn’t play that hard on defense. He lacks strength but his length and lateral quickness should offset it, especially when he’s defending opposing point guards. It hasn’t worked out that way.
Poor shooting efficiency. Doesn’t rebound or work hard on defense. Doesn’t exactly sound like a Tom Thibodeau-style player. Maybe the team culture would change him. Maybe playing with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, and being coached by Thibs, would awaken Crawford’s inner defensive beast.
But I tend to think that, at this point in his career, Crawford is what he is.
Frankly, I’m not sure why the Bulls aren’t more obviously pursuing Jason Richardson. I mean, I’d prefer the ultra-efficient Aaron Afflalo, but he’s a restricted free agent and the team probably can’t afford him. Which means Richardson’s combination of scoring and defensive ability — and, hopefully, his desire to earn less money for a shot at a title — should make him the top target.
But the Bulls are taking a wait-and-see approach, apparently. So I guess we’ll wait and see.
December 7, 2011
According to ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell, Joakim Noah is feeling 100 percent healthy after battling thumb and ankle injuries last season.
He’ll need to be.
The Bulls updated schedule for the abbreviated 2011-12 season has been released. And it’s challenging. In fact, early on, it’s downright brutal.
The schedule opens with a four-game road trip that begins on Christmas Day against the Lakers in L.A. and runs through Golden State, Sacramento, and back through L.A. for a match-up with the Clippers.
Eight of the team’s first 11 games are on the road, and 11 of their first 17 overall. That 17-game stretch has five sets of back-to-back games.
On January 9-11, the Bulls play three games in three nights, at home against the Pistons, versus the Timberwolves in Minnesota, and back home against the Wizards.
On January 29, the team will embark nine-game road oddessy against the Heat in Miami followed by stops in Washington, Philly, New York, Milwaukee, New Jersey, New Orleans, Charlotte and Boston.
By the end of that trip, the Bulls will be 30 games into the season, with 20 of those games being roadies.
Things even out a bit over the next month, thanks largely to a couple of six-game home stands. But still. All those early road games could really wreak havoc on Chicago’s record. Especially considering the season’s late start and the fact that it’s going to take extra time for teams to really gel.
Obviously, it’s easier to gel at home than on the road. But it is what it is.
By the end of the season, the Bulls will have played 33 games in the United Center and 33 games outside of the Windy City,with 17 sets of back-to-back games and the one stretch of three games in three nights.
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. As rough as the first 30 games will be, the degree of difficulty should taper off during the second half of the season thanks to the higher number of home games. And ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh tweeted that the Bulls actually have one of the easiest schedules in terms of opponents’ win-loss percentage.
So there’s that.
Friedell has more details about the schedule and ChicagoNow’s Doug Thonus points out that the Clippers, Lakers and Thunder will not visit Chicago this season…therefore no Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant.
Sorry, Bulls season ticket holders.
All that said…finally! A season! Free agency begins in two days…
…and we are working to fix the problem.