Based on the number of Kirk Hinrich trade rumors and the frequency with which various experts and unnamed sources confirm Chicago management’s desire to dump Hinrich’s cap-killing contract, you’d think the Bulls were trying desperately to escape a pact with some dark power. Did Jerry Reinsdorf lose a fiddle match with the devil? That’s what it feels like.
It wasn’t always like this. When Captain Kirk signed a five year, $47.5 million dollar contract extension back in November of 2006, this is what John Paxson had to say about it: “Kirk Hinrich is imperative to the foundation of our organization and we are extremely pleased to have him with us long term. We are attempting to build a team based on character and commitment and these are both traits that Kirk possesses at a very high level. This is a very good day for the Chicago Bulls organization.”
And the Bulls have been trying to trade him ever since.
“There’s been rumblings of Hinrich, Tyrus Thomas and a draft pick to the Raptors for Chris Bosh, though that doesn’t seem likely at the moment. A package of Thomas and Hinrich could also work in Portland: The Blazers have expressed interest in Hinrich in the past, and Thomas could help shore up their frontcourt depth, which is lacking with Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla out for the season. But what about Boston? On The B.S. Report today, ESPN’s Bill Simmons throws out a potential trade of Tony Allen, Brian Scalabrine, another expiring contract and a future first-round pick or cash for Hinrich. ‘You now have the third guard that you basically haven’t had for the last three years,’ Simmons said. It’s an interesting proposition, and could free up enough money for the Bulls to allow them to go after Chris Bosh and LeBron James this summer.”
Sounds geat, doesn’t it? Especially that “the Bulls could sign Chris Bosh and LeBron James next summer” part. And the Celtics could certainly use depth in the backcourt…and Captain Kirk would definitely fit in with their defense-first mission statement. Patrick Cassidy of Dime Magazine called it “the trade the Boston Celtics need to make today.”
Too bad it’s never going to happen.
Boston wouldn’t want to part with the money — Kirk is still owed $17 million for the next two seasons — and I haven’t heard any convincing evidence the Bulls will land Bosh let alone get a shot at LeBron.
But hey, it’s fun to theorize.
Update!Another impossible trade scenario: Kirk and Tyrus Thomas for Andre Miller and Player To Be Named Later. Miller has two years and $14 million left in his deal…and the Bulls don’t want to bring in another comparable salary. Not to mention the fact that Miller sees himself as a starting PG but would be a backup in Chicago (unless Vinny decided to start him at shooting guard). If the Bulls do manage to trade Hinrich, it’s going to be for one or more expiring contracts.
“Try this on for size, as something that is percolating. And as of now, this is all I can tell you. I’m not going to tell you this is a done deal, or that it’s even close, but as far as something that is out there as a possibility. Hinrich, Tyrus Thomas, and at least one pick to the Toronto Raptors for Chris Bosh.”
Eh…it sounds to me like Boers and Bernstein were scrounging around for something to talk about. Again, maybe I’m just completely desensitized to Kirk Hinrich trade rumors, but the Raptors already have six guards on their roster and a guard-forward in Antoine Wright. Unless they can sucker some team into taking Jose Calderon off their hands – which is unlikely, since he has three years and $30 million left on his contract – why would they want to take on Hinrich and his contract ($17 million for the next two seasons)?
It just doesn’t make sense to me. From the Raptors’ perspective.
From the Bulls’ standpoint, it makes amazing sense. If they could land Bosh while getting Hinrich’s and Thomas’ deals off the books, that would leave them with enough cash to re-sign Bosh and one or more top-notch free agents next summer. But ridiculously one-sided trades don’t usually happen in the NBA unless the team getting shafted will reap the benefit of a reduced payroll. That wouldn’t happen for the Raptors…so I can’t see this deal ever going through. Unless I’m missing something.
That said, this rumor could be a sign that negotiations for Bosh are revving up. Although the Raptors have been streaking lately — winning seven of their last eight games — so would Toronto management want to mess with a hot team?
Were the Raptors playing 10-on-5 last night? Because it sure felt like it.
Getting blown out on the road by the Cleveland Cavaliers was understandable, maybe even expected. After all, the Cavs have the reigning MVP, the reigning Coach of the Year (even if Mike Brown road LeBron James’ coattails to the award), post players, shooters, loads of depth. In short, Cleveland is a championship-caliber team. The Bulls are not.
The Toronto Raptors, on the other hand, came into last night’s game 8-13 and losers of five of their last six games. What’s more, the Raptors were playing the second night of back-to-back games, which also happened to be their third road game in four nights and fourth game in five nights overall. Their previous night’s game, against the Washington Wizards (7-11) even went to overtime. Oh, and did I mention that Toronto is ranked dead last in Defensive Rating (116.6 points allowed per 100 possessions)?
Even without Tyrus Thomas (left forearm injury) and Kirk Hinrich (sprained left thumb), this game should have been a gimmie, right? Instead, the Bulls suffered a devastating homecourt loss — by 32 points! — in which they managed to score only 78 points (on 39 percent shooting) against the league’s worst defensive team. It wasn’t even competitive, as the Bulls were down 37-16 by the end of the first quarter. The Raptors didn’t pull any LeBron-esque antics, but I bet Chris Bosh felt like riverdancing.
Speaking of Bosh, he put on a nice audition for a team that might want to sign him when he becomes a free agent next summer: a game-high 25 points (9-for-12 from the field, 7-for-7 from the line), a game-best 12 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block. Go ahead and add Bosh to the ever-growing list of frontcourt players who have dominated the Bulls over the past two seasons. And he did it in only 22 minutes. Bosh was feeling so good after his limited duty, he said: “It feels like I might be able to have a choice in doing something tomorrow, other than just recover. Maybe I’ll go to the mall or something.” I’m really glad the Bulls helped Bosh get a chance to do some Christmas shopping.
So…what went wrong? That’s an easy one: pretty much everything. On defense, the Bulls could not stay in front of anybody, often missed their rotations and regularly failed to provide help coverage. On offense, they couldn’t deliver a crisp pass or decide on a good shot. Derrick Rose attempted too many floaters instead of driving with authoritah. John Salmons and Jannero Pargo jacked up too many threes (a combined 2-for-13). Taj Gibson committed too many turnovers (a game-high 4). Joakim Noah got too many technical fouls (and therefore a complimentary ejection). I can’t even name a Player of the Game because their wasn’t one. Nobody played well last night.
Update! If you think I’m being hard on the Bulls, just watch this video:
Perhaps the most frustrating — and certainly the most depressing — aspect of this loss was Chicago’s stunning lack of effort and intensity. Simply put, there was no fight in the Bulls last night. How else can you explain the fact that Toronto outrebounded the Bulls 53-32, including 18-11 on the offensive glass despite the fact that Chicago had quite a few more available offensive boards? Look, I understand the Bulls are shorthanded right now, but they should not be getting outhustled and outworked at home by bad teams. They just shouldn’t.
Said Rose: “I feel like on Monday or something like that, we’ve got to go back to school or something. I feel like that right now. Tomorrow is an off day, get treatment or whatever and come back the next day, have a strong practice and we’ll be fine.”
Are you sure about that, Derrick?
I predicted the Bulls would suffer through a rough start. The team has had to contend with a change in identity (due to the loss of Ben Gordon), key injuries and an early schedule that has been packed with road games. So the sub-.500 record — currently 7-11 — I expected. What I did not expect was to repeatedly watch the Bulls fail to even compete. Blowout losses to the Nuggets, Lakers, Blazers, and Cavaliers are one thing. Blowout losses at home to other sub-.500 teams are a sign that something is seriously wrong.
I understand depth is an issue. Like I said, Thomas and Hinrich are still out. I understand the Bulls don’t have any crack shooters right now, so the spacing is bad. Their shooting is awful (29th in Effective Field Goal Percentage). Their interior defense is terrible. Their interior scoring is nonexistent. Like last season, they are one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the league (currently ranked 30th in Total Defensive Rebounds and 29th in Defensive Rebounding Percentage). They are 28th in Point Differential (-7.4), ahead only of the 1-18 New Jersey Nets (-10.4) and the 3-17 Minnesota Timberwolves (-11.6).
I could go on, but let’s just say that virtually every statistic available provides cause for some serious concern. And I can’t help but feel like Vinny Del Negro is in over his head. He’s not making the obvious mistakes he made during his rookie coaching season, like wasting timeouts or sitting Rose during crunch time. But Vinny seems ill-equipped to deal with the team’s personnel problems. He also can’t seem to fire them up, motivate them to go all-out on every play, every night.
That was the magic of Scott Skiles, until the players got tired of being driven like cattle, that is. Of course, it could be a problem of group mindset. Noah is the only fiery player on the team. (And sometimes, like the last few nights, a little too fiery.) Rose, Salmons, and Luol Deng all look pretty laid back. Kirk Hinrich and Brad Miller can appear mellow from time to time. Pargo has some gumption, but he’s been hurting all season. Gibson and James Johnson are wide-eyes rookies. Aaron Gray…is Aaron Gray, bless his heart.
Therefore the question is: who’s going to take the reins and pull this team out of its funk? Somebody has to, because the leadership is seriously lacking right now.
Beware the second night of back-to-back games. Especially when the second game is on the road.
Thanks in part to Toronto’s apathetic approach to defense — the Raptors entered the game ranked last in the NBA in Defensive Efficiency, giving up 116+ Points Per 100 Possessions — the Bulls looked strong in the first half. After two quarters, Chicago was +10 on the boards, up 14-0 in second chance points, shooting over 50 percent from the field, and had a 60-53 halftime lead. Why, it even looked like the Bulls were going to reach the century mark in scoring for the first time this season.
As it turns out, they couldn’t even reach their season-high of 93 points.
Chicago actually kicked the lead up to 11 when Luol Deng drilled a 17-footer with 7:45 left in the third quarter, and it momentarily seemed as if the Bulls might actually run away with this one. Then things got ugly. How ugly? When everything was said and done, Chicago ended up shooting 10-for-40 (25 percent) in the second half. Ahead 88-85 with 6:24 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Bulls went the next six minutes and 14 seconds without scoring a point until Kirk Hinrich hit the second of two free throws with 10 seconds to go.
Here’s a summary of Chicago’s offensive — and I mean that in both senses of the word — possessions during that horrifying stretch: turnover (Joakim Noah three-second violation), turnover (Luol Deng’s pass was stolen by Andrea Bargnani), Derrick Rose missed 22-footer, Deng missed 20-footer, Taj Gibson offensive rebound, Gibson 0-for-2 from the line, Deng missed 21-footer, Hinrich missed 19-footer, Hinrich missed 22-footer, turnover (Deng traveled), Rose missed 20-footer, Rose missed layup, Noah offensive rebound and missed tip shot, John Salmons missed 14-footer, Salmons missed 25-foot three-pointer, Deng missed jumper, Hinrich 1-for-2 from the line.
To sum up: 0-for-11 from the field, 1-for-4 from the line, and three turnovers. Nine of the Bulls’ 11 shot attempts were jump shots. Six of the nine jumpers were from 20 feet or further out, and one was a 19-footer.
So what can me make of this? Three things. First, the Raptors have the kind of awful defense that readily gives up — and therefore seduces opposing teams into taking — uncontested jump shots. Second, the Bulls were clearly fatigued. By the fourth quarter, their shots were consistently coming up short and you could tell they had no legs. Third, because Toronto’s defense was giving them jumpers and because they were dragging, the Bulls bailed out and took those jumpers instead of forcing the action and trying to get to the rim. And let’s face it, tired teams don’t win on a steady diet of 20-foot shots. Especially bad shooting teams…which Chicago has been so far this season.
Of course, it’s worth noting that losing Tyrus Thomas (left arm fracture) has compromised the Bulls’ frontcourt depth. Jannero Pargo’s creaky back has limited his minutes (not to mention his effectiveness), which has left the team thin in the backcourt. Obviously, it’s not an optimal situation.
And now the Bulls have dropped back to .500 (4-4), and it goes without saying that teams with aspirations of making the playoffs — and maybe even earning a fourth or fifth seed — can’t afford to lose winnable games at home (as they did against the Nuggets) and fall to bad teams on the road (as they did against the Raptors). Now Chicago faces a long and winding road before their next home game.
The Raptors won the battle in Effective Field Goal Percentage (43.7 to 40.9) and Free Throw Rate (26.1 to 23.8). The Bulls won in Turnover Percentage (13.1 to 15.1) and Offensive Rebounding Percentage (29.4 to 26.1). However, Chicago scored only 12 points off 15 forced turnovers while the Raptors also scored 12 points off 13 forced turnovers, so that was a wash. Sure, Toronto hit five more free throws, but the real culprit was Chicago’s woeful shooting. Speaking of which…
Things aren’t getting any better for Salmons, who followed up his 3-for-13 shooting performance against the Nuggets with a 1-for-11 stinker against the Raptors. On the season, John is shooting 30.6 percent from the field and 26.2 percent from downtown. “Horrific” doesn’t begin to describe Salmons’ shooting this season.
Frontcourt defensive woes:
The Bulls were again exploited by an opposing frontcourt player, as Chris Bosh — after being outplayed by Noah in the first half — finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block. Bosh got stronger as the game plodded along. By the end, the Bulls simply could not contain him, especially close to the basket. Speaking of which…
The Bulls shot so poorly (39 percent for the game) mostly because they were settling for so many jumpers. Not surprisingly, the Raptors outscored them 50-36 in the paint. Also, Toronto was +11 on the boards in the second half, mostly because are best rebounder was running on fumes. Speaking of which…
Here we “Jo” again:
Noah had yet another double-double last night (12 points, 11 rebounds) to go along with 4 assists and 2 blocks. However, he had 10 points, 7 boards and 3 assists by halftime. Noah looked spent in the second half and eventually fouled out. He simply ran out of gas…like the rest of the Bulls. His fatigue was a big reason Bosh dominated the second half and Chicago got pounded in the paint.
Way to go, rookie:
Taj Gibson wowed Bulls fans by shooting 8-for-13 and scoring 18 points. He also had 5 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots. The kid played his butt off. He continues to be everything management and the coaching staff wants Tyrus Thomas to be.
Update: By The Horns reader Greg left a couple comments that deserve special mention here…even if they somewhat (but correctly) temper my enthusiasm for Gibson’s play as of late: “So far this season, I’ve been thrilled with the D, good rotations, solid individual D, and I recognize that Taj has been a big part of that steadiness with his solid understanding of the game. That said…1 Defensive Rebound in 34 mins in a game that we lose due to being crushed on the boards during the 2nd half??? I recognize that 18 points on good shooting is nice, but come on. Let’s not show too much bias in favor of the surprising rookie, I’ve been reading this column enough to know that if TT dropped that line, he would have been crucified for the lack of rebounding.” Greg is right. I would have killed Ty for that. Fair is fair.
Greg also added: “Taj has 5 defensive rebounds in his last 81 minutes of game play. I love his rotations and energy, and the offense has been a surprise, but BOX OUT!!!”
One night after playing Carmelo Anthony to a standstill — or maybe even outplaying him — Luol co-led the Bulls in scoring with 18 points to go along with 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Of course, he committed 4 turnovers and started shooting blanks in the fourth quarter, but Deng has been proving his doubters very wrong so far this season. His shooting is so-so, but his effort is A+…especially on the boards. My only criticism from last night is that he shot too many jumpers and didn’t force his way to the hoop often enough. As a result, he earned only one trip to the line. That’s not nearly good enough, especially against a woeful defense.
D-Rose scored 14 points and dished out 6 assists, but he shot only 6-for-14 and couldn’t make anything happen during the team’s scoreless stretch in the fourth quarter. Rose needs to realize that Ben Gordon is gone and that this is his team now. Situations like what happened last night are when franchise players have to step up. Bosh did it for the Raptors. Derrick needs to start doing that for the Bulls…and fast.
Rose was also abused off the dribble in the second half, and Noah was either not available or too tired to clean up the mess. As Chris commented: “I was starting to have my doubts about Jose last night, but the Bulls made him look like an all-star. Given the quickness advantage that both D. Rose and Pargo have on my boy Jose… FAIL.”
Reasons for concern:
You mean besides the bad shooting, spotty leadership, and the self-destruction of John Salmons? Well, the Bulls play seven of their next nine games on the road, including a seven game road trip through Sacramento, Los Angeles (Lakers), Denver, Portland, Utah and Milwaukee. Then, after a home game against the Pistons — Gordon’s first game back at the United Center — they face the Cavaliers in Cleveland. Seven of those games are against playoff teams, including two against title contenders and two against division rivals. This is a brutal stretch that could make or break the Bulls’ season.
As Bamford explains: “The Bulls have a lot of options that might look good to Toronto. They have two first round draft picks in this summer’s NBA draft and have a couple of young bigs in Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas that might be part of a package with a signed-and-traded [Ben] Gordon. In Bosh, the Bulls undoubtedly see an athletic power forward that can score and rebound and get up and down the floor with this season’s Rookie of the Year, point guard Derrick Rose. … In Gordon, the Raptors would bring in a scorer to a team that lacked that last season. … The Raptors would then have an athletic nucleus of Shawn Marion, Calderon, Gordon, and Andrea Bargnani, with the prospect of adding as many as three players to that group in this year’s draft. The Raptors currently hold the ninth overall selection; the Bulls have the 16th and 26th selections.”
I have to admit, it makes a crazy kind of sense. I mean, Bosh refused to sign a contract extension with the Raptors this summer with the intent of hitting the free agent market next summer…so he’s probably not long for Toronto. The Bulls need a big man who can score. They need it bad. Would I be bummed to give up Gordon and maybe Ty Thomas? Yeah. But I’d do it in a heartbeat. A starting lineup of Rose, John Salmons, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Joakim Noah with Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller and Players To Be Named Later coming off the bench would give me a serious case of the cold chills.
At this point, it’s a little bit like dreaming about winning the lottery. After all, I’m sure several teams are inquiring about Bosh, and it may end up that the Raptors try to do everything in their power to keep him. But he’d be a pretty sweet fit in Chicago.
Yesterday on Basketbawful, I made what was, in retrospect, a rather rash and foolish statement regarding Philadelphia’s loss to the Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen-less Celtics: “The defeat will almost certainly cost the Sixers the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs (unless the Bulls lose at home to the Raptors and Philly manages to beat the Cavs in Cleveland), which will force them to face Boston in the first round. So, you know, uh oh.”
What a boner…especially considering I’m the person who invented the term “stat curse.” Not only that, I’m also the guy who has repeatedly mocked the New Jersey Nets for going 23-40 and failing to reach the postseason after some early season success that caused Devin Harris to utter the now infamous line: “We knew we were going to be a playoff team.”
Yep. I fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: No NBA team can ever — I repeat, ever — simply pencil in a victory. No matter how well they’ve been playing, no matter how lousy the opponent, and no matter how invincible they seem at home. It’s a time-proven formula for failure. That’s science. Look it up.
So the worst-case scenario, which really had seemed unthinkable, actually happened: The Bulls lost 109-98 to the Raptors at the United Center, while the Sixers pulled out a 111-110 overtime victory in Cleveland. Now, instead of facing a suddenly struggling and potentially vulnerable Magic team, Chicago has to face the defending champions in the first round. You know, the same squad that managed to win 62 games despite the fact that their top dog and reigning Defensive Player of the Year missed almost a third of the season with a sprained right knee.
Sweet Lincoln’s mullet, what happened?! The Bulls had won 12 of their last 15 games and 14 of 15 at home. The Raptors, meanwhile, entered the game a disappointing 32-49 — unlucky number 13 in the East — and had nothing to play for except being the spoiler. Well, that’s not quite true. This was Shawn Marion’s last chance to audition for a big free agent contract, and he played like it, going off for a game-high 34 points on a video game-like 15-for-18 from the f ield to go along with 11 rebounds.
The Chi-towners brought less energy to the game than your average DMV employee brings to work each day. The Raptors just plain wanted it more, a fact that’s pretty obvious from one quick glance at the stat sheet: Toronto outrebounded the Bulls 57-40. (Chris Bosh grabbed 19 of those caroms.) Now, Chicago isn’t a great rebounding team — they have a -0.5 differential on the year — but to lose the Battle of the Boards by 17 at home in a semi-must-win game? Really?
The Raps also, amazingly enough, outran the Bulls, as evidenced by their 19-10 edge in fast break points. Said Ben Gordon: “We had lackluster energy.” He’s not wrong.
This stinker was more than a little surprising, particularly after the team’s impressive road win against the Pistons on Monday. It happens, I guess. They’ve been playing above their heads for a while. Guys have been logging a lot of minutes. John Salmons (5 points, 1-for-7) is struggling with that sore groin. (The way he played, his groin better be ready to fall off. At least that might explain his misdirected shooting and non-existent defense on Marion.) Plus, it sure seems like they’ve started taking their recent home dominance a little for granted. Memo to the Bulls: You still have to play the games.
Well, no use crying over spilled milk. All you can do is wipe it up and move on. And hope that Kevin Garnett is still far less than 100 percent. And that Paul Pierce wore himself out playing too many minutes to compensate for KG’s absence. And that Ray Allen misplaces his jump shot. And that Derrick Rose can handle Rajon Rondo. And, and, and…
Player notes: Rose finished his Rookie of the Year campaign with a double-double (20 points, 11 assists). He also added 2 blocks and a steal. Ben Gordon scored a team-high 23 points, but it took him 22 shots to get there. Joakim Noah (17 points, 8-for-11, 9 boards) and Tyrus Thomas (12 points, 6-for-11, 8 rebounds) had decent numbers, but I wish they would have done a better job protecting the glass. Salmons, as noted, was a disaster. Brad Miller had a double-double off the bench (14 points, 11 rebounds) but missed nine of his 14 shot attempts. Kirk Hinrich had his phaser set to “suck”…he went scoreless (0-for-6) in 17 minutes.
Let me be frank: When your opponent shoots over 54 percent and (according to the game recap) sets a new franchise high for points scored, chances are you didn’t win the ballgame. And the Bulls did not, dropping a 134-129 overtime decision to the Raptors in Toronto.
It’s called “a hand in the face,” guys. Try it.
Somewhat ironically, Neil Funk and Stacey King began today’s broadcast by noting that defense was the foundation of Chicago’s recently improved play. I couldn’t help but think, “Isn’t this the same team that let Pacers rookie Brandon Rush light them up for a career-high 29 points yesterday?” But hey, they’re the ones who get paid to call the games. I just blog about them.
Nonetheless, I guess it was just Chicago’s weekend to surrender career-highs, as Toronto’s Jose Calderon established a personal best by dishing out 19 assists, which matched Damon Stoudamire’s franchise-high. Maybe the Bulls were worn down by a hectic schedule — they’ve played six games in the last nine days — or maybe they didn’t expect the second-worst team in their conference to shoot lights out, but the Raptors hit a better percentage on jumpers (31-for-56) than layups (12-for-25). So kudos on your inside D, guys. But as for the perimeter defense…well, like I said, it’s called “a hand in the face” for a reason.
Even when the Bulls rallied back in the fourth quarter after falling behind 103-86 with 8:05 left to play, the Raptors still put up 29 points in the period. So the comeback was fueled more by offense (hence the 42-point outburst) than defense. And that’s what doomed the Bulls in overtime.
Derrick Rose had just put Chicago up by a point (127-126) with 29 ticks left in the extra session. After Toronto called timeout, Vinny Del Negro subbed in a cold Joakim Noah to check Chris Bosh (31 points, 15 boards). Noah must have forgotten that Bosh is a lefty, because he gave Chris the left-handed drive. Bosh got to the basket with frightening ease, and even though he bonked the the layup, he had beaten Joakim so badly that he easily grabbed the offensive rebound and put it in. Even worse, Rose fouled him on the attempt. Bosh hit the free throw to complete the three-point play, putting the Raptors up 129-127 with 14 seconds left.
Now it’s worth noting at this point that John Salmons didn’t get any daylight down the stretch or in overtime. According to Vinny, it was because John was suffering the effects of a ”tight groin.” But the Bulls missed him in the clutch. Not so much because he was shooting all that well — he finished 3-for-7 from the field — but because he’s a scoring threat from outside and on the drive. Without Salmons in the game, Toronto’s D had a tactical advantage. They were able to double and collapse and harass Rose and Gordon into giving up the ball. Sometimes to the wrong team.
And so it was that, after Bosh’s three-point play, Rose drove into the paint and drew three defenders, leaving Tyrus Thomas alone underneath the basket (and Brad Miller unguarded from 15 feet out, for that matter). Derrick tried to slip the ball through the triple-team, but it got snatched away. Chicago was forced to foul Andrea Bargnani (28 points, 10-for-20), who nailed both foul shots, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Said Rose: “I thought I had an opening to pass the ball to Tyrus [Thomas] and one of their guys tipped the ball and I lost it. It’s disappointing and that’s why I’ll put this game on me tonight.”
In all fairness to Derrick, the game wasn’t lost on that play. It was lost on the defensive end. Let’s face it, when a team hits 55 percent of its shots…offense is not the problem. Which means it’s either time to commit to both ends of the court or invest in an inflatable defender.
The net result: The Bulls went from seventh to eighth — just like that! — and are now one game behind the Pistons for seventh and two games ahead of the Bobcats.
Player notes: Gordon was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring a game-high 37 points on 15-for-26 shooting, not to mention the clutch 22-footer at the fourth-quarter buzzer that forced overtime. Strangely, BG ended up with a plus-minus score of -6. Huh. Rose had 23 points (9-for-13) and a team-high 9 assists. Noah put up 16 on near-perfect shooting (8-for-10), which can happen when all of your shots come within five feet. Speaking of which, Tyrus was back to his old tricks, going 2-for-8 from the outside (and, sadly, only 1-for-3 on layups). Ty did have a game-high 4 blocks, though. Miller provided some nice off-the-bench productivity with 14 points (6-for-10), 10 boards, 5 assists and the highest plus-minus score on the team (+7).
Well, the Phoenix Suns obliterated the Los Angeles Clippers 140-100 last night under new coach Alvin “I’m bringin’ the run-and-fun back” Gentry. That’s a dead coach bounce if I’ve ever seen one. But that seeming breakout win, in addition to the fear that he’ll be remembered as The Man Who Killed Happiness In Phoenix, will probably keep Steve Kerr from sending Amare Stoudemire anywhere but the training room for ice and a massage. (And, indeed, Kerr is hinting as much.)
But not even that cold dose of reality can douse the flames of trade scuttlebutt. To wit, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports has outlined the following three new rumors involving the Bulls:
Rumor #1: “The Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves have been exchanging trade proposals that include a possible three-way deal with the Suns that would send Stoudemire to the Bulls, a Western Conference executive said Tuesday night. So far, nothing that the Bulls and Wolves have brainstormed has brought the Suns closer to moving Stoudemire. Nevertheless, one proposed deal would send Bulls forward Tyrus Thomas to Phoenix, along with the expiring contracts of Chicago’s Drew Gooden and Minnesota’s Jason Collins. Minnesota would receive the player it covets — Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich — and Bulls guard Thabo Sefolosha.”
Liklihood: Next to none. Stoudemire, it appears, is off the market.
Rumor #2: “The Bulls want expiring contracts and draft picks to dump Hinrich and forward Andres Nocioni. Chicago has shopped them separately to several teams, but sources say Minnesota has no interest in Nocioni. However, sources say the Wolves and Bulls are discussing Hinrich and Sefolosha for Collins and Brian Cardinal. The Wolves are intrigued with Hinrich’s ability to play the point and off-guard and see him as a good complement to Randy Foye. Collins and Cardinal have shorter-term contracts that bring Chicago payroll relief.”
Liklihood: Reasonably high. Remember, Kevin McHale was pretty psyched about signing Marko Jaric a few years back. (Said McHale at the time: “We’re extremely excited to have acquired Marko.” Little did he know that signing would define his tenure as Minnesota’s GM…until he traded Kevin Garnett.) With Al Jefferson out for the season, I’m sure McHale would love to bring in another overpriced white point guard to kill the team’s cap.
Look, when the New Orleans Hornets traded Tyson Chandler yesterday for a couple of expiring contracts, it was a sign that the crappy economy has finally forced teams to cut their payroll regardless of the cost to team chemistry or wins and losses. There’s no question the Bulls have improved since Kirk returned from injury, but, from a financial perspective, Jerry Reinsdorf would rather have another watch Collins’ contract come off the books this July and Cardinal’s expire the following summer than overpay Hinrich for the next three and a half more seasons.
Rumor #3: “The Bulls have also had discussions with the Los Angeles Clippers regarding center Chris Kaman, one Western Conference executive said.”
Liklihood: Slightly more probable than getting Amare at this point, but still pretty unlikely. (Although with Marcus Camby and Zach Randolph, there might not be a lot of room in L.A.’s frontcourt when Kaman gets healthy…hmm.) Which is just as well. Yeah, he’d improve our interior defense and give the Bulls a back-to-the-basket scoring option. But Kaman’s a Clipper. He’s got the taint.
Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times: “Forward Tyrus Thomas, whose name has been a staple in any Stoudemire trade rumors, instructed the media to ask the ”people upstairs” about whether he was headed to Phoenix. ‘I can’t talk about something I can’t control,’ Thomas said. General manager John Paxson wasn’t around to clarify trade talks or his future with the team, so it was left to coach Vinny Del Negro to address both subjects. Del Negro said he was amused by reports Paxson has decided to give up GM duties, likely at the end of the season. ‘What’s funny to me is you go to All-Star weekend and you hear all these rumors and people talking about the Bulls,’ Del Negro said. ‘I had just met with Jerry [Reinsdorf] two days before I go. It was interesting because Jerry never brought that stuff up to me. Nor [did] Pax. It’s just part of the business and being a Chicago Bull. It’s one of the most successful franchises. It comes with the territory.””
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “The Bulls could be welcoming a big man with starting playoff experience Wednesday in Milwaukee. His name will be Drew Gooden, rather than Amare Stoudemire or Chris Bosh. Gooden practiced Tuesday after missing the previous 11 games with abdominal and groin pain, and coach Vinny Del Negro said he would make a game-time decision in the critical matchup with a Bucks team that currently holds a playoff berth the Bulls covet.”
From the Associated Press: “Rumors also swirled Tuesday about the Bulls possibly trading for Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh in a three-team deal with Phoenix. ‘I would love to play with him,’ rookie point guard Derrick Rose said of the 6-foot-10 Bosh, an Olympian and All-Star who averages 22.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. ‘He’s that low-post presence that we need,’ said Ben Gordon. ‘He can score, rebound and defense. He’d be a huge help.’ … Del Negro said he would not be surprised if the Bulls don’t pick up anyone before Thursday’s trade deadline. ‘With the economy the way it is, and the salary cap and the luxury tax, it’s tough to make a trade,’ he said. ‘No one wants to take in salary. It’s tough doing deals even in a good economy.’”
Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: “There was no sign of Paxson, just as there has been no actual evidence that he’s planning to resign anytime soon. Bulls consultant Jim Paxson, John’s older brother, watched practice, but that was hardly newsworthy. No trades were announced. If anything, the chances of the Bulls pulling off a significant deal before Thursday’s trade deadline appeared to be fading. This turned out to be nothing more than a routine practice day for the Bulls. They’ll resume play following the all-star break with a pivotal game tonight in Milwaukee against former coach Scott Skiles. The Bulls trail the Bucks by 21/2 games for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after Milwaukee beat Detroit on the road Tuesday night.”
Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic: “It appears the Suns have made their big move — changing head coaches. Suns General Manager Steve Kerr said as much Monday in telling the media and his team that he ‘would like to keep what we have.’ But forward Amaré Stoudemire is ‘still not sure’ despite his contention that he wants to remain with the Suns. ‘I hope so,’ said Stoudemire, whose family sat near Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver courtside seat Tuesday night. ‘I feel comfortable right now. Calls are still coming in for sure. I don’t think it’s going to stop until the deadline is over. Teams are still inquiring about me, still want me. It’s all about what the Phoenix Suns want to do.’”
The latest in completely unsubstantiated trade rumors involving the Bulls has Chris Bosh coming to Chicago in a three-team deal. The other particulars are Amare Stoudemire going to the Toronto Raptors with the Phoenix Suns getting Drew Gooden’s Expiring Contract (worth $7.2 million off the books this summer), Tyrus Thomas and a first-round draft pick (plus some other random add-ons, I would guess).
My initial reaction: Meh. I’ll believe it when I see it.
My secondary reaction to the “What if the trade actually happens?” question: Well, I’d much rather get Bosh than Stoudemire. I mean, he can totally pull of the cowboy/basketball fashion fusion (see above) and he’s a Youtube sensation. He was also a member of the National Honor Society as a high schooler, which means I could soon be the proud fan of a former honor roll student. That has serious bumper sticker potential.
There are basketball reasons for my Bosh-over-Stoudemire preference, too. First off, he’s actually focused and attentive on the defensive end. (Imagine that!) Frontcourt bruisers like Shaq can still reduce him to a Chris Bosh-shaped shooting prop, but he’s a reasonably solid rebounder, blocks the occasional shot and (most importantly) has the quickness necessary to deny penetration and/or switch out and cover guards in pick-and-roll situations. (This is a stark contract to Amare’s strategy, which is “Stand still, look confused, hope like hell they miss.”)
He can also create his own offense, usually from the left elbow in the high post area. Unfortunately, he only forces the action down low against smaller defenders — which is rare, since he’s thinnish for a frontcourt player — but his foot speed and the accuracy of his face-up jumper (which his defenders have to respect) allow him to get to the basket and either finish or draw the foul. (Bosh currently ranks 6th in the league in free throw attempts at 8.5 per game.)
Bosh is still young – he turns 25 on March 24th — which means that his best years might still lie ahead (although his numbers over the past three seasons haven’t really changed, which suggests he might have hit a plateau). I am a little concerned about his health, since he’s never logged a full 82 games and has missed at least 12 games in each of the last three seasons. (And he’s injured right now, as a matter of fact). Even more troubling is how his team has underachieved with him as The Man. The Raptors won 47 games in 2006-07 and, on paper, should have been even better in 2007-08. However, they regressed, winning only 41 games and getting eliminated 4-1 by the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs. And this season they’re currently 13 games below .500, which is so disappointing that it got Sam Mitchell fired a while back and last week sparked the semi-panic trade of Jermaine O’Neal for Shawn Marion.
Of course, in Chicago, Bosh could be The Other Man beside Derrick Rose. That might take some of the pressure off and allow him to just play the game. But would he want to do that? Could he defer to a rookie point guard? It’s hard to say. But I would rate him as an upgrade over Tyrus and Drew’s Contract and definitely a better fit than Amare.