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.
April 15, 2013
MVP (Most Valuable Player): This feels weird to type, but Carlos Boozer, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng all played well in this one. Boozer (22 points, 4 assists,) made a couple of great passes, Hinrich (14 points, 4 assists, 3 steals) was finally knocking down shots, and Deng filled up the stat sheet (18 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks).
LVP (Least Valuable Player): Let’s take a look atRip Hamilton’s first quarter stats: two missed shots, two dropped passes and one air ball. He did not record another statistic in the first frame. It didn’t get much better the rest of the way, as he finished 1-5 from the floor with one assist. Can he get suspended again?
X factor: The Bulls, normally one of the lesser three point shooting teams in the league, went 9-17 from beyond the arc (52.9 percent), led by Kirk Hinrich, who hit 4-6. That 9-17 includes misses from both Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. Orlando went 2-10.
That Was … convincing: After dropping their last three games to lottery teams, the Bulls finally pulled out a convincing win against a lesser opponent. It was also nice to have the likes of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson back on the court, even if Noah played quite poorly.
April 9, 2013
Time isn’t the friend of this M.A.S.H unit known as the Chicago Bulls.
There are six games left in the regular season and there are more unhealthy bodies than healthy ones.
Derrick Rose (left knee rehab) is still in the “out indefinitely” category. Rose says he’s still open to playing this season, but a return at this point feels very unlikely.
Rip Hamilton (back spasms) reportedly practiced yesterday with no setbacks, but Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said last week that Hamilton is “not real close” to returning.
Taj Gibson (sprained left knee) also practiced without any issues yesterday, but he remains out indefinitely. That Gibson didn’t tear his MCL may have been the best news the Bulls have had this season — it’s been that kind of year — but there’s been no indication when he’ll start playing again. I’ve heard everything from “not until the playoffs” to “could be this week.”
Thibs says that Luol Deng’s sore hip is “better,” although Deng will probably sit out tonight’s game against the Raptors. The Bulls seem intent on giving Deng — who leads the NBA in minutes per game (39.2) — some rest and relaxation before the playoffs.
Said Deng: ”I feel like I need it, especially because I think we learned a lot from last year. Fatigue toward the end of the year makes it easy to pick up injuries. We don’t want that with everyone coming back. We just want to be as healthy as we can.”
Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain) said he woke up with pain after playing in Detroit on Sunday and has acknowledged that he will simply have to play in pain until the offseason.
Then there’s Joakim Noah.
The plantar faciitis in Noah’s right foot hasn’t gotten any better, and it probably won’t until he has extended time off. In other words, after the Bulls’ season has ended. Even worse, Thibodeau says that Noah suffered “a little bit of a setback” when he played against the Pistons on Sunday.
Said Thibs: ”It’s a tough one. You never really know with that type of injury.”
And it’s not for a lack of trying to heal on Noah’s part. He’s done about everything short of consulting a witch doctor, and that includes getting an injection of platelet-rich plasma. Said Noah: ”I’m doing everything: Massage, sleep in a splint, ice … If you got any remedies you want to give me I’ll probably do it.”
Maybe Noah should ask Bill Walton about that special rock in the Philippines that breaks curses.
All the Bulls can do right now is rest the guys who are hurt and play the ones who can still walk straight and breath relatively normally.
Said Thibs: ”We don’t want anyone to play who is injured. At this time of the year, there are a lot of guys that are hurting that will play, but if a guy is injured we don’t want him out there. … Whoever we have, that’s who we’re going with. We have more than enough to win.”
I think we all saw that last part coming.
July 16, 2012
Kyle Korver is scheduled to have a physical in Atlanta today.
Assuming he passes — and there’s no reason I know of to assume otherwise — the Bulls will be able to finalize the three-team deal sending Korver to the Hawks via the Minnesota Timberwolves.
What do the Bulls get out of this trade? Reportedly, they will receive a draft pick, a trade exception, and the benefit of not paying the $500,000 guarantee on the $5,000,000 non-guaranteed portion of Kyle’s contract.
Will the deal make the Bulls a better team? No. Will it keep money in Jerry Reinsdorf’s pockets? Yes.
It’s currently unknown whether Kirk Hinrich will be included in this transaction somehow. Reports have surfaced that unrestricted free agent O.J. Mayo is getting a look-see from Chicago management – Mayo is also receiving interest from the Lakers, Mavericks and Suns — and the Bulls may be trying to work out some sort of deal that allows them to get both Hinrich and Mayo while still, somehow, avoiding the luxury tax.
Which likely means moving Rip Hamilton.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes:
Along these lines, league sources said the Bulls have shopped Richard Hamilton’s expiring $5 million deal, which carries a mere $1 million guarantee for 2013-14. Thus far, there have been no takers.
No takers? Hard to fathom that. Who doesn’t want an injury-plagued shooting guard coming off his worst statistical season since his rookie year and who will turn 35 in February?
Of course, management’s efforts at moving Rip may have nothing to do with Mayo at all. The Bulls may simply be looking to avoid spending money. Which, as everyone knows, is their M.O.
Nonetheless, Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald has sorted through various Mayo-to-Chicago scenarios:
Complete details of the Kirk Hinrich acquisition and Kyle Korver trade to Atlanta have yet to be revealed, but those transactions should help the Bulls in the Mayo chase.
If the Bulls get a second-round draft pick out of the Korver trade, they’ll have a traded-player exception worth $5 million. To use that on Mayo, they’d have to talk the Grizzlies into doing a sign-and-trade and send some sort of draft pick and/or cash in return.
Sign and trades are limited to four years in the new CBA. So if that happens, Memphis could sign Mayo to a four-year deal worth a total of $21.35 million and send him to the Bulls.
Another possibility is using the full mid-level exception of $5 million. The most the Bulls could get out of that is the same four-year offer to Mayo worth $21.35 million.
To use that option, the Bulls would have to decline to match Omer Asik’s offer sheet from Houston. Otherwise, they’d be limited to the taxpayer mid-level of $3 million.
They’d also have to find another way to land Hinrich, either through a sign-and-trade with Atlanta or possibly even the bi-annual exception worth $1.9 million, which they could use if Asik walks.
There’s also a chance the Bulls could negotiate an Asik trade before he signs the offer sheet, maybe something involving the Rockets and Grizzlies. That would be a challenge to work out, but it could be done.
I know. My head’s spinning too. So many possibilities.
Speaking of Asik, there’s been an interesting turn of events that could affect his presumed offer sheet from the Rockets. Namely that the Knicks have reportedly decided not to match Houston’s offer sheet on Jeremy Lin.
From the Chicago Tribune:
The New York Knicks reportedly will not match the offer sheet signed by point guard Jeremy Lin from the Houston Rockets.
Lin, a restricted free agent, signed a three-year, $25.1 million deal with Houston. ESPN.com reported a Knicks source said the team would not match the contract because
Lin reportedly would make $5 million next season and $5.225 million during 2013-14 season. The Knicks have until Tuesday to match the Rockets’ offer. it contains a third year worth $14.8 million that would likely subject the team to the NBA’s luxury tax.
Since Lin’s offer and Asik’s reported offer are both backloaded, that means the Rockets would owe the pair of them close to $30 million in 2014-15. That’s an obscene amount of money for a largely unproven (if admittedly seemingly spectacular) point guard and a backup center.
And don’t forget Houston is still trying to land Dwight Howard.
Will the Lin situation affect Houston’s ability to make an offer to Asik? Can it?
I guess we’ll find out. The Knicks have until tomorrow to match Lin’s offer sheet. And at the moment it seems they’ll do what all teams do in this sitution: wait until the last minute to announce their decision.
Still, all signs point toward the fact that Bulls management is more concerned with saving money — both this season and in the future — than improving the team right now.
But maybe management has some amazing moves to make we haven’t seen yet.
December 16, 2011
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 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.”
March 25, 2009
Talk about a battle of the walking wounded. The Bulls, already without Luol Deng (stress fracture), lost the services of Derrick Rose, who bruised his right wrist during a blown dunk attempt over Washington’s Oleksiy Pecherov right before halftime of Chicago’s win over the Wizards on Monday night. It was the first missed game of Derrick’s pro career. “Trust me, I can take pain,” Rose said. “But it really hurts. I can barely turn a doorknob.” Of course, there aren’t many doorknobs to turn on a basketball court, but I’ll go ahead and assume that the injury would have affected his shooting and ball handling too.
The Pistons aren’t strangers to the injury bug, either. Allen Iverson missed his 14th consecutive game with a “bad back” that might actually be a case of the “don’t want to come off the bench.” Rasheed Wallace missed his eighth game with a strained left calf and Rip Hamilton sat out his fifth straight with a left groin strain. That’s 48 points, 13 boards and almost 10 assists missing in action, which seems kind of significant.
So neither team was at full strength. But the games have to be played regardless of who is or isn’t available. And although the Bulls are looking up at the Pistons in the standings — as they have been for the last several years — that gap has narrowed by a lot…mostly because Detroit has been falling apart all season. Coming into their game against Chicago, the Pistons had gone 7-14 since February 8. During that same stretch, the Bulls have gone 11-9. Not what you’d call a great run, certainly, but I’d rather be a couple games above .500 than seven games below it.
It was a classic case of two teams going in opposite directions. Detroit entered the game as sort of a dark reflection of the Bulls. Whereas Chicago had won four of their last five games, the Pistons had dropped four of five. And more tellingly, the Bulls have been on a big-time roll at home, having won seven of eight at the United Center prior to the Pistons game. Ernie Johnson brought this up during TNT’s pregame show, and Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith laughed as his suggestion that Chicago’s stretch-run schedule — in which eight of their final 11 games are at home — was really quite favorable. That only proves that Charles and Kenny haven’t watched the Bulls play at the UC lately. Or probably anywhere else for that matter.
Now, I’d say that the team came out a little lethargic, which is to be expected. After all, they played a tight game against the Wizards in Washington last night, and there were stretches in the first half where they had Rubber Leg Syndrome. And keep in mind that, without Rose and Deng, and with Tim Thomas limited to just under five minutes due to back spasms, the Bulls basically had to go with a six-man rotation. John Salmons, Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich each logged 46 minutes, Tyrus Thomas played 40, Joakim Noah went for 30 and Brad Miller put in 24. Oh, and Lindsey Hunter got five minutes of daylight, but you would have hardly noticed.
Kirk Hinrich made the most of his second start of the season. Captain Kirk set his phaser to “kill,” scoring a game-high 24 points and dishing out a team-high 8 assists. Hinrich even had 3 steals and a block. It kind of makes me wonder what would have happened had John Paxson gotten his wish and had been able to dump Kirk’s contract before the trade deadline. Would the Bulls have won with Lindsey Hunter playing 40+ minutes at the point? Somehow, I doubt it.
But as well ask Hinrich played, the guy who really gave the Bulls a spark was — wait for it — Tyrus Thomas. He had a double-double (18 points and 12 boards), a season-high 5 assists, and shot 7-for-13 from the field. Yes, he took a few ill-advised jumpers — as usual – but he hit a few too, from 15, 17 and 19 feet out. And note that he showed more restraint and patience than I’ve seen from him in a while. Not only did he pass up some open jump shots to make strong moves to the hoop, he was able to draw extra defenders and make timely passes.
At times, it was like watching a completely different Tyrus. So much so that a few times I considered going to his home and checking the basement for Body Snatcher pods. But who knows, maybe Tyrus played better because he felt freer. After all, due to the shortened bench, he had to figure he was going to get big minutes, if only because Vinny Del Negro would have no choice but to play him. And he rewarded the team with all the youthful energy and enthusiasm he could muster.
Meanwhile, the Pistons — despite a big game off the bench from Will Bynum (20 points, 10-for-16, and a game-high 9 assists) — just wore down. They didn’t have a rabid home crowd from which to draw inspiration. Chicago eventually went up by 19 points (92-73) with just over six minutes remaining before going to sleep a little bit. That allowed Detroit to make a little run to make the final score (99-91) respectable, and it looked like that freaked Vinny out a little bit. But given the circumstances, I was okay with the guys pulling back on the throttle a little bit.
The win not only put Chicago a full two games up on the Charlotte Bobcats for the East’s final playoff spot, it pulled them to within a game of the Pistons for the seventh seed. And whereas the Bulls’ stretch schedule is home-heavy, Detroit plays seven of their final 12 on the road…and one of their home games is against the Lakers. Not to mention that the Bulls will travel to Detroit on April 13 in what could be a showdown for playoff seeding. Crazy.
Player notes: Ben Gordon scored 19 (7-for-15) and contributed 6 assists. Joakim Noah added a double-double (15 points, 10 boards). John Salmons grabbed 6 rebounds to go with his 16 points. And Brad Miller had 7 points, 5 boards and 2 blocks off the bench.
Et tu, fans? Believe it or not, the United Center crowd — what was left of them anyway — booed Captain Kirk during his postgame interview. Seriously. The crime? Bonking a free throw with 17.9 seconds left that would have given the Bulls 100 points and “earned” the fans free Big Macs. I guess sometimes surging at the end of the season to possibly make the playoffs just isn’t enough. That’s what happens when “free taco excitement” gets out of hand.
Extras: Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.