February 25, 2011
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes: “When the Bulls refused to include Omer Asik in trade discussions with the Rockets for Courtney Lee, it was thought management tiptoed past Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. But according to multiple league sources, the Bulls aggressively pursued Grizzlies shooting guard O.J. Mayo, offering Ronnie Brewer, two first-round picks and one second-round pick. The Grizzlies rebuffed the offer.”
But…the Grizzlies were willing (if unable) to trade Mayo to the Pacers for Josh McRoberts and a first rounder? Really? And why?
Johnson continues: “There’s a longstanding theory Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley, who has a home in the St. Charles area, doesn’t like doing business with the Bulls for competitive reasons. Whether that factored into the Grizzlies turning down what appears to be a more substantial offer than that of the Pacers is unknown.”
So, despite the all the hand-wringing and teeth-nashing by Bulls fans (myself included), it would appear management did their due diligence in pursuing an upgrade at the SG position. I mean, Brewer (whose contract expires in 2012) and three draft picks (including two first rounders) would have been a pretty solid return for Mayo.
Oh well. It’s not all doom and gloom.
Johnson added: “What is known is the Bulls move forward with their core of young assets intact and roughly $2.9 million of salary-cap space. They will monitor players whose contracts are bought out and must be added by March 1 to be playoff-eligible. They also could sign some Development League players. At this June’s draft, the Bulls will be in position with four first-round picks, cap space and contracts that expire in 2012 for Brewer, C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver (who has a partial guarantee for his third contractual year). They also will be able financially to make a move once a new collective bargaining agreement is set.”
I know it’s not easy to accept. It’s natural to have wanted an upgrade over Keith Bogans. But, really, this is smart management, folks. Forward thinking. Instant gratification isn’t always a good thing, even if it does provide, uhm, instant gratification.
Said Bulls GM Gar Forman: “Every year there seems to be two or three guys who are excellent players and teams are looking for expiring contracts, multiple draft picks and young assets. We didn’t want to make a deal just to make a deal. We want to make the right deal. We don’t know what we’re facing going forward (with a new CBA). Our feeling was we didn’t want to give up a young asset when you don’t know what’s on the horizon. We want to see what the playing field is going to look like. When you look at our roster and our books, we’re going to have opportunities.”
I still can’t say I’m totally happy with how things turned out. But I’m feeling better about them.
February 19, 2010
A jump shooting power forward? He's perfect for the Bulls!
Let me preface this post by making — or, rather, re-making – the following points:
First, the trades that brought these four players to Chicago were not made to improve the team in the long-term. They were made to cut salary for the already legendary Summer of 2010 and the ensuing free agent bonanza.
Second, it’s highly likely that all four of these men will vanish in a puff of smoke the second their contracts expire. So do yourself a favor and don’t get attached to any of them. Nor should you expose them to bright light, get them wet, or ever, for any reason, feed them after midnight. You never know…they could be gremlins.
Warrick has a big wingspan and good speed for a power forward. Unfortunately his body is more Reggie Miller than Karl Malone. Warrick weighs in at a mere 219 pounds. For comparison’s sake, that puts him at one pound less than Devin Brown…who plays guard. And you know what that means: Hakim often gets pushed around in the paint by bigger PFs, which is just about everybody.
Warrick has some decent hops and he’s always a threat to throw down a dunk, but he’s so-so on the boards (7.4 rebounds per 36 minutes) and a poor shot blocker (0.4 per 36 minutes). It might help if he bulked up a little. It’s weird, too, because Warrick is 27 years old, spent a full four years in college, and this is his fifth season in the NBA. Why hasn’t somebody given this guy a map to the weight room?
According to ESPN’s John Hollinger: “Offensively, he loves to set up at the elbows, especially on the right, and either shoot a jumper or make a quick drive and draw a foul. He’ll also post up against smaller players when he gets a switch and can be effective shooting short-range hooks despite a lack of muscle. He can finish under the basket but tends to pick up traveling violations while winding up before he rises for the shot.”
ESPN Profile, Basketball-Reference, Hoopdata, Wikipedia Entry
Maybe we should just call him “Expiring Contract #1. Seriously. Alexander is a fantastic athlete who has virtually no chance to make a significant contribution to the Bulls. Or maybe any contribution. Before the Bucks took him with the eighth overall pick of the 2008 NBA Draft, Alexander was described as the best athlete on paper at the draft.
Joe had the second most number of 185lb bench reps (24), the second highest max touch (12’0.5″) and the second fastest 3/4 sprint time (2.99 seconds). Here’s the “but”: Alexander hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since April 14, 2009. In fact, the Bucks assigned him to the NBDL’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants back on January 20. And he hasn’t exactly been lighting things up in the D-League (10.5 PPG, 40 percent shooting).
I guess we have a new Aaron Gray.
ESPN Profile, Basketball-Reference, Hoopdata, Wikipedia Entry
Meet Flip. He’s the man who will probably be stealing some of the minutes Jannero Pargo hasn’t been getting. Or maybe he and Pargo will end up splitting John Salmons’ minutes. It’s hard to say. But…
…here’s what Vinny Del Negro had to say about Pargo after Wednesday night’s win over the Knicks: “J.P.’s kind of been the odd man out all year. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve done a very good job with him. He’s been a total pro. He works in practice. Sometimes matchups have been difficult for him. It’s nice to see him play well.”
Hmm. Sounds like VDN was trying to pump up a player who was recently described as “disgruntled.” Probably because Del Negro already knew about the Salmons trade and therefore also knew he was going to need Pargo now.
As for Murray, well, he’s averaging 9.9 PPG (which is also his career average) while shooting 38.9 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from downtown. Oh, and 1.8 APG. Did I mention he’s a guard? Yeah. If the Bulls were building things — large things — out of bricks, they’d have their man. As it is, he’ll be battling Pargo and Brown for PT.
Here are some high and lowlights from Hollinger: “A 6-3 guard with a nose for the basket, Murray sees nothing but the goal when he puts the ball on the floor and sometimes dribbles himself into trouble as a result. However, he usually makes a quick move for a shot, so it’s not as if he’s pounding away the shot clock the way some shoot-first guards do. … Defensively, Murray did a good job against most 2s despite giving up inches, and has the size and quickness to keep a good chunk of the league’s 1s at bay as well. He’s a poor rebounder and fouls a lot but is active in passing lanes and ranked 10th among shooting guards in steals per minute.”
ESPN Profile, Basketball-Reference, Hoopdata, Wikipedia Entry
Shall we dub him “Expiring Contract #2″? He’s appeared in only 14 games this season and he’s done it for two different teams (five for the Golden State Warriors and nine for the Charlotte Bobcats). His averages — 3.4 PPG, 25 percent shooting on threes, 0.7 APG in only 7.1 MPG — tell you pretty much everything you need to know.
Huh. Maybe I should call him “Only In A Blowout” instead? If only because I’m pretty sure Darko Milicic owns the rights to Human Victory Cigar. But here’s some random trivia: Law is the great nephew of Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks. And there’s the Windy City connection! Bam!
Anyway, here’s Hollinger’s scouting report: “Law has been more competent on D than on offense. He has good size and moves his feet fairly well. He doesn’t gamble much, he competes and he helps out on the boards, so this part of his game isn’t the problem. … Offensively, he has the size and quickness to get the job done and has been an effective finisher when he can get the step on a defender. Unfortunately, his inability to shoot is submarining his career. Opponents don’t respect his J and lay off him waiting for the drive, and Law often responds by making a hesitant shot fake and then dribbling into traffic hoping for a better outcome.”
I hope his accuracy when handing out Gatorade is better than it is for long-range jumpers.
ESPN Profile, Basketball-Reference, Hoopdata, Wikipedia Entry
February 18, 2010
In the comments section of the my last post, I provided the following quick scouting report for new Bulls player Hakim Warrick: “Long and athletic…excellent leaper…a dunk waiting to happen…good shot blocker…perimeter game needs work…too skinny. Sound familiar?”
Yup. It’s a skill set eerily similar to the one belonging to Tyrus Thomas. So it would seem that, between rookie Taj Gibson and Warrick, Thomas would be, shall we say, very expendable.
According to ESPN the Magazine’s Ric Bucher: “Sources say [Thomas'] likeliest destination is Charlotte for Acie Law, Flip Murray and a protected future first-round pick. That frees Chicago to let disgruntled Jannero Pargo go and adds some off-the-bench scoring punch for Chicago. The deal for Milwaukee’s Hakim Warrick and Joe Alexander for John Salmons replenishes Chicago’s front line. Warrick is only six pounds lighter than Thomas, which is probably about the weight of the chip Thomas has on his shoulder against coach Vinny del Negro.”
Well, it appears to be official. Barring something unforeseen, the Tyrus Thomas era in Chicago has come to a banner-less end.
And, in all honesty, it kind of had to happen, didn’t it?
Things simply weren’t going to work out between the Bulls and Thomas. Too much baggage. The good news is that Tyrus is going to get a fresh start, plenty of minutes and a fantastic coach in Larry Brown. The bad news is that, if things don’t go well for him in Charlotte, people might stop blaming his organization for his low basketball IQ and general lack of progress.
As for the Bulls, they lose Ty’s “limitless potential” — whatever that means at this point — and get back a couple more expiring contracts. That makes Four! Four more expiring contracts! Ah, ah, ah! All of which means Chicago will have some extra cash to play with next summer.
So…yay. I guess.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m cautiously excited about the potential of picking up a star or two next summer. But I’m not ready to start kicking dirt on this season. And, really, it doesn’t feel like the Bulls are getting any better through these trades. Maybe not any worse, but not really any better, either.
I can’t say I’m going to miss Tyrus. In another reality, and with a different attitude, he might have been able to play All-Star-level basketball in the Windy City. If that ever happens now, it will be for another team.
But I’m not all that worried about the possibility.
Brad Miller auditions for the New York Lyric Opera
Last year, the Bulls turned their season around by acquiring Brad Miller and John Salmons from the Sacramento Kings. This year, Chicago is sending Salmons to the Milwaukee Bucks for Kurt Thomas and Francisco Elson. I’m sorry, make that the expiring contracts of Kurt Thomas and Francisco Elson. That distinction is pretty important.
Update! This trade may change so that the Bulls end up with Hakim Warrick and Joe Alexander instead of Thomas and Elson. Which doesn’t change all that much from Chicago’s perspective. They’re just different expiring contracts.
This trade wasn’t pushed through to make the Bulls a better team. Not right now, anyway. But it will clear almost $6 million worth of salary off Chicago’s books for next season. That means the Bulls will be about $20 million under the cap for the already legendary Summer of 2010.
Of course, Cleveland’s move for Antawn Jamison should put to rest any thoughts in Chicago — or New York, or anywhere else outside of Cleveland – of landing LeBron James. However, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson and others are all theoretically still in play. Of course, John Paxson and Gar Forman will have plenty of competition from the Clippers, Heat, Knicks, Nets and Wizards…all of whom will have the same kind of wheelin’, dealin’ cash.
In the meantime, the Bulls are a little worse.
Don’t get me wrong. Salmons hasn’t had a great season by any stretch of the imagination. But he’s still the team’s second-best three-point shooter and its third-leading scorer. Make that was. I guess it’s time for Devin Brown and Jannero Pargo to step up.
Said Derrick Rose: “Man, that’s crazy thinking about John leaving. He just came here [in a trade with the Kings on Feb. 18, 2009]. But, it’s the NBA. If he does get traded we’ll definitely miss him, but [the season] must continue. … It hurts your team a little bit. Like when you have a game right after [a trade]. But that’s just how the NBA goes.”
Added coach Vinny Del Negro: ”It’s never easy. It’s never fun. We’re dealing with good character people. It’s part of the business. You just have to deal with it, and move forward.”
It’s part of the business. That about sums it up. That doesn’t make it feel any less awkward, though.
And how awkward must it have been for Salmons before last night’s game against the Knicks? Del Negro got a call before the game telling him to leave Salmons at the team’s hotel. Not a very nice way to say goodbye.
But, yeah, it’s just business.
That left the Bulls — who are still without Joakim Noah (plantar faciitis) – two men down for the second game of their home-and-home series with the Knicks. Fortunately, the Knicks are still the Knicks. And they have so many irons in the trading fire that they probably had some focus problems of their own.
Nate Robinson, who was rumored to be on his way to Boston, missed the game with “flu-like symptoms.” Jared Jeffries, who was supposed to be involed in a trade for Tracy McGrady that is now off the table, played only six minutes after hyperextending his right knee.
But hey, with or without those two guys, it’s not like the Knicks play defense.
Still, New York sprinted out to a 64-53 lead at the half and went up 74-60 when Al Harrington drilled a three-pointer with 8:33 left in the third quarter. But believe it or not, the Bulls were saved from a blowout by an offensive explosion from Brad Miller. Miller — who finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds — scored 13 huge points in the third, and he did it in a variety of ways.
Miller started things off by nailing a trey, which meant his defender (David Lee) now had to respect his jumper. If you know anything about Big Brad, you know what that led to: an up fake followed by slow, loping, but ridiculously effective drives to the basket…and one. Miller than went to a rare post up and executed an up-and-under for another three-point play. After that came another up-fake-and-drive that Miller finished off with a running eight-footer. In between all that, he grabbed an offensive rebound, got fouled and hit both free throws.
After that running jumper, Miller grabbed a defensive rebound on the other end and threw a full-court pass to Kirk Hinrich for a layup that pulled the Bulls to within 78-74 with 5:43 left in the third, forcing Mike D’Antoni to call a timeout. But the damage had been done.
Chicago pulled to within two points by the end of the quarter and you could tell the players were stocked. Everybody wanted in on the action. Pargo opened the fourth quarter by canning a three-pointer. James Johnson drove in for a layup. Miller hit an 18-footer. Tyrus Thomas knocked down a couple buckets. Hinrich drove in for a layup. Deng earned (and hit) a couple foul shots. Rose swooped in for a layup. Miller hit another three. Deng connected from 19 feet. Rose got another layup. Deng got a layup. And so on.
All Mike D’Antoni — sorry, make that Mike ‘Antoni — could do was call timeouts and pray the Bulls would stop hitting shots. You can’t start teaching defensive right before the trade deadline. Chicago ended up outscoring the New York 33-25 in the fourth quarter. Game, set, match.
Seriously, just a dreadful defensive game for the Knicks. The Bulls hit 27 shots at the rim and scored 70 points in the paint. On the road. I sure hope anybody who played for the “bloodbath” Knicks teams of the 1990s weren’t watching this game. It would have been enough to drive them to drink.
I should also mention that Derrick Rose was huge. He finished with a co-game-high 27 points (10-for-19) and helped out Miller by scoring six points in a 12-2 third-quarter run. He also had 6 assists. It’s hard to believe the kid is dealing with a bruised hip and a sore back. I guess sometimes playing the Knicks is the best prescription for a player’s aches and pains.
1st timeout: Thomas missed a layup
2nd timeout: The Knicks had free throws coming
3rd timeout: New York had free throws coming again
4th timeout: Deng got fouled (2-for-2)
5th timeout: Hinrich hit a jumper
6th timeout: The Knicks were forced to foul
Quick trade thoughts:
As of right now, it looks like the Bulls are finished making trades, which will probably leave their fans either yawning or feeling a little disappointed. I’m guessing people wanted management to either seal a deal to free up even more cap room for next summer or pull of a trade that would — how shall I put this? — actually benefit the 2009-10 Chicago Bulls.
Again, as of right now, not gonna happen.
Fiscal responsibility and future planning are the co-names of the game. Especially with the Bulls one game over .500 (27-26). Maybe if Chicago hadn’t been able to recover from that 10-17 start, disappointment might have forced a more aggressive approach. But if management knows this team can play .500-ish basketball and compete for a playoff spot, they probably figure they won’t have to face a fan revolt this season…which makes pinning all their hopes on next season that much easier.
On a personal level, I’m bummed about the Salmons trade. I like the guy, and I hope he succeeds in Milwaukee. I’m also mildly put off that the Bulls couldn’t swing something that could benefit them in the short term as well as the long term.
But hey, it’s just part of the business, right?
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.
January 27, 2010
So…what does the Devin Brown acquisition mean for the Chicago Bulls? Who is he, and what skills does he bring to the table? Can he break into the rotation or will he simply take over Aaron Gray’s role of passing out Gatorade in the team huddles?
For starters, here’s a scouting report on Brown from ESPN’s John Hollinger: “Few players were more unrelentingly ordinary than Brown before last season, as he ranked at or near the league average in virtually every statistical category. But at 30 he’s lost some athleticism and began doing what most average players do at this age: quietly falling out of the league. He’s a below-average outside shooter and doesn’t have extraordinary quickness or elevation at the rim. He offsets that with a wide frame that allows him to draw fouls, and he rebounds well for his size. Brown is a good enough ballhandler to play point guard in a pinch but only at the offensive end. He lacks the quickness to keep many shooting guards in front of him, let alone point guards. His strength makes him tough to post up, but he lacks the length to challenge shots.”
Well, that doesn’t sound very promising, does it?
However, Hollinger’s scouting report was written before the season began. Here’s a more up-to-date take on Brown from Niall Doherty of Hornets247:
“Devin Brown was putting up some nice numbers earlier this season, frequently scoring in double figures and shooting better than 45 percent from three in December. But that was exceptional for him. He’s never been known as a legit three-point threat and has only once averaged double figures for a season. He’s prone to slumps and streaks, and he just turned 31 years old last month so don’t expect him to get any better.
“All that said, he can do a few things well. Aside from Chris Paul, Brown was one of the few players in New Orleans who was willing to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket. He’d just put his head down and barge towards the goal. Granted, he’d often pick up a charge doing that, but his aggressive play was a nice contrast to perimeter-inclined guys like Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson. Devin can also be an asset defensively, able to body up to big wings and give them some trouble, though he’s likely to get beat by a quick first step. All in all, Devin Brown’s not a terrible player — at least not this season — but he has no business starting in the NBA.”
Alrighty, then. It’s probably safe to say Brown is not the final piece of Chicago’s championship puzzle.
It seems unlikely that Brown will see very many minutes right away. Maybe he and Jannero Pargo can keep each other company on the bench? However, in the big picture, it does seem likely that the Bulls traded for Brown in case they get the chance to dump the contract of Kirk Hinrich or John Salmons. In fact, it took almost no time at all for a Hinrich to the Lakers rumor to heat up (after which it immediately cooled down).
Given that the Bulls have clearly pinned much of their future plans on the already-fabled Summer of 2010, it’s probable that they will do everything they can to clear a little more cap space before the trade deadline. Of course, any deal involving Hinrich or Salmons could be bad in the short term, since both of them have been playing well since Vinny Del Negro pulled the switcheroo that sent Salmons to the bench so Captain Kirk could start. And their improved play — along with Derrick Rose’s recent ascent to superstardom — has made the Bulls a much better team.
Would giving one (or both) of them up be worth a shot at making the Bulls a much, much better team next season?
More Devin Brown:
Profile, Stats, Splits, Game Log, News, Photos, BBR, Wiki.
February 20, 2009
So here’s a quick recap of the Bulls’ flurry of last-minute trade movement: John Salmons, Brad Miller, Tim Thomas, Jerome James and Anthony Roberson are in. (Although the last two in name only. They won’t play. Assuming they’re even alive. Can we get any confirmation on that?) The Bulls will also receive a conditional first round draft pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Meanwhile, Andres Nocioni, Thabo Sefolosha, Larry Hughes, Cedric Simmons and Michael Ruffin are out. (Did I mention we got rid of Larry Hughes? Because we got rid of Larry Hughes. He’s gone. Hopefully forever. I cannot stress this enough.)
Are the Bulls a better team today? Yes.
Look, Rome wasn’t built in a day. In fact, that McDonald’s down the street? It wasn’t built in a day, either. This wasn’t a dramatic “Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to the Celtics” uber-makeover. (And how often do those even happen – let alone work out — anyway?) No, we didn’t bring in a superstar. Or even a regular star, for that matter. What John Paxson did was address a few of the team’s glaring needs while clearing future cap space for a strong run at a bonafide superduperstar in the [insert dramatic music here] Summer of 2010. That’s win-win, right?
We needed more size up front, some interior defense and a center who can score. We got all that. Miller is hardly a defensive wiz, but he’s at least got the bulk and veteran wiles to body up to opposing big men. He’s not much of a post player, but he can shoot and pass as well as or better than most centers. And he seems genuinely psyched up about returning for a second stint with the Bulls. Said Miller: ”I’m pretty happy. It’s a good opportunity in terms they’re right on the borderline of the playoffs. Kind of the same situation Mike (Bibby) went into last year. You go to a team like that where they’ve been kind of like ehh, whatever, a little bit of change like that and get into the playoffs and get some excitement back. I love Chicago as a city so that’s a bit of a bonus for me.”
Miller’s not a long-term answer. But he’s a decent stop-gap. Especially if he’s motivated, and it seems like he is. He also said: “Winning is what matters at this stage of my career.” And after next season, he’s a $12 million expiring contract.
Meanwhile, Salmons can score from both the shooting guard and small forward positions. More importantly, though, he’s tall and strong enough to defend the big, athletic guards who have been menacing the Bulls so often over the last few years. See, that’s been Ben Gordon’s biggest drawback. Yes, he’s valuable for his scoring and streak shooting. But he’s also an Achilles’ heel — or, as I like to call it, a Walton’s foot — on defense. A fifth grader could post him up. It’s not that he doesn’t try, but he’s just undersized at his position. The Bulls have needed a somebody to fill that defensive role. Thabo Sefolosha was supposed to be that guy. But his defense was never better than so-so, and his offense made most Bulls fans want to punch themselves into unconsciousness. Salmons can defend and score. And he’s actually pretty good at both.
The only thing that makes me nervous is that Salmons gets grumpy when he’s not getting shots. And his comments about the trade have been pretty lukewarm so far. So we’ll see.
But, like I said, the Bulls might not have vaulted from lottery team to championship contender. But they should be good enough to make a solid playoff run, and John Paxson has put the team in the financial position to potentially get much better in the next couple years. I’ll take it.
February 19, 2009
Thabo Sefolosha: Gone. Traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a conditional first round draft pick. (OKC has the first-round picks of both the Nuggets and Suns; the Bulls will receive the lesser of the two.)
Makes sense. The Bulls traded for John Salmons but weren’t able to trick anybody into taking on Kirk Hinrich’s contract. That left them with a possible guard rotation of Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, Hinrich, Salmons and Sefolosha. Vinny Del Negro would need a time machine to produce enough minutes for that many guards. But, despite the various and complex intricacies of the NBA salary cap, it’s still easier to trade a player than invent a Flux Capacitor. (Or produce the 1.21 gigawatts necessary to power it, for that matter.) Plus, it gets Sefolosha’s $2.75 million salary off the books for next season. And as we all know, it’s all about shedding salary, baby!
I’m fine with this trade. More than fine with it, actually. Thabo was next to useless on offense and his supposed benefits — size and defense in the backcourt – weren’t strong enough to make up for his offensive deficiencies. Salmons is a better player in every way. Well, except that he’s been known to throw hissy fits when he doesn’t get enough shots. And Thabo, for all his faults, never complained. (Loudly enough to make the news, at any rate.) But as long as we can keep John reasonably happy, this is a smart move. Heck, it’s a smart move regardless.
ESPN’s Marc Stein has reported that the Bulls are sending Larry Hughes to the Knicks for Jerome James, Tim Thomas and Anthony Roberson. This is a classic case of pass the trash, since it’s not a straight-up salary dump for either team (Hughes makes $12.8 million this year; James and Thomas make $12.2 million combined). But the Bulls don’t need Hughes (especially with John Salmons coming to Chicago in the deal with the Kings), and they don’t want him. At all. I mean, they wouldn’t even use his body to put out a fire.
Next season, James and Thomas are on the books for $6,600,000 and $6,466,000, respectively. (James has a player option which he’s sure to accept.) Roberson has a team option for $855,189 and the Bulls will most likely reject it as soon as contractually possible. By comparison, Hughes is going to make $13.65 million next year. So the Bulls will save a little cash. (Very little.) But this is a classic case of addition by subtraction, since Hughes was as welcome in Chicago as swollen, itchy rash that can’t be treated or even lasered off. And, of course, no matter what happens, all three of these new contracts will be off the books by [insert dramatic music here] The Summer of 2010. I’m already looking forward to our failed attempts at signing LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh!
I doubt James or Roberson will ever actually appear in a game. For the Bulls, anyway. Thomas might, I suppose. According to Vinny Del Negro: “I played with Tim a couple years [in Milwaukee]. I enjoyed playing with him, I didn’t have any problem with him. I’ll sit down and talk to Tim and tell him what I expect of him; what his role is. I expect him to be professional and do his job. He has the ability and skill level to help us in certain areas. I’ll wait to have those conversations but I have a good mindset with Tim and that’s why I think it’s a positive move for us.” Translation: Timmy might get some random playing time here or there, but don’t expect much. (In fact, don’t expect much even if, by some miracle, he does get significant PT…)
Grade:I give this trade a “Meh, whatever.” Actually, I’ll upgrade that to “Eh, really?” since we managed to get rid of Larry Hughes. But that’s the best possible score any deal involving the acquisition of Jerome James could possibly get. Unless we got to dress Jerome up as a giant piece of fruit.
Trades, trades, trades. It feels like that’s all I’ve been talking about lately. Even last night at my pickup league. When a teammate asked me to switch onto his man in a pick and roll, I was like: “Yeah sure, but trading for Brad Miller provides the Bulls with additional size and a scoring threat up front, and it gives them their best chance to feature a center with cornrows since Ben Wallace….” Okay, the man I was supposed to be guarding strolled in Goran Dragic-like for an uncontested dunk, but whatever. It’s pickup basketball. “Defense” is just “waiting to get back on offense” anyway.
Speaking of “anyways,” the Bulls played in an actual NBA game last night, proving that the organization hasn’t been transformed into a full-time trade machine. Predictably, several of the game recaps I glanced at described the Bulls as “undermanned” or “depleted.” Seriously? Because Vinny Del Negro was really going to put Cedric Simmons or Michael Ruffin into the game? Right. Look, those guys were nothing but bodies Vinny was using to hold down sheets of paper and keep doors open. And Drew Gooden hadn’t played in almost a month. Effectively, we were down one guy, and a part-time player at that. (Not that I’m dissing Noc; he was our spark plug off the bench.)
If you want to talk undermanned, let’s discuss last night’s opponent. The Bucks were without three starters (Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut and Luke Ridnour) and playing in the second game of back-to-backs. And a couple of their key guys had logged over 40 minutes of PT against the Pistons the night before. Even their mascot is hurt. I call that ”Advantage: Bulls.” And it was.
Captain Kirk put on a show by scoring a season-high 31 points off the bench (8-for-14 from the field, 5-for-6 from downtown, 10-for-10 from the line). That total included an 18-point explosion — not to mention some timely defense – in the fourth quarter. Milwaukee had just pulled to within 89-86 after Vinny was hit with a technical foul, then Hinrich swiped the ball from the Bucks on back-to-back possessions…and he punctuated those steals with a breakaway layup and a triple. On the Bulls’ next possession, Kirk hit a jumper to put us up by 10. That was the critical stretch.
You have to figure Hinrich’s performance was equal parts anger (at the Bulls for looking to dump his salary) and audition (for the team or teams willing to take on his contract). Said Kirk: “Tomorrow’s the last day [before the trade deadline]. I’m just trying not to think about it, trying to focus on being here and trying to do whatever I can to help this team to play better and get in the playoff picture.” But then he added: “Sometimes you play best when you’re a little upset, when you’re angry.” So much for trying not to think about it, huh?
If this was Kirk’s swan song as a Bull, it was a pretty good one. For my part, I don’t want him to go. The Bulls have been a better team with him than without him this season. He’s the perfect safety net to have under Derrick Rose, who still makes his share of rookie mistakes (particularly on the defensive end). I know conventional wisdom says Hinrich’s contract is greater than his worth as a basketball player, but I’m not sure I agree with that. Remember, it wasn’t even two full seasons ago that he was being touted as the next John Stockton. And while that was a gross overestimation, I’d say he still has value, more to the Bulls, maybe, than to anybody else. I hope we hold onto him.
Of course, as if often the case, when one player steps up, one or more players take a step back. Such was the case with Joakim Noah (who fouled out with 9 rebounds and 4 points on 1-for-3 shooting) and Tyrus Thomas (who played only 26 minutes, shot 3-for-7 and finished with only 4 boards). Still, Rose had 18 points and 9 assists (and, gulp, 7 turnovers). Luol Deng chipped in 21 points (and 8 rebounds) and Ben Gordan added another 18 (although he shot 6-for-15). As for the Bucks — who shot 39 percent as a team — only Richard Jefferson (32 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) had it going.
The net result: The Bulls moved into the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference…just a game and a half behind the Bucks. And they can win the tiebreaker against Milwaukee by beating them on March 6 in Chicago.
Secret key to success: The Bulls committed 19 turnovers for 20 points going the other way. However, the Bucks turned the ball over 22 times for 33 points. Being +13 in points off turnovers is always huge in a close game.
Coaching wisdom: According to Vinny: “Kirk was the difference.” Gong, gong, gong!! That’s at least a seven on the Dull-Negrometer.
Nocioni will be missed: According to Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: “Before the game, Deng cut an interview short and seemed to be feeling the emotions of losing Nocioni, his best friend on the Bulls and next-door neighbor. ‘It’s tough,’ Deng said. ‘You become friends with those guys. It’s sad that we’re not working together anymore, but at the same time you’ve got to understand we’ve got to get the job done. You’ve just got to keep in touch.’”
Extras: Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.
Listen. Listen! Do you hear? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when the six-fingered man slaughtered my father. Tom Ziller makes it now. Why? Because the Sacramento Kings are sending John Salmons and Brad Miller to the Bulls for Andres Nocioni, Drew Gooden, Michael Ruffin and Cedric Simmons…otherwise known as “The Salary Dump Special.”
The Kings (despite Noc’s Argentina-sized contract) are saving millions in cap space and avoiding the dreaded luxury tax. (Fear it, mortal fools!) So what are the Bulls getting? Other than the final, shuddering death of all those pesky (though enticing) Amare Stoudemire/Chris Bosh trade rumors, that is. Well, in Miller (11.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG) the Bulls finally get a center who has actual offensive talent (even if he’s more than a little over the hill and way overpaid). He’s not much of a post player, but he’s a very good outside shooter (with three-point range even) and a great passer out of the high-post (and virtually everywhere else). Brad’s not so hot on the defensive end, but he has been known to bang people around and commit hard fouls (and, occasionally, flagrant ones). Athletically, he’s the NBA-equivalent of Stephen Hawking, but he makes up for it with effort, veteran savvy and pure hunkability.
Salmons (career-high 18.3 PPG, 41 percent three-point shooting) can swing between small forward and shooting guard, which should provide some added versatility. And, unlike Thabo Sefolosha, John can, like, score and stuff. Primarily, he’s a slasher who likes to drive hard and either attack the rim or pull up for short-range jumpers. He can also stick the triple and is a top-notch defensive player who can face off against PGs, SGs and SFs. Plus he can block shots, pilfer the rock, and he’s not afraid to take on elite perimeter players (Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Marko Jaric, etc.) It’s no secret the Bulls have needed a big, defensive guard for several seasons. (Ben Gordon…he’s so small!)
I’m not sure how the addition of Salmons is going to affect Ben Gordon’s spot in the rotation, but the trade (due to Miller’s bloated contract) will more than likely mean the end of the Kirk Hinrich Era, since the Bulls will need to jettison his contract to avoid the luxery tax (which could lend credence to the rumored Hinrich/Sefolosha for Brian Cardinal/Jarron Collins swap with the Minnesota Timberwolves). But all in all, I think Chicago came out on top in this one, in terms of talent. But then, the Kings weren’t going for talent, so…
Oh, and then there’s this little tidbit: “No matter what the Bulls do with [Larry] Hughes, they’ve set themselves up to be significant players in the summer of 2010, when the free agent class headed by LeBron James, Chicago native Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh comes up. By getting rid of Nocioni’s contract, the Bulls have less than $36 million committed to salaries for the 2010-11 season, and could add one or two top-shelf free agents to go with rookie point guard Derrick Rose, small forward Luol Deng and whichever of the bigs among Thomas and Noah are still around.”
So, to sum up: Nocioni’s salary was dumped; Gooden’s beard was set free; size and scoring were added to the frontcourt; defense, size and scoring were added to the backcourt and frontcourt (as SF anyway); and the stage was set for another potential deal or two this season and maybe a huge deal during the Summer of 2010. Stay tuned.
Player profiles: John Salmons, Brad Miller.
Parting shots: Andres Nocioni: “I’m not surprised. There have been a lot of rumors. I’m all right. I was waiting for this. But I don’t feel bad the way I’m leaving. It’s not like I did something wrong. I wasn’t playing my best this season. But I gave everything to this team. I played hard every day whether in practice or in games. I’m a competitive person and I leave this team the best way I could. The only thing I feel bad about is I’m leaving a good team, good players and good coaches. I really enjoyed being with the Bulls. But this is the NBA life. Things like this can happen.”
Drew Gooden: “I’ve been traded before and the way I look at it is it means somebody wants you. Sacramento has been interested in me for a couple years, so maybe something can work out long-term there. If not, I’m an unrestricted free agent this summer, so I’m auditioning for other teams. I enjoyed my time in Chicago. It’s a good bunch of guys and great management. They treat players with respect. I just wish we had won more and I had been healthier.”