An much-needed but uninspiring win: Bulls 92, Pistons 85

During last night’s telecast of the Pistons-Bulls game, Neil Funk — Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s play-by-play man — tried to put the Bulls’ recent woes into perspective by reminding his audience (and I’m paraphrasing here) that the New Jersey Nets have set a new NBA record for futility by losing their first 18 games in a row to start the season. And what’s a little old five-game losing streak compared to something as historically depressing as that?

That’s like comforting a friend who just broke his leg by pointing out that at least he doesn’t have cancer. But thanks for trying to cheer us up, Neil.

Anyway, last night’s game was just…strange. Ben Gordon returned from injury to face his old team, but BG wasn’t exactly his old self. He nearly fouled out in only 31 minutes and scored a mere 18 points on 6-for-16 shooting (including 2-for-8 from three-point land). Maybe it was emotion, maybe it was the bum ankle, maybe it was the defense. I don’t know. But there were no “Air Gordon” exploits in the United Center last night. Bulls fans did have some boos for their former hero, though.

Said Gordon: “It is what it is. It’s not like I won the championship while I was here or anything. I just had a couple of good years, so I wasn’t surprised at all. … I expected that, seeing past players come back after going to another team.”

It’s so weird watching a beloved former player play against his old team. It’s like running into an old girlfriend. On the one hand, you wish her well (kinda) and want her to be happy (sorta), but it also makes you want to throw up in your own mouth to see her holding hands with her new boyfriend. I mean, you kind of want to punch him right in his smug mouth, right? Well, I hope Ben understands those boos were the equivalent of Bulls fans punching the Pistons in the mouth.

Meanwhile, the Bulls managed to snap their losing streak by beating a Detroit squad that was withoug three of its four best players (Charlie Villanueva, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince). Frankly, even with Kirk Hinrich (sprained thumb) and Tyrus Thomas (forearm fracture) on the injured list, Chicago should have won in a blowout. The Bulls kept building double-digit leads and threatening to pull away, but they never did.

Look, Detroit’s starting five scored only 33 points and finished with almost as many turnovers (9) as field goals (11). Shouldn’t the Bulls have won by more than seven points? Yes. Yes, they should have. Frankly, it worries me. It worries me a lot. The Bulls played last night’s game like they expected to win. I never really saw a sense of urgency, which is shocking considering how badly they got kicked around on their circus road trip.

And now the Bulls have to face the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Friday? Gulp.

Derrick Rose:
The new Big Sexy had a good game (19 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) even if he did commit a game-high 5 turnovers. But wowed the hell out of the UC crowd by throwing down not one but two alley oop dunks, both off picture-perfect feeds from Brad Miller. One of them was the Dunk of the Night…and deservedly so.

When I see plays like that — plays that show off his extreme athleticism — I can’t help but wonder why he averages only 3.1 free throw attempts per game. That’s fifth on the team and barely ahead of Miller (3.0). Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade — another super-athletic slasher — is averaging more than 10 foul shots per contest.

Look, I get that Derrick hurt his ankle in the offseason. But you know, he averaged exactly 3.1 FTAs per game last season too. Frankly, it’s time for Rose to put his speed and strength to use. He needs to explode into the paint and attack the rim with savage intensity. He needs to put more pressure on opposing defenses. As it is, running into a double or triple team usually either stops him cold or forces him into a bad pass.

I’d love to see Rose develop more of a killer instinct and an attacker’s mentality. It would be great for his game and, by extension, great for the Bulls.

Pain in the Paint:
There weren’t any obvious big-game performers in Detroit’s frontcourt. Heck, Ben Wallace didn’t even score a point. But the Pistons still pulled down 17 offensive rebounds. That’s not acceptable. Nor is the fact that Kwame Brown scored 10 points and earned eight free throw attempts in limited action. I mean, Kwame outscored Joakim Noah 10-7 even though he played 23 minutes to Noah’s 46. Although Noah did kick butt in several other ways (14 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocked shots).

That’s a relief:
John Salmons went 3-for-4 from downtown, 7-for-12 overall, and finished with a game-high 22 points. You think he wasn’t aware of the fact that he was going up against the man he basically replaced?

Thanks for being the bench, Brad:
The big guy contributed 16 points (6-for-12), 7 boards, 6 assists and a block off the bench. Oh, what am I saying? He was the bench. Have I mentioned the Bulls really need a bench? Man, this team looked so deep coming into the season. Huh. I wonder why Vinny gave James Johnson another DNP-CD? Isn’t this the time to try and develop the rookie?

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10 Responses to An much-needed but uninspiring win: Bulls 92, Pistons 85

    luvabullnj December 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    Agree with ALMOST everything you said. That was about as uninspiring a win as I have ever seen. With the line up the Pistons were forced to throw out there, they would give the Nets their run for the money in futility.

    I disagree that Rose had a good game. He should have either scored 30 or had more than 10 dimes this game. Watching Rose play (not just this game), he looks disinterested, bored even. I do not want to see his Name in the same sentence as Wade or any other superstar. I wouldn’t even put him in the same sentence as Ben Gordon. Ben at least tried as hard as anyone on the offensive end.

    Except for a few minutes in the fourth quarter against the Bucks, I have not seen a fire/intensity in Rose. Even when he dunked on the alley-oop the first time, there was barely any emotion. And I did not see any of the Bulls players get excited by the play either. Perhaps because Rose does not show any excitement/emotion when his teammates make a great play.

    Watch Brandon Jennings play and you can see, he wants to take over games and lead his team. I simply don’t see that with Rose. That is very worrisome.

    Luvabull in NJ

  2. PTFC December 3, 2009 at 4:26 pm #

    I agree. I don’t understand why it doesn’t seem very clear to the team that Rose is the best player on the team and he needs to start acting like it more. he needs to be aggressive the entire game and yes may I say be a little more “selfish”. But I put that on the coach (Vinny). It’s the coach’s job to create a sytle, personality, philosophy, and mindset for the team and it doesn’t seem Vinny has done that well so far.

    Tony C. December 3, 2009 at 5:48 pm #

    As you point out, it is mystifying that VDN refuses to give serious time to JJ under the circumstances. How will he ever get any game time when Thomas and Heinrich return?

    Can we trade VDN for Lawrence Frank?

    Wes December 3, 2009 at 6:23 pm #

    My personal theory on lack of FTA’s for DR: he’s so strong that even really hard fouls on his hands, arms and upper body when he drives don’t seem to have an effect. NBA refs call fouls based on the no harm – no foul standard. PGs like Paul, Nash, etc have learned to go down like gut shot deer if someone even breathes on them. DR somehow needs to holla, look hurt and/or complainwhen he takes it low.

    Rob December 3, 2009 at 7:22 pm #

    Agree with Wes – Rose needs to bark at the refs more. He’s too respectful (as bad as that sounds to say). In the recent Nuggets game I recall a sequence where he got murdered going to the hole and got no call yet again. Only this time he actually spoke in a semi-harsh manner to the ref (OK, it was more of a yell). Sure enough, the next few forays into the paint he made drew contact and the foul.

    I know the kid is a really good person and it’s one of the things that’s so endearing about him, but in the “L” the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

    Scott G. December 3, 2009 at 7:54 pm #

    I disagree with the girlfriend analogy. In your scenario the boyfriend is the dumpee, no? If he were the dumper, why would he care what the ex-girlfriend is doing or whether or not she has a boyfriend? Presumably he dumped because he had better things in mind. Well, the Bulls were definitely the dumper. Though they blew smoke about BG being their “biggest offseason priority,” they never made an offer. Now I suppose you could argue that it was a mutual decision given BG turned down offers in seasons past, but even that is open to interpretation and debate. The saddest part is that the Bulls dumped BG for…Jannero Pargo, Lindsey Flippin’ Hunter, and a pipe dream of 2010 Free Agents who will never, ever, ever come. Sigh.

    Bulls fans were classless last night. Gordon wasn’t perfect, but he worked his butt off for this team and achieved everything he could given his (admittedly limited) skillset. Typically these are precisely the qualities that Chicago fans so adore. Why’d we drop the ball last night?

    Matt McHale December 3, 2009 at 9:14 pm #

    Luvabull in NJ — Honestly, that’s my deepest concern about Derrick. He has first-class, All-Star level physical skills. There’s no question. His basketball IQ is, eh, average-ish to above average-ish. But his desire, intensity and killer instinct are all (seemingly) below average.

    I’ve read a LOT of stories about Rose’s family working hard to keep him level-headed and humble. I can’t help but wonder if he’s a tad bit too humble. He doesn’t seem to have that desire the great ones have to destroy his opponents. Derrick seems like a good kid, but Jordan, Bird, Kobe…they really weren’t nice guys, certainly not on the court.

    I tend to think players either have that or they don’t. The reason I used Wade as an example is because 1) he and Rose have similar physical skills (although Wade is a tad bigger) and 2) D-Wade was kind of low-key during his rookie season. He really didn’t go crazy until Shaq showed up. Maybe Derrick needs a Shaq-like big brother figure. I don’t know.

    PTFC — I (quietly) blame Vinny for a lot of things, but not Derrick’s attitude. I’ve never seen a coach really change a player in that way. Attitude is a fundamental quality. It’s either there or it isn’t. That’s why, I think, so many players fail to live up to their potential. Not everybody has “it.”

    Tony C. — Honestly, VDN’s reluctance to play Johnson is stunning. Especially last night. The Bulls didn’t win by 20, but they were in control pretty much the whole game. That’s always a good time to get a rookie some reps. Especially since Brad Miller isn’t going to survive playing 30+ minutes a night. I guess JJ must really be dogging it in practice or something…

    Wes — I agree to a point. But I also think Derrick needs to attack more aggressively. He’s too quick, sometimes, to back away from defensive pressure instead of going right at it. And he’s not going to really start earning FTs until he does. Of course, learning to sell the contact would help…

    But seriously, if Devin Harris can get almost eight FTAs per game, D-Rose should be getting at least that many.

    Scott G. — Yeah, there was no reason whatsoever to boo Ben Gordon. He deserved much better than that. Shame on you, United Center “fans.”

    As for the gf analogy, you know, sometimes you break up with somebody because you know it’s not going to work out (for whatever reason), but it still hurts to see them with someone else. Or maybe that’s just me.

    Varese December 4, 2009 at 1:24 am #

    Matt – your girlfriend analogy was solid with me. It’s just a general queasiness.

    I think the boos for Gordon made sense – the contract disputes were unattractive, Ben is a perfect 6th man who wanted starter’s minutes and starter’s money, and frankly, I think it’s a way of showing guys like Salmons and Deng appreciation. I mean, the fans wouldn’t boo Nocioni, or Hinrich if he ever left.

    I agree that Rose’s struggles aren’t a coaching issue. You can’t coach leadership and aggression.

    As for James Johnson, how bad do you have to be to not get minutes on this team? What the hell is going ON there?

    Detroit Murder Dog December 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    FREE JJ! Giving Lindsey double digit tick and keeping Johnson on the bench is inexcusable.

    Mike December 4, 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    Regarding JJ’s pt… I was at the Nuggets – Bulls game in Denver. Bulls were getting crushed, and because Johnson grew up in the area (TONS of JJ jerseys in the crowd), VDN put him in. And Johnson was absolutely LOST on defense. No joke, it took him two possessions to figure out what his primary assignment was. His teammates appeared to yell at him on more than one occasion. It was more than missed assignments; he looked completely out of his league on d. It was shocking. I was shocked.

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