Do the Bulls need an alpha dog?

Only 18 games into the 2009-10 season, the Bulls appear to have a few significant team needs. These include: an inside scoring threat, a few high percentage three-point marksman (or even one would help), a shooting coach to work with John Salmons and Kirk Hinrich, a beefy frontcourt player who can push big men out of the paint and help Joakim Noah protect the defensive backboards, a fountain of youth for Brad Miller (who seems to be experiencing an accelerated aging process), an open lane or two for Derrick Rose to drive through (the three-point shooters would help facilitate this need), and a few more healthy bodies.

And while we’re asking the Wizard of Oz for all that, maybe he’ll throw in a brain, a heart, some courage and a pair of ruby high tops too.

Basically, the Bulls have personnel issues. They, as it turns out, are a poorly constructed team. That would be the case even if Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas were healthy. The Ty Thomas for Al Harrington trade rumors seem to be a concession by Chicago management that the team — as presently constructed — has (to put it nicely) a talent deficit.

But what would provide some immediate help is a certified team leader. Good teams, or even slightly above-average teams that manage to stay competitive, usually have an alpha dog. The Lakers have Kobe Bryant. The Cavaliers have LeBron James. The Spurs (although they’ve been struggling) have Tim Duncan. The Celtics have an alpha dog on offense (Paul Pierce) anddefense (Kevin Garnett). The Nuggets have an alpha scorer (Carmelo Anthony) and an alpha playmaker (Chauncey Billups). The Suns have Steve Nash. The Mavericks have Dirk Nowitzki. The Heat have Dwyane Wade. So on and so forth.

The Bulls have nobody to fill that role. And, frankly, they haven’t had a true alpha dog since Michael Jordan retired. That’s actually why John Paxson vastly overpaid to steal Ben Wallace from the Detroit Pistons. Right team, wrong alpha dog. (Chauncey Billups, as the Nuggets found out, was the conductor of that gravy train.)  Ben Gordon was as close as it got — although he didn’t have the all-around skills and/or the necessary defensive chops necessary to be a true alpha — but he’s long gone now.

In theory, Derrick Rose should be that guy. He’s a former number one overall draft pick and Chicago’s franchise player. And which Gordon playing  ball a state away, Rose was expected to become the new team leader/go-to guy. It hasn’t happened yet…and you wonder when and if it ever will. Obviously, the kid has a long, long career ahead of him, so I haven’t exactly given up hope that his inner alpha dog will come bursting and barking out of its shell.

However, I can’t help but wonder…doesn’t Rose seem like too nice, to laid back, maybe even too passive to be that guy? His talent is clearly off the charts. Physically, there isn’t anything he shouldn’t be able to do with a little time and effort. But most players display the requisite alpha qualities — that grit, that desire, that killer instinct, that willingness to pull his own team up by the bootstraps while simultaneously putting his foot on the opposing team’s throat — almost immediately or not at all.

Derrick is barely into his sophomore season. He still has a chance. But it has to start soon. Not to go all Obi Wan Kenobi, but that boy is our last hope among the current players. If Luol Deng or Hinrich had it in them, things would have gone very differently over the last five seasons. John Salmons is a role player. Joakim Noah has the intensity and desire, but he lacks the presence and all-around skill set. Asking Brad Miller to go alpha would be like asking lead to turn itself into gold.

At any rate, this is something worth thinking about as the season progresses. Because if Rose doesn’t start to show some alpha dog tendencies, it should have a drastic impact on who the Bulls go after during next summer’s free agent bonanza. (Or at this season’s trade deadline if the Bulls are searching for a mega-deal.) Conventional wisdom seems to indicate that the team’s primary need is a frontcourt scorer like Chris Bosh or Carlos Boozer. But while an acquisition of that nature would fill a gaping hole, it would still (as far as we can currently tell) leave the team leaderless.

Wouldn’t that make somebody like, say, Dwyane Wade a better target?

Of course, that would change if Rose steps it up and marks his territory. And if that happens, the Bulls will become better immediately. Not a contender, maybe, but a challenging, competitive, more exciting team.

, ,

19 Responses to Do the Bulls need an alpha dog?

    Varese December 8, 2009 at 3:07 pm #

    Exactly, and yes, Matt. (I’ve been saying similar things on these comments, so of course I agree)

    The difficulty, as Sam Smith might point out, is getting the right alpha dog, an alpha dog that will actually make you a contender. There aren’t many out there, and once they’ve established their ability, it’s extremely difficult to obtain them (everyone wants in – see LeBron, Kobe, Wade, etc).

    The draft – luck or smarts – hasn’t handed us anyone great since MJ left. This entire generation of superstars is playing elsewhere. Trade – unless you pull off a back door robbery like the Lakers with Gasol or Boston with KG, teams aren’t going to hand you the keys to the universe.

    Bringing us to free agency — obviously, the Bulls’ current tactic. This year will be a struggle; the team hopes to get its Alpha Dog in the offseason. They don’t want to trade away the opportunity to get one of the 2010 FAs. Can they get a Harrington type guy and stay in the mix for Wade? That would be the ideal scenario.

    This season was always going to be about a decent team competing as best it could — but when a decent team has injuries, they go from not bad to real bad real fast.

    Tony C. December 8, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

    You’re on the right track, Matt, but the overarching factor is coaching. The Bulls desperately need to get rid of VDN, and bring in a competent coach. Playing chess with personnel will invariably lead to frustration unless the coaching staff is competent. At present, they aren’t, and it would be foolish to allow the current coach(es) to be involved in important personnel decisions as well.

    Roger December 8, 2009 at 5:04 pm #

    I completely agree.

    Bulls need a leader like Wade, an inside scorer like Bosh, and a three point threat to open up lanes for Rose.

    The problem is we aren’t going to get all three.

    That coupled with the fact Vinny Del Negro is an awful coach who is way over his head will unfortunately cause this team to struggle for YEARS.

    Vic De Zen December 8, 2009 at 5:23 pm #

    I don’t think you need to yell and scream to be an alpha-dog You can be quiet and be a leader. Rose can be that guy, but obviously he needs to get back to playing at the level we know he’s capable of. He needs to get comfortable out there and get his confidence back. Surprised it still hasn’t happened this year, but here we are. And yes, I think VDN is a problem.

    MrHappy December 8, 2009 at 7:38 pm #

    And I was beginning to think that I was the only Bulls’ fan who thought this. Thanks for expressing the TRUTH. Rose and Deng both need to step up, show some HEART and become LEADERS. And yes, DWADE should be the top target for the Bulls in 2010.

    KEn December 8, 2009 at 8:16 pm #

    So what alpha dog wants to come play for Del Negro? I guess if Lebron can get used to playing for Mike Brown it could happen, but I think of VDN as detrimental to the Bulls efforts.

    Reggie McGlory December 8, 2009 at 8:23 pm #

    unreal you say da bulls I say yes/no what did you think was gonna happen you let go been got pargo there is a reason pargo was over seas he lacks heart ben had heart. Now we want to put all the pressure on a kid that would only be a senoir n college whats this he is not a superstar well those kinds of players are rare being so young lets get this in to the light Rose is a good player a great guard but he is not a superstar least not yet mabe one day he will be yes he was number one pick a piece to our puzzle but if you lose pieces then what progress have you really made. Truely our team is looking for itself
    mabe they need to look at each other and ask them self our we da bulls or are we pretenders not sure I say each game passes and you wonder why this highly drafted young team doesn ot click like a portland a okalhoma I can tell you one thing it all starts with guts and will to win winners win losers loseand for now the bulls are losers no other way to put it I am a big fan yet also a realist change we speak of in 2010 but the year is 2009 now is the time for change now is the time for action why let the current team stay together they just do not have it as a whole chnges must be made just do not make dumb ones nor ones that will hurt the team futher put some draft chocies out there with a player mabe two for some players who have the guts and the will to win the skills will come with them trust me time for pax to do what all leaders do when things are tough make some tough chocies and put some actions behind it no way is this same team just cause you lost one player wow and he played very little defense whats good for that talk to the nuggets try to get K mart now send them a player and low pick for him talk to da 76’s andre I would be great for the team make some calls Pax the time for nothing has come and past we want a winner here these guys are lost think vinny has gone far as he can go time to bring in a new coach you need some one who cracks da whip I dont care if players dont liek him long as he gets results somewhere along the way they have lost there identity and wont be found just by luck gonna take hard work and making some changes I am almost ashamed of being a bulls fan today if this continues I cannot stay oneOh mike I miss you n scotty wish we had you now you gave me so much joy watching you play and win that is what winners do they win conpassion is for those that deserve it these bulls today do not deserve it they mus man up and grow up and strap up and play play hard I dont care if they win or lose if they play hard and try hard now they are showing me the some wusses nu heart all accpet noah the rest are just laying down get em some Ky Jelly cause they bending over for these teams n taking it up the butt sad times being a bulls fan now wow cannot beleive I said that but its all true I miss ben least he gave it his all might not of been complete player but he was a baller with heart fearless not gutless take apage from him young bulls grow up tommorrow is too late do it today God bless you I still love you just not proud of you right now Peace

    Blake December 8, 2009 at 8:24 pm #

    I actually posted this comment on another thread a few minutes ago; but now I’m thinking it will go unread. Sorry for the double-post Matt, but this is a real concern of mine:

    Unfortunately this is the way it will always be with the Bulls (unless there’s a change in ownership). Go to or and look up the revenue numbers for each NBA franchise. We’re #3 in the past 10 years in overall revunue (behind the Knicks and Lakers, respectively) and #1 in profit margin. Yet, we have not paid the luxury tax once since its inception. Take a look at the consensus “top 5” teams this year (Lakers, Celtics, Magic, Cavs, Nuggets) and you will see that each one of them is paying the luxury tax (along with the Hornets, Jazz, Blazers and others). Now, I’m not saying Reinsdorf should pay it EVERY year, but once every 10 years or so (to reward the loyal fans who sat through the Dickey Simpkins and Ron Mercer years) is probably acceptable for the most profitable franchise in basketball.

    Here’s the real problem: without resigning Gordon in the offseason, we have no real shot at a max-contract free agent next summer (no Wade, Lebron or Bosh). Why? Because the salary cap is shrinking to about 52 million dollars this summer. We have about 41 million committed next year unless Salmons opts out of his contract (and with the way he’s playing that doesn’t seem likely). So, we’ll have about 11 million to throw at a free agent (a max contract is about 16 million). Anyone ready for the David Lee era?

    The only way for us to get a top-tier superstar this summer would be through a sign-and-trade — so that we could shed some salary and give the player the maximum deal (he gets more in a sign-and-trade). To do that you need assets. I’m assuming we’re unwilling to trade our two biggest assets (Noah and Rose) and the rest of the team is pretty much either garbage or insanely overpaid (see Deng and Hinrich for examples of overpaid role players). Gordon would have been our biggest asset in a trade and we let him walk to a division rival for nothing.

    So, the organization told us two lies this summer. First, Gar said in a press conference that resigning Gordon was “our #1 priority.” We find out later that they didn’t even offer him a contract. Second, we were then told by Reinsdorf in an interview that the decision to let Gordon go was made during last season when we traded for Salmons. What?! Leaving the GM hanging out to dry like that? We were told that was the only way we’d have a shot at a free agent in 2010. Well, now it looks like our only shot was by KEEPING Gordon. Lies, lies and more lies. JR will be happy to ride Rose and NOah through their rookie deals until they’re up for an extension and then he’ll lowball them and claim “they weren’t team players” when they take an offer from a team willing to pay them what they’re worth.

    Anyone remember what he said when the White Sox won the championship? “I’d trade all 6 Bulls championships for this.” Look it up, our owner said that. Unacceptable. The Bulls are his business, his money-maker, his cash-cow, profit-machine; whatever you want to call it. The White Sox are his TEAM. He doesn’t care about winning, and so long as the Bulls are making money he’s not going to sell the team (which is what we fans need to happen if we ever want a true contender again). We’re not going to luck into the greatest player of all time ever again; it’s just not going to happen. I’d settle for lucking into a competent owner who rewards his loyal customers.

    BRIAN December 9, 2009 at 1:04 am #


  10. Dan E. December 9, 2009 at 4:05 am #

    C’mon Reggie, I mean really? Please put some of these in once in a while .,; I wouldn’t even care if they were used improperly, just show a little effort. Other than that I agree with most things being said in here, I think first priority; get rid of VDN. The Nets game tonight just put me over the edge, I wasn’t able to watch it, unless you call gamecast watching, so it’s hard to come up with excuses for why it was Vinnie’s fault, but I’m at the point I’m ready for a sacrificial lamb at least. I’m getting naseous just thinking about these last few weeks. Salmons jacking up a 3 down one, at home, with 7 seconds left? Pretend there’s something between your legs and drive to the hole. D Rose should be demanding the ball in that situation. Just pathetic. I’ve got to go now. It all hurts so much.

    Mahmoud December 9, 2009 at 6:24 am #

    What did Kobe do when three guys were guarding him a few nights ago against the heat? He went and got the ball, triple team be damned. DRose, save for DWade and Devin Harris, is the fastest point guard in the league, and I agree with you Matt that he lacks that, I wanna kill somebody attitude that Kobe and DWade have.

  12. Anonymous December 9, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

    okay… the bulls don’t need to get rid of VDN. They’ve gotten off to slow starts before, AND have managed to be in the playoff race or in the playoffs come the end of the season for 5 of the last 6 years. So I’m not worried about our chances of making the playoffs. We just have to not make terrible decisions on both sides of the ball, and be more aggressive on the defensive end. The reason the bulls are where they are at this point is because of their stupid and terrible decision making, and their lack of effort and intensity on both sides of the ball. We just have to be patient and give it time, this team will get it going at some point. One suggestion: trade John Salmons stupid dribble-too-much ball hogging ass. He makes terrible decisions, and doesn’t know how to play team basketball. Go back to Sacramento, you retard!

    Nicky C December 9, 2009 at 4:02 pm #


    I’m sure you have some good points…I just couldn’t find them because I couldn’t understand your 50 line sentence. Can you re-post with a little editing?



    Nicky C December 9, 2009 at 4:05 pm #

    Also, how evident is it that we miss Air Gordon at the end of games? While Gordon wasn’t a great all-around player, at least he had the cojones to make something happen at the end of games, unlike his replacement John Fishyshotpercentage. An alpha dog doesn’t need to be an absolute stud; he just has to be willing and able to make something happen when something needs to happen, and that was BG on a consistent basis.

  15. Travis F December 9, 2009 at 10:28 pm #

    I’m very sad guys… I know I’m not alone here in thinking this either… Why DO these “Owners” bother to have these teams? I wish for an owner that would spend some of that money and be as emotionally invested in this team as I am. Is that asking too much? Maybe Jordan, because we all know he hates to lose? (I do understand his previous experiences haven’t worked out but I wish our owner cared :( …)

  16. Travis F December 9, 2009 at 10:31 pm #

    Just to finish that, sports are passionate. I know I care deeply about my teams and am embarrassed to lose. We need an owner that isn’t worried about the money, just worried about not losing!

  17. Blaze December 10, 2009 at 3:53 pm #

    We need to give some rookies more playing time. They seem to have more heart than the regular rotation.

  18. Bullsfan67 December 13, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

    Bulls need a shooter, period. They need a guy who can consistently hit shots outside 15 feet, including 3s, to extend defenses and allow their big guys to score and Rose to penetrate.


  1. Points in the Paint | - January 1, 2012

    […] Matt McHale of By The Horns says Chicago needs a team leader, and questions whether Derrick Rose has the requisite personality trait to step into that role. […]

Designed by Anthony Bain