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?