Ordinarily, fans would revel in the kind of record the Bulls have compiled over the past couple of weeks. But the combination of relatively soft competition, coupled with their many mistakes and weaknesses exposed, has led, for me at least, to more anxiety than celebration.
Using last night’s game against the Trailblazers as a microcosm, lets take a look at some of the positives and negatives of the current Bulls.
Derrick Rose continues to improve, at least on offense. His jumper is becoming more consistent and accurate, making him an exceptionally tough one-on-one cover, and he is gaining confidence in doing what stars are supposed to do at crunch time late in games. We’re very lucky to have him.
Noah looked something like the Noah of old for the first time since his plantar fasciitis first flared up. This was a sharp reminder of how much better the Bulls are with him in the lineup. The team’s energy, interior defense, and even the offense all benefit from his presence.
Taj Gibson continues to impress with his excellent learning curve, as evidenced by his beautiful sealing off of Aldridge on the Rose lay-up. How many rookies ever make such savvy plays?
Deng and Hinrich continue to shoot well.
Warrick is best when moving through or slashing into the lane, and receiving the ball close to the basket (or on a fast break). Why, then, is he being used to receive the ball out around the key, if not to screen and roll? He also took at least two shots that were well outside of his range, and shouldn’t even have been out where he received those passes.
Why is Pargo handling the ball when Murray is in the game with him? The latter has shown good skills and judgment thus far when handling the ball, so why not trust him to use those skills?
VDN – typically – allowed a 13 point lead to dwindle to four before calling a timeout. Good coaches use timeouts proactively; Vinny is almost always reactive, and slow at that.
Very sloppy passing by the Bulls throughout the game. The coach should be all over his players about fundamental lapses, and the same problem should never continue throughout a whole game (which it did in this case).
Gibson really needs to work on receiving passes down low (pun intended). He has shown some very promising signs of becoming an effective low post player, so it would benefit the Bulls to design more plays for him. At the same time, however, he continues to have trouble receiving passes below his waist, and needs to work on concentrating on the ball, much like an NFL receiver.
The Bulls were not going aggressively after loose balls, which is precisely the type of fundamental lapse that will cost them games. Once again, this shouldn’t be tolerated by coaches.
While Deng continues to shoot well, he also continues to force too many shots when he barrels into the lane. The aggression is a good thing, but not if he insists on making his mind up to shoot at the beginning of each drive.
Late in the game two woefully ineffective timeouts in a row. The first ended up with Rose predictably double-teamed and trapped, and the second the Bulls weren’t even able to get the ball in. C’mon Vinny, don’t you read BY THE HORNS?
Free throws. Again, a fundamental aspect of the sport that a team like the Bulls cannot afford to screw up. Elite teams can get away with poor free throw shooting at times, but teams like the Bulls will have to shoot well at the line in order to beat better teams.
We know that Kirk is our best defending guard, so why wasn’t he covering Roy rather than Deng when it counted?
Should Noah be playing at all? How the Bulls handle him for the rest of the season will obviously have a major impact on their chances to make, and have any success in the playoffs.
About the author:
Tony C. grew up in Evanston, and cut his teeth on the exciting, early ’70’s Walker-Love-Sloan-Van Lier Bulls. As a pick-up player, he admits to having stuck too long with low-top shoes (Puma Baskets, for the detail oriented), but did belatedly make the switch when the sprained ankles became tedious. Tony’s professional life revolves mainly around buying, selling and managing Thoroughbred racehorses. While he now resides outside of Chicago, he remains an interested, enthusiastic, and at times critical Bulls fan.