Here are some random thoughts about the Bulls’ first preseason game:
The starting unit looked pretty good:
Sure, they appeared understandably rusty during the first half, but the ball movement and effort were there…and things really started to click after halftime. Chicago opened the second half by outscoring Memphis 21-4 — which included a 14-0 run to start the third quarter — and led by as many as 16 points.
The defense was especially impressive. The Bulls’ starters had 8 steals and 3 blocked shots, and basically made life miserable for the Grizzlies’ starting unit, who combined to shoot 10-for-26 with 6 turnovers.
Luol Deng’s wrist injury didn’t hold him back:
Lu really looked like he was playing with a chip on his shoulder last night. He finished with 18 points in 23 minutes. Most impressive was his game-high 11 free throw attempts, a sure sign that Deng was being aggressive.
It looked like Kirk Hinrich never left:
Captain Kirk had a nice all-around game — 5 points, 2 steals, 2 blocked shots, and a game-high 7 assists — and more importantly he just fit in. Looked very comfortable as part of the second unit. And his defense seemed as strong as it was in his heyday.
The only downside was his shooting: 1-for-4 and 0-for-3 from downtown. And a couple of those three-point attempts looked awful. Let’s hope it was just rust.
But, really, Kirk set the tone for the starters, especially on defense and has momentarily quieted the people who openly questioned why the Bulls brought him back.
And his teammates sure seem to like him.
Said Rip Hamilton: “Kirk knows how to play. He really, really makes my job easy. When I run up the floor he tries to get me the ball early so I can try to make a play for myself or one of my teammates. He’s smart, man. He’s one of them guys that really knows how to play and makes my job easy.”
That was the feeling throughout the locker room. If Hinrich can stay healthy, his teammates feel they will be fine without Derrick Rose for a large chunk of the season.
Added Boozer: “He’s got great hands, man. A great feel for the game. He’s still trying to learn everything, everybody’s talking to him. You’ve got 10 different guys in your ear, plus Thibs, which seems like 10 guys in one. But honestly, I think he’s handling it great. A very, very good defensive player. It seemed like he had three or four steals right away in that third quarter, it got us going in the transition a little bit. (He) has a great feel for the game.”
Rip Hamilton looked like Rip Hamilton:
Fairly efficient game for Rip: 20 minutes, 13 points, 6-for-10 from the field, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals. Looked fluid and comfortable. Only one trip to the line, though. I’d like to see Hamilton draw more fouls. I know, I know. It’s a little early to worry about that. Just something I’m keeping an eye on, considering his huge drop-off in FTA last season.
Carlos Boozer didn’t silence his critics last night:
Boozington — who in theory should have primary scoring duties with Derrick Rose out — finished with only 6 points on 3-for-10 shooting. And it looked worse than 3-for-10. On the bright side, he had a game-high plus-minus score of +18 in 19 minutes. But I’m guessing the people screaming to amnesty him won’t be looking at that column in the box score.
Joakim Noah’s ankle looked fine:
Except for a missed dunk, Noah had a strong first outing (10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 1 steal) despite missing three days worth of practice for personal reasons. His movement didn’t seem impeded by that old ankle injury.
Sadly: no skyhooks. And he still looked a little tentative on offense at times.
After the game, Noah spoke about the passing of his paternal grandmother: “It feels good to be back on the court. I had a really long week last week. It was very hard losing my grandmother. She’s the one who introduced me to the sport of basketball. She was the first basketball player in my family. She played on the Cameroon national team. She was the secretary. She did everything for the team. So even playing for that national team, for France, it’s all for her. It was very, very hard, but I’m happy to be back and playing basketball.”
The new “Bench Mob”…needs some work:
The Bulls’ starters took control of the game in the third quarter…and then the bench tried to hand it back over to the Grizzlies. The effort was there. What was not there was the chemistry and knowledge of the system. That will come with time.
The ugliest aspect of the bench play was, without question, the shooting: 12-for-45 overall and 1-for-8 on three-pointers. And that’s even with Nazr Mohammed going 6-for-10. The primary bricklayers were Jimmy Butler (1-for-11, 0-for-1 on threes, 0-for-2 from the line), Taj Gibson (1-for-7) and Marco Belinelli (1-for-7, 0-for-2 on threes).
And, man, Butler was just dreadful on offense. When he wasn’t getting his shot blocked or intimidated, he was just plain missing. Jimmy will want to forget last night, and fast. He had that “I’M TERRIFIED BUT I MUST TRY!” look most of the night.
Belinelli and Nate Robinson sure aren’t afraid to hoist fast shots. Sadly, they didn’t hit many. Belinelli’s forte is supposed to be shooting, and he was way off last night. But he gave effort and looked attentive on defense. Robinson was 3-for-8 with 3 turnovers and zero assists but, like Marco, was trying hard and seemed (for the most part) intent on initiating the offense.
At any rate, like I said, the bench needs some work.
Said Gibson: “It’s tough. One thing about it, it’s all about timing. That group we had, had great timing. We had been together for awhile and from the jump we had great timing. One thing I’m excited is about guys put forth effort. I know guys were speeding out there, 100 mph at times, but we were just excited to be there, to be out there on the court.”
Nazr Mohammed looked really good:
Nazr had the game’s sole double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. He didn’t provide what Omer Asik did on defense, but last night he provided things Omer never could on offense. A backup center who can score? Who knew?
For Mohammed, it just feels good to be back in his home town.
Said Mohammed: “It’s a great feeling, man. It’s something about when you wake up and everything around you is, you feel comfortable, you’ve been there before. Just the setting; you go to a restaurant, or you go out and you walk around and you see somebody you actually know. It’s just different from being in another city. I’m fortunate to be at home playing, but I want to play well and I want to win games.”
Still, it’s important to remember that Nazr is 35 years old with career averages of 6.6 points and 5.2 rebounds. In other words: Don’t expect performances like this every night.
We barely saw any of Marquis Teague:
It’s not easy to be a rookie in Tom Thibodeau’s system. Last night, Teague saw 4 minutes of action during which he missed both of his field goal attempts and finished with 0 assists versus 2 turnovers.
Welcome to the NBA, rook.
Said Teague: “I understand all that I have to learn. It has been good competing and trying to learn the system. I’ve been happy with the way I played. You have to figure out the pace of the NBA and learn how to run the offense. There are a lot of plays and new stuff.”
Still, this is Thibs, which means hard work and productivity can earn minutes.
Said Thibodeau: “You have to learn how to be a pro first,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Then you have to practice well. Then you have to learn the league. Then you have to learn your teammates. Once you do those things and know how to do your job, you may get an opportunity to play. But it’s a big step going from college to pros. Everything is based on performance.”
The three-point shooting was dreadful:
When the Bulls traded Kyle Korver to Atlanta to save some cash, my biggest fear was that the Bulls wouldn’t be able to replace his three-point shooting. That fear came true last night as the Bulls went 2-for-14 from beyond the arc. And many of those misses were ugly misses. I know that shots aren’t going to fall on some nights…but there really aren’t many high-percentage three-point marksmen on this squad. And, in today’s NBA, you can’t get by without outside shooting.