Chicago’s preseason primer is almost over. It ended last night with an exciting (by preseason standards) 101-98 home defeat by the Orlando Magic. The Bulls ended a successful 5-2 preseason with questions and a bit of controversy. The questions revolve around continuity. With starters (particularly Rose) missing time, Vinny Del Negro was forced to use a variety of lineups. He never did get his desired rotation down. Speaking of which, that leads us to the possible mini-controversy.
When Tyrus Thomas missed a few preseason games with a hip injury, VDN started Taj Gibson at the power forward spot. Gibson has been playing well, so Del Negro started him again last night despite having a healthy Tyrus available for action. And Thomas, fresh off a 22-point, 13-rebound performance, got a little testy about it: “I don’t think it should even be questionable from what I contributed to this team last season and what I did throughout camp, but like I said, he [Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro] is the guy that makes the decisions. Whatever decision he makes I still I have to go out and play.”
It’s not that I necessarily disagree with Tyrus. I mean, he shouldn’t lose his starting spot due to injury. And as good as Gibson has looked, the Bulls have more to gain at this point from starting Tyrus and playing him big minutes. After all, it’s a contract year for Thomas. But his attitude is a prime example of why he remains an enigma. I would much rather Ty have said, “Team success is all that matters and, regardless of whether I start, I will do everything I can to help the team win.” Instead, he pouted and basically said he’ll do what he has to do but only because he has to do it.
Maybe the contract year is the problem. Remember: the bigger he plays this season, the bigger the potential payday next summer. And let’s not forget, Tyrus recently said he could be a 20/10 guy, adding that: “First, I have to figure out my role as far as the offensive end. I have to figure out where I’m going to get my shots. But on the defensive end, definitely 10 (rebounds a game).”
Look, I’m glad that Ty is feeling so confident, and I’ve love for him to reach (or come close to) 20/10. But there’s a lot of “me” in his “team” right now.
Guys who looked good:
Captain Kirk was particularly sharp, hitting 8-for-10 from the field and 2-for-4 from beyond the arc. He finished with 18 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and no turnovers. The fact that he started at point and played 25 minutes while only dishing 3 dimes is a slight concern, as is the fact that he didn’t earn any free throw attempts. But it’s not all that surprising, either.
John Salmons — whose wife just gave birth to their second child — scored a team-high 19 points thanks in part to a team-high nine free throw attempts (of which he hit six). He also shot 6-for-12 from the field (plus 1-for-1 from downtown) and had 4 assists. I particularly liked the fact that Salmons was aggressive, driving hard for three layups and earning foul shots. He’s also been doing a good job making plays for his teammates over the course of the preseason.
Okay, have I mentioned my man crush on this Taj Gibson kid? He’s been giving great effort during the preseason. His stat line from last night won’t jump out at you — 31 minutes, 10 points, 5-for-6 shooting, 3 boards, 3 steals, 1 turnover, 3 fouls — but he just looks unusually seasoned for a rookie. There was one telling moment in the first quarter. Gibson, despite his lanky frame, had carved out deep post position. Brad Miller fed him a bounce pass that was partially deflected by his defender. Gibson ripped away the ball, spun around and jammed it home. It was a great moment. It showed effort, tenacity and the ability to make a play under hostile conditions. Just good stuff.
Guys who looked both good and bad:
Luol Deng played a game-high 37 minutes. That means Vinny Del Negro is no longer limiting Deng’s minutes. So he’s ready for full-time action, which is a good thing. He grabbed 7 rebounds (including 2 offensive boards) and blocked a shot. However, he scored only 10 points on 12 shots and didn’t earn a single free throw attempt. Here’s a summary of Deng’s 12 shot attempts: missed 21-foot jumper, made putback from an offensive rebound, made 19-foot jumper, missed 23-foot jumper, missed 19-foot jumper, made layup, missed 19-foot jumper, missed layup (blocked by Vince Carter), made 22-foot jumper, made 11-foot jumper, missed 19-footer, missed layup (blocked by J.J. Redick). As you can see, most of his jumpers came from about 20 feet out and he had two layups stuffed…one by J.J. Redick!
At his best, Luol was always more of a midrange shooter. He needs to be more aggressive and get closer looks. Earning some shots at the charity stripe would help too. Maybe these things will come. Maybe he’s just getting back into the groove. Maybe…
Joakim Noah did a little bit of everything last night: 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. And — prepare for a shock — he even hit a jumper from about 17 feet out during the second quarter. Jo the Jump Shooter? Yeah, I doubt it too. The downside is that Noah committed 4 fouls in his 23 minutes of action, and he wasn’t much of a match for Dwight Howard. Of course, who is?
Jannero Pargo is still struggling to find his jump shot. (Think, Jannero. Where was the last place you saw it?) Pargo went 3-for-11 (0-for-4 from the Land of Three) in 28 minutes. However, he did grab 6 rebounds (an amazing feat for such a wee little man) and hand out a team-best 5 assists while committing only 1 turnover. So Pargo’s floor game was on even if his shot was off.
Brad Miller scored 15 points in only 21 minutes, thanks in part to his uncanny ability to draw fouls (he was 7-for-8 from the line). But he also fouled out in limited PT, shot only 4-for-9 from the field, and committed 3 turnovers.
Guys who looked bad:
Gibson and James Johnson played good rookie, bad rookie last night. While Gibson was doing his best to bogart Thomas’ starting spot, Johnson was slowly falling out of VDN’s rotation. He played only 11 minutes and finished with zero points (0-for-2) and 1 lonely rebound.
Guys who didn’t play:
Derrick Rose is still out with that bum ankle, and Del Negro said Rose could — gulp! — said Rose may miss the Oct. 29 opener against San Antonio: “It is possible he will not be ready for the opener against San Antonio. I hope he practices [Tuesday] but it is really day to day. I don’t want to get him out there and have him sore the next day.
Rose, however, begs to differ with his coach: “No way. I will be playing for sure. It’s been kind of crazy. I’m kind of mad, but you see a lot of things. Defensive plays, offensive plays, who is open on offensive plays and who is supposed to move over on defense. You see a lot of things not playing, but it is killing me not to be out there.”
Reasons for concern:
Rose has played only one preseason game, which means that even if he’s ready to go against the Spurs, he’s going to be rust and the team won’t be used to playing with him. In addition to Rose, Salmons and Thomas have both missed time. VDN had had to use several different starting lineups. Roles and rotations haven’t been ironed out. It’s just not an ideal situation. Speaking of non-ideal situations, the Bulls continued their meager three-point shooting, going 3-for-10 as a team last night.
They also committed a lot of fouls. The Magic went to the line 39 times, including 17 foul attempts for Howard. Fortunately for the Bulls, the Magic bonked 12 of those FTAs, otherwise the game might not have been as close as it was.
Reasons for optimism:
Chicago’s offense looked pretty good last night, especially considering they were going up against one of last season’s best defensive squads. The Bulls shot 50 percent from the field (37-for-74). They also limited their turnovers to 14 and gave up only 9 offensive boards (not bad when facing a team with Dwight Howard).