Chicago Bulls: Scoop Jackson
March, 13, 2014
AP PhotoIs Carmelo Anthony Phil Jackson's kind of player?Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.
1. Would Phil Jackson taking over the Knicks help or hurt the Bulls' chances of landing Carmelo Anthony?
Nick Friedell: It isn't going to help the Bulls, that's for sure. I've always believed Anthony was going to stay in New York and take the extra money, but it can't hurt to have Jackson in the fold with his championship pedigree. How well he will do as an executive is to be determined, but he has the rings to back up any point he wants to make to Anthony and his teammates.
Scoop Jackson: My initial answer is hurt, but it really all depends on the position Phil takes once there, what his intentions are -- if any -- as far as coaching and whether he has any interest in keeping Melo there. That's the great and potential unknown. If/when Phil takes over and wants Melo to re-sign, what is he going to tell him that is going to make him stay? Is he going to promise him a new coach? Is he going to promise him that if that new coach doesn't work out after one year, he'll come down from his front office and do a Pat Riley and coach the team himself? Is he going to promise to get rid of J.R. Smith and get him a better point guard? It's really too soon to answer that question.
2. Can the Bulls beat the Pacers in the playoffs?
Friedell: Yes. I don't believe they will right now, but I believe they can. The reason being that they aren't scared of Indiana. The Pacers have gotten better over the past couple of seasons and almost knocked off the Heat in last year's playoffs, but the Bulls have always viewed them as a "little brother." They respect the Pacers, but they still think they can beat them in a seven-game series.
Greenberg: Yes. I don't think it would happen this season, but the Bulls can do it. The Bulls would need some good fortune and near-perfect defense, but it's possible. The obstacle to beating the Miami Heat in the playoffs is, of course, LeBron James. Paul George isn't LeBron. Indiana doesn't have that one guy, but it is a very balanced, defensively regimented championship contender. Still, the Bulls won't get mentally or physically bullied by their conference foe. While the Bulls' defense can corral Indiana, the big problem would be scoring against the only defense stingier than their own. While the Bulls' woebegone offense has picked up in the past couple of months, they have failed to score more than 80 points in three of their past four losses, and the outlier was against San Antonio, where they scored just 33 points in the first half. I'm excited to see these teams face off March 21 for the first time since Derrick Rose was injured. That will tell me a little more about the Bulls' chances.
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Bulls are 1-1 against Paul George and the Pacers this season.
Jackson: No. Not this year. Barring any significant injury to any main/core player on the Pacers' roster, that's asking too much of the Bulls to carry out that task over seven games without having HCA (home-court advantage). Two things would have to happen over the span of two weeks: The Bulls would have to play seven games at the same intensity and efficiency level they did against the Heat last week, and the Pacers over those same seven games would have to play like they recently did during the four games in a row they just lost. That's real talk. And if anyone honestly thinks both of those things are going to happen simultaneously ...
3. Is Jimmy Butler a top-five defender like Tom Thibodeau believes?
Friedell: Yes. Butler has taken over for Luol Deng on the defensive end without a hitch. He guards the opponent's best perimeter player each night and enjoys the challenge of trying to stop him. There aren't many guys in the league who have had success guarding Kobe Bryant, Anthony and LeBron James over the years, and Butler has slowed each one of them down at times. To take the next step in his progression, he must start shooting the ball better, but his defense is great.
Greenberg: Sure, he's probably in the neighborhood of that arbitrary number -- how many swingmen are known for their defense nowadays? -- but what's important is that Butler believes he's the best wing defender in the game. Shutting down LeBron at home -- James shot just 2-for-11 against Butler in the Bulls' win -- will do more for Butler's confidence than looking at his Synergy Sports numbers. Thibodeau trusts Butler to guard the best offensive wings, and his teammates back him up in the Bulls' all-for-one, one-for-all defense. Butler, like the rest of the Bulls, has to approach each game like it's Game 7 to keep winning at their current pace. He's an interesting player to study because he's only had one pro coach, and that's Thibs. He's been learning the same system since leaving Marquette, and all credit goes to Butler for thriving in it.
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsJimmy Butler held LeBron James to 2-of-11 shooting while he was guarding the Heat star on Sunday.
Jackson: Over the course of the season, I'd have to say no. But right now, without question, he is. Jimmy is playing defense at a level now that is as good as anyone in the league guarding from the 2, 3 and 4 positions. He's in a defensive zone right now that is equal to a great shooter saying, "The rim looks like an ocean." Offensive players have been at his mercy over the last month, not the other way around. The only problem is that he hasn't been consistently this dominant all season long. He'll make the All-Defensive Second Team this year and Joakim Noah will get the Defensive Player of the Year. But next year, Jimmy will not only be respected as one of the top-five defensive players in the league, he'll be rewarded by making All-Defensive First Team (with Noah).
February, 28, 2014
Randy Belice/NBAE/Getty ImagesJoakim Noah, a center, leads the Bulls in total assists.Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.
1. Is Joakim Noah having the most impactful season of any center in the NBA?
Friedell: No doubt. Noah is playing the best basketball of his career -- and -- he's also the most important player on his team. When the Bulls lost Derrick Rose again for the year because of a knee injury and traded Luol Deng to Cleveland, the team could have easily folded for the season, but Noah wouldn't let them. He has become an even better leader off the floor, and he's dominating in various stages on it. Along with Tom Thibodeau, Noah is the biggest reason the Bulls are having another successful season.
DeMarcus Cousins and Dwight Howard are having slightly better seasons. They too would prosper in Thibodeau's defense. Yes, even Boogie. But ask anyone in the NBA who they would rather have as a teammate and Noah, once thought to be an unpopular goof, would win hands down. Noah is just seventh among classified centers (40 games or more) in ESPN's Player Efficiency Rating. But none are as important to a team as Noah, who is all but willing the short-handed Bulls to a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference. Noah's defensive bonafides are well known, and of course harder to put into numbers, but his playmaking abilities continue to astound. How many centers make behind-the-back bounce passes into the post?
Noah is averaging 4.6 assists a game and a quarter of his possessions end with an assist. He leads the Bulls in total assists, a rarity for a center. Since Deng was traded on Jan. 7, he's had 14 games with six or more assists, including three double-digit games on February. He set his career high with 13 on Feb. 19. Going into Friday's game against the Dallas Mavericks, Noah was averaging 12.1 points and 11.5 rebounds a game in 34.1 minutes. But it's not just about numbers. He has eclipsed the injured Derrick Rose in current popularity, and his play this season has cemented him as an all-time Bulls great.
Scoop Jackson: With the exception of the impact Andrew Bynum's had on the Cavs by not playing ... then yes! It will be interesting to see if Noah gets any MVP votes at the end of the season. There always is this argument about the true meaning/definition of the word "valuable" and how it is implied and interpreted when voting for MVPs. I can argue that there have not been many, if any, players in the NBA this season that have been more "valuable" to their team and their team's success than Noah. Now, I'm not saying that he should be considered for the MVP, I'm just saying it's worth watching to see if anyone who has a vote is going to recognize or has a true understanding of Noah impact.
2. If you're the Bulls, who would you rather face in the playoffs, Heat or Pacers?
Friedell: The Pacers. Because they think they can beat them -- even this season. Miami is in the Bulls' head. They know they've lost to them in the playoffs two out of the past three seasons and they know there's a solid chance of that happening again this season. The Pacers are a much improved team, but the Bulls don't fear them.
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesPaul George's Pacers might be the deepest team in the NBA, but they are still probably a better playoff matchup for the Bulls than the Heat.
Greenberg: Easy -- the Pacers. The Bulls can't beat either team in a seven-game series, all things remaining equal. Indiana might have the better team than Miami this year, but the Bulls still believe they can hang with them. Belief can go a long way, especially with a group like the Bulls that follows their scouting reports and feeds off their defense. It's more than a little psychological. The reverse is true with Miami. I think the Bulls want to beat Miami more than even winning an NBA title, but they know LeBron James is the hammer and they're the nail. And as good as Paul George is, he's not LeBron James. I think the Bulls could take the Pacers to seven games, and then, you never know.
Jackson: The Pacers. The Bulls have a better chance of the Pacers slipping up and looking past them because the Pacers' eyes and focus has been so directed at Miami this year. The Heat, even if the Bulls were healthy and the same squad was intact that opened this season, seemed to have their number in April/May, especially with the Bulls not having a legit scoring threat off the bench that cold also control/run the offense. The Pacers on the other hand, right now, run the (very small and slight, almost wishful thinking) risk of looking past the Bulls in a playoff series because, well, I think, they really want the Heat.
3. Is Luol Deng regretting not taking the Bulls' offer of three years, $30 million?
Friedell: No. Deng is still probably wishing he were in Chicago and wished it could have worked in the long term, but he doesn't regret not taking the offer. He and his reps were upset the Bulls didn't negotiate with him last summer and then gave him the offer before he left. Deng understands that this is probably the last major deal of his career, and he wants to get paid. He also has too much pride to take an offer he feels is beneath him. The Bulls have moved on and so has he.
Greenberg: Um, no. If anything, the Bulls' exiling of him to Cleveland is probably emboldening his decision not to commit to the franchise that drafted him in 2004. It's not like he's stuck in Cleveland. Deng knew he was getting dealt because there was no chance he was signing an extension before testing free agency. The Bulls' final offer sounds great to us -- Who doesn't want $30 million? -- but it was a just an offer. After dealing with his agent, they knew he wouldn't accept it. If by some miracle, he did, great. While Deng wasn't pleased to head to Cleveland -- yes, even I have a source on this -- it's only a few months in purgatory. He'll be a prize in free agency and would be a valuable addition to any title contender. If anything, getting an extra month off while the Bulls grit through a playoff series or two will allow him more rest and all but guarantee good health when free agency begins.
Jackson: He shouldn't be. Once the season is over and teams will begin looking at what they really need to get them to that next level, Luol will get his money. And it may come from a team that is in better position to win a title in 2015 than the Bulls. Who knows? I'm truly of the belief that Deng no longer being here had nothing to do -- on both ends -- with money. Philosophical, structural and personal differences were at the core of the split. Nothing that couldn't have been repaired, but nothing either side was willing to accept or change. Bottom line with Lu: It was time to go.
February, 13, 2014
AP Photo/Daily Herald, John StarksTaj Gibson already finishes games in place of Carlos Boozer. Should he start them too?Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.
1. Should Taj Gibson now start over even a healthy Carlos Boozer?
Friedell: Yes. He's the better all-around player. But [coach Tom Thibodeau] has been consistent about keeping Boozer in the starting lineup if he's healthy. The difference is Gibson is just as good as Boozer offensively, and he's much better defensively. At this point, we know Gibson is going to play the crunch-time minutes so he'll be out there when it matters. Whether he starts won't make that much difference in how much he affects the game.
Thanks to his heavy workload as a spot starter, Gibson is averaging 29 minutes a game, five above his career average. Boozer is averaging 29.9, about two fewer than his average. Gibson has performed better as a starter, because that's when Thibodeau is short-handed and also because he trusts Gibson more late in games anyway. In seven games as a starter, Gibson is averaging 18.6 points and 9.4 rebounds while playing a whopping 41 minutes per game. As a sub, he only plays 27 minutes a game and averages 11.7 points and 6.1 rebounds. Either way, he's effective. Boozer has only started this season and is averaging 14.4 points and 8.6 rebounds.
Coaching isn't just about numbers and matchups. Thibodeau knows how to motivate and cajole and control. For "esprit de corps," he's probably better starting Boozer. But Gibson should be getting a few more minutes a game because he makes good use of them.
Scoop Jackson: Only if the Bulls are trying to trade Boozer. If they have Carlos on the blocks and have told themselves that this is the route they'd like to go instead of amnesty, then getting Taj comfortable in the starting lineup now makes sense if eventually he's officially going to be their power forward going into the playoffs and/or next season. Personally, I think Boozer is not going to be here much longer. That's why I say Taj might as well start. Remember how before Deng was traded, he had a mysterious injury that kept him out of a few games before he was sent to Cleveland? I'm just saying.
2. What's closer to reality, Jimmy Butler in last season's playoffs, or this season's Butler?
Friedell: Butler is better than he's shown this season, but I'd argue it's more this year's version than last year's version. That's because I'm not sure if Butler's jumper will ever be consistent enough to think that he will be able to score 15-20 a game. He will put in the work to make himself better, but that hard work hasn't been showing up right now on the floor. He must find a way to knock down that 16- to 18-footer more consistently.
Andrew Richardson/USA TODAY SportsJimmy Butler's shot remains the biggest question mark in his game.
Greenberg: Well, there's really not that big of a gap between the two, so I'll be optimistic and say last season's playoff Jimmy, despite the smaller sample size. In 12 playoff games, Butler averaged 13.3 points and 5.2 rebounds while playing 40.8 minutes per game. He shot 43.5 percent from the field and an impressive 40.5 percent on 3-pointers. Through his first 37 games this season, Butler is averaging 12.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 36.8 minutes per game. He's shooting a wobbly 36.7 percent from the field and 27 percent on 3s. Let's look closer at that latter stat to see how close 40.5 and 27 percent really are. In the playoffs, he averaged 1.3 made 3s and 3.1 attempts. This season, he's averaging 1 make and 3.6 attempts. Not a huge chasm there. This is Butler's first full season as a starter. He started 20 games in the 2012-13 regular season. He's definitely one to watch in the second half, but I think we'll see those numbers improve, if only a tick.
Jackson: Butler in the playoffs. I think by the time the All-Star break is over, Butler will refocus and finally settle into his role as option uno in the Bulls' offense. No excuses (really), but he's had no stability to deal with this entire season. He's gone from the No. 4 offensive option to begin the season, then to No. 3 when Derrick Rose went down, to No. 2 when Luol Deng was traded, to No. 1 now that Boozer is injured/riding the bench. One of the main components that leads to an NBA player finding success is consistency. Players need to know game in, game out what their role is going to be for long stretches of time. Once the trading deadline passes and the Bulls' roster is secure for the rest of the season, Butler will know and be totally comfortable with what he needs and is expected to do every game.
3. Should the Bulls re-sign Kirk Hinrich this summer?
Friedell: If Hinrich will sign for the veteran's minimum and Thibs will keep him on a minutes limit like he's on now, then why not? Hinrich has been mostly solid this season and provides a stabilizing presence in the locker room. He is well-liked by his teammates and can still perform at a high level. The only question with him is whether he can stay healthy. If the Bulls are investing about $1 million in his future, then it's worth the risk.
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsKirk Hinrich's leadership is still valuable to the Bulls.
Greenberg: No. He's had a hell of a run -- well, two runs -- but I think his time is up. The Bulls need a more dependable, dare I say slightly dynamic, backup. It's certainly not Hinrich's fault he has missed time (22 last season, nine and counting this season), and he never thought he was coming back as a starter. But at best, he's a backup combo guard who shoots at a low (and getting lower) percentage. If he wants to come back at a bargain rate to be a pure backup, sure. Obviously, the Bulls should want D.J. Augustin to stay, but I imagine he wants to start somewhere else. An intriguing possibility would be to sign him as the point and slot Rose as the 2 and let them both play on and off the ball. But I'm getting away from the question at hand, and my answer is still no.
Jackson: No, but not because they don't need him or because he won't be of value to the team. The reason is because whatever the Bulls sign him to -- due to the time he's already spent here and how many believe he hasn't sustained a certain level of play -- it will be held against him every game, with every missed shot, with every turnover, with every point an opponent scores on him. For the Bulls, I think he could be of value on a re-sign, but for Kirk it will be miserable. He can easily get the love somewhere else. Like taking Steve Nash's place with the Lakers.
February, 6, 2014
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesWith Taj Gibson's offensive game developing, Carlos Boozer is spending more time on the bench in the fourth quarter.Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.
1. Does Carlos Boozer deserve more playing time late in games?
Friedell: No. He's a poor defender. Why would Tom Thibodeau change his strategy now? Especially since Taj Gibson is much better offensively this season.
Scoop Jackson: That's a tough one. To me, that's a game-to-game decision, not a preconceived or predetermined rotation decision made by a coach who has nothing to do with the "feel" of the game that is being played at that moment. With the Bulls, Boozer has had some good fourth quarters, and he's had some not-so-good ones. That's kinda been his M.O., as has it been Thibs' to not play him much in fourth quarters in their four years together. Honestly, I think with just about any other coach in the league, looking at Booz's offensive numbers, he'd be in games at the end. But to Thibs, defense wins games. And until there's a different overall defensive commitment from Booz, "it is what it is" is going to continue.
2. Who will end up being a better NBA player, Jimmy Butler or Tony Snell?
Friedell: Both players are very hard workers. They live in the gym and spend hours working on their games. But if I had to choose the player with the higher upside right now, it would be Snell. That's because he's a better pure shooter and will get even better defensively with time. Butler can still be a very solid player, but Snell has a better shooting touch.
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonRookie Tony Snell has shown the potential to be a solid shooter with a quick release.
Greenberg: I think Butler will be the more complete, well-rounded player, but Snell could really carve out a niche for himself as a dead-eye shooter. I know he can do more than shoot, but his release is so smooth and so quick, as a spot-up shooter, he's going to be a problem for defenses for years to come. Butler's scoring hasn't picked up like we thought it would, but he's a go-to defender with attitude. He has the benefit of experience right now, and I think his personality lends itself to a more assertive role defensively than Snell, who sometimes seems as if his head is swimming with details. I'll have to see Snell in two years to really judge them against each other, but I'll still go with Jimmy for now.
Jackson: Depends on who stays with Thibs the longest. LOL. I can't see both players being here that much longer. In the greater scheme of the Bulls' rebuild, one is probably going to be gone within the next year or two. I think Tony has a slight edge as far as offensive aggressiveness goes, and right now, that is something the Bulls are looking for. But Jimmy is still a much better defensive player, and he probably always will be because his game is not predicated on how much he scores. So "better" player to me is subjective in that Butler could end up being another Shawn Marion and Snell another Kevin Martin. Which one of those two is better?
3. Will the Bulls be able to afford D.J. Augustin next season?
Friedell: Given how the rest of their cap situation will likely unfold, it appears the answer right now would be no. It all depends on what other teams are willing to pay Augustin. Thibs loves what he has done since coming to Chicago, but he also has a track record of getting everything he can out of almost every point guard who has come through not named Marquis Teague. The Bulls would like to keep Augustin, but it has to be at their price.
AP Photo/Matt YorkD.J. Augustin has rejuvenated his career with the Bulls, averaging 10.8 points and 4.6 assists this season.
Greenberg: No. His one-year fellowship in the Thibs PG Academy will end after the playoffs. Augustin doesn't want to back up Rose, and we don't yet know if Derrick Rose would want to play more off the ball to make room for Augustin. I imagine he wouldn't throw a fit about such a move, but the point is going to be moot when teams offer Augustin a solid, multiyear contract based on his play this season. This was the perfect opportunity for Augustin, filling in on a veteran-laden, serious-minded team with a basketball genius at the helm. And Augustin has been much better than expected. I think he'll find himself a nice deal next season and the Bulls will have to find another backup for Rose who can start as well. Just in case.
Jackson: They'll have to. Unless they have someone else in mind to replace him. Look, the one thing they cannot afford again is what happened to them by not re-signing Nate Robinson (even though he did recently tear his ACL and is out for the season.) What the Bulls can't afford is to be left thin at the point position in case Rose goes down again and they are left scrambling to salvage a season by finding a replacement point guard on the fly. As well as he's playing, no one is saying that D.J. is the end-all-be-all, but regardless of how much he may demand (within reason, of course), the Bulls have to overpay someone to be their insurance policy. Why not him?
January, 30, 2014
MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose says he's looking forward to playing with Team USA this summer.Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.
1. Should Derrick Rose play for Team USA this summer?
Friedell: Absolutely. There's no better way to find out where Rose is as a player than to put him on that stage against some of the best players in the world. Tom Thibodeau has said repeatedly how much he thought Rose's experience in the 2010 world championship helped him; now Rose will have a chance to do it again. He doesn't usually play five-on-five to train during the summers so this will be good for him. Plus, Thibodeau, an assistant on Team USA's staff, will be there to keep a watchful eye on him.
Doug Padilla: So somebody who never plays games in the offseason and is coming off a second season-ending knee surgery in successive years would consider playing basketball this summer? It sounds almost laughable, but nobody should tell a guy he can't represent his country internationally. The only thing that makes this sound like a remotely sane idea is that Thibodeau will be an assistant coach on Team USA and can monitor Rose's activity on a daily basis. And if Rose is more game ready at the start of next season than he was at the start of this one, perhaps it can be justified.
2. Will Rose end up following the same path as Penny Hardaway?
Friedell: No. Not only is the medicine different now, but they also didn't have the same type of injuries. Players have come back from the knee problems that Rose has had. The key will be to see how explosive he is when he comes back. At 25, Rose is still a young man, but nobody knows if his body will be able to hold up. Still, with his work ethic, he should be able to get close to what he was before. The parallels are similar between the two players, but Hardaway didn't have quite as much freakish athleticism as Rose does.
Andy Lyons/AllsportPenny Hardaway was on a Hall of Fame trajectory before a 1997 knee injury; still, he played 14 NBA seasons.
Jackson: I don't think so. I'm more concerned with the collection of nonstop injuries than I am with the one recent knee injury this season. I've said it before in an earlier 3 Points: My fear with Rose is more Vince Carter's path than Hardaway's. That his body could just be fragile, not built to carry the whole weight. Or there's a higher plan for his basketball life not to play out the way it initially seemed promised. We say and see it all the time: Man plans, God laughs.
Padilla: Anybody who tries to answer this definitively is merely guessing. Only time will tell, but Rose seems determined to avoid taking Hardaway's ill-conceived road back to the basketball court. After Hardaway's first major knee surgery in the 1997-98 season, he rushed his recovery to play in the All-Star Game and was lost for the season soon after. Last season, Rose refused to rush his return to play on the grand stage of the playoffs, remained patient and still had surgery on his other knee this season. Hardaway's cautionary tale seems to have some influence on Rose's recovery, but another injury still occurred.
3. If they pursue Carmelo Anthony, do the Bulls have an untouchable player on their roster?
Friedell: Joakim Noah is the closest thing to an untouchable on the roster, but he isn't in that category. I wouldn't trade him, but the conversation is fair. Problem for the Bulls is if they gained Melo but lost Noah, they would be in the same place -- if not worse. The only way the Bulls can take a step toward a championship is if they get Melo and keep Noah.
Jackson: No. And that includes Derrick. But I'm one to believe that Melo isn't leaving New York and teams aren't going to pursue him the way so many people seem to think they are. That said, unless there's heavy and direct conversation between Melo's people and the Bulls management that gives them a strong indication that he is seriously willing to leave the Knicks, then putting all players on the Bulls roster on the availability block would be stupid. It would also give Thibs one more reason to think about leaving once his contract is up.
Padilla: Rose and Noah are absolutely untouchable if an Anthony deal presents itself. The whole point with getting Anthony is to develop an All-Star core that could push the team to a title. Where a tag-team duo used to be the recipe for building a champion, a three-pronged attack seems to be the way to go now. A healthy Rose, a guy in Noah who is willing to do all the dirty work and the scoring threat that is Anthony still wouldn't make the Bulls the favorite for a title, but it would put them among the legitimate contenders.
January, 23, 2014
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJoakim Noah's play has helped the Bulls keep winning since the Deng trade.Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.
1. Joakim Noah is healthy and playing better than ever. Is it time to trade him?
Nick Friedell: Not unless the Bulls are getting a superstar scorer in return. Noah is the heart and soul of this team and one of the main reasons they have turned their season around. He is by no means untradeable, but he shouldn't be moved unless the player coming back can score 25-30 a game next to Derrick Rose.
Doug Padilla: Absolutely not. While Noah could bring both salary relief and solid talent in a potential deal, this guy is the main part of the team’s core moving forward. His style, while unorthodox compared to other All-Star-caliber talent, perfectly fits the style of coach Tom Thibodeau. It only makes sense to build around Noah, not to mention Rose and even Jimmy Butler, instead of moving him in the hopes of acquiring another core-type player.
Scoop Jackson: Never. At some point, even in the face of deconstruction of the team, a core has to remain. Noah is part of that core. He, Rose and Thibs should be the foundation on which the organization builds on and moves forward with. I will say this: If the Bulls trade Noah, they will lose Thibs. We may not know it, but he’ll check out and then make it official the day his contract is up. And I won’t be mad at him at all.
January, 15, 2014
Sam Sharpe/USA TODAY SportsCarmelo Anthony reportedly wants to continue to play in a big market. Would Chicago be a fit?Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.
1. Would Carmelo Anthony be the right star to pair with Derrick Rose?
Nick Friedell: The right star? Probably not given how much Carmelo likes to have the ball in his hands. But what other star is coming to Chicago? Even if the odds are long regarding the Bulls finding a way to bring him here, they're still better than any other big star coming to play with Rose.
Doug Padilla: Teaming a shoot-first small forward with a scoring point guard seems supremely misguided, unless the NBA plans on using two basketballs during future games. Would Melo and Rose be fun to watch? Heck yes. But adding the 29-year-old Anthony, who makes $21 million this season, won't instantly turn the Bulls into a championship contender. And how much money would be left to build a supporting cast? The biggest issue of all is how much this would weaken the defense. Fun to watch is one thing, but this just isn't a good fit.
Scoop Jackson: No. As much as I love Melo, I don't see him working here without Luol Deng to be the balance that is needed while trying to build a championship-contending squad. I still am a fan of the Rose/Anthony offensive aesthetic and believe it could produce great results under Thibs if Melo makes some sort of commitment to defense and a little rebounding. But without Deng -- or the Bulls finding a player just like him -- it just doesn't work.
2. Who is more important to the Bulls' long-term success, Tom Thibodeau or a healthy Rose?
Padilla: Since we're talking about a "healthy" Rose, clearly the former MVP is the bigger franchise changer. Talent wins the day in all sports, especially in the NBA. Thibodeau has all the earmarks of being a top-five head coach, but a top-five player, as Rose would be when healthy, simply carries more weight. Not saying just anybody can coach a talented NBA club to success, but even the best of coaches need talent at their disposal. Putting an injury-prone Rose into the question would alter the answer, though.
Jackson: Probably Thibs because to win a championship in the LeBron era, someone is going to have to construct a plan to beat him that goes beyond one player outplaying him. It's like with the Pacers: Paul George is the player who they cannot do without, but coach Frank Vogel will be the reason they get past Miami. And if that's the definition of success, then the coach plays a slightly bigger role in the end.
3. Is it important for Rose to travel with the team and sit on the bench this season?
Friedell: Yes. He needs to feel like he's still part of the team and the players need to know he is still around and trying to get back on the floor. From a PR perspective, I think it's important for Rose to be there. He has played only 50 games in the past three years and fans have started to turn on him. His presence can only help show fans that he wants to support his teammates despite all of the injuries.
Padilla: Absolutely not. The idea that Rose's presence is necessary is something that only the Bulls players need to decide. Thus far, through two major knee injuries, Rose has the utmost respect from his teammates. Maybe if Rose had me-first tendencies, this could be an issue. But the way the kid devotes himself to winning when he's on the floor says plenty about his team focus. There is this, though: Nothing bad figures to come from Rose traveling and sitting on the bench.
Jackson: No. Last season I think it was. This time there's nothing to gain from it. It borders on torture for Rose and a constant reminder of what's missing for the team and staff. Maybe some games and trips are fine, as to not lose total contact and to keep Derrick connected to the game and stop him from cabin fever at home. But to hold him to the same travel schedule as the rest of the team benefits no one.
January, 9, 2014
Randy Belice/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Bulls can shed Carlos Boozer's $16.8 million cap hit in 2014-15 if they use the amnesty clause on him this summer.Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Bulls followers.
1. Should the Bulls use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer's contract this summer?
Nikola Mirotic, and if so, how much will it cost them? The second being, do the Bulls believe they can land another difference-making free agent? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then the decision to amnesty the final year of Boozer's deal should be easy.
Doug Padilla: The Bulls have seemingly been on the amnesty route when it comes to Boozer, and trading Luol Deng to the Cavaliers doesn't seem to change that. If anything, trading Deng is a clear sign of the Bulls' intent to rebuild, and parting ways with Boozer seems to be the next major step. Mirotic is expected to be on his way from Real Madrid in Spain to assist Joakim Noah in the middle. And by shedding the $16.8 million owed to Boozer, the Bulls can gain more cap space.
Scoop Jackson: Why not? Losing Deng, to me, really broke up the nucleus of what Tom Thibodeau used to balance his offense. Yes, Derrick Rose not being there hurt, but Thibs found a system that allowed the Deng/Boozer bookends to work. It would be nice for Rose to have someone besides Noah he's relatively familiar playing with once Rose comes back, but at this point does that even matter?
2. Who got the better end of the deal in the Deng-Bynum trade?
Friedell: In the short term, the Cavs did. They get an All-Star forward in exchange for a few picks and a guy in Andrew Bynum who wasn't in their future. But in the long term, I think the Bulls got the better end of this deal. There's no guarantee Deng re-signs in Cleveland. And the Bulls save millions of dollars and get out of the luxury tax. I'm convinced Sacramento can't be so consistently terrible with a new ownership group that wants to make a splash, so the Bulls will end up with a first-round pick.
Padilla: If we're talking a simple basketball deal, then the Cavaliers just made themselves better without losing any current talent, which makes it an ideal move. In terms of a business deal, the Bulls scored big by getting out of the luxury tax and getting something for a player who wasn't likely to be re-signed anyway. But finding a true winner or loser in this deal won't come until down the road when we know what the Bulls end up doing with their financial savings and what kind of talent those draft picks yield.
Jackson: The Cavs. If there was a chance that Bynum was going to miraculously heal once he got here and the Bulls were going to keep him and get something out of him, then maybe my answer would shift. But what gives the Cavs the upper hand in this is not just what they got in Deng (an All-Star player who will stabilize their offense, anchor their defense and complement Kyrie Irving the way he complemented Rose, etc.), but what was lost in the player-coach relationship Deng had with Thibs. That's what is irreplaceable.
3. What's the next move the Bulls should make this season?
Friedell: Get whatever they can for Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich. Both players are solid veterans who can help a contender. Dunleavy has even more value because he has an extra year on a cheap contract. If the Bulls can get another couple of assets for the pair they should do it.
AP Photo/Kathy WillensMike Dunleavy could be the next Bull to be dealt.
Padilla: While it wouldn't be a shock to see Dunleavy moved next, somebody is going to have to pick up Deng's minutes. Tony Snell's playing time will increase, but there are backup minutes to be absorbed as well. If the Bulls are in cost-cutting mode, though, trading Dunleavy saves about $2 million through the rest of this season and another $3.3 million next season. It's not a gigantic sum, relatively speaking, but it's money saved nonetheless.
Jackson: Upgrade the training/medical staff. By now, it can no longer be happenstance or coincidence that Bulls players continue to get injured at this rate. Something is not right. Their next move needs to be a true investigation into why this has been going on so long and what they need to do to change it.
December, 19, 2013
Getty ImagesWould you pick Jabari Parker over Derrick Rose?Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Bulls followers.
1. Take your pick: Derrick Rose or the No. 1 selection in the 2014 NBA draft?
Jon Greenberg: The sentimentalist in me says Rose. The realist in me says maybe take the pick. I guess there's a part of me that can't believe Rose's story ends this way. Can you imagine, though, how quickly fans would welcome Parker and act like Rose was some bum, instead of the youngest-ever MVP who had two horribly unlucky knee injuries? It would take like 15 seconds tops, because sports fans are, by design, nuts. Still, Rose is only 25. He might seem like an old 25, partially because, again, he was the youngest MVP in NBA history. Before he tore his meniscus in Portland, he showed that the athleticism, the pure speed, was still there. He just needed the timing. But time ran out and now we're talking about option for a draft pick over him.
Scoop Jackson: Unless it becomes officially known that Jabari Parker is not staying at Duke to play one year with Jahlil Okafor next season then, NO. I'm keeping Rose. Parker is the only player who could fill the all-around void that will be lost if the Bulls decide to give up on Derrick. Other than Parker there is no player -- not Andrew Wiggins, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, Shabazz Napier, Doug McDermott or Russ Smith -- who will be available at the No.1 pick who will turn into over their career what Rose became pre-injury.
2. Aside from LeBron, which free agent would you like to see land in Chicago this summer?
Nick Friedell: The problem for the Bulls is that they don't have the cap space to add any big-name/max-level players. Carmelo Anthony would be a great addition for this team, but he would have to take a huge pay cut. That's not going to happen.
Jon Greenberg: Well, LeBron's not coming anyway, so trust me, I wasn't thinking about him. The Bulls will still have salary-cap problems, even if they amnesty Carlos Boozer, which I don't think is a given. I guess I'd like to see them add a shooting guard and move Jimmy Butler to Luol Deng's spot, if, as many expect, Deng leaves via free agency. Who is going to take a midlevel deal or equivalent "small" money to come play for the Bulls? Expect some more small deals for backup-type players. I have no players for you to get excited about.
Scoop Jackson: To me, there's a difference between someone getting a team over the hump and someone coming in to save a team. I'm not a fan of the latter, so I wouldn't even want LeBron here, to be honest. He's off my list. But to answer the second part of the question, I'd have to say Zach Randolph. After him, I'd still like to see Melo here playing alongside Rose and for Thibs. I really think he'd turn into the player who everyone thinks he has the ability to be.
3. Will Nikola Mirotic play for the Bulls next season?
Nick Friedell: Yes. The Bulls will do everything they can to bring him over, but it all depends on how much Mirotic wants. If he wants more than the midlevel exception, it will be interesting to see what they want to do. Still, I think they find a way to get him over.
AP Photo/Lefteris PitarakisWill the Bulls be able to finally lure Nikola Mirotic to the NBA next season?
Jon Greenberg: If they amnesty Boozer and don't re-sign Deng, it's a significant possibility. The Bulls recently met with Mirotic in Spain to talk about his 2 million euro buyout, which is a good sign. They need to do something to jump start this team and it seems as though he would be a very good value for the team's midlevel exception money. The Bulls are a very conservative team, so I just can't bank on them doing anything exciting. But I'll go against my better judgment and say yes. They'll figure out a way to get it done.
Scoop Jackson: Only if there's a guarantee from the Bulls that he will be in their starting lineup next season. And that's hard to determine right now without knowing who's gonna be on the roster at that Deng/Boozer/Taj Gibson position next season. Unless they can convince Nikola that for his first season in the NBA he's going to be a Toni Kukoc/Manu Ginobili-type, where he's the premier sixth man getting around 30-35 minutes a game, then it's hard to see him coming here next season.
December, 16, 2013
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesAside from Derrick Rose, Tom Thibodeau might be the Bulls' most valuable asset.Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Bulls followers.
1. Would you trade Tom Thibodeau for a lottery pick?
Nick Friedell: No. Thibs is still one of the biggest assets the Bulls have. I wouldn't give him up -- especially if you had no idea where the pick would fall. There are some great players in the 2014 draft but as is always the case in any draft -- nobody knows exactly how players will respond once they get in the league. The only way any deal happens is if Thibs and the front office decide they just can't get along anymore.
Jon Greenberg: In theory, are you nuts? Given some context about the team's situation, the Bulls' front office should think about it and then forget it. I know Marc Stein has posited that the Knicks could make a run at Thibs, the ex-assistant who was canned years back, but they don't have a lottery pick so they're out of this theoretical conversation. To me, a coach like Thibodeau is more valuable than a lottery pick in all but the rarest of circumstances. While it's a "player's league," Thibodeau is unique. He's easily a top-five coach and, as his former player Brian Scalabrine told me a couple of years ago, a culture changer, an unofficial position usually reserved for players. "That's an unbelievable thing for a coach to do," Scalabrine said. The question lingering over the team is: Can Thibodeau and the front office co-exist for a long period of time? Both parties are headstrong, but they can and have worked together. Almost every team has a similar situation as the front office and the head coach sometimes have to approach a situation from different vantage points. To give up on Thibodeau now, for a chance, just a chance, at a talented rookie seems absurd. And a lot of teams would probably think giving up on a lottery pick for a coach is just as crazy.
Scoop Jackson: Never. What they need to do is look into a bigger problem they have other than coaching (but I'll let them figure that out and keep my mouth shut). Trade Thibs for a lottery pick? Then who's going to coach that team once it gets finalized? Thibs is the most important person associated with the Bulls' organization next to Derrick Rose, and I don't hear anyone talking about trading or getting rid of him.
2. Does Thibodeau risk losing his players at some point during another lost season?
Jon Greenberg: Not really. Will he grate on them more if they're losing? Yes. But he's a lot more savvy than he's given credit for. Yes, he's extremely exacting, and the players grumble about his machine-gun pace behind the scenes, but he knows this league. He's coached in it his entire life, and he's been on the staffs of horrible teams and contenders and everything in between. Look at how he coached Nate Robinson last season, especially late in the season. Thibodeau will do whatever it takes to win, but he is also cognizant of limits. While the Bulls don't always like Thibodeau, they respect him and he respects them (or most of them). I just hope his head doesn't explode one day on the sidelines.
Scoop Jackson: Never, again. First, no one on this teams knows for sure if they'll be back next season so why devalue themselves by not playing and purposely tanking? Second, the players respect Thibs too much to do that to him. When players tune coaches out it's for personal reasons, and every player in the Bulls' locker room knows that what's happened to this team has nothing to do with Thibs. They know none of this is his fault.
3. What is the biggest positive that can be gleaned from this season?
Nick Friedell: In reality, nobody within the organization will say this, but the Bulls may be better off when they lose. Thibodeau is not going to let his team tank so it's a tricky balance, but what are the Bulls playing for this season? The chance to maybe make it into the second round? The key for Thibodeau is to try to get his team to still play hard. Bulls general manager Gar Forman has talked about keeping the culture the Bulls have built in place. Playing hard and still losing some games and getting a better spot in the lottery might be the best long-term situation for the organization.
Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe development of Jimmy Butler might end up being one of the few positives from this season.
Jon Greenberg: If you're medically cleared to watch Bulls basketball this season, you can hopefully take solace in the development of three exciting players: Taj Gibson, Tony Snell and Jimmy Butler. These are athletes the Bulls need to complement Rose -- when he can play again, that is. Gibson's game has expanded after a disappointing, injury-hindered season. So far, he looks like he's worth every bit of that $38 million contract extension. Gibson is a potential All-Star, the successor to Luol Deng as the shining example of Thibodeau's team-first system. Snell has been pressed into action because of injuries and he's been a revelation as the team has foundered. Snell looks like a 40 percent 3-point shooter with an ability to finish at the rim and defend. And, of course, there's Butler, who was everyone's pick to take "the next step" this season as a full-time starter. Finally back from a turf toe injury, he needs to show that last season was no fluke and he can be a two-way player. While the Bulls will be tough to watch for much of the season, focus on these three.
Scoop Jackson: That the East as a conference is just as bad as the Bulls are as a team. But at least the Bulls have excuses in injuries and Murphy's Law. The Eastern Conference as a whole has no excuse. The Bulls being surrounded by so many bad teams almost makes them look good. They are six games under .500 and are still holding down the eight spot if the playoffs began today. And we all saw last season what type of "miracles" can happen once the playoffs start.
December, 4, 2013
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Bulls and Luol Deng have said they won't talk contract until after the season.Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Bulls followers.
1. Do the Bulls really believe they might be able to work out a new deal with Luol Deng this summer?
Nick Friedell: No. There's been no indication that Deng will take a "hometown discount" and there's been no indication the Bulls will give him more money. Bulls general manager Gar Forman has to choose his words carefully because he can't come out and say, "We're trading Deng." That's not how the game works.
Scoop Jackson: Only if they really feel Luol wants to stay here, which I'd be surprised if that's true. I think Luol and Thibs connect with each other in a way that no one else on the team does. And I think they know this and, to a degree, cherish it. Sometimes, regardless of how bad a player wants to or how smart it would be for said player to leave, a player knows how hard it is to be in-sync 100 percent with a coach. And if they have a chance to extend that, they will. So if Forman knows that he and the Bulls have that as leverage, then there is a chance that he will be back in a Bulls uni next season.
Doug Padilla: Clouding that decision is Derrick Rose's status and whether the Bulls believe the former MVP can stay healthy and carry the team. If that answer is no, then don't be surprised to see the Bulls move on when it comes to Deng while also applying the amnesty escape clause to Carlos Boozer. That could free up the cash to find a new team leader on the open market and hope Rose can give them something down the road.
2. How would you assess Tony Snell's play?
Nick Friedell: Solid. The Bulls have been impressed with Snell since they drafted him in the first round in June. They love that he is long, athletic and can shoot, but most of all they love that he works hard in the gym. They believe the rookie is only going to get better.
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonWith Jimmy Butler injured, rookie Tony Snell has gotten a chance in the starting lineup.
Scoop Jackson: Hard to say. Here's a cat who is damn near a pure shooter and only getting 3.5 shots per game. So to me, there's no fair way to assess Snell's play 16 games and four starts in. He's a rookie who has been thrown into the fire because of injuries to two key players. It's baptism by boiling water. I will say that I think we'll see more of the type of game he had against the Cavs than he did the Pelicans as he gets more comfortable with the responsibility thrown on him.
Doug Padilla: After some limited minutes it remains difficult to assess Snell. His shooting ability, combined with his wingspan, suggests that he can be valuable in a number of ways. Coach Tom Thibodeau is reluctant to give rookies much playing time, but he has had to with Snell because of the injury to Jimmy Butler.
3. Will Marquis Teague ever live up to his first-round draft status?
Nick Friedell: Not in Chicago. Once a player lands in Thibodeau's doghouse it's hard for him to get out. Teague has shown flashes of talent, but not enough to warrant a spot in Thibodeau's rotation. He has regressed this season.
Scoop Jackson: Nope. I think he's scarred in much the same way Kwame Brown was scarred, the same way Felipe Lopez was scarred, the same way Thomas Robinson and Austin Rivers are scarred. In that he won't be able to overcome the trauma that Teague experienced once he entered the league. Almost as if it both haunts and stunts him. Even though it is on a much lower level than the aforementioned players, I do think that it's going to be tough for Teague to get over and past his first two years and this (albeit short-lived) demotion to the D-League.
Doug Padilla: At this point, it would be hard to find somebody who believes Teague will eventually turn into first-round talent. He's only on the roster now because of Mike James' injury. Teague clearly lacks confidence in the rare minutes he does get and his smallish size doesn't translate into a player who Thibodeau would rely on much, especially on defense.
November, 27, 2013
Michael Hickey/Getty ImagesRecent history suggests it, but is Derrick Rose really an injury-prone player?Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Bulls followers.
1. Will Derrick Rose still be an MVP-caliber player when he returns?
Nick Friedell: I believe he can be. The question is whether he can stay healthy -- and that's the answer nobody knows. Many believe Rose will have to change the way he plays, but as Tom Thibodeau and his teammates have all said, that isn't likely to happen. Their point is that players are who they are. Rose is physically gifted and athletic. He can't change who he is.
Jon Greenberg: Yeah, I don't see any reason why not. Seriously. Rose has suffered two season-ending knee injuries, but these are specific, separate injuries, not a degenerative condition. Unlike, say, Grant Hill, his injuries weren't misdiagnosed, but rather fixed quickly and given the optimal time to recover. After taking the season off to rehab from ACL surgery, Rose came back with the same speed, the same first step. I don't think meniscus surgery will inhibit that unique ability that made him an MVP in the first place. Now, the question is how durable will Rose be for the rest of his career? After an injury-free three seasons, he's missed all but 50 games of the past three. That's not a good trend. I just hope that Rose finds a way to play fearlessly when he comes back.
Scoop Jackson: That's the biggest problem with this whole thing: There is no answer to that question. We don't know. It's beyond the "MVP-caliber player" part of the question that is at the center of it. At this point, realistically, this is about if he'll return, period. We can't forget that this latest injury was his third (neck, hamstring) this season and they were only 11 games in. It's scary because there's so much uncertainty surrounding his ability to stay healthy. It's like re-living Vince Carter ... only worse.
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesHow many wins can Tom Thibodeau squeeze out of his Derrick Rose-less Bulls now?
2. How far are the Bulls capable of going this season without Rose?
Friedell: Same as last year. If they get the right matchup they can beat a team in the first round. But their title aspirations are gone.
Greenberg: I'm not saying the Bulls have a low ceiling, but Mike James might want to duck. The Bulls should be able to get into the playoffs on the strength of their team defense, but I'll be shocked if they finish with more than 41 wins. And I definitely don't see them getting another first-round playoff win. That was a fantastic, delightful, inspiring fluke. This is a seven- or eight-seed team that will get worked by Miami or Indiana. That fate might even be an optimistic stretch without adding some short-term scoring help. Last season, the Bulls averaged 92.3 points per game, tied for the worst in the NBA. They are less dynamic this season. Without Rose, the Bulls really have to work to get shots and that's a stress on everyone. You think this team can stay healthy? One or two injuries and this is a legit lottery team, much to the delight of pro-tanking fans.
Jackson: It depends on what your definition of "far" is. The East is so bad that the Bulls can play below-.500 basketball and still get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Now, are they good enough to get past a team in a first-round matchup? Depends. A team like Charlotte that's just happy to be there could be vulnerable, but a team like the Knicks that has more pressure on them to win than the Bulls will be close to impossible to beat. And it all depends on whether the Bulls decide to stay the course with this team. If they decide to go the "tank" route, then it doesn't matter what the definition of "far" is.
3. Will Marquis Teague take advantage of the increased workload and take the next step in his development?
Friedell: No. Teague has shown no indication that will happen. He has been given some chances by Thibodeau in recent days and shown little improvement from last year. He's still young, but his time to impress is running out.
Greenberg: No. This is just an opinion, but I don't think Teague is very good. Prove me wrong Marquis! Of course, when I say that, I'm comparing him to truly useful players. I'm sure Teague can stick around in the league -- he can get to the rim -- but I'm not sure he's the type of player Thibodeau trusts. A lot was made of Nate Robinson's deficiencies last year (this season, he's missed by fans like a lost love) but Thibodeau lived with them because Nate could score in bunches. While Robinson would jack up ill-advised pull-up threes, he bought into Thibodeau's system, never complained and showed more basketball IQ than he's given credit for. I'm not sure what Teague can do or what he knows, and if Thibodeau doesn't trust him, and there's no evidence he does, we won't see much of Teague. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bulls look for a combo guard in a trade.
Jackson: Yes. But that won't stop the Bulls from going out and trying to find someone to be the backup point guard. Unless Teague looks at this and takes advantage of this as a blessing in disguise, then the Bulls are not going to have the faith in him that he's going to need for them to have in him if he's going to remain on this team. While his workload right now is about to increase, for how long is all up to him.
November, 20, 2013
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY SportsDerrick Rose is shooting 34.4% from the field in eight games this season.Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by ESPN.com's Scoop Jackson and ESPNChicago.com's Doug Padilla to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Bulls followers.
1. Should the Bulls be concerned about Derrick Rose's low shooting percentage?
Friedell: Yes, they should be concerned, but not overly concerned. Rose is still just about a month into this season. He is still finding his rhythm. The Bulls should be more concerned that he isn't driving to the rim as much as he used to, but that should work itself out in time.
Jackson: Yes. Rose is a volume scorer on a team that has no other player capable of averaging 20 points per game, so him averaging 15 ppg is not going to make it. It’s one thing to have Allen Iverson's shooting percentage, but when you aren’t putting up AI numbers on a team where they look to you on offense to be their “AI,” low shooting percentage is acceptable only -- again, ONLY -- when you are averaging at least 23 points per. Also Rose has to finish. If it were just his jump shot that was off, that would be cool. But he’s not finishing the way he used to and that too is a problem.
Padilla: Anybody’s low shooting percentage should be cause for concern, but in Rose’s case, it still isn’t time to panic. Of course there is nothing pretty about Rose’s 34.4 percent shooting from the field heading into Thursday’s game at Denver, but the six 3-pointers he hit in Saturday’s victory over the Pacers show that his touch hasn’t abandoned him. Shooting is about repetition. Rose has been doing the work during and after practice, now it’s just about doing it consistently in games after missing 18 months of action.
2. What do the Bulls need to get straightened out on their six-game circus trip?
Friedell: More consistency on offense. The Bulls have played much better over the last two weeks but they still need to find a way to produce on offense every game. If Jimmy Butler has to miss a lot of time it will be important for Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich to step up in his place.
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Bulls will need Kirk Hinrich even more if Jimmy Butler is out for an extended period.
Jackson: Protect leads, close out quarters and find ways of holding teams below 85 points per game on the road. The Bulls are second in the NBA in opponents’ scoring, allowing only 89 ppg. In their three loses, all on the road, they are giving up almost 104 ppg. They need to redirect that and make these next six games almost unwatchable. Un-Must-See TV. Straight ugly. At least in the first four games out West, the Bulls need to show those teams how we ball in the Central and why stopping teams from scoring if you are trying to win a championship is more important than scoring yourself.
Padilla: Currently on a five-game winning streak, the Bulls are more like what they envisioned than it might seem. Monday’s victory over the Bobcats wasn’t pretty, but under new coach Steve Clifford, Charlotte has quickly transformed itself into one of the better defensive teams in the league. Still, there is plenty of room for improvement in the Bulls offense and that figures to come as the team gets more on-court minutes together after an injury-riddled preseason.
3. Omer Asik desperately wants out of Houston. Should the Bulls look into bringing him back?
Friedell: The Bulls would love to have Omer back but with the way the salary cap numbers line up -- and what Houston will want in return -- a deal just doesn't seem plausible right now.
Jackson: No. Only because there is no proof that he’s going to be happy here as the Bulls’ backup center again. Unless there is a plan in place to replace Joakim Noah with Asik. And if that’s the plan, then the Bulls need to toss in the title quest right now for this season and start tanking for first dibs on Jabari Parker, Julius Randle or Andrew Wiggins, Asik does not want to be anyone’s backup. That’s clear. So what is going to make him happy being back here as opposed to doing what he is already doing in Houston? I don’t see it. And I don’t Asik as being the answer.
Padilla: Dropping Asik onto the roster in its current form would improve the talent level, the problem is that the Rockets aren’t going to let him go for a bag of peanuts. It’s doubtful the Bulls would be willing to part with, say, Jimmy Butler to get Asik. Then there is the matter of Asik’s $8.3 million salary pushing the Bulls even further over the salary cap. The biggest issue of all is that it’s far too early to start fiddling with a roster that is among the most talented in the game.
November, 13, 2013
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesJimmy Butler is averaging 10.5 points on 39.6 percent shooting through six games as the Bulls' starting shooting guard.Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by ESPN.com's Scoop Jackson and ESPNChicago.com's Doug Padilla to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Bulls followers.
1. How would you assess Jimmy Butler's first six games as the starting shooting guard?
Friedell: Not great. Butler put in a lot of time in the offseason to improve his game, but that work hasn't appeared to pay off as of yet. He is struggling to find his place on the floor. Butler is getting open looks, but he just isn't knocking them down. He just needs to keep playing hard and hope his offensive game comes around.
Jackson: He's not living up to his "Buckets" nickname yet. But singling out Jimmy when everyone else besides Carlos Boozer is playing bad isn't fair. Butler is playing solid D and leading the team in steals. I'd like to see him simply be more aggressive and assertive offensively. Stop overthinking and just ball. Be more selfish. Act like he has a green light to do his thing. Trust his jump shot. Grade? C+. But it's not all Jimmy's fault, and there's a lot of time left for him to find his groove.
Padilla: To put it into one word: passive. When the Bulls were riddled with injuries last season, Butler was asked to step up. He not only showed that he was up for the task, he offered visions of a bright future when his game fully developed. Now, though, the Bulls have more offensive options, namely Derrick Rose running the show from the point guard spot, and Butler has sort of receded into the shadows. It's time to lean on Butler a little harder now, not only to get his own game on track, but to pick up for Luol Deng's shooting struggles and to help take some of the burden from Rose, who has been trying to do too much too soon.
2. Do the Bulls need another shooter? And if so, how do they do it?
Friedell: Yeah, they do need another shooter. A team can never have enough shooting. The problem for them is that at this point in the year there aren't a lot of other options on the market. Tom Thibodeau had better hope Mike Dunleavy, Jr. starts knocking down more shots.
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsLuol Deng has connected on just 1 of 18 three-pointers this season.
Jackson: A: They need another "volume" scorer, not necessarily a shooter. They need someone who can come off of the bench and give them 10-15 points in a short amount of time. Especially when Rose is not in the game. Every time I look at Aaron Brooks on the Houston Rockets, I just shake my head and say, "Damn." That's exactly the type of cat the Bulls need. How do they get him or someone like him? Who cares, because they won't.
Padilla: Let's not go all panic button and start breaking up the roster already. The Bulls have a fine complement of shooters, but it's a trio of issues that are causing the problem in the early going. Deng is clearly not as bad as his 1-of-18 shooting from 3-point range would suggest. He is a career 33 percent shooter from deep, not 6 percent. Butler has also not given what the Bulls expected. The final issue is getting their inside-out game in sync. First Rose was struggling, and now he is ailing with a hamstring issue, so that part of the team's game will take some time.
3. John Paxson says there are no restrictions on Rose, but should the Bulls find some games to rest him throughout the season?
Friedell: Why not? Is it really going to kill the Bulls to sit Rose out of the fourth game in five nights on their upcoming West Coast swing? Even if Rose is feeling OK, why not give him an extra day to rest his body here and there? Paxson's heart is in the right place regarding Rose's status -- they want him to play if he's ready and able -- but they should try to get him some rest when they can. They have to plan the season with a bigger picture in mind.
Jackson: Nope. Rest is not the answer. Rose needs reps. The more he plays, the better he'll be in feeling comfortable in what he does and what he can do. What the Bulls need to do is find a way to not be so dependent on Derrick offensively. He's still the straw that stirs the drink, as well as the cup and the liquid inside. And it's not like they have a Josh McCown as backup if Rose goes down.
Padilla: Absolutely Rose should be targeted for rest at specific points of the schedule, primarily on the second night of back-to-back games. He doesn't have to rest in all of the back-to-backs, but one a month shouldn't be too much to ask. Older players such as Dwyane Wade have already done it this season and the schedule is barely two weeks old. Rose isn't an older player, but surely guys on their way back from knee surgery should be given the same consideration. Rose continues to show the tendency of having his mind ask his body to do more than it can handle. He's not going to change, but a little rest might help in that department.
November, 6, 2013
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose and the Bulls have struggled to find any rhythm offensively early in the season.Derrick Rose has said he's a better player after his return from knee surgery, but the results have been mixed through three games.
Our panel weighs in on what we've seen from Rose and how his decision to sit the playoffs last season looks now.
1. What has been encouraging and discouraging about Derrick Rose's play in his first three games?
Nick Friedell: Rose has shown no fear going to the rim, which is very encouraging. But he doesn't look like he has a feel for the game at the moment. He's making mistakes that teammates and coaches aren't used to seeing him make -- especially turnovers late in the fourth quarter Saturday night. Also, after dominating in the preseason with his improved shooting, Rose has missed shots all over the floor and is shooting just 29 percent from the floor.
Scoop Jackson: Encouraging: 1. Taking (and hitting) the game winner against the Knicks. 2. The fact that there hasn't been any setbacks or strong indications that there was once a career-altering injury. Discouraging: Just how the preseason hasn't carried over into the regular season. Personally, I think he's pressing, trying to do too much because he feels that these games matter and to prove that he's officially back. He keeps talking about a "breakout game." He doesn't need one, that's not what it is about. He just needs to trust himself and ball. Everything will then fall into place.
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhDerrick Rose is shooting just 29 percent from the floor through three games this season.
Doug Padilla: Just the fact that Rose is back on the court is encouraging. We'll get to his struggles, but simply having a recent MVP back from injury, and a young one at that, ultimately makes you a better team. As for discouraging, watching him force himself into another gear with the start of the regular season has been head-scratching. It's hard to use the preseason as an example for anything, but Rose did seem to be playing with less anxiety before games counted. Call his poor start more mental than anything.
2. Do Rose's early struggles validate his decision not to come back in the playoffs last season?
Nick Friedell: Yes. Fans wanted him back, but he didn't want to come back on the floor until he knew he could dominate again. He knew it would take him some time to get back in a rhythm. Many fans will argue that Rose wouldn't be struggling as much now if he had come back last season -- the difference is that Rose wasn't confident enough in his game then. Now he is, even though his shot is off right now.
Deron Williams in one series and with LeBron James guarding him in another? Trust me, coming back during the playoffs wouldn't have changed anything.
Doug Padilla: There are plenty of those out there saying that if Rose would have just come back last season, he could have already knocked off the rust instead of having to go through it another six months later. That's crazy. If Rose wasn't ready to return to the court last season because of mental or physical reasons, what type of player would he have been if he reluctantly took the court? Playing the "What if" game is well within a fan's right, but it creates more pessimism than optimism.
3. What is the biggest reason for the Bulls' struggles through three games?
Nick Friedell: Aside from Rose's struggles, the biggest issue is that the Bulls' offense is not clicking. Aside from the first half against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Bulls have looked bad offensively. Carlos Boozer has been consistent over the first three games, averaging 22.3 points, but he is the only starter who has. Tom Thibodeau believes his team just needs to practice together. The larger issue for the Bulls is the same as it has always been: When Rose doesn't have it going, where will they turn late in games?
Scoop Jackson: The same as the Heat, the same as the Knicks and the Nets, the same as the Clippers' opening night, the same as the Grizzlies. It's just a slow start to a long season. It's not like the Lakers' going 0-5 to open the season last year after not winning a game in the preseason. The loss to the Heat is explainable, and the Sixers have proven that right now a loss to them isn't a fluke. They're that hot squad. That said, the Bulls' intensity, commitment and communication on defense has been nonexistent in three games. If there's been anything that can be used as a reason, that would be it.
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhTom Thibodeau's Bulls are allowing 98.3 points a game and shooting just 44 percent from the floor.
Doug Padilla: It's hard to not blame Rose here and what seems to be his conscious decision to force the action to get back into the flow from the outset of the season. It has caused the exact opposite of the desired result, though, and as a result his shooting and playmaking has suffered. It seems odd to say, but the guy in charge of ball distribution is going to have to sit back and let the game come to him. It is one thing that Rose isn't playing well, but his struggles aren't making his teammates better, either.