Understand them; Hate them; Coaching cliches

I think Vinny Del Negro has done a nice job coaching up this team.   They're overachieving in the areas that are a result of scheme and coaching and underachieving in the areas that are more about player talent and skill.   As such, nice job Vinny, Bernie, Bob, etc..   One thing I can't stand though are the cliche reasons dropped after virtually every loss.   They're the same ones dropped by all coaches.

We didn't move the ball well enough.

Sometimes this is true.   Sometimes the team doesn't move the ball well enough.  However, I haven't seen this with this Bulls team despite the fact this line has been dropped several times.   In fact, the team seems to move the ball too much frequently.   As much as people complain that Salmons is a ball stopper, there are at least four or five times a game he's got a wide open set three, and he passes out of it.

I understand if his three point confidence isn't running at an all time high right now.  I understand if he doesn't want to shoot it.   However, stop saying we don't move the ball or Salmons is unwilling to pass.   The dude has passed enough open threes to give him the Chris Duhon award.

As soon as Salmons passes up the wide open three, the ball frequently ends up in Kirk Hinrich's hands, who then immediately also passes up a wide open three.   Seriously, count how many times this happens a game.  

Then the ball ends up in Derrick's or Deng's hands whom we know are never going to shoot the open three, and the offense is reset or a long two is shot instead.

The problem with lack of ball movement has nothing to do with ball movement and has everything to do with the fact that in order to benefit from ball movement you need players who can knock down open long range shots, and we're not really good at that.

What's particularly annoying about this is when players start buying into the "we didn't move the ball" mantra.   As my buddy Coldfish points out on realgm, when a player says this he means "they didn't move the ball to me".   Luol Deng made this quote after the last loss and has the third lowest assist rate on the team (behind Taj Gibson and Tyrus Thomas).    Andres Nocioni complained about it constantly last year and had the lowest assist rate on the team outside of Tyrus Thomas.

We were outworked, out hustled, didn't defend etc..

Again, sure, this can happen occasionally, but it's rarely been an issue with this Bulls team.   For the most part, the Bulls are playing undersized in the front court and are still winning the rebounding battle night in and night out.  

They're defense has been relentless with guys really needing to work hard in order to play the scheme and force the opposing squad into tough shots.   They've done it.  They've sacrificed, and they've gotten results because of it up until the last three games where they ran into elite offenses.

What do you expect out of your defense that it hasn't given you at this point?   I mean sure, there's always plays here or there, but the Bulls have made life a bigger pain in the ass for opposing offenses than I think is reasonable to expect.  On this west coast trip, fatigue has definitely been a factor.  The defensive scheme is demanding, and the Bulls are playing a short rotation.  

It's not necessarily a secret to long time NBA fans, but during an 82 game season, your team can't bring it every night.   There are nights where guys are tired or just don't have it.   The good (or better) teams typically have some offensive firepower that they can throw out there to win some of thoes games even when they don't have it.

So why do our coaches say these things?

We've heard the "We need to play harder, we need to play smarter" speech every year.  I'm sure other teams' fans hear it as well.   Why do you always get it?
Quite simply what else can they say?   When they know their team is undermanned?   They're not going to go out and asy "we're just not that talented" 10 straight games.   It destroys the confidence of the players and throws management under the bus.

You can't motivate a player to develop new skills or perform their skills better than their capability.   Shooting or athletic jaunts to the rim are typically not reflective of effort.  They're results of the players skill level.   That can be improved over time with practice, as can execution of the scheme.  However, skills can't be brought about by yelling and screaming or forcing them to try harder.   If anything, such antics would ramp up the pressure and make your shooting worse.

You can motivate a guy to move the ball for a better shot or to run harder and expend more energy on defense though.  So quite simply, the coaching staff is going to crack the whip in the areas where the whip is effective even if they aren't the areas the team is really deficient in.  

The areas where the Bulls are really struggling require individuals to pull out of slumps to change.  That's a matter of patience and confidence building.  That's why even though our level of offensive talent is clearly deficient, you'll continue to hear more about defense and ball movement for the rest of the season.  

The downside of this tactic is that it has a life expectancy to it.   Players eventually get tired of hearing they aren't working hard enough or moving the ball enough.   Especially when they are.

It's also irritating when the sports radio guys or casual fans picks up on it and start thinking we have a team of ball hogs who aren't trying hard.  Nothing could be further from the truth this year, and the players don't enjoy that unfair reputation being forced upon them.

In the end, the coaching staff is cracking the whip where it can, and in the short run it will keep the players energy level up.  It's a fine line though, crack this whip too much, and you lose the team.


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  • Agreed. Wasn't VDN hired because he was a "good communicator" - someone the team would not tune out after becoming immune to Skiles' rants?

  • They only saying and/or cliche I like is, "Just WIN baby!!!" I'm tired of EXCUSES from the Bulls players, coaches and management.

    Pro sports is about one thing and one thing only...WINNING!!!

    Right now, the Bulls don't have the right pieces in place to win. Therefore, John Paxson, Gar Forman and "Big Jer" Reinsdorf need to DO THEIR JOBS. It's getting old watching the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs spend huge money, make great personnel decisions and win titles, year after year.

    2010 free-agency is the OPPORUNITY for the Bulls to become champions again. If Paxson and Forman don't deliver some All-Stars and championship pieces, then they SHOULD BE FIRED!!! And Big Jer should sell the team or sit back and count all the empty seats at the United Center, because that's what's going to happen.


  • Very good article Doug. I also see a huge improvment this season in "moving the ball".... Even in our losses we've moved the ball well. Thats not the problem.

    I think our main problem(hopefully temporary)is Rose not playing up to his full capabilities. Im being patient but slowly getting to the blow up stage. I just get so frustrated seeing him just stand there. Then he'll drive and miss certain shots that he wouldve made last year. & just by looking at him I know its a lack of confidence.

    Bottom line is that if Rose picks up his game it wil be contagious. We'll have 3 scorers (Deng/Salmons/Rose) and it'll make this team more difficult to guard. Even w/out the 3's!!!!

    And although we criticize TT, if we ever needed him, its now. He will be the X factor when he returns. And he doesnt have to score. Just block, rebound and play D cause Noah cant do it alone down there...

    I think we're close to turning that corner.

  • In reply to albertbetances:

    Our main problem is that management relied on players who's career's shooting average has been 41%, which it is crap considering the money they make, to fill up the void left by Gordon. It is the team's Gm's that suck big time!

    Can we trade Paxson + Forman to Portland for Kevin Pritchard? Just wondering. LOL

  • In reply to albertbetances:

    regarding the hinrich/miller for Tmac/Andersen trade:

    I don't know how insurance is going to feel about covering Tmac when he's telling reporters that he's ready to play. Surely not a tenable situation for much longer. And it is clear that Houston is winning now and wants to dump Tmac and bolster their depth. I think Hinrich and Miller are perfect candidates for them... a win-win. Good character guys, experienced enough to pick up the playbook quickly, and filling some obvious needs that they have this year. I'm trying to think of one reasonable explanation why this isn't a great trade.

    McGrady played like crap last year because he was hurt. Not that I have any faith in his body holding up, but he's put in a ton of work and he says he's healthy and he's ready. He's playing for the rest of his career this year, and i'm willing to roll the dice that he stays healthy enough this season to make a positive impact. Sit him out behind the arc and let him drain threes all night long.

    This is all about still making the play-offs and having incredible flexibility for next year. Who knows what will happen with salmons and tyrus? who knows? maybe one of them stays. if salmons can approach what he was doing last year, then his 6.5 mil contract isn't so bad. maybe pigs fly, tyrus shows us something real and he's allowed to excel, and we move deng's contract instead given how the FA hunt shakes down because he's now a tradeable piece. Maybe McGrady reincarnates and our Bird rights allow us a more favorable risk/reward scenario to sign him cheap without affecting cap. It's all about flexibility.

    Rose/(McGrady/Salmons)/Deng/Thomas/Noah still makes the playoffs and I actually feel like that team is more of a wild-card team that (if things turn out well and everyone's healthy) could make a little noise. And, c'mon, who wouldn't love seeing Tmac in a Bulls uniform for a little while? really? The economics works out for the Bulls cause they will make more money on McGrady Jerseys than they will lose on the 2Mil cap hit. As hard as Kirk hustles, his dribble/dribble/brick syndrome has infected the entire team (and this is not about me disliking hinrich or not appreciating the things he does well). It really has. Conversely, I think McGrady will fire this team up and give us a scoring threat that other teams have to respect!

  • In reply to albertbetances:

    Oh, and as a reminder, this is about 30Mil+ in cap space next year to build a championship team:
    rose/deng/noah/johnson/gibson and 31mil in Cap space!

  • Good post Doug..

    I think a lot of fans, etc. forget that these coaches are asked question after question during the season, most of which are very similar. The cliche's ulimately come out because there is only so many things you can say about a win, or loss, or whatever...People put way to much stock in those pre/post answers..

  • They should be FIRED, if they end up wasting a talent like Derrick Rose. They need to surround him with better pieces, preferably one or two All-Stars.

    San Antonio hit the Lottery when they got Duncan. Popovich did his job by surrounding him with very All-Star level talent. The Celtics had Pierce and found a way to get Garnett and Allen around him. The Lakers had Kobe and they found a way to get Gasol and Odom around him.

    John Paxson and Gar Forman need to do their jobs. They need to assemble better talent around Rose, so that the Bulls can win championships. If the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs can do it, so can the Bulls.

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