Keith, I don't think that you'll be getting many of these,
so you might want to save this one...maybe even buy a frame or something.
You came to the Bulls this past summer, signing for about
$400,000 over the league minimum and about 1/3 of the amount that your fellow
new Bulls' shooting guards, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, were getting. Although new Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau
was a fan dating back to your brief time together in Houston, most observers
figured that you'd be nothing more than veteran depth on a young team that
while improved, wasn't expected to make any kind of loud noise on the 2010-11
Of course, you worked hard to prepare yourself for the
coming season, same as always, and play whatever role coach Thibs wanted you to
play. Since you'd been around the NBA block
a time or two, you knew about Chicago and its fans. Great sports town, love their teams and have
a particular fondness for "blue collar" type players who may not be the most
talented, but give it their all when they're out there...definitely your kind of
The Trouble "Starts"
Late September comes around and you find that Brewer is
still suffering from the hamstring injury he suffered last season. As a result, Thibs puts you in the starting preseason
lineup and you're absolutely shooting lights out...over 50% for field goals and a
kinda crazy 50% on 3-pointers. Your preseason
true shooting percentage, one of those new high-tech scoring efficiency stats, is
an absolutely ridiculous 70%, by far the best on the team...hell, it was probably
some kind of world record. Yeah, you
didn't score a lot, but Thibs didn't really want you to. Besides, how many points are you gonna to
score when you only take 3 or 4 shots a game?
All in all, things had started off very, very nicely.
The regular season begins and Brewer's still not ready so
Thibs keeps you in the starting lineup.
Your team, who most experts pick as the 4th or 5th
best in the Eastern Conference, faces a positively brutal early schedule...damn
near all playoff teams and most of 'em on the road. Big-money free agent forward Carlos Boozer
busted his hand and will miss the first month...great. In early December, the Bulls are barely above
.500 and it appears that you wasted all of your shooting mojo on the
preseason. You're shooting an anemic 37%
from the field, and as the starting squad's designated spot-up 3-point
specialist, you're converting a pathetic 26% from the arc.
Brewer's back and he's playing more minutes than you, but
he's taken exactly one three-point shot for the season and apparently this
isn't what Thibodeau wants from his starting shooting guard. Korver's shooting well, but it seems that the
only thing that makes Thibs sicker to his stomach than watching Kyle Korver try
to defend opposing guards is watching a
tired Kyle Korver try to defend guards...so he limits Korver's minutes and keeps
trotting you out there with the starting unit.
The natives are getting restless and looking for someone to blame. For an increasing number of Bulls' fans, you're
that someone. Your poor shooting and low
scoring numbers are clearly among the reasons they've pinned a "Kick Me" sign
on your backside, but the fact that you're
a starter seems to be what the fans and media just can't get over.
And yeah, I was one of 'em.
You deserved a lot of the criticism. I mean, you truly were playing poorly on
offense. Still, we were kind of silly to
put so much emphasis on the fact that you got to have your name and college
announced at the beginning of games. The
truth was that you were a sub who just so happened to play his minutes at the
beginning of each half.
Changes...Well, Not Everything
It was December 4th, you were coming off a loss to the
Celtics the previous night and hosted the Houston Rockets. The Bulls blew a lead, but came back to win
in overtime. You had an OK game, scoring
6 points on only 3 shots in your typical 16 minutes. It wasn't pretty, but having lost 5 of your
last 8 and 3 of your last 4, it was just good to get the W. Even being the blame-magnet you had become, no
one could fault you for failing to see that your team was about to go on one of
the most improbable runs in the history of Chicago sports.
The Rockets win was the start of a 7-game winning streak
that the team built into a 14-2 stretch.
Early in the new year, we looked up to find that the Bulls had pretty
much locked up the NBA's Central Division.
The team was back where we thought they should be. Fans were more or less content and the media
was writing nice things, particularly about Thibodeau and the team's
freshly-minted superstar Derrick Rose.
Maybe it was because all the newfound Bulls' love was being
directed elsewhere, but you got none of it.
Instead, this was when the hypothetical "How good would the Bulls be if
they only had a real starting
shooting guard instead of Bogans?" gained what would become an enduring
popularity. Nobody seemed to notice that
you had re-discovered your shooting touch during the team's year-end turnaround...probably
because you were still only scoring 4-6 points a night.
Losses at New Jersey and Philly calmed folks down a bit, but
then the team got crazy. We all know the
rest of the story. Beginning with that
early-December OT victory over Houston, the team went an incredible 53-12 to
finish with 62 wins, best in the league.
In the process, the Bulls were THE story of the 2010-11 NBA season, Rose
became a lock for the MVP award, Thibs started clearing a place on the mantle
for his Coach of the Year trophy and even long-time whipping boy Luol Deng was
being mentioned for postseason defensive honors.
Alas, while it's a great time to be a Bull, if you're into
acclaim from your fandom, it's still not that great to be Keith Bogans.
Sorry Man, You Did OK
Last summer, the announcement of your signing pretty much
elicited a group yawn. Those who had
heard of you knew you were a classic NBA journeyman...a defensive specialist who
seldom made mistakes, could hit your share of open 3s and was a positive
veteran presence in the locker room.
You've been pretty much as advertised and the fans might have embraced
you if not for Thibodeau sticking in the starting lineup. In any case, once you became the starter you
stayed there, starting all 82 regular season games.
Like the Bulls, your season can be divided into two parts...the
17 games before that Houston overtime win and the 65 games after it. In those last 65 games, you quietly were a
positive force on defense and even put up some pretty nice offensive numbers. You didn't score much (4.4 points per game),
but you had a very good reason...you didn't shoot much (3.6 shots per game). Keeping in mind that you only averaged 17
minutes per game over those last 65, it seems fair to point out that you actually
averaged a more respectable 9.4 points per-36 minutes.
Even including those awful first 17 games, while you didn't
score much, you were very efficient and pretty darn accurate. Your 38.0% from the three-point line was 3rd
on the team behind only Korver and C.J. Watson and well above the league
average of 35.8%. Your effective field
goal percentage of 55% was second only to center Omer Asik (and damn near all
of his shots were dunks) and only Joakim Noah and Korver posted a better "true
shooting percentage" than your 56%.
Oh yeah, your 1.0 turnovers per-36 minutes were the lowest
on the team.
Regardless of what the fans and media say, given the nature
of the Bulls roster, the team needed you to have a good season and you
did. Were you a critical reason for the
Bulls' surprising success? No, but you
did contribute both by what you did (defense and accurate shooting) and what
you didn't do (take stupid or forced shots, turn the ball over or miss games).
So I apologize for what I said about you early in the
season...you're a pro and you've given us the best you have. And while just about everyone continues to
look forward to the day that you're no longer starting for the Bulls, here's
hoping that come June, you've got some new jewelry to wear. No one can take that away from you.