Bulls problems aren't so bad

Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer haven't gotten it going yet this year. Richard Hamilton and C.J. Watson have been injured. Luol Deng has lost his three point shot, and after a hot start has seen his TS% drop to 46.7%. Yet despite all these gripes, the Bulls are sitting pretty.

Somehow through all their problems, the Chicago Bulls are sitting atop the Eastern conference with the fewest losses and most wins. They've played a road heavy schedule featuring a group of tough opponents on the road (Lakers, Clippers, Magic, and Hawks on the road).

They've already cleared their single back to back to back this season, and they're halfway through the most condensed month on their schedule. All in all, things are looking pretty darn good.

Am I concerned about Noah and Boozer? Sure, but I'll take that over concern on whether or not my superstar can close out a game in the fourth quarter [Miami]. I'll take it over wondering if my superstar is going to force a trade [Orlando]. Whether my team is too old [Boston], not good enough [Atlanta], or can defend/has depth [New York].

Every team has problems, but the Bulls problems seem pretty minor right now, and everything feels worse in a shortened season where teams are all shaky offensively due to a lack of continuity.

The Bulls have tons of upside to improve on the best start in basketball. Joakim Noah will play himself into shape. Richard Hamilton and C.J. Watson will return from injury. Carlos Boozer, well... did I mention Richard Hamilton will come back from injury? The Bulls offense still has headroom to get ready, and the defense is already in playoff form.

Derrick Rose isn't putting up MVP type stats, but his floor game has improved and his impact is just as big as it's always been [the Wizards game will prove that out]. Omer Asik has continued on his career path of defensive beast, and Taj Gibson has become one of the best backup PFs in the NBA.

Kyle Korver's knocking down more than half his threes while Ronnie Brewer also appears to have improved his jumper. John Lucas has proven to be an outstanding third PG and even went for 25, 8, and 8 with Rose and Watson out [let's not look too closely at the efficiency numbers on that 25 points though].

Heck, even rookie Jimmy Butler has looked good in the small stretches of game time he's played.

Yes, there are concerns, and I will continue to point out the areas I think the Bulls can improve in but don't lose sight of the bigger picture. The Bulls are playing at a very high level right now, perhaps the best in the NBA. It's worth sitting back and enjoying it for awhile too.

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  • Totally agree with you Doug.
    Possibly some rotation tweaks and the Bulls will be in great position as long as they are healthy. That being said I hope that Thibs will give Deng some rest once the rest of the team is healthy, his minutes are getting a little over the top for a compacted season. Lets enjoy this season.
    Go Bulls.

  • Off-course, they are winning pretty handily in the reg season. It just doesn't matter if they are the top seed or the 2nd/3rd seed. It is all about the playoffs. Obviously, if the Bulls had started like the Mavericks, we would be screaming more;-)

    1. The point is the Bulls are winning by grabbing rebounds. I would guess some number(20-25%) of those are based on hustle/luck. That might not happen in the playoffs when everybody is rested/Thibs loses his planning advantage/depth is not so important.
    2. The Bulls are supposed to have a talented great-depth front-court. The reality that it is not is difficult to accept. If they are not dominant, there goes the entire pressure back on Rose. That means, disappointment again dealing withe Miami.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    I don't see why the rebounding can't continue: Boozer, Gibson and Noah are all rebounding at below their career rates and what they did last year right now. If anything there's reason to think we might get a touch better.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Bulls because of their offensive woes and talent have to rely on rebounding to generate extra shots. The point I am making is those 20-25% rebounds are not based on ability(which the Bulls are great at rebounding) and those can go to the opposite team. That's one of the ways Haslem generated a few rebounds and the Miami guys killed the Bulls.
    In all, I am hoping that Rip is going to make the difference of spacing the floor and helping Rose along with the health of Asik/Taj. I do have some faint hopes that Noah might get back to his normal play with a little more conditioning and being healthy.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    i don't really see how rebounding is less reliable than other ways to generate offense though. Yes there will be nights when the ball doesn't bounce your way but shooters will have nights when they miss shots and guys how drive to the hoop will have nights where they don't get the calls.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    And having faint hopes that Noah will play better seems more like someone commenting on box scores who has never seen Noah play. Surely you dont think Noah's career is over now and the best is behind him? Cmon Schaumburger you seem like a real Bulls fan most the time. But thinking Noah wont improve or that the Bulls get rebounds out of luck and wont rebound well in the playoffs 3 months from now....seriously? Get off the ledge bro our team is killing it while injured and playing sloppy....we have the coach of the year and MVP....we'll get healthy and clean this up...

    Also, I bet Noah has a monster game tonight....he hates Boston.

  • In reply to bullswin60606:

    There is no rankings of Bulls fans. As most people feel, there is something wrong with Noah. And, the chances of him becoming the great 2nd option is "very, very" less.
    Off-course, the Bulls are playing well. They were last year too. But, you saw what happened with the rebounds with Miami after the 1st game. Some crucial rebounds started going their way because of whatever reason. If you don't believe that, there's nothing I can do.

    That said, I hope the Bulls get everyone healthy. That's the most important thing for them to compete and I do think they have a great chance of beating anyone if they are healthy.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    The pressure should be on Rose though. He's the MVP and he needs to perform like an MVP. Rose played horrible in the Miami series and was the reason they lost. If they want to beat them, Rose has to play like MVP

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    "It doesn't matter if they are the top seed or the 2nd/3rd seed."

    Really? I'm curious why folks keep saying that our regular season record (i.e. our playoff seed) doesn't matter. If we want to beat Miami in the playoffs--if that is the only thing that would make this season a success--then why would we not want the benefit of home court advantage? To me, ensuring the best regular-season record if a huge and important goal. The only reason to not push for it is if the Bulls believe they are risking injury and/or exhaustion.

    I understand that the title of "regular season champion" is in and of itself meaningless, and I respect the fact that it's beat-Miami-or-nothing or championship-or-nothing for most Bulls fans. But I genuinely don't understand why fighting for the top seed shouldn't be a priority.

  • In reply to bzoooty:

    In terms of winning a title, it's almost #1 seed vs anything else. If they don't get the #1 seed then they have to beat Miami on the road.

    If healthy, they can beat any other team on the road anyway IMO.

    That said, from a management perspective, they'll be pushing for a #1 seed since it means a lot more money to get more home games and to delay the Miami matchup to the ECF, because it almost ensure they make it at least tha tfar.

  • In reply to bzoooty:

    Nobody is saying that we try to get the 2nd/3rd seed. It is about the overall effort required to get the 1st seed(injuries, too many minutes for core guys, mental fatigue). If you look at history for the last 20 years, most times the #1seed is not winning the c'ship. And, it is all about winning some games on the road anyhow. I know you shouldn't make it more difficult than it is.
    I am pretty confident that this team can win on the road. Look at last year...they lost at home to Atlanta and they played well on the road to finish them. And, especially this shortened season...it really doesn't matter

  • So true Doug!
    Things can always be worse and despite our problems we usually win and have the best record in the NBA and did last year, but as you say it means little unless we win the championship.

    Also according to the All-Star voting thus far from nba.com Noah is 2nd behind the Superman Howard!!! Noah has like 75k votes to Howards's 775K or something like that but Noah is 2nd to Howard nonetheless! LOL
    I hope Deng gets some recognition from outside of Chicago as he has carried this team, and it is wearing him down by his poor shooting as of late.
    GO BULLS!!!!

    I think Noah should be used off the bench with Gibson as they play well together and both are spark plugs along with Brewer, Korver, and CJ. I'd love to see Asik get a start as he deserves and see Noah come off the bench.
    There is no denying that Noah and Boozer don't play well together so let's get the best utility out of what we have and we do have luxuries most any other team would love to have with highly productive bigs in Gibson and Asik still on their rookie contract. Thibs is stubborn and probably will not change his starting lineup but you can't argue with the Bulls record since last season and how even if a person starts like Bogans did, he still is like a bench guy with his minutes/game like Boozer and Noah being the cheerleaders on the bench in the 4th quarter.

  • In reply to smiley:

    The second place voting doesn't mean a whole lot for Noah. It clearly isn't based on his play this season, and you don't get any edge in making the bench by finishing second in the voting.

    I agree that at some point it'd be worth looking at starting Asik. Not necessarily because the team isn't winning, but because you have two huge contract players who are drastically underperforming.

    It's worth figuring out some way to try and boost their productivity.

  • I agree with all of your points as well Doug, but just as Schaum said... its all about the playoffs cause the reg. season means nothing really but seeding for the playoffs. The Bulldog have their problems but the big picture... can they beat the only team in the east that has more talent and whose defense is just as good in Miami? That's the team se all know who the Bulls will have to beat and if they don't... I for one will look for some significant changes to this team. Again, reg. season... the Bulls are indeed looking good even with their problems right now but can they beat a team like Miami this year or will it be a replay of last year? I'm just looking at the big picture and don't want the same outcome in being disappointed again. And a team who's looking really good to pay close attention to... The Sixers are playing good team ball on offense and defense.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    I agree it's all about the playoffs, but the Bulls can't answer those questions until they get there. Maybe the Bulls lose to Miami again, in fact, I expect that to happen. I expect that no matter what Chicago does they can't get past Miami until Miami slows down due to age. Miami has too much star power, and the Bulls have no realistic means to match it.

    However, even knowing that, you can either enjoy watching a damn good basketball team at a time when they are winning a lot of ball games, or you can be miserable that they're still the underdog against Miami in the playoffs 4 and a half months from now.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Fans used to say the same things back in the late 80's- the Bulls couldn't beat DET because MJ (Rose) was a one-man offense, Pippen (Deng) couldn't be a consistent #2 option on offense, they had no low post scoring from their big men- I've heard it all before.

    Rose is 23 years old, we're still at the very beginning of what should be a hell of a ride over the next 10 years. Not to sound like the old fart that I am, but we now live in such an instant gratification society that people just don't have the patience to watch a team grow and overcome.

    Personally, I love the journey- by 1998, winning the title wasn't even all that enjoyable. It was either win or bust, when we won it was totally expected and almost anti-climatic when it happened.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    + 1 mil
    agree with you completely as usual Don Ellis

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Thanks ChiRy, I really appreciate that.

    And I hope that everyone will check out my blog now that Doug and I are ChicagoNow teammates.

    Yes, I'm a shameless self-promoter... but I work in radio, what do you expect?

  • I agree that in the main we should be happy. Especially since early season form has been a better indicator historically of playoff success than end of season form. But there's a but ...

    Really you hit it on the head with declining to comment on Carlos Boozer. Everything else will fix itself, players will come back from injury, Deng and Noah will recover from their slumps (we've seen it happen enough times before), Rose will play well when he needs to and take it easy some other games.

    But Boozer ... what reason do we have to be optimistic. I really thought with an extended off season to rest up and get healthy we'd see a repeat of the stretch he was healthy last year, because he was pretty damn good during that period, putting up 20/10 of 54%+ shooting and even getting to the line for over 5 FTA a game. Yeah his defense still sucked but the Bulls were the #1 defense during that stretch. We can cope with Boozer being a defensive non entity, we can't cope with him being mediocre offensively.

    If Boozer can be that 20/10 on good efficiency and getting to the line guy again then I really think the Bulls are the best team in the league. If not then I think they need to get lucky to beat Miami. It's that simple: is Boozer a genuine offensive threat or not. Because I just don't see the Bulls having the firepower if we're relying on Deng to be the 2nd and Rip the 3rd options. You need a big man who can score against Miami, they have the best perimeter defenders in the NBA but are soft in the middle.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    You might be able to cope with a non entity in the regular season, but in the playoffs when everybody(except Mr Non Entity) steps up their defensive effort exponentially you really can't cope with it.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Don't see anything to justify that view, it's not like the Bulls lost to the Heat through lack of defense. Miami only had one good offensive game (game 3) in the series, otherwise the defense was good enough that if the Bulls had even managed a below par offensive performance they'd have won 4-1. Instead they stunk and lost 4-1.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Boozer has never been a guy who could create good offense. He's always been a guy who could deliver offense when set up in good position. On offense he's the Luol Deng of PFs, but on defense, he's the Jason Kapono of PFs.

    In the playoffs, I think the Bulls will rely on Derrick Rose, hustle, and the system to create offense. They still have no one on the team outside of Rose who will break the defense down to create a good shot.

    Miami's perimeter defense is outstanding, so the Bulls will struggle to get good looks out of the system, it will largely rely on Rose to play better.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    How many PFs are there that can create offense though? Looking at the top PFs Zac Randolph may be the only guy who isn't assisted on the vast majority of his buckets. Everyone else relies on their guards about the same amount as Boozer does, if not more so.

    I don't expect Boozer to "create" offense, he's supposed to be the finisher, that's what (good) big guys do. The problem is he can't even do that now. If he could then you don't need him to "create".

    I feel like shot "creation" is being over rated compared to shot finishing ability (ie putting the damn ball in the hole). Who gives a crap about creating shots, doesn't seem to be in short supply to me, you have 24 seconds and someone will find one most possessions, it's all about the ability to make that "created" shot go in the hole.

  • Apparently Noah has a sprained left thumb--not the right thumb he had surgery on last year. X-rays were negative. He's officially listed as DTD, however I expect him to play Friday considering he played seven minutes on Wednesday after he strained his thumb. ESPN fantasy also lists some sort of ankle injury he has been battling against. Seems we now have to worry about him getting back into shape with injuries...

  • In reply to Jmax:

    Is his weed bunch so heavy that he had to tie it to his ankle and sprain it while spraining his left thumb? He has hardly played....frustrating with this guy.

  • In reply to Jmax:

    Last year he kept playing after he hurt his thumb too ... he just looked crap doing it. It's quite possible his thumb has been hurt for a while, that would explain why he has been playing so poorly.

  • "Am I concerned about Noah and Boozer? Sure, but I'll take that over concern on whether or not my superstar can close out a game in the fourth quarter [Miami]."

    haha, no. Even if that was a concern, I'd take the concern of having LeBron James. Also, Wade can close it out. Problem solved! Boozer+Noah is a bigger concern.

    But overall you're right, it could be much much worse for the Bulls, they could be not as good as the top-2 team in the conference.

  • Just as last season, Winning covers all sins, at least until the playoffs.

    The reason that many of us are hypercritical of this Bulls team, is because expectations are so high now. If we don't at least beat Miami and get to the finals this season will be a bust.

    In the Rose era winning regular season games has now become de rigueur, thus we have the luxury of looking for style points, it doesn't mean that we still don't appreciate the wins, it is certainly better than the alternative.

    If Boozer is such a big problem that he doesn't even warrant a discussion anymore then that is clearly the problem that has to be fixed, and by any means necessary.

    The Heat are better than last year, in a number of ways. It is going to be a bitch beating them in a 7 game series. We are simply not a team that can afford to concede anything to them on any possession, offensively or defensively, assuring that we don't should be the only point of the regular season.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I agree with you but through different reasoning ... I think the regular season does matter, the playoffs aren't really very different and what you see now is what you'll get in the playoffs.

    The problem with people just looking at results is it's a dozen games into the season, the Bulls point differential is small sample size theatre really, built on a 40 point win and some unsustainable level of defense at home: there is no way teams will average under 70 points at the UC for the whole season.

    I also don't think you can judge the season based on whether the Heat result goes the Bulls way. Playoffs are also small sample size theatre, even if the Bulls were better than the Heat they could easily lose the series because there's not a huge difference between the teams. That's sport, the best team doesn't always win, as much as people like to post date the narrative to say they did. I can easily see a team worse than the Bulls last year beating the Heat if they get lucky ... in fact it happened, Dallas beat them.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Rather I should say you can't judge the quality of the team ... obviously you judge the success or failure of the season on results.

  • If you want to say the regular season doesn't matter, only beating Miami matters, that's fine- but if that's the case, why worry one bit about what's going on right now?

    How the Bulls are playing now makes no difference, only what they can do against Miami in the playoffs matters, right?

    Even if the Bulls were 12-0 with the #1 rated offense and #1 rated defense, it wouldn't matter, right?

    The honest truth is that it may take another loss (or two) to Miami in the ECF for this team to get over the hump. Rose and Deng and Noah all need to learn from their losing, just like MJ and Pip and Grant did.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    That's why lot of fans are disappointed with Noah's play. It is not really the losing which might happen to Miami but it more of the search for that second star who can create/impact the game. We are definitely in a better place because of Rose. But who can be that Pippen to Rose's MJ. It is not Boozer, Rip. It is not Taj, Asik. It has to be one of Noah or Deng. Deng is the 2nd option and we know his limitations. Many expected(wrongly) Noah to be that 2nd impact guy. That's why his regression has been so disappointing for not only now but in terms of hope for the future.

    And BTW, pointing out critical issues about the Bulls doesn't mean nobody is enjoying the current season or reg season. It is like enjoying/being proud off your kids achievements but that doesn't mean having graduation parties for elementary school grades or junior high grades.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    I agree with you, but for now it might be up to Deng to overcome his limitations.

    He has gotten better this year at getting into the lane off the dribble, though he still has to pick his spots to do it. I'm impressed with the finger roll he's developed, although I have to admit I was a huge George Gervin fan so I'm biased.

    He's already overcome his 4th quarter disappearing acts (on offense) that used to plague him so far this season. But until we see it in the playoffs, it doesn't mean much.

  • ESPN Fantasy League states that Joakim Noah also is battling an ankle injury? ESPN Fantasy League..?

    If Joakim does have persisting injuries such as ankle problems I haven't heard anything about it. And if so, I wish they would have sat him, and let them heal.

    Shooting .397 and being a shadow of his former impactful self isn't worth grinding him through an injury.

    If ankle injuries, foot, now thumb etc. is truly the problem for Joakim's diminished play both his season, and including last year's playoffs then in a way I guess that's good news..? That means the real Joakim is in there somewhere. On the other hand as the disabling injuries pile up it makes you wonder going forward when is he "coming back"?

  • Unofficial Noah and Boozer PR Campaign

    Doug, I'm not saying you're part of this "radio" campaign but let me tell you what I realized last night listening to AM 1000 on my way home from work.

    1) Soapbox - Is it Funk and Wennington? Funk announced he was getting on his "soapbox" to explain why Noah and Boozer sitting on the bench for many a 4th quarter wasn't a big deal.

    2) Next... Minutes later they interviewed Thibodeaux, asked him the Noah/Boozer 4th quarter question. Thibodeaux gave him his answer.

    3) Next... The announcers touted they would have Paxson on the air to ask about the Noah/Boozer sitting in the 4th quarter question.

    It was pretty clear to me that Bulls management directed the announcers to do a PR campaign on Friday night AM 1000 radio to assuage Bulls' fans concerns about Noah/Boozer.

    Someone high in management said do a PR campaign. I just wonder why. We'll never know the answer.

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