Bulls don't have the horses

Tom Thibodeau keeps saying the next man has to step up. They have enough to win. There's not much else he can say, but he's wrong. The team played hard in the past two losses. They didn't give up. They didn't allow a runaway train of easy looks at the basket, but in both games they simply couldn't score enough when it mattered.

This game, it was Jrue Holiday who stepped up and killed Chicago. His back to back threes with time running down in the fourth gave the 76ers a nice lead, and Boozer's lack of a foul call (when down by two) after getting whacked on the arm, head, and body by two defenders while diving into the lane combined with a phantom foul on the other end spelled doom for the Bulls.

Perhaps had that series gone differently Chicago would have pulled out the game, but they weren't going to win this series if they did. They simply don't have enough left. Not without Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. They've lost too much. They played tough. They played hard. I'm sure there will be plenty of people who say otherwise simply because the game resulted in a loss, but it won't be true.

Chicago did what it could. It gave Philly its best shot two games in a row. It came up short on both. Chicago may take game five at the United Center, or they might simply pack up their tents and go back home. It's hard to say what the mental state of the team is at this point. As fans, we've all turned the page already.

What can the Bulls do in this off-season? How can they solve these problems? That's what the fans want to know, and I'm sure I'll have 100+ articles centered around that in the off-season, so I'm not too anxious to try and figure it out right now. One thing is for sure, this series has highlighted plenty of problems.

The Bulls weren't going to win the title this year. The regular season was a mirage. The Bulls still need a legitimate second threat. It's the problem we've thought they've had all along while hoping that we were wrong. They need another initiator and creator and lack much in the way of assets to get one.

The bad news / bad news of the Bulls Rose-less playoffs was summed up pretty well here with this quote.

And if we're being honest with ourselves, it's going to be hard to watch them play in this series (or, God willing, the next one and the one after that) without being sad as shit. It's a Catch-22: If the Bulls look awful in Rose's absence, that clearly sucks. And if they beat the Sixers and give Boston and the Heat all they can handle before bowing out, it'll be hard to appreciate the accomplishment in its own light. We'll instead be distracted by what could have been.

Well we know which of those two things happened, and I'd rather dream of what could have been then sit here feeling like the Bulls need to overhaul the roster with no real useful assets to do it. Chicago's going to have a tough fight on Tuesday, but they're primed for an even tougher fight this off-season if they want to make a run at the ring next season.

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  • Maybe he bricks both free throws, but it was a shame to see Boozer FINALLY go strong to the hole when the Bulls needed it, only to see him get raped with no call.

    I'm interested in seeing what changes are made if the Bulls go on to lose this series (in 5 especially).

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    You call it a shame, I call it a choke or just Boozer being what he is. I am referring to the turnover on the next series when he spun into the lane with a clear path to the basket and just threw the ball out bounds uncontested.

    While emotionally I want to agree with you and every other Bulls fan that he/we got raped on that non foul call, if you impartially look at the replay, it looks like Hawes got all ball initially, before all the fouls happened. I am not 100% certain, but that might actually be the way that the rule book reads, once the shot is blocked cleanly, all the action(fouls) afterward are incidental.

    My gut feels like we got jobbed out of both games in Philly by the refs, but the reality is that other than Noah and Taj our guys either didn't show up or just don't have the ability to, especially in the playoffs.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Yeah, I thought the no-call on that play was fair, as well.

    However, the subsequent fouls on Korver and Asik were not fouls even without a "let them play" mentality from the official. That was a screw-job.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    The Boozer no-call you can almost live with, if not for the two at the other end.

    And the turnover was fitting and needed, if he finishes there and just makes it a closer loss he's had a nice game of 25/12 and coming thru down the stretch.

    This way, he's a more appropriate 11/24 for 23 points and a horrible turnover at the last gasp moment.

    Worse than the Boozer no-call was the 23 to 7 FTA lead Philly had early in the 4th, even though they had taken more 3's. The officials started to even in out in the 4th, how they don't call that foul on Boozer and then call the other 2 is inexcusable.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    I agree, it seemed like they were calling 2 different games out there.

    The kicking call on CJ when he was falling to the floor and the ball accidentally hit his foot seemed to be a major blown call that cost us an additional possession in crunch time.

    I am sure that all Bulls fans feel that if these 2 games had been called equitably we likely win both games and are up 3-1, but all that does is let us delude ourselves a little bit longer.

    It sucks, but maybe this brings home the reality of the shortcominings of this team and forces management into action sooner rather than later.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    It is most definitely not the way the rule book reads that you can follow through on a guys head after getting the ball first. You could possibly get away with body contact, but Boozer got hit in the head and Hawes swung through and hooked Boozers arm completely separating it from the ball which may have allowed him to power through the block had it not happened.

    It was not just one foul, it was three. Foul on the head, foul on the arm, foul on the body. I definitely wasn't the most ridiculous no call I've ever seen, but it was pretty bad.

  • Think Nash, Kidd, or JET would take exception money to play here? The great thing about Nash and JET is they can play with Rose when he returns.

  • In reply to Tyler Soze:

    No. Nash will most likely cash out someplace else. Kidd is so damn old and should retire honestly and terry is on the decline. The bulls need legit talent to get over the hill that is Miami. They need to toughen up too. They get pushed around quite a bit, maybe bring in Matt Barnes to replace brewer, they basically cancel each other out except Barnes is a better three point shooter and is tough as hell

  • In reply to Tyler Soze:

    Terry is the most realistic to me. Nash would likely sign in Miami first. Kidd doesn't add the value we need really, but would be an okay option if he'd play for the minimum for a year.

  • Bulls played tough for sure but you're absolutely right. They don't have enough to win. We're missing all three of our best players basically. What has deng contributed? He's hurt and should not be playing. It's hard to beat any team with those odds stacked up, even harder to beat a playoff team. And give Philly credit. They smelled blood and did what they had to. I'm honestly sad though, I (we) were so sure it was going to be the bulls and Miami in the ECF and we had a legit shot of getting past them. Here's to hoping the bulls make the changes they need and Derrick and Loul (shit even Jo) get back to 100%. Until then I'll be rooting for whoever Mia plays in the finals.

  • Trade Deng, Noah, Mirotic and the CHA pick for Howard and Redick. Do your best to convince Howard to sign long term, if he walks, you have max salary space (amnesty Boozer in the summer of 2013 if he walks) to build around Rose. What better solution is there? Hope Noah, Deng, Boozer all stay healthy and produce!?

  • In reply to Dajody1:

    If Bobcats land Anthony Davis I would be open to trading the Charlotte pick. Mirotic would be a perfect fit with Howard as a stretch four that can knock down open threes.

  • In reply to Dajody1:

    I'd wonder if Orlando would take Deng + Noah for Howard with nothing else. I'm thinking they might not be able to get better, and the worst case scenario is that Howard walks, and the Bulls amnesty Boozer and now have no long term salary outside of Rose, so they have lots of flexibility to rebuild.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    While that is the way that I would like to approach Orlando(not giving up Mirotic) I wonder how much value Deng has in the eyes of NBA teams right now(injury or not).

  • Going to be a meatball fan here. Anyway the bulls Hire Phil Jackson? Pay 45 mil over 3 years. That would be so awesome...

  • In reply to insertclichehere:

    No. They'll stick with Thibs.

  • Lots of teams reach their ceiling as a very, very good team and stay there for years.

    If the Bulls had the whole team healthy, I still think they would have been in as good a shape as anyone to win it all. But I think this year (and last year) is a down year and that probably won't be enough in the future.

  • In reply to JayJohnstone:

    There's a very good chance that's true. I don't think this team, as constructed, has enough to be a typical championship team. They need more options to score. That said, the Detroit Pistons didn't really seem to have enough and pulled it off once, so it's possible, but it'd take kind of a fluky year.

  • The time has come, with Rose out most of next year, to push all our chips to the middle of the table and go all in....take a chance on Howard....worst case scenario, he walks and we have max cap space in the summer of 2013

  • Yeah if they can't even win a single game against the lowly 76ers without rose little chance we had any shot at winning the title... Maybe Bulls will finally address the long time need of a second major scoring threat. Doesn't matter how good your defense is if you can't put the ball in the net.

  • In reply to Chad:

    It's not just rose missing. Jo has missed a game and a half, deng clearly isnt healthy. Hell if you want to be real even CJ isn't 100 percent. Philly isn't a pushover either, give them credit. Holiday and Turner are forreal. Spencer hawes is solid also. People forget when Philly got off to that fast start earlier in the year hawes was a big part of that. The bulls have decisions to make obviously, but it's hard for me to look at this series as an 8 beating a 1. Not to make excuses but the reality is that they aren't healthy. A healthy team beats Philly. Like Doug said most likely in 5. Philly will probably even give Boston some Go.

  • In reply to Chad:

    They've tried to address it, but there's little to address it with IMO. They don't have appealing trade assets nor do they have good draft picks.

  • Dear Jerry, Gar, and Pax,

    Can we please get a legitimate all-star shooting guard?

    Signed,

    Every Chicago Bulls fan

  • Doug, excellent, unemotional, pragmatic analysis.

    Without both Rose and Noah, the Bulls simply don't have the talent to beat anybody in the playoffs.

    Even with everybody healthy we would have struggled(just like last year) to get to the ECF and then been overwhelmed in crunch time by the Heats superior talent.

    Going forward we are in between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Going all in to get Howard might be the only thing that the Bulls can even try to do to change their situation, the purgatory of being too good, but not quite good enough.

    My theory on Howard is that he and D-Will are plotting to end up in Dallas. D-Will this summer, with Howard to follow by the start of 2013 season.

    Never-the-less, starting Wednesday morning, the Bulls should do everything(but not necessarily anything) in an attempt to get Howard.

  • fb_avatar

    Doug,
    I want to start by saying I'm a huge fan of your columns and I've appreciated your rational insights for years, beginning on the realgm forum. I have always appreciated your thoughtful perspectives juxtaposed against the common knee-jerk reactions of many Bulls fans and media members who seem ready to either crown the Bulls as champs or trade everyone depending on the most recent 2-3 game stretch.

    That said, I have to disagree with your assessment that the Bulls' performance after the Rose injury has exposed the team's regular season success as a "mirage." I think you are greatly underestimating the emotional, and more importantly strategic, impact that Rose's season-ending absence has had on the squad. On the emotional side, I just think it was far easier for the rest of the team to succeed without Rose during the regular season when they knew they were simply "holding court" for his eventual return. It becomes far more difficult to have avoid a significant emotional letdown when you seen your title chances dashed with just over a minute left in game 1. I think we certainly saw an "emotional letdown" in game 2, watched the team bounce back a bit in game 3 before Noah goes down, and then witnessed a truly under-manned team really compete in game 4.

    More significant than the psychological impact of Rose's absence is the way in which the injury changes how each player can approach their job on the court. I think our 18-9 regular season record without Rose was inflated by a relatively soft schedule during that span and we started to see the Rose-less Bulls slide against tougher competition near the end of the year. This would seem to suggest that the Bulls do need another star in order to really compete for a title. However, I think our players' deficiencies are successfully masked when Rose, our engine, is clicking. He simply makes the game so much easier for everyone else by drawing double teams and putting constant pressure on the defense with his drives. Even his missed lay-ups near the hoop result in an extra 6 plus points per game.

    When Rose is on the court, the Bulls are a team with superior defense, superior ball movement, and a superior closer who can make something out of nothing when the offense gets stagnant. Without Rose, only the defense remains elite, as "superior ball-movement" essentially becomes void. Great ball movement is so much easier to defend (especially at the NBA level) when defenses know that there is nobody to create much off the dribble when they make their hard defensive rotations. With Rose, every other Bulls player could enjoy numerous 4 on 3 situations because of Rose's presence on the court. Without Rose, we are playing five-on-five with nobody who can beat a player off the dribble. Gone is the Rose-led offense that forced opponents to clog the middle and roll the dice on whether or not to leave shooters open or "close-out" hard, thus opening up interior passing lanes. Gone is the engine that made our offense unique, and at times, extremely potent.

    Some might argue that, even with Rose, we would have run into the same problems we did last year against Miami. My counter, I do not think Miami is any better than they were last year and I believe that Hamilton's presence would have opened up enough space with his off-the-ball movement and periodic scores off the dribble (something Brewer and Bogans never provide) to make Rose's job easier against the Heat. Hamilton, at age 34 but still in good condition, would have functioned so much more effectively playing off of Rose (and tiring Wade in the process) than he has without a Point Guard demanding attention. He is simply the type of player whose strengths' increase exponentially alongside another elite playmaker, in my opinion.

    Apologies for the extremely long post. Putting my thoughts down is a therapeutic exercise in the midst of enduring my worst ever week as a sports fan. I love your writing and podcasts and look forward to reading your thoughts during the offseason.

  • In reply to Ian Lowe:

    Well I appreciate your thoughts, and I'm rooting for you to be correct. There is a part of me that sees things the same as you do, but then there's the part of me that saw us fall to Miami last year due to a lack of more scoring options outside of Rose and thinks we would have likely succumbed to the same thing this year.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to DougThonus:

    The hardest part for me to swallow is the fact that I'll never know if my convictions about this squad were correct. Despite all of the injuries, I thought the addition of Hamilton combined with the team's ideal embodiment of the "Secret" to championship basketball (i.e. sacrifining individual acclaim for team success as Bill Simmons' describes in his Book of Basketball) were enough to put us over the top this year. Unfortunately, after the playoff performance, an argument can't possibly be made for bringing this group back as presently constructed. Optimism now has to rest upon an eventual 100% physical recovery for Rose combined with a reworking of the "Secret" with a new supporting cast surrounding Rose, Noah and (likely) Deng. Fortunately, I think that chemistry is fostered through quality leadership and the Bulls are luck to have a superstar with a very unique demeanor, a quality coach, and a Center with the playing passion/energy to be the "soul" of a unique team.

  • I think it becomes even more imperative that the Bulls do something huge in the offseason. I know everyone is telling me to give Rose's recovery a chance, but knowing what ACL tears are, how Rose plays, and how I've always thought Rose was just one injury away from being the Allen Iverson of 2010 - I don't think that he's going to come back as the same guy.

    The Bulls are in a really bad place right now. We're probably too good to be able to lose the 60 games we'd need to lose to get a quality chance at great lottery picks, and we're not good enough to ever really compete. Most Bulls fans are too blind to realize that Rose isn't going to be enough. So we'll bounce around mediocrity for the next decade at least. It's really depressing. I thought the Bulls were back, just goes to show how important superstars are in this league.

  • as I said before... the bulls are in prime position to fall apart next year starting the season without Rose and Deng, likely leading to the rest of the team tuning out thibodeau (we all thought skiles was great in 2007 too) and getting him fired on Christmas. The bad part is that unlike in 07-08 the team won't be bad enough to get a good lottery spot.

    CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT THIS: ALL IN FOR HOWARD IN 2012! make it a song or something... DO IT.

  • 1) The regular season without Rose was not a mirage. The Bulls did beat a number of playoff teams during that stretch, tho they also lost to some duds. That is not just some kind of accident!
    2) No team with the injuries the Bulls have would get far in the playoffs. They lost 1.5 Allstars, plus their top big man for defense and rebounding. Impossible to compensate for all of that.
    3) Still, if CJ had today's game in game 3, the series would be tied.
    Too much inconsistency from the role players.
    4) We all knew that the Bulls needed another guard to get past Miami. It looked like they had him in Rip, and that might have worked without the injuries to Deng, Rose, Noah. But it was a dice roll. Other playoff teams picked up some cheap help a few weeks ago. The Bulls should have done it too.
    5) I think they should try for Deron Williams, who is an FA.
    6) I couldn't help think that the Bulls could have had Carmelo a couple of years ago, which would have been easy if they hadn't overpaid for Boozer. Carmelo was and is deadly in the playoffs. O well, spilled milk.
    7) Don't trade Mirotic unless they get Deron or someone equal with a shot at Howard too.

  • I just think the emotional toll was too much. I mean I've never seen anything like this where a fall from grace is so drastic. Not since the 2003 Cubs and the Bartman ball.

    I don't blame the players for somewhat giving in to their fate which is what I think happened. I mean the difference from game 1 to game to was huge. There was a huge focus collectively as a team with the Bulls and once Rose was hurt I think the emotional shock just changed everything.

    I think the team held the fort down for Derrick's return all season and when he got hurt it was like a close family member passing away. The depression is still there for awhile and it just hangs over everything.

    Once the Bulls realized they didn't have their Star I think the foundation started to crack open and they started to feel sorry for themselves.

    Moving forward I think they just might need to clean the slate. Moving Boozer is the goal to me. I think you gotta have a fresh start and put Taj into the starting lineup. Maybe you move Boozer for to lesser bench players.

    I think they need to keep Rose, Noah, Taj, Deng, Korver, Butler and try to build from that group of players.

  • In reply to SoulEater7:

    two

  • I think they should really make a play for Chuncy Billups. I know he is older, but that doesn't concern me when you are looking to win now. If they let Watson and Brewer walk this ofseason they could afford to sign him. He would give the Bulls something they are missing now, a guy who can run an offense. He would be a great backup and could play with Rose. He would give the team an extra guy who can take and make big shots. I think he would be an extreamly big addition.

  • You can't win missing 2 1/2 of your top 3. You just can't. The 72 win team would have been screwed if they lost MJ and Rodman and had Pippen with one hand. No team can reasonably compete with the injuries the Bulls have, and so nobody should be judging the team based on this.

    People want to blow it up. To what end? So that the Bulls can spend a couple of years shedding contracts, another couple tanking for picks, then maybe in 5 years time they'll have players ready to play if everything falls their way? Sorry, you've just wasted Rose's prime if you blow it up. You have to stay the course, keep the core players and do your best to steal a gem in the draft, or hope a star wants to force his way there, or otherwise just get both hot and healthy at the right time.

    I think we have to look at being a bit more creative with what we have too. For example, the numbers show that Deng does really well in his minutes at the 4. We've been reluctant to use him much there though, can we get more out of the offense running Deng as a stretch 4 than a standard 3? Does it hurt the defense doing so (can't see how given he's replacing Boozer)? I don't know ... maybe it's a question we should have already answered though, because if Deng can play extended minutes at the 4 it gives you a whole lot more flexibility to when you amnesty Boozer or if you want to look to flip Taj for a wing before he has to be paid.

    Really though the Bulls are in a dangerous situation right now. The temptation will be to do something rash, and as we saw with the Cavs and the Magic, when you make moves just to make moves you can easily just end up painting yourself into a corner.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    The question is, who are our core players.

    All of us would agree on Rose, most of us on Noah. After that everybody else is a crapshoot.

    We clearly need a second player of Rose's caliber, the question is, besides pure luck, how do you get him.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I think you go with Rose, Noah & if healthy Deng is better than what we can get in return for him so probably keep him too. Like I mentioned I'd like to see the Bulls experiment a bit more with him at the 4 though, we complain he can't create his own shot but maybe he can against slower defenders? Other than that, Boozer gets cut whenever the Bulls need to save the money, and the other guys are just pieces we try to make fit like how the Spurs continuously shuffle in and out role players.

    I don't think you can plan it, you just have to keep a winning team and hope a player wants to force their way onto it. At least if you have a good team you also have the possibility you catch fire and/or it's the other teams that have the injuries in the playoffs and you might get a title that way too.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I think outside of pure luck, there's really no answer. You can just be patient and hope something falls in your lap and resist the urge to Orlando the thing and make a really bad trade.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    They'll get Mirotic, and he'll be an Allstar. That wasn't luck, it was great drafting.

    However, mgmt (Front Office, FO) could have gotten Mayo, JR Smith, kept Thomas, etc. That would have helped.

    But, learning from the Boozer and Ben Wallace signings, do not overpay!! FO really needs to evaluate the talent of the FAs or available trades.

    I would trade Mirotic, Boozer, Asik, picks and pieces to NJ for D Williams, if he would sign with the Bulls. Then move Rose to SG when he gets back - that backcourt would kill. Or maybe switch Noah for Mirotic in that trade.

  • I agree with Shakes above. You can't dump this team based on the results of a three game stretch. We won game one but lost Rose, and Philly came into game two shooting lights out. Even with Rose we probably would have lost that game. Then in game three Philly comes back to earth and we have them on the ropes in the 3rd quarter, and right at that point we lose Noah. To expect this team to compete while missing the league MVP, its best defensive player, and Deng unable to produce offensively is really stretching it. No team can be expected to survive those odds.

    I have no idea what was going through Thibs mind on Friday when he kept Lucas in the whole 4th, but on balance, he is an elite coach we are lucky to have.

    Next year will be tough, but just remember that blowing it all up rarely works -- we need to work with what we have and improve incrementally. Many here seem giddy to tank the season for lotto picks and Dwight Howard, just as they were 15 years ago with tanking and bringing in Tim Duncan and Grant Hill. But we ended up with Marcus Fizer and Ron Mercer, so just be warned that things don't always work out the way we want them to.

  • Deron Williams wants to and will play as a point guard, he isn't coming to Chicago.

  • Yes, now it's the emotional toll and the lack of starting players that's put the Bulls in a 1-3 hole against a team that fought down the stretch against the Bucks to even get into the playoffs. Oh, and also the horrible officiating. I don't know how the Bulls won six championships with every official ever born being out to get them.

  • In reply to Hunter:

    It was called having undoubtably the best basketball player to ever play the game in Jordan. With a player like that what could the refs do but to be humbled to be on the same court with greatness.

  • I wonder what Rose thinks of Deng now since he was speaking for him to be an All-Star. That's the Bulls biggest disappointment. Where is Waldo, Where is Deng! Boozer does what Boozer does so I don't expect much. I have more respect for Noah, Gibson heart and game but other than that this is a team full of role players where no one wants to step up and be a star consistently. All jump shooters no one to attack the basket. No inside game whatsoever. It's amazing how many discrepancies/flaws in this team can be covered up by 1 great player like Rose. I can't even comment on Thib's line up/ match up decisions.

  • Couldn't disagree with Shakes more. The problem is that Rose is already past his prime. It's true. I know he's young and I know you'll say that the surgery hasn't even started yet, but the likelihood of him coming back and being in prime form is so slim it shouldn't be counted on. Staying the course means prolonging the inevitable mediocrity. I've waited a long time, since 98 to be exact, to see the Bulls win a championship. I don't want to wait another 14 years because Chicagoans are too stubborn to realize a sunk cost. 5 years is better than a decade and a half.

  • In reply to Er Pupone:

    Reality check: In a 30 team league 14 years isn't that long to have been waiting. :/

    There's no time line if you blow it up. If all goes well you might have a team that can contend in 5 years (ie where we already are today when healthy). But you can also be the GSW who have been blowing it up for decades and never come close. People just want to blow it up because that's dramatic and exciting, you can dream about the new players rather than deal with the current ones. But it's far from a better chance to win a championship any time soon.

    So now this team is just a sunk cost? Rose has only been in the league 4 years but because he hasn't won it all then it's time to give up and start over? MJ had won 5 playoff games total in his first 4 years, was he a sunk cost Krause was just too stubborn to give up on too?

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Is getting rid of Boozer and Deng blowing it up, or just adjusting midcourse when something clearly isn't working.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Depends, what are we getting in return? Is the plan to get rid of all contracts except Rose & Noah and sign someone with the cap space and/or tank for picks? That's blowing it up.

    If the plan is making trades for productive players then no, that's not blowing it up. I'm not convinced there's a realistic set of moves to be made that deal Deng while improving the team the next couple of years, but sure, if you have any fire away.

    Boozer I'm happy to just amnesty, nobody is taking him on, and if his contract means we have to shed the bench and replace it with min salary then I'll pick the bench over him.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    MJ didn't tear his ACL. Derrick Rose did.

    We've lost our superstar. If we don't blow it up, where are we going to get a new one? Blowing it up might not work, but it's a chance. That's more than we have waiting for Rose to get healthy. That's all I'm saying.

  • I think we need a new General Manager.

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