Nate Robinson finally started having his three point shot fall and that made all the difference in terms of his offensive output. Beyond that he racked up 13 assists to go with zero turnovers and looked like a superstar point guard for one night.
Why did Nate Robinson start? Kirk Hinrich sat with a thumb injury which he deemed minor after the game. Hopefully that proves to be the case. Obviously no one goes in preseason if they have anything going on at all because there's simply no sense in it.
Robinson's performance was highlighted by throwing an off the backboard alley oop dunk to Jimmy Butler on a fast break, something he professed he wouldn't do again and certainly wouldn't do in the regular season. Personally, I'm all for a little flash on the fast break now and again. The momentum you build by hitting that shot vs laying a ball in is worth the extra risk in missing the shot.
It's great to see one of the Bulls new bench players have this type of night. While Robinson isn't likely to have superhuman efforts too frequently, he needed the confidence builder as well as Bulls fans. It was great to see him blend the whole game together showing scoring and court vision. The zero turnovers despite massive usage impressed me the most.
Rip Hamilton played well
In a relatively rare night of efficiency, Rip Hamilton actually scored 23 points on 14 shots. He did use up seven more possessions counting turnovers and trips to the free throw line, but it was a strong night for Rip who has had few of them since joining the Bulls.
I'm still very skeptical that he'll bring a whole lot to the table this season as well as his ability to stay healthy, but so far he's leaps and bounds better than any other SG on the roster.
Joakim Noah continues to put together a quietly strong preseason
Noah hasn't looked especially dominant, but he may be the Bulls most consistent player through four preseason games. His jumper has looks improved on the whole, and he's played at a high level in three of the four games.
He certainly looks fully healthy with no lingering problems with his ankle, and Bulls fans will cross their fingers that he can stay healthy throughout the season.
The Carlos Boozer trainwreck continues
Carlos Boozer is now 13/37 over the preseason. Granted, it's preseason. The stats don't matter because the games don't matter. However, Boozer draws few fouls and turns the ball over frequently. In order to play at an even moderately efficient level for the Bulls he needs to shoot over 50% and score in volume to make up for his other weaknesses.
Beyond the overall poor shooting stats, the worst news is that most of his makes have been layups at the basket on scramble plays or open cuts. He's shooting a ridiculously low percentage on shots that he's attempting to create, and any offense running through him has been a complete and utter failure.
Hopefully Boozer's just having a rough patch that he gets out of the way now, because if his game has dropped off this much, the Bulls are in big trouble.
Marco Belinelli still hasn't hit a three
I'm not sure what's worse: Marco Belinelli not hitting a three or Marco Belinelli looking scared to shoot. The Bulls reserve shooting guard needs a heavy dose of confidence injected into his game right now as much as he needs to start hitting shots.
Through four preseason games, Belinelli's struggled to get much of anything done. He hasn't been able to score, create, or defend and looks like the near minimum level player we signed him as instead of the Korver replacement we hoped he was.
Perhaps my expectations were far too high. Perhaps he's just in a slump. Either way, the Bulls need much more than they're getting out of him right now.
Nazr Mohammed continues his strong play
The biggest surprise in preseason for me is the strong play of Nazr Mohammed. Going into this season I felt losing Omer Asik would be the biggest blow to the Bulls team. I thought there was a reasonable chance that Hinrich + Robinson + Butler + Belinelli could play equivalently to Watson + Brewer + Korver + Lucas.
So far Kirk Hinrich has held up his end of the bargain as has Robinson (one good game in four probably matches John Lucas). Butler and Belinelli have largely failed to do what last seasons counterparts could, and the bench as a whole has struggled badly.
However, Mohammed is showing how much difference it makes to have a guy who can throw the ball in the hoop from five feet away even if there's a guy in front of him. He just muscles up shot after shot and continues to score efficiently. The defensive presence isn't the same, but Mohammed's actually providing more post presence than Carlos Boozer ever has and might be the Bulls best low post scorer since Eddy Curry.
I doubt the Bulls can go to Mohammed for heavy minutes, and I also doubt he'd be effective in a high volume role, but much like Kurt Thomas he plays well within his limits. Knows his strengths and delivers consistent quality basketball. If Mohammed keeps up his level of play, then he'll help this team more than Asik would have.
Marquis Teague needs a lot of work
Two things are clear to me with Teague. He has strong NBA potential. That potential is far from being realized. There's no better test case for whether the Bulls can develop a player than to watch what happens with Teague over the next three seasons. He clearly has the athleticism to fit in, but he's got very little else at this point.
That said, having the athleticism at the PG position is an awful big first step. Teague's one of the quicker guys in the league and could easily become a very strong player if he puts in enough work.
Is Thibodeau really this maniacal?
He brought back the starters to win a preseason game at the end. The bench was blowing another game [granted an even weaker bench than normal with Robinson starting] and instead of letting them win or lose it, Thibodeau went back to his starters who held on to the lead.
So at this point is there any way that Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng don't play 40+ minutes a night? We're now scared to lose preseason games. There's no way we're taking a risk in regular season games. My bet is one or both guys go the full 48 at least once before the season is 10 games old.