Nate Robinson leads Chicago Bulls to victory as Kirk Hinrich sits with thumb injury

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.

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  • This is the first Bulls game (preseason or otherwise) I've missed in a season or two. I watched the debate instead. I DVR'ed the game and may get to it sometime today. I hope I will given how well Nate Robinson played. I'm a Robinson booster (basically the only offseason move the Bulls made which I approve of).

    At what point will we get tired of talking about Boozer? He's a no-show in the big games and a truly lazy player. You figure someone you're paying eight figures to would be a net positive for the team... it's sad.

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    Agreed on almost all counts Doug. I've really liked what I've seen out of Noah so far this year. His offense looks improved and I don't cringe when he shoots jumpers anymore.

    I've also been really disappointed with Belinelli. It seems the Bulls are really trying to use him in that Korver role, running him off screens and such, the problem is he doesn't appear to be all that adept at doing so. He can't get open. And the few times he does, he's bricked. I'm sure he's not this bad, but he may not be as good as I was hoping.

  • In reply to Jay Patt:

    I never cringed when he took those jumpers. He just stopped taking those jumpers the past 2 years for whatever reason.

    But it looks like Noah is more confident and aggressive on the offensive side now, even calling for the ball when he's in the low post.

    Maybe all Noah needed was a confidence boost from the greatest NBA scorer...Kareem.

    This is why I feared Belinelli wouldn't be as productive as Korver was in our system. People praised Belinelli for being 'more than a pure shooter', that he could dribble, create his own shot, etc...but you know in Thibs' offense, all he wants is a shooter to shoot, and Belinelli is not as good in that department.

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    In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    I'd say the thumb injury had a lot to do with him shooting less jumpers.

  • In reply to Jay Patt:

    You mean shooting fewer tornado's!

    He has looked good this preseason I hope he can keep it rolling.

  • I was at the game last night and do agree that Nate Robinson was fantastic. He forced very few shots (for him anyhow), and did a good job of controlling the offense and getting everyone into the game. I was most impressed that he got the offense started early in the shot clock rather than dribbling the firs 10-15 seconds away (Kirk has done this a lot in the past although he has been much better about it this preseason, Teague fell into this on every one of his possessions). Nate even did a fairly good job defensively on Jennings.

    Belinelli looks absolutely horrible out there on both ends of the court, which is a shame since we could use his length at the 2. Boozer continues to miss nearly every bunny that comes his way, and Taj still can't get his offense going which certainly is a cause for concern at the 4. Maybe we will at some point see Narz and Noah in the game at the same time for very limited minutes? Certainly could work in certain situations.

    I know you are concerned about minutes with Thibs, Doug, but I think last night he simply felt that the team played well and hard for the entire game and he wanted them to get a little momentum going by getting the win and that is why he put the starters back in at the end. I know that it is just preseason, but the team will need to have a "winning mentality" as much as possible without Rose, and I sense that Thibs wants to engender that as we move toward the regular season. Just my 2 cents.

  • If Boozer is this terrible all throughout the year, does mgmt amnesty him at the end of the year?

    I'm happy Mohammad is playing a Kurt Thomas-esque role, I think it's something that the Bulls needed last year. It'll bring a physical presence down low and bring hard nosed play in his limited minutes.

    I'm not the most confident that Teague will be able to develop under the Bulls, at least not offensively. Guys have developed under Thibs defensively (Asik, Gibson, Butler) but their offensive games have disappeared. Time will tell but I'm not holding my breath.

  • In reply to bpmueller:

    I know a lot of people are optimistically hopeful the Bulls Amnesty Boozer in the offseason, but I just don't see it.

    Mohammad has definitely been a pleasant surprise. I did not expect him to be this productive. I guess he will be getting Asik's 25min afterall.

    You can't develop young players if you don't even give them any minutes in a meaningless preseason game, and instead play Nate 35min.

  • No matter how well the core of Deng, Jo, Taj, Hamilton, Hinrich, and(yecch) Boozer all play, the odds are extremely likely that this injury prone team will have some serious games missed by multiple core players. And there's little scoring to go around as it is.

    Looking at lowly valued guys like Robinson and Belinelli, relative to their micro salaries, it's hard to believe they don't have major pitfalls in their game that effect winning in a negative way. Otherwise they are some of the greatest bargains in the game looking strictly at their recent numbers. Hopefully that proves to be the case. Otherwise Thibs will be running starters into the ground on nights with close, winnable games.

    It's ironic that with a multitude of offensive talent in this year's draft we end up with Marquis Teague and Jimmy Butler from last year, guys who right now can provide no offense.

    Again, if Taj, Jo, Lu etc. stay healthy, this will still be a hard working team with character. We can enjoy that at least.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Thibs will run Hinrich and Deng into the ground. I fully expect both of them to average close to 40min per (until Rose gets back).

    I was expected Noah and Taj to play heavy minutes as well, but with Mohammad's revival, I think Noah and Taj's minutes will be steady.

  • Boozer looks like he's already in playoff form. You know when he stinks and misses all his fadeaways against elite teams. Don't worry we're stuck with this guy for two years since he's part of the magical "2014" plan where reinsdorf would be willing to amnesty another major Paxson signing bust.

    The thing that jumps at me from this game is 28 assists, the ball was moving and like Noah said, much of the offense runs through Hamilton....and according to reports, a guy the Bulls management feverishly tried to dump in the summer to get under the luxury tax......beautiful basketball decisions, dumping our best 3 point shooter and trying to dump our only starting calibre shooting guard. I guess Reinsdorf and Boozer are made for each other, they both love screwing over the Bulls fans.

    In regards to others, Belinelli looks horrible and they probably should use him only as a spot up shooter and see if he is more affective that way cuz he doesn't move around screens well. Butler's offense stinks but his defense and rebounding has been good, Taj can do better offensively and Nazr has been awesome for a vet min big. What does that tell you when the Bulls have to rely on minimum contract players like Nate and Nazr to contribute in order to win games? Where's our big contract players with the 20 point games? Only Noah has been great of the major contract players this preseason. What does that tell us about our front office?

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    If, and that's a major IF, Thibs can somehow manage to not run Rip into the ground and instead play him 30min MAX, I think Rip will be one of the best players on this team.

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    I agree but with the way Beli looks, he definitely will play him over 30 minutes some games....He's basically our offense. The only thing I can think of is having Hinrich play with Robinson against smaller backcourts but not sure how affective that would be. He has to be smart and keep Rip at 30 minutes, Hinrich and Deng at 36 minutes. Nazr has proved himself capable of playing 15-20 minutes a game. They might get away with playing Taj at the 3 some.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Unfortunately, this will be true and I expect Rip to get injured again.

  • Longtime lurker, first time poster here. To say I was disappointed with this past offseason was an understatement. I understand Bulls management wanting to shed some salary in the form of essentially finding a new bench mob, but when Rose is already out for a majority of the year and most fans realizing the Bulls only have a minute chance of coming out of this season with a Championship, why not sign some young players with high potential to fill out the bench mob and get some quality playing time this year? I like the Nazr and Robinson signings for some quality veterans, but I am still not sold on Belinelli and the return of Hinrich.

    Enough on me rambling about whats done and in the past, onto some points I've noticed from the preseason so far. Boozer needs to go. I have given him time and time again to impress me in some way, shape, or form. Yes, he is (usually) an above average jump shooter and rebounder for his position and we all realize that he is not worth his contract. But the thing that bugs me the most is not the size of the contract, but the fact that he puts absolutely no effort into much of anything while he is in the game. No hustle or urgency in his game. Thibs needs to start Taj over Boozer for a few games just to see what happens. Its a win-win situation. Either Taj outperforms Boozer and proves he deserves to start, or Boozer finally gains some motivation from the benching and shows improvement this season.

    I think slowly, but surely the Bench Mob 2.0 is coming around - even if it isn't shown in their scoring and efficiency. Robinson is a great player to come in in short spurts and provide instant offense. Butler will find his Niche, he just seems to be trying to do too much at the moment. He will settle down come the regular season. Taj is...well Taj. Nazr has been a tremendous acquisition so far, I love his Kurt Thomas-esque style of play. The only one I am worried about is Belinelli. He seems to be struggling in every facet of the game right now, only time will tell if he can gain some confidence and return to the same form as last season.

    I love the energy Nate Robinson brought last night. Its a breath of fresh air having a player that is a tad on the cocky side :-) got me pumped just watching on my computer with that oop to Jimmy and then waving his arms to pump up the crowd. Looking forward to some exciting moments from Nate and Jimmy in the upcoming season!

  • So I've been watching all 4 preseason games so far, and I think I've figured out why Boozer has been struggling....the emergence of Noah's offensive game.

    Noah has been more aggressive on the offensive end, taking his jumpers almost every time he's open, and even calling for the ball in the low-post.

    I think this has totally wiped out any confidence Boozer had left in his game. In the past 2 seasons, Noah wasn't a factor on the offensive side, so I guess that gave Boozer the confidence of knowing he is 'needed'. But now that Noah is becoming more (if not soon to be better) on the offensive end, Boozer has just crumbled emotionally.

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    The reason Boozer has been struggling is because he blows. He has permanently traded in his post up for a fade away. And how many bunnies is he going to miss? I just don't buy your Noah argument. Boozer got his money and just doesn't care.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    ^^ this

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    The Booze Cruise:

    Looks like he should play like Charles Oakley.

    Plays like he should look like Brad Sellers.

  • Not only is boozer looking bad, Gibson is looking bad also. Gibson is 9 for 30 shooting and leading the team in turnovers with 3.0 per game so far. Its clear that neither boozer or Gibson is the answer at PF for the bulls. I hope the bulls make the right decision in letting Gibson walk after the season
    Like they did with asik. And please get rid of boozer too.

  • Rob, I hope you're wrong about Gibson not being the answer at the 4. But if his offense doesn't improve this year, then he probably isn't ... as while Noah is better on O, his lack of consistent scoring and shooting means that we need a scoring 4. But just like the League has seen a huge decline in quality SGs, the same is the case with quality PFs who can score. It's why Illyasova got such a monster contract.

    Notice I didn't mention Boozer. His only chance of being relevant on this team is re-learning (and using!) his post game, some pick and roll, etc. Instead, all he does is that horrible fadeaway shot ... I never thought Bosh would be so superior to Boozer, but it's as clear as crisp sunny day in Chitown.

  • I wonder if contract talk has affected Taj's play early on. Mishandled balls, turnovers, & missed shots can be a sign of a player trying to do too much, thinking too much. I really hope the Bulls can lock him up before the season, amnesty Booze asap, & bring in a short term backup 4 until Mirotic can come over.

    While Mohammed's play has been pleasantly surprising, I disagree that he helps the team more then Asik would have. Omer just shut down the paint for that Bench Mob the last 2 years. His intelligence on that end & his ability to alter shots will be sorely missed, especially against Miami. However, even if it didn't before, it does look now like it was the right call not to match.

    Korver's departure will hurt the most. Especially in closing & tight game situations, & alongside Rose when he does come back. Belinelli will eventually find his shot, but he is not the shooter Korver is. Quite an underrated passer they will be missing too.

    In general, I'm giving everyone on this team a pass, with the exception of Boozer. No more passes or excuses for him, they're all used up. But it takes a while for new guys to fit in, adjust to a new system, & build chemistry. Half of this team is new, it will take time. My prediction: Noah is going to have a huge year & make his first all star game. He is healthy, had a great offseason building some confidence, and has that mentality that Boozer lacks, that will allow him to step up & take over games, at points, without Rose. Hope he can stay healthy.

    I also agree with you poolshark52, Thibs wants to build a winning mentality, and I actually agree with that mentality. The Bulls played very well without Rose last year, but last year is over. I think they can play +500 ball until Rose returns, & if that happens and Derrick comes back in December/ January, I will be a happy fan.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Agree nothing is worse than mishandled balls!

    I think Taj snaps out of it but that said I hope they keep his extension to 4 years or under as he is 28 and heavily dependent on his athleticism. Just me but don't want to add another bad contract on to the heap of Paxsons bad contracts. I don't see Taj being that great at 32-33.

    Not that they seem to think about over 30 being a negative.

  • Looks like with Jo, Taj, Lu, Hamilton etc. healthy right now the tank talk is over as the team looks viable for the playoffs. And of course the "return" of Derrick.

    And, by the time the depleting injuries occur, the Bulls will have won enough games to still make the 7-8th seed, or very low post lotto at 15th pick or so.

    I understand wanting to watch an entertaining team rather then throwing a year away with boredom of a collapsed season, but Jabari Parker(he is entering college this year right or is he a junior?) and Shabazz Muhammed sounds like one of the more enticing "sure fire" star drafts at the top. Of course we know Thibs and the Bulls will never go San Antonio/Miami with the 'pragmatic' move to roll the dice on another franchise player. I've just been reading more and more NBA guys say Parker is going to be amazing if not LeBron then the next best thing. No matter - not happening!!

  • It's really not that bad, but IMO Gibson and Boozer both look depressed and out of place. With Taj you still see the will to get his act together but Boozer is just lost. I'd really loved to see Taj starting and Boozer coming of the bench. Sell Boozer on a 6th man role b/c we need some offense of the bench and let Taj regain his confidence as a starter.

    Taj needs that IMO and since Jo got a lot better on offense, we could take that risk. I'd love to see Thibs try that out. And if it doesn't work try something else. The Noah/Boozer frontcourt is not working. And before I trade Boozer somewhere else or amnesty him, I would like to see how he works from the bench. He could go up against lesser opponents, that could be the perfect fit for him. Try it out for a few games.

  • In reply to rodman:

    YES

  • Sorry for the off-topic, but it's been confirmed that the Lakers are also going for 2014 cap space. All the more reason to abandon this stupid plan (if, in fact, that IS the plan) and just go the trade route.

    Because, unlike the Bulls, it won't really cost the Lakers much of anything to do it, since many of their contracts expire at that time anyways, and most of those expirings are of older players who they'll probably not have much interest in bringing back anyways.

    But the Bulls would have to lose TWO big contracts to even have max cap space. That means TWO players who (unlike the Lakers) won't be old types who they probably wouldn't miss, but younger (relative to L.A.'s guys), key contributors to this team.

    And that's without even mentioning the fact that you'd be going head-to-head with a team that's known for making clear financial commitments to winning.

    And THEN there's Mirotic, who you also need to put aside enough money for so you can bring him over.

    The cap space plan sucks big fat hairy ass. Go the trade route.

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