Our first glance of Bulls basketball brought plenty of highs and lows along with a win. The good news is that the starters played well. The bad news is the bench was horrific.
For Kirk Hinrich it was the good ole days
He started off early by bricking an open three and giving up an and one on a layup he was way too late to contest but tried to get to the spot anyway while then not stopping the shooter. I let out a groan at both plays.
Right before halftime, while the Bulls were in the penalty, he decided it'd be a great time try and pick up a backcourt charge only to get called for the block and give Memphis a couple free throws. On the night, he was 1-4.
So why am I smiling about Kirk Hinrich's performance? He also brought so many things the Bulls needed. To the extent anyone cares about a preseason win, Kirk Hinrich won this game for Chicago. He had forced turnovers on consecutive Memphis possessions that led to fast break baskets and swung the momentum so strongly that Memphis could never get it back.
He played great defense all night long and for those, like me, who were scared that he may have lost a step defensively can breath out a sign of relief. While C.J. Watson could probably break down the defense and generate his own shot better, Kirk reminded us that good decision making is just as [if not more] important as the ability to break down the defense. His seven assist to one turnover were a breath of fresh air as the Bulls looked like they were actually running an offense.
The best part of it was that this wasn't Kirk's best, but it was still a great game for him in how he impacted the game between the numbers.
Luol played outstanding but left me nervous
Luol Deng had a great night overall. Great defense, great scoring, good shooting. He did everything Luol Deng is expected to do well. Given how well he played, I probably am ridiculous for even mentioning it, but one play really scared me.
In the first quarter Deng was driving down the right baseline towards the hoop. He goes up from 5-6 feet off the basket with a defender on his right, sticks the ball in his right hand and misses the layup as the defender hacks his arm. He draws the foul and goes to the free throw line.
If he put the ball in his left hand (the natural decision since there is no defender on his left and his body would have shielded the arm away) then he has an easy and 1 after drawing the contact and having to hit a two foot lefty scoop shot.
Maybe Luol Deng would never use his left in this situation. Maybe he's always been a completely one handed player, and I'm just noticing it now because there's a reason to see if he's using his left. Maybe it has nothing to do with the wrist at all, or maybe the Bulls are going to be in trouble there.
Let's just hope it's not a trend
Carlos Boozer was a train wreck on offense. He took terrible shot after terrible shot and didn't hit any of them. He had a couple of nifty layups by going quick and hard at the basket but spent much of the night shooting difficult heavily contested fadeaways. We already know if his offense isn't there then there's not much to hope for, but those thinking we should run anything through Carlos got a reality check.
Should I have felt good about Rip Hamilton's game?
Looking at the box score I feel that I should. Actually watching it, I felt that I shouldn't. I don't know how to reconcile that just yet. He felt a little out of control in the game. He seemed to miss all of his non bunny shots, but then he was still 6/10 from the field, so if he generated six bunnies that's pretty darn good.
Strong game for Joakim
Joakim was questionable for the game after returning from his grandmother's funeral. Maybe the game was an outlet to escape his sadness, maybe he was just on, but Joakim played a beautiful game.
He finished well around the hoop, including a couple of very tough high speed layups, one going high off the glass and one while getting hacked on the arm. He made a great decision on a three on one fast break when receiving a terrible lob pass and redirected the ball to Hamilton before falling out of bounds.
He rebounded well, defended well, and overall gave the Bulls classic Noah which is always good enough for me.
Nate Robinson gave the Bulls much more than his statline
Nate Robinson finished with 0 assists and three turnovers, but he played much better than that. It's hard for a guy with zero assists to impress you with his court vision, but Nate made a number of nifty passes and good decisions with the ball in his hands.
Of the bench mob players, he impressed me the most outside of Nazr Mohammed. His numbers were deflated largely because no one else on the bench mob could hit a shot, but he looked quick, decisive, and largely unselfish.
It's just one game, but I'm pretty excited about what I saw.
Marco Belinelli flat out struggled
So I've been saying that skillwise Belinelli brings many things the Bulls need. I saw him do an effortless 360 dunk in warmups and thought wow, we're really gaining some athleticism here.
However, the question has been whether those skills would make up for Korver's extremely high basketball IQ and elite niche skill.
Kyle Korver didn't attempt to do things that he coudln't do. He only took good shots. He played with very high efficiency because of it.
Belinelli attempts many things he can't do, takes all kinds of bad shots, and sometimes gives something breathtaking and sometimes gives last night.
Marco's one make was a tough driving pull up jumper that made me feel he could be a dangerous shot maker, but his six misses showed why you don't want him taking that shot at all as several were similarly difficult shots.
I feel confident he'll play better than he did last night, but it wasn't the greatest debut for Belinelli who shot just 1-7 from the field.
Taj better hope the Bulls aren't looking at these games while negotiating
Did Omer Asik leave a pair of stone hands gloves for Taj as a going away present? Gibson had probably three shots right around the hoop that a clean catch combined with going up immediately would have led to an easy hoop.
Instead he repeatedly bobbled the ball, took too long to gather himself, and missed the shot. Gibson did make it to the free throw line a number of times, rebounded the ball, and played with high energy.
However, we also saw the lack of offensive polish that stops him from becoming a top big man in the NBA.
This is why I've been cautious on Jimmy Butler
I seem to have been ripped on mercilessly for suggesting that Ronnie Brewer was a better shooter than Jimmy Butler. Well, let's hope I'm wrong, but this game sure didn't give any evidence of it.
Jimmy played with tremendous energy. He brought the high motor to the court. He looked jacked up to play the game. However, on offense he couldn't get anything going at all.
He shot just 1/11 from the field, 0/2 from the free throw line, and what's worse, his misses were largely not even close. His fading confidence was palpable.
Nazr Mohammed's doing a nice job of making us forget Asik
Nazr Mohammed didn't bring what Asik brought on defense. There were three or four shots Asik would have blocked or altered that Nazr couldn't get to.
However, he did bring so much of what Asik has thusfar been completely incapable of bringing: offense. Nazr hit the open jumper, knocked down a few post up moves, showed off a hook shot, and generally acquitted himself quite well.
And because he was the guy most Bulls fans felt would have the least impact from the new bench mob, went out and was trivially the best guy off the bench by far. It wasn't even close.
If Nazr could bring anything remotely like this in the regular season then Asik's name won't be brought up again.
Marquis Teague looks like he belongs
Teague had questionable decision making to go along with a couple missed shots. He played just under four minutes, and didn't really do much positive in them.
However, looking beyond that, Teague looked like an NBA player. He used his speed to break down players off the dribble. He found openings. He created seams.
It was obvious that Marquis Teague needs polish, but it was also obvious that if/when he gets it that he'll find a role in this league.
You can't teach athleticism and quickness. Let's hope Teague can learn decision making and scoring.