Chicago Bulls are who we thought they were, fall to Portland

Chicago Bulls are who we thought they were, fall to Portland

The Chicago Bulls sit with a 5-5 record, and all things considering, it could be much worse. However, the 5-5 record also would make the Bulls look like a middle of the pack team, and they aren't.

Their best win? They've defeated the 5-4 Timberwolves, a team also playing above its record without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. They've also defeated teams with records of (2-8, 3-6, 4-7, and 2-8). They've lost to two great teams (Clippers, Thunder), but have also lost to Boston (6-5), New Orleans without Anthony Davis (3-5), and now Portland (5-5).

The Bulls are, so far, beating the dregs of the league and losing to the upper and middle class. That's not going to cut it.

Joakim Noah came to play last night

Noah had 16 points, 15 boards, and eight assists falling just two assists shy of his second career triple double. The nice thing about Noah's night is that he repeatedly scored by taking his man off the dribble and banging in the post. Noah continued his trend as offense creator rather than simple garbage time scorer.

He played 41 minutes and looked a bit gassed by the end of the game, but he was one of the few bright spots for Chicago all night long.

Luol Deng was mostly fine

He shot 50% from the field, scored 14 points, had plenty of boards, but the Bulls probably needed more volume scoring out of him than just the 14 points. Nicholas Batum also racked up 21 points on 5/10 from the three point line getting plenty of open looks, some of which due to the fact that Deng wasn't hustling back on defense, a trend which many Bulls seemed to share last night.

Moreover, the defense failed Chicago as the Bulls shot nearly 50% from the field.

Did we overrate Taj?

After signing his contract Taj Gibson has played abysmally on offense this season. He turns the ball over at a high rate while probably deserving to get whistled for twice as many travels as they actually call. His defense was very good earlier against the scrub teams, but he's struggled to make a defensive impact against better competition.

I'm still glad the Bulls locked up Taj, but he needs to get his head back in the game, find his jumper, and play with more consistency.

You ever see Rudy?

"You just summed up your entire sorry career here in one sentence! If you had a tenth of the heart of Ruettiger, you'd have made All-American by now! As it is, you just went from third team to the prep team! Get out of here! "

That's how I felt about Carlos Boozer when he was back on defense three feet from the basket on a fast break [miracle he was back at all you say?] then a Blazer just came swooping in from the baseline and dunked the ball. Boozer was watching him the entire way but never made a move to contest the shot. Just sat there and watched as a play went from near the three point line to a dunk without taking one step to get in front of him.

Awesome.

Kirk Hinrich shot 33% from the field and raised his FG%

Yes, it's that bad. He's not stopping anyone on defense either, so let's not pretend he's making it up on that end of the court. The one thing I'll say about Hinrich is that he's transformed into a pretty good playmaker, the rest of the guys run the offense smoothly while he's on the court, but man he needs to find his shot.

So why was Rip Hamilton out?

Hamilton had a strong offensive night scoring 15 on 7/10 shooting, but unusual for Thibs, he didn't keep the hot hand in the game down the stretch. Now generally speaking, I'm not going to complain about Rip riding the bench. He belongs there more games than not, but last night you keep Vlad in because he's part of the unit leading the comeback and tonight you don't keep Hamilton in despite being perhaps your teams most effective scorer?

If you have a general philosophy of riding the hot hand, but you want to use some exceptions then I totally get it. How is Vladimir Radmanovic worthy of one while you make one to go against Rip Hamilton? Just kind of odd.

The Bulls need to find some three point shooting

Marco Belinelli was wide open. He had time. He wasn't contest. He set his feet. He fired. He missed. This is the shot Kyle Korver knocks down 9/10 times while Marco knocks it down maybe 5/10. That difference in three point shooting is killing the Bulls who struggle to get anything done from beyond the arc.

Belinelli's percentage (39.1%) isn't too bad, but what is missed out on this is that he's taking far easier threes than Korver would take. He's not drawing the defense the way Korver would, and he's still hitting a lower percentage. Granted, Korver's a top 2-3 three point shooter in the NBA, so it's unfair to compare Belinelli to that role. He came in at least than half the salary, and he's doing the best he can.

That said, the replacement is really hurting Chicago, especially given how strong a season Noah's having down low, if they had Korver on the wing instead the Bulls would be much more dangerous offensively.

Nate Robinson still one of the pleasant surprises

Sometimes he overdribbles, sometimes he plays too much heroball, but overall, he's been effective for Chicago. He's typically playing in units where there's no one to pass to and has to take quite a few shots himself. I'm sure he's fine with that. To Nate's credit, he's generally done an excellent job of creating offense for himself with a weak offensive cast around him.

He was 5/10 last night for 18 points and brought the Bulls back within fighting distance at the very end though his effort was ultimately too little too late.

Besides being generally effective, Robinson and Noah might be the only two fun players on the team to watch (maybe I'll give you Jimmy Butler and Taj on a good night).

Nazr Mohammed used up all his juice in preseason

I was so pleasantly surprised watching Nazr in preseason. I thought this guy's going to help us more than Asik. Well that thought ended real fast once the games that counted came. He's been completely abysmal so far. Hopefully he can find some of that magic that allowed him to actually score down low or play a reasonable facsimile of defense, because it's been a train wreck so far.

More middle class teams coming

The next three games the Bulls will go @Houston, @Milwaukee, and Milwaukee. While Milwaukee presently has a good record, it's hard to take that record too seriously at this point. These are the types of games Chicago needs to prove they can win. 3-0 will restore my faith in the team, 2-1 will be a good mark, 1-2 will be disappointing, 0-3 and some vents of epic proportion are coming.

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  • There's a reason why Mohammed, Belinelli, and Radmanovic are minimum salaried players. They're not very good. Nate Robinson was the only upgrade on their bench. Even when Rose comes back, the Bulls will really feel the losses of Asik, Korver, and Brewer at playoff time. When your owner prioritizes profits over winning, it shows up on the court. Looking on the bright side, at least Jeffrey Loria doesn't own the Bulls.

  • In reply to RichG:

    Good post, I completely agree. Thibs also can't seem to find a regular rotation because it's too difficult to gauge what you're going to get from this bench. After this season, I think they should only keep Nate, and start over with the other spots.

  • In reply to RichG:

    Hard to argue with that.

  • Doug, I've noticed that Boozer chews gum during games. Do you think this might affect his concentration or focus? Chewing gum makes you look stupid and disinterested ( you'd never chew gum on a job interview) but do you think it can actually affect someone's game?

  • In reply to Bullsfan:

    I don't think it affects his game. I think he'd be equally bad if he didn't chew gum.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    It's been proven that chewing gum limits your explosiveness and jumping ability. In addition, the jaw pain gets so excruciating that the chewer has to scream out in pain every so often, usually when attempting a shot or grabbing a routine rebound. At least thats the effect it has on Boozer.

  • MJ, Kobe, Ray Allen, Steph Curry, Blake Griffin, DWade...all guilty of gum chewing during games.

    OK

  • In reply to JPesos1230:

    Gum chew or no gum chew, this years Bulls team...A JOKE!!! The FO disassembles the bench bringing in these worthless laughing stock players for what???... NOTHING!!! This year is a wash. Nate Robinson is the only bright spot and he will more than likely be gone at seasons end. With probably no deals coming this year, the only bright spot is when and if Rose returns this year, other than that complete B.S.

  • Boozer plays help defense like he is suffering from PTSD. Earlier in his career, did he get dunked on so hard that he suffered a brain injury? He freezes every time he sees somebody coming to the rim when he should be stepping up. It's like Boozer thinks he has five fouls from the opening tip...

  • Here's A line from a draft perspective of Boozer, not much has changed, so lets move on:

    "Struggles on defense as his lateral quickness is okay but it should be worked on as it makes him late on plays sometimes forcing him into fouling …"

    You can read the whole thing here:

    http://thedraftreview.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=752&Itemid=1

  • Great post. Let's do quick assessment: We were right about Nate Rob being a good upgrade from JL III and he's also better the CJ, who's not doing too well in Brooklyn. And we were right about Butler replacing Brewer, yet having more offensive potential.

    But we were dead wrong about Bellini possibly being better than Korver. Korver is an elite shooter in a league that has precious few of them and, because he worked his butt off for Thibs, he was even a better defender than Bellini. It's early, so Marco can improve ... but he just doesn't appear to have the confidence.

    Also, we were dead wrong about Taj being the more important out of Taj and Asik, who's killing it in Rocket-land. I've always loved the Turkish big guy and loved how he single-handedly controlled the paint whenever he played, but he's also added some offense and somehow is even hitting FTs ... the Bulls made a huge blunder not keeping him, as Noah could slide to PF and they would have scared the crap out of teams. Oh well ...

  • In reply to Curious E:

    I'll still take Taj over Asik I think. I wish the Bulls had kept Asik as I think we only saved money and no real flexibility on the deal.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    When in doubt, you go with the guy who is over 7', not the guy who is under 6'8".

    As I said before he left, and as it has become clear since he did, the Bulls are a small team without Asik, we are not rebounding like we used to, and our defense is not nearly as consistently stifling as it was.

    Just as I predicted, the general consensus on Taj would change as soon as he signed his new deal, he may not be Bozo overpaid, but he is overpaid, or will be for the next 4 years.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I'm not really in doubt. Asik was an awful offensive player, like bottom of the league bad.

    Taj is still playing really hard, I don't think he's changed. If anything he's pressing too hard on offense IMO.

  • I really think Vlad Rad playing the other night was simply Thibs mailing it in considering it was the front end of a back-to-back situation. I don't think our mini-comback necessitated that we go all out and put the starters back in the game. It was clear that the only reason we made our comeback against the Clips was because we were playing their end of bench guys. We were at their mercy the moment Vinny put some starters back in, regardless of whether or not we put our own starters back in.

    What I'm starting to wonder is just how reliable Noah is as an anchor on defense. Sure, he's putting out stats and playing his heart out, but there are times when his lack of length and vertical leap make us relatively soft inside when the opponent gets a head of steam and penetrates. Theoretically, we shouldn't be that much worse defensively, but the lack of Omer and the lack of reliable offense which lead to turnovers are killing us right now.

  • In reply to HINrichPolice:

    Noah doesn't have much length, but he has an elite vertical for a center. I want to say he tested out as a 37.5 inch vertical leap?

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I'm sure you've seen him look pathetic on alley-oop attempts. Yeah, maybe his short wingspan is the reason why he's never been an alley-oop threat, but I think Noah's forte (as far as jumping is concerned) is his ability to jump quickly on a 2nd and 3rd jump, but not necessarily having a high max vertical for a jump.

  • In reply to HINrichPolice:

    SOCALLED Bulls fans are amazing. Just imagine, on a night when Joakim Noah almost achieved his second triple double as a Bull, a clown like you are trying your best to find something negative to say about his play as "an anchor on defense." The rest of the basketball world is raving about a brilliant performance which could ensure him a place in the upcoming All-Star Game, a CLOWN like you decides to focus, and try to put him down with lines like "THERE ARE TIMES WHEN HIS LACK OF LENGTH AND VERTICAL LEAP MAKE US RELATIVELY SOFT INSIDE."
    You, sir, are typical of so-called Bulls fans who have an agenda and will tear Noah down to achieve your ends. The truth is, Omer Asik is not coming back. HE'S GONE TO HOUSTON AND NOT BE COMING BACK! People like you, HINrichPolice, are a cancer, and deserve to be incarcerated.

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    Luckily, I'm mature enough to attribute your response as being a frustrated Bulls fan. Trust me, I'm frustrated too.

  • In reply to HINrichPolice:

    Your response gives me an insight into your personality, and I can tell you're a quality person.
    First of all let me apologize, profusely, for the reckless use of that HATED WORD which you called me out on.
    Anyone who knows me really well knows that I'm passionate in whatever pursuits I'm involved, but the warmest of persons you could ever know. That warmth I got from my mother who is no longer with us, and the recklessness and venom, I guess, I drew from my father who's still alive. GO BULLS!

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    To respond in more detail, I bet you anything Joakim is the first person to disregard his own stats when it's done in a loss. Achievements like getting a triple double don't mean anything to Joakim. He's all about winning.

    Secondly, one almost triple double game is far from "ensuring" a place in the All-Star game.

    Thirdly, you wouldn't be totally wrong in calling me a clown. I actually do often wear facepaint when attending Bulls games. :)

    Fourth, I'm not putting him down but saying how "there are times when" his limitations have made us soft inside. There are several reasons why our defense isn't good this year, and in my opinion, this is one of them. Having said that, this isn't anything new, it's just that we don't have Omer anymore to give us a different look on D. Also, it doesn't help when Boozer is his fellow interior defense counterpart.

    Fifth, I don't have a typical agenda. And I don't try to tear Noah down. In fact, I tweeted him the other day thanking him for improving his game this year and trying to hold down the fort before Rose returns.

    Sixth, I don't take the cancer word lightly. However, I did get the giggles after you told me I deserve to be "incarcerated".

    Lastly, I see that you're a passionate Bulls fan. So am I. Here's hoping we can turn things around!

  • It's usually the second quarter when the Bulls lose control of the game and the opposing team gets a big lead. Thibodeau has to stop being stubborn and realize that Nazr and Belinelli are not producing. Taj has been off to a slow start but he should get all of or most of Nazr's minutes. We were hearing he would get nearly 30 minutes a night and he's getting 20 minutes a night. Belinelli's minutes should be reduced with more minutes for Rip who gives them scoring. Get rid of Nazr and use him only as a deep emergency reserve, get Taj going with more minutes and use Rip more. I just don't get how Hinrich and Deng can lose their touch on shooting 3s? Deng looked pretty good shooting 3s the last few years, his shot has gone missing in action and hinrich has been a 35% 3point shooter for his career? To me thats a major element missing in the Bulls offense. You just can't rely on Noah and Rip's midrange all game long. I also like them to get Butler more involved offensively, he has some good post moves and they need to make him more aggressive in the cutting game where his ability to draw contact can really help.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    While Rip has been decent on offense, he is the mini Boozer on defense, and Thibs has certainly figured that out. That is why he removed Bozo and Rip(for Taj and Butler) in the late 3rd quarter and for most of the 4rth. It worked for a while as the Bulls forged at tie, but that while that unit is our best defensive unit, they struggle to find consistent offense, especially on a night when Deng was in his casper the ghost mode.

    Maybe, when Rose returns, we will be able to win games with a closing lineup of Rose, Butler, Deng, Gibson and Noah. Even then, we will need good Deng, not ghostly Deng. Last year, Korver was playing a lot of those minutes, so was Asik.

  • "I was so pleasantly surprised watching Nazr in preseason. I thought this guy's going to help us more than Asik."

    C'mon Doug, really?

  • In reply to bullsblogger:

    Haha, yeah, bad sentence, not really.

  • You guys are funny. It seems like, it's only now you notice that Taj Gibson is way overpaid !
    The guy can't bury a wide open shot. He has always sucked on offense. He can only score by either a putback a wide open dunk.
    You've waited until he gets overrpaid to notice that he is terrible on offense ?!! wtf !

    Yes Boozer sucks badly, but to amnesty him for Gibson is simply stupid. We complain about boozer because he doesn't worth his contract. Still he is a way better player on offense than Gibson. The best Gibson can do playing 35 min, is 12 ppg whereas Boozer brings 18ppg (even if he fails in playoffs). Yeah I'm for amnestying Boozer, but I don't want Gibson to take his place.

    Giving Gibson a 10 million per year contract, is just another dumb move GarPax have done.

  • What, you just noticed that Bozo is a spectator on defense, he was in full escort mode last night, in addition to being completely useless on offense(4points) too.

    Last night he was so bad that I felt like jumping through my TV screen and doing a double Tanya Harding on both his knees. Can't somebody in Chicago take care of that. This guy does not deserve to be allowed the opportunity to steal $15 million a year from the team or the people of Chicago. Anything that gets him off my TV screen is good with me.

    By the way, I totally agree with you about Nate and Noah being the only 2 guys that are enjoyable to watch, with micro cameos by Taj and Butler.

  • Thats another reason why I want the Bulls to pick up JaJuan Johnson who is a much better shooter and scorer compared to Gibson, he can be a cheaper alternative if he pans out and the Bulls could explore trade scenarios with Gibson for a scoring wing. The Bulls screwed up on the opportunity to pick up Etwaun Moore who is a very good 3point shooter and will give you 10points a game easily. I just hope some common sense rains in the minds of Garpax but they seem to be stuck in a time warp, only remembering past glorious players like a Janner Pargo. The Twilight Zone continues when it comes to the moves of our front office.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    JaJuan Johnson's not a "much better" scorer than Gibson and isn't in the same stratosphere defensively.

    Moore was a guy I kind of liked too, but we choose Nate Robinson ahead of Moore, and Robinson's been pretty good, so no complaints there.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    he's not as good defensively but he definitely has a better jumpshot. Johnson was the big ten defensive player of the year and he loves to D up, great character guy too. I say the Bulls give him a chance to replace Nazr Mohammed in the rotation.......Nazr is just no helping us at all. We badly need frontcourt depth and if you think we're in trouble now, just imagine an injury to Noah or Gibson.

  • The Bulls off season was very well covered on this site. Even the cut costs priority wasn't handled as effectively as it could have been. It sure seems that draft picks would have been preferable to an under preforming team of average veterans. Now that Thibs has his contract, he should be complicit in tanking the season.

  • Where is Mr. Happy when you need him? I need to be told to wake up, because this season is quickly taking a turn for the worst.

  • In reply to KingOfCrumbs:

    Nick Young, Sam Young, and Derek Byars would save us!

  • I've enjoyed watching Nate play this season as I knew I would. It's nice to watch Joakim get some more touches on offense and actually deliver on them. That said, this team is significantly worse than last year's. People thought the Bulls could at least make the second round last playoffs. They were up one game on Philly from the game DRose played in and then they lost the series in an upset in six. The year before that the Bulls with a healthy DRose got crushed in the ECF. Even with a healthy Rose, and I so hope he will be, this team is not going to be a championship contender. They're just not going to get out of the East as constructed. Letting Asik go, giving Taj big bucks, breaking up the rest of the bench etc. doesn't bring them any closer.

  • I am not so sure they are better than a solid middle of the pack team. Minus Rose these guys are nothing special. They gave away all the specialness of the team this off season in losing their size and rim protector and their shooters to go "cheap." This is who they are a team that sucks on offense and plays scrappy sure they could win that way as bulls teams pre Rose did but it only happens if they play above their skill levels as a team. To many new pieces for it to click early I say they hover slightly above the .500 mark for the foreseeable future.

    Just hope Paxson finally has to answer for what was an obvious failed off season as many here have been saying for months. At this rate Rose is good as gone before his contract ends. Why wait around while a pathetic GM continues to rehash old draft picks bypassing promising prospects? Jerry Reinsdorf is an idiot if he doesn't send these two buffoons in the Front Office packing. There is no plan, no vision for the future outside of some idiotic plan to have Kirk Hinrich who can't shoot or defend be your starting SG. Barf. Street bums could manage this team better than GarPax. Combined they have the IQ of Morris Claiborne.

  • In reply to Chad:

    Chad, by now Reinsdorf has a large portrait of you in his office so that when he wants a good laugh he looks at it. Some of your so-called friends were kind enough to point you out to the big boss. He wanted to know what this big lunatic (You Chad) that exorcises himself on a Bulls blog looks like. I understand he wasn't disappointed, because you looked like, NOTHING!
    It's sad, but that's what the Chicago Bulls have come to, taking abuse from lunatics, obvious lunatics who are passing themselves off as Chicago Bulls fans

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    Sorry if I interrupted one of your Noah wet dreams again. I admit it is wierd to be called a lunatic by you but then again who would know better am I right?

    What you think this team is a contender? For what most average team award? Or least productive offseason award winners? I say they are a lock for the latter.

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