The Chicago Bulls swore up and down they'd do whatever it takes to keep Omer Asik. They made their 2012 trade deadline decisions envisioning Omer on the roster as they could have traded him away for value but opted to keep him. In the end, they grossly miscalculated the market for Asik which seems foolish in retrospect.
They repeatedly said Omer was a lottery pick talent. They waited years for him to come over. They played him at the end of games. They knew how good he was. He ultimately signed a deal for three years and 24 million dollars. Did they not anticipate an offer of 3/24 for a lottery pick caliber seven footer that they themselves thought was one of the best defenders in the NBA?
It wasn't like someone came in and gave him the max they could. That would have been a 4/40 million dollar offer with an extra two million per year and one more year tacked on. Asik's offer definitely had a poison pill in it, it definitely would have been tough to swallow that final year of his contract, but then that was information they should have processed prior to the trade deadline and moved him then as eight million a year for a quality seven footer isn't a difficult to grasp offer to see coming.
I was torn on whether the Bulls should match Asik, ultimately I thought he was a goner because quite frankly he was worth eight million a year (or more) to the Rockets where he'd start and likely not worth so much to the Bulls where he wouldn't. The whole deal is part of the curse of Carlos Boozer. Would anyone not trade Asik for Boozer straight up right now even if we ignored the salary figures which are heavily weighted in Asik's favor?
Nevertheless, it will be fun watching Joakim and Omer battle it out tonight. Joakim's been on fire on offense while Omer's one of the league's best defensive big men. This is a tough battle for Jo, and I'm interested to see how well he performs particularly on the glass where Omer has a big size advantage.
Stopping James Harden
That's the goal tonight. Stop James Harden. Do that, and you've got a victory. Fail? Who knows. James Harden's averaging 24 points a game while only shooting 42.8% from the field and 28.6% from the three point line. However, he's killing teams with the drive and getting to the free throw line nearly nine times a game.
Despite low shooting percentages, his scoring efficiency is quite high.
The Bulls will need to find a way to slow him down which might be difficult if Rip Hamilton is expected to defend Harden at all. Hamilton's too slow and too weak to stand a chance. The Rockets don't have anyone particularly dangerous playing SF, so the Bulls should consider putting Deng on Harden right away though Harden may have too much athleticism for Deng to handle on the perimeter, my hope is Deng's length will make up for it.
If it's not Deng, then I expect to see some extra minutes for Jimmy Butler and playing a perimeter with Deng and Butler on it to have multiple athletic wing defenders to throw at Harden may be a look the Bulls want to show frequently tonight.
Linsanity has turned into Linsufficient
In a turn of events that surprises pretty much no one, Jeremy Lin has come down to Earth considerably after leading the New York Knicks to a quality record against horrible opponents for a small stretch before getting hurt.
He's putting up Kirk Hinrichesque numbers this year.
Okay, it's not THAT bad for Lin, but it's not good. He hasn't been able to find his shooting touch and has his assist numbers inflated by playing along side an incredibly gifted scoring guard. This is one defensive matchup that Hinrich can probably handle quite well. Lin isn't athletic enough to burn him, and Hinrich is strong enough fundamentally to match up well.
Where's the defense?
Surprisingly, the Bulls offense has played fairly well recently. What they haven't been able to do is stop anyone. The Rockets are molded into the type of team the Bulls are traditionally designed to play well against. Their offense is largely focused through a primary scorer whom they can swarm with help defense.
The Bulls struggle much more against balanced offenses than ones with one elite threat, and Harden, while great, isn't all that elite as far as elite threats go.
I look for the Bulls defense to rebound in this game and hold the Rockets to around 40% from the field to keep Chicago in the game.
Can they stay above .500?
This is their first chance to drop below .500 this season since the opening tip off. This is one of those games where the Bulls should win. The Rockets simply aren't that good, and Chicago should be plenty motivated after dropping a couple games in a row.
If they lose it makes a much bigger statement about the state of the team than if they win. I think they'll pull through.