The Chicago Bulls, as expected, dispatched the Sacramento Kings in their season opener at the United Center on Halloween. Bulls fans scored a Halloween treat as well when Taj Gibson accepted the Bulls final offer after the game agreeing to a four year extension starting at just over eight million per year with incentives that could push it to nine and a half million per year.
K.C. Johnson with the details on the extension:
Gibson said the extension, which runs through the 2016-17 season, is for four years and $38 million. But two sources said numerous incentives would need to be reached for the package to hit that number. The base pay averages just over $8 million annually, sources said.
"Pax and Gar stressed they wanted me here a long time," Gibson said. "It dawned on me I didn't want to be a selfish player. I wanted to get what's fair. It's a lot of money. I can't really turn it down, especially for the security. You never know what can happen during the year. At any given moment, I could pull a groin or hurt my knee."
I was hoping the Bulls could sign Gibson for around eight million per season, and they may have done just that. We don't yet know what incentives are involved in the contract and whether they are likely or unlikely. Since Gibson said the deal was for 38, it would seem they're more likely than unlikely, but details may emerge later.
Either way, 10 million per season was the maximum I could see the Bulls going for Taj on an extension because the risk/reward of waiting would shift too much if they went above that mark. I do think Taj would make more money as a restricted free agent if he stays healthy and has a solid year, but the extra amount more wouldn't be significant and an injury could tank his value too.
No reason to pay next year's rate [probably around 11-12 million per season] a year in advance with the risk involved. Since the most Taj will earn is 9.5 per season, I'd say the Bulls did a nice job of crafting a good deal.
It's a solid deal for Taj as well. While he may have left 10-15% on the table, he gets to stay with a team he wants to be with and no longer has to worry about what happens if he gets hurt. When faced with taking 32-38 million now or the possibility of 44 million next year but also the possibility of 0-20 million next year, I'd also fold every time and take the guaranteed money. The extra just doesn't mean so much to quality of life relative to the risk.
Bulls won by outworking the Kings
While the Chicago Bulls won their opener, there are probably more negatives than positives that came out of the game. The Kings, not expected to be any good, hung with the Bulls fairly easily, and Chicago benefited all night long by getting the majority of the questionable calls.
Chicago frequently looked sluggish in the half court, and struggled to defend Tyreke Evans, unable to contain his athleticism for much of the game. The Kings were disjointed, unorganized, and didn't play team basketball on either end of the floor, but managed to still sit there at the end of the game with a chance to win.
The Bulls used far too many possessions in the inefficient zone, shooting the majority of their shots as mid range jumpers and tough turn around fadeaways in the post. They had few open threes and few attacks at the rim. Their style of play is indicative of what looks to be a poor offense until Derrick Rose returns.
Kirk Hinrich did a solid job running the offense and working the system, but it's clear he can't create anything for himself or others, nor could anyone else on the team.
Joakim Noah looks like he wants to make his first all-star team
Joakim played amazing basketball for much of the night. He finished with 23 points, 10 boards, 3 assists, 5 steals, and 3 blocks. That's filling up the box score. Noah hit most of his field goals on put backs, and open dunks while doing most of his damage from the foul line, knocking down 11 of 12 free throws.
DeMarcus Cousins scored efficiently in terms of field goal percentage (7/14), but Noah forced numerous turnovers to make the Kings offense sputter when going through Cousins.
One of the most surprising aspects of Noah's night was the 40 minutes played. I don't recall Noah playing that many minutes frequently, especially given that Mohammed had a very strong preseason and didn't come into the game and completely screw things up or destroy the team. I don't expect that trend to continue.
Scapegoats play well
Carlos Boozer and Rip Hamilton have been ripped on by Bulls fans for most of the off-season. Boozer's been taking a ton of heat ever since signing his contract while Hamilton was expected to come in and at least give the Bulls something at SG while delivering nothing. Both players kicked off the season with a strong first game.
Hamilton knocked down numerous mid range jumpers and made good decisions on the night. He also gave the Bulls 31 minutes without coming up injured, so we can be happy for his start.
Carlos Boozer chipped in 18/8 and managed not to tank the team defensively which was a plus. He scored the first couple of baskets for the Bulls and hit numerous shots when the Bulls needed some points. It does show how far expectations have fallen for Carlos when 18/8 is considered a great game for him while just two seasons ago it was his average.
Luol Deng came up big outside of the scoring
Luol Deng didn't have it going on offense. He shot just 3/13 from the field, but as the game wound to a close he grabbed numerous offensive rebounds and had a big save of a ball that was flying out of bounds to give the Bulls extra possessions to run out the clock.
Deng's found ways to contribute in games where he can't score, but that said, the Bulls need more scoring than seven points in 41 minutes, and he'll need to knock down some of the open threes he missed in this game.
That said, he made key plays at the end of the game when the Bulls needed it, so while there's some concern about what he's able to do overall, he's still making big contributions.
Kirk Hinrich's shooting needs to get better
Yes, Thibodeau gushed praise on Hinrich for running the offense well and playing defense, but much like Deng, he needs to hit shots too. The Bulls need more offense than the three points in 31 minutes Kirk provided out of their starting PG. It was exciting to see Kirk Hinrich throw a couple lobs early in the game even if they didn't work out. The Bulls need to run some more plays in that direction at times.
We also saw Kirk spend a decent amount of time playing SG with Nate Robinson playing PG alongside him. That likely wasn't an expected look prior to preseason but after Belinelli struggled so much in preseason Robinson earned a greater share of minutes and pushed the Bulls into considering this look more frequently.
Belinelli did his job in short minutes
After a horrendous preseason, Beli didn't get much of a look in game one, but he did score six in 11 minutes and knocked down his first three, a contested shot out of the corner after Nate Robinson delivered a bounce pass a bit too low.
It was just one play, but it's the play they need from Belinelli, so it's a good sign of things to come.
Taj Gibson played some D but not much else
Gibson's a great shot blocker and a decent rebounder, but he didn't get much done on offense, and I wonder if seeing 20 minutes of fairly pedestrian action caused him to rethink this whole extension thing. If he's getting 20 minutes a night and averages 6-7 points and 5-6 boards a game he has to wonder how much extra money is really going to be out there.
All in all, it's about what we expected
The Bulls outworked their opponent. They struggled to find efficient shots in the half court. They played defense and rebounded. Until Rose returns, expect plenty more of that. Some nights it will be enough, some nights it won't. For now, the Bulls are 1-0 though, and one game into the season that's as good as it can get.