Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng each dropped 21 while Joakim Noah played his way into his second career triple double as the Bulls front court annihilated the Celtics.
The Boston Celtics were coming off of two days of rest while Chicago was playing on a back to back, but it didn't seem like it last night. The Chicago Bulls won every quarter and held a comfortable lead throughout the majority of the game. Joakim Noah led a clinic of interior passing, as the Bulls had 16 assists from their big men (19 if we add Deng to the equation).
I'm not sure what's happened to the advanced scouts watching the Bulls, but maybe no one else knows Derrick Rose is still out. The Celtics and Grizzlies have both decided to heavily trap Chicago off of the pick and roll which seems like a losing strategy to defend this team. The Bulls are at their best offensively when they can utilize their passing skills to find openings and worst when they have to beat someone one on one.
The frequent double teaming gives Chicago openings in which to utilize their limited offensive strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. Maybe I'm missing something, but I'd only double team off the pick and roll enough to keep the Bulls honest and would never view it as a primary defensive option against a team where no one can beat you one on one. Especially when Kirk Hinrich is in the back-court as he's no threat to drive or shoot.
Six shooters have been put away
Joakim Noah announced that he's shelving his six shooter celebration in support of ending gun violence. While I think many Bulls fans, including myself, loved the celebration, I agree it's time for it to go. I'm not taking a political stand on the right to bear arms vs disarming the nation, but Noah hits the jumper frequently enough that there should no longer be a cause for celebration when it goes in.
It's time to act like he's been there before.
That said, it will be a bit sad when he nails a particularly important jumper late in a game, and we don't see the celebration come out. Knowing Noah, he'll come up with something else clever to replace it though.
Trade winds blowing?
In a story that surprises pretty much no one, The Bulls are reportedly shopping Rip Hamilton while Bulls fans are shopping Kirk Hinrich. Marco Belinelli has played well enough to make Hamilton expendable while the Bulls would love to ditch him for nothing and get under the luxury tax. In order to do that they'll likely have to give up a draft pick.
While I expect this is a fairly likely scenario, I can think of few things less insulting to Bulls fans than this team, which is minting money, trading away a player who can still help them and throwing in a draft pick just to make the team worse but save some money. They'll likely make 50+ million even if they pay the tax.
As for Hinrich, Bulls fans encouraged by Marquis Teague playing well for about 16 minutes are ready to ship off the guard when Derrick Rose returns. Milwaukee had interest in preseason and could now get him on an even cheaper contract than they had offered him this summer with one less guaranteed year and likely less money.
Moving Hinrich might help Chicago more than Hamilton as they'd clear an extra three million off of next year's books and still could avoid the luxury tax this year if they shipped him off without taking salary back. That said, there's virtually no chance whatsoever that Hinrich is traded.
Quite frankly, the Bulls management are too honorable to trade a guy whom they convinced to give up 5 million dollars halfway through his first season to the team that was willing to give him the extra money. The move also seems unlikely to be popular in a locker room that apparently lobbied hard to bring Kirk in. In short, many Bulls fans are ready to let go, but don't count on anyone within the organization feeling the same way.
Want to stump a casual Bulls fan?
Ask them which active Bulls are tied for the lead in triple doubles on the team and see how long it takes them to come up with Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich at two.
It's hard to believe Derrick Rose isn't on the list given that his game seems likely to lead to triple doubles with at least some frequency, but the problem for Rose is that the team has had way too much rebounding during his tenure to ever have much of a shot at 10 while he's not the pass first point guard to regularly log 10 assists either.
If everyone is healthy who's a bigger triple double threat? Noah or Rose?
Thriving not surviving without Derrick?
The Bulls are presently fourth in the Eastern conference without their superstar guard. They aren't dominating opponents, but looking at the long term schedule, this Bulls team looks like it can be sitting at 6 or so games over .500 when Derrick comes back and will be positioned well for a strong playoff run.
The Bulls look destined to lose to the Heat in the playoffs to me, the only question will be whether they're on the opposite side of the bracket to where that happens in the ECF or the second round. The Heat don't take the regular season particularly seriously, so I don't know that they'll make a strong push to get the #1 seed or not.
However, the fact this team looks like it will be in the top half of the bracket come playoff time means Bulls fans should be excited about what they can hope to accomplish this season. It will be tough to take out Miami, but that was going to be true no matter what. If Derrick is healthy, they'll still have that puncher's shot at a title this season which isn't as much as we'd like, but better than 80% of the league.