The Chicago Bulls took down the Knicks last time they played, but that was in Chicago and with Carmelo Anthony sitting on the bench. The rematch comes with a healthy Melo at Madison Square Garden where the Knicks are 11-1 so far this season and shoot a blistering 40.7% from beyond the arc.
Can Chicago stop the Knicks shooting again?
The Knicks shot just 8/23 from beyond the arc in the last meeting. Was it due to the Bulls defense? An off night? Poor spacing without Carmelo? Some combination of the above? Whatever the reason, the Bulls will need a similar effort tonight to stay in the game.
Overall, the Bulls held the Knicks to just 85 points on 37% from the field. With Carmelo back, the Knicks are highly unlikely to shoot that poorly tonight, but keeping any eye on the three point line to keep the three point shots under 40% should still be a goal.
Carmelo presents a difficult challenge for the Bulls on offense, especially given that the Knicks start him at PF. Clearly the Bulls can't afford to put Boozer on Melo. The likely solution is to put Joakim Noah on Carmelo and Carlos Boozer on Tyson Chandler and let the perimeter players defend each other.
Another possible solution is to switch Deng on to Melo and let Boozer "guard" Ronnie Brewer by just giving him mid range shots and looking to stop back door cuts. Chicago could also try something more radical like starting in a zone or man-zone, but the Knicks shooting seems likely to bust up a zone quickly.
The other alternative would be for Chicago to go small to match up against the Knicks and just put Deng at PF. They won't start the game that way, but I'll be surprised if it doesn't end that way. At the end of the game I like Chicago going with whomever is having the better game between Nate/Hinrich at PG, Belinelli, Butler, Deng, and Noah.
Where the Bulls may swing a huge advantage is if the tandem of Boozer and Noah can own the paint. They have a huge strength/size advantage on whomever Carmelo Anthony defends. If the Bulls can take advantage of that and own the glass as well as dominate in terms of inside scoring then they may force the Knicks to adjust instead.
Typically when you have a mismatch of players in terms of size/athleticism, I'll always put my money on the superstar. Thus Carmelo will have an easier time exploiting his mismatch than Boozer/Noah will his, but if the Bulls can swing it in their favor then they can force the Knicks out of their comfort zone and force them to take some of their shooters out of the game to help defend the paint.
This is where Tyson Chandler has been such a revelation for New York. His strong play has allowed them to get away with playing small.
Bulls considering waiving Nate Robinson?
K.C. Johnson wrote earlier that the Bulls would consider waiving Nate Robinson due to his non-guaranteed contract. The thought would be they could save money on the luxury tax by doing this and possibly get under it if they can find another trade to lose Rip Hamilton.
However, waiving Robinson doesn't get the Bulls close to getting under the tax and trading Hamilton and waiving Nate leaves the team considerably weaker even when Derrick Rose is back, plus moving Hamilton for nothing would be enough to get under the tax without having to waive Nate.
If the Bulls did waive him, it would be the ultimate in cheap moves. Others have noted that the Bulls are at the roster minimum now, so waiving Nate wouldn't save them any money anyway, but the league allows you to drop to 12 players for up to two weeks. Combine that with cheap 10 day contracts and string it out over the season and Chicago could come still save the majority of the extra money they'd pay Nate.
Still that extra money like amounts to $1 million total counting the luxury tax penalty. In NBA terms, that's nothing, especially given how much Nate has contributed on the floor. The other thought behind waiving Nate is that it would force Marquis Teague into a role, but that's a dangerous game for several reasons.
If Thibodeau wanted to play Teague or felt it best to play Teague than he'd play Teague. It can't be good for the relationship between management and coaching staff if management is passive aggressively waiving players to force the coach's hand rather than having a conversation with the coach about developing a player they like.
Also, with Rose coming back relatively soon, any developmental minutes for Teague are likely out the window anyway as Hinrich will simply pick up all the slack at back up PG.
The argument could also be made that someone will be unhappy in the locker room once Rose returns as there will be a whole bunch of minutes taken away from existing players somewhere. Waiving one of those guys may help reduce that locker room challenge, but the Bulls are better off having guys adjust to their roles and continue to have more depth than to waive guys out of fear of locker room conflict.
Nate Robinson was brought in on a non guaranteed minimum deal, I think he probably knows the score and won't rock the boat since he may be looking for a similar contract next season with the Bulls or some other team.
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