Up is down? Down is up? Cats and dogs living together? It's the end of days. Derrick Rose's 9.4 PER heading into this game? Yeah, it went down. Luol Deng? He's playing like he wants one more big pay day. The Chicago Bulls edged the Bobcats in a fairly ugly affair.
Now before I panic over Derrick Rose, I'll note that at least two of his three field goals game in the closing minutes of a close game. Rose managed to seal the win with quality play in the past couple minutes, so there was that.
Of Course, had Derrick not had another abysmal night from the field, then he wouldn't have had to come through in the clutch. The Bobcats spent all night out working the Bulls, out hustling them, and generally outplaying them. Chicago was given plenty more benefit of the doubt by the officials and shot the ball well enough from downtown to survive for the win.
Rose had two of his three hoops and an assist to Deng in the closing minutes to seal the victory, but he made it quiet clear that he's still pretty far away. The media at large seems to be looking for nice things to say. Discussing his progress, how he's reading defenses, how he's playing defensively, whatever..
It's a bunch of crap. Derrick Rose is playing like a scrub. The world may not be ending yet, but the Bulls championship hopes are going to go down the toilet quite quickly if things don't turn around. It's great that he had a hot shooting night against Indiana, perfect timing. However, we know that performance isn't sustainable which he proved against the Bobcats.
Derrick Rose doesn't look dangerous out there. He's picking up tons of charges against him because he can't dance around guys in the lane and finish. His mid range jumper has disappeared, his driving game seems far away, and his long range bomb is streaky as always. Derrick Rose just isn't a star player right now. He's not even Nate Robinson circa 2012-13 right now.
Bulls fans have nothing left to do but hope he plays his way through it, because there's no alternative. Right now, it's ugly like the financial crisis. If it continues we're screwed, but there's little we can do but hope for the best.
To counteract that ugliness, I offer Luol Deng
I've been driving the Luol Deng is ridiculously overrated bus for awhile now, but over the past three wins he's helped carry the Bulls. While Derrick Rose came through at the end of the game, Luol Deng came through all game long including knocking down the clutch, pump fake, side step, three pointer with the clock winding down to zero and the Bulls clinging to a one point lead.
Deng effectively sealed the game at the end and was also the primary reason the Bulls weren't losing by double digits. Luol's been abysmal beyond the arc this season [though one of two last night] but even with that included, if we pro-rated out his current level of play it might be his best overall season. Perhaps not as good offensively as his third year, but his overall game is much more complete now.
The new offense is really working for Deng as it provides more driving opportunities off the ball. Deng's seen the benefit in far more shots in the lane and trips to the free throw line. His free throw ratio is the highest its ever been in his career [and 12 more attempts last night didn't hurt his cause either].
Let's cross our fingers on Jimmy Butler
Butler was off to a pretty hot start in this game, but he injured his toe and didn't look comfortable when he returned. Hopefully he didn't break anything and will recover quickly otherwise the Bulls may be missing Jimmy for awhile. Butler was four of six with 14 points in just 22 minutes of action to go along with five boards and a couple of steals.
Butler hasn't put up tons of shots for Chicago, but his foul draw rate is ridiculous which helps the Bulls force opponents into penalty situations as well as adding steady, efficient scoring. Beyond his scoring, we all know what Butler brings to the table defensively, and the Bulls will miss him dearly if he's out.
The Booz cruise is slowing down
Carlos Boozer's still having his best season for the Bulls, but his astronomical numbers kind of dropped to good numbers, and last night he was playing bad. Derrick Rose bad [too soon?]. His last few performances has dropped his percentages down to where they fall for his career.
A cynic might note that his best games haven't exactly come when the Bulls needed them as they've been in blow outs one way or the other [except for Philly which was close, but Boozer's damage all came when it looked like a blowout].
I'm still pretty thrilled with what Boozer's given Chicago, given that he's Carlos Boozer and expectations are low. It hasn't been the smoothest of signings, but look no further than Amare Stoudemire or Joe Johnson to see how bad it could have been. I would have taken David Lee over Carlos Boozer, but I can't honestly tell you the Bulls would be in considerably better shape if they did.
In that sense, while Boozer hasn't performed as well as fans have hoped, he has at least outperformed most of the other guys in the running for the Bulls 2010 money after the big three were gone.
Bulls are suddenly #3 in the East
After all the consternation of a slow start, the Chicago Bulls are back to #3 in the East. They didn't play well last night. They looked unfocused, lazy, and generally out of sorts. Yet they still managed to find a way to win the game and that's what good teams do against bad teams even when they haven't brought their A game.
I'm not disappointed with the Bulls record at 6-3 right now. It might be at the lower end of my expectations, but I wouldn't have picked Chicago to do better than 7-2 at this point, so they're in the ball park. However, the way they've gotten here hasn't been particularly pretty or encouraging.
Perhaps the best news for Chicago is that despite starting off 6-3, it appears they have a ton of room to improve internally and play better. Their superstar still looks awful. Joakim Noah's start to the season might have been a story line if Derrick Rose hadn't trumped it by being even worse, and the Bulter/Deng combo spent some time finding their groove together.
The Bulls are clearly still finding their way in their new offensive system, and yet through whatever problems they have, the team has still managed to rack up five straight wins and make it to 6-3. Not bad.