The Chicago Bulls lost the game, I guess, but Derrick Rose's 30 were about 10x as impressive as Irving's 28 given that he did virtually all of his damage against Kyrie while Irving only lit up Aaron Brooks. LeBron appeared to mostly take the day off, Kevin Love couldn't get going, and the rest of the Bulls stunk in a preseason game which ends up telling us very little.
Pretty sure if LeBron wanted to score 50 with Mike Dunleavy guarding him it wouldn't have been a problem, but instead he mostly gave the ball up and didn't really even attempt to play anywhere near full speed. Whether Love was trying or not was up for debate, but he seemed to get the ball rarely and not do much with it when he did.
For the Cavs the game was about Kyrie Irving lighting up scrubs and Andreson Varejao lighting up everyone. I noted that Varejao's health would be key for them, and this certainly looked like the case last night. Varejao was ultimately 10 of 13 from the field for 22 points and made Pau Gasol look old, warn out, and useless when Gasol attempted to score.
For the Bulls, the lead story, and only good story, was Derrick Rose. This was the biggest "I'm back" moment we've seen from Rose since the ACL. He was playing in hyper drive mode most of the game and one man fast breaked the Cavs to death. He frequently out ran three guys who had a head start to get layups in transition.
He looked explosive, fast, finished strong, knocked down the three, and brought out his A game. The Cavs ended up winning the contest, but the Bulls certainly got that one very important good sign from this game.
Unfortunately, the game lives us with just as many questions.
Let's be honest, Joakim Noah looks like crap
If you're a Bulls fan, Joakim Noah can't help but be one of your favorite players. He's a hilarious individual, hard worker, has an unusual game, plays with intensity, and is one of those "soul of the team" type guys.
You also probably can't help but be a little worried about his play so far. I'm sure he's trying to round into form after a summer spent mostly recovering, but we really haven't seen him play anything close to his ability yet this preseason. For a guy who's nearly six months removed from a procedure that typically has a recovery time measure in weeks, it's pretty startling.
As I noted earlier, I suspect whatever scoping Noah had done to his knee was considerably more significant than the media was led to believe.
Now Noah's historically been a slow starter, and it's most important how he finishes now how he starts, so there's no reason to panic over him yet, but unless he improves his play considerably Chicago isn't going to have that "best front court in the league" people talked about because...
Pau Gasol kind of sucks so far too
I was initially quite against signing Pau Gasol and have since talked myself into it because, well, he's here, might as well hope for the best. I can't complain about his deal at under 7 million per year either. At least, not yet.
Gasol's also a veteran player who may not take preseason with a whole lot of seriousness as well.
So throwing all of those caveats out there, let's be honest, the Bulls aren't getting much offensive production out of this guy. He simply looks old and slow on offense, he's turned the ball over at an alarming rate, and any big we go up against seems to have little problem controlling him.
Hopefully it's simply a matter of adjusting to teammates, finding some rhythm, and getting into regular season form, because if this is what we get in year one then year three won't be pretty.
Rookies continue to struggle
I was in the start Doug McDermott camp for a long time, but I'm finding it harder and harder to back McDermott as the starter. The last few games teams haven't defended him nearly as hard and Doug hasn't done anything to make them pay. They aren't leaving him wide open like Chris Duhon, but the Korver treatment has ended.
He looks like he's getting a little trigger shy to me too. He's passed up some open looks only to move the ball to a worse shooter who doesn't have any more space than he did. The Bulls can't afford for McDermott to get trigger shy out there, neither can Doug if he wants to play.
Shooters have to shoot.
Mirotic isn't playing any better either. His three point shot is still a work in progress. Much like McDermott he struggles with confidence in taking his shot. Particularly at the three point line.
One positive has definitely been his physicality, particularly inside the arc. A couple of years from now it wouldn't surprise me if we saw Mirotic play a stretch five role instead of a stretch four. He definitely has the height to play center and with some NBA strength training could easily have the strength in a couple seasons.
His mentality seems well suited for it as well. That said, it doesn't look like he's ready to make a big contribution out of the gates, and that, along with stiff competition for minutes, will likely limit his opportunities (and growth), meaning the Bulls probably won't see all that much from him this season.
McDermott will certainly have more chances because Tony Snell sure as hell isn't going to push him out of the rotation.
Tony Snell can't shoot or defend
He's a three and D guy without the three or the D. That means he's likely out of the L soon. I wasn't overly excited about Snell coming into this season, wasn't pumped up by his summer league performance, and nothing he's done in preseason has helped improve my opinion either.
Now maybe Snell will still put it all together. It's easy to keep thinking that, in theory, he has all the tools. However, in three years of college ball he wasn't able to put them together to become a great player at that level which is a lot of college ball for a guy to play, be pedestrian, and still become a quality player in the NBA.
Quite simply put, I'm not hopeful. That may not be fair to Snell. McDermott and Mirotic are struggling right now too, and Snell's actually younger than both. I will hope that I'm wrong, because the Bulls could use a guy who does what we want Tony Snell to do.
I just don't see it happening.
Did Stacy King really just say Aaron Brooks was better than Robinson and Augustin?
I can't remember the real quote, but it went something like "He's not Nate Robinson or D.J. Augustin, he's a true point guard" (followed by something about scoring better I think). It was one of two quotes that made me want to spit out my drink (the other one was one Neil Funk called it a "neutral court".
Look, I loved the Aaron Brooks signing, and even though he's been scary bad in preseason, I'm still pretty happy with the signing. Let's not delude ourselves though. Of those three players, Augustin is the only one who's a real PG and can run an offense.
Of those three, Brooks is trivially the worst shooter of the group as well.
Maybe Brooks has an edge in driving into the lane. Maybe. I'm not convinced it's true, but I won't out and out call you crazy for saying it.
However, his decision making has been an abomination, and his scoring rate has been awful. His defense has been abysmal.
Thibodeau had no choice but to live with Augustin/Robinson. He had no other options. Those guys responded with great offense even if they couldn't defend anyone. So far Brooks is giving you nothing on either end of the court except frenetic energy, poor shot selection, and awful defense.
I believe Aaron will settle down a bit, but his poor play has perhaps exposed where the Bulls are right now.
The Chicago Bulls aren't a deep team, at least not yet
They're supposed to be a deep team. That's supposed to be their strength. However, it's not coming to fruition. At least not yet.
With Gasol/Noah still struggling to find their ways, McDermott and Mirotic still playing like rookies, Brooks/Snell playing like guys who don't really belong in the league, and Kirk Hinrich playing like Kirk Hinrich (one amazing game for every four poor ones) Chicago has seven of the 11 guys who were expected to make up an incredibly deep and strong rotation struggling.
Butler and Rose are all that's really playing well. Dunleavy, who's missed half of preseason, and Gibson are probably in the neutral category right now.
With just over a week until the regular season tip off, that's a heck of a lot of your roster to have struggling. I remain optimistic on where Chicago will be by seasons end, however, they'll likely struggle against any real competition early on in the season.
Jimmy Butler to get MRI on sprained thumb
The Bulls still have a week to get Butler back for the opener, and it's probably unlikely he plays in the preseason finale. I'd say an MRI is a bad sign except that teams are frequently overly cautious with players in these types of situations, so it doesn't mean a whole lot necessarily.
That said, if this turns into a torn thumb ligament or something that costs Butler six to eight weeks then it could really derail the Bulls start as he's the only guy other than Rose playing well right now.
LeBron has turned into humblebot
Before the game he was quoted as saying the Bulls were better than the Cavs right now due to their chemistry. Nice LeBron, but you don't really believe that do you? Of course not.
I get where LeBron's coming from, and he's matured a lot in terms of getting out the right public message in front of the media. I can't be made at him for saying it, but I have to kind of laugh. I'll give LeBron some credit, he's managed to keep his actions the same but choose his words in such a way to make everyone love him instead of hate him.
He fled Cleveland originally because they couldn't win. He fled Miami this season for Cleveland because Miami could no longer win. He was a villain then and a hero now. It's all about the execution.
As for LeBron's point, how much chemistry do the Bulls have? No one's really played with Rose in two years. McDermott and Mirotic are rookies. Gasol's new to the team. Noah's still working his way back from injury (sadly enough) and isn't playing like himself.
Hell, watching the Bulls in preseason their chemistry looks to be one of their biggest flaws. It's one I think is ironed out, but it sure isn't a strength right now.
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