Bulls open season - Bulls/Cavs Game Thread

Bulls open season - Bulls/Cavs Game Thread

It's that time again, Sports Fans. The Bulls are officially beginning the 2015/2016 campaign tonight against LeBron James - because of course they are - and his very expensive Cleveland Cavaliers. I mean, I get that the market is changing, but $82 million for Tristan Thompson? Puh-lease.

So let's take a quick look at these Bulls and what to expect:

- Lots of running
- More intriguing offensive sets
- Terrific bench defense
- Not-so-terrific starting unit defense

Let's get all the Negative Nancy-isms out of the way first. Yes, the defense from the opening unit might struggle, and might struggle for a while. There is some rim protection, but nothing that forces opponents to think twice before they enter the lane. Nikola Mirotic is a sly cat in his abilities to pick up both steals and blocks, but his positioning still lacks some inspiration.

Also potentially worrying is the big question that circles Doug McDermott: Can he replicate preseason when things start to actually count? His shooting ability isn't going away anytime soon, but playing against rotation players as opposed to training camp invites might slow him down in reaching those shots in the first place. Time will tell how Fred Hoiberg decides to use him off the Bulls bench, who coincidentally is looking pretty decent for a change.

C Noah
F Gibson
F McDermott
G Moore
G Brooks
Plus some sprinkle of Bobby Portis.

I won't lie. That unit may actually have better defensive/offensive dynamics than the starting unit, albeit considerably less talented obviously, and I reckon the secondary rotation will play a huge part in maintaining leads, or even advance them further assuming McDermott, Brooks, and especially Gibson, find their offense early on in the year and ride the wave.

Going up against Cleveland right off the bat is the best test imaginable for these Bulls, and it should provide some insights as to how the team will compete this year. Last year's yo-yo interest/disinterest levels were off the chart, and a huge key for Chicago this year will be cutting that toy down and burning it with fire. Stability and continuity is now the name of the game and tonight will be their first chance to really play the game when it counts.

Welcome to the 2015/2016 NBA season, folks. It's been a hell of a wait.


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  • Apparently, Hoiberg is truly a genius. After one quarter, he has played at least 10 guys and none of them are named Hangdog. Hopefully he keeps that up for at least another 327 quarters.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    10 players had more than 10 minutes, and Hinrich didn't play. God it's nice not to have Thibs for a coach any more.

  • Nice win. Good block by Gasol on Lebron near the end. Mirotic can actually be a major offensive weapon. I still thought he missed too many shots. He needs to be a clearer cold-blooded weapon. When the game got tight at the end he had key open shots and missed them. It was Rose and Butler who hit the key shots down the stretch. Mirotic missed his two shots. Real thing with this team is to hope that Noah wasn't seriously injured.

  • The media is already making excuses for Cleveland, chalking the loss up to injuries and lack of chemistry, while quick to point out they still only lost by one basket. We all know Cavs will go deep into the playoffs, but give the Bulls at least some credit for the win. It's not like they are a well-oiled machine at this point in the season either, and the Bulls probably have as much room for improvement as the Cavs do.

  • Fun game and a nice win. You had to like what you saw:

    - 10 guys got significant minutes ranging from E'Twaun's 14 to Jimmy's 36. What's more, all saw action in the first quarter, as Hoiberg is rotating them into short shifts, just like a modern NBA coach.

    - 5 guys scored in double digits.

    - Derrick wasn't great but he was in attack mode most of the night. I saw what I wanted to see from him, one game in at least.

    - My man Niko scored 19 in 25. You simply can't give Taj this guy's minutes. I'd give him 5-10 more per night.

    - BigWay's man Pau comes up with a huge block on the Queen to secure the game. Gasol scored only 2 points on 1 of 7 shooting, you can count on him doing better.

    - Everyone else's man Taj got 22 minutes and pulled down an uncharacteristic 10 boards. Probably got more minutes with Noah out.

    - Snell had his moments. I don't think he's a starter but he sure looks like a NBA player.

    - McDoug had his moments. He's definitely not a starter but didn't look out of place for a change.

    - Hinrich sat on the bench where he belongs. E'Twaun scored 11 points in his 14 minutes, Hinrich couldn't dream of scoring 11 points.

    - Elephant in the room: Thibs. Same game, he plays Jimmy 45 minutes, Gasol 40, Taj 35, Hinrich 25, McDoug gets 5 minutes of garbage time, Moore doesn't see the floor at all. Hinrich scores only 2 points but Thibs insists he makes the team better.

    - My Kazakh girlfriend wanted to watch the Mets but quickly got into the Bulls game. Just as she sits down to watch, the prez comes on the TV, and she's impressed. She hears the announcer say something about LeBron. "LeBron James?" she asks, impressed again. I tell her, "You wanted to watch the Mets, but this is the place to be. We got the president. LeBron, Derrick Rose..." She agrees, even though Rose means nothing to her. She points out this huge player on the Cavs, "Who is that guy? He's so big!" "Mosgov," I tell her, "He's Russian." Then points to a player on the Bulls. "That's Niko. From Montenegro." Then another. "Pau Gasol. He's from Spain." I think she'll watch future Bulls games with me :)

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Remember that Mirotic was in foul trouble. That may have held his minutes down.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Your "elephant in the room" comments were spot on. We'll done.

  • Overall, an enjoyable game to watch. Derrick looked decent considering his injury and lack of playing time. Offensively, Pau was awful, but he will be back on it next game. He sure looked worn out though. Worried about Jimmy's shot--he missed some easy jumpers. Good to see McDoug hit a few shots. I sure would like to see him run around more like Korver. I thought Brooks played somewhat selfishly with the ball and realy hurt us toward the end of the third quarter. Nice games from E'Twan and Nicola. Lastly, it sure is good to look over at the bench and see our coach calmly directing the players with his assistants. Good win, GO BULLS

  • Rose on Pau's block: "He's a winner. He knows exactly what it takes to win, even if he's not scoring the way he wants to."


    1. I am not the biggest Niko fan on this board but I liked his approach last night. Fewer stinking pump-fakes at the 3-point line. Result: 3 for 4 from long-range. Perhaps Fred got to him. Maybe I will turn into a big fan yet.

    2. Doug needs more minutes. You can see how confident he now is.

    3. As I feared, Eurobasket 2015 took too much out of Pau physically. He should be limited to 25 mpg this year. Plus, he is not the best fit for Hoiball.

    4. Mo Williams could be sixth man of the year if Irving comes back earlier than expected.

    5. Noah is best off the bench at this point in his career. He has always been an energy guy. Moreover, whatever offensive skills he once had have gone on to Valhalla.

    6. Maybe Fred (unlike Thibs) told Snell that it is OK to drink coffee.

    7. I predict that after a few more DNP-CDs, Klank McKansas will demand a trade. Which, of course, will send 29 other GMs into convulsive laughter.

    8. Taj is in mid-season form at whining at the refs. Hope he doesn't peak too soon.

    9. Did anyone see that clip where Carlos Boozer finally admitted putting a product in his hair that "looked like shoe polish?" I sort of liked it actually. It made him look like the Emperor Ming from the Flash Gordon serials of the 40s. Check it out.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    1. You will become a believer. This guy is the real deal. Last year was his rookie year for crying out loud.

    2. I think Doug got the right amount of minutes.

    3. I think you're right about Eurobasket, Pau looked gassed. He found enough in the tank for the late block but didn't have his shooting legs under him. I'd like to better understand what you mean when you say that Gasol is not the best fit for Hoiball. To me, as a very good shooter for a big man, he is a perfect fit but you know more about basketball than I do, so I would like to know what I'm missing.

    4. No.

    5. Yes.

    6. Haha.

    7. Hope so! We'd all get a laugh.

    8. Agree, at least he had a good game overall.

    9. Darn, I missed that.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I think Hoiberg's pace is less suitable for Gasol's overall abilities than Thibs. Yes, Pau is a very good mid-range shooter which fits the new system but I see Pau getting much fewer post-up opportunities. Pau will get to the FT line much less often and his passing skills from the post will not be featured as much as last year.

    Will Hoiberg's "pace and space" offense prove more effective for the team as a whole? Let's hope so and minutes should go to the players who effectively can execute it.

    And Roman, thanks for flattering me. Usually, when someone says that it is a set-up. But I know you're a man of character.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Strange, but there's something about Gasol that I agree with you know who on. Actually, this summer someone on BAB(the Hungarian Jordan?) posted an article about Gasol's problems under D'Antoni as an indication that Hoiball might not be the best fit for him either. Sam Smith also brought it up today. They also pointed out how Gasol is a good shooter out to about 22 ft, but at 22ft 1 inch his shooting falls off a cliff, which might have some impact on his fit in a Hoiberg offense as that removes the 3 ball except from the corners.

    Everyone assumes that because he is a good jump shooter, especially for a big man that he will thrive in Hoiberg's system. I have to believe that last night was an aberration, 2 pts, 2rbs and a team worst minus 8. For game one of the season, he looked gassed physically and emotionally, even the announcers commented on it. I guess he still has a FIBA hangover. Frankly, without watching it for a while, I don't know enough about how Hoiberg's offense works, so I'll just have to wait and see if it works for/with Gasol. Do you have to be mobile to be effective in a motion offense?

    I don't think that any offense will make much of a difference for Noah at this point, but he might be able to get a few buckets before the defense gets set by running out in transition. It will be very interesting to watch the big man rotation evolve(or perhaps not at all) over the course of the season.

    I still have concerns that the second unit will struggle to score, (as they did in the second half) as long as McDNP struggles to do anything. Richard Jefferson seemed to have no problem completely shadowing him last night, and he's had one foot out of the league for a few years now. Although, I guess he isn't going to be McDNP this year.

    Noah and Taj are offensively limited, so they need to be paired with 3 guys who are plus players offensively. That's why they were a disaster last year when paired with Hangdog. Moore and especially Brooks are iso offense guys, which was all we had under Thibs. That unit needs more than what McDNP showed last night to be effective.

    I doubt that a change will happen this year, but as long as we all agree that Niko should start at PF, the question then becomes who is his best complement at center. I get Hoiberg's initial reasoning, but most people seem to think that Noah and Niko are a more balanced/better pairing. Hopefully, we get to see both combos and Hoiberg has the stones to do whatever is best for the team. Maybe Gasol would thrive as the go to offensive option with the second unit. Maybe, who knows, but I doubt we ever see it.

    Hopefully, it was nothing in both cases, but it was scary to see both Rose and Noah come up lame/limping after ordinary plays in the first game of the season.

  • I thought the Defense was ok but they did give up a few too many easy layups. Mirotic also has to improve on D as Love was lighting him up late in the game but his scoring makes the Bulls much more balanced on offense. I liked the fact that Derrick was not jacking up lazy 3s and was looking to attack the basket and make things happen for himself and teammates. Butler´s jumper has been off but he did stick some jimmies late in the game. Etwaun Moore played solid and he is the answer for the bench combo guard role not Hinrich who should be a third string PG when injuries happen. McDermott and Snell played their roles well and contributed. The rebounding has been pretty good, it just needs to be matched up with a little bit better defense and everything will start rolling.

  • Good win. They are so much more fun to watch. I suspect the players also find it much more fun to play (except Pau, who on the offensive end looked like he was getting a root canal). My one quibble. Someone needs to tell Taj that no matter what he thinks he is not Hakeem Olajuwon in the post. He is a turnover machine when he gets the ball in traffic in the post. He should focus on defense and rebounding, which he was pretty good at last night.

  • Bulls Win!

    Great to have the season started and with a win over the Cavs.

    Now lets break it down a little.

    Starters -

    Was pleasantly surprised by Rose considering lack of much preseason. Always good to see him drive but he also makes the player he defends look way too good considering his physical superiority over them.

    Gasol, ok he blocked some shots but man was he very passive. He caught many passes in the high post that id expect him to square up and fire but he didn't even look for it.

    Niko played aggressive, Butler needs to find his shot and Snell put up better numbers than it felt like.


    While Brooks always amazes me how he can find his shot driving into the trees I really think he pretty much iced McD out of the game. Both Brooks and Moore where making shots but think McD needs to have more shots. Brooks - 9, Moore - 8 and Mc D only 4.

    Noah was a nice energy spark off the bench but still drives me crazy seeing him bring the ball down the floor so often. Hope his knee was just banged.

    McD did have a very small run and it is always fun to see. Second unit needs to keep him involved especially when he is feeling it.

    Glad we got the win but there is work to do. Certainly like the sub pattern and rest given to the group. l like when the Bulls are disrespected in the media, an edge is never a bad thing. Wonder how Fred will get Portis involved? Don't have a problem with him being limited his rookie season considering the depth we already have at the Bigs.

  • In reply to UnstopaBull:

    oh yeah 13 assists, not good

  • No Kirk! No Kirk! La de da! La de da!

    Moving Noah to the bench and not playing Hinrich has given Hoiberg a lot of good will with me. Really enjoyed most of the game, something I haven't experienced under Thibs for a while. Only concern was Gasol. Was playing in the Euroleague really worth it if you're going to play dog ass tired in the NBA season?

  • Sigh! After years of yelling at my TV because of ThibsBall, it was so nice to see some things that just made more sense.

    Whether it was Niko given more freedom or not seeing Hinrich on my TV, everything was so much easier and fun and sensible.

    Bulls still have issues to resolve - 2 that were glaring for me...
    - Protecting the rim. Despite Gasol's block, too many easy buckets at the rim.
    - Derrick and Jimmy still need to learn how to play off each other. There seems to be a lot of your turn, my turn with the basketball.

    But there's still a long way to go to get those and other things ironed out. I like the Bulls depth and will be more interested in watching the Bulls secondary players grow and develop over the course of the season. I might actually get a chance to see if Snell, McBuckets and Mirotic make mistakes but have the opportunity to grow and improve and maybe have some confidence in the postseason. I'm not sure what Portis will bring. He might get the redshirt season but not for Thibs reasons but actually because of depth. But I'm sure you'll see Portis in at some points.

    Speaking of which, I wonder if Hoiberg will adopt the DNP-CD for veterans on back to back games. Its still early so it would be fine for tonights game but as the season progresses... there really is no reason for the veteran guys like Gasol and Noah and even Jimmy and Derrick occasionally to get nights off especially on back to back games. In the playoffs, there is no back to back games and I'd make an uneducated guess that the second game of a back to back tends to be more sloppy, more sluggish and may even make players more prone to injuries. These days off can be an opportunity for guys like Snell, McBuckets and Portis to play more minutes.

  • Best 10 seconds - the end when the Bulls shut down the Cavs. First, block by Gasol; second, steal by Butler. Way to turn it up, guys! 2 possessions and the Cavs never got a shot off. (On the block on LeBron the ball never got airborne.)

  • Another night, another 6 Bulls in double digits. Another near double-double by Niko with 18 and 9. Another night of E'Twaun getting minutes while Kirk rides the bench, though Hangdog did make a cameo for 5 minutes with no shot attempts. Another night of no Bobby Portis because there are too many bigs on the team. Taj had an off night. Derrick needs more than 3 assists in 30 minutes. All in all, we'll take it.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    We will take it, but some problems were obvious:

    1) A lot of fouls by the two top bigs on D, Noah and Taj!
    2) Poor shooting by the same 2 guys! In fact, last I looked, the Bulls were 17 of 18 on FTs - except for Noah's 2 misses!
    3) As for the bench, everyone had a minus +/- except one guy who was +1. I thought our bench was supposed to be strong! Remember, they are going up against 2nd-stringers too.

    Nice game by Gasol tho.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Starters looked good, but took our foot off the gas too many times with the second unit looking sloppy. Never really felt in jeopardy, but shouldn't have given up 100 points to this team. Brooklyn looks like they might give Philly a run for their money(or lack thereof). Without Williams (and Jack out injured), their guard play is virtually non-existent, although that Markel guy brought some energy in the second half. Can't we just trade Hangdog for Jack(even if he is injured).

    We got killed on the offensive glass 16-5, not unlike the first 5 minutes of the Cleveland game when we were down 9 on the boards.

    McCanNotPlay looks like a useless appendage when playing with the entire second unit, simply cannot get an open look. It appears that the only way he can get an open look is by playing with Rose and Butler, if not the entire starting unit, and even then he doesn't look all that confident in his shot. Unless he becomes a lights out shooter, and can actually get open, that second unit is going to struggle to score, relying on Brooks and Moore iso offense.

    Detroit should provide a better challenge as they gave us some problems last year with Drummond looking like a baby Moses Malone on the boards but not nearly as offensively skilled.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I agree the second unit offense is a problem and McDoug looked awful last night. Hoping Fred figures out the first problem. As for McDoug, I don't know if he has a NBA future at all. No more draft day trades for GarPax, they're great at picking late but 0 for 2 on trades in the lottery range.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Unfortunately, I have to agree with you, even though it has only been 2 games. Hoiberg looks committed to giving him every benefit of the doubt, but even he looks frustrated on the sidelines, at least I think he does as we don't quite know how to read him yet.

    Snell looked awful at the beginning of last season, I believe he didn't score a point over an entire month. Snell recovered from being out of the league to at least a rotation player, even though he still doesn't look like a starter to me yet. I wish Hoiberg would consider switching Snell and McCNP for a while, at least while Dunleavy is still out to see if it helps him and/or works out better for the team as a whole. Obviously, that would create the worst defensive front court in history. But I think that McCNP's future, if he has one at all, it is as a 2 guard anyway, so then you have the Butler SF/SG conundrum.

    Speaking of Butler, nice to see him hit some shots last night, especially that turnaround 3 pointer against the shot clock and against the sideline. Now that he's a max guy, he has to put up numbers every night.

  • Somewhat surprising, but Noah passed Scottie Pippen for 3rd place on the Bulls all time blocks list last night, trailing Artis Gilmore and Jordan. Kind of surprised that Jordan would be ahead of Pippen. Not sure that having a SG as your second leading shot blocker of all time is a good thing. Neither is having Gilmore as your leader since he didn't play that many seasons with the Bulls(6+).

    Speaking of Artis, he was quite the stud. Thibs would have loved him, as he did his best Wilt Chamberlain act, playing in every game for 11 of his first twelve seasons, 84 per year in the ABA, 82 in the NBA, averaging 3500 minutes per year during his 5 years in the ABA(about 42 mpg) topping out at nearly 44 mpg in his rookie year. He still averaged 74 games per season over his last 5 years.

    I wonder how he would fare in today's game. Kind of a better combination of Gasol's offense with Noah's defense, not stylistically, but productively. He was a mountain of a man and would give the Bulls all time team a center that would allow them to compete against any/all the other greats like Wilt, Russell, Kareem, Hakeem and Shaq. Paired with Pippen and Rodman that would have been a heck of a defensive frontline, would have struggled to keep up offensively. Michael and Derrick in the backcourt, almost makes you believe we could hang with the Lakers or Celtics. Wouldn't have the depth, but the starters would be interesting. Didn't Shaq start this argument with Pippen over the summer?

  • Hey, Mort, how about a new article after each Bulls game? That way we fans can post under the new article rather than an old one. Keeps things feeling more current!

    You really don't have to do much - maybe only, "Bulls beat Brooklyn by 15, What are your thoughts?" for example.

    I recall mentioning this to Doug last year as well.


  • In reply to rustyw:

    Agreed. Also, ESPN shuts down Grantland, wow!

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Hey Rusty,

    Sorry for the silence. Been dealing with some stuff over the past few weeks, which has slowed my activity here. I will however have a piece up tonight before game time, and I'll be back to "normal flow" in a few days when everything has died down.

    Again, my apologies to all!

  • Some thoughts from one of the last Grantland articles on the Bulls

    They can get there if enough swing issues break right: Derrick Rose’s health and shot selection; Fred Hoiberg’s mixing and matching of five rotation big men; whether the team can defend and rebound well enough with the Pau Gasol–Nikola Mirotic front line;4 Joakim Noah’s knees, Taj Gibson’s ankle, and Mike Dunleavy Jr.’s back; and whether Doug McDermott and Tony Snell are ready for bigger roles.

    This is the one Eastern Conference team with the right combination of explosiveness and physicality to scrap with the Cavs over seven games. The Bulls can steal wins. We just have to see if they even approach their ceiling.

    The Bulls sank to 19th in defensive rebounding rate last season. They were even worse with Gasol on the floor and particularly bad with the Gasol-Mirotic pairing, per NBA.com.

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