Entering tonight’s matchup with the New Jersey Nets, the Chicago Bulls hold the best record in the Eastern Conference (20-6) and have the most road wins in the league with 11 (the Pacers are 2nd with 10). As they step onto the Prudential Center floor in Newark, NJ, the Bulls will be met by a familiar face new to the Nets roster. Keith Bogans was signed by New Jersey February 2nd, and has some words for his former mates with whom he reached the conference finals with a year ago.
“When I walked in the gym and they told me I wasn’t practicing after they had seen me all week since Monday, that was kind of a slap in the face,” said Bogans to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. “I put everything on the line each night. I played with a hurt knee 82 games. I took a pill 82 games to get that (release) in return. Every time I play them for the rest of my career, it will give me something added.”
That’s right. Keith Bogans started all 82 regular season games last season. He also started the additional 16 games in the post season before the Bulls were shown the door by the Miami Heat. Bogans also set the record for the least amount of minutes played by someone who started all season with 17.8 minutes per game. His backup, Ronnie Brewer, averaged 22 mpg. And as we’ve learned from Tom Thibodeau’s coaching style, it’s about who finishes the game…not who starts.
How often did you, the Bulls fan, say over the 2010-2011 season, “They need a starting shooting guard,” “Anyone would be better than Bogans,” and “Why is he even out there?” Gar Forman, John Paxson, and the Bulls were aware of your concerns, and still stuck with Bogans for the entire season. But most everyone in the NBA is aware that being in the league is a business, and the Bulls are now in the business for winning championships. They made the business decision to part with Bogans, and upgrade the position by signing 3-time All-Star and NBA champion Richard Hamilton. Bogans obviously took it personally.
“I formed a bond with them that I probably haven’t formed with another team that I’ve played on. That was like my family,” said Bogans. “I had one of the best seasons I’ve played and that was one of the best teams I’ve played on. It was a great experience.”
Then let’s be fair, and compare the Bulls with and without Bogans (Not meaning to sound like Bono). The 2010-2011 Bulls with Bogans in the starting lineup went 62-20, the best Bulls record since the Michael Jordan era. They averaged 98.6 points per game (20th out of 30) and only allowed 91.3 points per game to their opponents (2nd). As an 82 game starter, Bogans averaged 4.4 points, 1.2 assists, 1.8 rebounds, and posted a free-throw percentage of .656. The current Chicago Bulls, without Bogans, are 11th in the league in scoring and 3rd in points allowed with 88.5 so far. Although plagued by injuries, Hamilton has averaged 14.2 points per game and a free throw percentage of .875 in 11 games started. On the court, Hamilton has proved to be a player that teams have to game plan for and has provided scoring relief for Derrick Rose. And Brewer, who has played in all 26 games and started in 18, is averaging 7.6 points per game, 2.2 assists and 3.3 rebounds, almost doubling Bogans’ ineffective numbers.
Did the Bulls really slap Bogans in the face by cutting him? His numbers didn’t exactly support any argument for Gar-Pax to keep him on the current roster. And it seems the rest of the league had to feel similarly about him if it took up until last Thursday for someone to sign him. But go ahead, Bogans. Have a chip on your shoulder. Be spiteful to your former teammates who you claim were all your “brothers.” But after today, since you’ve already had your moment of attention, please shut up until you start producing like a player that NBA fans should really care about.