New bench mob struggles while the Chicago Bulls saw classic Kirk Hinrich

Our first glance of Bulls basketball brought plenty of highs and lows along with a win. The good news is that the starters played well. The bad news is the bench was horrific.

For Kirk Hinrich it was the good ole days

He started off early by bricking an open three and giving up an and one on a layup he was way too late to contest but tried to get to the spot anyway while then not stopping the shooter. I let out a groan at both plays.

Right before halftime, while the Bulls were in the penalty, he decided it’d be a great time try and pick up a backcourt charge only to get called for the block and give Memphis a couple free throws. On the night, he was 1-4.

So why am I smiling about Kirk Hinrich’s performance? He also brought so many things the Bulls needed. To the extent anyone cares about a preseason win, Kirk Hinrich won this game for Chicago. He had forced turnovers on consecutive Memphis possessions that led to fast break baskets and swung the momentum so strongly that Memphis could never get it back.

He played great defense all night long and for those, like me, who were scared that he may have lost a step defensively can breath out a sign of relief. While C.J. Watson could probably break down the defense and generate his own shot better, Kirk reminded us that good decision making is just as [if not more] important as the ability to break down the defense. His seven assist to one turnover were a breath of fresh air as the Bulls looked like they were actually running an offense.

The best part of it was that this wasn’t Kirk’s best, but it was still a great game for him in how he impacted the game between the numbers.

Luol played outstanding but left me nervous

Luol Deng had a great night overall. Great defense, great scoring, good shooting. He did everything Luol Deng is expected to do well. Given how well he played, I probably am ridiculous for even mentioning it, but one play really scared me.

In the first quarter Deng was driving down the right baseline towards the hoop. He goes up from 5-6 feet off the basket with a defender on his right, sticks the ball in his right hand and misses the layup as the defender hacks his arm. He draws the foul and goes to the free throw line.

If he put the ball in his left hand (the natural decision since there is no defender on his left and his body would have shielded the arm away) then he has an easy and 1 after drawing the contact and having to hit a two foot lefty scoop shot.

Maybe Luol Deng would never use his left in this situation. Maybe he’s always been a completely one handed player, and I’m just noticing it now because there’s a reason to see if he’s using his left. Maybe it has nothing to do with the wrist at all, or maybe the Bulls are going to be in trouble there.

Let’s just hope it’s not a trend

Carlos Boozer was a train wreck on offense. He took terrible shot after terrible shot and didn’t hit any of them. He had a couple of nifty layups by going quick and hard at the basket but spent much of the night shooting difficult heavily contested fadeaways. We already know if his offense isn’t there then there’s not much to hope for, but those thinking we should run anything through Carlos got a reality check.

Should I have felt good about Rip Hamilton’s game?

Looking at the box score I feel that I should. Actually watching it, I felt that I shouldn’t. I don’t know how to reconcile that just yet. He felt a little out of control in the game. He seemed to miss all of his non bunny shots, but then he was still 6/10 from the field, so if he generated six bunnies that’s pretty darn good.

Strong game for Joakim

Joakim was questionable for the game after returning from his grandmother’s funeral. Maybe the game was an outlet to escape his sadness, maybe he was just on, but Joakim played a beautiful game.

He finished well around the hoop, including a couple of very tough high speed layups, one going high off the glass and one while getting hacked on the arm. He made a great decision on a three on one fast break when receiving a terrible lob pass and redirected the ball to Hamilton before falling out of bounds.

He rebounded well, defended well, and overall gave the Bulls classic Noah which is always good enough for me.

Nate Robinson gave the Bulls much more than his statline

Nate Robinson finished with 0 assists and three turnovers, but he played much better than that. It’s hard for a guy with zero assists to impress you with his court vision, but Nate made a number of nifty passes and good decisions with the ball in his hands.

Of the bench mob players, he impressed me the most outside of Nazr Mohammed. His numbers were deflated largely because no one else on the bench mob could hit a shot, but he looked quick, decisive, and largely unselfish.

It’s just one game, but I’m pretty excited about what I saw.

Marco Belinelli flat out struggled

So I’ve been saying that skillwise Belinelli brings many things the Bulls need. I saw him do an effortless 360 dunk in warmups and thought wow, we’re really gaining some athleticism here.

However, the question has been whether those skills would make up for Korver’s extremely high basketball IQ and elite niche skill.

Kyle Korver didn’t attempt to do things that he coudln’t do. He only took good shots. He played with very high efficiency because of it.

Belinelli attempts many things he can’t do, takes all kinds of bad shots, and sometimes gives something breathtaking and sometimes gives last night.

Marco’s one make was a tough driving pull up jumper that made me feel he could be a dangerous shot maker, but his six misses showed why you don’t want him taking that shot at all as several were similarly difficult shots.

I feel confident he’ll play better than he did last night, but it wasn’t the greatest debut for Belinelli who shot just 1-7 from the field.

Taj better hope the Bulls aren’t looking at these games while negotiating

Did Omer Asik leave a pair of stone hands gloves for Taj as a going away present? Gibson had probably three shots right around the hoop that a clean catch combined with going up immediately would have led to an easy hoop.

Instead he repeatedly bobbled the ball, took too long to gather himself, and missed the shot. Gibson did make it to the free throw line a number of times, rebounded the ball, and played with high energy.

However, we also saw the lack of offensive polish that stops him from becoming a top big man in the NBA.

This is why I’ve been cautious on Jimmy Butler

I seem to have been ripped on mercilessly for suggesting that Ronnie Brewer was a better shooter than Jimmy Butler. Well, let’s hope I’m wrong, but this game sure didn’t give any evidence of it.

Jimmy played with tremendous energy. He brought the high motor to the court. He looked jacked up to play the game. However, on offense he couldn’t get anything going at all.

He shot just 1/11 from the field, 0/2 from the free throw line, and what’s worse, his misses were largely not even close. His fading confidence was palpable.

Nazr Mohammed’s doing a nice job of making us forget Asik

Nazr Mohammed didn’t bring what Asik brought on defense. There were three or four shots Asik would have blocked or altered that Nazr couldn’t get to.

However, he did bring so much of what Asik has thusfar been completely incapable of bringing: offense. Nazr hit the open jumper, knocked down a few post up moves, showed off a hook shot, and generally acquitted himself quite well.

And because he was the guy most Bulls fans felt would have the least impact from the new bench mob, went out and was trivially the best guy off the bench by far. It wasn’t even close.

If Nazr could bring anything remotely like this in the regular season then Asik’s name won’t be brought up again.

Marquis Teague looks like he belongs

Teague had questionable decision making to go along with a couple missed shots. He played just under four minutes, and didn’t really do much positive in them.

However, looking beyond that, Teague looked like an NBA player. He used his speed to break down players off the dribble. He found openings. He created seams.

It was obvious that Marquis Teague needs polish, but it was also obvious that if/when he gets it that he’ll find a role in this league.

You can’t teach athleticism and quickness. Let’s hope Teague can learn decision making and scoring.


Leave a comment
  • Good detailed analysis Doug! I really like Nazr's offensive game and he isn't terribly bad at defense either. Good to see some points coming from the backup Center! Nate is sure going to be fun to watch and I, as everyone, was hoping for a highlight dunk on his breakaway but he did get the points with a layup instead! Wow Kirk took charge with those consecutive block/steals and finishing out the fast break! Very nice! I still wish we had Brewer tho from the 1st Bench Mob version last year tho! I hope Jimmy comes around but I really miss Brewer's tigh rope baseline prowling and his defensive athletism on the wings! O well we have a decent group of guys here and with Thib's leading the way I'm sure we will still be competitive even without Derrick for most of the year.

  • In reply to smiley:

    Hopefully Jimmy can do a lot of what Ronnie did, since Ronnie was largely just opportunistic with a decent mid range J.

  • I don't think you can take to much from guys missing shots. Guys may still be rusty and the new guys are trying to hard. In preseason games, I think that the things that are most important are effort and whether or not they get good shots. I think that for the most part the players did very well in those two areas. Nazr may never play that well again, but that was the best I've ever seen him play. And that call on Hinrich in the backcourt was a bad call. He was amazing!!

  • In reply to PaBullfan:

    Definitely true on the missed shots thing.

    It's easy to be critical when guys miss shots, but what's more important is whether they get quality shots. I will say the 2nd unit did get a number of good looks, so hopefully they shoot better next time.

  • I think Butler was just nervous and trying to do too much. He was looking to create, and we don't need him for that. If he's smart it will come to him and he'll be fine.

    As for BM2.0 sucking, it's the first time they've played together with anything (albeit small) at stake! Give a chance. The starters were okay because they knew what they were doing. For a first pre-season game I thought the bench was absolutely fine. They didn't look completely lost (pretty in sync on D actually) they just missed shots and were feeling each other out to find their role.

    From what I saw, Robinson, Belinelli, Butler, Mohammed, Gibson...that's a line up that has WAY MORE scoring potential than the old one, I think the difference in defense is maybe a bucket or two.

  • In reply to bfranke:

    Butler was missing wide open relatively short mid range jumpers, so it's not just a matter of him trying to create, though I completely agree he looked like he was trying to do too much. At this stage of his career, I like that more than the reverse though.

    I'm not downing the BM2.0 just yet, just saying they got off to a particularly poor start. It's only a preseason game, they'll have lots of changes to improve, and I'm sure many guys will look better as time goes on.

    It's interesting to note that you feel the lineup has more scoring potential, but I believe BM2.0 had only 1 FG in the entire fourth quarter. They need to realize that potential, hopefully they will.

  • What I saw in the game was a lot of pressure from the second unit on offense. They were horse-sh*t this game. They did not play with a purpose. Butler, Horrible it appeared that he was trying to hard, Beli had open shots but was pump faking which gave the defender time to catch up and prevent him from shooting. Secondly he is not running that swing around play full blast like Korver did.

    I believe that once they get direction and purpose they will be ok. What I was surprised about was the uptempo of the offense there was not a lot of slow play.

    Furthermore the most impressive thing was the first unit defensive movement was exceptionally great.

    The second unit didn't do bad but what was holding them vsck was the lack of offense.

  • In reply to BullySixChicago:

    I agree that the tempo was especially surprising and a positive.

  • The dawn of a new day, a new season. (Bulls)Fans understandably want to stay positive until there is serious, nightly basis proof of ineptitude and/or inadequacy. Fair enough. And true, one dud does not a damnation make.

    However, if last night's game, if that's to be any example of what we can expect from the Bulls offense this season then one word says it all - ouch!

    Thank god for Thib's defensive system or this team would not be playoff consideration worthy IMO.

    I agree with Doug, Deng's new nickname should be Mr. Righty. He is exclusively driving and operating with his right hand. We'll see how his shooting holds up as the limitations and wear and tear on his left wrist adds up.

    Joakim looks like Joakim good starting, non-offensive player yet not Omer like as in incapable or inept.

    Hamilton he's alright, but he's no scorer anymore, and he will take some ill advised shots he once would make, but no longer can. Let's admit we will be shocked if he doesn't miss significant time with 'injuries.'

    Hinrich looked great defensively, but at his age can he really bring that much energy defensively every night? He's a decent player, but offensively again he's no scorer. For his career he's a .417 shooter. Not the hallmark of a quality starter honestly.

    Boozer, we are watching a former 20 and 10 guy diminish before our eyes. Basically he can score some, but really, he's a has been. Somebody call 'Amnesty' International as watching him play is inhumane treatment to NBA fans.

    Robinson's a quality spark plug, but if you expand his role beyond 22 minutes a game the reason he's not a career starter i.e the momentum killing mistakes and lapses will show up.

    Mohammed, again like Hinrich, that was a nice bank account splurge, but we won't see that kind of impact on a nightly basis. He's a nice 18 minutes guy off the bench. Not much scoring in the long run.

    Jimmy Butler, if you take any stock in drafting evals and scouting services, which while flawed often can grasp the obvious and put it smack dab in front of your face: "(Butler) hasn't shown he an consistently create (any)offense for himself. Hasn't shown he can be a consistent threat from behind the arc."

    It's easy to discount voices or sources we have no experience with or relation to, but scouting sites like DraftExpress and NBADraft exist for a reason. Jimmy Butler was never even on my list of prospects due to statistical inadequacies that don't enter the realm of recognizable profiles of most NBA scorers. IMO he has dud offensively written all over him. His shooting in volume becomes fairly inaccurate from what I can tell, and his handles are limited for a wing.

    Belinelli again is a nice bench player, but inconsistent and at times tries to do more then he's capable of on the court.

    Taj, as Doug reminds us, is a good player, but offensively lacking really as a quality starter.

    I really feel this team needed to make some changes as in their core, and infusing some more offensive minded as in talented players. I'm glad I have NBA League Pass because I don't want to watch this kind of lackluster, struggling to get by offense on a nightly basis. Relly, I'll be surprised to see the Bulls above a 7 or 8 seed unless a Jimmy Butler, a Taj. a Joakim can bring some serious scoring we need. Still, despite being severely handicapped by a shoestring budget and some bad decisions by Gar/Pax. we have character guys we will root for however often we can stand to watch them.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    You make it sound like they will be lucky to win a game this year. It is just one game and you can't critic the whole season based on one game.
    As for your review of the players, I think you are aiming a little high. I don't really disagree with what you say about Deng and Boozer, but the rest I question.
    You say Noah was non offensive, but he had a good offensive night. He was active on the boards and had a nice agresive drive to the basket.
    You said Hinrich doesn't score enough. I don't think he will be asked to be a scorer. He will be asked to be a distributor and score when needed. Players like Jason Kidd, Derrek Fisher, and even John Paxson have had success in this role. As for keeping up the pace, who knows. I asked wondered the same thing.
    I don't think Robinson will have to play more than twenty minutes very often.
    Jimmy Butler will not be expected to provide offense for himself. He will be like Brewer, shoot when open or drive to the basket. He is working on the three.
    Agree about Belinelli, but I think that is about what you expect from anyone in his position.
    Taj isn't a starter. And he will play better. That was the worst game I've seen him play in a long time.
    Again, I agree with you on some, but I think you are being to harsh on others.
    I will say this though. If Jaric's wife would show up, I think I'd cut rose to make a spot for him!!

  • there was some positives out of this preseason game, kirk and nazr both looked good and the missed jumpshots probably should be expected in the first scrimmage game. The halfcourt offense and spacing need work but the defense and rebounding were solid. I liked that the Bulls tried to push the ball when they had opportunities and the many deflections and active hands on defense. Butler kind of disappointed me with his wild and out of control offense but he did do a good job defensively and Beli should get better. Nate is going to be super fun to watch and I expect better offensive outing out of Gibson who also struggled. The biggest surprise was how well Naz Mohammed played, he's a good rebounder, can score some in the post, jumpshoot, tip ins and his defense is good. The one thing that kind of scared me was how aweful Boozer looked, hopefully mr. amnesty is just rusty cuz if he's not, bulls are in trouble but overall I thought they played well outside of the missed jumpers and high turnovers.

  • Thanks for your fair review Doug. You, unlike some on this blog,
    have no axe to grind or prejudices. You call 'em as you see 'em.

    I'm not surprised that Defence-Rebound13 couldn't bring himself to say anything complimentary about Joakim Noah. He is what he is, a fool!
    I'm now waiting patiently to hear from other Noah haters like Salvamini, Edward and Chad. They are disappointed that Noah didn't fall on his face!
    I didn't see the game so I'm glad that I could depend on you, Doug, to fill me in.

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    Sorry, but calling someone a #6 to #10 top center in the NBA is probably not what most in the world would consider hating.

    When Noah is healthy, there are very few centers I'd rather see on the Bulls. Just so happens that Howard is one, and the gulf between Howard and Noah is pretty significant.

    What I am a little concerned about, with regards to Noah and the game last night, is that if (emphasis on IF) the bench continues to put up stink bombs like that 4th quarter, you're going to see even heavier minutes for Noah, which would be increase the already high risk of his getting injured. If Boozer and Noah need to put up 'Deng' minutes, we'll probably be looking at the draft lottery with greater anticipation than the start of the playoffs.

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    Obsess much?

    Noah is a fringe top ten player center just because you think he is the best player in the game doesn't make rational people haters.

  • In reply to Chad:

    Imagine a SKUNK like you having the nerve to describe yourself as "rational." Are you into giving people laughs?

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    mr slamdrunk, you have lost your mind. Most of us like Noah and what he brings, high basketball IQ, nifty passing and ability to handle for a big but we're not delusional like you. He has some faults as well. You are not worthy of being a Noah fan, you should stick with rooting for Boozer and his spray painted hair.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Imagine having to answer to another SKUNK and liar like you. The fact that you call me a Boozer fan shows you are new here.
    No player is void of faults so telling me Noah has faults is just a way of excusing people like you for your imbalanced criticism of him.
    I am "not worthy of being a Noah fan?" Are you providing readers with laughs?
    You sound like a high school kid. Spend more time in school and read more. You probably look the way you write, STUPID!

  • I'm not saying BM2.0 unit will REALIZE their potential to score I just see more potential for offensive creation with that group. They still have to gel as a group, and there's no saying they will, but it's just obviously not a defense ONLY group like BM1.0 essentially was.

    Man, if Rose was healthy, you're telling me Hinrich as backup couldn't facilitate some offense out of Belinelli, Mohammed, Gibson and Butler? At the very least bring in Robinson as your pure irrational confidence guy and you know shots are going up at least.

    I would also like to hear comments on the what the hell kind of beast / mediaeval dungeon ogre Kyrylo Fesenko has turned into/become.

  • Butler and Belli struggled but I think they will come around. I think this team could get back to the ECF with Rose back by the All Star break. I really think this team is pretty solid. Although I think the will hover around 6-4 in the East and could get bounced early by Miami in the second round. We'll see but I really like this group.

  • Too much has been made out of the bench mob the last two years. And I don't put much credence in this year's group. The ultimate success of the team will be determined by the quality of the starters (not rocket science here). And with Boozer floundering yet again I don't expect the Bulls to go very far even when Rose is back. I know it's beating a dead horse, but he is so awful. Given his fading skills, I just don't know if the Bulls have enough offense to compete at a high level with Rose out.

  • No new story today from Doug so I can't make any more scathing assessments of the Bulls offensive prowess or lack thereof. That's probably a good thing.

    In reality, I like Lu, Jo, Taj, even Kirk much of the time is a positive presence, but if they just would have added one scorer it would have given a breath of life into a stagnant lack of punch group. So really it's not the players to hate or Thibs it's just the shitty situation they've been put into. I just think this season could have been a lot more fun if we could have ignited all the winners we have with some offensive support having their back.

    Side note: I don't mean to be hard on Jimmy Butler either, but with his popularity I think it's clear people have higher hopes for him then Marquis Teague who flopped in summer league. I just keep going back to the fact that the kid right now, Teague, is an elite speed and athleticism player on the NBA level, and how many times do we see that eek out some form of success in the end. Plus he was alpha enough to run with Cal(Kentucky) and the big dogs, and that's saying something.

    It'd be interesting to have a poll right now: Who You Got, Butler or Teague? I know 90% or better would be for Jimmy, but I think I'd have to put my money on Marquis. Besides a lack of scoring ability either shooting or the handles to make plays at least from what I've seen, honestly Butler's demeanor has been a little too self-assured shall we say for a guy who has shown little offensively in the league. though not cocky like James Johnson was. I know if Butler were successful as a scorer though I would be eating up that smiling, old school persona he brings.

    I certainly hope I'm wrong about J.B. offensively and it absolutely behooves the Bulls and Thibs to run a ton of plays for him again in at least a few more games to see if he can show some signs or even make a break through because we need some new offense to come from some where. If it's me I play him at least 25 minutes per game preseason and early on and give him a legit chance to form a rythm and 'find' whatever offensive game he may possess.

    And Teague honestly with his elite speed and athleticism while Kirk and Co. need to work on continuity as a team, I think it's more important to see if you have an assett in Teague then polish established vets who can run Bulls plays in their sleep. So mix in plenty of J.B and Marquis(with the quality vets to surround them) please Thibs.

  • Jimmy bultler,is not on ronnies brewers level,coach tibbs should have played ronnie more.i hope NY realize what they have.most teams improved this off season,bulls got worse.

Leave a comment