On Tap: The Chicago Bulls

Kurt —  November 20, 2005

What is it with these Bulls and slow starts? Last season they started 0-9 but finished 47-35 and made the playoffs. This season they have started a little better 3-5, but they’re still in last place (because they are playing in the toughest division in basketball).

The Bulls come to the West Coast on what Matt from Blog-a-Bull calls “the annual circus road trip of death” (the circus kicks the Bulls out of their arena for an extended road trip each season, and each season they tend to struggle on it). Actually, everything I know about the Bulls I learned at Blog-a-Bull.

So far, this season’s Bulls are not displaying the lock-down defense that got them to the playoffs last season. Chicago has a defensive rating of 100.6 (points per 100 opponent possessions), 16th in the league, a big letdown from 97.5 and second in the league last year.

The question is: Are the Lakers healthy enough to do anything about it?

Kobe’s finger is clearly bothering him, he reaches for it all the time after shots, he’s playing through it but his shooting percentage is falling. Kwame is now out with a hamstring pull (maybe for a couple of weeks). That puts more pressure on Chris Mihm, who is playing on a bum ankle. Devean George also has a bum ankle. Slava can’t soak up any minutes because of a herniated disc in his back. Luke Walton is still sidelined.

The injuries, however, are no excuse for what’s become of the triangle. The Lakers are starting to resemble last season’s team in that the ball is going in to Kobe and, triple teamed or not, the rest of the team — and Kobe himself — are expecting him to shoot. The best place to attack the Bulls statistically this season has been at the three, but it can’t just be Kobe. Until there is some balance to the offense the Lakers will not be consistent at the offensive end.

The Bulls are not an offensive force either — they are actually worse than the Lakers so far with an offensive rating of 95.7 (points per 100 possessions), compared to the Lakers 96. Nobody should be bragging about those numbers.

At least the Bulls have figured out they need to start the long-underrated Mike Sweetney (long a favorite of Knickerblogger). Sweetney has the highest PER of any Bull so far this season, 23.3, and he is pulling down a higher percentage of rebounds when he’s on the floor than Tyson Chandler (19.7% to 18.8%, both good numbers). Yet until Friday night he was coming off the bench. You want to know why I think statistics matter — Sweetney doesn’t have a classic NBA power forward’s body, but Kwame Brown does. Kwame gets fawned over and Sweetney can’t crack anybody’s starting lineup despite being one of the best front line guys for the Knicks and Bulls. You know which one you want on your team? You know who should be starting and who should be coming off the bench?

A couple other things to look for stolen from Blog-a-Bull: The Bull front line tends to get in early foul trouble (sound familiar?); Othella Harrington has been “just plain terrible” this season; Chris Duhon has gotten off to a fast start; Nocioni shoots too mcuh; and if things don’t work out at least the Bulls have a lot of cap space to build with after this season.

to On Tap: The Chicago Bulls

  1. This game will be really tough on the Lakers. Maybe Smush can drop 20+ points with an incredible FG%, but until Kobe gets to share his shots with the rest of the team, we’re not going anywhere…

    Bill Simmons believes that a promise was made to Phil Jackson, that either Kobe would get his act together or he would be traded. Well, so far Kobe is demanding too many shots…

    Personally, I hate the Bulls (I also hate the Blazers and the Pistons as franchises) and losing at home to them is just painfull!!! Anyway, the key to beating the Bulls is forcing Chandler and Sweetney. Chandler is a good defensive player, but like all good defensive players, the key is to get the ball to the man who is being guarded by him. He will try the shot block and steal more balls, but in the process he will be collecting fouls. Knock Chandler out, contain Sweetney and the game is won. It all lays in Mihm and Odom’s hands (that if he Kobe feeds them the ball!!!).

    PS: I don’t hate the Celtics, I respect them…


  2. Some other things to learn Kurt:

    Duhon started fast, but has been nursing a sore knee and has struggled on the road trip. In fact all their guards (Duhon, Hinrich and Gordon) have been shooting poorly.

    Not only do the big men get in foul trouble, they ALL foul alot. They led the league in defensive fg% last season, but also in personal fouls. Not hard to see that the agressiveness has both effects. Seems this season the fouls are there but the D isn’t, which is very alarming.

    Thanks for the kind words on the post, and enjoy the game (but not too much)


  3. Bulls are still a good 3pt shooting team so the lakers need to guard the perimeter. This might mean more minutes for McKie & Profit. We’ll see how Odom operates back at the 4.


  4. sometimes when a starter goes out, as in Kwame Brown, we then get a chance to see how some other players, otherwise religated to the bench, will rise to the occasion. I can remember similar past situations, and the result was that the starter had to earn his way back into the rotation once he was healthy again.
    when I watch Kwame, all is see is a guy who seems to hide from getting the ball, the only rebounds he gets are cause they land in front of him, when he does get the ball on “O” he’s scared, nervous and anxious to get rid of it.
    so, now we have 2 weeks to see who steps up.
    maybe a good time to allow 1 week on the LO as facilitor experiment, then, if needing a switch…
    move LO to PF, use Cook, George, etc for SF’s, with Kobe and Smush as guards, see if young Andrew can find some “O”, and see if this team can show some excitment.
    the problem we’ve been having with KB is that we have 4 hustle players, and 1 malcontent, at least with KB out for 2 weeks, we can see how these guys respond to PJ’s coaching with an “all hustle” unit.
    maybe we’ll all be pleasantly surprised.


  5. As Kurt has posted Kwame is something like -7, so they should be OK. Phil hasn’t be able to rely on him anyway because of fouls, so it’s like they already know how to get along without him.

    I was excited to see Bynum get his first big fourth quarter minutes. Hopefully, he will get a lot Kwame’s minutes.

    I don’t care how many shots Kobe takes, and I know that this how Tex views it as well. It’s where they are taken. If his hand is hurt he needs to stay in the “kill box” , as Kobe calls it. Midrange or closer.

    Lamar has to start being more assertive on the offensive end in order to keep that initiator role. The primary pass and cut that he does is not “dragging” the defense and they just stay packed in and wait for Kobe to shoot.

    As a side note, Clipper fans were chanting “MVP! MVP!” when Elton Brand went to the line late in the game in their win over the Warriors. Curiouser and curiouser.


  6. agh, man was that frustrating. . we didn’t deserve to win. too bad we couldn’t have still pulled it off in the end.

    it was nice to see bynum out there helping out in a close game in the fourth quarter, but i really thought phil should’ve put mihm back around the 4 minute mark. i don’t know, maybe he figured he was sitting for so long he wouldn’t be able to give much offensive help.

    up by 8 with minutes to go…. ow.