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.