Bulls

Schanowski: Free Agency Not an Automatic Cure

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Schanowski: Free Agency Not an Automatic Cure

Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010
6:26 p.m.

Will the addition of one player from next summer's free agent class automatically make the Bulls a contending team in 2010-2011? Please post your comments in the section below. If the Bulls are able to sign LeBron or D-Wade, the answer is yes. If it's somebody else, the answer is a lot more uncertain.

For a concrete example of how cap room isn't always a quick fix, just take a look at Monday's Bulls' opponent, the Detroit Pistons. Joe Dumars has long been regarded as one of the NBA'S best general managers. But with nearly 20 million dollars in cap room last summer, Dumars wouldn't commit to offering enough money to entice Carlos Boozer to opt out of the final year of his deal with Utah. Then he looked around at what was left in a shallow free agent market, and wound up blowing all his cap room on Charlie Villaneuva and former Bulls' star Ben Gordon. Granted, both players are nice additions, but hardly worth the 18 to 20 million Dumars committed to the tandem over the next 5 seasons. Now Detroit is capped out, and has too much duplication at their perimeter spots. Dumars would love to trade Rip Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince for a low post threat like Boozer, but so far, he hasn't found any takers. So, Detroit is loaded with small guards like Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, Chucky Atkins and Will Bynum and small forward-types like Hamilton, Prince, Villaneuva and top draft pick Austin Daye. Their centers? How about former Bulls' free agent bust Ben Wallace and one of the worst number one overall picks in the history of the NBA Draft, Kwame Brown! When you add this roster mess to the infamous decision to draft Darko MIlicic instead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh with the 2nd overall pick back in 2003, maybe Dumars isn't as smart as most NBA people think.

The Pistons have lost 12 games in a row, and there aren't any easy solutions out there. First year coach John Kuester has been dealt a bad hand because of long-term injuries suffered by Hamilton, Prince and Gordon, but even with a healthy roster over the last half dozen games, the Pistons have been brutal. At some point, Dumars has to help his coach out by trading Hamilton andor Prince to get some much-needed frontcourt help. But both players are overpaid, and Hamilton is definitely on the downside of his career. It will be interesting to watch the Detroit situation over the next few months to see who takes the fall for Dumars' ill-conceived summer spending spree.

BULLS STILL TREADING WATER

Meanwhile, back here in Chicago, the Bulls are still underachieving. They followed up an encouraging 4 game winning streak by going 1-and-3 last week against the likes of Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Minnesota. You can rest assured John Paxson and Gar Forman are working the phones, looking for a trade that will add some much needed scoring punch. If the Bulls struggle for the rest of the month, the focus may change to trading veterans like Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons for salary cap relief. At some point, the Bulls front office will have to decide how badly they want to make the playoffs this season. If that's the goal, they might consider bringing in established players with remaining years on their contracts like Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Corey Maggette, Elton Brand and David West, and say goodbye to the possibility of entering the free agent market. But if they decide to wait until the free agent chase begins on July 1st, we might be saying goodbye to Captain Kirk andor Salmons before the trade deadline hits on February 18th.

The Bulls' problems are essentially the same ones we've observed all season. Without an inside scoring threat or a reliable 3 point shooter, they're prone to long stretches of offensive futility. And, since the promising 6-4 start, their commitment at the defensive end seems to come and go. Derrick Rose has picked up his offensive production over the last 6 weeks, but Luol Deng is struggling right now with a fractured left thumb, and the Bulls are still searching for a reliable 2nd scoring option. They've been able to defend their homecourt pretty well with a 12-7 record, but their weaknesses become too much to overcome on the road, where they are 3-13.

With home games coming up against Detroit and Washington this week, along with a quick trip to Boston, it's important for the Bulls to go 2-1. Otherwise, that 7 game western swing that begins on January 18th starts to look even more difficult than it does right now. We haven't heard much about Vinny Del Negro's status over the last couple weeks, but a bad road trip could make Vinny and the Bulls one of the NBA's hot topics during All-Star weekend in Dallas in mid-February.

Your feedback and suggestions are always welcome. It's supposed to get warmer here in Chicago this week, and as we all know, the Bulls are long overdue for a sustained hot streak!

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.