Bulls

Harrington Not the Answer to Bulls Problems

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Harrington Not the Answer to Bulls Problems

Friday, December 4th

by Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

So, what do you think about the rumor suggesting the Bulls are interested in trading Tyrus Thomas and Jerome James' expiring contract to the Knicks for Al Harrington? Please post your comments in the section below.

You can put me in the "against it" camp. Harrington has been a decent scorer in his NBA career, averaging 14 points a game with the Pacers, Hawks, Warriors and Knicks, but he's been on mostly bad teams except for his early days as a teenager who didn't play in Indiana, and has never really been a guy who does the intangible things that help teams win. Right now, the Bulls are a jump-shooting team struggling to boost their field goal percentage, and I don't think adding another perimeter gunner is the right way to accomplish that.

Harrington is coming off the bench in New York, and he's a pretty good fit for Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced system. Harrington is averaging 19.5 points per game, and scored 41 in a game against Denver last week. But the 6-9 Harrington has never been a good defensive player, and doesn't like to go inside for his points.

Basically, he would give the Bulls a player very similar to Luol Deng and John Salmons, so shot attempts and touches in the halfcourt offense might become an issue. Also, the Bulls are trying to become a better defensive team this season, and Harrington just doesn't fit in that equation. He's a "tweener", not really a small forward or a power forward, so he has problems matching up defensively at either position. And, he's also been accused of being a selfish and disinterested player at various times in his career. With Harrington set to become a free agent at season's end, he'll be looking to put up offensive numbers, and probably not worry all that much about winning and losing, especially since he would be a one year rental with the Bulls.

Of course, keeping Tyrus is also a risk. Thomas will be a restricted free agent at season's end, and the Bulls would have to renounce his rights to free up enough cap room to bid on a "max" free agent next summer. So, do you hold on to Tyrus in the hopes he finally turns the corner in his career, and then let him walk for nothing at the end of the season? It's a difficult decision for the Bulls' front office to make, especially since Tyrus has never been one of Vinny Del Negro's favorite players.

Del Negro has been bothered by Thomas' inconsistency and stubborn attitude, but he also conceded during the recent road trip that the Bulls really miss the skills Thomas brings to the table. The interior defense just hasn't been the same without Thomas' shot-blocking ability, and the Western teams feasted on the Bulls to the tune of 50 to 60 points a night in the paint. Plus, Tyrus is usually good for two or three dunks a game, many of them in spectacular fashion. It's hard to measure what those kinds of athletic plays do for a team's psyche during the course of a long 48 minute game. Right now, the Bulls run a lot of extended motion sets just trying to free up Deng or Salmons for an open jumper. Tyrus isn't a great scorer, but he's one of the few guys on the team who can get easy baskets inside because of his leaping ability and timing on the offensive boards.

So what should the Bulls do for now? Thomas should be back from his broken arm in another week to 10 days. I would let him work his way back into shape, and then get him back in the starting line-up. Taj Gibson has been a nice addition, but he's prone to foul trouble and isn't a great defensive rebounder. Let Gibson learn the pro game playing 15 to 20 minutes off the bench, and reduce the work load on Joakim Noah, Brad Miller and Deng. The Bulls can use a bigger line-up at times with Tyrus playing the small forward spot along with Gibson and Noah, or even go very big with Thomas, Noah and Miller up front.

It's imperative the Bulls make an intelligent decision on what kind of player Thomas can become, and the only way they can do that is to give him extended playing time the rest of the season. If some team holding one of the elite free agents panics and decides to make their star player available in a trade closer to the February deadline, then you can use your best available asset (Thomas). We're already hearing talk that Toronto might consider trading Chris Bosh because of the likelihood he won't sign back with the Raptors next summer.

And, who knows what other players might become available. The list could include Amare Stoudemire, Antawn Jamison, David West, Elton Brand, Tracy McGrady, Rip Hamilton, Michael Redd and others.

That's why I think the Bulls would be making a mistake by trading Thomas now for a decent, but limited player like Al Harrington. It's tough to be patient, especially when the Bulls could finish as high as 5th in the East with a little more scoring punch. But the plan all along has been to wait until the summer of 2010 to pursue the big free agents like LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh, Stoudemire and Joe Johnson.

Harrington's expiring contract wouldn't hurt the Bulls' long term plans, but they're probably better served to wait with Thomas, see how he's playing when he returns, and then make a decision on any possible deals closer to the February deadline.

The Bulls will get an up-close look at Bosh Saturday night when the Raptors visit the United Center. I'm sure he'll be asked a lot of questions about his interest in coming to Chicago next season!

Kendall Gill will join me courtside to preview the Bulls-Raptors game on SportsNite at 6:30, and you can watch all the action on Comcast SportsNet starting at 7.

As always, we welcome all your comments and e-mails. Enjoy the hoops!

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre and post game studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch the series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.