Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010
By Mark Schanowski
Heres a few observations after watching the first two games of the 82 game NBA marathon for the Bulls. As always, were interested in what you think. Please post your comments in the section below.
1. DERRICK ROSE REALLY DOES WANT TO BE IN THE MVP DISCUSSION
Remember back on Bulls Media Day when Derrick responded to a question about his individual goals for the coming season by saying. Why cant I be the best player in the league? Well, even though its only been two games so far, Rose is playing at an MVP level, averaging 33.5 points and 6.5 assists. Yes, he is shooting more than either he or the coaching staff would prefer, but with Luol Deng and Kyle Korver off to slow starts, the Bulls offense doesnt have the kind of balance we expected. Derrick has been a high-volume shooter by necessity, not by choice, and he singlehandedly rescued the Bulls from an embarrassing home court loss to Detroit, scoring 22 of his career-high matching 39 points in the 2nd half.
Rose worked hard all summer to improve his 3-point shooting, and hes probably the toughest point guard in the league to defend right now.
2. JOAKIM NOAH MIGHT JOIN ROSE IN THIS SEASONS ALL-STAR GAME
Talk about coming out with a vengeance, Joakim Noah has played like a man on a mission through the first two games, averaging 16.5 points and 18 rebounds. I had a discussion with my studio partner, Kendall Gill, about where Noah ranks among the Easts top centers. Kendall says he has Noah number 2 behind Dwight Howard, and Im starting to think hes right. Andrew Bogut and Brook Lopez may be better scorers, and Noahs University of Florida teammate, Al Horford, made the All-Star team as the Easts back-up center last season, but its hard to imagine any of those guys beating out Noah if he continues to play at the pace hes set during the opening week. Thank goodness it looks like Noahs foot problems are in the past thanks to new shoes complete with customized orthotics.
3. TAJ GIBSON STILL A VALUABLE PIECE OF BULLS PUZZLE
When the Bulls signed Carlos Boozer as a free agent this past summer, most people expected Gibson to be relegated to a lightly-used back-up, who might have to play some center to get additional minutes. Well, because of Boozers hand injury, Gibson is still in the starting line-up. He scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the season opener at Oklahoma City, and then scored 11 big points in the come-from-behind win over Detroit. Taj is extremely active on the offensive glass, giving the Bulls 2nd chance opportunities, and hes an underrated scorer. Even when Boozer comes back, Gibson will find his niche as an ultra-aggressive frontcourt banger who wont have to worry about the foul problems that sometimes limit his play as a starter.
4. BULLS NEED KYLE KORVER ON THE FLOOR
Maybe Korver is still struggling because of the ankle injury he suffered during the pre-season, but his presence in the line-up forces opposing defenses to alter their approach against the Bulls. When Korver hit that three pointer in the 4th quarter against the Pistons, their entire defensive philosophy seemed to change. All of a sudden, they were paying extra attention to Korver coming off screens, allowing Rose more opportunities to break down his man in half-court sets. And, with more defensive attention on Korver, Rose was also able to get the ball to Gibson and James Johnson for some easy baskets down the stretch. Tom Thibodeau has said repeatedly Korver needs to improve his defense, and the truth is, if he doesnt do a good job on the defensive end, his minutes will be limited. But, the Bulls gave him that 3 year, 15 million dollar contract for his ability to shoot the ball from long range, and space the floor for Rose and Boozer. Thibodeau needs to get Korver as many minutes as possible for the Bulls half-court offense to flourish.
5. SHOOTING GUARD POSITION COULD BE A PROBLEM
Its no secret the Bulls would have loved the chance to sign Joe Johnson in last summers free agent derby, and pair him with Rose. But Atlanta blew everyone out of the water by signing Johnson to a max contract that theyll likely come to regret in the coming years. The Bulls then focused their attention on Orlandos sharp-shooting J.J. Redick, but the Magic chose to match a front-loaded offer sheet that many NBA observers thought would be too rich for their blood given the fact they were already well over the leagues luxury tax threshold. That left the Bulls pursuing down the line free agents like Ronnie Brewer, Keith Bogans and C.J. Watson. All of those players have their strengths, but none is really the ideal compliment to Rose. Bulls management looked into the possibility of acquiring Portlands dynamic shooting guard Rudy Fernandez, but the Blazers wouldnt make the deal for just the Bulls first round draft pick, which figures to be somewhere in the 20s. As a result, the Bulls look like they might be a shooter short right now, but that could change quickly once Korver gets over his ankle issues and Deng starts to heat up.
6. BOOZER CANT GET BACK QUICK ENOUGH
For years, weve been talking about the Bulls lack of a classic low-post scorer, and they addressed that need over the summer by signing Boozer. But until his broken finger heals and he can get comfortable with his new teammates, the Bulls are very much a work in progress. Its crucial they find a way to stack up some wins with five of their next six games at home before the dreaded Circus trip out west. Boozer should provide a lot of options for the Bulls half-court offense, easing the reliance on Rose to create something almost every time down the floor. If you havent watched Carlos much over the years, hes a perfect fit for the Bulls system because of his ability to score in the post, run the high screen and roll with Rose, and also hit the 15 to 17 foot jumper with consistency. Plus, hes averaging double figure rebounds over his career. Carlos, heal up soon. Your teammates REALLY miss you.
So, what do you think of the Bulls 1-1 start? Please post your comments in the section below, or send me an e-mail. Should be an interesting week ahead with home games against Portland and the Knicks, followed by a trip to Boston on Friday. Enjoy the hoops, and well be talking to you on SportsNet Central at 6:30 and 10.
Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.