Bulls

Hamilton responds to heckler's 'old' comment with scoring barrage

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Hamilton responds to heckler's 'old' comment with scoring barrage

CLEVELAND Rip Hamilton was content to be a facilitator in Fridays night thrashing of the Cavaliers. But when the Bulls veteran shooting guard heard a heckler disparage him because of his age, he had to respond.
Early in the game, I was just trying to set the table. Luol had it going, Booz had it going and it was just one of those things where youre like, You know what? It might not be my night to go ahead and score, but just to try to get other guys involved, he recounted afterwards. In the third quarter, I just tried to be a little bit more aggressive and guys did a great job of finding me.
And some dude in the crowd called me old. Thats what woke me up, Hamilton continued, to the laughs of the assembled media. He called me Old Man River, some dude behind me. So, I was like, All right, I got something for you.
Instead of engaging with the fan, Hamilton scored 14 of his 19 points in the period, on 7-for-8 shooting from the field. It was a performance that impressed his teammates.
A blind man could have seen that Hamilton was hot. They could just keep hearing his name from the arena PA announcer, Rip Hamilton, Rip Hamilton. He got us going, Nate Robinson said. Thats what we need from each guy. We knew Rip had the hot hand, guys moving, hes still making passes. Guys making easy shots, were getting stops on the defensive end. Thats what got our offense going.
Added Carlos Boozer: Whew! He was on fire. Listen: Rip, I know hes 35 (actually, 34), everyone wants to talk about hes Old Man River and all that. Hes still one of the quickest dudes on the planet, in the league and every time he comes off screens, it doesnt matter where he is, if his feet are set, if his feet arent set, if hes moving in the air, he hits those shots. So, we just kept feeding him. Thats how we are; were going to feed the hot hand. He was on fire in the third. It was great for us, too, because we had a little bit of a lull.
As remarkable as Hamiltons scoring was, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was also complimentary of his unselfishness. Hamilton only had two of the Bulls 34 assists, but his passing was a major part of the teams crisp ball movement.
The one thing about Rip is Rip is going to hit the open man also. If hes open coming off the screen, hes going to shoot. But if the second defender is there, hes never going to take a tough shot like that, Thibodeau said. Hes always going to hit the open man and thats the mark of a winning player. A primary scorer has the responsibility of making the right play.

Shaquille Harrison is on a defensive hot streak

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USA TODAY

Shaquille Harrison is on a defensive hot streak

The Bulls signed guard Shaquille Harrison to provide depth to a rotation that is missing it’s best perimeter defender in Kris Dunn and is lacking playmaking/ball-handling when Zach LaVine gets a rest. So far the results have been positive. Though Harrison hasn’t shown a tremendous amount of promise in terms of being a playmaker, he provides a solid option in the backcourt due to his defensive fundamentals.

Harrison racks up a lot of steals but it is more impressive due to the fact that he is not gambling for steals too often (i.e. getting out of position to try to strip a player you aren’t guarding). He picks up a decent amount of his steals by “digging”, which is a basketball term for applying pressure with a second player without making it a true double-team.

Simple “stunting” (jumping towards an offensive player to mimic pressure) or digging would help the Bulls prevent many of the easy drives to the rim they give up.

A big part of successful NBA defense is making the opposition think you are committing to one thing before executing something else. And the Bulls defense does little to keep the opposition on their toes.

The aggressiveness of Harrison in on- or off-ball defense has serious potential to be contagious to the Chicago roster, and even more so once Dunn returns. We don’t know if we will ever see Hoiberg trot out the Dunn-Harrison pairing or if that duo could do enough to spur on a change--over a big sample size-- in the overall team defense, but the basketball world has definitely started to pick up on his 110 percent effort on the struggling Bulls:


Even when Harrison does things that coaches traditionally don’t like—such as the ol’ ‘Rondo/CP3 reach around swipe’—he makes it work out:

In the above clip he was going over the screen on Celtics guard Brad Wanamaker--the correct play since Wanamaker is a solid shooter--and prevents Felicio from having to contain the guard for too long. A common thing you see from NBA guards in the pick-and-roll is the “snake dribble” that gets them into the paint. Harrison times up this move perfectly, knockling the ball loose as soon as Wanamaker transfers his dribble from his right to left hand.

Part of the reason that Harrison’s gamble in the above play was so great is that fouling can be a good thing, so even if he had fouled Wanamaker, that would’ve been a preferable outcome when compared to Felicio vs a guard or Cam Payne coming over in help defense to contest the 6-foot 8 Daniel Theis.

Harrison’s locked-in defense will certainly be needed as the Bulls head into a three-game slate that features matchups against the Bucks, Raptors and Harrison's former team, the Suns. All three teams have excellent wing scorers in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Devin Booker, and rookie Chandler Hutchison and Jabari Parker can’t be depended on to slow down those players by themselves.

Per Basketball-Reference, the 2018-19 season represents the first time that Harrison has played small forward in his NBA career (6 percent of the time). It will be interesting to see how Hoiberg deploys Harrison against two of the best three offenses in the league, his newfound versatility and consistent effort level should afford him a long-term on the Bulls.

Javy Baez loses out on NL MVP to Christian Yelich

Javy Baez loses out on NL MVP to Christian Yelich

Javy Baez had an absolutely fantastic 2018 campaign, but he is not the National League MVP.

Brewers star Christian Yelich was deemed the best player in the Senior Circuit, receiving 29 of the 30 first-place votes. Baez finished second with no first-place votes. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado finished third after leading the NL in homers (38) and posting a .935 OPS for a Colorado team that lost out on the division in Game 163 and then beat the Cubs in the NL Wild-Card Game.

It may not be popular with Cubs fans who love them some Javy, but it's easy to see why Yelich will take home the highest yearly honor.

The 26-year-old outfielder enjoyed a special season, leading the league in OPS (1.000), batting average (.326) and WAR (7.6 — FanGraphs), finishing 1.3 WAR above the next highest guy (Anthony Rendon — 6.3). For reference, Baez notched a 5.3 WAR.

Baez led the NL in RBI (111) and was among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category while also filling a huge role for the Cubs playing very good defense all over the infield (104 games at second base, 65 at shortstop, 22 at third base and even played an out at first base). 

It's easy to say Baez was the Cubs' most important and valuable player in 2018 and there's no way they win 95 games or maintain a share of first place through Game 162 without his contributions.

But the Brewers surged past the Cubs in the NL Central in large part because of Yelich, who slashed .372/.451/.762 (1.213 OPS) from July 14 on, driving in 68 runs and hitting 25 homers in only 68 games. He was even hotter over the last two weeks of the season — posting a .488/.621/1.116 slash line (1.737 OPS) while Milwaukee went 11-2 and caught the Cubs from behind. 

With both players under contract through at least the 2021 season in the same division, it'll be interesting to see if they can build off their breakout campaigns and continue to battle against each other for future NL MVP voting.