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Posts Tagged ‘Basketball’

Dwight Howard Owns The Bulls Yet Again

Posted by sportsmaven on January 12, 2009

Looking back to the end of 2008 for the Chicago Bulls, specifically the New Year’s Eve matinee matchup against the Orlando Magic, the Bulls lack of a formidible front line is the team’s biggest, most glaring weakness.  Bulls.com blogger Chuck Swirsky comments:

The Bulls need another body to go up against the strongest man in the NBA today. That’s right . Dwight Howard is ” The Man.” His stats tell only half the story. How many shots does he alter during a game?

The problem the Bulls have is that they don’t have a single person on their roster that is in the neighborhood of being able to contain Dwight Howard, much less stop him.  As long as that remains the case, the Bulls will continue to be exploited by teams with strong front lines, with players as capable and talented as Dwight Howard.

The Bulls front line was exploited yet again in a bad loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team with the worst record in the NBA.  The Bulls were outrebounded 59-37.  Bulls C Joakim Noah and PF Drew Gooden held their own, with 11 and 12 rebounds respectively, but the entire front line of the Thunder had 9 or more rebounds and the Thunder PG Russell Westbrook had 12 rebounds.

Memo to Bulls GM John Paxson: please fix that front line as soon as you can.

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U.S. Olympic Basketball Team “Redeems” More Than Gold

Posted by sportsmaven on August 24, 2008

The US Men’s Basketball team won gold tonight. They beat an upstart team from Spain. I just finished watching the game and don’t recall the final score. What I do recall is not how we won, but how we competed. The US Men’s Basketball team was nicknamed “The Redeem Team”, with the notion that this team was to reclaim the gold for the once storied and dominant US basketball program. They were to restore the pride lost in the 1972 games, the 2004 Olympics, the World Championships. They were to right all the wrongs made in American basketball since the original Dream Team of 1992, called the best team ever to step foot on a basketball court. What they did was so much more.

This team brought back respectability, sportsmanship, and dignity back to American athletes. Each man put aside their personal interests in favor of the goals and accomplishments of the team. No players stood out more in that endeavor than Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. The loudest cheers from the NBA crazed Chinese audience was for the two best players on the planet and rightfully so.

The Olympic Games are the embodiment of good sportsmanship and fair play. It’s an opportunity to put the harshness of political differences aside for a brief moment, a time to rally around patriotism and love of country. The U.S. basketball team taught us all that and more. They taught us to love and appreciate basketball at it’s patriotic best once again.

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Musings On The Chicago Bulls and the NBA

Posted by sportsmaven on April 21, 2008

The NBA playoffs started this weekend and noticeably absent are the Chicago Bulls. While the best teams in the NBA begin the “money” season, teams like the Milwaukee Bucks hire disciplinarian coaches like Scott Skiles. Other teams like the Chicago Bulls are holding their off season team meetings and wondering what to make of the mess of a wrecked season.

In the NBA, like other major professional sports leagues, teams win with a combination of athleticism/talent and desire. With talent and desire, you are the San Antonio Spurs or the Boston Celtics. With lack of athleticism/talent, but an abundance of desire, you can be teams like this year’s Philadelphia 76ers and in the past, teams like the Chicago Bulls. Teams with neither talent or desire become the Memphis Grizzlies or the New York Knicks.

What exactly happened with the Chicago Bulls this season? The Bulls were a team with little talent but with great desire. They worked, hustled, played defense according to the gospel of John Paxson and Scott Skiles. It brought the Bulls 49 wins last season, a playoff series win against the rapidly aging Miami Heat, and a heated playoff series loss to the Detroit Pistons. Entering this season, the Chicago Bulls had a high draft pick, compliments of the New York Knicks and all their starters returning from last season’s successful run. Many picked the Bulls to win the Eastern Conference and advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since the Michael Jordan era.

Then, two things happened that led to the downfall of this year’s team. First, Bulls GM John Paxson knew that he needed a superstar talent to lead this team. Every successful team in the NBA, short of the Detroit Pistons, have a superstar player, a team leader, the guy that will take over in crunch time of a game and impose the will to win on his teammates. Paxson missed badly on acquiring C Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves and whiffed a couple of times on trades for C Pau Gasol. Paxson had drafted some very nice complementary players from solid, winning college programs after cleaning up the mess left by previous Bulls GM Jerry Krause, but none had proven to be the superstar, athletic talent that teams require to compete in the upper echelon of NBA championship contenders. Paxson correctly determined that he needed to acquire that superstar player, and as timing would have it, during the NBA pre-season, Kobe Bryant, arguably the best player in the NBA was vocally unhappy with his situation and publicly stated he desire to get out of Los Angeles. To his credit, Paxson inquired about the availability of Kobe Bryant and rumors ran rampant over the airwaves. Bryant was sure to be traded, as there has been no love lost between Bryant and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, supposedly Jackson had enough with his moody star player. The table was set for a blockbuster deal with prime players identified from the Bulls being some combination of Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich, and Ben Wallace. Luol Deng and Ben Gordon were also offered what each player considered lowball contract offers going into the preseason, but combined with the trade talks, led to a bad taste in every player’s mouths. In the end, the teams never came to terms on players and the deal fell through as the season began.

The second thing that happened was most likely residual from the events above, for some reason, most every player on the Bulls had stopped responding to the playing and coaching style that brought great success to the Bulls. The Bulls stopped hustling for loose balls, stopped playing hard nosed defense, lacked hustle, with team play virtually non-existent. Both Deng and Gordon admitted that the Kobe Bryant trade rumors plus the perceived lowball contract offers affected their play. Each played as through they had to individually prove they were worth not only bigger contracts, but to justify not being traded for Bryant. Their play dropped off dramatically, along with the other potential players in the trade, Kirk Hinrich, Ben Wallace, and Tyrus Thomas and the fate of Coach Scott Skiles and the Chicago Bulls was sealed.

So where does that leave the Bulls now? John Paxson had two of the most difficult tasks to complete in last year’s off-season. He needed to find a superstar, talented player and needed to move Ben Wallace and his albatross contract. Paxson was successful in unloading Wallace to the Cleveland Cavaliers after this season was lost, but has been glaringly unsuccessful in getting that superstar athletic stud talent, and without the high draft picks that can yield that player in the NBA draft. If the Bulls get lucky to land one of the top 2 picks and be in a position to get C Michael Beasley or G Derrick Rose, they can still leverage a combination of Larry Hughes, Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, or Drew Gooden to land a second superstar type player to fuel their rebuilding process. The Bulls need athletic, talented players that have the desire to compete and win every night and need to complement those players with a supporting cast of complimentary players. Right now, they have the complimentary players, but they still lack the superstar.

The Bulls also need a coach that will bring the team spirit back, a coach that can get the players to buy into the team concept once again. Rick Carlisle is available, as is Larry Brown as well as a slew of other ex-NBA coaches that work for ESPN, TNT, or any other network that employs ex-basketball coaches. This offseason is mission critical for GM John Paxson. If he doesn’t get it right, his next moves will be as ex-GM of the Chicago Bulls.

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Chicago Bulls Beat The Detroit Pistons, But Have A Hard Time With Everyone Else

Posted by sportsmaven on January 21, 2008

I sometimes have an enormously difficult time figuring out the Chicago Bulls. Take Friday night, for instance. The Bulls play a talented but beatable Golden State Warriors team that provided match up difficulties and the Bulls were actually winning by 14 points in the second half, but were upended 119-111 by sketchy play down the stretch. The next night, on the second game of a back to back, which the Bulls are something like 2-9 on the second game of a back to back, beat the Detroit Pistons 97-81, arguably the best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.

Bulls Beat Pistons 97-81

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

The Bulls played a terrific game against the Pistons, defined by a very strong 4th quarter performance. The next 10 games are vital for the Bulls, for they have to have a stretch of winning to get to the .500 level. That should be their first goal. The next should be to position themselves as the 5th or 6th seed in a very weak Eastern Conference. If they are a 7 or 8 seed, the Bulls will have very little chance of advancing in the first round of the playoffs. But they have to get there first…..

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The Bulls Are Not A Good Team….And Time Is Running Out

Posted by sportsmaven on January 19, 2008

Watching the Chicago Bulls play the Golden State Warriors tonight in a 119-111 home loss, it occurred to me that the Bulls are flat out, not a very good team. And that’s about as polite as I can get about a team that really lacks game-breaking talent or any semblance of leadership, organization, or passion. The Bulls also lack a clear identity and that’s been a long running problem for this team and organization. The Bulls have somehow figured out a way to take two and a half steps back on the path to reclaiming their glory days of the Michael Jordan years.

Bulls Lose To Warriors 119-111

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

It appeared that the Bulls were assembling good, solid, fairly skilled players that are fundamentally sound and would be great complementary pieces to a marquee free agent signing. The Bulls then signed F/C Ben Wallace and paid him a boat load of money, but I’m still not exactly sure WHY they signed him. He was a high profile name, coming from a successful, NBA Champion pedigreed team in the Detroit Pistons, and seemed to be high energy with the heart of a gamer. A closer look at Ben Wallace shows an undersized F/C that was clearly on the downside of his career, a defensive stopper with no offensive game, a free throw shooter on par with Shaquille O’Neal, in short, not the marquee name to slide into the star role the Bulls sorely lack and need.

Future drafts and free agents signings brought in good, talented players from successful college programs. The Bulls were assembling more complementary talent, that I was sure was earmarked for a trade to bring a game-breaker or two. Then the Tyrus Thomas pick….GM John Paxson moved off the playbook and drafted for potential, bypassing C LaMarcus Aldridge for a more athletic, less fundamental, sky high potential of a freak athlete with only two years of college basketball under his belt. Then the whole thing blew up under the weight of high expectations following a 49 win season in 2006-2007.

After tonight’s home loss the Bulls record stands at 14-22, 8 games under .500 and having a very Chicago Bears-like season. The Bulls, owners of a win streak no longer than two games, are a mess. The Joakim Noah farce was the latest in a turbulent season that has seen gross underachievement, the firing of very successful head coach, Scott Skiles, on Christmas Eve, nonetheless, the two day pause in naming Jim Boylan as interim head coach (as if Skiles was fired with no plan for a replacement in mind) and now G JamesOn Curry developing a urination problem that required resisting arrest and an overnight stay in a Boise, ID jail cell.

The record and poor play would have been more than enough to dislodge the faithful. Add in the endless public relations nightmares, repeated over and over again, the lack of any clear direction or vision for this team, and the lack of any action to forge an identity (pointing out lack of pulling triggers on trades for Memphis C Pau Gasol, C Kevin Garnett, SG Kobe Bryant, or any other playmaker that can make a difference). Now there is talk that the Bulls may be interested in Tracy McGrady. Please. The Bulls are turning into the New York Knicks, and doing it so well, that people are forgetting about the real New York Knicks. Only in the NBA Eastern Conference, would a team like the Bulls be sniffing a playoff spot with this kind of karma……Note to Ben Gordon and Luol Deng: you should have signed those contracts.

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