- Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah all started a game together for the first time and the results were very enjoyable. Each starter had a positive double digit plus minus, while all the bench players were negative.
- Rose looked great after sitting out the last two games. He was active early and often in his 32 minutes, scoring 24 points on 9/20 shooting and dishing out seven pretty assists. SB Nation has all sorts of highlights in Vines for you. The play that really stood out to me was a double clutch pass that shouldn’t be physically possible. Jo grabbed it and finished inside.
- Speaking of Joakim Noah, he had by far his most complete game of the season. He finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes of his own. He only shot 5/13 and is clearly still working his way back, but the results were encouraging.
- Pau Gasol locked up his fifth double double in eight games…by halftime! He finished with 17 points, 15 boards, four assists and four blocks. While his defensive rebounding had quietly been an issue, Pau did a much better job boxing out tonight. He’s been the Bulls’ most consistent player by far.
- The Bulls finally won the rebounding battle, outboarding the Pistons 49-46. It was pretty much even throughout the game, but with a starting lineup including Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond (not Drummund), the margin was more than satisfactory.
- Jimmy Butler played 43 minutes, including the entire second half. Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott got ten minutes combined. Tony Snell did not sniff the floor. Something to keep an eye on.
- A late foul by ex-Bull DJ Augustin gave Derrick Rose the Big Mac clinching free throws that the fans were craving. The Bulls have played three home games but were yet to deliver the Macs.
- No one on Detroit had a particularly good game, although it is extremely entertaining watching Stan Van Gundy shake his head after terrible Josh Smith shots and pull Brandon Jennings for Augustin.
- Greg Monroe pissed himself while getting a DUI this summer. It has nothing to do with the game, but I think it’s important we remember this. Have any of your friends ever gotten so drunk that they peed themselves? They were probably too drunk to walk, let alone drive, right? Screw Greg Monroe. He put innocent people’s lives in grave danger. Remind people about this when you can.
- The Bulls get two days off before taking on the conference leading Toronto Raptors on Thursday. The off days should do wonders for the banged up Bulls after a stretch of five games in seven nights.
The world might be ending.
As each day of the early 2014-2015 NBA season passes, I’m beginning to believe that my chances for repeating as league champion are dwindling.
Yes, I’m that asshole who abandoned his own strategy and outfoxed himself. Like any giddy champion, I’ll admit that I thought my competitive advantage would last a little longer. Needless to say, this tactician might have miscalculated.
So what exactly went wrong?
Simply put, I didn’t get my guy. Year in and year out, I go for the one guy to build my team around. While most of my friends believed it to be Anthony Davis, the one who knows me the best (a certain other writer on the site) kept on pushing the price up. That guy is James Harden, and that shrewd asshole is Jacob Bikshorn. Bicky spent a “ludicrous” $110 out of his $230 budget on Harden and in hindsight was probably worth every penny. Meanwhile, I like any savvy trader, knew my risk tolerance and decided to go with Plan B (insert your own joke). Unfortunately for me, drafting Carmelo Anthony for $80 may have aborted my lofty expectations for the season.
Fully considering the risks of drafting Anthony (ie. new triangle offense, new coach, pressures to live up to expectations), I thought Melo would have more swag than what he’s showed early on. So far in the early season, Anthony is averaging 19.5 Points/4.0 Rebounds/4.3 Assists on 38% shooting. Hardly world-beating figures and only good enough for 2.64 on the League Player Rater (around 5 or 6 is pretty good, over 10 is phenomenal).
What most concerns me, however, is the drastic drop in free throw attempts. “Everyone” knows that FTAs (in Free Throws Made as opposed to FT% leagues) is the key ingredient to having a great team. In my opinion, it’s one of the most sustainable and game-able statistics. So far, in six games this season, Melo has attempted 4.8 FTAs compared to 7.7 FTAs for his career. That’s nearly a 40% drop. While I’m sure his numbers are likely to rise over the course of the season, that shit is pretty significant and will unlikely regress fully to the mean. I’m banking on the return of Jose Calderon to the starting lineup to get the ball rolling in a positive direction.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bikshorn is sitting pretty with Harden and his career-high 11.7 FTAs and you see why I’m kinda freaking out. To make matters worse, my NBA-parallel in life DeMarcus Cousins is no longer on my own squad and currently kicking my ass in this week’s H2H matchup. (Editor’s note: Jake is perfectly content with Steph Curry ($101) and Blake Griffin ($80)).
Nevertheless, I’m still optimistic about prospects for grinding out the season. The likes of Goran Dragic and Paul Millsap have to come around eventually and I’m gonna ride the Donald Sloan and Tony Wroten train as long as possible. I have a couple advantages going for me: 1) the ability to manage the volatility of the waiver wire more effectively than the competition (I trade stocks as my full-time work so I’m constantly in the loop of information) and 2) roster flexibility that allows me to add and drop nearly at will. These advantages have held up in the past, so I’m banking on them big time down the stretch.
The world may not be ending, but I’d lying if I told you that I don’t think the roots of this year’s fantasy squad might be fundamentally flawed from the get-go.
Thanks for the read and have a good one,
Welp, the Bulls lost to the Cavs in the home opener. I can’t say I’m all that surprised at the actual result, but that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed. I had this game as a loss for the Bulls in my preseason predictions for various reasons, but the Bulls should have won the game. Up five points with under a minute to go is usually a victory for Thibs’ Bulls.
But, now the Bulls stand at 1-1, and although every win is important, it’s early in the season, and as I’ve discussed in my First Quarter Preview, I expect some more losses to come, and some might be frustrating.
Now here we are, just two games into the season, and the questions are already beginning, as anticipated:
Q: Derrick Rose is inactive against the Timberwolves due to the ankle injury. Is this what we’re going to expect all season? Another battered and injury-prone Rose?
A: Although every Rose injury has Chicago holding its breath, this isn’t one that Bulls fans need to worry about. Ankle sprains are commonplace in the NBA – the only reason he’s scrutinized is because of his propensity for leg injuries, so an ankle causes some concern. The reality of the situation is that sitting Derrick for the Wolves game is the right decision. In a back-to-back, it’s possible Derrick may have sat some anyway, since he is on minutes restrictions. So all things considered, no, Bulls fans shouldn’t worry about an ankle. 80 games to go, Bulls fans.
On the upside: Derrick looked great, posting 20 points in 25 minutes on 8-16 shooting and showed he can still pull the ball out of his pocket.
Q: Butler’s preseason injury seemed to be handled poorly – even if he has as little a thing as a jammed thumb in that preseason game, shouldn’t he have been taken out and examined?
A: It is my general view that player injuries today and how they are handled are much softer than in the 1980s and 90s. I don’t think that is disputed much. Guys seem to miss games for the smallest of reasons. This isn’t surprising, considering salaries have grown tremendously since then, and guys are playing for more than just pride and achievement (i.e., $). Owners, managers, and coaches have to protect their investments, so they hire medical staff that create additional precautions than would have been in place 20 or 30 years ago – they don’t want to be responsible for making a “clear-to-play” decision if the player wasn’t truly ready, so they tend to tell the players that they should be cautious. My point here is that I think we as fans worry a little too much. These guys are competitors and will play if they can play, unless somebody explicitly tells them not to.
I didn’t exactly answer the question yet. Historically, the Bulls’ medical staff has not been as conservative as other organizations. But considering that Jimmy is back for the T-Wolves game, it couldn’t have been that serious, so no, I don’t think it was handled poorly. It’s possible he’s coming back too soon, of course, and people will challenge the Bulls’ organization if this injury persists, but I have to trust the Bulls’ medical staff. I usually think these discussions are just talking points for sports radio and newscasters when they don’t have more important things to talk about. Much ado about nothing. Let’s talk about the game, instead. It’s more interesting.
Q: Why weren’t McDermott and Mirotic in the game more? Shouldn’t Thibs be switching up the lineups and getting guys minutes early in the year?
A: They’ll get their minutes. The reality of the situation was game flow and match-ups. Of course, the emphasis is on winning, so Thibs is going to make decisions that he thinks will give him the best chance to do that. Last night, Dunleavy had a tremendous game and played great defense on LeBron. Looking at the box score, you would think he got destroyed, scoring 36 points, but if you watched the game, Dunleavy passed the eye test – his defense was pretty solid. LeBron is just damn good. Snell came into the game and knocked down a couple of huge threes, and he also did a good job on LeBron with his length. Yes, he had the silly rookie-like mistake of fouling LeBron when the ball was out of bounds, giving him two free throws late in the game without taking any time off the clock, but that shouldn’t be the thing we remember about Snell from this game – he played a good one. Since McDermott and Mirotic aren’t ball handlers and they can’t play Center, that leaves the 4 spot open. Between Noah and Gibson, are you going to play McDermott and Mirotic as under-sized 4’s over them for very long? I don’t think that’s realistic. McBuckets and Mirotic will get plenty of minutes. It just wasn’t in the cards last night for those two, and I’m not losing any sleep over it.
Another side note: It was great to see Hinrich diving to the floor and Rose taking a charge. It’s extremely important that the veterans set the tone. Although wins at this point in the season are not make-or-break, I do like to stress the value of instilling a winning culture. If the veterans are getting down to the floor, it sets an incredible precedent that teaches the new guys that this team really is something special, and it’s worth putting in the effort.
Q: Tristan Thompson had twelve offensive rebounds. Why couldn’t we have an answer for him?
A: Before anybody gets too excited, the Bulls will be better next time. Thibs’ teams always find ways to rebound, and they will get there by January when the Bulls play the Cavs in Cleveland (although I did catch him admitting that the Bulls didn’t have an answer for Tristan, something he rarely admits about anybody). Tristan’s offensive rebounding was the main reason the Bulls couldn’t win, and despite LeBron’s 36, Kyrie’s 23, and Love’s 16, Thompson is the unsung hero of the night. He kept possessions alive and out-muscled the Bulls’ bigs. He was also in the right place at the right time, as Bulls defenders had to rush to double team LeBron when he would get into the paint, leaving an opening for weak-side positioning on rebounds.
But after Gibson turned his ankle, it clearly affected his play down the stretch, and I point to this as one of the main reasons Thompson continued to out-board the Bulls, even though he was consistently effective earlier in the game as well. But Taj failed to get position countless times, and he even fell down on a key rebound with 24 seconds to go in the game off of a James’ miss, presumably due to instability on that ankle. Tristan secured the rebound and put it in to send the Cavs up 4 in OT, all but sealing victory.
The Bulls will not get out-rebounded in January, you can count on that. The Bulls play the Cavs four times this year, and they are the Vegas favorites to finish one and two. If this game was any indication of how the rivalry is going to go (hopefully including a postseason Eastern Conference Finals matchup), we’re in for a treat.
The NBA knows how to schedule games, and the Bulls v. Knicks on opening night in New York has everyone’s attention.
Here’s the entangled storyline for this one – let’s see if you can unravel it: Hall-of-Fame inductee Phil Jackson is the new President of the New York Knicks. Phil, of course, was the head coach of the Bulls through the Bulls’ Championship years – snagging six championship rings with Jordan and Pippen. The Zen Master will have Derek Fisher, new head coach and former champion under Phil, leading PJ’s touted Triangle Offense, with which he enjoyed much success in Chicago and LA.
Phil was also the victor in the free agent market by persuading Carmelo Anthony to stay in New York, whom the Bulls sought aggressively this off-season, but failed to secure. Instead, the Bulls did manage to land the other prize of free agency, Pau Gasol, who won championships under Phil with the Lakers. New York and Chicago are two incredible basketball cities and experienced an intense rivalry in the last years of the 80’s and into the 90’s – the Bulls routinely dominating that rivalry.
If that’s not enough of a storyline for intrigue, let’s not forget what happened last year: Derrick Rose hit the game winning shot to stun the Knicks in their home opener.
Will Phil’s Zen-like mentality trickle down to the players? Will it be enough to overcome the lack of talent? Will Derrick Rose be too much? Will Melo regret his decision to stay with New York, opting to take more money in lieu of immediate championship dreams? How will the Bulls do without Jimmy Butler (ruled out indefinitely)? Will the Bulls’ reserves start to get it going? Will Pau and Noah figure out their roles? Will the rookies on Chicago have opening night jitters? Will Phil and Thibs get into a staring contest, winner-take-Melo? Okay, probably not the last one…
It’s a great way to kick off the season.
My prediction? I’m confident that the Bulls will pull this one out after getting behind early.