As I sit here trying to wrap my head around what happened in the Houston Rockets' shellacking of the Chicago Bulls, all that seems to run through my head is Dr. Seuss's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" Nothing seems more pertinent. Exactly a year ago, Bulls fans were screaming their heads off when Rose hit what ended up being the game winner. This year, we sat shaking our heads in shame, embarrassed by the product put on the floor. To put it into perspective fans at the United Center couldn't bear to see four complete quarters of humiliation and started to leave at the end of the third quarter. That's right. The third quarter.
(Editor's note: We here at Bulls 101 had our game recap posted before the game was actually over. So…yeah.)
So in this ongoing nightmare that is the Bulls season, who is playing the role of the Grinch? Sure we could blame it on fate (if you believe in it) for taking Derrick Rose away from us with his injury. But in actuality the Grinch is comprised of three people: Gar Forman, Jon Paxson, and, of course, Jerry Reinsdorf. You all know what happened this past offseason: the Bulls took apart a team that was able to contend for a title even without their superstar with the intentions of saving money to avoid the tax. First off, you never break apart a title contender. EVER. Mark Cuban showed us that the past couple of years. Secondly, how do you replace that team with one that has Vladimir Radmanovic and Nazr Mohammed as backups? How is that ever a good idea?
Thinking about it is infuriating and I could probably go on for ages. So for the time being, let's just move onto a special edition of grades, grading the front office for their work:
Jon Paxson's tenure in Chicago outside of his playing days have not been fruitful to say the least. Paxson started off with the front office in 2003 as Vice President of Basketball Relations and eventually general manager. While he managed to return the Bulls to becoming a playoff team during this time, he did very little else. Most roster moves he made were complete busts outside of drafting Ben Gordon and Luol Deng. While he is no longer general manager, he continues to influence roster moves as Vice President of Basketball Operations. During this time, he has continued to fail to attract stars to Chicago (other than the much maligned Carlos Boozer) and played a big role in cutting BenchMob of the past two years. Along side all of this he's also been the center of some controversy, such as the "fight" with ex-coach Vinny Del Negro (I personally believe he started it to find a reason to fire Del Negro). Overall, his tenure in Chicago has been below average and I can't help but wish he were no longer associated with the franchise.
I cannot be too hard on Gar Forman for managing to put together a very strong roster after only getting Boozer in the 2010 free agent class. However, I cannot forgive recent transgressions since assembling the Bulls roster. First and foremost, Forman has been reluctant to pull the trigger on possible roster moves. I'm honing in on trading for Dwight Howard. Sure Howard had said Chicago wasn't on his list of teams he'd extend with, however, neither were the Los Angeles Lakers but that didn't stop Mitch Kupchak from pulling the trigger. All the while, Forman disassembled the previous roster, allowed Omer Asik to walk out the door for zilch, signed Vladamir Radmanovic, Nazr Mohammed, and proceeded to hard cap the Bulls by signing Kirk Hinrich (who is currently the third least effective player on the Bulls). He may be Co-Executive of the Year, but right now he's making me long for anyone else (preferably Phil Jackson) to replace him. Maybe then the Bulls will have a pitchman who knows how to assemble and manage a roster as well as have someone who attracts star power.
While I said that Paxson and Forman are part of the Grinch that stole Christmas (and this season) from the Bulls, owner Jerry Reinsdorf is easily 95% of the Grinch, including the Grinch's brain. In his tenure owning the Bulls, Reinsdorf has consistently been cheap. Until Thibodeau, Reinsdorf has refused to pay for coaches and he's repeatedly unpaid his stars not named Michael Jordan (see- Pippen, Scottie). He also looks at basketball as only a game while viewing baseball as a sport. To this end he's funneled out money earned from the Bulls, the most profitable team in the NBA the past five years according to Forbes, and gave it right to the Chicago White Sox. His cheapness may have saved him some cash and made the Bulls financial champions but it's made us fans miserable. Hell, to avoid paying the salary cap, he's looking to cut Chicago's third most effective player this season, Nate Robinson, in order to try to avoid the salary cap. Reinsdorf has set a dangerous standard for the Bulls and until someone else steps in to become the owner (or part owner) it seems Chicago will be stuck in a cycle of having the right pieces but always falling short because the owner is too cheap.
That all being said, let's move onto the player's grades for tonight's game against the Rockets:
Noah has been a gem all year for Chicago. A recent article by ESPN's TrueHoop network profiled Noah and showed a wide variety of stats showing his growth and importance to the Bulls for this season and moving forward.
But tonight, for the second game in a row, Noah was not that effective. While he was 100% from the floor tonight, he turned the ball over far too many times and struggled to crash the glass for offensive boards (the latter not surprising considering he was working against Omer Asik). Defensively, he was able to slow Asik, but Asik was able to get positioning on him for easy offensive rebounds and easy buckets.
Noah tonight was decent but cannot have these kinds of performances if Chicago wants any hopes of winning games.
Third game in a row that I've seen Boozer play as if he's only worth a minimum contract and I can only sit and wonder how many games he's had like this during the season (recall I haven't been able to watch many games this season).
Offensively, Boozer was a nightmare. He was missing his shot, he couldn't finish at the rim, and he just missed many passes. On defense, he was… Boozer-esque (no defense).
Tonight's performance in a string of terrible performances brings us back to the question many of us asking after the 2011-2012 season, why is Boozer still on the team?
As much as I'd like to scream bloody murder at Deng for his performance on both sides of the ball, I just cant. Early in the game Deng sprained his ankle yet he still returned to try to help the team. On offense he was slow and couldn't get his shot going what-so-ever. On defense, he obviously had lost a step which allowed a speedy Chandler Parsons and, occasionally, James Harden to blow right by him.
Because of the injury, I feel that it would be unfair to grade Deng tonight so I'll leave him with an incomplete.
Belinelli was decent on offense tonight as he shot 50% from the floor while also hitting a couple of three pointers. Unfortunately, his defense was just so bad I cant even give him an average grade. Belinelli repeatedly let Lin, Harden, Parsons, or whoever he was guarding do whatever they wanted to do which often times left him scrambling. The defense was so bad Thibs actually cut his minutes from the 30+ he was playing to only 20 minutes. This actually helped the team a bit which can only tell you just how bad he was.
A night to forget for Belinelli.
Ahhh Kirk Hinrich. The man that hard capped the Bulls. I cannot believe a mid-level exception was used on him, for any reason. Offensively he was terrible only shooting 25% on the floor while also making poor passes and constantly missing the open man. Defensively, Lin and Harden made him look like he was the oldest player in the league as they repeatedly humiliated him.
Terrible, terrible night for Hinrich. If he keeps this up, it wont be long until Bulls fans are calling for him to be traded away to a team for nothing.
The bench wasn't bad tonight, but they still couldn't do anything to limit the damage Asik, Harden, and Lin were doing. Taj Gibson had a decent night shooting and managed to stave off his old defensive partner to a degree. Jimmy Butler wasn't much of a factor on offense but provided some solid defense on the variety of wings and guards the Rockets have. Marquis Teague wasn't great on offense or defense but showed us flashes of brilliance a couple of times in the game. Teague is also the only player to have a positive plus/minus for the Bulls. Overall, I would give the bench an average grade.
But that'd be the wrong thing to do because of Nate Robinson, the lone highlight of the night. Robinson, while quiet for most of the game, was able to provide a major spark for the Bulls tonight in the fourth quarter as he cut down the lead from 30 to 15 almost single handedly. While he slowed down, I cannot overlook the effort and the numbers he ended up putting up for the Bulls.
Not much Thibs could do tonight as a coach. The team just did not perform at all. In fact, he was so angry at his team's failures tonight he actually stopped screaming and started giving death stares as his face changed from the normal red to bright pink. The one thing I do fault Thibs for is playing Deng 36 minutes despite Deng having sprained his ankle.
If you watched the game, you know what the team is going to get.
What I Expect For Next Time:
- Not what I saw in this game. Never again. If I ever see this kind of performance in any respect I will end up with a concussion for having repeatedly slamming my head into a desk.
Thanks for tuning in everyone. I'm sorry that you had to witness this game tonight but it is what it is. I hope you all enjoyed the game as much as you could and I hope that you will still look forward to the next game against the Pacers tomorrow night (12/26). From myself and everyone at Bulls 101, until next time and happy holidays!
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