Bulls on fast track to recovery
It’s often said
that speed kills, and indeed it was Chicago’s speed that
murdered Detroit on New Year’s Eve.
The Bulls’ jet-set includes several top-notch
• Derrick Rose’s quickness is augmented by his
long strides as he approaches the hoop. He can certainly finish in
traffic and is especially dangerous on the run, but Rose’s
offensive weapon of choice is a spinning-fallback-flip-shot that he
can unleash with deadly accuracy going both ways.
While he’s far from being a selfish player, Rose
continues to make questionable decisions when he looks to pass the
ball in the paint. And this is precisely why he’s more of a
combo-guard than a true point guard.
At the other end of the court, Rose’s athleticism
enabled him to make an occasional block, but Rodney Stuckey
repeatedly attacked him for profit. Rose’s primary problem on
defense is his inability to react when his opponents spin and/or
quickly reverse direction. Good ball-fakes also froze him.
• Joakim Noah grabbed 21 rebounds and demonstrated that
he is perhaps the most active center in the league. His talents
include immaculate timing, uncanny anticipation, strong hands,
quick feet and quick, bouncy ups.
Noah’s man-to-man defense wasn’t challenged
because the Pistons (like the Bulls) lack a proficient post-up
scorer. But his rotations were exemplary, and his screen/roll shows
On offense, Noah has mastered a driving, spinning,
right-handed jump hook. And he also climbs the offensive glass (6
offensive rebounds) with all-out hustle and willpower.
At the same time, his handle and his passwork are horrible
— 8 turnovers. Overall, Noah is a terrific complementary big
man who would be even more effective if paired with a burly,
• Tyrus Thomas can run and jump with anybody —
and his defensive range is likewise among the league’s best.
Even though, Charlie Villanueva posted Thomas and rudely bumped him
out of the play, TT is demonstrating much more discipline on
defense than he ever has.
On offense, Thomas scores on the run, on crisp backdoor cuts,
and he even dropped a running left-handed hook. If he can maintain
his focus, the young man can be an incredible pace-changer off the
• While Kirk Hinrich isn’t the blazer that some
of his teammates are, he’s quick enough to turn the corner on
screen/rolls, get into the middle, and make effective passes. What
Hinrich can’t do is create his own shot. Like Rose, Hinrich
is a combo-guard and is best utilized as a utility backcourtsman
off the bench.
He’s a scrappy defender, but was overpowered by Stuckey
and was frequently late in keeping up with Ben Gordon’s
• Luol Deng has a kind of angular, loose-jointed
quickness. His timing is off as he rounds into game shape after his
latest injury, but he works hard on defense and will eventually
reprise his role as a consistently dynamic pull-up shooter and
• At 6-9, 225, Taj Gibson is quicker than he looks. His
current role is to hit the boards and play defense — both of
which he does extremely well considering that he’s a mere
rookie. He offers excellent help on high S/Rs and
ball-penetrations, and he held his ground when Villanueva tried to
abuse him in the low post.
Gibson missed his only two jumpers, but his release is soft.
The rook has a bright future in the NBA, but he’s not
the point-plus big that the Bulls so desperately need.
• Although James Johnson only played 13 minutes, he
proved to be another fleet-footed rookie. Measuring 6-9, 245,
Johnson shows signs of being a wide-ranging defender.
Not all of the Bulls were speedsters.
• John Salmons is relatively slow with the ball, but he
knows how to take advantage of angles and lanes. Primarily looking
to shoot — 6-10, one assist, 17 points in 26 minutes —
Salmons is the only other player on the team (besides Rose) who can
routinely create his own shots. And if Salmons is shooting well,
he’s playing well.
On defense, Salmons relies on know-how, and he too had
trouble staying in touch with Gordon.
• Brad Miller has always been a quarter horse competing
against stallions, but at age 33 he’s lost a step.
Miller’s contributions are supposed to be accurate passing
and the ability to knock down open jumpers. But he managed only a
single assist to go with three turnover-passes.
Miller’s immobility was particularly evident on
So, then, if warp-speed and energetic youth constitute the
hope for the future, what does Chicago need to mature into a solid,
playoff-worthy ball club?
A legit point guard. This is totally essential since the
Bulls might be one of the worst passing teams in the NBA. Virtually
all of their 24 turnovers came on a wild variety of inept passes.
A hefty low-down scorer who compels double teams. Against the
Bulls, only Gibson, Thomas and Rose posted up a collective total of
four times, producing three points.
Another wing who can create his own shots.
Don’t blame Vinny Del Negro for Chicago’s
disappointing 13-17 record and their miserable performances on the
road. This game marked the third consecutive win for the Bulls,
which signals a significant improvement.
It’s now up to John Paxson and Gar Forman to fill in
the missing pieces that would conceivably transform this young,
buzz-quick outfit into a team that even the NBA’s elites
would not be eager to face anywhere at any time.
Here’s the one and only sure-fire
truth about the NBA: Every thing changes every season.
That’s why repeat championship are so
rare — only five teams have accomplished this in the
last 30 years.
That’s why three guys who were named Coach of the Year
since 2006 are currently unemployed: Avery Johnson, Sam
Mitchell and Bryon Scott.
And that’s why — disregarding the respective
impacts of injuries and age — some players get markedly
better, and some get markedly worse from one season to the next.
All of which gives me still another chance to make a list.
Worse than before
Chris Andersen has lost that extra oomph, perhaps due to the
weight of his new ultra-bucks contract.
Andrew Bynum has regressed to where his most descriptive
adjective is once again “potential.”
Boris Diaw doesn’t seem able to function in a
Randy Foye has devolved from a future star to a role player.
Kevin Garnett has become little more than a mid-range jump
Manu Ginobili has lost his faith — in himself.
Richard Jefferson’s game got lost somewhere between
Milwaukee and San Antonio.
Mehmet Okur plays like he’s aged 10 years during the
James Posey’s scoring and shooting are lower than
ever — perhaps he’s still mourning for his halcyon
days in green.
Hedo Turkoglu is still struggling to learn how to speak
David West is obviously playing with an invisible
refrigerator strapped to his back.
Better than before
J.J. Barea gets taller the more he plays.
Aaron Brooks’ on-the-job training has been remarkably
Erick Dampier has suddenly become a go-to scorer.
Chris Douglas-Roberts has asserted himself amid the confusion
in the swamps.
Goran Dragic’s apprenticeship to Steve Nash has him on
the express track to brilliance.
Monta Ellis has taken full advantage of his free license to
do whatever he wants with the ball.
Channing Frye has become a high-flying angel in 3-pointer
Carl Landry is like a Saint Bernard puppy — his
game gets noticeably bigger every day.
David Lee now has an accurate mid-range jumper.
Steve Nash is running again.
Zach Randolph has become a bona-fide superstar.
J.J. Redick’s hard work is paying off.
Josh Smith’s shot-selection has greatly
improved — where he used to take 1.3 treys per game, now
he takes one every 10 games.
Jason Thompson has suddenly been transformed from being a
jack-of-all-trades to a master of all of them.
Beno Udrih has benefited from Sacramento’s addition of
Tyreke Evans to excel at his natural position as shooting guard.
I was always intrigued by Reggie Miller and the fact that
he was so good despite his rail-thin body. Could you do a breakdown
of his game? –
Chris, Corona, CA
At 6-foot-7, 195 pounds, Miller was certainly
“rail-thin”, and a thin rail at that. But his body was
extremely lively, active and quick. He was also a fiery, emotional
Miller had tremendous range and a quick, step-back release
that made his jumpers virtually unblockable. He could finish in
crowds, pull-and-pop going either way and his head fakes were
always convincing. Miller’s specialty was running all-out
along the baseline then running hard and quick off screens. With or
without the ball, nobody in the league came off screens tighter,
quicker and with more energy than he did. At every opportunity,
he’d also look to draw fouls by jumping into his defender.
He was also extremely dangerous in transition situations.
Pulling up for a 3-ball was an acceptable option for Miller (39.5
percent lifetime from beyond the arc), even when the Pacers were
working on a 3-on-2 fast break.
Passing was not his forte since he always had eyes for the
Opponents defended Miller by denying him the ball and playing
him as physically as possible. That meant tailgating him around
screens instead of topping the screens.
His primary tactics on defense were to gamble in passing
lanes and to flop at the slightest contact. In fact, Miller loved
to run out on defense (i.e. take off downcourt as soon as his man
hoisted a shot).
As I’ve said many times previously, Miller was a good
clutch shooter, but this aspect of his game was highly overrated
because so many of his clutch shots came against the high-profile
How good was he?
Not good enough to be the go-to scorer on a championship
team. Almost good enough to get voted into the Hall of Fame. But
TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY
We were returning to Albany from a
game against the Bay State Bombardiers in Brockton, Mass. The
players were driving the van and I rode shotgun as Phil Jackson
drove the car that was provided by the team. Instead of taking the
same route along the Mass Turnpike and N.Y. Thruway that the
players took, as usual, Phil decided to drive along the back roads.
And indeed, because of a recent snowfall, the rural scenery was
We made two stops along the way.
The first was at an extremely weathered wood-sided house.
According to Phil, the house was built by his ancestors in the 18th
century and was the oldest surviving domicile in the country. I
didn’t — and still don’t — know
whether or not to believe him.
Our second stop was at the shore of a beautiful frozen lake
that was surrounded by several snow-capped ridges. Without a word,
Phil got out of the car, walked out onto the surface of the lake
and seemed to adopt a meditative attitude.
It seemed like a good idea, so I did the same, finding a spot
about 30 yards to his left and perhaps 10 yards farther out then
where he was standing.
A perfect time and place to appreciate the hushed scene. The
stillness. The virginal snow cover. The glory of creation. Ah, the
blessings of this life and this world. The peace and the …
My mediation was rudely interrupted by a snowball to the back
of my head that neatly knocked my hat off.
Under the circumstances and still wearing his gloves, it was
a great throw.
Without a word, without even a laugh, we climbed back into
the car and continued our journey.
During the 35 years or so that we’ve been buddies,
there’s one thing that I’ve learned about Phil:
There’s absolutely no way to anticipate what he’s
thinking or what his next move will be.
Perhaps that’s one reason why he still intrigues me,
and why our friendship has lasted so long.
If you have a question or comment for Charley Rosen, please
email firstname.lastname@example.org and he may respond in a future