Bulls ’10-11 Preview
30 teams in 30 days.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
Aside from the Miami Heat (of course), the Chicago Bulls had one of the most impressive summers of any NBA team in free agency this year. Without signing anyone with a superstar name, the Bulls still managed to address the two most glaring holes in their personnel that have plagued them for quite some time and should make them a squad to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference this year.
First they went out and took care of their long-standing need for a low-post scorer and true back-to-the-basket player by inking Carlos Boozer to a five-year contract. He wasn’t the team’s first option, but as a back-up plan, the Boozer signing was about as good as you can get. The guy is a guaranteed 20 point, 10 rebound per game player and also adds a level of physicality down low. The Bulls haven’t had someone with either of those characteristics on the roster since, ironically, another former Duke Blue Devil played in the Windy City 10 years ago in Elton Brand.
Of course getting amped about Boozer is moot at this point since he’s going to be out with a broken hand for the next eight weeks, but when he does appear in uniform, it’s going to be exciting to see him and Joakim Noah give opposing frontcourts fits.
Oh, and by the way, when Boozer finally is healthy and playing alongside Noah, rebounds are going to be hard to come by when opposing teams play Chicago.
To fans of the other 29 squads in the L, you’ve been put on notice.
Next, the Bulls addressed their need for a “legit” long-range shooting threat by signing the best shooter in the NBA, Kyle Korver, who averaged a ridiculous 54 percent from three-point range last season setting the mark for the highest single-season percentage ever, besting previous record holder (and former Bull) Steve Kerr who’d held it since the ’94-95 season.
In his first preseason game in a Chicago Bulls uniform Korver dropped 22 points on 7-12 shooting from the field in a little over 28 minutes. I know it’s only preseason, but shooting nights like that should be a regular occurrence for him this year.
Along with the additions of Boozer and Korver, the Bulls also added Ronnie Brewer, Keith Bogans, CJ Watson, veteran PF Kurt Thomas, Brian Scalabrine, and they finally brought over Omer “I’m a real person and not a figment of anyone’s imagination like the Easter Bunny” Asik from Turkey.
Also new in town is Head Coach Tom Thibodeau (pronounced Thib-uh-doe, not Tib-uh-doe), a lifetime assistant in the NBA who finally gets his chance to run his own team.
Known around the League as a defensive mastermind, Thibodeau now brings his expertise to Chicago and is fortunate enough to have the players to make the Bulls a nightmare on D for opposing offenses. And speaking of offense, it’s still unclear as to how much knowledge Thibs actually has on that front. Speculation right now ranges from the guy could be an offensive genius to, he probably doesn’t have a clue. But he does know one thing from experience and that’s the old addage that defense wins championships.
The Bulls have undergone extreme and almost complete turnover since losing to the Cavs in last season’s Playoffs. They only return five players from last year’s roster, all of which have worked extremely hard over the summer to improve themselves in preparation for this season.
Derrick Rose played in the FIBA World Championships and won a gold medal with Team USA. He took a lot of heat for his play this summer, but what most fail to realize or even acknowledge is the valuable PG experience he gained from being taken under the wing of fellow adidas three-striper Chauncey Billups.
Most people were looking for Derrick to do what they’ve seen him do in Chicago the past two seasons, but that wasn’t his team. Rose’s role was to do whatever he could to contribute to the overall success of Team USA, soak the experience in, and learn as much as he can and bring it back in order to help him become a great player long-term for the Bulls, the team that actually does belong to him.
Look for him to be much better in pick-and-roll situations on defense and to display more floor leadership this season not just with his play, but vocally as well. His demeanor has been one of the biggest knocks on him so far and being vocal hasn’t really been one of his strongest traits.
Personally, I’m fine with him being the quiet kid that he is. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick…or a mean crossover and a 40-inch vertical; you will go far.” Or something like that.
Luol Deng is back for season number seven in Chicago and some fans actually wish he were gone by now. But the Bulls threw a ton of money at him two seasons ago and as it stands right now, like it or not, he’s going to be around. At least for a little while longer anyway.
Quietly, when healthy, Luol has been the most consistent player the Bulls have had on the roster. His career averages of 15.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game aren’t bad for one of the top-10 SFs in the game today. Yes, I said top 10.
This notion all started at the team’s media day when my man Aggrey Sam and I were having a discussion about Deng and he made this claim. After a LOT of thinking, I had to concede that he was probably right when I couldn’t name 10 guys off the top of my head that were better than him. I know it seems like a stretch, but if you think you can, have at it. It’s certainly not as easy of a task as it may seem.
To his credit, Deng absolutely killed for the British National Team this summer and he’s looking to have that elevated play carry over into this season and maybe win back the hearts of some disgruntled Bulls fans.
OK, that one might actually be a stretch.
Finally, it’s been said by many people on numerous occasions that Joakim Noah LIVED in the Berto Center this summer working on his post moves, his 15-foot knuckleball jump shot, his conditioning, and his upper and lower body strength. Tom Thibodeau conducted every single one of Joakim’s individual workouts and the coach now has a supreme confidence in his still young, but budding big man because of how impressed he is with his work ethic.
While many fans were clamoring for him to be used as trade-bait in the end of summer “Melo-drama,” Noah quietly went about his business of continuing to work hard and not let the trade talk affect him.
To show just how serious and intent they were on keeping Noah (and with a little encouragement from the Boozer injury), the Bulls awarded him with a five-year contract extension worth $60 million making him only the second player from the 2007 draft class to sign an extension; the other of course being Kevin Durant.
It’s certainly money well spent when you consider that he’s the heart and soul of this team and he’s still improving. Besides, although centers may be tall as one, they don’t exactly grow on trees. When you find a good center, you’d be wise to hold on to them for as long as you can.
Also returning are steadily improving second-year PF Taj Gibson who exceeded any and all expectations that anyone had of him last year, and SF James Johnson (also in his second year) who has all of the tools to be a solid pro but still has yet to figure things out. Like this no-no.
It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed but the Bulls are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the team’s first NBA championship this season and will wear a commemorative patch on their jersey’s to honor the achievement. Also, at halftime of their March 12 contest against the Utah Jazz, the team will honor members of the famed ’91 squad that defeated the Lakers with a special ceremony. Scheduled to attend are Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, current Bulls television broadcaster Stacey King, and VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson.
All said, it’s an exciting time to be a Bulls fan. An NBA championship still seems a bit far off, but unceremonious first-round exits in the postseason should now be a thing of the past.
Playoffs: Second Round
Previous Season Previews can be found in the archive.