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Take that, Scott Skiles.
No, that’s not the complete explanation for a nice opening night effort from the Bulls, especially Luol Deng with 21 points and Tyrus Thomas with 15 points and 10 rebounds in the Bulls pulling away 108-95 victory over Skiles and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Thought there was much talk about the failed relationship between Skiles and Ben Wallace, it really was the sensitive Deng and Thomas who felt they suffered the most under Skiles. Deng’s objections weren’t totally fair as Skiles helped him develop into the kind of player who could command the nearly $70 million contract he signed this summer. Thomas, of course, was the victim of the second greatest Skiles rant in his time with the Bulls, the famous "He hasn’t run the court once. Not once!" The most famous was the Eddy Curry obervation that perhaps Eddy should "jump" if he wants to get a rebound.
I suspect we’ll miss Skiles’ candor compared to the apparently careful and politically correct Vinny Del Negro. Friends whom I’ve asked about Vinny’s coaching style didn’t really have an answer. But they all agreed that he’s a terrific people person and good and getting people to come together.
The Bulls did enough of that on opening night to look pretty good.
I liked Derrick Rose.
I’m not offering his Hall of Fame induction quite yet, but I liked the way he pushed the ball north and south, as the coaches like to say. The Bulls still seem to run a bit of that weave they ran under Skiles, and Kirk Hinrich still does a bit too much of that side to side dribbling. He was best getting those open shots, though I think he’ll be best coming off the bench.
That really was the reason we all were so high on the Bulls last season. It wasn’t like they had a great team with stars. But it looked like they’d have the kind of bench depth to begin to overwhelm teams, the ability to go, say, nine-deep with quality players against lesser players in this tightening NBA economy. Yes, where you see the dropoff in the NBA these days is in the bench strength. Perhaps the Bulls have overpaid some lesser players, but it does give them quality coming off the bench.
When you can bring Hinrich, Ben Gordon and Andres Nocioni off the bench along with Joakim Noah, that’s three high lottery picks and a wild bull of the pampas.
Thabo Sefolosha started and I figured that the way the team was finishing the exhibition season, though I’d still like to see Deng take a shot at shooting guard some as I believe he can post some. Deng went back to scoring most of his points slashing to the basket. So I don’t know if he hasn’t worked to extend his shot. It seems he hasn’t, so I’d try him in the post at times. That first unit needs a bit of scoring help, so there probably will be some experimentation.
The Bulls, though, won this game because they were quicker. Was that Mike D’Antoni coaching. Wonder if he wished he’d waited longer before accepting that Knicks offer? Like to see who got the No. 1 pick.
The Bulls had a ridiculous 20-1 edge in fast break points and 44-20 in free throws. And that wasn’t because of home calls.
It was because the Bucks are a woefully unathletic team. The Bulls, for a change, stopped pulling up for jumpers so much and went to the basket, drawing fouls to first keep them in the game against Milwaukee’s better shooters, and then being active enough to disrupt at least three Bucks fast breaks in the third quarter when it appeared the Bucks might open up a good lead.
The Bucks’ only real athlete among the starters is Charlie Villanueva, and Skiles clearly didn’t care for his shot selection, the shots generally being the ones he took as soon as he got the ball. Though Villanueva had foul trouble, he didn’t play much and the battle of wills between he and Skiles will be one of the Bucks’ issues for the season.The other will be Michael Redd, who had 30 points. I don’t know what the stat is—and given the Bucks poor record the last several years it’s difficult to have a good stat—but I’m guessing when he leads in scoring they usually lose. That will be Skiles’ other challenge, getting the ball out of Redd’s hands. Though a good shooter, he’s a ball stopper and doesn’t fit with the way Skiles sees the game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Redd available in trade at some point.
I like the way Rose anticipated and got in the lanes and I didn’t see anything to change my mind that he’ll be the Chris Paul and Deron Williams level in impact. I liked the odd stat they came up with that among No. 1 overall picks, only Jimmy Walker in 1967 (Jalen Rose’s father) had more assists in his first game. I heard they are checking which overall No. 1 wore longer shorts with four letters in his last name.
Rose looked ready with the lob pass, finding Thomas, and Thomas not only hit a few face ups (he still stays outside a bit much), but got to the free throw line. If he can do that—yes, if, if ,if—he won’t be Amare Stoudemire, but he won’t be the wasted draft pick he’s been. Wonder if the Bulls can ask opposing coaches to wear Skiles masks to games.
Ben Gordon is going to be an unhappy guy over his contract. We know that. But he can shoot. No one on the team shoots better. He won’t like being a reserve, but I think he’s a decent guy and won’t try to be disruptive. Nothing wrong with letting him shoot when he’s open. Better he than most others. He still gets up in the air with nowhere to go and loses the ball, and I assume we’ll still see him falling down for no particular reason. But he’s our Ben. For now.
I had a chance to keep an eye on the other games opening night, and it was impressive to see Paul Pierce tearing up at the ring ceremony. It does mean more for guys waiting so long, which we rarely see. Good for them. I’ve listed the Celtic s third in the East, but I might have to change that if the Cavs keep Mike Brown.
I never quite understand what he’s up to. No one misuses a talent like LeBron James more than Brown.
Now, he’s got James hanging around in the left corner while Mo Williams dribbles around. What the heck is that? Put the guy on the top of the floor and let him operate!
James ended with 22 in the loss to the Celtics, but again gagged up a bunch of free throws down the stretch, two of six in the fourth quarter. He’s got to make those to be a serious contender and heir to throne he seeks. Brown, though, mercifully, limited Ben Wallace to 19 minutes. Whew, is he done.
There was an old joke about Michael Jordan that the only guy who could keep him under 20 was Dean Smith (Jordan averaged 17.7 in college). Better watch out what Brown may do with James.
Though the big news of the night was Greg Oden, and as bad as he looked in preseason it was worse in the one sided loss to the really good Lakers as Oden sprained his foot and missed most of the game. He may, indeed, be Sam Bowie. He’s been injured often, and when it keeps happening you have to wonder.
Seeing him actually playing in an NBA game suggested, as one veteran NBA expert told me, a cross between Tree Rollins in being more defender than anything and the demeanor of Robert Parish. It was a disastrous debut with Oden scheduled for an MRI Wednesday morning. Geez, too bad for the kid. I hope he’s healthy. But forget it. He’s no Bill Russell. Not even close.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors.