Iverson in transition. Will the Bulls be?


Nov 3

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I was talking to a general manager this weekend and we were trying to guess the first big trade of the season.

We knew Allen Iverson would be traded, but we didn’t know when.

Now we know, and the NBA was buzzing Monday over the bold stroke by the Detroit Pistons to deal Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheik Samb for Iverson.

While the deal appears to make the Nuggets a bit more competitive for the season with more of a true point guard to play with Carmelo Anthony in the experiment of Anthony and Iverson which failed, it could be a master stroke for the Pistons.

With the contracts of Iverson at $20.8 million and Rasheed Wallace at $13.9 million coming off the books after this season, it makes the Pistons a major free agent player for this summer with the likes of Carlos Boozer, but particularly after the 2009-10 season for perhaps LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, the latter two whom Detroit passed on in the 2003 draft to take Darko Milicic.

The pick wasn’t the disaster it could have been because general manager Joe Dumars cleverly had put together a championship team and won a title with the bold stroke of adding Rasheed Wallace. That, ironically, was a few years after a massive four-team deal fell apart at the last instant with Detroit to get Iverson. Had that deal gone through, it likely would have precluded the Pistons from getting Rasheed Wallace, who was generally agreed to be the final piece in the Pistons’ championship season. Just after the deal died, the 76ers went on to get to the Finals with Iverson in 2001.

The Pistons have quietly been in transition this season with Rodney Stuckey becoming the heir apparent for Billups, whom the Pistons weighed offers for this past summer. Also, the Pistons have been using Amir Johnson at power forward more. With Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Wallace along with Iverson, the Pistons should still remain highly competitive, though a playoff loser. Plus, there’s a good chance they get McDyess back. It’s likely he works out some sort of buyout so the Nuggets get some cap relief and after 30 days McDyess could return to the Pistons if he doesn’t get a better offer.

Then the Pistons are in position in what is shaping up as a classic, quick makeover to make a major move in trade or free agency with substantial salary cap room. Ron Artest? Don’t think so. Lamar Odom? Nah.

Though someone like James has been long rumored to be headed to the New York area, though the Nets seem unlikely now with difficulties in building a Brooklyn arena and a possible sale, the Pistons could provide a player like James with a ready made core to go for a championship, which he’ll likely be denied in Cleveland and looking desperately for by then. Or perhaps the Pistons attract Bosh across the border and get their big man they passed on in the 2003 draft.

It’s the kind of move that has kept Dumars ahead of his class among team executives.

For the Nuggets, it’s a long anticipated homecoming for Billups, who played at the U. of Colorado, but at 32 has been in something of a decline. It seems clearly a move, in part, to assuage Anthony, who didn’t fit playing with Iverson. It also closes a door for Stephon Marbury, whom many believe will be bought out or released in New York this week to end the constant media watch of his behavior and whereabouts. If Marbury were to be released, the Nuggets were considered one prime destination, and now it would seem Miami is the most likely spot, though the Knicks certainly would prefer Marbury in the West if they are to release him.

And we thought this presidential election thing which has been all over the papers and internet is big news. Forget that.

Oh yeah, the Bulls are playing, too.

And Vinny Del Negro puts on the line his career Bulls coaching record, which with a .667 winning percentage is second only to Phil Jackson in team history at .738 with Doug Collins at .557 and Dick Motta at .543. I’m using a minimum of three games.

"It’s got to start somewhere," Del Negro offered after shootaround Monday to my goofy stat of the day.

Hey, ESPN comes up with a moronic one just about every hour, so why not me, too?

That’s why Saturday’s win was a good one with division champs Orlando and Cleveland on this trip and then the Suns and Cleveland at home to finish the week. It’s going to be tough for Vinny to hang onto that all-time second spot. So it starts with Dwight Howard, the new Shaq.

Basically that means he can’t make free throws and has no offensive game. But, wow, does he dunk well.

"You try to get him off the box as best you can," Del Negro said about Howard. "We’ve got our hands full with him. We’re going to give him different looks and mix it up. We have to play our basketball, our style (Rashard) Lewis and (Hedo) Turkoglu can get it going. We have to see what the matchups are so we can take advantage. You’d like to have a little bit more size (against Howard), but I also think we’re going to stay with our starting lineup right now and take advantage of our quickness and ability to get up and down the court with our guys. He’s a load. I don’t know if there’s enough size to slow him down, other than maybe Yao or Duncan and guys of that size. He’s a handfill. Turkoglu and Lewis spread the court, so you can’t really help off them too much as it opens up the court for Howard."

Del Negro said he’ll stick with his same starting lineup, which could provide an intriguing comparison. The Magic has a total of 39 points from all its reserves in three games. The Bulls reserve average 38 per game. Without each team’s starters, the Bulls dominate this one. But there’s this Howard guy…

"We have to figure out ways to attack them off the dribble and use our size we have in the backcourt to take advantage of that," said Del Negro. "They like to get up and down, so it should be a good, exciting game."

That basically was the polite way to say what Magic coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t say as politically: What’s the deal with Jameer Nelson. The Magic brought in Mickeal Pietrus to help with backcourt size, but Nelson is a weak link at point guard, and after making the rotation in camp, J.J. Redick at 0-8 for the season is playing himself out again.

In other words, watch Derrick Rose go to work. Van Gundy’s a smart coach, so he should try to trap Rose and get the ball out of his hands. We’ll see because the Bulls have played best this season attacking off the dribble.

"We want to get out in transition and play our style," Del Negro said. "But I’m more concerned with our defense, like in the fourth quarter (Saturday) it kind of triggered our offense and go us into a nice rhythm and flow and we haven’t been able to consistently do that so far. Even though it’s early we have to continue to do that.

"I liked our resolve against Memphis after getting beat up pretty good in Boston. It wasn’t pretty at times. We got down at halftime, but the guys came out and played hard and I thought we got after them a little bit better defensively. We get in the habit sometimes of taking too many perimeter shots. We have to do a better job of controlling the paint and rebounding to get us out in transition and we haven’t done that consistently. When you shoot as poorly we did and still have an opportunity to win, I feel good about that.

"We’ve got better shooters than our shooting percentages right now," Del Negro observed of the 38.8 percent and 38.5 percent on threes and three of 16 without Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon. "I think it’s them getting familiar with the system and terminology and where they’re going to get their shots. That should pick up. It has to. It’s hard to shoot low 40’s and expect you’re going to win consistently, especially against good teams. If we can rebound and control the paint and get after it defensively and get some easy baskets, our percentages go up. We’re getting good shots. We just have to shoot with confidence. You’ve got to keep on shooting with confidence and trust your stroke."

Well, it looks like Tyrus Thomas, third on the team in shot attempts, is heeding that advice.

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.

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