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So How 'bout that New Bulls Lineup
by Sam Smith
Posted on Nov 7
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There’s no mulligans in basketball, but the Bulls, in a sense, decided to try against Friday against the Phoenix Suns.
After a shaky road trip and consecutive losses to the Magic and Cavaliers, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro opted Friday for his first lineup change of his coaching career.
Del Negro, while trying to diminish the significance of the change, benched Thabo Sefolosha and Tyrus Thomas and added Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Gray to the starting lineup with Drew Gooden moving to the power forward from center.
"As I’ve said all along, the starting thing will change periodically depending. We have a lot of young guys trying to feel their way," said Del Negro. "How I feel the matchups and rotations work the best, that’s what we’re going to go with."
I like the move, even if the Suns decided to rest Shaquille O’Neal for Saturday’s game. It’s clear the Del Negro opted for Gray for his size against Shaq. I probably would have changed to Joakim Noah with rookie Robin Lopez starting for Shaq. But Del Negro said he decided to stick with his original plan.
"He’s been playing well in practice," said Del Negro. "Not for any reason. It originally was Shaq was going to play, but he’s not. Lopez will be out there. He’s a big guy."
But the Bulls do need—even if Gray cannot score much and isn’t particularly mobile—someone, anyone, to throw the ball to deep inside so perhaps the defense will reach and you can get some movement and pass the ball.
I asked Del Negro if there was a philosophical decision behind the move. He said no.
"You have to make decisions and go with it," said Del Negro before the game. "We’ll see how it works tonight. I’d like to get off to a good start. We haven’t been doing that. Transition defense will be the key the way they like to push the ball."
The Bulls have been starting in a hole in most games thus far with the same five starters. Thomas was averaging 7.4 points on 25 percent shooting and Sefolosha four points on 35 percent shooting. Though Gray has played little, Hinrich is shooting 41 percent on threes and perhaps can open the court playing off Derrick Rose.
Rose should have a big advantage in penetration as two-time MVP Steve Nash is a poor defender, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Andres Nocioni in quickly to further try to open the court.
"It didn’t have anything to do with Thabo," said Del Negro, who defends his players to a fault. "I thought he played well at times. He hasn’t had consistent minutes. He’s one of our better defensive players. Everyone has a role on the team. It’s not because of a couple of games or anything anyone said. I felt it was time to do that. It could be time (again) tomorrow to do that. I don’t know. We’ll see how the matchups work, where we can be most effective."
Bulls season: Act II.
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.