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Is it time for some changes for the Bulls?
by Sam Smith
Posted on Dec 20
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The Bulls, for a change, would like to get off to a good start when they play the Philadelphia 76ers at the United Center Tuesday.
In the last 13 games, the Bulls have trailed in the first quarter by at least eight points seven times and by double digits four of those.
So it is time for a change.
There’ll be at least one starting lineup change and there probably should be two.
One will be at center with Taj Gibson likely out with the after effects of a concussion, though after the loss to the Clippers Saturday it was obvious the Bulls cannot start Gibson and Carlos Boozer with Joakim Noah out after thumb surgery.
So it’s likely veteran Kurt Thomas starts at center, and, in part because of that, it’s also time for a change at shooting guard.
While Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau likely will start Thomas or rookie Omer Asik, it remains uncertain whether Keith Bogans will return to the role he was supposed to play when he was signed, that of supporting player.
But with Ronnie Brewer’s hamstring problems in training camp, Bogans fell into the starting job and as things went well with the team he just kept it.
Not that things are so bad now after the one point loss to the Clippers or that any of it is Bogans’ fault since he plays little after halftime.
But these slow starts Thibodeau is constantly referring to and did again after Saturday’s loss as a key problem, due some to a lack of offensive energy to open games, have become somewhat epidemic. Without Noah, there is an even bigger energy drain, and even a greater lack of scoring with Thomas or Asik. Asik is a more mobile center than Thomas and a better help defender, but as a rookie he’ll get too many fouls and probably is better off the bench.
But if Bogans stays in the lineup now with Thomas, that’s two non scorers, giving the defense basically only three guys to defend, and two players who aren’t exactly going to be leading the fast break.
Which is why it’s now time the Bulls have to make a change to get more scoring in the lineup to open games.
Brewer was supposed to be the starter, and he is a higher energy guy given he is good pestering on defense and playing passing lanes for steals, which ignites the Bulls offense.
The Bulls could go with Kyle Korver, who is obviously a better shooter and spreads the court more. And Korver has been a decent defender. He’s not as athletic as Brewer, but if he gets his shot going early that could also provide the boost to kick start the team at the opening.
I’d say give Brewer the shot first as Korver is a better sixth man type for bench points. And Bogans is true pro. He’ll understand and not take it personally. It’s not like it hasn’t happened with him before, even just last season with the Spurs.
Not that Derrick Rose should do everything, but Rose comes into games more looking to get teammates going. He probably could come in shooting, but he is a point guard at heart even as he scores so much, and he wants to involve his teammates. He can, as he’s shown, take over when things are going poorly.
But as a result since Rose tends not to be quite as aggressive to start, the Bulls have staggered out unless Luol Deng is going strong or Boozer is making everything.
I know Thibodeau is a loyal coach to veterans and both hasn’t wanted to mess with a successful group or suggest any blame should go to Bogans by benching him.
With Noah out and now Taj likely out, it’s just vital to try to find more offense. That’s no knock on Bogans, who wasn’t brought in to be an offensive player. And nobody’s about to suggest the problems are because of Bogans with two of the team’s top big men out.
I like starting Thomas, actually, thought I’m not sure how many minutes he can handle and still be available later in the season and the playoffs when you want him. But he’s probably the only player on the team who’ll take a hard foul, which someone has to start doing the way teams are beginning to try to take out Rose.
The Bulls can survive, and did, without Boozer. They should be able to survive, if not prosper, without Noah. Without Rose, they can start planning for the lockout.
And if energy and trying to change the game is needed, the Bulls ought to also give James Johnson a look. He’s only played in two of the last nine games, and just two and three minutes in those two. He does some goofy stuff, but he’s hardly the only one. But he is a real athlete and has the potential to energize the lineup when he’s in.
The Bulls can really bog down with that second unit now with C.J. Watson, Asik and Korver not exactly pushing the ball. I’m not suggesting trusting Johnson with the offense, but he can make some plays and rebound and run out, starting his own break, which is what Thibodeau wants players to do. But not too many are capable.
Look, this so called “easy” stretch of games is not going to be so easy, as the Clippers showed. The 76ers are playing at a high level, the Wizards just beat the Bobcats by 30, the Knicks have been mostly hot and then the Pistons on a back to back Sunday just knocked off the Hornets.
The Bulls seem in no position anymore to support the luxury of a non scoring shooting guard and almost no scoring from their center position. It is time to change things up.
For a change.