Chicago Bulls fans have some unanswered questions now that the Bulls’ training camp has concluded.
When Derrick Rose graced the fans with his presence on Media Day, it was encouraging to see Rose around his Bulls teammates. On Media Day, all was great at the Berto Center.
Rose took a few moments (via USA Today) on Media Day to discuss his rehab:
Every week I'm improving, just trying to stay patient, take my time, and hopefully be back soon. I'm speechless to know how many people care about me and have been praying for me. I'm working extremely hard to try to come back better. I'm not trying to let anyone down.
Unfortunately, a promising beginning to the Bulls’ training camp, ended with more questions than fans wanted to ask. As a result, the season begins in earnest, with bittersweet feelings.
While it was exciting to see the Bulls back in action, many of the on-court performances were lackluster. Without one player that stood out during training camp with a breakout performance, the unanswered questions for the Bulls begin.
Jimmy Butler was supposed to be the Bulls’ breakout performer but his preseason performance was uninspiring at best.
Swingman Butler wowed many onlookers during his Bulls NBA Summer League performance. After averaging 20.8 PPG and 6.8 RPG in the Las Vegas portion of the annual July tournament, the expectations for Butler changed.
The biggest highlight of the Bulls' summer league team was the way Butler attacked the basket. His 39 free-throw attempts led the team. Butler sank 35 free-throws overall and finished with a .897 shooting percentage from the charity stripe.
Not only did he prove that he could play aggressively, but Butler showed leadership skills.
Butler was instrumental in rallying the Bulls summer hopefuls.
He constantly went over plays with Marquis Teague, making sure that the rookie had a comfort zone.
The preseason has been unkind to Butler, and his .333 shooting percentage over the course of seven games is the true indicator. Not only was his shooting woeful, Butler struggled to score from the free-throw line and made 12 shots out of 20 chances.
Will the real Jimmy Butler stand up? The Bulls needs a breakout player and it needs to be him.
The clock is still ticking on the Bulls getting Taj Gibson to sign his name on the dotted line of a contract extension. What is the holdup?
The Bulls need Gibson and they can least afford to allow him to test the free-agency waters after the season.
Understanding this, what is the holdup?
Is it because the Bulls management has undervalued Gibson’s worth to them, or has Gibson overvalued himself?
Gibson is a good player. He is a serviceable starting power forward backing up Carlos Boozer. Gibson is a defender who can make an open jump-shot and catch the occasional lob pass.
He is a player worthy of making $30-36 million over four years.
Gibson has grown tired of answering questions about his ongoing contract talks with the Bulls.
Here are his thoughts (via CSNChicago.com) regarding the contract negotiations and his focus:
I hope so. I'm just getting tired of getting asked questions about it, people worrying about it. I just want to get back to playing basketball and focus on the season, and helping this team win games. I'm just focused on the Sacramento Kings, looking forward to getting things rolling the right way and just focused on a good season.
Comparing a similar player, the Oklahoma City Thunder signed Serge Ibaka to a four-year extension (via ESPN.com) worth $48 million back in August. The Thunder wasted little time in deciding to lock him up. Ibaka is a centerpiece to the Thunder’s future and will grow with their franchise.
Ibaka and Gibson have the same roles on their respective teams but there are two major differences. Ibaka is only 23 with a huge upside, Gibson is 27 and he is at the prime of his career. The advantage goes to Ibaka.
Those are the reasons why Ibaka is worth the $48 million, at least $12 million more than Gibson is worth.
Gibson wants to stay with the Bulls and a four-year, $32 million deal is good for both sides. What is the holdup?
Is it true that Bulls’ fans are not too enamored with Carlos Boozer? Will Bulls’ fans ever embrace the embattled, high-scoring power forward? The fans boo him early and often when he is in the game.
So far the boos are undeserved. Boozer has not had the best preseason of his career but he certainly has not played awful either.
He is also more determined to help the Bulls win.
Carlos Boozer's take (via the Chicago Sun-Times) on the fans who have booed him:
People look at it from the wrong perspective. This isn’t Utah, and this isn’t just a team with me and (former Jazz point guard) Deron Williams. We’re playing with five scorers here, so your touches aren’t going to be the same, your looks aren’t going to be the same. It’s a different system.
All the people should worry about is if we win. Criticize me if we lose, but if we win, just praise us.
His shooting in the preseason was average at .448, but his intensity was better. He showed improved footwork around the low post, getting in position to make high-percentage shots quicker. He moved well after setting screens and he was active on moving without the basketball.
Boozer’s defense also improved.
His defensive rotations were better than they ever were since his tenure with the Bulls began in 2010.
What was most impressive about Boozer this preseason was his dedication to his footwork on defense. He relied on his feet and lateral quickness to defend and rebound. This is what Bulls’ fans have been asking him to do.
Have the fans taken notice?
If so, when will they finally embrace him?
The Bulls needed someone to put up points even when Derrick Rose was on the floor. Now that Rose is out for an unspecified time, where is the scoring going to come from?
Boozer is a scorer and Luol Deng can score. They are two players who are capable of scoring 20 points a game. After Boozer and Deng, the Bulls’ scorers are scarce.
Richard Hamilton and Nate Robinson will have those moments in basketball games where the rim expands and all of their shots fall. Unfortunately, they will have games when their shooting will become as ice cold as the winter days of Chicago.
Kirk Hinrich has never been a great offensive player and neither is Joakim Noah despite his improvement in the post.
Noah has a developed a solid spin-move that has some shades of Shaquille O’Neal to it. He also has strengthened his mid-range jumper from 17 feet.
The additions to Noah’s offense will not be enough to ease anyone’s tension about how the Bulls will get their points.
The Bulls signed Marco Belinelli in the summer to provide some scoring punch but he has suffered while trying to understand the system. Belinelli, a good scorer, has not located his shot (4.1 PPG and .294 FG) and may have lost his potential role on the Bulls.
Given Belinelli’s struggles, giving up on the Bulls offense is easy to do. If Belinelli continues to shoot less than 40 percent from the field, where is the scoring going to come from?
Have the Bulls decided to tank it this season? If not, why did they not do more to improve this team?
Teams with goals of competing for NBA championships do more than just sign serviceable players. Teams seeking the title go for the gusto. Those teams bring in the best available player that fills the holes of their rosters.
That is not to say that the Bulls signing Hinrich, Robinson and Belinelli were bad moves. They were solid signings given their financial circumstances—the Bulls are at the hard cap limit. One of their signings, Nazr Mohammed, may end up the most underrated moves in free agency.
Each move was solid, though not earth-shattering.
That deal placed the Lakers in the discussion as one of the favorites to compete for a championship.
The Lakers outdid their first act by completing a four-team trade to acquire (via Yahoo Sports) Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic. The trade not only solidified the Lakers' position as a top-two team in the Western Conference, but it solidified their future.
Howard is a player that you can build your team around and the Lakers have him on their team.
The Lakers identified two needs and solved them in one offseason. After both moves, the Lakers are (according to ESPN’s Trade Machine) $42.6 million over the salary cap. They found ways to make their blockbuster deals happen despite having less cap flexibility than the Bulls.
After bringing Nash and Howard, the Lakers found a way to keep Jordan Hill and sign Antawn Jamison Jodie Meeks.
Other championship contenders made difference-making moves as well.
The Miami Heat added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to help space the Heat with shooting and floor spacing.
The Boston Celtics signed Courtney Lee and Jason Terry for perimeter defense and shot-making.
Just recently, the Thunder traded James Harden (via ESPN.com) to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb. The deal will give the Thunder a veteran shooter (Martin) and a young guard (Lamb) to groom.
Each team improved because of their moves, while the Bulls are stuck in neutral with the hope that they can tread water until Rose comes back.
Once Rose does return, he will play for a team that will get an A for their effort and a first- or second-round exit in the NBA Playoffs.
Rose deserves to return to a team assembled better than the Bulls currently are.
Why did the Bulls management not do more to improve this team?