Posts Tagged ‘Luol Deng’

 

Remember that pinnacle moment in Mad Men where Don Draper takes out a full page ad to bid good riddance to Lucky Strike in an effort to save face in the public eye? This is going to come off a bit like that, but every word is true in the case of disgruntled Orlando Magic Center Dwight Howard: we don’t need you in a Bulls uniform to win a championship. This year. What we need is a healthy Derrick Rose leading the stampede and keeping the other eleven guys involved as he’s gotten us accustomed to seeing. He is a once-in-a-generation leader, a scoring point guard with jump-out-of-the-gym hops who still distributes the ball evenly and efficiently, keeping the guys involved and ultimately creating an on-floor chemistry that leaks into the locker room and permeates their personal lives. These guys are in it to win it. Together. And Derrick is our leader, our most valuable, our hometown hero.

So, why has the topic of trading for the best center in the league become more than just hypothetical hyperbole? Why would we want a player so arrogantly naive he thinks he’s allowed to make lists of teams he’d like to play for? I was happy to see that we were not on his list of potential suitors. We don’t need him. Seriously. No you guys, I’m serious.

In Bill Simmons’ seminal The Book of Basketball, Isiah Thomas reveals that the most important element of winning in basketball is that “it’s not about basketball.” Sounds ridiculous, right? I mean, of course it’s about basketball. The most talented roster wins, right? The team with the best players will win the most championships, right? Wrong. I suppose if that were true, even though his Heat trumped team defense with superstar prowess last summer, LeBron would have at least ring by now, wouldn’t he? The point Chicago’s own Zeke (and Rick Barry of all people, among others) goes on to make through his stories in The Book of Basketball is that championships are won by teams with the best…wait for it…team chemistry. The San Antonio dynasty that is somehow still intact 13 years after their first championship run together thrives on this very principle: high character guys sacrificing their ego for the sake of winning. Because, despite what you’ve heard, let’s face it:  winning is everything.

High character winners are exactly what the Bulls brass has assembled mostly through the draft but also key free agent acquisitions from Jerry Sloan’s Utah Jazz. MVP Derrick Rose won multiple state championships at Simeon and played in the NCAA Championship in his lone season at Memphis. Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng played under legendary (and Chicagoan) Coach K at Duke. Joakim Noah won unheard-of-nowadays-back-to-back ‘chips at Florida. Rip Hamilton won it all at UConn and got a ring in Detroit. What did Dwight Howard accomplish in college? Oh wait, that’s right…

The point I’m getting at and one that all Bulls fans should embrace is that we don’t need Dwight Howard or any other big name malcontent coming to town and screwing up the fragile chemistry that has powered us to the best record in all of basketball land in this shortened season. We have all the pieces in place to win–now.

Dwight Howard will never be an NBA Champion. We’ve built something the old fashioned way here, and he thinks he’s Superman. Hey Dwight: Shaquille O’Neal already took that nickname! And copycat bullshit is something we don’t, and will never, welcome here in Chicago.

It’s not just about basketball. It never is. It’s bigger than that. Bigger than Superman.

That was ugly

And to be honest rather than focus on the improbable victory over the same team just days earlier and the pasting of the Magic the night before, we’re going to concentrate on something Bulls fans need to start understandeing, especially after the Atlanta Hawks blew them out on Saturday.

You’re gonna have ugly games like this from time to time.

I think the most important thing for the average fan to grasp is the fact that a high effort/high energy team will just not have it on a given night. Every single point scored by the Bulls is a grinding effort to the basket. Every single Bulls defensive possession is a grinding effort to prevent the other team from getting to the basket. It’s a grind both ways and in a truncated season it’ll wear on the players.

This isn’t to make excuses for the play, however. It was awful. Rose had his worst game as a pro Saturday night. Joakim Noah, for all the work he’s put into his offensive game, is shooting 38% from the floor and is a 7 Pt., 7 Reb. guy right now. That’s unacceptable. Add in Boozer’s ole defense and it’s going to be a bad mix.

You can’t always rely on Derrick Rose to bail you out. It’s time for that vaunted Bulls frontcourt to step up their game and start contributing in a bigger way. Deng has been solid, but Boozer needs to be more consistent. He’s shown flashes of being the second option that can get easy buckets, but he shoots too many fade-a-ways to be that type of reliable scoring threat, I think.

I’ve said it a few times, how well Boozer plays will determine how the Bulls do against the Heat. Trust me, that’s still the only match up that really matters. Yes, the Atlanta Hawks will be annoying in the postseason. They are an athletic team that when motivated can do what they did to the Bulls. But, they might also be the dumbest team in the league. It’s the same, inconsistent team that lost to a LeWade-less heat team the night before. In triple OT. They are a merry group of knuckleheads, every once in a while they’ll come up and bite you, but for the most part they are perfectly harmless.

Don’t panic Bulls fans, this team seems to respond well to losing, actually. And the rest will be important. This next stretch of games will be a real test of how the Bulls handle the rest of the shortened season.

Remember, OKC won three games in three nights. Your turn Chicago.

And, fin.

I thought I would do something different for this post.

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Moe Rubio is going through the gauntlet and will post a Bulls related post every day for 12 days.

Nobody pictured this. I don’t care how ardent a Bulls fan you are, deep in your heart you never imagined that the Bulls would be on the cusp of a championship, that they would be cast as the heroes of the 2010-2011 NBA season. The sting of being passed over by the big 3 free agents cut pretty deep, and a few pundits passed this version of the Bulls off as a 4-5 seed and a tough second round match up.

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The 12 Days of Bullsmas. Day 9: Luol Deng

Posted: December 21, 2011 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Basketball, NBA
Tags: , , ,

Moe Rubio is going through the gauntlet and will post a Bulls related post every day for 12 days.

I used to be a very big Deng critic. It was spawned more out of anger than any real basketball analysis. I let the Kobe Bryant trade rumors and the aftermath affect me more than I should have. I wasn’t quite in the start John Salmons at the 3 camp, but the offense did seem to flow a little bit better when he was in.

Deng has proven to be a more than capable basketball player. His defense makes up for a lot of his offensive inabilities. Deng doesn’t dribble well and his 3 pt. shot isn’t all you want it to be, but he is comfortable as the third offensive option. The Bulls don’t need Deng to be the primary scorer now that they have Rose and Boozer. Deng is a big X Factor in the Bulls fortunes as they try to figure out a way to solve the Heat puzzle.

The Rip Hamilton and Luol Deng combo will be the reason the Bulls either win or lose the East. Derrick Rose will be the focus of opposing defenses, but if Hamilton and Deng can hit the outside shot it will force teams to stay honest and not trap so aggresively when the Bulls set up for screens. The Miami Heat played a swarming defense that choked the passing lanes and disrupted the flow of their offense.

It’s pretty hard to make fun of dude, he’s a solid ballplayer.

Deng is an able defender. His job this season is to shut down the wing, rotate over when the perimeter defense breaks down and be a kick out option for Derrick Rose. Deng is who he is, there is not going to be another jump in improvement for him. This is fine, he no longer needs to be the star we all thought he was going to be in the advent of the Heat series from a time before this current NBA landscape.

In the 2007 playoffs Deng averaged 22 and 8. Game 1 against the heat was his coming out party. He scored 33 pts. and grabbed 8 rebounds in a surprising victory over the defending champs. Stardom was predicted for Deng from that moment, and when he failed to live up to the expectations, Bulls fans turned on him. The following year the Bulls were the subject of trade rumors as Kobe Bryant wanted out of LA. Bryant allegedly wanted to come to Chicago. Deng was rumored to be the sticking point in the deal and since then Bulls fans have expected a level of play from him that was unrealistic in hindsight.

Deng has improved in funky ways. His 3 pt. shot was not good coming into the NBA, so he stopped taking 3’s. His FG percentage shot up, but his efficiency never improved. His defense was pretty ok coming in, but it’s turned into something that resembles elite. He’s not quite the shut down defender that some imagine him to be, he’s not quite the LeBron stopper, but he does fit well in the defensive scheme Thibs has cooked up for the Bulls.

Lu will never be a super star, but he has turned into the underrated piece of the Bulls. What he does well doesn’t necessarily show up on a stat sheet or in highlight reels, but it is important for a team that is predicated on good defense and smart offensive play.

Deng will be the difference in a Bulls-Heat rematch. Historically he does well against James. Well, he does about a good a job as any other elite defender can against James.His offensive game can help the Bulls, but it won’t be the primary reason they win most nights. Deng is a solid piece, but Bulls fans should stop expecting more from him. He is who he is at this point, and that just might be enough.

Moe Rubio is going through the gauntlet and will post a Bulls related post every day for 12 days.

It’s funny to think about the Bulls franchise before the 2008-2009 season. It’s tough to go back and remember that Larry Hughes started for this franchise, that the Ben Wallace money was still haunting them, that Scott Skiles once had success here even with his particular brand of cut throat coaching and it’s especially hard to think of a time when Derrick Rose was not a Bull.

For me the collective basketball years of 1999-2008 have become a blur, a brief hiccup in the middle of two superstars. That is what Derrick Rose has become in his short career in the NBA, he has transcended my expectations of him as a player and exploded onto the scene with such force and fury that it’s impossible to avoid hyperbole when talking about his game.

When I was watching the finale of the 2008 NCAA finals, I was doing so to forget about a flat Bulls team that so thoroughly disappointed, I needed to resort to the college game to preserve my basketball sanity. This was the Kirk Hinrich and Loul Deng led team that “played like a college team.” They moved the ball around and hit the jumpers. They gave a scare to the Detroit Pistons in the playoffs the year prior. PJ Brown scored 20 in a half for that team. They were picked by many to be the #1 seed behind a defensively minded coach in Scott Skiles and a no superstar team that was supposed to be greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Of course it’s the NBA and of course the team failed. They had a history of starting slow early in the season and we all kept waiting for that run to happen, we kept waiting for this team to start hitting those jump shots and for Ben Gordon to have a crazy 3 pt. shooting 4th quarter and bail this team out.

It never happened, and for all intents and purposes, the Bulls were in NBA hell. They weren’t bad enough to hit rock bottom and get the number one pick, but they would never be good enough to rise above the 6th seed and become a real threat in the East.

I turned my attention to this:

I became a Memphis fan because they had a kid from Simeon. The south side of Chicago has it’s own particular brand of basketball that is a true testament to “Chicago Tough,” even if I believe it’s a myth. Games of 21 is murderball, you need to avoid contact to score because you will not get the call. You have 6 other guys blocking the paint waiting to absolutely beat your brains in as you try to guide your body through the arms and legs and torsos to the ultimate goal.

It was pretty clear Rose was used to that. The snakey moves to the cup that were invented out of self preservation rather than style showed me that. It became clear during March Madness that he would become a lottery pick, and as much as I would wish for a great story, the Bulls would have virtually no chance to get him.

Well, they had exactly a 1.7% chance to draft Derrick Rose. That percentage was so low that the Bulls sent Steve Schanwald to the Draft Lottery selection, then the Bulls VP of Business.

Yeah, that’s the guy.

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing during this particular moment. I was in the darkroom at Columbia College, processing film, hoping the Bulls would move up to maybe #5, and hopefully OJ Mayo will still be there.

That’s when the entire landscape of the NBA changed forever as the course of two franchises who’s potential storied rivalry is still in the works completely turned on their heads.

Perhaps fate had dictated that Rose would end up in Miami with the other Chicago kid, Dwyane Wade, as the Heat were the favorites to get the #1 pick. It was clear that David Stern had other Ideas as the Bulls got the #1 pick, and for all intents and purposes, Derrick Rose.

I don’t have to go into the poorly thought out Beasley vs. Rose discussion.

You idiots who wanted this hot garbage know who you are.

Even then, however, it was hard to imagine what was to come. The untapped potential within Rose in that first year is astounding in retrospect. The Bulls had made a bone headed coaching hire in Vinny Del Negro, they were bringing back a veteran team and it was uncertain if Rose would start over Kirk Hinrich to start the season.

Yep, think about that, Rose vs. Kirk was a real discussion amongst Bulls fans in the early days of what must now be considered the Rose era. Rose is a violent player. It looks fluid from certain standpoints, but when you start dissecting his game he is much less a ballerina floating to the hoop and more a missile bearing down on it’s target, accelerating right before it makes an explosive impact.

To watch Rose then wasn’t exactly artistry. It was more blue collar than that. It was more akin to seeing a craftsman learning on the job. For all the explosiveness and the fluidity, there was a certain flavor there that while not pretty, was damn impressive to witness in it’s own right.

The artistry would come later, but the raw product far exceeded expectations. He would be named Rookie of the Year.

His deficiencies as a player were pretty well known. Considering that he possesses an elite level of athleticism, his defense at the time was poor, and it brought into question his coaching, which was pathetic. His outside jumper wasn’t there quite yet, and he could not hit a 3 pt. shot. Teams would sag off him in those early years and dare him to shoot.

The rookie season culminated in an exciting 7 game series with the Boston Celtics.

Some would start to see it then, including myself. It was after this series and Rose’s amazing rookie debut that I began to realize that Derrick Rose is a lot better than I thought he would be.

The NBA, like all professional sports leagues, forces you to adjust. When you first appear, your natural athleticism will take you only so far before the league figures you out. At that point, it’s up to you to hit the gym and create a move. Then a counter move and so forth.

No one was quite sure where the ceiling on Derrick Rose was, and to a large degree we still don’t. The leap from year 1 to year 2 was astounding, but it was still largely a lost year. The Bulls showed marginal improvement but were still hamstrung by the Ben Wallace money that would finally come off the books. They were summarily dismissed by the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round as it became clear that in order for Rose to fully realize his potential he would need a teacher.

You rang?

And this is where the full scope of what really happened when the Bulls won the draft lottery would start to come into focus.

Remember, before the MVP award, before the 62 wins and the countless highlights, there was the summer of LeBron. It was his ultimate decision to join Bosh and Wade in South Beach that cemented the legacy of that draft. Who knows what the NBA looks like if the Heat win that lottery and draft Rose, rather than Beasley who is languishing in Minnesota for a franchise that will never win.

We have this version of the NBA, however. The questions still remain for James and Rose, can they be the best players on a championship team? It almost seems certain for James, but Rose still has work to do. Granted, his ceiling is much higher than I or damn near anyone else not in the Rose family could have predicted, but he’s still a 6’3 guard. Even with his sublime gifts, even at the height of his power, even with the simple desire to wee-un, the question is can he be the guy?

Rose’s game is a full on blood sport at times, a pure representation of south side Chicago ball, with moves born out of necessity and a little bit of flash. Yes, his jumper has improved and the tear drop is a pretty effective, but it’s a game built on collisions. He’s a basketball ninja when he launches an aerial assault on opposing defenses. His game isn’t meant to simply carve, it eviscerates as he dives into the teeth of the opponent and imposes his will.

The improvements have been many, and word is that he is working on his post game this season. He’ll need it, because the Heat are only getting better, and while the Bulls are looking to improve without shaking the core, the time might be coming near for the front office to gamble on a move to improve the franchise.

Derrick Rose has shown me that he has a killer instinct and a burning desire to win. He is the reigning MVP and is currently helping change the landscape of a league. He is the face of the Chicago Bulls, and the opportunity is there for him to do the unthinkable and endear himself to this city in a way Michael never could. Mike was a borrowed talent, Rose is all ours, born here, plays here, lives here and dies here as his tattoo says.

Balls in his court to ascend into something more than a superstar. The legend title beckons, and I believe he will answer the call.