February 28, 2010

C'mon, IOC and Team Canada

How about a Game 3 to settle this once and for all?

The Kidd from Cal

19 points, 16 rebounds, 17 assists.

Calling it a triple-double just doesn't do it justice.

Since the 1986-87 season -- when Basketball-Reference.com's box score database begins -- Jason Kidd's triple-Montana in Friday's 111-103 OT win over Atlanta is only the third of its kind. Magic Johnson predictably had one of them -- his was actually a triple-Winger -- in a 142-118 win over Denver on April 18, 1989, scoring 24 points with 17 rebounds and 17 assists.

Wanna guess who owns the other one? It's Jason Kidd. From 1996.

In that 105-101 win over the Clipper, a 22-year-old Kidd played all 48 minutes in posting a 21-16-16 line. But what he did against the Hawks, less than a month from his 37th birthday, is unprecedented.

There have now been 41 triple-doubles by players 34 and older; Kidd has nearly half of them with 19. Of the 14 triple-doubles by players 35 or older, five belong to Kidd. However, only one of the other 35-plussers had as many as 12 in each category: Larry Bird's inconceivable 49-14-12 against Portland in 1992.

Forgetting about age, Kidd now owns the only 15-rebound, 15-assist, 3-or-fewer-turnover game in the B-R.com era. The only one. In fact, the rest of the NBA has only four 14-rebound, 14-assist, 3-or-fewer-turnover games in that span, by Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Grant Hill, and LeBron James, and all but Jordan -- who did it in a remarkable 30 minutes -- needed at least 48 minutes of playing time to accomplish the feat. Kidd, meanwhile, has four all by himself, and has required just 44, 42, 38, and 46 minutes to do it.

So I think you can see where I'm going with this: Jason Kidd is better than MJ, Bird, Hill, and LeBron combined.

*****

While a student at Cal, I was lucky enough to witness the Jason Kidd era in its entirety.* The guy was just unbelievable with the basketball in his hands. The astounding array of assists was unlike anything I'd ever seen. Three-quarter-court bounce passes with crazy english on them... Oddly angled lobs on the fast break... No-look behind-the-backs threaded between two guys... His court vision was otherworldly, and he played the game on an entirely different level from anyone else out there. I was also lucky enough to watch him in the cathedral that was Harmon Gym. Going to a college basketball game is just so superior the NBA experience, and Harmon was one of the places to see a game. Tiny and cramped, and louder than shit.

* Incidentally, Kidd and I both dropped out of school following the 1994 basketball season. He left to make literally hundreds of millions of dollars playing in the NBA, while I, uh ...

Fuck.


During Kidd's first season (my sophomore year), he got the coach fired; led the nation in steals with an NCAA freshman-record 110; established single-season school records for steals and assists; led the team to just its second NCAA Tournament bid in 33 years; hit a crazy, contested, last-second pretzel shot to beat LSU in the first round; and knocked out two-time defending National Champion Duke to advance to the Sweet 16 (where the team lost to Kansas).

The next season, Kidd was just as brilliant, leading the nation in assists while breaking his own school record, earning first-team All-American honors, and becoming the first sophomore ever to be named Pac-10 Player of the Year. Unfortunately, the team battled injuries all year long and bricked its way out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round, after which Kidd bolted.

As did I, though I would return 12 years later to complete my degree. I suppose that brings the score to Jason Kidd $165,853,968; me 1.

(Originally posted here.)

*****

Kidd's NBA career, which sometimes gets downgraded because of the lack of a title, has been both steady and spectacular. He now has the second-most assists (10,742) in league history and the fifth-most steals, where he is just one away from tying Maurice Cheeks for fourth. Now in his 16th NBA season, Kidd is still averaging nearly two steals per game; if he maintains that pace, he'll likely move into second place by the end of next season.

He's also now played the 13th-most minutes all-time, and his 37.13 MPG are almost identical to renowned ironman Karl Malone's 37.16. And Kidd has used those minutes like no other guard before him, pulling down 7,721 rebounds, more than Alonzo Mourning, Kevin McHale, Wayne Embry, and Sam Perkins.

And for all the _ason Kidd jokes -- you know, He's got no J. Hilarious! -- do you realize that Kidd is now fifth all-time in 3-pointers made? Fifth! Now granted he's taken a high volume of 3s, and his career percentage (.347) is only 196th; still, that's higher than Kobe Bryant (.341), Sam Cassell (.331), Rip Hamilton (.343), and Robert Horry (.341). Additionally, Kidd's scored over 15,000 points, more than Bill Russell, Shawn Kemp, Dennis Johnson or Tim Hardaway.

Who's tired of statistics?

Fine, we'll move on to more statistics. Please take a gander at this here chart:


Last before First with Change Last with First after Dropoff
Mavs 13-69 36-46 +23 26-56 20-62 -6
Suns
41-41 56-26 +15 51-31 36-46 -15
Nets
26-56 52-30 +26 41-41 34-48 -7
AVG 27-55 48-34 +21 39-43 30-52 -9

All are records for the first full season before/after Kidd's arrival/departure. And the improvement that Kidd apparently brings to each of his teams -- which, combined with the above-mentioned statistics, makes him one of the five greatest point guards of all time -- is probably the biggest reason Mark Cuban decided to roll the dice and re-acquire Kidd in a deal centered around Devin Harris.

The move was not well-received.

Nor did it payoff in terms of regular season record. In 2006-07, the Mavs won 67 games. In 2008-09, they won just 51. Plus Harris blossomed in New Jersey, earning an All-Star berth while Kidd was outscored 115 NBA players, including a T.J. (Ford), an O.J. (Mayo), a D.J. (Augustin) and a pair of C.J.'s (Watson and Miles). At that point, the (ahem) initial impressions seemed to be correct.

However, in last year's playoffs, the Mavs broke through to win their first series since the devastating loss to Bennett Salvatore, Joe DeRosa, and the rest of the NBA's officials in the 2006 Finals. So was that enough to swing the trade back in the Mavs favor?

Although there was some additional salary-cap flotsam, the deal essentially boiled down to Kidd for Harris, $3 million, and first-round picks in 2008 and 2010. The '08 pick turned into Ryan Anderson -- who, coincidentally, played at Cal during my second go-round on campus -- and while Anderson is a very solid rotation player, the Nets already essentially gave him away to Orlando. The second pick will likely be in the high-20s, where you're lucky to get a player the caliber of Taj Gibson.

Meanwhile, Harris has taken a major step back this year as Kidd is putting together his best season in four years. In fact, Kidd actually leads Harris in PER (Player Efficiency Rating) 17.79 to 16.59. Kidd has also been healthy -- that's really Harris' bugaboo -- and has thus played nearly 700 more minutes, so that his Value Added (213.4, the eighth-best among point guards) is nearly twice that of Harris (117.7).

Since the deal was made, Harris has a huge edge in PPG, nearly doubling Kidd, 18.8 to 9.5. But look at the rest of the numbers:


Kidd Harris
FG% .423 .425
3P% .418 .284
3PM 289 124
FT% .813 .811
FTA/G 1.3 7.3
Reb 6.0 3.3
Ast 9.1 6.8
Stl 2.0 1.5
Blk .48 .25
TO 2.4 2.9
Ast/TO 3.8 2.3
Fouls 2.1 2.5
Games 168 135
Min 6003 4743
MPG 35.7 35.1

The field goal and free throw percentages are nearly identical. Everything else except for free throw attempts per game is heavily in Kidd's favor. Is it enough to offset Harris' advantage in scoring?

I guess that depends on what you like. Still, you can have the guy who's won four times in 41 games this season; I'll take the one who's won everywhere he's been, mostly because he makes plays like this.

And no, I'm not biased. What in the world would ever give you that impression?

February 25, 2010

Bulls in no rush to guard Brandon, win anyway

While the Bulls spent most Wednesday night's game failing to put away the Indiana Pacers, all that matters is the final result: a 120-110 victory.

The Bulls came out in the first quarter looking very much like a team that was angry about giving away a game to Washington on Monday. With Luol Deng leading the charge, the Bulls jumped out to a 35-12 first quarter advantage. At that moment, I thought to myself:

It turns out my fears were completely unwarranted, as the Bulls blew the entire lead by the 2:00 mark of the second quarter.

With the Pacers hitting wide-open 3 after wide-open 3 to propel the comeback, I realized that the Bulls had clearly reacquired Tyrus Thomas, because someone was repeatedly failing to rotate, and we've been told all season that such an unconscionable transgression is unique to Tyrus' game.

After a Brandon Rush 3 -- he finished the first half 4-of-6 from the behind the arc, while Danny Granger was 3-of-5 -- finally tied the game at 52, the Bulls eventually limped into the locker room with a 58-54 halftime lead.

However...

The Bulls came out in the third quarter looking very much like a team that was angry about giving away a big lead in the first half. Only this time, they did not let the Pacers back in the game, or at least not until Vinny Del Negro's head-scratching decision to pull Luol Deng in favor of James Johnson with less than three minutes to play.

A few observations:

1. Taj Gibson bounced back from an uninspired effort against the Wizards with a nice, strong game

Gibson finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. That's a quality performance from someone who's become a very solid player as the year's worn on. But for the love of God, the Rookie of the Year talk has got to stop. Gibson is having a fine and pleasantly-surprising season; but no one that's not a biased Bulls fan/media hanger-on even considers him a legitimate contender for the award. Nor should they.

Entering Wednesday's game, Gibson was tied for 15th among rookies with a below-league-average 13.64 PER (Player Efficiency Rating). Given that PER is calculated on per minute basis, and Gibson has gotten a decent chunk of playing time (25.1 min/game), he fares better in Value Added (59.7), where he ranks 11th.

Here are Gibson's rankings among rookies in the traditional stat categories:


Per game (/min)
Points 13 (27)
Rebounds 1 (5)
Assists 22 (36)
Steals 13 (30)
Blocks T-1 (4)
Fouls 1 (6)
Turnovers 11(8)
FG% 4
FT% 26
Minutes 7

The rebounding and blocks are nice, but there's nothing in his profile that says Rookie of the Year; at this point, it appears to be a two-horse race between Tyreke Evans and the fast-closing Stephen Curry, although Brandon Jennings could thrust himself back into the picture with 10 or 12 more 55-point games. Most analysts -- like ESPN.com's David Thorpe, who does not have Gibson in his current Top-10 -- would also rank at least some of the following ahead of him: Jonny Flynn, Omri Casspi, DeJuan Blair, Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, Marcus Thornton. There's no shame in that though, as Gibson's exceeded expectations and been far more productive than several players drafted ahead of him. He's just not quite RoY caliber.

Still, given where we are located, I didn't mind that he was part of Comcast SportsNet Chicago's Rookie-of-the-Year Question of the Day. But I just cannot accept that he won the poll. With 55% of the vote, no less. Results like that carry on the great tradition of electoral integrity that is the hallmark of the city of Chicago.

2. Game MVP: Luol Deng, 1st half; Derrick Rose, 2nd half

Deng singlehandedly kept the first half from being an unmitigated disaster, scoring 20 points by shooting 7-of-9 from the field and 6-of-7 from the line. He was also very active defensively, finishing with four blocks, which best I can tell from some half-assed research at Basketball-Reference.com, ties a career high (accomplished three other times).

Derrick Rose, though, was undoubtedly the star of the second half.

Still, leading 92-76 with 1:19 remaining in the third quarter, Rose committed a terrible foul when he crashed into a shooting Rush four days after he'd released the ball. That sparked a 6-point run and brought the Pacers back within 10, and it appeared that the second half would play out a lot like the first. But Rose would atone.

Goddamn would he atone.

It began with what's become a ho-hum Derrick Rose three-point play -- nasty crossover, three lightning-quick steps to the hoop, and then absorb the contact with a double-clutch left-hander spun high off the glass -- to close the third quarter and give the Bulls a 13-point advantage.

In the fourth Rose added another three-point play with 5:28 remaining, slammed home an alley-oop from Jannero Pargo -- who evidently can pass, but just chooses not to -- and then hit a 19-footer to put the Bulls comfortably ahead 116-99 with 3:41 remaining. He finished with 23 points (on 10-for-19 shooting that was identical to Deng's), nine rebounds, and eight assists in one of his better all-around efforts.

But for me, the highlight of the game began on the Bulls' offensive possession following Rose's long jumper. Dribbling between the circles, Rose went back-and-forth through his legs a few times and had the ball kick off his foot and into the hands of the Pacers' A.J. Price. Price then tried to beat him down the floor but it was like Rose's uniform was sewn to his. Price got to the restricted area with Rose still between him and the basket. After failing to get Rose off his feet with a pair of pump fakes, Price finally went up to shoot and was completely engulfed. While the play was technically a block, I don't think the ball ever left Price's hand; it was like me blocking my 6-year-old niece's shot (which I do all the time, by the way). Not only did Rose not allow him to score off his mistake, he didn't even allow him to get the shot off.

I hate to go there, but it was Jordanesque. Not the play itself, but the mindset. I'm not saying he is anywhere near MJ's class, but Rose was so obviously disgusted with himself for the turnover that he was utterly determined to not just prevent Price from scoring, but to get his ball back. It was the kind of thing Michael used to do, and I don't think we've seen a Bull do anything like that since 1998.

Combined with Rose's block on Rondo in Game 6, it also showed the kind of defensive player he can be when he's completely locked in on that end. And the longer he plays, the more his defensive intensity will increase, and hopefully he'll eventually be able to sustain that kind of effort throughout the course a game.

3. I would've sworn Troy Murphy scored at least 20 points in the first half.

Of course, it also felt like Rush had 50. But Murphy finished the game with just 13 points, although all of them were in the first half. He was especially lethal in the early going, when he was clearly the only Pacer who came out of the locker room knowing a game was about to be played. Watching Murphy perform, it occurred to me that in a lot of ways, he's the Kirk Hinrich of big men: If he weren't so comically overpaid, everyone would think that he was a nice player to have around.

4. Perhaps the pre-deadline Bulls had some chemistry issues

Stat-oriented people like myself have trouble acknowledging the impact of intangibles, but when players start to say things like the following, I'll admit I take notice.

When CSNC's Sarah Kustok asked Deng in a post-game, on-court interview, "How do you feel like the team has jelled together with some of these new acquisitions?" he responded:

The trade is really good for us. We got guys that have been in the league for awhile, so they're coming in, they're doing a good job. And we really needed that. And we're playing a team game, and that's the most important thing.

In the locker room, someone inquired of Rose, "How would you feel that the team is jelling together, and ... the chemistry you guys have built so far?" and he said:

The players that we got, they're veteran players. They've been playing in this league for awhile, and they're playing good basketball right now. The best thing about it, they're just basketball players that came here, they're doing whatever it takes for them to fit in, and that's what we need for this team.

The quotes are remarkably similar, and both seem to me to imply Unlike the guys that we traded away. Now maybe they're just spouting the company line, but I don't think so. With Deng's, I'd say the first part refers to Tyrus, the second Salmons. Since I've heard that Tyrus could be a brooding loner, I'm guessing Rose's doing-whatever-it-takes-to-fit-in bit was about him. Or both.

The point is, as much as I loved Tyrus' per-minute stats and jaw-dropping athletic ability, maybe the players didn't like him all that much. Same with Salmons, who was so allergic to passing he should've played for Woody Hayes. And maybe the rest of the team is happier with them gone, and are now better teammates because of it. And maybe, just maybe, all of it will make the Bulls a better team.

Nah.

February 23, 2010

The new-look Bulls? They're terrible.

And anyone who says anything otherwise is an idiot.

In a game billed as the Clash of the Flips -- and if you think the Murray/Saunders thing wasn't a total mindfuck for Neil Funk, you are sadly mistaken -- the maddening, rudderless Bulls made an unwelcome reappearance in the third quarter of Monday's 101-95 loss to the Washington Wizards.

What a difference a day makes.

In the first game after their most impressive performance of the season, the Bulls went from looking like a team destined to rise to the fifth seed in the East to a group that will shit themselves right out of a playoff spot.

Which is why you don't make judgments based on one game. The Bulls are now 2-1 since the trade deadline, but after such a stellar effort Saturday against the 76ers, who the hell were those guys in the Chicago uniforms against the Wizards?

They were a flawed team, which is exactly what these Bulls have always been. And that's not going to change with the acquisition of guys like Flip Murray and Hakim Warrick. A few observations:

1. With Tyrus Thomas gone and Joakim Noah limited, the Bulls just could not match up with Washington's athletic frontcourt.

While they had all kinds of trouble dealing with Wiz forwards Al Thornton and James Singleton -- Wait, did I really just type that? -- the Bulls had absolutely no answer for Andray Blatche, the 6-11, 23-year-old power forward who's finally getting an extensive look with Antawn Jamison now on the Cavs.

Despite the horrendous first-name letter sequence, Blatche has always played well when given the opportunity, and he's really taking advantage of the increased playing time. Counting Monday's 8-for-13 performance, he's now 41-for-69 (59.4%) from the field in the four games since Jamison's departure, averaging 25 points and a touch over 10 rebounds while the Wizards have gone 3-1.

As Blatche had his way with the Bulls for 25 and 11, I kept thinking, What ever happened to that long, quick power forward we used to have? He might've matched up well against him.. But it wasn't just Tyrus' absence that was the problem. The Wizards bigs were just far quicker, which is one of the downsides of the Luol Deng-Taj Gibson-Brad Miller trio.

And it's also part of why you saw 6-foot-3 Flip Murray getting a lot of minutes at small forward, with Deng sliding over and playing the 4. The other part? See 3A and his inability to recognize what is working for his team on that particularly day, or adjust in any way.

2. Despite the loss, the new guys actually continued to make solid contributions.

Murray and Hakim Warrick were the Bulls 2nd- and 3rd-leading scorers with 16 and 12 points, respectively. Both shot over 50%, and Warrick somehow continued to do his best Tyrus impression by blocking two more shots.*

* Not that the rejections will continue, as I'll take 350+ games of career data over the past two, but they've clearly been the karmic result of people like me Chicken-Littling the Bulls' loss of blocks..

Murray, meanwhile, made the Bulls' biggest shot, a 3-pointer that brought them within 96-95 (after they had trailed by 13 with a little over five minutes to play) with 1:54 remaining. Unfortunately it would be their final points. Because:

3. The old standbys faltered.

A. Coach Vinny Del Negro reverted back to being coach Vinny Del Negro.

As a 10-point lead turned into a 5-point deficit in the first eight minutes of the third quarter, Del Negro refused to do anything until the momentum had shifted completely. The following is an actual sequence of Bulls' possessions in the third:

Derrick Rose misses 18-foot jumper
Luol Deng misses 6-foot jumper**
Kirk Hinrich misses 19-foot jumper
Taj Gibson misses 19-foot jumper
Derrick Rose misses 18-foot jumper
Brad Miller traveling
Taj Gibson traveling
Kirk Hinrich traveling
Andray Blatche blocks Brad Miller's layup
Kirk Hinrich bad pass (Randy Foye steals)

** Even this, the one shot in there that actually seems good, wasn't, as Deng drove into a triple team and threw up a two-footer from two yards away as he crashed into a positionally-established JaVale McGee.

In that horrendous 10-possession stretch -- let me highlight the three travelings in a row, in case you missed that -- Vinny did not make even one substitution, nor did he call a single timeout. Not that the timeout would've helped, because as he proved in the fourth quarter, he still hasn't come up with one goddamn decent play.

After calling a 20 with a minute to go trailing 100-95, the Bulls ran no play whatsoever. Instead, all five guys stood around the perimeter, and Deng and Hinrich each considered shooting before swinging it around to Miller for a missed 3. Actually, it wouldn't surprise me if that was exactly how Vinny drew it up.

Then following a full timeout still down five with 26 seconds left, the Bulls took 12 seconds before getting a shot off, a pretty good look from Murray in the corner. But it was like they thought they had 26 minutes. How can these guys take so long when they're down that much with that little time remaining? Vinny should've just had Jannero Pargo in there, because for once his penchant for shooting contested 27-footers off the dribble with 19 seconds left on the shot clock would've really come in handy..

B. Kirk Hinrich somehow became incapable of making 53.2% of his shots, as he had done over the previous four games.

I never would have guessed that Hinrich would suddenly cool off. I mean, who could've predicted that a terrible shooter would shoot terribly?

And Hinrich is a terrible shooter, of that there can be no argument. Now granted, his form is picture-perfect: The ball looks great coming out of his hand, with nice rotation and textbook follow through. Everything is exquisite but the end result -- the things just do not go in. Hinrich has a .414 lifetime field goal percentage, has never hit as many as 45% of his shots in a season, and has only twice shot over 42%. I know it screws up the narrative, but HInrich had not been shooting well recently because of improved chemistry/spacing/ball-sharing the trades brought on; rather he was just a lousy marksman enjoying a hot streak. Which meant he was due for a regression to the mean -- in this case 2-for-7 (although he was 2-for-3 on 3s).

While I still think Hinrich is ideally suited to be a (ridiculously overcompensated) third guard, I am warming to him a bit as a 2, something I originally couldn't stand. Sure, the Bulls could do better, but when you have a shoot-first point guard -- and that's what Derrick Rose is (while he's not in the Monta Ellis, I'm-just-gonna-get-mine category, he ain't Jason Kidd either) -- it's good to have someone that's a ballsharer in the backcourt with him. Plus with Rose's D still, um... a work-in-progress, that makes Hinrich's contributions on that end especially valuable.

Now if only he could shoot like Ben Gordon.

4. Neil Funk was intentionally sharting on my ringing endorsement in my previous post.

"And there's going to be a timeout by Vinny Del Negro as the Bulls stop play as the Wizards go on a run to open the third and get to within four after trailing by 17."

The Bulls biggest lead was 12, at 50-38 and 52-40. I have no idea where those extra five points came from; perhaps Bulls guard Flip Saunders scored them.

In Funk's defense, his performance was much better than the team's. And he did later correct the mistake. Of course, that came right after he called Murray 'Flip Saunders' which, incidentally, he also corrected.

It just wasn't a particularly good night for anyone associated with the new-look Chicago Bulls.

February 22, 2010

In praise of the new-look Bulls

Say what you will about the Bulls' recent trades, but that was a freaking clinic they put on in Saturday's 122-90 win over the 76ers. And before you say to yourself, Well, yeah, it was the Sixers, keep in mind that coming into the game they'd gone 14-11 since their atrocious 7-22 start. So it's not like the Nets were visiting the UC *cough, cough*.

It does, however, make me a little sad that in a game featuring 217 Bulls dunks, the most replayed sequence has been the breakaway one Joakim Noah chunked.^

^ And didn't you just have a feeling something bad was going to happen there? He's coming off the bench ice cold, he hasn't played in a few weeks, and he's running around on Toni Kukoc's hoof -- you know all of it had to be going through his head. I honestly didn't care that he missed it; I was just glad his foot didn't explode.

Still, it led to a great moment (in a game that had many of them). After the Sixers' Rodney Carney missed a 3 at the first quarter horn, Noah got the rebound and started dribbling towards the Bulls' end. Then, as if something at that very instant had occurred to him, he abruptly did a 180 and dunked the ball on the Philadelphia basket, just to prove (to himself, probably) that he could do it. Classic Joakim move.

On the successful-dunk-during-actual-play side of ledger, Hakim Warrick had two unbelievable ones, including one off a post-up on from the right block, where he did a mini-Dream Shake before using his preposterous length to ram it home over Thaddeus Young from the outer-reaches of the restricted area. Other than this, it was probably my favorite dunk of the year, and, admittedly, something I can't recall Tyrus Thomas ever doing. Tragically, the dolts in the WGN truck never replayed it; of course, they did manage to show us Noah's miss several times.

Warrick followed up his first monster dunk about a minute later with a nice fadeaway, again from the right block, then added a power jam in transition (off a dish from fellow newcomer Flip Murray) with about three minutes left in the third.

Really, pretty much everyone that got significant minutes had a good game; that's generally how you win by 30+ points. Even Loul Deng, who shot just 1-for-10, had a nice all-around effort, scoring 12 points (thanks to a 10-for-10 performance from the line) and adding seven rebounds, five assists, and four steals, all without committing a turnover. In fact, Derrick Rose, Brad Miller, and Jannero Pargo -- slackers all -- tied for the team lead in turnovers... with one (1!) as the Bulls remarkably turned the ball over just three four times (apparently they also had a team one) versus 26 assists. Again, this is how you win a game by 32 points.

But I thought the catalyst of the rout was Miller, not exactly someone I'd call one of my favorite Bulls. With the team down 38-35 with a little over five minutes left in the second quarter and looking awfully lackluster, Miller missed a three-footer off a nice feed from Kirk Hinrich, got the rebound in traffic, collected himself and missed from point-blank range, got the rebound again, and hit the putback. That began a string of 21 unanswered by the Bulls, eight of them by Miller, and turned the game into a laugher.

Still, I found something Neil Funk said at the 10:31 mark of the third quarter with Rose shooting free throws to put the Bulls up 66-41 to be especially germane:

Sometimes, Stacey, you see the Bulls, especially in that fourth quarter with a big lead and then they start almost as if they're playing not to lose, rather than to win the game and just put a team away. They had Minnesota down where they could've done that last night, let's see if they can do that against Philadelphia playing at home here.

Since my last post was somewhat anti-Bulls-related media, I should mention here that I really enjoy listening to Neil and Stacey King do play-by-play. Sure they're homers, but it is the Bulls broadcast and they are entertaining. Funk -- who I loved listening to on the radio* back in the days when I thought getting rid of my TV was the answer -- is a gigantic improvement over the gigantic Tom Bore.

* In fact, it was my admiration of the Bulls radio team circa the early 2000s that had me convinced that John Paxson would make a great GM. And while he certainly wasn't terrible in that role, he wasn't nearly as good as I thought he'd be based on his incredibly insightful, on-target commentary.

In terms of King... As a kid, I was a huge Oklahoma football fan, so when the basketball team had that great season in 1988, I immediately adopted them as my U-of-I surrogates. Mookie Blaylock, Ricky Grace, Dave Sieger, Harvey Grant -- who everyone thought was better than twin brother Horace -- and King (I can recall that lineup without Wikipedia or Google) made for a hell of a college team, and I was pretty bummed out when they were upset by Kansas in the title game.

While King was ... I don't want to say a bust, but ... certainly a disappointment as a pro, probably my favorite off-court memories of the Bulls' first three-peat are King's dead-on impressions of Bill Cartwright. Absolutely hilarious, and I wish I could find it on the interbosphere. He apparently doesn't do it anymore, but if you have it archived somewhere for the love of God please post it online.

Admittedly, it took me awhile to get used to the somewhat over-the-top style, but I have to say that King's energy is a nice change of pace from the previous team; as much as I miss Red, he hadn't been the same in recent years. The point is, while I don't always agree with what they say, I genuinely like the Bulls' broadcast team and find them to be highly entertaining.

So back to what Funk said...

Almost on cue, the Bulls began to let Philadelphia back into the game. First the Bulls were unable to increase their lead, and then they allowed the Sixers to go on a 9-0 run, making it 77-61 and at least a little uncomfortable given the Sacramento game.

But that's when Vinny Del Negro -- he might rival Cartwright as my least-favorite coach of all time, but he pushed all the right buttons in this one -- made one of his best substitutions ever, re-inserting Taj Gibson, whose energy they really needed at that point. Gibson, who had five dunks among his 20 points and was to me the game's MVP, immediately helped the Bulls do exactly what Funk had hoped: Put the Sixers away early. After Hinrich scored to open the fourth quarter, the Bulls lead never shrunk below 20. Gibson finished with a +35, the only player on the team whose plus/minus was higher than the final margin.

Now it's only been two-game sample, but winning on the road and blowing out a not-entirely-terrible team at home is a shit-ton better than losing both. The Bulls were amazingly efficient last night in putting together their best offensive performance of the season, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if they can maintain a 8.67 6.5 assist:turnover ratio the rest of the way, they might win at least a few more games.

Incidentally, I continue to be astounded by how well the Bulls have played without Noah. Because prior to the injury he was producing better than anyone but Rose, I thought go into the shitter with him sitting, and the fact that they haven't is a real tribute to their depth. Since Noah barely played against the Sixers, you could almost count that as another game missed -- and by almost I mean that's exactly what I'm going to do here -- making the Bulls 7-2 without him.

None of us knows what will happen the rest of the way. The Bulls are in a soft part of their schedule right now, but it's the good teams that take care of business in a stretch like this; we are all excruciatingly familiar with how this team has played down to the level of the worst teams, so it's nice to see them consistently win the games they're supposed to win. For the most part, March is looking like a bear, but right now this team seems capable of anything. And so while I have several reservations going forward, it's hard not to get caught up in the positivity that follows a game like the one the Bulls just played, and I find myself feeling a bit, dare I say, optimistic.

February 20, 2010

Super Bowl post update

What? Talk about being late to the party...

If you read my post-Super Bowl entry, you might recall me mentioning my friend Matt popping up in a promo for The Mentalist. I just now found the commercial online; Matt appears at 0:26.

UPDATE 2/23: (And yes, I'm hoping to get to the point where I have an update to an update of an update.) If hearing Matt utter What kind of question is that? has left you clamoring for more, please be advised that he will be guest starring on CSI: Miami on Monday, March 8.

Fun with Tiger Woods' statement

Because adultery's hilarious!

(Transcript courtesy of The New York Times; watch full statement here, if you enjoy being bored shitless.)
Good morning, and thank you for joining me. Many of you in this room are my friends. Many of you in this room know me. Many of you have cheered for me or you've worked with me or you've supported me.
Wait. Who the fuck was in this room? I thought it was just the press and a few of your family members.
Now every one of you has good reason to be critical of me. I want to say to each of you, simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in.

I know people want to find out how I could be so selfish and so foolish. People want to know how I could have done these things to my wife Elin and to my children. And while I have always tried to be a private person, there are some things I want to say.
Things like "You like that baby?" and "Ohhh, yeahhh."
Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior. As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words; it will come from my behavior over time. We have a lot to discuss; however, what we say to each other will remain between the two of us.
Where the bulk of Tiger's apologetic behavior will take place
I am also aware of the pain my behavior has caused to those of you in this room. I have let you down, and I have let down my fans.
Alright, while this whole thing is a steaming load excreted by a bunch of media relations sycophants, that last part was so transparently mandated by your PR team you might as well have said, "Please don't abandon him... I mean me, it'll cost us... er, me, millions of dollars." And to make it worse, the entire notion is preposterous. While your female fans were likely very disappointed, how many women give two shits about the PGA? What percentage of your fans are women? I'll be generous and say 0.7%.

Given that an overwhelming majority of your backers are male, how many of them do you think felt let down by the fact that you cheated on your wife? None of the single ones, that's for sure. As for the rest, half of them have probably cheated on their wives, and most of the other half would if they knew they'd get away with it, or if they could get the smorgasbord of tail undoubtedly available to a guy with your status. So unless you was actually sticking it to their wives specifically, I don't think they care at all less about your infidelity.

But what about the children? Won't somebody please think of the children!

Again, I think it's safe to say that virtually all of your younger fans are males. And a huge majority of them have either hit puberty or are beyond it. And you're trying to tell me that these hormone-crazed miscreants aren't a million times likelier to think what you did was kickass as opposed to being disappointed by him? C'mon.

Now surely there are some young children and conscionable adult males who felt betrayed by your behavior. But on balance, the only way you've let down the average fan is by not playing golf.
A random sampling of fans crestfallen by Tiger's philandering
For many of you, especially my friends, my behavior has been a personal disappointment. To those of you who work for me, I have let you down personally and professionally. My behavior has caused considerable worry to my business partners.

To everyone involved in my foundation, including my staff, board of directors, sponsors, and most importantly, the young students we reach, our work is more important than ever. Thirteen years ago, my dad and I envisioned helping young people achieve their dreams through education. This work remains unchanged and will continue to grow. From the Learning Center students in Southern California to the Earl Woods scholars in Washington, D.C., millions of kids have changed their lives, and I am dedicated to making sure that continues.
Wow, millions of kids? You've had a bigger impact than Mother Teresa. Banged more tunnel whores, too, I'm guessing.
But still, I know I have bitterly disappointed all of you. I have made you question who I am and how I could have done the things I did. I am embarrassed that I have put you in this position.
What would that be? The rusty bike pump?
For all that I have done, I am so sorry.
Well, at least now I know what it sounds like when a robot apologizes.
I have a lot to atone for, but there is one issue I really want to discuss. Some people have speculated that Elin somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night. It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that. Elin never hit me that night or any other night. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage, ever. Elin has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal.
You know what Elin hasn't shown? Her face, at this insultingly-orchestrated melodrama. Good for her; it couldn't have been easy to stay out of it, but doing so was admirable.
Elin deserves praise, not blame.
Yeah, I know. That's why I just gave her some.
The issue involved here was my repeated irresponsible behavior. I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame.

I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have to go far to find them.
That last paragraph is the only part of this whole thing that rang true. The rest of it's just disingenuous nonsense.
I was wrong. I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me.
I don't think you really believe that. If you did, you would've taken some questions. While not doing so is understandable, it's still you setting the rules.
I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife's family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me.

I've had a lot of time to think about what I've done. My failures have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before. It's now up to me to make amends, and that starts by never repeating the mistakes I've made. It's up to me to start living a life of integrity.

I once heard, and I believe it's true, it's not what you achieve in life that matters; it's what you overcome.
You should have mentioned that when you first heard it, you thought the person said, "It's who you come over."
Achievements on the golf course are only part of setting an example. Character and decency are what really count.
Yes, think of all the athletes whose legacies have been destroyed by their lack of character and/or decency: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson -- nobody knows who those guys are. Now A.C. Green, there's a living legend.
Some guy we've never heard of, owing to his lack of decency
Parents used to point to me as a role model for their kids. I owe all those families a special apology. I want to say to them that I am truly sorry.

It's hard to admit that I need help, but I do. For 45 days from the end of December to early February, I was in inpatient therapy receiving guidance for the issues I'm facing. I have a long way to go. But I've taken my first steps in the right direction.
Sex addict, my ass. You're just a guy who thought he'd get away with it. Going to rehab was nothing more than a calculated PR move: "I'm not a shameless philanderer, I'm an addict. I have a disease! You've had diseases right? Doesn't that make me a sympathetic character?" I seriously couldn't care less what you do in your his personal life, because I agree that's between you and your wife. But to me, the way you've reacted in the aftermath of this whole thing is a hell of a lot worse than your actual transgressions. Everything you've done since this news broke has been based on the-people-are-all-morons cynicism. It's appalling to me that anyone would buy what you're shoveling.
As I proceed, I understand people have questions. I understand the press wants to ask me for the details and the times I was unfaithful. I understand people want to know whether Elin and I will remain together. Please know that as far as I'm concerned, every one of these questions and answers is a matter between Elin and me. These are issues between a husband and a wife.

Some people have made up things that never happened.
Oh, you're such a victim, Tiger. People and their awful, awful stories!
They said I used performance enhancing drugs. This is completely and utterly false.
Alright, we'll just take your word for it. You seem trustworthy enough.
Some have written things about my family. Despite the damage I have done, I still believe it is right to shield my family from the public spotlight. They did not do these things; I did.
If you are going to take responsibility for what you've done, you should also realize that it's your actions that have thrust your family into the spotlight. And I hope you didn't get too aroused by my use of the word thrust.
I have always tried to maintain a private space for my wife and children. They have been kept separate from my sponsors, my commercial endorsements. When my children were born, we only released photographs so that the paparazzi could not chase them. However, my behavior doesn't make it right for the media to follow my two and a half year old daughter to school and report the school's location. They staked out my wife and they pursued my mom. Whatever my wrongdoings, for the sake of my family, please leave my wife and kids alone.
Honestly, I hope they do, too. But if they don't, it's because of what you did.
I recognize I have brought this on myself, and I know above all I am the one who needs to change. I owe it to my family to become a better person. I owe it to those closest to me to become a better man. That's where my focus will be.
Luckily your focus has been freed up from its Gatorade-related duties.
I have a lot of work to do, and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it. Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don't realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously I lost track of what I was taught.
Buddhism, eh? Frankly, I thought you'd go with Jesus, but Buddha's a solid choice. And I mean that figuratively, as he appears to be pretty soft.
As I move forward, I will continue to receive help because I've learned that's how people really do change. Starting tomorrow, I will leave for more treatment and more therapy. I would like to thank my friends at Accenture and the players in the field this week for understanding why I'm making these remarks today.
Yes, those friends at Accenture have really stood behind you throughout.
In therapy I've learned the importance of looking at my spiritual life and keeping in balance with my professional life. I need to regain my balance and be centered so I can save the things that are most important to me, my marriage and my children.

That also means relying on others for help. I've learned to seek support from my peers in therapy, and I hope someday to return that support to others who are seeking help. I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don't know when that day will be.
Well now you're letting down your fans.
I don't rule out that it will be this year. When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game. In recent weeks I have received many thousands of emails, letters and phone calls from people expressing good wishes. To everyone who has reached out to me and my family, thank you. Your encouragement means the world to Elin and me.

I want to thank the PGA Tour, Commissioner Finchem, and the players for their patience and understanding while I work on my private life. I look forward to seeing my fellow players on the course.
Yes, I'm certain that your fellow players can't wait to get a renewed-focus Tiger back onto the course. Sure, the commissioner (and eventually the tour) will miss the TV ratings, but the actual golfers stand to grab a bigger chunk of the prize money while you pretend to need rehab.
Finally, there are many people in this room, and there are many people at home who believed in me. Today I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again.
Oh seriously, fuck off.
Thank you.
Well that's not the response I was hoping for. At all.

Hakim Warrick > Tyrus Thomas?

According to the crew at Bulls Post Game Live, after but one game -- Friday's 100-94 win over Minnesota -- the answer is a resounding yes, followed by several exclamation points. Take it away, Mark and Kendall:

Schanowski: Warrick got big-time minutes backing up at both forward positions. He played 30 minutes, he had 10 points, 9 rebounds. He was very active. I thought he was very effective tonight.

This was Warrick's line:

30 Min, 5-13 FG, 0-0 FT, 9 Reb, 1 Ast, 0 Stl, 0 Blk, 2 TO, 2 PF, 10 Pts

Active? The shots and rebounds (six offensive) would indicate yes. But very effective? Really? He only scored 10 points on 13 shots, which is horribly inefficient. He didn't get to the free-throw line, had only one assist (against two turnovers) and did not record a steal or a blocked shot. I wouldn't even call that moderately effective.

Inconsequential Tyrus Thomas can't even get
into the superior Hakim Warrick's line of sight

I'm going to mention here that I do actually like Warrick. But this wasn't one of his better games. I hope.

Gill: I liked what I saw. You know he was in control, not wild or anything like that--

I think we can all see where this is going...

Schanowski: (interrupting) Like Tyrus.

No way! Shocking.

Gill: (laughing) He ran great...

Schanowski: I said it. (laughs)

For the record, Tyrus -- that's Mr. Wild-and-Out-of-Control to you -- entered Friday's game shooting .483 from the field. Warrick was at .481. What's wild and out of control is the misconception that Tyrus Thomas was so wild and out of control.

Gill: He ran the break, rebounded effectively, did all of the things that we were hoping that Tyrus would do consistently. Now hopefully, he can continue to do this, because it's only going to be a plus for the Bulls.

Gee, Kendall, all of the things I hoped Tyrus would do included blocking a few shots and getting some steals. Do you know how many games Tyrus has had all season like Warrick's -- by that I mean with zero blocks and zero steals? Zero. ZERO!

Being a defensive game changer, that's kinda what I wanted Tyrus to do consistently. And say what you will about his occasionally disinterested play or periodic crazy shot and/or drive, but he did deliver on that end.

Schanowski: You know, I think his basketball IQ is a lot higher than Tyrus Thomas'. He knows when to cut to the basket, he seemed to really pick up what the Bulls wanted to do, almost, in his first game.

I suppose knowing when to step into a passing lane or timing your rotation to get a weakside block are not sound basketball plays. By the way, none of us ever saw Tyrus cut to the basket and throw down a vicious dunk. I wish we had.

A figment of our collective imagination

Gill: Well, he's an experienced vet.

Oh Jesus. There you have it. Even the Bulls announcers love their veterans.*

* For the record, this is Warrick's fifth season and Tyrus' fourth.

So anyway, I decided to look at every time Tyrus had played at least 30 minutes in a game this season, to compare to Warrick's production tonight:


Tyrus



Hakim
Date 12/26 12/29 1/20 2/10 2/16 2/19
Min 32 31 36 36 30 30
Points 21 8 18 16 11 10
FG 10-17 2-10 8-11 7-12 4-6 5-13
FT 1-3 4-4 2-4 2-3 3-4 0-0
Rebounds 9 15 6 6 8 9
Assists 2 3 1 4 2 1
Steals 1 1 2 2 3 0
Blocks 2 3 3 1 3 0
TO 3 5 1 2 2 2
Fouls 2 1 6 2 2 2

The game on 12/29 is the only one where you could even make a case that Tyrus was less effective, as he scored 8 points on 2-10 shooting with 5 turnovers. But keep in mind that was only two fewer points than Warrick (on three fewer shots), he grabbed six more rebounds, dished out two more assists, got a steal, and blocked three shots. At worst that one's a push.

And yes, I understand there's some selection bias here -- that is, Tyrus played well so he "earned" a lot of minutes -- but keep in mind that Warrick logged 30 minutes tonight without having a very productive game.

But it's also unfair to look at Tyrus' games of 30 minutes or more, when Warrick got only 30-even. Since Tyrus played up to 36 minutes in the chart above, let's look at Tyrus' games on the other side, every time he played between 24 and 29 minutes:


Tyrus






Hakim
Date 10/29 10/30 12/31 1/8 1/11 1/15 1/23 2/9 2/19
Min 26 24 28 29 26 28 24 28 30
Points 13 10 19 4 7 4 7 9 10
FG 5-10 3-7 4-6 1-4 3-6 1-1 3-5 4-5 5-13
FT 3-5 4-9 11-14 2-2 1-1 2-2 1-2 1-1 0-0
Rebounds 6 8 7 5 6 4 4 7 9
Assists 0 0 2 2 1 0 1 1 1
Steals 0 3 2 1 6 0 0 1 0
Blocks 3 0 1 1 2 2 6 1 0
TO 2 1 3 1 0 0 2 1 2
Fouls 2 3 1 2 1 3 4 2 2

There are, admittedly, some godawful lines in there, especially the four-point games on 1/8 and 1/15. But both his seven-point games were sneakily efficient: He took just five/six shots, and in one contest he had six steals, and the other six blocks. As for 10/30, while the free-throw percentage looks ugly, he did manage to get to the line all those times and scored the same amount of points as Warrick while attempting about half as many field goals. He did have one fewer rebound, but also turned the ball over one less time. Plus he had three steals.

So that's 13 games total. Warrick's numbers Friday were clearly superior to only two of them. Then there are four which I'd give to Tyrus but are at least semi-close. For the sake of argument, let's split them evenly. That still means that, when playing around the same number of minutes, Tyrus out-produced Warrick's Friday benchmarks roughly 70% of the time. Not that you would know that from listening to the Bulls' mouthpieces.

I want to be clear that I'm not using these numbers to try to prove that Tyrus is the better player, but rather to point out that the post-game Warrick-slurping/Tyrus-bashing was totally unwarranted. I understand it's only been one game, and given the woefully inadequate sample size I wouldn't draw any conclusions just yet. I believe that Tyrus is (and will prove to be) the better player. But for Schanowski and Gill to use the one game -- which wasn't even a particularly good showing -- as proof the Bulls got an upgrade is completely ludicrous.

Besides, if they're going to do something so bat-shit crazy, there was one other game they should've taken a look at: In his Bobcats debut, Tyrus shot a woeful 3-for-9. But because he got to the line four times (making three), he scored nine points. Oh, and he also added 12 rebounds and six (6!) blocks, all in 25 minutes.

Hmm...

February 19, 2010

These Bulls trades are like Siskel & Ebert's review of "Armageddon"

A thumbs up, and a thumbs down. Way down.*

* You would not believe how much time I just wasted trying to find a movie they had that exact opinion of. Let me put it this way: This post is now up to three sentences; I'd have finished it in 2007 if I'd spent my time writing it instead of poring over clips of two of the most unattractive men I've ever had the displeasure of seeing. I'm sorry, but I prefer my movie critics be classically handsome, in a 1940s leading-man sort of way. Like a Gene Shalit. Or Leonard Maltin.

Clark Gable, circa 1943

Let's start with the good, because I hate being positive and I want to get it out of the way.

THUMBS UP: Bulls trade John Salmons to Bucks for Joe Alexander and Hakim Warrick
While I had high hopes for it coming into the year, the Salmons-as-starting-shooting-guard venture was an abject failure. Before he mercifully lost his job, Salmons shot 38.9% from the field; last year he shot 41.7% ... from 3-point range. And 47.2% overall. Despite this season's shooting woes, as a starter Salmons was still jackin' em up at about the same clip, averaging 12.7 shots per game versus last season's 13.4. His free throw rate (and percentage) also went down, and in all his points per game dropped from 18.3 to 13.8.

The upshot is, Salmons became increasingly likely to exercise his player option for $5.8 million next season, something that seemed unthinkable before the year began. But with NBA economy declining as badly as his play, he surely realizes that he wouldn't get anywhere near $5.8 million for 2010-11 on the open market. Exercising his option would have seriously eaten into the Bulls' salary cap, preventing them from offering the max to one of the marquee free agents that's sure to spurn them in favor of the more money (and years) he can get from his current team. But really, that's irrelevant; with so many superstars available this offseason, the Bulls had to at least put themselves in the position to get one.

Short of finding someone dumb enough to take Kirk Hinrich's contract off their hands -- a scenario that became an impossibility with Isiah Thomas out of the league -- shedding Salmons was the only way for the Bulls to ensure the requisite cap space.

When the initial rumors of Salmons' trade broke, the Bulls were supposedly getting back Kurt Thomas and Francisco Elson, and as much as it pains me to say so given Elson's alma mater, that return would've been significantly worse than the package of Warrick and Alexander. Still, that proposed deal immediately raised some red flags for me because -- like the one they ultimately consummated -- it was two frontcourt guys for one-third of their viable guard rotation, and it seemed like it had to be a prelude to another trade.

Regardless, I've always liked Warrick, and the Bulls have now cornered the market on guys with -kim in their name. In many ways, Warrick duplicates Tyrus Thomas. He's long and wiry, and a great leaper too. Their career numbers are also pretty similar:

Thomas Warrick
Min./G 20.3 21.6
Points 7.8 10.2
FG% 45.2 49.7
FGA/G 6.3 7.5
FT% 71.5 72.5
FTA/G 2.9 3.7
Rebounds 5.1 4.3
Assists 0.9 0.7
Steals 0.9 0.4
Blocks 1.4 0.4
TO 1.4 1.3
Fouls 2.4 2.1

The biggest difference -- aside from Tyrus being four years younger -- is defensively, where Warrick is a non-factor and Thomas is a game-changer. But they are somewhat comparable players, and I think Warrick's even been accused on a couple of occasions of not putting forth maximum effort, so that'll at least be familiar to the United Center faithful.

As for Alexander, I liked him coming into last season's draft -- C'mon, who doesn't like an American-born white guy? Aside from fans of quality basketball, that is -- but upon further review he is neither white (in the traditional sense) nor American born. He was born in Taiwan, is half Chinese, and his game is a completely antithetical to that of the stereotypical white guy: His fundamentals are terrible, and he can jump out of the gym. (And Warrick's the guy I compared to Tyrus?) From everything I've read today, it's doubtful he ever gets a chance to play here.

The deal does have some significant downside though. For starters, given Milwaukee's gaping whole at 2-guard with Michael Redd done for the year, this trade provides a substantial upgrade to the Bucks, and they're the team that poses the biggest threat to the Bulls' post-season aspirations. If the Bulls miss out on the playoffs, it would not only be terrible for the young core's development, but also might affect a potential free-agent signee's perception of the organization, because those guys aren't going to settle for less money than they can get from their own teams because they're clamoring to spend winters in Chicago; rather, they're going to want to play for a winner. And don't forget the millions in revenue missing the postseason would cost the Bulls, which might make them even less willing to go into luxury-tax territory (or even beyond the cap) in the future. Not that anyone would ever say Jerry Reinsdorf is cheap.

Another negative is that the Bulls gave up their second-round picks in 2011 and 2012. Now while there have been a handful of second-round success stories in recent years, very few guys not picked in the first round ever become significant contributors. Still, teams are sometimes stupid enough to pass over sure-fire studs (twice), and the picks have value as sweeteners in deals (like this one) so to give up two years' worth stings just a little bit.

Additionally, the Bulls gave Milwaukee the option of switching first-round picks this year, and although it's top-10 protected, if the Bucks knock them out of the playoffs, it could cost them five or six spots.

And finally, this deal unbalanced the roster, which led to:

THUMBS DOWN, WAY DOWN: Bulls trade Tyrus Thomas to Charlotte for Flip Murray, Acie Law, and a future first-round pick

I won't rehash my pro-Tyrus arguments yet again, but I hope that he gets the chance he never got here and realizes his immense potential, just to put a microscope on the organization's incompetent boobery. While this trade was wholly unnecessary from a financial perspective -- Thomas' contract was expiring, and they only had to make him a qualifying offer to maintain his 'restricted' free agent status; no qualifier (and the attached cap hold the Bulls wanted to avoid) would've just made him an unrestricted free agent, in which case they could still re-sign him -- because of the Salmons deal, the Bulls were in desperate need of another guard.I mean, did you see Wednesday's Knicks game? Hinrich had to play 87 minutes because he's Jerry West compared to collection of Jerry Sichtings they had on the bench.

Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, aka The Logo

And yet while balancing the roster, this trade also makes the Bulls appreciably worse talent-wise; ESPN.com's Trade Machine has it reducing the Bulls' wins by 5 and increasing Charlotte's by 4.** Murray is a decent enough third guard, but there's a reason he's now on his eighth team in eight years. He's 30, has horrible shot selection, is a bit selfish, and is shooting 38.9% from the field; basically, he's a shorter, frightening-goateeless John Salmons.

** Just like with the Milwaukee trade, the Bulls made a team they are fighting with for a playoff spot markedly better. It's almost like The Fish (as my friend Adam calls Gar Forman) doesn't want to have to work through the postseason.

Law is a little more interesting, as he gives the Bulls a young, semi-capable point guard off the bench. He's been a major disappointment thus far in his two-plus years, but a lot of people -- okay, me -- were very high on him coming out of Texas A&M. Point guards can take longer to develop, and maybe he'll end up being a late bloomer.

GM Gar Foreman's destination, April 15, 2010

As for the first-round pick, I'm going to let ESPN.com's John Hollinger explain:
The pick the Bulls get from the Bobcats might not arrive for a long time. The earliest they can get it is 2012, because the Bobcats already owe a 2010 pick to Minnesota. But that pick is top-12 protected, and if the Bobcats crash and burn to land in the top of the lottery, it means they will owe Minnesota a pick in 2011 ... and thus can't give Chicago a pick in 2013. (The so-called Ted Stepien rule prevents teams from trading first-rounders in successive years.) That pick in 2011 is top-10 protected, so if the Bobcats can't get out of the lottery, it could drag on another year and not land Chicago a pick until 2014.
I understand that the Bulls probably didn't want another first-rounder in this year's draft, as that pick's salary slot would've counted against the cap, and possibly limited their offseason maneuverings. But to not get it until 2012 at the earliest? An asset that far in the future is essentially worthless today. Although I admittedly might like having this pick a whole hell of a lot come 2014. Provided the Bobcats haven't been contracted by then.

Compared to these two guys, Tyrus would have had significantly more value in a sign-and-trade, which is the only way to get one of these max free agents the actual maximum amount of cash allowed by the collective bargaining agreement. Not to mention that I would've liked them to keep him after their inevitable failure to sign a bigger name. And while Tyrus did have the occasional run-in with the coaching staff, it was always over his dissatisfaction with his playing time. And looking at his stats on a per-minute basis -- as well as his plus-minus (+5.3, 2nd best on the team) and Player Efficiency Rating (16.8, 4th) -- his complaints were totally justified. Not that his methods always were.

Unfortunately for Tyrus, the Bobcats' Larry Brown is the one of the few coaches in the league who will be even less tolerant of his occasionally out-of-control play than Vinny Del Negro was. So we might have to wait until next year to see him get legitimate playing time.

As crappy organizations often do, the Bulls never gave their young player enough of an opportunity to determine whether or not he could end up being a stud. Because of his sometimes indifferent demeanor on the court, I'm not certain that Tyrus will become a star. But he's already a hell of a lot better and more productive than the staffs of the Bulls and the local newspapers would lead you to believe.

Given the circumstances of Thomas' departure, I can't help but think about the last time the organization chose a head coach over a talented-but-somewhat-erratic big man, and hope that history repeats itself, only doing so a little faster this time around. Because just 17 months after the Bulls completely gave away Tyson Chandler -- who, coincidentally, will now be Tyrus' teammate in Charlotte -- they fired their head coach.

And I just can't wait to see Vinny Del Negro's Bulls career reach its Armageddon.