Episode 1: Reasonable Expectations
As an avid Chicago Bulls fan, it’s been a long summer. My last memories of the sport I enjoy most were my team losing to my former second favorite team, the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals and then the Heat subsequently losing handily to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals.
Dallas deserved the title, of course but I couldn’t help but to believe that my team would have been able to handle Dirk and Company. Oh well, no use crying over spilled milk; it’s a new season and it starts Christmas day in Los Angeles.
We had 62 wins last year on the back of league MVP Derrick Rose. More impressing is the fact that we did it with several of our key components full time last year. Top to bottom however, when healthy and productive, any team would be hard pressed to defeat us, including the Miami Heat.
People point out our need for a shooting guard to add more firepower to the mix. I agree to an extent, but there needs to be more consistency from our other key positions. Case in point: Joakim Noah was a BEAST to start the year last season. He was putting up 14 points per game and 15 rebounds on a regular basis. After the injury… not so much; he was more of a 10 and 12 guy, but the fact of the matter is he still went out there and gave 100% of what he had, even if most of it was on the defensive end.
For a max salary player like Carlos Boozer to play the way he did was pathetic. First was the NON BASKETBALL RELATED injury to start the year, then the injuries midseason and early playoffs (turf toe in the NBA, WTF?) and then the failure to EARN the money he was paid until it was clearly too late in the playoffs.
Gone was the 20 and 10 guy from Utah that we were promised at the beginning of the year. Instead we got a big guy who refused to play defense and lacked ANY kind of aggression or leadership in the Playoffs. Chris Bosh OWNED my dude in the playoffs.
This wasn’t 2001 Shaquille O’Neal of the Lakers, this wasn’t 1997 Karl Malone of the Jazz, this was Chris Bosh; a guy who everyone questioned his heart and toughness that went out there and made my starting power forward look like a punk in the playoffs. Bosh, whom I was completely against during the year EARNED a fan in me during the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Though he seemed like a complete disaster during the regular season, he was the most consistent player for the Heat where it mattered and did exactly what they paid him to do for that squad.
I can’t put the Heat’s failure on Bosh; that man played his heart out and earned his contract. He was brought in to help Dwayne Wade, a former champion rise to the top again and give Lebron James, arguably the most complete player in the league a backbone so that he didn’t fall on his face as he did so gloriously in Cleveland.
Last year, it was Wade and James who failed to do their jobs and that was to FINISH as champions. But I digress; this conversation is about Carlos Boozer and his 60 million dollar contract. This year I expect a complete 180 from Mr. Boozer or I will be leading the fan revolution to get him OUT of Chicago.
Pay what you owe Carlos, or should I say play like you owe. He owes Chicago Bulls Nation 20 and 12 years for the balance of his contract. Derrick Rose played hurt; battled bigger guys all year long and did EVERYTHING he could do to win. Boozer was brought in off of his previous merits as a leader and a scorer and did not perform. I expect better from him this year.
Rose took the heat (literally) for losing the playoffs, but we all know that had his supporting cast performed the way they were supposed to, the MVP wouldn’t have run out of gas at the end of the year. Honestly, an energetic Rose would have found a way around Lebron James’ giant-like defense; would have sought the open looks more; perhaps wouldn’t have had as many turnovers, but since NOBODY seemed to WANT to perform other than he and Luol Deng it was like the man had no options but to take on the Heat alone on offense, which despite Miami’s lack of a complete team or chemistry is a tough cookie to crumble.
How did the Mavericks do it? They did it with a COMPLETE TEAM EFFORT. Is that too much to ask?
We know defense isn’t his best attribute, but Carlos Boozer needs to throw his weight around more. If he banged more on offense and powered his way in the paint like power forwards are supposed to, we’d be that much more dangerous. The reason why James was on Rose isn’t JUST because of his size; he was on Rose because he is the Heat’s best man to man defender. In that vein, if Boozer began to go off on the physical offense side of things, you KNOW Bosh couldn’t match that kind of physicality and they would have been forced to rotate James back to Boozer and let Dwayne Wade gaurd Rose and let’s be honest: Dwayne Wade is incapable of even lacing Derrick Rose’s sneakers on #1’s WORST day.
Kyle Korver is a one trick pony; I’m cool with that. But we expect him to at least be consistent with that one trick. He’s our hired gun, our three point wizard. The slump my man had in the playoffs was mind boggling. In a program which John Paxson, one of the greatest clutch three point shooters in history runs, Korver needs to realize THAT is indeed his destiny. I argued all year to give that man a starting position, but as the playoffs came around I saw exactly why they didn’t. This is where a solid defense comes in handy. When guys like Paxson or BJ Armstrong were off, you’d better believe they put in extra work on defense. I didn’t see any of this from Korver last year.
Don’t even get me started on Keith Bogans either. His routine early game three point basket and out during the regular season was entertaining, but sorry, get him OFF my starting lineup RIGHT NOW. He’s not a defensive specialist; he’s not a threat on offense, so why is this guy starting in the NBA?
Ronnie Brewer however is a guy who appears hungry and deserves a starting role. I say give it to him. Then, bring in a scorer off the bench to back him up. If Tracy McGrady wants to come to Chicago, sign him up. He’s no longer TMAC anymore, but an inspired McGrady who wants to get a ring before he retires just needs a coach to get some confidence in him so he can perform. I’ll put it out there: if healthy, I can see McGrady putting in 15 off the bench on the regular. Even if he didn’t, don’t you agree that he’s a better fit to our team than Keith Bogans?
What’s to come of a guy like Rasual Butler; a guy who was brought in for scoring, but was regulated to garbage time minutes? I mean, if you’re paying him, why weren’t you PLAYING him? He was cheap and he performed when needed! Dude got less than 7 minutes in the playoffs total. He’s not Brian Scalabrine, who is essentially a third mascot. Butler is looking to move on from here… expect him to sign with someone who is going to actually respect the fact that he’s better than Bogans.
If we’re not going to so a SG by committee, then we have no other options but to roll into luxury tax status and pick up a guy like Jamal Crawford or Jason Richardson to fill that starting role. Even if it means giving up the I-don’t-know-why-he’s-untouchable Omer Asik and picks or money, just solidify that spot already. We’re not looking for the second coming of Michael Jordan; just somebody who’s going to consistently perform for us at the 2.
The problems I addressed here are not impossible to fix. We need a better concentrated effort from our entire team if we’re going to beat Miami next year. Noah, Boozer, Deng (who should have been an all star last year) and Rose are healthy. Brewer is hungry; Watson and veteran Kurt Thomas are our bench leaders. We have the tools; isn’t it reasonable to expect them work properly?
Laker fans; get ready. The next episode is for YOU!
I am Showtorious; Chicago Bulls all day.