-- Nobody would confuse the Bulls for one of the more proficient three-point shooting teams in the league, but after a rough start from long distance to begin the season, the team is becoming more competent from deep.
Theres no Kyle Korver on the roster, but reserve shooting guard Marco Belinelli, after gaining confidence during the month of December as fill-in starter for then-injured Rip Hamilton, has emerged as the teams most reliable outside marksman. Luol Deng, a much-improved deep threat in recent years, is also finding his groove, while backup point guard Nate Robinson is streaky, yet dangerous, from behind the three-point arc. Veteran backcourt starters Kirk Hinrich and Rip Hamilton cant be ignored, either.
We were 30th in the league for a while. Weve steadily moved up throughout the course of the season. I think the threes that were taking right now are a lot better than the ones we were taking earlier in the year, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said after Wednesday mornings shootaround at the Berto Center, before getting into the reasons why. Just rhythm, off-ball movement, off the swing, off the ball in the paint. I think when guys make the extra pass, thats usually when you get the high-percentage three.
Well, the game tells you how many threes you should take. I dont want to be an outside-in team. I want to take the right threes. A lot of your three-point shots come off double team, the coach continued.
You dont always have to take the three. What it does lead to is long close-outs or open shots and you want to get a balance of three, the drive, get to the free-throw line, but the ball in the paint is what wins in this leagueI think were a decent-shooting team. Our free-throw shooting has been excellent all year and now, the threes are coming around. When you look at what Hinrich has shot career-wise, you know that hes a good three-point shooter. Lu started off a little slowly, but now, his threes are going down. Marcos shooting the three great, Nates shooting the three great, so weve got some guys who can knock it down.
-- The Bulls newest addition, shooting guard Daequan Cook, isnt likely to play extensive minutes in the near future, but Thibodeau still likes what he sees in practice.
Its been a very short amount of time, but I like what Ive seen so far and weve liked him for a while, and so, his shooting is something that we need and I think he could help us down the road, the coach said. He just has to come in and learn right now, and you never know when the opportunity comes, so I like knowing that hes there. It gives you quality depth. I think he complements Carlos and Luol extremely well, and thats what youre doing. Youre always trying to build your team around your primary scorers and look at what they can add to the team."
However, it wouldnt be surprising if the 25-year-old is in the same boat veteran swingman Rasual Butler was in as a midseason acquisition two seasons ago, as the rotation is already set and Thibodeau is notorious for sticking with what he knows. Still, with his youth, the 2009 NBA All-Star weekend three-point shootout winner could be auditioning for the future.
-- Thibodeau is obviously familiar with Bostons Kevin Garnett and although the future Hall of Famer has rubbed several opposing players the wrong way with his constant barrage of trash talk on the court, dont count the Bulls head coach as among his detractors.
Garnett was again in the headlines following getting tangled up with Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony on the court during the Celtics win Monday evening in New York. Anthony not only suffered through a miserable 6-for-26 shooting night, but he lost his cool both onthe two All-Stars were assessed double technical foulsand off the court, as reports surfaced of Anthony going to the visiting locker room to confront Garnett afterwards, then continuing the dispute all the way to Bostons team bus, something confirmed by video.
I havent seen it, so I dont really want to comment on that, other than my experience with Kevin was spectacular. He drives the team. Hes one of the those guys that, if youre if an opponent, you probably dont like him, but if hes on your side, you love him. He led that team to a championship and so, I have great respect for him, Thibodeau said. Carmelos a fierce competitor, too. Thats the one thing I respect about both of those guys. You put fierce competitors in a game together, theyre going to go at each other. Thats what they do. Thats what competitors do.