Bulls Defensive Issues Front and Center vs. Cavs

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Bulls Defensive Issues Front and Center vs. Cavs

Monday, April 26, 2010
9:54 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

For those of us who've watched just about every minute of Bulls' basketball this season, it's no surprise to see this team struggling on the defensive end in the playoffs. Granted, LeBron James is the best player in the league right now, and no one will have much success trying to slow him down. But the Bulls have done a poor job of trying to take the ball out of LeBron's hands with early double teams, and they haven't been consistent in rotating to help on James when he gets by the initial defender on his drives to the basket. Luol Deng is doing everything he can to try to stay in front of LeBron, but let's be honest, lateral quickness has never been Luol's strong suit, and he doesn't have the physical tools to guard a 6-8, 260 pound freight train like James. Vinny Del Negro has tried Taj Gibson, Hakim Warrick, James Johnson and even Kirk Hinrich on LeBron, but none of them have had even a shred of success. James will embarrass any number of defenders around the league before these playoffs are over, but the Bulls really haven't done anything to force him to give up the ball in the Cavs' half-court offense, and they're paying a heavy price.

Unfortunately, James isn't the only player who's hurting the Bulls right now. Derrick Rose continues his bad habit of watching the ball on the defensive end, and letting his man drift to an open spot for uncontested jumpers. Mo Williams, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon have hurt the Bulls at various times in the series with wide open 3's. The Bulls try to hide Rose on the defensive end, but against a willing passer like James, that isn't easy. When Derrick is out of position, James will get the ball to an open shooter, and the Bulls haven't done a good job of defending the three point line. Cleveland has shot a high percentage from beyond the arc throughout the series by taking advantage of the Bulls' poor weak-side defense. Improving team defense was supposed to be a high priority at the start of the season, but aside from a few decent stretches during the regular season, we haven't seen that improvement. You can bet defensive philosophy will be a big topic of conversation when the Bulls' begin the search for their next head coach.
Byron Scott could be a name to watch

Speaking of which, former Nets and Hornets head coach Byron Scott says he would be interested in the Bulls job. Scott led New Jersey to the Finals behind the talents of Jason Kidd back in 2002, and did a good job developing an offense to fully utilize the open-court talents of point guard Chris Paul in New Orleans. Former Bulls' center Tyson Chandler had the best season of his career by running the floor and finishing alley-oop passes from Paul, so you wonder if Scott couldn't bring that same type of efficiency with Rose and Joakim Noah. Scott played on the Showtime Lakers with Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 80's, and he's well respected as a player and coach. He could be helpful in trying to attract an elite free agent to Chicago since he's known as a players' coach, willing to play an up-tempo style.

You can bet we'll also be hearing names like Doug Collins, Jeff Van Gundy, Avery Johnson and Lawrence Frank over the coming days and weeks as the Bulls try to find the right man to lead this team back to contending status. Another name to watch for is former Blazers and 76'ers head coach Maurice Cheeks, who's currently serving as an assistant to Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City. Like Byron Scott, Cheeks is well respected from his playing days in Philadelphia, and did a good job as a head coach under trying circumstances in both stops. Cheeks is also a Chicago native who excelled as an NBA point guard, and he might be able to help in Rose's development, especially on the defensive end. Look for the Bulls to try to move quickly and decisively in their search for a new head coach to avoid all the problems that occurred two years ago before they finally settled on Del Negro.

Bosh holds the key to free agent chase

So, while the Bulls should have a new head coach by the end of May, they'll have to wait until July 1st to start pursuing the best free agent class in NBA history. We're hearing Toronto General Manager Bryan Colangelo has pretty much resigned himself to the fact Chris Bosh won't be staying with the Raptors. But rather than just watch him walk away as a free agent, Colangelo will aggressively pursue sign-and-trade options. That means instead of 6 to 8 teams having the required salary cap room to sign Bosh outright, Colangelo can now negotiate with the rest of the league for the best deal possible. What's in it for Bosh you ask? Well, how about an extra year on his contract, and about 30 million dollars in salary over what he could get by just signing with another team. So, the Raptors AND Bosh will be motivated to explore sign-and-trade options, which could include some of the real heavyweight teams like Dallas and the Lakers. L.A. inquired about a Bosh for Andrew Bynum deal before the deadline in February, and if they aren't able to defend their championship, they'll probably be in the market to make an aggressive move, especially since Kobe Bryant recently signed a 3 year contract extension. A Bynum for Bosh trade could actually help both teams, since Toronto could move 3-point shooting big man Andrea Bargnani to the power forward spot with Bynum in the line-up as a legitimate low post threat, and Bosh could team with Pau Gasol to give the Lakers a versatile and explosive front court. Bosh grew up in Dallas, and we know how aggressive Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban is. He has multiple assets he could include in a sign-and-trade, including players like Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and explosive rookie Rodrigue Beaubois.

If the Raptors trade Bosh to one of the teams that doesn't have a maximum salary slot available, they could put a serious crimp into the grand plans of teams like New York and Miami. The Knicks know they have zero chance of attracting LeBron if he can't bring another superstar with him. And we're already hearing Amar'e Stoudemire is in serious talks on a contract extension with Phoenix. So, if you take Bosh and Stoudemire out of the market of available free agents, LeBron is probably going to stay in Cleveland, and Dwyane Wade might get a little anxious in Miami. Heat President Pat Riley has promised Wade a major infusion of talent for next season, and if he can't deliver Bosh or Stoudemire, Wade might decide he's better off leaving South Beach for a return home to Chicago. Granted, these are all just possible scenarios, and we haven't even considered whether Atlanta All-Star guard Joe Johnson might try to pursue a sign-and-trade with the Hawks to get a 6 year contract, instead of a five year deal with a new team. Everything is fluid right now, and no one can really predict how an early playoff exit might affect James, Stoudemire or the Lakers' desire to pursue Bosh. Bulls management has to be prepared for every possible twist and turn, but at this point, nothing is out of the question, even the ultimate dream of convincing LeBron his future championship goals are more attainable in Chicago.

I'll see you Tuesday on Bulls Pre-Game live with Kendall Gill at 6:30 on Comcast SportsNet. Neil Funk and Stacey King will have the call at 7:00 on CSN Chicago, and we'll also be streaming the game live on CSNChicago.com.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

Bulls pass out Christmas gifts to Chicago youth on Sunday

Bulls pass out Christmas gifts to Chicago youth on Sunday

It was hard to tell who was more excited Sunday afternoon: the Bulls players or the 400 kids who stopped by the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry as the team passed out Christmas gifts for kids who reside in the Chicago family housing development.

Robin Lopez was carrying about Benny the Bull, much to the surprise and delight of many kids who were in attendance, while Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo took photos and passed out gifts to every child.

Rondo established roots in Chicago long before becoming a Bull, but has become entrenched in the months since signing with the franchise, being a part of the 17th annual holiday party.

“It’s definitely an honor. An honor to be a Bull,” Rondo said. “Since Day 1 when I got here I thought they were the best organization as far as giving back to the community, and it shows. They do it without hesitation.

“Very welcoming. The people have been great. The kids have been here since Day 1 supporting us as well. It’s very exciting.”

Bulls volunteers served lunch provided by Papa John’s, Coca-Cola and Edy’s Ice Cream, as the holiday party is one of the 30 events the Bulls are organizing as part of the team and NBA Cares’ “Season of Giving.”

“It’s no problem for any of us,” Lopez said. “Look at Raj, look at Jimmy, they’re having a blast out there. They’re having as good of a time as the kids out there.”

Being a California native, the newfound snowfall added to the atmosphere for Lopez.

“This really feels like Christmas,” Lopez said. “I can feel the spirit inside with the kids and the looks on their faces when they walk in and see the toys, they see Jimmy Butler and they’re so excited to be a part of it.”

Whether it was Barbie Dreamhouses, or Nerf basketball rims, the kids were ecstatic to see the Bulls and to pick out the toys being distributed by the Bulls’ stars.

“Very humbling. Over 400 kids. And every kid comes through all smiling and excited,” Rondo said. “Some of them don’t get toys all year and this time of year is about giving. I’m very humbled.”

Butler has been around Bulls Charities since being drafted in 2011, so although this is old hat, he hasn’t lost any of the spirit that comes with doing events like this year after year.

He posed with kids for photos and cracked jokes to the younger basketball fans.

“Feels good. I just like being here. It’s what this time of year is all about, seeing these kids smile,” Butler said. “I love kids, I love this city, I want everybody to be happy all the time. However I can make that happen, especially around Christmas and the holidays, I’ll do.”

Lopez is quiet to many who see him on the floor, but his eyes lit up around the kids and made Benny the Bull his personal prop by picking him up and carrying him through the museum.

“Every time I see it, it’s a wonderful feeling. To think I’m a small part of it, I can’t begin to describe it,” Lopez said. “Any opportunity I get to work with kids, that’s always easy yes in my book. I’m a big kid at heart. Any time I can go play, I’m in.

“It’s indescribable. I got so many great gifts as a kid, and blessed in so many ways. Just to be able to give back in any facet, that’s an easy yes.”

Sunday's event leads up to Monday's Chicago Bulls Charities Night at the United Center. The Bulls host the Portland Trailblazers at 7 p.m. on CSN.

Tune in tonight for Chicago Bulls Charities Night

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Tune in tonight for Chicago Bulls Charities Night

The Bulls are looking to bounce back Monday night against the Blazers, with coverage on CSN beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live.

And once the game gets underway, make sure you're tuned in as we and other affiliates participate in Chicago Bulls Charities Night.

Throughout the game we'll be highlighting the work that the Bulls organization has done in the Chicago community this past year, including taking part in more than 200 programs that the team says has impacted more than 87,000 Chicagoans.

You too can make an impact by checking out the Bulls Charities silent auction, going on until Dec. 6.

You can also make a donation of any size to Bulls Charities to be entered into a raffle to win a basketball autographed by this year's Bulls team.

Also, Bulls Charities will be hosting a ping-pong tournament next month to raise money. Winners of the tournament will get a chance to play against the Bulls! Learn more about the event, which will take place at Spin, here.

Learn more about Bulls Charities and the work the team does in the community here.