Monday, November 2nd
by Mark Schanowski
So what do you think of the Bulls' play in the opening week of the NBA season? We'd love to see your comments in the section below, or feel free to drop me an e-mail.
Here's a few things I've observed. It's pretty obvious the Bulls won't be able to win consistently without a healthy Derrick Rose in the line-up. Derrick insists his pre-season ankle injury is not the reason for his slow start. He says he just needs to work on his conditioning and find the rhythm in his offensive game. But watching Rose play in the first three regular season games, you can see he doesn't have his trademark quickness and explosive first step on drives to the basket. Derrick is one of the best finishing point guards in the game, but he's missed a lot of shots he normally would make. Rose has been able to get past his defender, but hasn't exploded to the basket like he did last season. Once Derrick is 100 healthy again, the Bulls' offense will instantly be better.
Joakim Noah's summer work has paid off. Noah's improved strength and conditioning has allowed him to tirelessly work the backboards on both ends, and so far, he's been the Bulls' best player. He's definitely capable of averaging double figures in points and rebounds, and better equipped to battle other NBA big men for position under the basket. Noah's also showed an improved ability to finish on close range shots in the lane, but his jump shot still looks pretty funky. The Bulls' center position is better than it's been in a long time with Noah, Brad Miller and overseas prospect Omer Asik, a 7-footer from Turkey who should join the team next summer.
The Bulls' coaches still don't have complete faith in Tyrus Thomas. Tyrus got the quick hook in the season opener against San Antonio, and he only played 20 minutes during Sunday's game in Miami. Vinny Del Negro said he wanted to go with a small line-up and more shooters against the Heat, but it still left Tyrus on the bench, wondering about his future with the team. While other NBA teams extended the contracts of their high draft picks from the '06 draft, the Bulls chose to let Thomas play out his deal and become a restricted free agent next summer. That decision alone speaks volumes on what they think of Thomas' future in Chicago.
Luol Deng should have a big season. With Ben Gordon now in Detroit, there are a lot more shots available in the Bulls' offense, and Deng will get a lot of them. He scored 17 points on opening night, and led all scorers with 26 points against the Heat. Even more encouraging than the numbers is Luol driving hard to the basket again, and finishing with a dunk on the fast break. Those are the kind of plays that will allow Deng to average in the 17 to 20 point range this season.
Right now, Vinny and his staff have to settle on a consistent playing rotation and figure out the best way to get open looks for a jump shooting team. The schedule is daunting during the month of November, so don't get too hung up on wins and losses. Look for good ball movement on offense and improved rotations on defense. Those are 2 of the keys to the Bulls making it back to the playoffs next spring.
I'll see you from the United Center with Kendall Gill for live pre-game reports Tuesday during SportsNite at 6:30 before the Bulls-Bucks game on Comcast SportsNet at 7:00.
Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre and post game studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.