Harrington Not the Answer to Bulls Problems


Harrington Not the Answer to Bulls Problems

Friday, December 4th

by Mark Schanowski

So, what do you think about the rumor suggesting the Bulls are interested in trading Tyrus Thomas and Jerome James' expiring contract to the Knicks for Al Harrington? Please post your comments in the section below.

You can put me in the "against it" camp. Harrington has been a decent scorer in his NBA career, averaging 14 points a game with the Pacers, Hawks, Warriors and Knicks, but he's been on mostly bad teams except for his early days as a teenager who didn't play in Indiana, and has never really been a guy who does the intangible things that help teams win. Right now, the Bulls are a jump-shooting team struggling to boost their field goal percentage, and I don't think adding another perimeter gunner is the right way to accomplish that.

Harrington is coming off the bench in New York, and he's a pretty good fit for Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced system. Harrington is averaging 19.5 points per game, and scored 41 in a game against Denver last week. But the 6-9 Harrington has never been a good defensive player, and doesn't like to go inside for his points.

Basically, he would give the Bulls a player very similar to Luol Deng and John Salmons, so shot attempts and touches in the halfcourt offense might become an issue. Also, the Bulls are trying to become a better defensive team this season, and Harrington just doesn't fit in that equation. He's a "tweener", not really a small forward or a power forward, so he has problems matching up defensively at either position. And, he's also been accused of being a selfish and disinterested player at various times in his career. With Harrington set to become a free agent at season's end, he'll be looking to put up offensive numbers, and probably not worry all that much about winning and losing, especially since he would be a one year rental with the Bulls.

Of course, keeping Tyrus is also a risk. Thomas will be a restricted free agent at season's end, and the Bulls would have to renounce his rights to free up enough cap room to bid on a "max" free agent next summer. So, do you hold on to Tyrus in the hopes he finally turns the corner in his career, and then let him walk for nothing at the end of the season? It's a difficult decision for the Bulls' front office to make, especially since Tyrus has never been one of Vinny Del Negro's favorite players.

Del Negro has been bothered by Thomas' inconsistency and stubborn attitude, but he also conceded during the recent road trip that the Bulls really miss the skills Thomas brings to the table. The interior defense just hasn't been the same without Thomas' shot-blocking ability, and the Western teams feasted on the Bulls to the tune of 50 to 60 points a night in the paint. Plus, Tyrus is usually good for two or three dunks a game, many of them in spectacular fashion. It's hard to measure what those kinds of athletic plays do for a team's psyche during the course of a long 48 minute game. Right now, the Bulls run a lot of extended motion sets just trying to free up Deng or Salmons for an open jumper. Tyrus isn't a great scorer, but he's one of the few guys on the team who can get easy baskets inside because of his leaping ability and timing on the offensive boards.

So what should the Bulls do for now? Thomas should be back from his broken arm in another week to 10 days. I would let him work his way back into shape, and then get him back in the starting line-up. Taj Gibson has been a nice addition, but he's prone to foul trouble and isn't a great defensive rebounder. Let Gibson learn the pro game playing 15 to 20 minutes off the bench, and reduce the work load on Joakim Noah, Brad Miller and Deng. The Bulls can use a bigger line-up at times with Tyrus playing the small forward spot along with Gibson and Noah, or even go very big with Thomas, Noah and Miller up front.

It's imperative the Bulls make an intelligent decision on what kind of player Thomas can become, and the only way they can do that is to give him extended playing time the rest of the season. If some team holding one of the elite free agents panics and decides to make their star player available in a trade closer to the February deadline, then you can use your best available asset (Thomas). We're already hearing talk that Toronto might consider trading Chris Bosh because of the likelihood he won't sign back with the Raptors next summer.

And, who knows what other players might become available. The list could include Amare Stoudemire, Antawn Jamison, David West, Elton Brand, Tracy McGrady, Rip Hamilton, Michael Redd and others.

That's why I think the Bulls would be making a mistake by trading Thomas now for a decent, but limited player like Al Harrington. It's tough to be patient, especially when the Bulls could finish as high as 5th in the East with a little more scoring punch. But the plan all along has been to wait until the summer of 2010 to pursue the big free agents like LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh, Stoudemire and Joe Johnson.

Harrington's expiring contract wouldn't hurt the Bulls' long term plans, but they're probably better served to wait with Thomas, see how he's playing when he returns, and then make a decision on any possible deals closer to the February deadline.

The Bulls will get an up-close look at Bosh Saturday night when the Raptors visit the United Center. I'm sure he'll be asked a lot of questions about his interest in coming to Chicago next season!

Kendall Gill will join me courtside to preview the Bulls-Raptors game on SportsNite at 6:30, and you can watch all the action on Comcast SportsNet starting at 7.

As always, we welcome all your comments and e-mails. Enjoy the hoops!

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.

Bulls exploring signing former Celtics shooting guard R.J. Hunter

Bulls exploring signing former Celtics shooting guard R.J. Hunter

According to CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill, the Bulls are exploring signing former Celtics shooting guard R.J. Hunter.

The Bulls currently have one open roster spot.

Hunter, a first-round pick of the Celtics in 2015, appeared in 38 games as a rookie. He struggled from the field, shooting just 36.7 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from deep. He ultimately lost out on a roster spot this preseason in a crowded Celtics backcourt.

Hunter was the darling of the 2015 NCAA Tournament playing for his father at Georgia State. Hunter hit a game-winning 3-pointer against Baylor to propel the 14th-seeded Panthers to an opening-round win.

Hunter was a two-time Sun Belt Player of the Year, averaging 19.7 points per game as a junior.

The Bulls open their 2016-17 season tomorrow night against the Celtics.

Stay with CSNChicago.com for more updates on this story.

Rookie Denzel Valentine believes he'll play in Bulls' season opener

Rookie Denzel Valentine believes he'll play in Bulls' season opener

Showing no hesitation, Denzel Valentine stood some eight feet behind the 3-point line and launched a triple in Jimmy Butler’s face, then on the next possession, hit a corner triple that ended a contested 3-on-3 game following Bulls practice Wednesday.

He looks ready, sounds ready and most importantly, feels ready for the season opener Thursday night against the Boston Celtics after missing so much time with a right ankle sprain he suffered in the preseason opener well over two weeks ago.

“I think I’m going to suit up,” Valentine said. “Still have to talk to coach about it, but I think I’m going to suit up. I feel great.”

Assuming the Bulls play nine or 10 guys tomorrow night, Valentine should get some run against the Celtics considering how easily he adapts to the game—and the Bulls are in no position to discriminate if a guy can contribute, thus making Valentine’s recovery that much more important.

“It feels great right now. The staff, give them credit. They’ve done a great job of getting me back into great shape, getting my ankle stronger, so it feels great right now, and ready.”

It seemed the injury took longer than the initial prognosis, and even Valentine felt that, as the Bulls’ first-round draft pick was anxious to get back on the floor and learn the new system and teammates.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“Yeah, that was my first ever actual ankle sprain. I’ve twisted my ankle a couple times in college, and I’m back in a couple days, practicing the next day,” he said. “But this one took a while. It was kind of frustrating because I thought it was going to be just like college, twist my ankle and be right back, but it was kind of an unfortunate accident. It took longer to heal. It actually took longer to heal than me actually being out there. It took time, but I’m ready now.”

Heck, he even has a new teammate in Michael Carter-Williams and that affects him being a primary ballhandler on the floor. Fred Hoiberg envisioned Valentine being able to play some point behind Rajon Rondo but with the recent trade, Valentine will likely play more on the wings behind Butler and Dwyane Wade.

It’s another change in the early stages of his career—one where he hasn’t been able to establish much continuity. Hopefully for Valentine, the worst of this is behind him.

“It’s very difficult, and being in Chicago, we’ve played all of our preseason games here, so there wasn’t no traveling like mid-season, so everybody is here pretty much every day practicing, and I’ve got to sit out at it,” Valentine said. “They kind of lose a little chemistry towards me, and the guys getting to play with me and me getting to know them on the court, so kind of lose a little bit of rhythm. But the good thing about me is I don’t need a whole lot of time with the team. I can kind of just sneak my way in and adapt.”