Schanowski: Bulls Bracing for Gordon's Return

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Schanowski: Bulls Bracing for Gordon's Return

Tuesday, December 1st

by Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

I know, I know, it's too easy to blame the Bulls' slow start on the loss of Ben Gordon in free agency, but honestly, don't you think the Bulls' 6-9 record would be 9-6 or better if they still had Gordon's quick strike scoring ability? The biggest issue so far has been the lack of consistent offense because of terrible shooting from the field. Gordon led the Bulls in scoring each of the last 4 seasons, averaging almost 21 points a game a year ago. His ability to score points in bunches is exactly what the Bulls are missing right now.

What it came down to for the Bulls' front office is basically this, Do you re-sign Ben Gordon at an average of 12 million dollars a season, or roll the dice on possibly replacing him with an all-star guard like Dwyane Wade or Joe Johnson in the summer of 2010? The Bulls obviously decided on the latter option, and they will do everything possible to free up enough money to make a max offer once the clock strikes midnight on June 30th of next year. The thought of Wade, Johnson or (do we even dream!) LeBron wearing Bulls colors next season should have fans legitimately excited, but it doesn't do much for anyone this season.

Which brings us back to Gordon, who makes his return to the United Center Wednesday night. Gordon rolled his left ankle last week, and is listed as questionable for the game, but you have to think he'll try to play against his former team. Detroit has been one of the league's early season disappointments after signing Gordon and Charlie Villaneuva as free agents last summer. They're currently in last place in the Central Divison, but their 6-11 record can be blamed more on injuries to Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince than a lack of talent on the roster. Former Bulls' free agent bust Ben Wallace is actually trying again in Detroit, and has given the Pistons some solid defense and rebounding in the post. Once Detroit gets all its players healthy, they'll most likely be one of the teams battling for the final 2 or 3 playoff spots in the East.

The Bulls figure to be in that mix of teams as well, along with Milwaukee, Toronto, Washington, Charlotte and Indiana. Really, at this early stage of the season, only the Nets and Knicks are definitely out of playoff contention in the East. The Bulls should benefit from playing 11 of their 15 games at home in December, and they also have a very favorable schedule for the first half of January. But the larger issues of poor outside shooting, and a suspect interior defense won't go away overnight. Getting Tyrus Thomas and his shot blocking ability back in the line-up will certainly help shore up the defense in the paint, and Kirk HInrich should return from his thumb injury within a week or so. But where is the scoring going to come from?

Luol Deng has been pretty consistent, especially lately, and that's a welcome sign for the Bulls' coaching staff. Derrick Rose has picked up his scoring, plus even more importantly, his trademark quickness is back after a slow recovery from that pre-season ankle injury. But, John Salmons has struggled trying to replace Gordon. Salmons is shooting 37 percent from the field, and looks really tentative at times trying to figure out whether to drive to the basket or settle for another long jumper. Hinrich has been an inconsistent shooter his whole career, and the Bulls really can't expect to get much offense in the post from Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson.

So, barring a trade, the Bulls pretty much are what we think they are (apologies to Denny Green). They will struggle to score at times, and have trouble defending teams with dominant low post scorers. But Rose will continue to get better, and eventually Salmons and Hinrich should improve their shooting percentages. The heavy dose of home games should allow the Bulls to get above the .500 mark by New Year's Day, then it's a question of how well they can compete in head to head games against the other playoff contenders in the East.

How many games do you think the Bulls will win in December? And, are you okay with waiting until next summer for the big roster move(s)? Please post your comments in the space below or send me an e-mail with your thoughts.

I'll see you Wednesday night from the United Center with Kendall Gill during SportsNite at 6:30. And, don't worry, I'll be sure to tell Ben Gordon how much Bulls' fans miss him!

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 fall flat in blowout loss in Dallas

Bulls fall flat in blowout loss in Dallas

DALLAS (AP) -- Wesley Matthews has taken greater responsibility with Dirk Nowitzki out of the Dallas Mavericks' lineup much of this season.

Matthews scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half of Dallas' 107-82 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

"Matthews was the star of the game, obviously," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "He is our leader right now with Dirk out. He really sets the tone for us in the locker room and on the floor. He is just the vocal guy."

Matthews has accepted the expanded role as Nowitzki has been limited to five games by a strained right Achilles tendon.

"I feel like that's one of the reasons why they brought me over here (from Portland). Through this rough patch, injuries and everything, everybody had to mold together. It's almost like we had to restructure ourselves. I think everybody has embraced that."

Harrison Barnes scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half to help Dallas improve to 4-15.

Chicago was coming off a 111-105 victory over defending champion Cleveland on Friday night.

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Jimmy Butler led Chicago with 26 points.

"I don't think anybody played well tonight," Butler said. "We didn't play with energy on either end of the floor."

Barnes powered the Mavericks to a 17-point first-quarter lead with eight points.

"They came out and threw the first punch and kept throwing, and we could just never recover from that," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We did expend a lot of energy (Friday) night."

Dwight Powell (17) and rookie Dorian Finney-Smith (11) had career highs in scoring, and Deron Williams had a season-high 15 assists with only one turnover.

"The biggest thing was we were even (43-43) on the boards," Carlisle said. Andrew Bogut had a game-high 11 rebounds, and Powell grabbed eight.

Neither team scored in the first 2:15, but Dallas went on a 7-0 run over the next 1:20. The Mavericks led 23-6 with 3:17 left. The quarter ended with Dallas leading 29-18. Bogut had six points and eight rebounds.

Chicago pulled within six points three times in the second quarter, but Dallas finished the first half with a 57-45 lead. In the third quarter, Matthews had 14 points, and the Maverick led by as many as 21 points.

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

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USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

Here are some of Friday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Saturday on CSN: Bradley vs. Nevada; Illinois State vs. New Mexico

Dwyane Wade, Bulls take first blood with LeBron James, Cavs

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

White Sox reportedly asking for No. 1 prospect plus more in trade return for Chris Sale

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

LeBron James pays off bet, rocks Cubs uniform to the United Center

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 1