Schanowski: Bulls Missing Tyrus on Circus Trip

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Schanowski: Bulls Missing Tyrus on Circus Trip

Tuesday, November 24th

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

After watching the Bulls get dominated in the paint against the Lakers, Nuggets and Trail Blazers, one thing is obvious........they really miss Tyrus Thomas! I know I've criticized Thomas in the past, and it's obvious the Bulls would have been better off keeping LaMarcus Aldridge on draft day back in '06, but Thomas' ability to block shots and hit the offensive glass would have been a big plus over the last 3 games. Joakim Noah's done a great job this season, but he was overmatched against the likes of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom in L.A., Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen in Denver and Greg Oden and Aldridge in Portland. Tyrus could have helped change the momentum with a blocked shot or a tip dunk, and helped Noah control the defensive boards. He's still probably two weeks away from returning to action after breaking his left forearm in a weight training accident, and the Bulls will be a better team once Tyrus works his way back into the starting line-up with rookie Taj Gibson becoming a reliable big man reserve off the bench.

Which brings us to one of the many problems facing Vinny Del Negro and his staff these days. With Lindsey Hunter basically a coach who wears a uniform, and top draft pick James Johnson a non-factor, the Bulls only have 8 players in their rotation. Certainly injuries have been the main reason for the Bulls being so short-handed, but NBA rules allow teams to carry 15 players on the roster, and right now, the Bulls only have 13, and that includes mystery man Jerome James, who basically hasn't played in 2 years. I know the luxury tax is the reason behind the Bulls not adding another player or two, but would it bankrupt the franchise to add a minimum salary guy like Chris Richard or Melvin Ely? Vinny could really use another big guy to play 10 minutes a night, knock some people around and grab a few rebounds. Aaron Gray might be that guy when he returns from a leg stress fracture in the next week or two, but the Bulls might be better off with a more active big like Richard, who showed some pretty good versatility during the pre-season schedule.

Either way, it looks like adding a big man is the way to go for the Bulls down the line. Noah might be better served playing some power forward alongside a bigger NBA center. Vinny has tried playing Noah and Brad Miller together, and that line-up has worked at times. But Miller can only play well in short spurts, and the coaches have to be very careful about match-ups when they put the veteran center in the game. Miller is a good passer, and occasionally a decent outside shooter, but his best years are well behind him, and he has trouble blocking out younger, quicker players. At this point in his career, Miller is not a good defensive rebounder, and that weakness has hurt the Bulls in several games already.

So what can the Bulls do to fix the problem? As I've written before, they're not likely to make a major trade which would use up their cap space for next summer unless Chris Bosh or some other superstar becomes available. That means the coaches have to count on Tyrus to make an impact when he comes back, and hope Miller can hold it together for the rest of the season. We've heard a lot of talk about the Bulls being in the running for LeBron James or Dwyane Wade next summer, but if that isn't realistic, maybe they should target Amare Stoudemire, who's playing well again after eye surgery, and will be a free agent next summer. John Paxson and Gar Forman have a lot of balls in the air right now, including John Salmons 6.7 million dollar player option for next season, which could go either way. Because if Salmons decides to exercise that option for another season in Chicago, the Bulls won't have enough cap room to offer a maximum contract to a free agent anyway. Hey, no one said it's easy being an NBA general manager!

What would you do? Would you keep the team the way it is and put all your eggs in the Free Agent 2010 derby? Or, would you cash in your expiring contracts now and make a trade for a veteran big man who could help the Bulls right away? Or would you go for a proven scorer like Tracy McGrady, who is available, and has a big expiring contract for next summer?

Please enter your comments in the section below or drop me an e-mail.

Wishing you all a happy and blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends, and don't forget the Bulls play Thanksgiving night at 9:30 in Utah! Our next game on Comcast SportsNet is Monday, November 30th against Brandon Jennings and the Bucks. Kendall will jon me in studio on SportsNite at 6:30 to preview the game.

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.

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

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

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USA TODAY

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

Two nights after managing just 90 points in a lackluster home loss to the Lakers, the Bulls entered Friday night’s tilt against the defending-champion Cavaliers with a specific offensive game plan.

Attack, head coach Fred Hoiberg told his team, the interior of the Cleveland defense early to establish a presence in the paint. Knowing the Cavs, for all their strengths that made them NBA champions five months earlier, lacked a true rim protector, the Bulls made it a point to get Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez going.

The Bulls managed to do exactly that, tallying a season-high 78 points in the paint in their 111-105 victory over the Cavaliers. And while Lopez was again his usual efficient self and Gibson turned in his best performance of the season – the two scored 33 points on 15-for-23 shooting – it was point guard Rajon Rondo who proved to be the kick-starter for a Bulls offense that needed to be at its best to match Cleveland’s star power.

Rondo logged his first triple-double with the Bulls in the victory, tallying 15 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. But looking past the raw numbers, it was the shots Rondo took, and the passes he made, that allowed the Bulls to play so efficiently on offense and ultimately come away with their most impressive victory of the year.

Of Rondo’s 12 assists, all but two of the made shots off those passes came from a distance farther than 7 feet. Ten of Rondo’s assists resulted in baskets in the paint, of which the Bulls had 39 as a team. Squaring off against a subpar defender in Kyrie Irving, Rondo was active in knifing into the paint and finding open bigs inside. Rondo had six assists in the first quarter, and all but one resulted in baskets within 3 feet of the hoop.

All four of his made field goals in the first half were layups, as was his only bucket in the third quarter. His putback midway through the fourth quarter was also at the rim, and gave him his tenth rebound to secure the triple-double. Two possessions later he connected on a 3-pointer that gave the Bulls an eight-point lead; Cleveland never got closer than four the rest of the way. Rondo only took three shots outside of the paint. Friday marked the first time in a month Rondo had shot better than 50 percent from the field in back-to-back games.

Past Rondo’s own numbers, Gibson said that the Bulls’ point guard was instrumental in leading the Bulls’ offense to match up against a Cavaliers offense that entered the night second in the league in efficiency.

“He’s like a quarterback. Even though he never really played any contact football the way he always gathers the huddle, he always sees what’s going on in the game,” Gibson said. “He’s always encouraging. He’s pushing it. He’s a great teammate and I know he got a lot of criticism before the year, a lot of people talk about the negative that’s in it, but he’s been showing me nothing but great stuff on and off the court.”

In a game that had a playoff-like atmosphere to it simply because of the matchup between Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, as well as the defending champs coming to town, the veteran Rondo took it upon himself to lead the Bulls offense. Though the Bulls wanted to avoid getting into a track meet against the fast-paced Cavs, Rondo didn’t allow the offense to become stagnant when it was apparent they could get into the paint at will.

“I thought Rondo was great all night long,” Fred Hoiberg said, “getting guys out and running, pushing them. You can hear him yelling “run with me” to get the guys down the floor. Rajon was a huge factor.”

His defense will continue to be a liability – Irving had an off-night shooting more than anything – and he won’t score 15 points each night, but his leadership and ability to run an offense with precision has the Bulls behind their floor general as they head into the season’s second month.

“He’s always inspiring. He’s one of those guys you want to go to war with. He’s one of those guys that’s in the huddle, you know that every time down the court if it’s a wrong call, a foul, a scuffle, if you not feeling right he’s always going to have your back no matter what.”