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.

Honda Road Ahead: Bulls continue playoff push against Cavaliers, Hawks

Honda Road Ahead: Bulls continue playoff push against Cavaliers, Hawks

Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Will Perdue break down the Bulls' upcoming schedule in the latest edition of the Bulls Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

TNT Bulls are back this week as the team heads into a crucial stretch. 

Currently, the Bulls sit half a game back of the Miami Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and with just eight games remaining on the schedule, each contest is essentially a must-win. 

So, yes, Thursday would be a great time for Jimmy Butler and company to summon their TNT alter ego. The Bulls have sealed 18 straight victories when playing on TNT Thursday, an improbable feat considering those games are usually reserved for two of the NBA's best. 

To continue that run, they'll have to down Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are also fighting for playoff positioning -- albeit at the top of the conference. Good thing the Bulls have a tendency to get up for big games. 

"The Bulls play up and down to their competition," Bulls Pregame and Postgame analyst Kendall Gill said. "They've been doing that the whole season." 

After Cleveland, the Bulls get set to battle another playoff squad, the Atlanta Hawks. 

Watch the video above to see Schanowski, Gill and Perdue break down the matchups. 

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Whacked on his ailing left hand by Khris Middleton, Jimmy Butler shook off the pain to hit a rare triple in transition while Middleton was complaining for a foul a couple possessions later.

Butler then darted into the passing lane for a pass intended for Jason Terry like a linebacker jumping into the flat for an interception, then trotted down for an uncontested dunk to give the Bulls an unlikely 17-point lead.

For the man who claims he’s the best football player in the NBA, playing through the pain and doing so with his team’s playoff hopes dwindling, Butler may finally have some believers to his boasts.

Not only did the Bulls avoid a season sweep to the Milwaukee Bucks with a resounding 109-94 win at the BMO Bradley Center Sunday afternoon, they restored a slight sense of pride after looking like they had none of it Friday night in their loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I give them credit for bouncing back after a tough home loss,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We have to understand what makes us successful. When we’re committed to following the game plan and executing…It’s the little things we have to do that add up to give ourselves a chance to win.

Butler scored 20 with a career-high 14 assists in a grinding 39 minutes, but he could play the role of a semi-closer, making those big plays in the fourth when the Bulls pulled away, and pulled to within a game of the eighth playoff spot in the East.

But the Bulls’ defense, one that held the Bucks to just 39 points in the second half, caught his eye.

“I could actually say we played some legitimate defense,” Butler said. “Got back in transition, we always helped. We came out, stuck to the gameplan of getting back.”

He didn’t have to carry a heavy load offensively, though, leading to his being fresh down the stretch as he started the fourth quarter on the floor as opposed to the bench.

Instead, it was March Madness as Nikola Mirotic played up to his career numbers in his favorite month on the calendar, drilling five triples on his way to 28 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes.

It helped the Bulls shoot 54 percent overall, bringing their mark to 10-1 when they cross that threshold.

“I’ve been playing with a lot of confidence,” Mirotic said. “I’ve spent a lot of hours before practice and after. I know you guys have been asking about consistency, so I’m working on that and trying to be more consistent.”

Mirotic and Rajon Rondo helped the Bulls to a decisive double-digit lead in the third quarter with Rondo scoring 14 of his 18 points in the period, hitting a triple, getting into the lane for layups and dishing out a few of his eight assists.

It was an offensive masterpiece for the Bulls, a prospect that seemed highly unlikely given the opponent and the way they played coming into Sunday’s contest. And with the Bucks getting Giannis Antetokounmpo going early along with Middleton, it looked like a nightmare of a different kind was in store for the Bulls.

Antetokounmpo scored 22 with eight rebounds and seven assists, but 12 of those points happened in the first quarter. Middleton scored 14 but shot six of 17.

“When we get slapped in the face and punched in the mouth, adversity hits and we have to handle it and get through it,” Hoiberg said. “I didn’t see any head-hanging when it didn’t start off great.”

But Hoiberg wasn’t about to let an instant replay occur, having seen his own version of a “Nightmare on Madison Street” Friday night against the woeful 76ers when his backups let time stand still for minutes at a time, squandering a double-digit lead.

Hoiberg decided not to mess around with the second unit as the Bucks began pulling away in the same manner the 76ers did Friday night. He brought the starters right back in when the lead ballooned to 45-33 at the 8:29 mark.

“We were ready in case that happened,” Hoiberg said. “We felt we had to do everything possible to give ourselves a chance. We were ready to play our guys big minutes tonight and we’ll have to do that in the next eight games.”

Then the Bulls went to work to finish the half, with a 23-10 run, along with starting off the third as efficient as they had been in awhile against a worthwhile opponent, shooting 14 of 21 in the period to take a 91-79 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Mirotic was seven of eight from the field before halftime and his first miss of the third—a 30-foot triple that went wide right, wound up in a 3-point opportunity for Rondo, who scooped the ball and scored on a layup while being fouled.

It was that kind of afternoon for the Bulls, a team that can’t seem to decide who they want to be on a nightly basis—making it that much harder for an opponent to predict, that much more difficult to eliminate from the playoff conversation.