Is T-Time Coming to an End in Chicago?


Is T-Time Coming to an End in Chicago?

Monday, November 9th

by Mark Schanowski

Now that Tyrus Thomas is out 4-to-6 weeks because of a fractured left forearm suffered in a freak weight training accident, the question is obvious: How much longer will Tyrus be with the Bulls?

Will he still be with the team after the trading deadline in February? And is there any chance he's still a Bull at the start of next season?

The front office did not seriously pursue a long term contract extension with Thomas before the Nov. 2 league deadline, while other members of the '06 draft class like Andrea Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Rajon Rondo were generously rewarded by their teams. And in case you weren't aware, the Bulls' goal of signing an All-Star caliber free agent next season would force them to renounce Thomas' rights before next July 1 to free up needed room under the salary cap. Now, that's not saying Tyrus doesn't have the chance to change their minds, but it will be a lot more difficult trying to come back from a broken arm, with rookie Taj Gibson getting a chance to establish himself in the starting lineup.

Remember, Thomas' bad week began with a post-practice critique in front of the whole team last Monday, courtesy of co-captain Lindsey Hunter. The coaching staff chose to go with a smaller lineup in the fourth quarter of a close loss in Miami the night before, leaving Tyrus on the bench. Thomas has had a few disagreements with Vinny Del Negro and his staff over the last season-plus, and it's no stretch to say he can be a difficult player to coach at times. Tyrus sees himself as a jump-shooting, scoring small forward, while the coaches want him spending most of his time in the paint, blocking shots and controlling the backboards on both ends. When Thomas came to training camp talking about new-found maturity and a breakout season, we were all intrigued. He certainly has the athletic ability and work ethic to become one of the better power forwards in the league. Now, the injury and the solid play of Gibson will mean reduced minutes and less of a chance to establish himself as a possible star of the future.

So, what happens next? The Bulls say surgery on Thomas' broken left forearm went extremely well, and he could return to the court in four weeks. We certainly wish Tyrus the best in his recovery, and the Bulls could use his shot-blocking and rebounding talents, whether he's used in a starting role or brought in off the bench. In the meantime, John Paxson and Gar Forman will have to consider bringing in another frontcourt player. It's pretty obvious the coaches don't have a lot of confidence in top draft pick James Johnson right now, and the Bulls can't afford to play Luol Deng 47 minutes like they did against Charlotte last Saturday. Del Negro can get by at times using John Salmons at the small forward spot and Deng at power forward, but that won't work against the more physical teams in the league. Names being thrown around as possible additions include Chris Richard, the former Florida forward who was cut near the end of training camp, former Bulls forward Linton Johnson and former Thornton H.S. star Melvin Ely.

With only 10 healthy players on the roster right now, what would you do? We would love to see your comments in the section below, and feel free to drop me an e-mail.

I'll see you Tuesday night from the United Center. Kendall Gill joins me for live pregame coverage of the Bulls-Nuggets match-up during SportsNite at 6:30.

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.

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Isaiah Canaan

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Isaiah Canaan

Chicago Bulls training camp is right around the corner, with the first preseason game coming Oct. 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Between then and now, will take a look at each player on the Bulls’ roster to preview and possibly project their importance to the team as the Bulls hope to qualify for the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

Player: Isaiah Canaan

Position: Point Guard/Shooting guard

Experience: 4th season

2015-16 stats: 11.0 points, 1.8 rebounds

2016-17 Outlook: It’ll be a game of musical chairs in the Bulls’ backcourt this season with the backup positions and Canaan will be in the mix for playing time at both positions, despite his small 6-foot-0 frame.

He’s more scorer than facilitator and looks for his offense, being aggressive in the pick and roll and in the open floor. It could be a change of pace from Rajon Rondo’s style, as Rondo can push the pace but will definitely be in control. If Canaan beats out Jerian Grant, Spencer Dinwiddie and Denzel Valentine for minutes, he’s going to play at a breakneck speed, looking to force the action and reacquainting himself with a familiar statistic: Field Goals Attempted.

Per 36 minutes last year, he took 13.2 shots and nearly nine of them came from the 3-point line, which accounts for his career shooting percentage being below 37, as he gets up a huge bulk from the long line.

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Having spent the majority of his career with the then-tanking Philadelphia 76ers, Canaan’s value is hard to project and one wonders if he’s gotten accustomed to losing environments.

In Philly, though, he was able to get plenty of experience, playing 77 games last season in what was probably as eye-opening for him as anything he’s ever endured in the NBA.

With the depth, though, seeing the above-mentioned players likely being ahead of him in the rotation means the Bulls won’t be as dependent on him for wins — but during those dog days of the season, when the injuries can pile up and the excitement is low, one wonders if Fred Hoiberg can toss Canaan out there and his energy can help the Bulls to a win or two in February — which could come handy in April when all wins matter if you’re trying to compete for a playoff spot.

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Doug McDermott

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Doug McDermott

Chicago Bulls training camp is right around the corner, with the first preseason game coming Oct. 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Between then and now, will take a look at each player on the Bulls’ roster to preview and possibly project their importance to the team as the Bulls hope to qualify for the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

Player: Doug McDermott

Position: Small Forward

Experience: 3rd season

2015-16 Stats: 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds

2016-17 Outlook: It’s been a steady progression for Doug McDermott from his rookie year to last season, as he’s symbolic of what Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wants his system to be: A floor-spreading, free-wheeling wide open system, one that displays the new reality of the NBA.

McDermott, at times last season, showed his proficiency despite his limitations. Few were better from the 3-point line, as he shot 42.5 percent, ranking fifth in the NBA. In semi-transition, he was a sure bet to spot up from the left wing and position himself for a pass and quick release.

With Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo all able to make plays, McDermott will be counted on more than he has before to make shots with space at a premium.

McDermott and Nikola Mirotic will have to provide the shooting to keep defenses honest, which could lead to McDermott being the first sub off the bench for a guy like Wade or Butler, leaving the latter to anchor the second unit in the second quarter.

His game opened up last season after the All-Star break, especially with his ability to create his own shot. It’s not a staple of his game and who knows how much he’ll have to use it with the ballhandlers on the floor, but he did have a reliable baseline fadeaway and one-legged runner he would go to every once in awhile.

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The Bulls’ offense ran better with him on the floor, averaging 116 points per 100 possessions. February produced his best month as a pro, averaging nearly 15 a game on 52 percent shooting—splits that could be more common as his career progresses. But what he gives, he often gives away on the defensive end and it’ll be a battle to keep him on the floor with some of the concerns the team will have as a whole.

Keeping players in front of him with his lateral movement is an issue, and even being in the right place defensively off the ball isn’t a given. But a lot of that is scheme and the Bulls have to be better collectively.

Expecting him to take another step this season as he knows what to expect and gains more confidence in his own game isn’t unreasonable—and finding consistency will be important to his future in the league, as he’ll be eligible for an extension following his third season.

In other words, there’s plenty of tangible and intangible incentive to improve.