What a Difference a Week Makes for the Bulls

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What a Difference a Week Makes for the Bulls

Sunday, January 3, 2010By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

Hard to believe it was just one week ago well-respected national basketball writer Chris Broussard was reporting the Bulls' front office had already made their decision to fire head coach Vinny Del Negro. Broussard saying management just was waiting to find a permanent replacement before pulling the plug on the firing. A tepid vote of confidence from General Manager Gar Forman before Tuesday night's win over Indiana did little to quiet the speculation, but the current 4 game winning streak should put Del Negro's future on the back burner......at least for now.

So, what do you make of the Bulls recent improvement? Is the return of Tyrus Thomas and a healthy Kirk Hinrich enough to make the Bulls a solid playoff team again? Did Del Negro's changes to the starting line-up jump start the winning streak? And, do you still think a coaching chance is needed, or should the Bulls stay the course until after the season? As always, we welcome your feedback. Please post your comments in the section below, or if you prefer, send me an e-mail.

My opinion is Del Negro received too much of the blame for the Bulls' poor start. The early injury to Thomas messed up the Bulls' rotation, and undercut their one real strength, quality depth. Now with Tyrus back and Hinrich playing with confidence in a starting role, the Bulls have an 8 man rotation that matches up well with most teams in the league. Having veterans like Thomas, John Salmons and Brad Miller to bring off the bench has allowed Vinny to get more rest for his core players, which in turn has made Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng fresher at the end of games. Matter of fact, Miller played so well against Dwight Howard that Noah stayed on the bench for much of the 2nd half while the Bulls took control of the game. That's not something you can count on most nights, but anytime Del Negro can reduce the workload of his key players is a real positive for the Bulls.

ROSE'S ALL-STAR PROSPECTS LOOKING UP

We're still waiting for the Bulls to have a representative on the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the first time since Michael and Scottie left after the 1997-'98 season. And, looking at the stats of the top guards in the East, it's starting to look like Derrick Rose has a real shot to make it this season. What would really help would be someone passing Allen Iverson in the fan balloting. Iverson is currently running 2nd to Dwyane Wade, even though Iverson just joined the 76'ers a few weeks ago, and is putting up only modest numbers. Let's hope Joe Johnson or even Vince Carter pass Iverson in the fan vote to open up 3 spots for more deserving players in reserve roles. Right now, if Iverson gets voted on to the team, Rose would be competing with Johnson, Carter, Rajan Rondo, Brandon Jennings, Mo Williams and possibly Charlotte's Stephen Jackson for reserve spots in the East. The reserves will be chosen by a vote of Eastern Conference coaches, and you have to figure Rose will be given strong consideration, especially if the Bulls can get over the .500 mark by early February. If the fans elect the two most deserving players in Wade and Joe Johnson, my guess is Rose, Rondo and Carter will be named as reserves. But if Iverson takes one of those spots, Rose's chances drop significantly. In case you hadn't noticed, Derrick is coming off a terrific month of December where he averaged 20.4 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds a game.

Joakim Noah also figures to get some consideration from Eastern Conference coaches given his dramatic improvement this season and the fact he ranks 2nd in the league in rebounding. But chances are the back-up center slot will go to Atlanta's Al Horford, who was Noah's teammate on those two national championship teams at Florida, or the Knicks' underrated double-double machine, David Lee. New Jersey's Brook Lopez and Milwaukee's Andrew Bogut also are possible candidates for the back-up center spot behind Dwight Howard.

BEWARE OF THUNDER

The Bulls try for their 5th straight win Monday night against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder, and if you don't know much about that team, they've emerged as a future playoff contender in the West behind the sensational play of 3rd year forward Kevin Durant, who ranks among the league's scoring leaders at 28.5 points per game. Oklahoma City management has done a terrific job in the draft, assembling an excellent nucleus of young perimeter players like Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The Thunder also got some help from the Bulls, who unloaded Thabo Sefolosha's contract for a future draft pick. Thabo is now starting at shooting guard for OKC, but the Bulls did okay too, using the draft pick they acquired on promising rookie forward Taj Gibson. But back to OKC, they added a solid veteran center by signing Nenad Kristic after a short stint in Russia, and they also have Nick Collison available to bang inside. It's hardly a championship-caliber team, but OKC has been surprising favored opponents all season long, and remember, they beat the Bulls at the United Center last season. Vinny and his staff have to do everything in their power to guard against a letdown after the big win over Orlando on Saturday.

One last note, former Washington Times basketball beat writer MIke Jones is reporting the Wizards are looking into making a trade to shake-up their underachieving team, and just about everyone is available. A report on Hoopsworld suggests the Wizards could be looking to deal fomer all-star Caron Butler to the Bulls or Heat. The website indicated a trade to the Bulls would involve Butler and veteran point guard Mike James coming to Chicago for Kirk Hinrich and the expiring contract of Jerome James. The deal would be salary cap neutral, meaning it wouldn't affect the Bulls' ability to go after a major free agent next summer, but it would also mean the Bulls would have to get more aggressive about pursuing a John Salmons' deal to free up the extra room they need to be able to offer a maximum contract. Butler is averaging 17 points to Hinrich's 9, but he's really more of a small forward than a shooting guard, and we've seen with some of Salmons' struggles that switching perimeter positions isn't always as simple as it sounds.

What do you think of the rumored deal? Let us know in the comments section below. I'll see you Monday night from the U.C. when Kendall Gill and I preview the Bulls-Thunder game during the 6:30 edition of SportsNite. And, don't forget you can watch that game and Tuesday's contest in Charlotte on Comcast SportsNet. Happy New Year everyone!

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

NBA trade deadline winners and losers

NBA trade deadline winners and losers

AN ARENA NEAR YOU –  The NBA trade deadline has come and gone, so the rosters you see now are pretty much what you're going to see for the rest of the season. 
 
Of course there will be some teams that will bolster their roster via buyout candidates, but most of those players will have a very defined and to a greater extent, limited role with whatever new team they sign with for the rest of this season. 
 
So who were the winners and losers during this now-completed trade season?
 
Our CSN Insiders examine which franchises really cleaned up during the trade season, and which teams got taken to the cleaners in addition to looking at a few teams that struck gold during the buyout season as well as some that stood pat and why that was a good – or not so good – idea.
 
We start off North of the border where Toronto pulled off a pair of trades that in the eyes of many league executives and coaches, probably addressed their biggest needs going forward and should solidify them as a top-four team in the East with the potential now to go as high as the number two spot. 
 
CSN New England's A. Sherrod Blakely takes a closer look at the Raptors deal, how it paid off almost immediately and what it means for the Eastern Conference going forward:
 
TRADE DEADLINE WINNERS
 
Toronto Raptors

By adding Serge Ibaka, the Raptors were able to address the increasingly obvious need for them to upgrade their power forward position. Ibaka was traded from Oklahoma City to Orlando because they didn't want to pay him a near-max salary this summer. And the Magic, realizing he wasn't a good fit for them going forward, cut ties just months after acquiring him. 
 
Playing with the Raptors has Ibaka in a familiar position, one that he enjoyed years of success in with the Thunder. Back then, it was Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook's team, with Ibaka as a really good No. 3 guy. In Toronto, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are Ibaka's Durant-Westbrook all over again and that's a good thing. In his first game as a Raptor, Ibaka had 15 points and seven rebounds in Toronto's win over Boston.
 
Considering Ibaka was going to be a player Toronto planned to pursue this summer when he becomes a free agent, acquiring him now makes the Raptors the odds-on favorite to sign him. 
 
He wasn't the only new guy for Toronto that gave the Celtics problems. 
 
P.J. Tucker, acquired from the Phoenix Suns, had a near double-double against Boston with nine points and 10 rebounds. 
 
The numbers they put up help, but even more important is they provide a heightened level of toughness which multiple league executives and coaches that CSNNE.com has talked with since All-Star weekend, said was sorely lacking on their roster. 
 
If the Raptors manage to climb the Eastern Conference standings and play their way into a deep postseason run, these two trades will be seen as instrumental in making that happen. – by A. Sherrod Blakely
 
Houston Rockets

The Rockets bolstered their playoff push in a single trade by landing former Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams from the Lakers. They sent Corey Brewer and a first round pick to Los Angeles in the deal. Williams gives the Rockets another high-scoring guard to complement James Harden and Eric Gordon. The addition of Williams' instant spark off the bench can make a difference in the grind of a postseason series. – by Jessica Camerato 

Los Angeles Lakers
 
They traded their most effective player, sixth man Lou Williams, for a player (Corey Brewer) and Houston's unprotected No. 1 draft pick. The biggest upside might be that the loss of Williams makes LA an even weaker team and therefore improves its own draft positioning. If the Lakers continue on the lottery-bound path they are on, it would mark the fourth consecutive season they will have a lottery (Top 14) selection. – by Monte Poole  
 
Oklahoma City Thunder

OKC needed a shake up if they had any hope of making noise in the postseason. They traded two young players in Joffrey Lauvergne and Cameron Payne, along with veteran Anthony Morrow to the Bulls for Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson and a second-round pick. 

McDermott instantly improves the small forward position for Oklahoma, giving them a high end shooting option for Russell Westbrook to kick to. Gibson is a solid veteran big that defends and rebounds either as a starter or off the bench. 

The Thunder gave up two young pieces in the deal, but they are in "win now" mode as they try to move up in the Western Conference standings. And while there were certainly more high profile moves made at the trade deadline, the Thunder can now set their sights on being more than just a team in the playoffs. These additions give them the kind of depth that's required in the postseason to potentially knock off a higher-seeded team. – by James Ham
 
Orlando Magic
 
If you factor in all that the Magic gave up to acquire Serge Ibaka, only to trade him away for a good but not great player in Terrence Ross, there's not a lot to like about the deal, right?
 
Not true. 
 
Trading away Ibaka on many levels was a classic example of addition by subtraction.
 
The trade of Ibaka has allowed the Magic to play Aaron Gordon at his correct position at power forward.
 
The glut of forwards/centers had coach Frank Vogel trying to force Gordon to play at small forward which didn't suit his strengths. He lacks the ball-handling and shooting to make that a natural transition.
 
"Everybody is now in their right position," Vogel said. "Aaron being a four is better for him. He did well at the three defensively, but he's better at the four." – by J. Michael
 
Golden State Warriors
 
They took calls but made none of their own. The Warriors own the league's best record, its No. 1 offense and its No. 1 defensive rating. They have no glaring needs. They may explore the buyout market if there is an intriguing candidate, but there is zero urgency. – by Monte Poole
 
Washington Wizards

The addition of Bojan Bogdanovic isn't the sexiest deal to be swung during this trade season, but it meets what has clearly been one of Washington's biggest weaknesses – depth. 
 
Specifically, Washington needed to add a scorer off the bench which is exactly what Bogdanovic has the skills and talent to provide. 
 
The Wizards haven't ruled out another move in the free-agent market to help with the bench with a possible playoff run looming.
 
Trey Burke hasn't been adequate as John Wall's backup, Tomas Satoransky might not be ready for the role yet and Kelly Oubre hasn't done the job behind Otto Porter.

The next move, if there is one, could be for the best player available but a creator with the second unit is desperately needed. – by J. Michael
 
LOSERS

 
Sacremento Kings

The Sacramento Kings hit a hard reset button on All-Star Sunday, dealing center DeMarcus Cousins and forward Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans for a package that included rookie Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and a first and second round pick.

Sacramento received below market value for their franchise cornerstone and started a youth movement that was long overdue. They now have four first round picks from the 2016 NBA Draft and potentially two first round picks in the highly touted 2017 NBA draft. 

The Kings sat just a game-and-a-half out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff chase at the time of the move. They have been raked over the coals in the media for their handling of Cousins, including making promises to not only keep the star big, but hand him a $219 million extension this summer. They chose to reboot the franchise, calling for an improved culture. – by James Ham
 
Philadelphia 76ers
 
They had a cluster-you-know-what in the frontcourt with too many bodies, and they managed to clear it out a bit by trading Nerlens Noel to Dallas for Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson and a heavily protected 2017 first-round pick. 

But that in itself doesn't make this a good deal. 
 
In fact, it was one of the worst deals made at the trade deadline and here's why:
 
They knew Bogut would seek a buyout immediately, so whatever benefit he could have provided in terms of his play, was out the window. 
 
Move along to Anderson, a late first-round pick in 2015 who has shown signs of being a 3-and-D kind of player. He's a solid addition, but Noel is a better player and has significantly more upside. 
 
But the saving grace is the draft pick right? 
 
Nope. 
 
The pick will likely wind up being a second-rounder this year and in 2020.
 
So just to recap: Philly gave away a starter in Noel, and in return they wind up with a wing player who may play his way into the regular rotation eventually along with a pair of second round future draft picks. Knowing this deal will make the Sixers a weaker team, it's almost like Sam Hinkie never left. – by A. Sherrod Blakely
 
Los Angeles Clippers
 
Their pursuit of another wing shooter came up empty, as did their perpetual search for a legitimate small forward. On the other hand, as a group that has been crippled by injuries to key players, they're happy to have a healthy starting five now that Chris Paul is back and effective. – by Monte Poole

New York Knicks
 
So, the Knicks are all still there. Between Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose, at points leading up to the deadline it seemed like a player could be on the move. In the end, the team remained intact. No better, no worse, just the same. Which in this season, the same isn't necessarily the best outcome.

New York needed to make a move to shake up a roster that's once again underachieving. No one expected the Knicks to be among the top three or four clubs, but they were seen at the very least as a legit playoff contender. Of course there's still time for them to get back in the postseason picture. But with all the drama surrounding this team, it's unlikely their direction will change anytime soon which means another season ending without a playoff berth – by Jessica Camerato

Boston Celtics
 
This team has been fireworks-in-waiting for years now, seemingly on the cusp of a big deal that ultimately turns into a big dud. It's hard to be critical of a team that has endured as many injuries as they have this season and still find themselves in second place behind the NBA defending champion. 
 
Because of their lofty position, the Celtics' focus was primarily on landing a major player like Chicago's Jimmy Butler or Indiana's Paul George. 
 
The Celtics struck out on both of those guys and wound up keeping their current roster intact.
 
Adding insult to injury, two players – Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker – were both players Boston was in the mix for in terms of signing only to get serious love from Toronto, which traded for both players. When the Celtics opened their post All-Star break portion of the schedule in Toronto, Ibaka and Tucker were huge factors in the game's outcome.

The Celtics did try to get in on acquiring the soon-to-be bought out Andrew Bogut only to learn that he's likely signing with Cleveland. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

BUYOUT WINNER: CLEVELAND
 
Indeed, the rich will get richer in the East with the Cavaliers on the cusp of adding both Andrew Bogut and Deron Williams who became unrestricted free agents. Bogut is nearly complete with a buyout after he was traded to Philadelphia from Dallas, while Williams was waived by the Mavericks when they could not find a partner to swing a trade for his services. 
 
With Bogut, the Cavs add one of the best defensive centers in the NBA. Injuries have limited his impact this season, but the load he'll be asked to carry is relatively small compared to what the former No. 1 overall pick has been tasked with elsewhere. 
 
As for Williams, he gives them a ready-to-roll backup point guard. When Kyrie Irving takes a rest, LeBron James has often been shifted to being the primary ball-handler. But the addition of Williams gives the Cavs another choice coming off the bench of a player who has played this game for a while and has a solid understanding of how to run a team effectively. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Schroder off to rough start after All-star break

When the Hawks opted to move on from Jeff Teague, the assumption was that Dennis Schroder was ready to be the starting point guard.

Coming out of All-Star break, Schroder has served a one-game suspension for not reporting to the team on time and then was benched for the first half of the next game because he missed the team bus.
 
Going into Monday, the Hawks had a three-game losing streak by a total of 53 points.

"We continue to hold our entire roster, all of our players, accountable," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "Our culture is important to us. Respect for your teammates is important to us. That's our job and that's our organization's job is to continue to build on our culture." – by J. Michael

Knicks waive Jennings, Rose next?
 
Brandon Jennings had expressed a desire to join a title-contending team.

Well he got his wish – partially anyway – when the New York Knicks waived him on Monday. The eight-year veteran will surface with another team, but the question is where?

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports that the Knicks might also be interested in waiving Derrick Rose. The Knicks are a bad team and judging by some of the moves being made by the front office, they're not going to be better anytime soon. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Tonight on CSN: Bulls shoot for five straight wins as they battle Nuggets

Tonight on CSN: Bulls shoot for five straight wins as they battle Nuggets

Watch as the Bulls take on the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

1. A pair of playoff teams....really. The average basketball fan thinks Bulls vs. Nuggets and doesn't necessarily think of a pair of playoff teams. But the Bulls have won four straight and are tied for sixth in the East, while the Nuggets have surprised the league and gone 25-31, good for eighth in the West. The Bulls opened as three-point favorites, meaning this one could go either way. And when it comes time for the playoffs this is one both teams may look back on as A) a helpful win or B) one the loser really could have used.

2. Going for five straight. The Bulls have won four straight for the second time this season. That fifth game the first time around was a seven-point loss to the Clippers. The Bulls won six in a row last season in December and January, so this is an opportunity to pick up a five-spot for the first time in more than a year. Currently the Bulls are tied with the Spurs for the longest winning streak in the NBA.

3. Cameron Payne getting involved. Expect to see more and more of the second-year point guard who came over in the deal from the Thunder. Payne got just a handful of minutes on Saturday against the Cavaliers but looked good, going for 6 points on 2-for-3 shooting in 12 minutes. There's a logjam at point guard to be sure, but the Bulls dealt for Payne because they want to see what he can do in extended minutes. He has a good matchup against Denver in Jamal Murray and Jameer Nelson, and could do some damage when he gets in.

4. What could have been. When the Bulls traded the Nos. 14 and 19 picks in the 2014 NBA Draft to the Nuggets for Doug McDermott, Denver used one of those picks on Michigan State guard Gary Harris. The 6-foot-4 guard has turned into one of the better young under-the-radar players, averaging 14.2 points on 48 percent shooting and providing solid defense in 29 minutes a night. Who knows if the Bulls would have selected Harris with one of those picks, but he sure would look good on the perimeter next to Jimmy Butler.

5. Bobby Portis momentum. With Taj Gibson out of the picture the starting power forward job is officially Bobby Portis' to lose. Portis has been impressive in his last five games, averaging 11.4 points on 48 percent shooting, 5.4 rebounds and is shooting 36 percent from deep. He'll get a difficult test against the Nuggets' frontline, but these are the kinds of games that can help the young forward's progression.

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