NBA Playoffs: Clippers Prove That Anything Is Possible

Blake Griffin

As I turned off my television and closed my eyes, I had an uneasy feeling. Ten minutes later, I sat up in my bed, reached for my phone and clicked on the ESPN app. I went to the NBA homepage and clicked on the “scores” tab. When the page loaded, I couldn’t believe what I saw.

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NBA Playoffs: Five BIG Questions in the Western Conference

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant

With the Utah Jazz beating the Phoenix Suns and claiming the last playoff spot last night, the playoff picture is set in the Western Conference. Let’s see if we can answer five big questions in the Western Conference.

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BREAKING: Vinny Del Negro OFFICIALLY Fired

vinny del negro

Tomorrow morning, Chicago Bulls GM Gar Forman will hold a press conference addressing…

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Vinny Del Negro Defeats his Former Roommate Nate McMillan

By Paul M. Banks

It’s hard to find examples of former college roommates who both go on to enjoy substantial success at a very high level. Former roomies at North Carolina St. Vinny Del Negro and Nate McMillan both went on to have solid playing careers in the NBA. Both former members of the Wolfpack also coached their respective teams into  the NBA Playoffs. I guess they’re the NBA’s answer to former Harvard roommates Tommy Lee Jones and Al Gore

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It’s Christmas Eve, Vinny Del Negro Fired Yet?

Bulls Del Negro

Tim Floyd in 2001, Scott Skiles in 2007. The Chicago Bulls fired two of the three men who preceded current Head Coach Vinny Del Negro on Christmas Eve. Is another Dickensian organizational move coming? Only Gar Forman and John Paxson know for sure. To say that Vinny is on the hot seat, especially after the Bulls just suffered their worst choke in franchise history; a 35 point loss at home to the lowly Sacramento Kings  who were at the end of a long road trip. It was the second biggest blown lead in NBA history. Seriously.

Either way Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to The Sports Bank family of contributors and readers.

Case for Cutting Vinny Del Negro Just Overwhelming

grim-reaper-71949

By Paul M. Banks

Beating the lowly Knicks at home is not a job-saver. I’m not here to talk about Vinny Del Negro’s lack of coaching acumen or lack of coaching effort. It’s been well documented elsewhere. I’m more focused on trying to find out what the true tipping point will be.

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International Shoe-Tying Incident, Jarret Jack EMBARASSES Bulls

Vinny Del Negro’s Chicago Bulls Preseason Assessments

bullscourt

By Paul M. Banks

Last season, the Chicago Bulls experienced a dramatically positive growth spurt. A team that actually lost at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the early part of the season grew together and gelled enough to qualify for the postseason. And in those playoffs, they gave the defending World Champion Boston Celtics all they could handle in a physical seven-game series that featured more overtime sessions than any other series in NBA history. It was probably the most exciting playoff series that the professional hardwood has ever seen, but a first round exit is still a first round exit, so 2008-09 was not exactly the most memorable season in Bulls history. But after building some positive momentum last season, what will the Bulls do with it now? Can they at least win the Central Division?

Their sophomore Head Coach Vinny Del Negro is as good a clue as any. Here are some of the highlights of what he’s told the media this preseason

About taking it to the next level…

“The 2nd half of last year I think we started to come into our own a little bit, kind of me feeling the guys out, them feeling me out how we’re gonna play. Now there’s a familiarity…now we just have to improve, you have to put the work in on the practice court and hopefully execute in games.”

On how little you can read into the Bulls 5-2 preseason record…

“Every time you’re keeping score, you always want to win, but sometimes there’s a lot of young players out there and that usually dictates some mistakes and the flow of the game can get changed a little bit when you’re trying to conserve some guys’ minutes, so the rotations aren’t down and that throws guys into different positions sometimes.”bulls2

On Tyrus Thomas, and his convalescence…

“He needs to get back in shape, he’s been out a little bit, and get the flow back offensively, defensively, be our shot blocker back there, and make open 15 footers. If he runs the court with his athleticism and gets after it defensively, it’ll give us a big boost. He knows what he needs to do, he just needs to go out and do it consistently.”

On improving the team’s much maligned defense…

“We have to find a way to get stops at key times, but also we need to rebound better defensively. Some times we’re getting key stops, but not getting that basketball, hopefully with a little more size the rebounding numbers will get better.”

The subject on everyone’s mind, the health of Derrick Rose…

“He needs to get back. It is a day-to-day thing. He’s been doing some running and he’s been on the bike. We may have him in shooting drills, but not full-contact drills…It is possible he will not be ready for the opener against San Antonio. I hope he practices tomorrow but it is really day-to-day.

Season tips off October 29th.

Bulls Send Message to Tyrus Thomas in Draft

bullscourt1

By Paul M. Banks

Did the Chicago Bulls send a message to incumbent starting power forward Tyrus Thomas Thursday night by drafting two power forwards? By using both of their first round draft picks on prospects who play the four, the Chicago front office seems to be telling us one of two things. Either a.) Coach Vinny Del Negro, GM Gar Forman and company are unhappy with Thomas (who desperately needs to develop a post move) and are attempting to motivate him, or b.) Ty is being aggressively shopped to other GMs in the league. Maybe we’ll learn more once NBA free agency starts on July 1, when more transactions are like to start happening around the association.

But we can worry about that later, for now let’s focus on who the Bulls did pick up with the 16th and 26th overall picks.


Wake Forest, Forward, James Johnson

In college, Johnson was able to muscle weaker defenders down low while also using his ability to drive and finish. His range from deep leaves plenty of room for improvement, but he did develop a more consistent mid-range game as a sophomore. “We love his versatility he can play the four, he can play the three, he can play inside, he can play outside, at his size 6’8” 250 he can put the ball on the floor, he can rebound and put it out in transition. He’s a very big passer for a big guy,” Forman said to the media present at the Berto Center.

USC, Forward, Taj Gibson

Gibson is already 23 years old and should be able to contribute off the bench right away. He will likely make a living as a professional thanks to his rebounding and shot-blocking ability. 6’10” with a 7’2” wingspan, Gibson had the second longest reach of anyone in this draft. (Only the 7’3” Hasheem Thabeet was longer) “His wingspan was amazing, he’s long, he can block shots in the lane and he has a developing inside-outside game,” Forman said of Gibson on draft night.

2009 NBA Off-Season: Chicago Bulls

By Paul M. Banks
When the magical Bulls-Celtics first round playoff series started, most of Chicago just wasn’t very excited. I mean who gets all warm and tingly about a 41-41 team sneaking into the playoffs? This was the same squad that resided in the bottom rung of the league in February, and had a joke of a head coach and an ugly home loss to the OKC Thunder on their resume.

But the Bulls transformed themselves after the John Salmons/Brad Miller trade, and that transformative process continued into the postseason in where the #7 seeded Bulls took the #2 seeded and defending World Champion Boston Celtics to 7 games. The numerous extra sessions effectively made it the best playoff series of all time.

It also further accentuated the only true positive of the regular season, (that #1 overall pick, hometown hero and now NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose is a true superstar in the making) Despite the loss, the playoffs made Chicago care about the Bulls because it told us, “hey the Bulls are truly back.” Even though it was the longest series in NBA history, it went by too quick.  Moving forward, everything starts with stability in the front office as GM John Paxson’s successor will have plenty of questions.

2009-10 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Joakim Noah/Brad Miller/Aaron Gray/Jerome James
PF: Tyrus Thomas/Tim Thomas//
SF: John Salmons/Loul Deng/Linton Johnson
SG: Ben Gordon/Anthony Roberson/
PG: Derrick Rose/Kirk Hinrich/Lindsey Hunter

Free Agents:

Ben Gordon
Lindsey Hunter
Aaron “The White Panther” Gray

’09-’10 Team Salary: approximately $68.5million
’09-’10 Expected League Salary Cap: $57.3 million

Draft Picks:
# 16
# 26

Off-Season Needs:

1.    A SCORING BIG MAN- In Chicago, the need for a scoring big has existed almost as long as the Bears deficiency at the quarterback position. Since the Bears recently traded for Jay Cutler, maybe this second historically bad Second City position will also receive an upgrade. Joakim Noah’s arc is finally trending upward. As awful as I thought his acquisition was on Draft day (and he didn’t help him himself with the infamous Dean of Clown College outfit), he’s kind of fulfilling the roles (interior defense and rebounding, unfortunately horrendous foul shooting as well) that Ben Wallace was supposed to during his brief and disappointing stay in town. Noah’s even started to act like less of an immature thug off the court, and says he’s serious about bulking up to augment his game. Even if that happens, he’s not a big time scorer and the Bulls will best be served in the free agent market trying to complement him down low.

2.    Getting up Front About It-
The Bulls’ biggest need is obviously a coach who cares about strategic substitution, game-planning and decision making, since Vinny Del Negro did little of those things during this season. (To his credit, he did get better down the stretch and in the postseason, but he still has miles to go) After that, the team obviously needs front line consistency. Some people think Tyrus Thomas might still one day be a star, but they must be drinking red Kool-Aid, or be wearing LSU-colored goggles, because he’s progressed into just being mediocre, not actually good. Thomas developed a good jump shot and does dominate the league’s weakest caliber of players at the four, but he doesn’t seem interested in obtaining an actual post move and he’s still clueless as to what is going on within the offense much of the time.

3.    Back court scoring-
This need disappears if Ben Gordon stays put. If he goes, they’ll need somebody to take the scoring load off Rose to let him be more of a distributor. It’s hard to say what this team definitely “needs” because they have a big collection of average to slightly-above-average players. There are needs, but other than low-post offense, it’s not centrally glaring. Other than Derrick Rose, they have no superstars or anyone with superstar potential. (Luol Deng’s contract, which will pay him $10 million+ through 2014, is superstar, but his talent certainly is not) This team has plenty of young players and “projects,” so they should be concentrating on veterans, not rookies to help them. Can they package their picks and excess amount of jump-shooters into something special?

4.    Defense- Vinny doesn’t care if his players defend, or even seem to care if the Bulls even look like they’re trying to defend. Pax fired Scott Skiles in a Dickensian manner on Christmas Eve 2007, and the team has severely lacked any sort of quality defensive play since then. Ben Gordon doesn’t play defense, yet he looks All-Defensive team next to Derrick Rose. DeJuan Blair or a really physical defender in his mold would be a good fit.