Bulls Pick Up Kirk Hinrich...And They're Satisfied

This move. Hell, yeah. THIS will get you past the Heat and now the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks.

The Miami Heat pick up Ray Allen, the game’s best pure shooter and a marvel off the ball. The Chicago Bulls tip the scales by acquiring Kirk Hinrich.

Yes, these are high times for the mighty Bulls. The combo guard is a safe, pleasant pick up for a team that is safe and pleasant. Their offseason has been safe and pleasant.

The Bulls uber conservative approach to an offseason essentially concludes with one of the most polarizing players in its recent history—John Paxson’s first draft pick. Hinrich is the toast without the butter. A plain combo guard without playmaking ability. 

I’m sure Sam Smith and KC Johnson are doing cartwheels.

Look, in an offseason when the champions have improved and one of the league’s best players (that would be Dwight Howard) is being sold on a discount because of his inexcusable immaturity, the Bulls are standing pat.

Meanwhile the Lakers have put themselves back into position for another title by adding Steve Nash. On a team that  needed an offensive injection, they got it in Nash.

From afar, it’s easy to be critical of a professional sports team. We don’t have to do the budgeting nor scouting, but this way-too-subtle approach to architecting this roster is disturbing. The Bulls could have taken a chance on Brandon Roy but let the Timberwolves outbid them.

I don’t know why the Bulls have become complacent and don’t see that the wear and tear on Rose has built from three in a half electric seasons.

Why the Bulls don’t actively look to improve their roster and get a second true star behind Rose is puzzling.  Why their names haven’t been mentioned in picking up Howard wreaks a flawed philosophy.

Contact Mike Mitchell at michaelkennethmitchell@gmail.com.

Marquis Teague Will Make a Solid Chicago Bull, But Should We Care?

So, this is the time of year that the Chicago Bulls play it safe, and well, they did.
They typically get a highly disciplined, motivated player with basketball smarts who can become a “contributor” in a few years. That’s sort of the mind behind Jimmy Butler, the 2011 draft pick.
At the bottom of the first round, the Bulls are a slam dunk to go the same avenue. And to wit, they took a solid, albeit sometimes exciting point guard who will serve as the creator in Derrick Rose’s huge void.
I’ve heard and watched little of Marquis Teague (maybe primarily because of his brother, Jeff), but this was the obvious pick at the obvious spot. We see that GarPax is simply too stubborn to budge on this roster. Instead of breaking it up via trade or moving up in the draft (with a Luol Deng or Joakim Noah trade), they stand pat and let a competent point guard fall to them.
Teague should be a solid, if not above average player in the NBA. His measurable suggest star-level talent with a vertical (though it doesn’t look nearly as sudden or explosive) at 40 inches and some real ball-handling speed. I like his hesitation move and does have true shot-creation skills.
 His slight frame and pick and roll game reminds me of Mike Conley, Darren Collison and/or his brother Jeff. Those are all solid point guards in a league flush with them.  
But again: To what end? Where does this go?
The Bulls area piecemealing a roster so clearly flawed and void of its hall-of-fame-level talent, that it seems shallow and lazy to project Teague’s effect on the Bulls. Think about it: If the Bulls were fully healthy—including Luol Deng—would Teague get them past the Miami Heat?
In short, no.
But I can’t fault John Paxson for the move because I simply don’t have the imagination to envision what should be done. The team and fans are asked to sit still until Derrick Rose’s return and even then, that might mean 2013. And by then, should the Bulls consider clearing cap room (with an amnestied Carlos Boozer) to acquire whatever star-level play can takeover Derrick’s role as alpha scorer.
Remember, Derrick can’t be the guy who knifes through four bodies as much. Too much wear and tear.
Maybe this works as a backward disclaimer for me: I don’t believe this helps the Bulls championship trajectory, but I like the pick, if they’re crossing their fingers for a healthy Rose in the next season.
I don’t believe the basketball fortunes of the Bulls are as bleak in the East as many. Miami, rightfully, claimed its championship with one of the best players ever in his playing prime. But its secondary star (Dwyane Wade) is sinking fast. They’re hamstrung by the cap and still don’t have a big or point guard they can trust.
I’m more fearful of the Oklahoma City Thunder because they still have three of the league’s top 20 players and they’re all younger than 23.
Back to Teague
It was strange to see the Bulls grab a player who had clear value to them at the spot they picked. He’s got some of those water bug qualities you see in Conley and Brandon Jennings.
Nevertheless, he doesn’t play with the athleticism that some of the elite points (with similar measurable) do. I noticed he likes to beat his man and then take difficult pull up jump shots and his decision-making leaves something to be desired.
The Bulls will say a lot of stupid things before he takes the court: “He’s not the starter, he’ll have to work his way in.”
But he’s the de-facto starter and he’s an interesting prospect at 19. What else could you ask for when you’re drafting at 29?
Contact Mike Mitchell at michaelkennethmitchell@Gmail.com.

Why You Should Root for LeBron James and Kevin Durant

Yes, you're a Bulls fan but if you're an NBA fan, this is candy.

LeBron James is an all-time player, yet an all-time contradiction. Maybe the most athletic specimen to ever play a professional sport, LeBron is too often lambasted for being a natural passer.

But, now, against Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City Thunder, it’s never been more important for him to go against his own tendencies and be aggressive, if not selfish the way he plays on the offensive side.

This is NBA history were about to witness with the two best players in the game about to pair off in the most important contest in years.

A lot of sports outlets will cast LeBron as the villain to the cherub Durant. But there’s not much of that.

All that matters is now is if LeBron wins. His fate is in his own hands. Whether you like him, shouldn’t matter.

I’m rooting for greatness—whether it’s LeBron or Durant.

Contact Mike Mitchell at michaelkennethmitchell@gmail.com.

Was the NBA Draft Lottery Fixed? Um...(yes)

(Editor’s Note: This should have been written on the eve of the NBA Draft Lottery but I was running dumb errands.)
I could have posted a blog about why the New Orleans Hornets were certainly going to win the NBA Lottery because it makes too much stinking sense.
I usually hate sports conspiracy theories because they’re often manufactured by fans. And fans can be astoundingly stupid. But this one seemed to be a subtle certainty throughout the league and its fan base. It’s almost too funny to believe:
David Stern kyboshes a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the LA Lakers. Knowing that he holds all the cards and the league has a direct interest in the team, he breaks it up and swaps with the LA Clippers instead and gets an even better deal.
The Hornets net Eric Gordon and rid of some awful contracts with a few more coming off the books. Then the Hornets tank the season, hoping to keep pace with the Bobcats who set a record for the worst win percentage in league history and what-the-hell-is-Michael-Jordan-eating-these –day references.
Then the tournament spotlights a true franchise big man that can be a perennial all star. He may be the best big man prospect in the draft since Dwight Howard. Even better, he’s mature and intelligent.
Then Tom Benson—the owner of the scandal-laden New Orleans Saints—finally buys the franchise a month before the lottery after passing on the offer for a year. HMM….

Yahoo Sports quotes a bunch of basketball executives as being maligned and infuriated with the lottery results, calling it a “fix.”
USA Today shows that more than 55 percent of fans believe the lottery was fixed.
You look at history and see franchises—Patrick Ewing for the New York Knicks and Derrick Rose for the Chicago Bulls—who  truly needed the impossible to happen and it has, sometimes predictably.
And that’s what makes all this too convenient for a team that was owned by the league and couldn’t find a buyer in that terrible basketball market with no real chance of winning any time soon.
Anthony Davis should be one of the game’s bright young stars from day 2, but fairly amusing how he got there. Then again, I could ignore all the evidence that the draft is operated by an independent firm with representatives from each team present in the process.
By the way, the Nets didn’t get a top 3 pick and now lose their pick to Portland for the Gerald Wallace trade. Deron Williams is supposed to leave and they don’t have any chips to swap for a bitter Dwight Howard. I love this league.

Contact Mike Mitchell at michaelkennethmitchell@gmail.com.

Why Trading for Dwight Howard This Offseason Makes Too Much Sense for the Chicago Bulls

Dwight Howard is whining again and the Bulls should answer his cry: He wants out of Orlando (unsurprisingly) and should be available this summer as the franchise can no longer be held hostage.

Of course this story line was stale by midseason of 2011-2012, but it won’t go away until Howard finds a new home—much the way Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul needed to be exported.

All season, I wondered if the Bulls could broker the trade, but it seemed Howard himself didn’t want to be in Chicago because it’s clear he wouldn’t be the alpha in a town that often throws bouquets at a man they call Rose.

But a lot has changed since Derrick Rose went down with an ACL tear. The window for a championship for this roster may have been shut and there’s a strong possibility Rose doesn’t even play next season. So what’s the point if you have no shot creators, right? No real star.

By swapping Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and the rights to the Charlotte Bobcats pick for Howard and the retired Hedu Turkoglu (and still one of the stinkiest-looking men in the NBA), the Bulls get one of the best player in the game at the most important position.

More importantly, they anchor their defense around a guy that eats space and can make up for whatever point guard the Bulls nab to replace Rose for next season. While, this doesn’t ensure a championship with the hopes that Rose returns, the logic is simple: Maybe they can persuade to stay in the offseason if things go right.

And Tom Thibodeau’s brief history  with the Bulls says it would.

Most importantly: If Howard still isn’t into the Bulls (kind of like dating the girlfriend up until the last month of your senior year in high school), he frees up a ton of cap room for the Bulls if he decides to walk and super free agents like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant will be available again in that summer, if neither have won a title by then.

The Bulls can even amnesty Carlos Boozer in that final year to save face and clear more room for Derrick Rose’s team.

This makes too much damn sense.

It’s both an attempt to build a roster or rebuild it, and either way, you have to do it, because Rose’s injury gives you no choice.

Contact Mike Mitchell at michaelkennethmitchell@gmail.com.

Are the Miami Heat in Trouble? When Will LeBron Take Over?

This is why I thought the Bulls were in great position to win a title: They could whirl and prance their way into the Eastern Conference Finals as the Miami Heat faced off the always annoying Indiana Pacers.

But, as we know, things have changed. The Bulls are gone and so is Chris Bosh. The Indiana Pacers played the way a team should play when its opponent is missing its starting all-star power forward. They moved the ball around the perimeter, crashed the offensive boards and pretty shut Dwyane Wade who had one of the worst games of his professional career.

It becomes a battle of philosophy: the star-laden Miami Heat vs. the all-around balanced Indiana Pacers.

I won’t believe the Pacers can win this series until they win the next home game at 3-1, but if you’re a Heat fan, you’re allowed to be concerned—especially since Chris Bosh won’t be back for the series.

Yet again, Wade continues to heave shots and LeBron hasn’t demonstrated the kind of ambition you’d want from one of the best players of all time in a mini crisis. Look, this is as good of an opportunity for LeBron to win the title as ever. The Bulls were the top seed and are gone. What stands after the Pacers series is a pushover in the Boston Celtics.

As much as Bulls fans love to hate on LeBron James (HATE, HATE, HATE!), he’s the best player in the game. But there comes a time when you have to be the best player at the most important time.

Is he that guy?

They’re still good enough to beat the Pacers sans Chris Bosh, but I can’t imagine why LeBron won’t dominate the next four games. It’s time that he does.

Isn’t it?

Contact Mike Mitchell at michaelkennethmitchell@gmail.com.

Derrick Rose Probably Won’t Be Back in the 2012-2013 Season, So What’s That Mean?

After  watching Derrick Rose grab an MVP trophy last year and wondering if the Bulls were just a player away from the championship, Bulls fans are pondering whether their best player will ever be the same player again.

The doctors will say Derrick Rose will recover in about a year. I think that means he can safely play basketball again. But will he be the 6’3 version of LeBron?

Eh-eh. I really don’t think that’s fathomable considering how long it took Chris Paul to return to himself. But, I do think we will see Rose at his peak powers again, just not in the 2012-2013 season.

And by that logic, the 2012-2013 season is a turning point for this franchise and maybe the end of a brief era of regular season success. If Derrick does come back in April of next year, do the Bulls have a realistic shot at a title with the fifth or fourth seed and an out-of-shape Rose?

No and no. Some have suggested that the Bulls will need to blow the whole thing up. I don’t entertain the idea because it’s really not in anyone’s DNA—John Paxson, Tom Thibodeau and Derrick Rose’s, nor the rest of the squad.

And seeing the Bulls of the early 2000s and the Charlotte Bobcats of this year, tanking the season isn’t a surefire strategy. Good people leave, fans do too and then you’re left with a  hope of the top draft pick who can be, well, another point guard, given the recent trends in the NBA (see Derrick Rose, John Wall and Kyrie Irving).

We know the Bulls will try to take another go at it again next season, and I probably would too given that the 
Bulls are capped out and even an amnestied Carlos Boozer doesn’t give you a lot of flexibility, but they’ll have to trade some of their top assets in Omer Asik or Taj Gibson to even make them relevant.

But who for whom? I don’t know.

But the status quo won’t amount to a championship and nothing else matters.

Contact Mike Mitchell at michaelkennethmitchell@gmail.com.

We've Been Robbed of an Interesting Playoffs

Obviously the league isn’t excited about losing one of its best players and teams to injury. The Eastern conference will make you sick as it seems Miami just doesn’t have any realistic competition.

While I was hopeful the Pacers would mix it up with them, it seems they just don’t have the scorers who matter in the fourth quarter.  Though, without Bosh, it might get interesting if they can steal the next game.

The West, however, remains intriguing as I think the Clippers and Spurs could remain close.


Contact Mike Mitchell at michaelkennethmitchell@gmail.com. 

Why the Chicago Bulls Should Trade Taj Gibson

FROM MY COUCH—Is there such a thing as “really apathetic”? Because that’s how I felt about last night’s loss to the 76ers in a classic sequence of foolery and brain freezes.

C.J. Watson should know better than to pass the ball to Omer Asik in must-make free throw situations.
Omer should split at least one of those free throws.

But ultimately, what it all means is that we get a little more couch time with our Chicago Bulls in what has morphed into the daftest and most awkward Chicago sports fan experience of my life. It might have started when Jay Cutler fell in the NFL Championship game one year ago and then followed up another season with a season-ending injury, dashing a realistic shot at the Super Bowl.

Then the Blackhawks’ watch their best player, Jonathan Toews, deal with concussion issues near the playoffs and see Martin Hossa go down with a blast thought could have dented a dump truck.

And then Rose. And the Noah. And then…

But the matchup with the 76ers really never should have been this close as the Bulls played down to their level and couldn’t hit shots.

Carlos Boozer’s sizzling one for 11 (three points) is the kind of amnestied effort that many of us have come to expect. Actually, I’m fairly pleased with the type of season Boozer put together: He was healthy and somewhat productive comparable to his career averages. But, I was always certain he was a bit of a stats stuffer who never makes important plays in important games. And Thursday’s effort epitomized Boozer.

A Flawed Philosophy
With only Rip Hamilton and Boozer to score, he wilted. Of course some sports writers will continue to praise Boozer as if he were an important asset for the Bulls next season, but that’s incomprehensible given the sample size we now have with him.  He really isn’t that important for the Bulls, considering many of his baskets are made 10 feet out from the basket on isolation pivot sets.

He seems to put up numbers against weaker competition and doesn’t particularly excel with Rose in the lineup. I can go a step further and wonder that because his physical skills have declined so much in the past two years, it has put an even greater burden on Rose to score at the rim. Boozer simply isn’t a good finisher.

Whereas Gibson, who does have a decent vertical and good quickness, gives Rose more liberty to drive and dump off in traffic. Ideally the Bulls will be able to keep Taj Gibson, but they won’t because they are capped out. Gibson is one of your biggest trade assets and so is Omer Asik, as you can’t continue to cling to the idea of “depth is important” when your frontline isn’t talented enough.

This has always been a flawed philosophy because if your starting five is talented enough, you should never want the backups in the game. You never wanted CJ Watson in the game more than Rose, nor Ronnie Brewer than Luol Deng. But when it came to Omer for Joakim or Taj for Boozer, you didn’t think the Bulls were as vulnerable.

Trading Taj Gibson

That’s like saying we have the best house in a bad neighborhood. It's like saying your quarterback is Tim Tebow. It’s like saying that your girlfriend only looks good when she wears baggy clothes.


So, aside from looking back, here’s what John Paxson and Gar Foreman should do with this Bulls team in the offseason:

First off, fans need to understand there are no major moves to be had (unless Dwight Howard mysteriously changes his mind and wants to come to the Bulls). There are no free agent signings. Understand that? They don’t have any more room under the cap.

If you’re going to amnesty Carlos Boozer, make sure you have your sights on a star who can fill that spot—not just a free agent who gets paid like one (see Carlos Boozer and David Lee). More realistically, if you believe you can make another run at the title with Boozer, you’ll need to trade Gibson and Omer Asik and damn the depth.

Gibson will want too much money to remain a Bull. I would consider trading him for Drew Bledsoe, the dynamic and explosive point guard for the LA Clippers. The team is loaded with point guards and can use the backup depth and smart rebounding and defensive instincts that Gibson offers. It’s a win-win for both teams because the Bulls also get their primary point guard for the 2012-2013 season.

Rose won’t play the majority of next season and will simply not have his explosiveness back yet. And no one should ask him to do just that from the start.

Bledsoe, while smaller than Rose, is sort of like Baron Davis before he stopped liking basketball. He has an 
explosive first step, great vertical, remarkable strength and a unique ability to finish in traffic. But why he has only averaged 3 and 3 thus far in his career?

He is playing behind Chris Paul and under Vinny DelNegro—not exactly the basketball mentor you want with your prodigiously talented point guard. The Clippers also run a pretty awful offense (DelNegro) and don’t run enough to use the talent they have.

The Bulls could use his speed and athleticism in Rose’s void. It might be an opportunity for  Thibodeau to mold another talented point guard (Rose, Rondo) and pair him with up with Rose when teams are overloading on the two.

Options B, C and D: Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks, Rodney Stuckey of the Detroit Pistons (more of a combo) or cherry picking something off the Washington Wizards. (Would Denver ever ship Ty Lawson for that kind of package?)

But the Bulls will still be without a star, and this is where holding onto Omer makes sense as the NBA nears next year’s trading deadline. Big men like Omer are held at a premium and seeing that Monta Ellis was shipped for an always injured Andrew Bogut, you can see why teams might oversell to get size.

There are difficult realities to face this offseason. It began when Rose went down. A new era started, but I don’t think fans are ready to hear that.

Contact Mike Mitchell at michaelkennethmitchell@gmail.com.

Does John Paxson and Gar Foreman See the Same Chicago Bulls' Roster We See?

We’re so deeply tied to the latest sentiment, that we often forget how easily our emotions whipsaw. In this Bulls series between the Philadelphia 76ers, we’re torn between hope and escapism.

The hope is obvious: maybe they can extend this and salvage whatever is left of a broken season.  The escapism is obvious: Maybe they can win a few games and we can all forget that Derrick Rose is broken and his career may have been altered.

For once, David Haugh has penned a solid basketball column that illustrates what John Paxson and Gar 

Foreman have done—they’ve constructed a cast of try-hards around an NBA superstar after whiffing on what is now the Miami Heat.

They should be commended for it too. You rarely see a team of specialists win consecutive regular seasons. 

You rarely consider them potential contenders against star-laden squads like the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder. But there they were, until…

I look at squads like the LA Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies and wonder how they can not possibly be better than the Chicago Bulls. The Grizzlies have five starters that nearly anyone in the league would like:

Mike Conley (solid and smart), Tony Allen (thuggish but one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA and backed by the fast-rising OJ Mayo), Rudy Gay (wildly overpaid, but a true scorer and talent), Zach Randolph (hurt, but maybe one of the only true pivot scorers in the NBA and a tenacious offensive rebounder) and Marc Gasol (one of the only above-average centers in the NBA, who was named to his first all-star game this season).

You see this roster and begin to wonder how these teams aren’t better than the Bulls. Think about it: How good is Derrick Rose? Don’t these playoffs crystallize our thinking? You need stars to win, not just leaning on the super-heroics of a 6’3 dynamo guard? Even Michael couldn’t do it alone.

Wednesday’s slop fest was about the Bulls getting back to their core philosophy: rebound hard and get back on defense. They moved the ball better and Luol Deng even decided to initiate much of the offense, despite a wrist that has bothered him for about five months now.

In bouts, this game was embarrassing to be called an NBA playoff game—just 26 points in the first half for the 76ers who are in need of a roster shakeup as well. You can’t put together three point forwards, no true post bigs, no point guards and expect anything but this.

At this point, you hope that Chicago’s general manager(s) see what we see on Chicago’s roster.

Contact Mike Mitchell at michaelkennethmitchell@gmail.com.

Will Derrick Rose Ever Be the Same?

It seems that people have finally realized they’ve arrived at a basketball funeral. 

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune says he’s never experienced anything like it; I don’t believe I have either. 

When has such optimism turned to such, well, despair?

A team this young? A superstar this promising?

I won’t delve into the particulars about every concern, but I can remind those who are worried about their basketball world coming to an end: Derrick Rose is very likely going to return to the player he was. This is based on the steady advancements in treating isolated ACL tears, compounded with a determined participant who will abide by a doctor’s every wishes. He’s also 23.

Some people are already suggested he’ll become a below-the-rim player. He’ll be more Rajon Rondo than Russell Westbrook. Sure an ACL tear can do this, and it will probably be true in the first few months he returns to the game. But as his ACL strengthens, he should return to the athletic specimen he once was.
This, of course, doesn’t mean the Bulls will be able to play at a high level in his absence. It was OK, even inspirational, as they held down the fort for the 2012 season, but that was the hope he was coming back on the court.

But there aren’t many moves the Bulls can make that will improve their chances of a title. They’re capped out, two of their starters will be older than 32 and a shell of themselves. Meanwhile, the pipeline is producing players like Taj Gibson and Omer Asik who do have a lot of value around the league.

I am a bit more optimistic about Derrick’s injury than most, but for the Bulls? I don’t think I can ignore the obvious: It’s a roster and offense designed around a single superstar.

Contact mike mitchell at michaelkennethmitchell@gmail.com.