I will use one of the funniest quotes I have ever heard in sports and only because it’s in reference to my beloved Chicago Bears. Dennis Green, the former head coach of the Arizona Cardinals went into a postgame tirade in reference to the Cardinals blowing a huge fourth quarter lead to the Bears last year and conducted a press conference for the archives, which is now a national commercial. He said, “The Bears are who we thought they were and we had them right where we wanted them, now if you want to go and crown their ass go right ahead, but we had them right were we wanted them.”
That’s the same feeling I have about the Chicago Bulls. They are exactly what I thought they were and that is good team that will fight and claw but always come up short. Still, some prognosticators were crowning them to win the Eastern Conference this year.
The Bulls are 1-5 and could conceivably be 1-9 after the first four games of a six-game road trip playing against the Suns, Clippers, Lakers and Nuggets.
Chicago fans are wondering what is wrong with the team that swept Miami last year and was beaten 4-2 by the Pistons in the Conference semifinals.
Let’s backpedal for a moment to last year…
Everyone thought the Cavaliers got a break when the Bulls blew an opportunity to play the Wizards last year in the first round, but Chicago caught a break too. The Heat proved to be just as bad as the Wizards and the proof is the fact the Heat have lost 19 out of 20 games going back to last season and counting seven preseason losses this year.
Also add the fact that the Pistons were vulnerable and the Bulls couldn’t take advantage. Just look at their meltdown against Cleveland in the Conference Finals.
So here is my point… The Bulls are not as good as advertised and it’s because of two fatal flaws that never seem to work out come winning time.
The first flaw is obvious and I wrote about it when Chicago signed Ben Wallace much to the chagrin of Bulls fans who peppered me with insults via e-mail. The Bulls have zero interior scoring with not one player on their roster that can command a post position and create high percentage baskets for him or his teammates. Wallace offers nothing offensively and his strengths are rebounding and blocked shots. Well, I am embarrassed to even mention that he is averaging 4.8 rebounds and 1 block per game.
That’s why the Bulls are shooting 38 percent as a team and rank 29th in the league in that area… Because teams are suffocating the perimeter players and daring them to drive or throw it down low to any big man the Bulls have on the floor.
Secondly, their go-to scorer is a 6-foot-2 guard, Ben Gordon , who is shooting 35 percent from the field and is averaging a paltry 2.2 assists per game – thus adding proof of how they are being defended. The Bulls have a team of hustlers and players with no star ability to score consistently and dominate. Yes, they can play defense. But really, what other choice do they have? That is exactly what Scott Skiles and John Paxson have been preaching, but this way of thinking is wrong – especially when it involves Paxson, who played on multiple championship teams and was nothing but a shooter himself.
They drafted Gordon, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng – all of them outside scorers that can create problems. And then they signed a non-scorer in Ben Wallace and draft back-to-back non-scoring big men in Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah.
I look back at all those Bulls championship teams and see virtually all of their players with the ability to shoot the ball.
That’s why I am having a hard time understanding the method to this madness. Why do you pay Ben Wallace most of your payroll and then go and draft two clones? (Especially Noah, who might be a worse scorer than Wallace. Did I just say that?)
Listen, here is the remedy!
Paxson, you blew the chance to trade for Kevin Garnett and he might win his second MVP this season based on early season projections. And now you are hesitant to trade for Kobe Bryant.
Paxson, you need to listen to your conscience and stop listening to head coach Scott Skiles, who is intent on having 12 players who played like he did – diving on the floor and running through brick walls. Four or five of those players are enough.
You need Kobe Bryant, so put a package together including Luol Deng and stop thinking you are going to build a championship with draft picks. Superstars win championships.
The only wild card team with enough savvy and talent without a star player is Detroit and although I picked them to win the East, they will not win the championship. Boston has the best chance right now in the East.
Make your job easier and go with the superstar. Build around him. Kobe has a solid 5 to 6 years left in him to at least give the Bulls a fighting chance to win a title. If you don’t, “The Bulls will be who we thought they were, but they will never be crowned.”