Posts Tagged ‘Richard Hamilton’

Playing Hard Simply Not Enough For Robinson, Bulls Against Heat

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CHICAGO – Nate Robinson unwrapped yards of elastic bandages from around his left shoulder, the bandages finally revealing and releasing a large ice bag on his left shoulder. Robinson had taken a hit from Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole or one of the other Miami Heat players who landed on top of him as if — like Robinson’s Chicago Bulls teammates — he might ride the tough little point guard through what was left of this series.

Robinson winced then and he winced now, nearly an hour after Chicago’s 88-65 loss in Game 4 Monday night at United Center. There were all sorts of miserable franchise playoff records set by the Bulls’ discombobulated offense — fewest points in a game, fewest in a quarter (nine in the third), lowest shooting percentage (25.7 percent) … sputter, gasp, fizzle. Robinson himself was a hot mess: an 0-for-12 night, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range. He had four turnovers to go with four assists, never got to the foul line and played 32:04 without scoring.

The instant-offense backup Chicago had turned to so many times this season and particularly this postseason was, this time, the battery in need of a jump start. No one else had the spark, either, so as their Energizer bunny ran down, so did everything the Bulls hoped to accomplish offensively.

You hold a team to 88 points — 34 in the second half — you ought to be able to win a playoff game. The Bulls never got close. They trail 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, with Game 5 Wednesday night in Miami.

Robinson, the crush of cameras and reporters finally gone, his sore shoulder finally freed, wadded up the elastic bandages and from the chair in front of his dressing stall, fired them hard to the floor. Well, at least he hit that. He dropped his head into one hand and kept it down for a while.

“Couldn’t make shots,” Robinson said. “You go out there and try to execute, you try to shoot shots that you make every day — every day — and it doesn’t fall, it takes a toll on you. Then you don’t want to feel like you’re hurting the team by shooting the ball, and that goes not just for me, I could see it on other guys’ faces.”

The Bulls trailed 11-2 in the first five minutes. They fell behind by 10 early in the second quarter and then, in the third, the bottom dropped out. They took 13 shots and missed 11. Robinson went 0-for-6. The nine points they did score stirred ugly echoes of their 10-point quarter against Miami in a 2011 East finals game that didn’t go well either.

By the end, their half of the stats sheet was whack-a-doodle: Twelve assists, 17 turnovers, 19 field goals. Miami had nine steals, blocked nine shots and contested or cut down angles on just about everything else. And the focal point of it all was Robinson, who got the sort of treatment normally reserved for Derrick Rose. (more…)

Hamilton Out Of Bulls’ Rotation, Plans?

CHICAGO — Veteran Chicago Bulls swingman Richard Hamilton, known equally for his constant motion, crafty scoring ability and in-game accessories (head band, protective fiberglass mask), might want to go with a brown paper bag these days.

As in, who he?

From 2003-09, Hamilton was one of the playoffs’ most familiar faces, packing in 120 appearances in seven seasons with the Detroit Pistons. Over the next three postseasons, he played in just six games, all with Chicago last spring. But now his involvement has dropped off the table entirely.

In Game 1 of the Bulls’ first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets, Hamilton came off the bench in a playoff game for the first time ever. He went scoreless in 7:14, which led to another personal first: Hamilton didn’t play at all in Game 2, picking up his first postseason DNP-CD.

Now he appears to be out of coach Tom Thibodeau‘s postseason rotation entirely. With minutes at a premium and the Bulls in need of scoring wherever they can find it, Thibodeau has turned to Marco Belinelli in reserve of newfound starter Jimmy Butler. In a total of 30 minutes in the two games so far, Belinelli has scored 21 points while shooting 7-for-15.

Thibodeau also has used Nate Robinson in tandem with point guard Kirk Hinrich, rather than strictly as a backup, also draining minutes that might have gone to Hamilton.

“He missed a good chunk of the season down the stretch, and then we tried to get him some games at the end just so he can get his rhythm back,” the Bulls coach said the other day.

That never really happened. After missing March with a bad back, Hamilton returned April 9 but averaged only 5.8 points in 15.8 minutes while shooting 41.9 percent in five final regular-season appearances.

Thus Hamilton’s two-season stay with the Bulls appears to be fading to black. Oh, he might be called upon here or three, particularly if Chicago advances, but this wasn’t what any of them had in mind when Hamilton signed a three-year, $15 million contract after the lockout in December 2011.

The vision then called for him to team in the Bulls’ backcourt with Derrick Rose, benefiting in late career from the defensive attention Rose drew on penetrations into the lane while simultaneously spreading the floor for the dynamic point guard. Chicago had made it to the Eastern Conference finals with defensive-oriented Keith Bogans alongside Rose, but it was clear it needed someone to share the scoring load.

How’d that work out for the Bulls? Due to injuries to one or both, Hamilton and Rose played a total of 18 games together in two seasons, sharing the backcourt for only 396 minutes. Spread across the possible 148 games in 2011-12 and 2012-13, that’s the equivalent of 2.7 minutes per game.

That’s about right, in terms of impact. Hamilton was unable to stay healthy through a series of ailments, missing 38 games last season and 32 this year. Rose missed 27 a year ago and, of course, hasn’t suited up since his ACL injury in the 2012 playoff opener. (He and Hamilton combined for 42 points that afternoon, a tease of what might have been).

Good idea that never got traction? More like a dice roll that didn’t pan out. Hamilton had limited game and no durability left by the time the Bulls signed him off Detroit’s amnesty. He scored 20 points or more five times in 2011-12 and four this season, but wasn’t around enough to consistently boost the Bulls’ attack. He has a $1 million guarantee for next season, which almost certainly will become his severance check so the Bulls can avoid the other $4 million for 2013-14.

It’s worth looking at Hamilton’s impact in another way, given Chicago’s focus on dollars expended. Hamilton, in two regular seasons, scored a total of 816 points for $10 million. That’s $12,255 per point. Bogans — working against the Bulls from the Brooklyn bench — started all 82 games in his one season with them, scored 359 points and was paid $1.6 million. That’s $4,457 per point.

The Numbers On The East Playoffs

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The playoffs are here. And to get you ready, we’ve got statistical nuggets for each series, courtesy of NBA.com/Stats.

Eastern Conference basketball was slower and less efficient than Western Conference hoops. Five of the eight East playoff teams ranked in the bottom eight in pace, while four of the eight ranked in the top seven in defensive efficiency.

Yet, a couple of these series (Knicks-Celtics and Nets-Bulls) can be seen as offense vs. defense.

Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league averaged 94.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.1 points scored per 100 possessions.

Miami (1) vs. Milwaukee (8)

Miami Heat (66-16)
Pace: 93.0 (23)
OffRtg: 110.3 (1)
DefRtg: 100.5 (7)
NetRtg: +9.9 (2)

Overall: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Milwaukee: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

Milwaukee Bucks (38-44)
Pace: 97.3 (3)
OffRtg: 100.9 (21)
DefRtg: 102.3 (12)
NetRtg: -1.4 (18)

Overall: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Miami: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

Five notes:

New York (2) vs. Boston (7)

New York Knicks (54-28)
Pace: 92.0 (26)
OffRtg: 108.6 (3)
DefRtg: 103.5 (17)
NetRtg: +5.1 (6)

Overall: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Boston: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

Boston Celtics (41-40)
Pace: 94.0 (17)
OffRtg: 101.1 (20)
DefRtg: 100.4 (6)
NetRtg: +0.7 (14)

Overall: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. New York: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

Five notes:

Butler Backs Up Head Game Vs. ‘Melo





CHICAGO – Brash talk for a guy picked last in the first round of his draft in 2011, a relative unknown by two names – Jimmy Butler – in a league where the big dogs need only one. Like, for instance, Carmelo.

So when Butler talked after the Chicago Bulls’ shootaround Thursday about the mind games he hoped to play with the great New York Knicks scorer Carmelo Anthony, it seemed like tugging on Superman’s cape or spitting into the wind.

Turns out, ‘Melo was the one who shouldn’t have messed around with Jim.

“Yeah, I think it was all right,” said Butler, the Bulls’ small forward drawing so many of the dirty defensive assignments these days. “Just challenging him, man. I’ve got that much respect for the guy.”

Butler respected the heck out of Anthony earlier in the day too, about 10 hours before Chicago’s overtime, streak-busting victory, but that didn’t stop him from sharing some of his game plan after shootaround. Stuff like crowding Anthony, making him uncomfortable physically, the usual pestering and hassling. But Butler talked as well about his ambition to get the Knicks star off his game mentally.

“There are ways you can get into him,” Butler said, “try to get into his head a little bit and just try to make everything as difficult as possible.”

OK, so how’d that work out for Butler? Anthony – on one of the most torrid scoring and shooting paces in NBA history – wound up taking 34 shots for his 36 points. He came in hitting 61.1 percent of his attempts over the previous five games (and 58.6 percent on 3-pointers), but walked off a loser for the first time since March 17, lugging a 38 percent performance overall, an 0-for-4 collar from the arc and a defunct 13-game winning streak.

“Every time we see Chicago, they try to beat us up. Especially seeing us shorthanded,” Anthony said, overlooking the Bulls’ many injuries too.

Anthony put up 10 shots in the game’s first nine minutes and had 12 by the end of the first quarter. He was getting the full attention not only of Butler but of Luol Deng in their tag-team shifts on him and as the Knicks’ early 23-6 lead fizzled down into single digits.

On one play, Anthony picked up a loose ball foul when he put a forearm into Butler’s back. Then, after a whistle in traffic in the lane, he came out yapping and picked up a technical from ref Joey Crawford.

Butler had plenty of help against the obvious focal point for any Knicks opponent. One time, as Anthony bulled back against Deng near the rim, Chicago’s Richard Hamilton snuck around him on the baseline and stripped the ball. In general, the Bulls made life miserable for him, as they did for New York in sweeping the four-game season series.

“They can have it [the sweep],” said Anthony, who still had a chance to settle things in regulation but his 21-footer at the buzzer bounced off. “They can have the regular season wins. … We’re not worried about them right now at this point.”

Nate Robinson was the drama king for Chicago, scoring 35 points (18 in the fourth quarter and overtime) and out-3-balling the 3-ball specialists. But Butler did so much of the grittier stuff, from shadowing Anthony to chasing J.R. Smith, from stealing and slamming consecutive New York turnovers in a pivotal third-quarter turnaround to hightailing downcourt defensively after Raymond Felton to thwart a Knicks break-out opportunity in the fourth.

The kid from Tomball, Texas, by way of Marquette, was the No. 30 pick in 2011, sandwiched between Cory Joseph and Bogan Bogdanovic. He mostly sat for Chicago as a rookie but with Ronnie Brewer gone, Butler’s rapid development has looked like elapsed-time cinematography.

“Every time he’s been called upon, he’s played huge,” Kirk Hinrich said. You can just see his comfort level is much higher and his confidence is much higher. He’s really grown up before our eyes.”

But had 14 rebounds against New York, his latest career high, while scoring 22 points. When the Bulls snapped Miami’s 27-game streak on March 27, Butler had 17 points, five assists and five boards while guarding Dwyane Wade. He scored 28 points on 10-of-12 shooting and logged 48 minutes against Toronto Tuesday, and Chicago now is 4-0 in his double-double games.

“I loved Jimmy’s demeanor,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said afterward. “Jimmy will keep coming, he doesn’t get discouraged. he has proved each and every day that he has gotten better and better.”

On the court. And in selected All-Star’s heads.

Bulls Run Toward The ‘Physical Cliff’





CHICAGO – Imagine Hugh Hefner with only one girlfriend. Tony Stewart actually driving 55. Joey Chestnut pushing himself away from the table after just two weenies.

Now imagine Tom Thibodeau getting Derrick Rose back in the Chicago Bulls’ rotation, but with a limit on his minutes. After all, when Rose returns from ACL surgery and rehab on his left knee, he almost certainly will come with strict restrictions on his playing time.

With Thibodeau, the Bulls’ hard-grinding coach, that could be like putting a $150 cap on Keith Richards‘ bar tab.

He is the anti-“Pop,” never unduly resting players who might be able to add a couple of points or burn a few more minutes off the game clock regardless of their fatigue. You buy a ticket to a Bulls game, you never have to worry that Chicago’s key players are going to spend more time planted in seats than you are.

Let’s put it this way: If Thibs were in charge over in Pamplona, Spain, those runs with the bulls would be 26.2 miles long. And los toros would be kvetching.

In the 93-85 victory over New York Saturday night at United Center, Bulls forward Luol Deng played 46:34 minutes. Joakim Noah was on the floor for 44:19 and even Marco Belinelli, subbing these days for injured Richard Hamilton, logged 44:59. Joked Deng afterward: “It’s always tough when after the game, you see Marco icing.”

Deng’s workload over the just-completed stretch of four games in five nights: 41:14, 42:23, 42:25 and finally that 46:34. He has played fewer than 40 minutes only four times in his 19 starts this season and he again leads the NBA with an average of 41.2 minutes. The 27-year-old led the league last season too (39.4) and ranked fourth (39.1) in his first season with Thibodeau in 2010-11.

Noah’s minutes have reached an all-time high as well: 39.8 this season, after never having averaged more than 32.8. He ranks second in the NBA to Deng and played 171:31 of the possible 192 minutes in the 4-in-5 run against Indiana, at Cleveland, at Detroit and vs. the Knicks.

The 6-foot-11 center, also 27, had a career night against the Pistons with 30 points, 23 rebounds and six assists. But his legs were gone for parts of Saturday’s game, until he managed eight points, three boards, an assist and a block in the final quarter.

“I was tired but it’s all worth it right now,” Noah said. “The thing that stinks is when you feel like this and you don’t get the win.”

At the moment, the Bulls (11-8) have enough wins to sit precariously atop the artless NBA Central. But at what price? Both Deng and Noah have dealt with injuries before. Overuse could lead to new ones or cause one ones (Noah’s plantar fasciitis, Deng’s achy left wrist) to flare up.

Thibodeau might not see many options. Besides Rose, Hamilton is out indefinitely with a left foot injury. Guard Kirk Hinrich missed the second half Saturday with a left elbow injury. Backup big Taj Gibson lasted just 11:35 before getting tossed in a 1-2 flurry of technicals from ref Derrick Stafford. And of course, vet Carlos Boozer effectively manages his own minutes, generally by how helpful he is on any given night at one end or the other.

Still, the possibility of Rose returning to action just as teammates such as Deng and Noah go down is a real one. Like those profligate-spending folks in Washington, there is a chance Thibodeau could run Chicago right over the physical cliff.

Mavs welcome camp on the fly





DALLAS – The Mavericks won’t be having your average training camp. Not with an international trip to Berlin and Barcelona mixed right in the middle.

Yet it is still far preferable to coach Rick Carlisle than last season when the Mavs had to defend their 2011 championship practically on the run in the wake of the labor lockout.

“Well, it’s a big advantage over last year,” Carlisle said. “Let’s make that clear. Last year we were integrating three guys who were going to be rotation guys. When we acquired (Lamar) Odom the trade didn’t happen until the day camp started, or the night before. He was behind anyway; then it was (Vince) Carter and (Delonte) West. But those guys were experienced pros and adapted well.

“Here we’ve got a lot more time. It’s going to be a completely different deal from last year, which is good.

“This is not going to be normal. But the trip is well-planned in terms of scheduling. I like the way it’s laid out. It’ll give us a chance to spend some time together as a team, which I think is good. It extends our training camp with a bunch of new guys, which helps.”

A year ago it was all about a lack of time with just a two-week mini-camp to try to pull a team together before the season opener on Christmas Day. Even team leader Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t in shape and had to be pulled from the lineup for four games in January and the Mavs never developed a rhythm.
(more…)

Rose practices, still might not play





DEERFIELD, Ill. – The sounds of Derrick Rose‘s first practice in more than three weeks Wednesday were encouraging, in as much as there was no discernible “squeak-squeak-tap, squeak-squeak-tap” from behind the closed doors and shaded windows at the Chicago Bulls’ practice court.

So in his most significant test yet since he suffered a serious groin strain March 13, the Bulls’ and NBA’s reigning MVP didn’t require a cane.

Whether Rose will be able to face the Boston Celtics Thursday night at United Center, however, remains in doubt. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was upbeat in comments after the practice about his point guard’s participation, condition and recovery.

Rose sounded more iffy, saying he wasn’t at top speed and didn’t know if he would be capable of playing against Boston’s elusive Rajon Rondo and the rest of the Celtics. As for the media, well, they heard practice but they never go to see Rose do more than shoot free throws and 3-pointers, mixing in at most some one-dribble moves.

“I’m running, able to move a little bit more. So I’m getting healthy,” Rose said in a brief interview before heading for more rehab and treatment. He has missed the past 11 games and 21 overall due to earlier toe and back injuries (Chicago is 14-7). “Taking three weeks off or two weeks off, however [long] I took off, my conditioning is definitely a worry. But in basketball, you should be able to fight through it.”

Thibodeau labeled Rose a “game-time decision” with a little more half-full tone than usual. Normally, that means “fuhgeddabouddit” in Thibs-ese. (more…)

Blogtable: Should Bulls Rest Derrick Rose?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Chicago has the league’s best record. How long do you keep Derrick Rose seated? Do you leave a “mostly” healthy Rose on the bench until the playoffs?

Steve Aschburner: My stock response on Rose’s recovery from a significant groin injury has been “The Bulls need to wait until he’s completely healthy — and then wait another week.” But they’re almost out of time for that approach. They need to work Rose and Richard Hamilton together as their starting backcourt ASAP. The preferred starting five can’t be introducing themselves to each other in the playoffs. Granted, this groin injury hits directly at what makes Rose “Rose” — his mobility and explosiveness — but at the rate Chicago has been going with injuries, it could run out of season — and postseason — before it runs out of gauze, tape and whirlpool time.

Fran Blinebury: It’s one thing to have your best player rested.  It’s something else to have him rusty and out of rhythm with his teammates.  I wouldn’t throw him stone cold into the playoffs, but 4-5 games is enough put the bloom back on Rose.

Scott Howard-Cooper: Easy call. You don’t risk title hopes and you don’t risk the franchise. Rose sits until the playoffs if he’s not healthy. When the worst-case scenario the rest of the regular season is falling to No. 3, and even that seems very unlikely, that’s not such a worst case compared to what happens if he comes back too soon and aggravates the injury.

Shaun Powell: Rose should rest as long as necessary. I’d only bring him back if it appears the Bulls might lose their grip on the best record in the East. And that’s not happening anytime soon, based on the way the supporting cast has picked up the slack lately. A rested Rose is a dangerous Rose come playoff time … as Miami might discover. (more…)

Blogtable: Bulls vs. Heat In Playoffs

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

The Bulls have the best record in the league. But do you think they would beat Miami in a seven-game series?

Steve Aschburner: Sure, Chicago can beat Miami in a seven-game series, if Derrick Rose is healthy in an MVP-worthy way for each of those games. And if Richard Hamilton stays healthy for the series, too, after a reasonable run-up of prep work and tune-up games to mesh with the other Bulls. And if Luol Deng’s damaged left wrist (torn ligament) doesn’t flare up at an inconvenient time – and the officials notice the next time LeBron James, Shane Battier and others go all NHL on him and intentionally whack him on the injury (Deng said that happened repeatedly on March 14). And if Carlos Boozer plays the team from south Florida as aggressively as he plays the crew from central Florida (23.3 ppg, 11.0 rpg vs. ORL to just 6.0, 8.5 vs. MIA). That’s a lot of if’s.

Fran Blinebury: Not if Dwyane Wade is closing like he did on Sunday, not if Chris Bosh is assertive and they keep feeding him the ball, not if LeBron James doesn’t shrink in the clutch. That’s a lot of ifs.  Toss a coin.  It’s that close.

Scott Howard-Cooper: It would not be a surprise, but Miami would be favored. Both are very good defensively, but the Heat are a little better on offense and, just as importantly, go in more directions for scoring. The Bulls are much better on the boards. That’s a great seven-game series you are making happen.

Shaun Powell: Certainly. Not only can the Bulls beat Miami, they can win a championship with the current cast. The issue is whether they can do either by playing a less-than-perfect series. Their margin for error is slim because they still haven’t found a designated No. 2 guy who’ll take (and make) the tough shots late in postseason games. We all know where the ball’s going, but Miami’s defense is enough to put the squeeze on Derrick Rose when it counts. Did it last year, with LeBron blocking Rose’s shot at the buzzer of the series-clincher. You think Rose trusts anyone else on his team in that situation? Not yet. (more…)

Rose Still Needs Help In Chi-Town

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HANG TIME, TEXAS – The Bulls won more games than any other team in the league a year ago. The Bulls have the second-best record in the NBA this season. The Bulls have the President of the United States talking about welcoming them to the White House next year to celebrate a championship. The Bulls have the reigning MVP Derrick Rose playing like he’s ready to go back-to-back.

So are there really any questions about the Bulls?

Well, as our good friend Sam Smith of Bulls.com points out, maybe just one:

But it would be nice, also, if someone could score some points.

Yes, Derrick Rose, despite increasing defensive pressure, had 22 points and eight assists. And Carlos Boozer had one of his best games as a Bull with 23 points on nine of 13 shooting and eight rebounds, including a dive on the floor for a loose ball and aggressive fronting the post on Greg Monroe, which we don’t often see from Boozer.

That sort of play enabled the Bulls not only never to trail in beating the Pistons for the 13th straight time, but with an 18-3 run to start the fourth quarter with mostly reserves playing the Bulls broke open a game they controlled but primarily with leads around 10 points.

The Bulls Monday started their lone three in three nights set and are about halfway through playing nine games in 12 nights with nine of the first 13 of the season on the road. Though everyone has scheduling like that to play through this season.

So it doesn’t fully answer whether this Bulls team can score enough to truly be taken seriously.

(more…)