Posts Tagged ‘Rick Morrissey’

Bulls’ hard choice: Now or then?

How much closer would the Bulls be to hanging with — or beating — Miami’s Big Three if they had Courtney Lee or Jason Richardson in their lineup right now?

How many of those “six more titles” that Michael Jordan hinted at might still be out there with Omer Asik in the lineup down the road?

Those were the questions facing Gar Forman and John Paxson back at the February trade deadline and that is the dilemma they now find themselves in after the Heat’s 96-85 win in Game 3 on Sunday night.

As ESPN’s Michael Wilbon notes, the Bulls are paying the price right now for focusing on the long-term future:

Almost certainly it’ll pay off down the line, but the price the Bulls are paying in the conference finals is that the lack of a deal then means the Bulls don’t have enough offense now, not when Miami can send 6-foot-11 Chris Bosh and 6-8 LeBron James to double-team 6-3 Derrick Rose as happened more than a few times. Miami’s 96-85 Game 3 victory produced more than a few storylines, including Chris Bosh’s second huge game of the series.

But what should stand out even more is that the Bulls don’t have enough offense to beat Miami in a seven-game series. Back in late February when Forman and Paxson decided to put off finding a scorer to complement Rose until the summer, Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen said, “We’ll be able to beat good defenses, but against a team with great defense and scorers like Miami, we just won’t have enough firepower.”

As the Eastern Conference finals progress, we’re seeing more and more evidence of why Rose was the correct choice for MVP. He’s certainly had to do more of the heavy lifting and carry much more of the load for the Bulls.

The Heat can simply hand the baton off from James to Wade to Bosh in different games or in different quarters. But Rose has got to be the one driving Chicago on virtually every possession. And not coincidentally, when Rose is driving to the basket, Miami defenders have often been able to cut him off and prevent him from finishing.

As Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times observes, Rose is in over his head:

The Big Three scored a combined 73 points in Game 3.

If Rose doesn’t play his best when Miami is at its best, the Bulls don’t have much of a chance.

Now the focus falls on (coach Tom) Thibodeau. After most practices, he and Rose watch film together to see how best to attack the other team’s defense. Thibs is going to have to be refitted for his genius hat. He has to figure out ways to get Rose free in time for Game 4. If he doesn’t, how does a 3-1 Heat lead feel?

It seems obvious: The Bulls need to run. Let Rose create. Let him improvise. Let him go. Rose in a half-court offense against this good a Miami defense is suicide.

“I tried to let my teammates create for others,’’ he said. “That’s what I made the team try to do. Sometimes I tried to beat the double team, and sometimes I just tried to pass and make it easy.’’

And that’s just it: I don’t want to see Luol Deng trying to create. I want to see Rose doing the creating. The options are limited when the Bulls aren’t shooting well. Rose can dish off all he wants, but if his team shoots 41.6 from the floor, which it did Sunday, forget it.

Can the Bulls now flip the series around and win three of the next four games from the Heat? How much closer would they be to accomplishing that feat if they had another wing scorer/finisher like Lee or Richardson in their lineup?

Conventional wisdom in sports says that if you have a chance to win a championship, you reach out and grab it, then worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes while you’re already polishing your trophy.

But the 7-foot Asik is only 24 years old. He’s active and aggressive. He’s quick, he hustles, he’s improving constantly on offense and he is a big man who can defend the pick-and-roll. In other words, he’s exactly the kind of big man that every team in the league is seeking, which is why Houston and Orlando would have pulled the trigger on deals for Lee or Richardson in a heartbeat.

Will the Bulls regret not making the move sometime in the next two or three days if they can’t get past Miami in this series?

But what about the next two or three (or more) years?

It says here that Forman and Paxson may not have made the popular choice for now, but the right one for the future.

Undying challenge of ‘what’s a foul?’

MIAMI — Reputations and situations.

When it comes to NBA on-court violations, those other “-tions” seem to count just as much as the actual flesh-on-flesh interactions. At least, that’s how columnist Rick Morrisey of the Chicago Sun-Times sees it after watching the Bulls up close in their playoff run against Indiana, Atlanta and now Miami and the rest of the postseason on flat screens.

Morrissey verbally scratched his head over what he feels is the trickiest part of the referee-player dynamic: Adhering to a consistent standard – across stars and non-stars, across quarters, across games and series – for what is and is not a foul.

What is tolerated in the lane, he suggests, is forbidden outside of it. A slap by a big name doesn’t generate the same whistle as a tickle from a journeyman. Then there is the convergence of those tricky reputations and situations, Morrissey wrote:

In Game 2 of the Western Conference finals Thursday, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s James Harden went to the basket on a fast break. The Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki, who has a reputation for being a defensive liability, met him there. Nowitzki made a passing attempt at stopping Harden, who scored. There was hardly any contact, but that didn’t stop the ref from calling a foul on Nowitzki.

Two factors were at work to explain the foul that wasn’t a foul:

  1. Everybody knows Nowitzki is bad at defense.
  2. A fast-break layup? There’s bound to be contact.

Whistle. Foul, Nowitzki.

Let’s face it, officiating an NBA game has to be a nearly impossible job. Call everything you see and the game becomes unwatchable, a Sousa march of whistles. Let too much go and mayhem ensues.

As always, it comes down to consistency, game to game and, more important, throughout a game, regardless of players involved or clock. If a Kyle Korver-on-Dwyane Wade foul is the same, first quarter as last, and the same as a Wade-on-Krover foul that night, that’s probably the most anyone can hope for.

As Chicago center Joakim Noah said after practice Friday: “As a player, you’ve just got to get a feel for what you can get away with. Sometimes they call it tighter than others. That’s just part of the game.”