Posts Tagged ‘Tom Thibodea’

Morning Shootaround — June 26

Jazz seek depth | More straight talk, less Bull, please | Reputations sway Orlando-OKC trade reax

No. 1: Jazz seek depth  — The reported addition of George Hill allows the Utah Jazz to turn their focus to role players, according to Jody Genessy of the Deseret News, after a 2015-16 season in which injuries pulled back a curtain on a roster lacking depth:

Though Utah brass like their young core — including rehabbing Dante Exum and Alec Burks, both expected to be healthy by training camp — the organization has an offseason objective of fortifying the roster.

That means, if possible, acquiring more talent via free agency and/or trades.
Securing veteran playmaker George Hill — whom ESPN’s Zach Lowe described as “a really good point guard” — was a good start for this playoff-hungry franchise.

But Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey has even more in mind. He’s used words like “active” and “aggressive” in describing how his staff will approach the upcoming free-agency period.

In retrospect, Lindsey took responsibility for not having enough depth on the Jazz roster in 2015-16 to help Quin Snyder deal with the unexpected rash of injuries that the team experienced, including to Exum, Burks, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors.

“We’re not going to sit here and alibi. Every single sports team has injuries,” Lindsey said the day after the team’s 40-42 season ended a couple of wins shy of a playoff spot. “Ultimately, I’m the most responsible up here on the dais — not Quin, not the coaches, not the players — about roster construction.”

The Jazz’s plan last offseason seemed to make sense. The team had finished the 2014-15 season on a tear, winning 21 of their final 32 games led by a dominating defensive surge.

Instead of rolling the dice on acquiring experienced free agents to bolster the up-and-comers, Lindsey & Co. opted to gamble on youth. Injuries — and a late-season collapse — made that plan backfire on a team that came oh-so-close but not close enough.

“If we do this the right way with the right character — and Quin’s such a good communicator — we’ll be able to manage the season better,” Lindsey said. “The players are like everybody else. They saw what happened last season and they know that we know that we need some reinforcements. Come early July, we plan on being very active in the free-agent market.”


No. 2: More straight talk, less Bull, please — A year ago, it was the coach’s fault. This season, it was the players’ fault. At some point, it’s going to be management’s fault, even if the Chicago Bulls’ top-heavy down management style doesn’t acknowledge that. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has a reputation for backing the suits in his front-office, be it with the Bulls or the MLB White Sox. But sooner or later, general manager Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson are going to face some measure of scrutiny and have to ‘fess up for the team’s underperformance the same way former coach Tom Thibodeau did in 2015 and the way Derrick Rose did with his trade last week to New York. David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune looked at the Bulls’ monolithic approach and the growing distrust from many of the teams’ fans:

The bigger issue that emerged is this: Will Bulls fans trust a rebuilding plan designed and executed by a man so many find hard to believe?

With Rose gone, Forman instantly becomes the most polarizing member of the organization, lacking Butler’s popularity while eliciting the most emotional reaction. Lately, it’s Grrrrrrr, Forman. Chicagoans can detect BS as easily as they can spot red-light cameras, and they dislike both.

Forman first sounded disingenuous when he insisted on saying the Bulls are retooling, not rebuilding. Then consider Forman’s muddled confirmation of the Bulls’ interest in Providence point guard Kris Dunn, selected fifth by the Timberwolves

“We liked him. … We had talks like we do about moving up,” Forman said.

Of course the Bulls did. On draft day, teams in flux as much as the Bulls weigh a variety of options, which is what made Forman’s flat denial of [Jimmy] Butler trade talks so implausible. How did the Bulls admittedly explore trading up for Dunn with the Celtics and Timberwolves without dangling Butler — whom both teams wanted?

Forman comes across to those of us who know him as likable and funny, but you never will hear the words candid or transparent used to describe the Bulls GM. With a return to respectability the most realistic goal for 2016-17, the Bulls could use a little candor and a lot of transparency. Anything less threatens to turn people off. A team likely to struggle on the court need not give fans another reason to look away.

The Bulls have no worries related to attendance — the United Center regularly sells out — but the Rose deal reminds us that this is the wrong week to ignore how perception can shape reality in Chicago sports. No metric accurately measures civic confidence, but experience tells me the Bulls rank lower in that category than any other professional sports team in town, at least rivaling the lack of faith in the White Sox. Since the day the Bulls replaced coach Tom Thibodeau with Fred Hoiberg — Forman’s hand-picked candidate — skepticism has surrounded a team whose dysfunctional decline only intensified the scrutiny

Everybody understood how badly Rose needed a change of scenery because of his incompatibility with Butler. But isn’t it fair to wonder how Hoiberg’s arrival exacerbated the problems that hastened Rose’s departure? And who is most responsible for Hoiberg coaching the Bulls? The same executive who just added “I Traded Derrick Rose” to his legacy.

Yet the Bulls have left no doubt whom they want associated most with their latest plan to get past LeBron James. To articulate the Bulls’ biggest transaction of the post-Jordan era, Forman appeared alone to face questions. To discuss drafting Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine, an excellent pick that created a positive ripple, Forman again sat solo behind the microphone.


No. 3: Reputations sway Orlando-OKC trade reax — Reputations matter. So do resumes. So when a successful team completes a trade with an unsuccessful team, there might be some bias involved when folks on the outside evaluate the deal, tilting its apparent merits ever so slightly. That’s what Orlando Sentinel columnist Brian Schmitz sees in the reactions to the Magic-Thunder trade in which veteran power forward Serge Ibaka was shipped to central Florida in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the draft pick that became Domantas Sabonis. What allegedly looks so lopsided to some doesn’t appear that way to Schmitz:

This is what happens when you lose as much as Orlando has the past four seasons: You lose credibility locally and nationally.

A lot of what you do will be panned by the public – no matter if essentially trading Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka makes sense for the Magic.

The Magic had, as [GM Rob] Hennigan called it, a “logjam” of wing players, thus making Oladipo expendable. The Thunder had a stable of big men, thus making Ibaka expendable. The underlying theme in both scenarios is that Oladipo and Ibaka will be looking for new contracts after next season. Neither player was particularly happy at times with their role last season.

So instead of the trade being portrayed more as good for both teams – ESPN’s Chad Ford did call it that — it is being hailed as a win for the Thunder.

“We need to call the cops — OKC robbed Orlando,” tweeted HBO Sports’ Bill Simmons.

“I don’t bet against [Thunder GM] Sam Presti when it comes to picking players. Trading Ibaka for Sabonis/Oladipo/Ilyasova? Advantage, OKC,” tweeted Skip Bayless of Fox Sports.

After I lauded Hennigan’s move, I received an-email from a ticked-off Magic fan that echoed others: “That’s a bad trade and a bad column. Let’s face it. This Magic GM is just as bad as the last one.”

Perception is a funny thing.

The trade made by the Thunder is largely considered genius because they’re contenders. The deal made by the Magic is largely considered wrong-headed because they’re bottom-dwellers.

Orlando also is perceived as a somewhat dysfunctional franchise, and it’s not without merit. They couldn’t keep Dwight Howard or — most recently — Scott Skiles from walking out.

I get it: OKC earns the benefit of the doubt.

But when you have All Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, any move the Thunder make tends to look brilliant. They skew the evaluation system.

Why, all of a sudden, Oladipo has morphed into Dwyane Wade and Ibaka is viewed as a spare part. An article even suggests that this trade moves OKC ahead of Golden State in the West. Wow, if Oladipo had that kind of impact, the Magic should have won more games.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: With Kyrie Irving and Harrison Barnes on board, Team USA’s roster finally looks set. … There is a Minnesota media crush on Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio that might not be shared by new coach Tom Thibodeau and it has some in the Twin Cities fretting. … What is life like for Knicks’ prospect Kristaps Porzingis back home in Latvia? Esquire magazine with the answer to everyone’s most pressing question.

Defiant Rose a good sign for Bulls

VIDEO: recaps Chicago’s win against the Nuggets

CHICAGO – This time, Derrick Rose wasn’t just determined. Or stubborn.

This time, Rose was defiant. And it worked out for the Chicago Bulls, in a way by which the team’s followers should be encouraged with 60 percent of the NBA schedule and all of its postseason remaining.

Rose, the Bulls’ star point guard and most important player whether healthy or hurt, scattershot in the first half against Denver Thursday night at United Center and sputtered nearly as much in the third quarter. Whatever was ailing his jump shot as he clanged out the old year – 7-for-35 in Chicago’s final two games, the narrow escape at Indiana and a lifeless loss to Brooklyn – was making for a lousy New Year’s hangover in the new year. Through the game’s first 36 minutes, Rose was 2-for-14, making him an 18.3 percent shooter (9-of-49) over a span of about 72 hours.

So what did Rose do in the fourth quarter to try to salvage something positive to start 2015? Did he shift into playmaker mode and let teammates with hotter hands chase down and fend off the Nuggets?

Nope. He doubled down and shot 11 more times. Made five of them, too, and that was enough.

“I’m not going to let anyone dictate the way that I play,” Rose said after. The idea of holstering his weapon on a night its sight was sideways apparently never crossed his mind.

“If they’re giving me shots, I’m going to take them. Shots that I normally make, I’m going to keep taking them. I could care less what anyone says or talk about my game. They’re giving me shots, I should be able to make those shots.”

Rose’s increasing reliance on jump shots — including 3-pointers, which he’s hitting about as often as folks pulled from the stands during timeouts (32 of 121, 26.4 percent) — has been a noticeable and much-talked about change in his game.

Coaches such as Denver’s Brian Shaw and Brooklyn’s Lionel Hollins have lauded it as a means of self-preservation for a player whose explosiveness when attacking the paint might be too violent for his own good. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau mostly encourages Rose to be aggressive and avoids criticism — other than reminding him not to “settle” for an outside shot when lanes to the basket are available.

“Really, it’s my teammates giving me confidence,” Rose said after the 106-101 victory, which he helped seal with 13 of his 17 points in his final 7:49. “Even when you’re missing shots like I am the past couple games, teammates are still giving me the ball, giving me confidence, telling me to shoot the ball, still giving me the ball in position to shoot the ball. I’m very fortunate.”

Said forward Taj Gibson: “We kept telling him the whole game — the last couple games — to keep shooting. He understands that we all believe in him, but you keep putting the work in, you keep pushing through, keep taking the same looks, something special is going to happen.”

That Rose’s teammates aren’t second-guessing the choices he’s been making on the floor is nice. But frankly, given his nature, it’s not likely he would change things up or shy away from his shot even if they balked. The same hard-headedness that so exasperated Bulls fans during his extended recoveries from two knee surgeries and the tentativeness with which he seemed to play for much of the early 2014-15 season might have turned in his, the team’s and their favor now.

“My mentality is not going to change,” he said. “I’m going to shoot the ball. I’m a scoring guard.”

You can’t score if you don’t shoot. Rose’s jaw is set, his mind is made up and he’s going to play the way he thinks is best. Chicago, well, it signed up for that a long time ago.

Hibbert Displays ‘Law Of Verticality”

CHICAGO – Tom Thibodeau
called it a train wreck. Frank Vogel, though, took the high road, so to speak, talking about the collision near the basket, near the end of the Indiana Pacers’ 80-76 victory over Chicago at the United Center, as a “fundamental of verticality.”

It just so happened that Pacers center Roy Hibbert, exercising his verticality, sent Bulls forward Luol Deng into a position of horizontality.

Here’s the situation: Chicago trailed 78-76 with 14.1 seconds left. Deng passed inbounds to Joakim Noah, then cut backdoor on Paul George and received a pass from the Bulls center. Hibbert hurried a couple of steps across the paint to meet Deng to the right of the rim. Deng was airborne and Hibbert went up. Straight up, arms extended.

Bang! Serious body contact but no whistle. Deng went down as the crowd at United Center roared. Thibodeau threw up his arms. Hibbert wasn’t looking for a charge and didn’t get one, despite Deng’s leading elbow, but he somehow got a blocked shot. David West grabbed the ball and was fouled. Sank them both, game over.

“He’s the biggest reason why we lead the league in field-goal defense,” Vogel said a few minutes later. “He’s the best in the league at exercising the fundamental of verticality. Using his legs, getting off his feet and making a legal defensive play and earning a no-call.

“You’re allowed to jump straight up, no matter where you are, and absorb contact. When he learned that and went away from trying to draw charges like he was earlier in his career, he went from not being able to stay on the court to being one of the best defensive centers in the NBA.”

George, the best player on the floor with 34 points, said he didn’t mean to lose Deng but added: “Roy told me to send him into him. I knew I had a big back there, one of the best bigs in the league.”

Thibodeau, who vented at the officials without penalty for what little time remained, saw something different.

“In my eyes, he got wiped out,” the Bulls coach said. “I did not get an explanation. He had a layup. It was a train wreck. I’m not going to put it on the officials. A tough call went against us. We still have to get it done.”

Knowing the law of verticality and getting it enforced in the heat of the moment, on the road, might be two different things. But Vogel said he never was worried.

“It’s a legal defensive play that the refs have been honoring throughout the league with all big men,” the Pacers coach said. “It’s made the game a better game. Less guys are trying to draw charges and fall on the ground underneath athletes.”

What matters for Indiana is that one big guy is doing less of that, after seeking out charges his first couple seasons.

“Nah, I don’t take charges,” Hibbert said. “I used to, but [former Pacers big man] Jeff Foster told me it messed his back up and shaved a couple years off his career. So nah, I’m a 7-footer, I’m going to try to block a shot at the rim.”

Hibbert, who is well-known for his intensive work in the summers, focused a lot on defense with the goal of being honored for it -– for the first time -– by the league’s coaches when this season ends.

“I’m always around the rim,” Hibbert said, ” touching the man I’m guarding and still getting back. Y’know, 7-foot-2 centers from Georgetown, we always play defense.”

Hibbert didn’t need to wag a finger to make the Dikembe Mutombo connection. He isn’t quite there yet, but he is averaging 3.1 blocks (compared to 2.0 last season) and this was his 12th consecutive game with at least two rejections. The Pacers began the night No. 1, holding teams to 40.8 percent shooting, then improved by limiting Chicago to 38.4.

Said Hibbert: “That’s my staple. If my offense isn’t going, I always have to play defense. That’s not gonna slack.”