Candyland: Bulls 108, Timberwolves 91

Myles Brown —  March 31, 2011 — 1 Comment

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Derrick Rose is a special player. How special is obviously dependent on who you ask and more importantly, what they value. Now there’s certainly no shortage of metric centric posts available to espouse or denounce his worth, so let’s just take a moment to appreciate the obvious.

The Chicago Bulls offense isn’t very complicated. Granted, our defense doesn’t make teams work much, but this doesn’t make Rose’s freewheeling ruthlessness any less captivating. Standing alone at the top of the key, his teammates motionless as he conducts traffic; exactly the iso-heavy sets we’ve grown all too familiar with. Yet Rose’s mind bending athleticism makes every possession an adventure. With an incomprehensibly quick first step and a mere shift of his weight, the defense collapses, intent on denying him the lane and another clip for his highlight reel. While there would be no such shenanigans this evening, the ensuing passes to teammates resulting easy baskets count for two points just the same.

Chicago’s first few trips upcourt would set a tone for the rest of the game. A simple pick n’ roll with Carlos Boozer forces Kevin Love to help Luke Ridnour, who was scrambling to recover. Darko stepped up to protect the rim and Wesley Johnson slid away from his man, just in case. Rose intuitively left his feet and whipped a skip pass to Keith Bogans for an unchallenged eighteen footer. Sometimes, what you don’t see is what you get.

The next possession begins with Love and another fruitless effort to trap Rose, freed by a pick from Kurt Thomas. Preoccupied with Rose’s ability to finish, no one noticed Thomas, who popped out to the elbow for another open jumper. Thirty seconds later? Wash, rinse, repeat. After that? Another pick from Thomas, Rose darts past Luke, between Love and Beasley, and just as Darko steps forward to stifle a sure layup, Rose finds Boozer with a bounce pass for two more easy points. Besides Boozer, there isn’t another Bull who can consistently create his own shot, but Rose makes them all dangerous. That’s pretty valuable.

Rose consistently drew two defenders all night, but due to poor defensive communication and perhaps even worse fundamentals, it did more harm than good. Chicago, on the other hand, had no trouble suffocating our best efforts. Their ability to deny both the paint and the three pointer without gambling in the passing lanes is remarkable. They operate as a cohesive unit; each man aware of his responsibilities and prepared to support a teammate, should they fail to corral their assignment.

Luke Ridnour thought he found Kevin Love for an open three pointer, but as soon as he squared himself to the basket, Love was chased off the line by Kurt Thomas. Luol Deng slid in place to take the charge as Love rambled toward the paint. Kevin attempted to pass out of his drive to Michael Beasley only after it was too late. Deng deflected the pass and the Bulls were en route to an easy transition basket. For all of Rose’s brilliance, the most notable difference in this contest may have been that there isn’t one Bull who can be singled out as a poor defender, and that my friends, is a testament to Tom Thibodeau.

Leading by twenty points, with minutes remaining in the third quarter, Wayne Ellington and Anthony Randolph raced towards the rim and capitalized on a two on one fast break. Incensed with his team’s poor effort, Thib immediately signaled for a timeout and tore into his team. Minutes later, Jonny Flynn flipped a no look pass to Randolph who slammed it home. Again, Thib calls for time and lets them hear about it. Two fairly excusable plays, outmanned and outfoxed. Yet still, two diatribes and no excuses. Who does that?

Now if Kurt Rambis were so demonstrative, we’d question if it was necessary. Overbearing, even. The difference, however is that the Bulls are playing for much higher stakes. During our last chat, we wondered if our relatively close games with such powerhouses should be attributed to our exemplary effort or our opponents sheer boredom. Tonight, there were no such questions. While Rose’s MVP candidacy will be debated long after he is handed or denied his trophy, there should be no question that Thibodeau is Coach of the Year. He immediately established a culture of hard work and accountability, making the whole far greater than the sum of its parts.

The question this time around, is what could a man like that do for us?

Myles Brown

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One response to Candyland: Bulls 108, Timberwolves 91

  1. I would love to hear AWAW’s writer’s opinions on Rambis as coach for this team moving forward (with emphasis on ‘opinions’ and not rumors or innuendo, so as not to move the conversation along a different internet fueled path). Is he the guy for this team? Or is this team getting to the point where they’re ready for the guy after the guy (our Scottie Brooks to Rambis’ Carlesimo)?

    I was at the Chicago game with some friends and we started talking about the differences between the Bulls and the Wolves, specifically the execution differences, and to my untrained eyes it was night and day – the Bulls players knew what they were doing (or were supposed to be doing), and knew when to do it (or not do it and pass the ball and reset). The Wolves, by contrast, looked like a team of groups: one group or 2, maybe 3, players kind of knew what they were doing, and another group or 2 (or 3) had a different idea of what would be good to do. Sometimes there’d even be a ‘group’ of 1 out there doing who knows what (with two other groups of 2 trying to play basketball professionally). This was true on both offense and defense, from what I saw.

    To me such…confusion…on the court is all on the coaching staff. At this point in the season (and in their NBA careers), these guys should know where they need to be and when. If they are still struggling with that it’s either that they are confused by what the coaches are telling them or that they simply aren’t going to get it. Well, I suppose there’s another option – some of them are smart ball players to know that with whatever group of guys they happen to be with at the moment, it’s most likely going to be a crap offensive possession anyways so why not take the shot (thinking of you Wayne). Tolliver’s comments after the game came as no surprise then (he specifcally noted how Chicago played as a team, and how they all individually sacrificed to fit their roles and enable their system to be most effective). The tone in AT’s voice said it all – the Timberwolves aren’t, and haven’t been, a team like that for most of this year…which brings me back to the coaching question.

    Is Rambis the guy? Or is this team ready for Laimbeer? I would love to hear your opinions on it, ranging from the practical (Rambis’ contract) to the philosophical (which coaching approach might be better for the long term).

    My two cents right now comes down to a few things. First, the confusion out on the court and poor execution is unacceptable. If it’s not the coach then it’s the players, and no matter who it is they need to not be on the team next year if we’re going to make the playoffs as Kahn promised this morning. Second, why aren’t we running more stuff utilizing the strengths of these young players? We’ve got an intriguing collection of athletes with some bona fide skill on this team, and yet what I saw was a team committed to not using those strengths. Specifically I’m wondering why the coaches simply aren’t saying to Wes and Beasley and AR and Jonny and Darko – take the ball to the hoop and slam it home. If you can’t slam it, draw the foul. These guys all have that ability, and perhaps more to my point is that (again, to me) going forward with that strategy is better than having these guys play games that aren’t theirs. Jonny is not a Sam Cassell type (or Terrell Brandon type), so why are we trying to make him play that way? Why is it that Wayne, Martell (when he’s not moving like a zombie with a steel pole for a spine), and Lazar often appear to be the only ones looking to be aggressive and take it to the rim?

    Alright, I got on a bit of a rant there. Back to my question – coaching going forward. Time for a change? Why or why not? What would Laimbeer bring that Rambis doesn’t? Is this team ready for a Thibodeau (or Jerry Kill) type coach? Do they need it? Is Rambis key to getting Rubio over here, or doesn’t it matter?

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