Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Opposing View: 12/11 at Chicago

All season long, Sonics Beat will be consulting an expert on the opposing team as part our gameday preview. Today, Matt Bernhardt of Blog-a-Bull talks Chicago. Dating back to his days as BullsBlogger, Bernhardt is one of the longest-running NBA bloggers. "Blog-a-Bull is in many ways the patron-saint of basketball blogging," says no less an authority than TrueHoop's Henry Abbott.

Thank You Isiah is another terrific Bulls blog, as is Only the Bulls. I also suggest this from the Seattle P-I: Chicago freelancer Brett Ballantini looks at the Bulls shooting woes.

What's your response to Hollinger's breakdown of the slow start for the Bulls?
Well it wasn't exactly groundbreaking, but it hammered the point home: Basically Hollinger went down the Bulls roster and pointed out that nearly every individual player had a lower PER than the season before, and in some cases much lower. That surely made clear *how* the Bulls were so bad, but not exactly*why*. I think the that's because the truth is there is no reasonable reason why. Aside from Ben Wallace and Joe Smith (who's actually performing to his standard) this team is full of players that should be progressing, not regressing.

What makes this different from past slow starts by Chicago?
First of all, the normal excuses of previous starts aren't applicable: the Bulls weren't assimilating a bunch of new talent, and the annual dreaded 'Circus Trip' to the west coast didn't include the Texas teams and was relatively mild. To make things worse, they were not just losing but getting blown out. That hadn't happened in previous seasons.

How have injuries affected Ben Wallace?
Let's hope it was just early-season injuries, as Ben has been better the past couple weeks. But he'll still throw in a dud now and then, and Bulls fans are starting to come to terms with knowing he'll have his good games and bad. He's not as quick and able to roam defensively, and on offense he'll never be a shooter but he at least used to be able to finish around the rim. This season even the iron's blocked his shot.

How long can Kirk Hinrich possibly shoot this bad?
Hopefully it isn't the case where last season was his peak in terms of shooting, although even as a disappointing shooter his first couple years in the league, he has never been this bad. Compounding matters is a dramatic increase in turnovers, which is unacceptable considering he's not much of a playmaker and stays a solid point guard by not making the types of dumb decisions he has been this season. I think he'll be fine, but even fine is disappointing considering that last season looked like a breakthrough.

What don't we know about the Bulls but should?
Doesn't everybody know? They need a low-post scorer! They need a superstar! ... I suppose what people might not know is that this isn't a case where the same old problems (that a Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol could fix)are keeping the Bulls from consistent success: this season has displayed a whole new (and damaging) set of issues. The Bulls had the point differential of a 55-win team last year, and after bringing nearly everyone back, mostly those with another year under their belts and something to prove, it's extremely unsettling to see how bad they've performed this season. Things have gone so bad, however, that it makes it easier to deem it a fluke. And when that anomaly is righted, they can get to acquiring that missing piece.