Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thursday Night Wrap-Up

This will be probably be the last wrap-up until Sunday night, as I'm out of town and will be detached from my beloved laptop for a few days. It's all good though, because according to Ray Kurzweil, we are all going to have nano robots in our brains and be half-laptop/half-human by about 2029 anyway. I knew there was reason to fear I Robot.

Bulls Appear to be Interested Only in Proving Me Right

It is hard for me to go anywhere with this recap other than straight to the Pau Gasol Saga. I wrote about this during Game One of the Miami series and will continue to beat this drum until I feel I have sufficiently exhausted the topic. Which will probably never happen. So file this as "Bulls/Gasol Post #2 (of 14,000)."

Here is the argument, once again:

The Bulls had Pau Gasol in their sights at this year's trade deadline and couldn't pull the trigger. The primary reason given was that Paxson was unwilling to part with Luol Deng and/or Ben Gordon. Some reports said that Gordon was the centerpiece of the final Memphis request (along with with Knicks' first round pick in the 07 draft and Ty Thomas), while others say that the asking price was always Deng. The secondary reason given was that Gasol wasn't a big enough star. I can't find the link, but at one point there was logic along the lines of "he's a 20 and 9 guy, not a 22 and 10 guy."

Both reasons were poor ones. Sure, West was demanding a lot, but Chicago has depth at small forward (Nocioni and Sefalosha would make a very nice tandem going forward) and a ton of young assets. Plus, they traded away Tyson Chandler just to get P.J. Brown's expiring contract for the very purposes of making this sort of deal.

And as for Gasol and their evaluation of his abilities, I think they were way, way off. Time will tell, but I expect Pau Gasol to emerge as one of the dominant big men in the NBA in the next 2-3 years. His Carlos Boozer year is coming very soon. Gasol has all the traditional skills on the block, coupled with the fluidity and ability to run the floor that is required in today's game. He can score in the post, face up against defenders, pass, draw double teams, get to the line, block shots, you name it. I know that he's never won a playoff game and that he has had a few injury issues, but to me, there are two seminal Gasol moments that trump those concerns.

First, there was a massive dunk during the 2005 playoffs against Phoenix. It came during the middle of the second quarter during Game One, at a time in which the Grizzlies were playing amazing basketball, yet still trailed their superior opponent by about six points. I will never forget the play. He'd been working hard on defense, running the floor, scoring in the post, and watching his teammates turn it over time and time again and everyone watching the game could tell that Phoenix was about to blow Memphis away. But rather than give up, Gasol fought for position, wheeled into the lane, and threw down with two hands over both Amare and Marion. It was one of the most determined and powerful finishes I've seen in an NBA game and I remember thinking, "Holy crap, nobody could stop that." (I think he had 28 and 16 in that game.) The other indelible image was watching him destroy a very good field in the World Basketball Championships in 2006. Obviously, guys like Calderon and Garbajosa and even Rudy Fernandez all played really well for Spain, but Gasol was clearly The Guy. Even though he missed the championship game, he was still the MVP of the WBC. To me, that counts for something. I think the Bulls - and a lot of other people - have severely underestimated him and the power of his magical beard.

So why I'm I dragging all of this up again?

Well, during tonight's meltdown in Chicago, the Pistons went on a 12-0 run midway through the third quarter, shaving a 17-point Bulls lead down to five. Now, swings of this nature are common in the NBA, the league where everyone makes a run. But they don't happen like this one did. Check out some of these numbers:

- The 12-0 run took place over nearly five minutes of game action and 28 minutes of real time (I miss those TNT trackers and the accompanying excessive Doug Collins analysis).

- During that period of time, the Bulls took two timeouts and got another TV timeout at the "under six minutes" mark.

- In all that time, the Bulls got up just three shots. Three!

- Only one of those shots hit the rim.

To recap: as the Pistons were going on a 12-0 run on Chicago's home floor, the Bulls managed to hit the rim just one time in almost five minutes of play. Frankly, I still can't believe it happened.

And while the Detroit defense obviously deserves some credit, there is one reason this happened to the Bulls: they don't have any lowpost scoring whatsoever.

During that Game One against Miami, when everyone was going crazy over Deng and Gordon and the scrappy young Bulls, I came away disturbed that Chicago nearly let a 12-point lead slip away while Shaq and Wade were on the bench (Miami closed it to two). Without a post player to draw fouls and get easy baskets, Chicago simply has no way to weather storms. They can't pound their way out of dry spells or quiet a crowd on the road by getting to the line or even put any pressure on a juiced up defense. When the shots stop falling and the other team gets fired up, the Bulls have nothing to turn to.

This is why Gasol would have been so much more valuable than his 20 and 10. He would even be more valuable than his 7th-rated PER. There is just no way to put a price tag on having one quality lowpost option rather than zero halfway decent post options (could Thabo Sefalosha be Chicag's best low post scorer? Don't laugh).

Oh, and also, Gasol's only 27 years old, so it isn't as if the Bulls would have had to mortgage their future to bring him into the fold. You know, the way they did when they basically swapped Tyson Chandler for Ben Wallace.

Is it any wonder the Bulls scored just 30 points in the second half of a home playoff game?

Jermaine O'Neal, I hope you like the color red, because I have a feeling this little mistake is going to be rectified rather quickly over the summer.


Anonymous said...

I wasn't totally on board until you mentioned the magical beard. You are right, Pax should have paid any price to get his hands on that.

Paxson Sucks said...

I don't see how anyone can make the argument with a straight face that the Bulls were correct to keep their team intact, let Brown's contract go to waste, and not bring in a post scorer. There are arguments to be made on that score, but they all suck. A title was there for the taking and they raised the white flag. And if I'm not mistaken, isn't winning it all the point of these little seven-month exercises they call NBA seasons? Seriously, what is the point? Is it better to win a couple of championships or have Luol Deng on your roster when he makes his first All-Star game so you can puff your chest out and remember back to the day you drafted him? Paxson is WAY too attached to Deng right now and his own pride is getting in the way.

Anonymous said...

Steve Kerr makes the argument with a straight face. When the Bulls get KG this summer, will everyone finally stop killing them for not trading for Gasol?

Anonymous said...

To second anonymous, how are the Bulls going to match contracts for guys like KG or Jermaine? I'm no cap expert, but I think that's the point of all the people killing the Bulls for not making a trade this year -- the PJ contract was a major key to going after those 20 mill/yr guys, since even with their little bit of cap room, they don't have room to swing a KG type contract without giving up major value just to make up the cap space.