Monday, May 21, 2007

Anicdotal Off-Season Analysis Of The Bulls. The Coach.

I'm going to take a look at the different areas of the Bulls off-season. There wont be much "statistical evidence," or "well reasoned arguments," but hopefully we'll all learn something.

Today's subject: The Coach, Scott Skiles.

Skiles received a lot of criticism this past season. Some appropriate, some not so much. In many people eyes, the Bulls underachieved. After two straight play-off appearances, and the signing of Ben Wallace, expectations were very high. Conference games high. Finals appearance high.

We know they didn't get there, but what did they accomplish?

The head coach is responsible for a lot that is difficult to quantify. Let's look at a couple that I think we can.

Team regular season record, and play-off record.

Forty-nine wins in the regular season, good for third place in the division, (giving second place/second seed away on the final game) and fifth seed in the play-offs. A first round sweep of the Champs, and an inconsistent six game, second round, elimination.

That's an eight game improvement over last season, and a play-off series win that hadn't occurred since '98.

Losing the second seed against NJ was tough, and goes hard against Skiles. The Bulls play in the Detroit series was hot and cold to say the least. But you have to value the improvement.

Player improvement.

Skiles has had the task of developing a very young team. I broke down their age earlier, but we all know, they young. Of their top eight players, six are in their fourth year or less in the league. Glancing at their stats, everyone, save Duhon, improved their numbers.

To go back to their play-off performance, they sweep the Heat. They showed the ability to exploit a teams weaknesses and bury them.

I gotta give this area to Skiles as well, each player has improved in the three years under him.


The knocks I heard about Skiles were twofold. First, he was to rigid. An example of this is the headband issue. Headbandgate was just silly, on both sides. But the team had a rule, and Skiles enforced it. A rules a rule. What would you rather have? A head coach with authority, or one who bends rules for a specific player? A player that has had problems showing up on time, and problems playing hard every game. If he's your coach, you must trust him. If you trust him, you want him in control. That's why you put him in charge. I side with Skiles here.

The second is in-game player management. A stubborn habit of sticking with veterans over rookies. Virtually every coach in the league is guilty of this. Until a G.M. forces them to play rookies through roster manipulation, they will always go with the guy, they know, will be in the right spot. They trust their knowledge of the game plan, and their ability to execute.

I have trouble holding this against Skiles because most of his players are young, even the vets. As the players age and develop, I think a player like Tyrus Thomas will separate himself from Nocioni. Thabo Sefelosha will overtake Duhon coming off the bench, and maybe even Gordon in the starting lineup. When the individuals reach their peak and achieve consistency we wont be hoping Thomas will play better, we, and Skiles, will know it.

If you fire him, who you gonna get?

Skiles has been compared to Doug Collins in Chicago. This is short-hand for, not being able to take a team to the next level. Collins took the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals, got fired and replaced by Phil Jackson, and the rest is history. But this doesn't happen to often.

If winning a championship is the goal, lets look at the last ten Finals winning coaches. It's a short list.

Phil Jackson has five wins.
Gregg Popovich has three wins, and likely another this year.
Pat Reilly has one, to add to his previous four.
Larry Brown has one.

So that's ten trophies going to four coaches, and only two of those ten going to a first time championship coach. When you talk about replacing a coach, you want to get someone who can win the big one. Unless you get one of those four, I'm going to say you are just moving pieces around.

I think you need to be patient with Skiles, as long as we continue to improve, he's a coach I'm happy to have.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Carson Palmer Eats Hotdogs!!! Hard!!!

Put yourself in the meeting when they went with this image. There were probably dozens of shots spread out on a table, or presented by powerpoint.

When they got to that one, a John Morrell exec say, "Stop. This one. It's perfect. Perfect for Carson. Perfect for John Morrell."

Palmer turns to one of his suits, "You guys think so? You like this one?"

Suit responds, "I like the way they think. It's perfect."

"Are you sure, cause it kinda looks, to me, like I'm about to devour a hot dog, that looks like a huge cock dressed up with mustard, to look like the stitching on a football. And I'm not looking at the cock, I mean, hot dog. I'm looking at the audience. As if I'm doing what I'm doing BECAUSE they are watching. Like I LIKE to be watched. I'm kinda uncomfortable looking at it myself."

Suit soothes Carson, "No man. Would I steer you wrong."

This comes via With Leather.

Game 5 Recap.

Not to much to say, the Bulls shot a crazy good percentage and got Billups in foul trouble.

Game over. Ass kicked.

I never thought the 3-0 series count was a reason to break-up this team, but I saw the same thing everyone who did suggest that saw. The Bulls looked bad and played worse. They did not look like they deserved to be out there with Detroit.

But now the fight has been met. The Bulls got up and punched back.

Grab your balls, Detroit. Game 6 tomorrow. Go Bulls!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Live-Blog: Bulls Vs. Pistons, Game 5, Third Quarter.

This is the big quarter. So far... Historically, the good teams come out of halftime with adjustments that carry them to victory. Can't wait to see what they have come up with. More trapping? More zone? We haven't seen much of Noc, will he get in more or less? Thomas has played great, along with Thabo. Here we go!

10:06 left in the third. The Bulls have had alot of success fronting the post guy. That's it.

9:28 left in the third. With the paint closed, Detroit passionlessly hit their jumpers. Constant pressure.

7:36 left in the third. Billups just picked up his fourth foul. Hinrich took the charge. I take back what I said about flopping.

6:24 left in the third. More boards for Detroit. But Hinrich hits a three for a 75-64 lead!

5:41 left in the third. 'Sheed gets a tech and begs to get tossed. I love it when they go to commercial, they show the last good play the Pistons made. Jerks. They are losing by 11.

4:17 left in the third. Detroit is feeding Wallace the ball, but the fade away isn't falling. With Hinrich on the line and the Bulls up by 16, 'Sheed and Billups are on the bench. we could really extend this lead.

Holy crap!! As I wrote that last bit, with 3:21 to go, Thomas stuffs a Deng miss over a Pistons defender. YES!! That kid is a freak, I can't wait till he 'gets it.'

By the way, we are up by 18, in Detroit. Getting very interesting...

2:30 left in the third. Gordon strokes a three to put us up 21. I've become nervous about anything I type that might be bad luck. We are smoking them...

1:45 left in the third. Gordon is on fire. Another three!! 90-67 Bulls lead. My goodness...

1:00 left in the third. Tyrus Thomas is jumping over everyone. Another dunk-O-rama. Props to Skiles for just sitting Noc, who's clearly hurt, and playing Thomas. And props to Thomas for being a stud.

End of the third, the Bulls lead 92-71. I'm not gonna blog the fourth, I'll just write a recap.

Start thinking about what a Bulls win would mean.

Live-Blog: Bulls Vs. Pistons, Game 5, Second Quarter.

11:05 left in the second. 34-27, Bulls. Not sure if the refs are calling this game loose, or the Bulls are playing smart, but they are avoiding fouls so far.

10:13 left in the second. Scratch that last entry. Hinrich just got his second foul and exits towards the bench. Kinda weak foul...

9:51 left in the second. An important moment perhaps. The Pistons save a ball going out of bounds and the crowd volume grows, but Webber throws it out of bounds. Detroit can't get the 'Mo' going.

8:55 left in the second. Thomas with a dunk! Now a block, down the floor to Duhon for three! Oh no. Yes!! Time out Detroit! 39-28, the Bulls lead!!

8:04 left in the second. Rasheed with the put back. 9 offensive boards for Detroit. Too many.

7:13 left in the second. After a three by Thabo and a F.G. by Gordon the lead is 13. Keep it up...

6:30 left in the second. Thomas with a spinning hook for 2. A fast break dunk by Thabo! The Baby Bulls will be heard!!

5:52 left in the second. Time out Chicago, leading 47-32. More Sonic drive-thru commercials. Hey, I've met alot of those guy. The more I see it the happier I am. The difference between this game and the first two is night and day. You can see the gain in experience all of the Bulls play right now.

Who thinks 'house of payne' is gonna redefine sitcoms as we know it? Yeah, me neither.

4:25 left in the second. The Bulls break a tough Pistons trap. Barely. Deng hits a runner and goes to the line. The breaks keep going our way...

3:22 left in the second. Time out Chicago, leading 52-41. We are getting killed on the offensive glass. 'Sheed hit a long two after another Maxiell board. No one needs to see that.

The Bulls continue to shoot lights out. 77%.

2:47 left in the second. 55-41 Bulls ahead. Chicago has hit nine straight shots. Man, we look so good when our shots fall, the mellow confidence in the Bulls persists.

1:31 left in the second. Hinrich picks up a blocking foul. Kirk is doing to much flopping as it is. Billups is serious. He just drained a bail out 3 with Kirk hanging all over him.

:51.7 left in the second. Deng hits his sweet elbow jumper. Detroit has done a great job denying him that shot all series, but that time it was money.

:00.6 left in the second. Gordon hits a 2 for a 59-51 Bulls lead.

Halftime and Bulls fans couldn't have asked for a better half. The Bulls might lose this game, but the steps forward for this young team are happening before our eyes. They have adjusted and they could make this interesting.

Live-Blog: Bulls Vs. Pistons, Game 5, First Quarter.

7:23 left in the first, the Bulls are up 14-6. Detroit looks like they may be taking it easy right now. Come on guys! They brought a knife! This is a gunfight!

6:26 left in the first. The Bulls are calmly hitting all their shots. They seem very business like tonight. Maybe the overwhelming circumstances will be freeing for them. Come one guys, Be The Ball.

6:00 left in the first. Ben Wallace just missed an open lay-up. Watching him on offense makes me think I could have been an NBA player, if I wasn't 5' 10", cause he shots exactly like I do. Man. We cannot miss any opportunities tonight.

5:30 left in the first. Ben Gordon just tripped pushing the ball to the hole. Ben, you will live the entire off-season with a basketball in your hands.

4:35 left in first. 20-12 Bulls. Excitement growing...

4:00 left in the first. I just love the Ben Wallace bail-out drive to the hoop for the foul. Fantastic.

1:22 left in the first. Detroit is starting to hit shots with hands in their faces. The giant awakens...

End of the first. Bulls lead 31-25. Shooting 77.8% in a quarter is a scorching pace I doubt they can maintain. Detroit shot 43.5%, which will improve.

Still, they played with quiet, deliberate execution, winning the first quarter.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Dan Patrick is full of crap

As I walked into the house after taking the kids to the park, it's an impossibly beautiful day in the Western suburbs, I clicked on the radio, and tuned to AM-1000. The only reason I do this is, it's after 12 p.m., so I know Cowherd is over. Plus, I've forgiven them a bit since they dumped Rosenbloom & Salsbury.


Dan was opining about the need for changes on the Bulls. I didn't catch his whole argument, as my sons needed help with their shoes, but what caught me was he said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "The Bulls aren't to young and that shouldn't be an excuse. I looked up the age of the Pistons in '04, and they are the same age. So, age isn't an excuse."

Well, my first thought was, "Bullshit, Dan."

So lets check it out.

Starting point guards:
The Pistons: Chauncey Billups, in 2004, was a 27 year-old, sixth year vet.
The Bulls: Kirk Hinrich, right now, is a 26 year-old, fourth year vet.

Conclusion: Dan is full of crap. Billups has both age and NBA experience over Hinrich.

Starting Shooting Guards:
The Pistons: 'Rip' Hamilton, in 2004, was a 26 year-old, fifth year vet.
The Bulls: Ben Gordon, right now, is a 24 year-old, third year vet.

Conclusion: Dan is full of crap. Hamilton's' age and experience both trump Gordon's.

Starting small forwards:
The Pistons: Tayshaun Prince, in 2004, was a 24 year-old, second year vet.
The Bulls: Luol Deng, right now, is a 22 year-old, third year vet.

Conclusion: Dan is full of crap, though not as obviously. It depends on what you place more value in. NBA experience or actual age, and does an extra year in the league make up for being two years younger when comparing the two.

Starting power forward:
The Pistons: Rasheed Wallace (we'll call him the starter even though he didn't start for them all season, but came in a trade late), in 2004, was a 29 year-old, nine year vet.
The Bulls: P.J. Brown, right now, is a 37 year-old, fourteen year vet.

Conclusion: Dan is not so full of crap here, but I would say that Rasheed was always a superior player, with better all-around skills, to Brown and age has little to do with anything when comparing them.

Starting center:
The Pistons: Ben Wallace, in 2004, was a 29 year-old, eighth year vet.
The Bulls: Ben Wallace, right now, is a 33 year-old, eleventh year vet.

Conclusion: Dan is not so full of crap. Since Ben doesn't have control over time and space, it's impossible for him to be younger now than he was then. In this case, age hurts the Bulls as Big Ben's skills have diminished.

Sixth men and the benches:
The Pistons: Mehmet Okur, 25/2. Corliss Williamson, 30/9. Elden Campbell, 35/14. Chucky Atkins, 29/5. Bobby Sura 31/9. Lindsey Hunter, 33/11. All this for an average of age of 30.5 years old and 8.3 years in the NBA.

The Bulls: Andres Nocioni, 27/3. Chris Duhon, 24/3. Tyrus Thomas, 20/1. Thabo Sefolosha, 23/1. Malik Allen, 28/6. Adrian Griffin, 32/8. The Bulls main bench players have an average age of 25.6, with a 3.6 average NBA experience.

Conclusion: Dan couldn't be more full of crap if he was some kind of crap-holder thingy. Basically, the Pistons averaged five more years of age with a nearly five year difference in NBA experience.

Overall conclusion:
Average age of starters on the Pistons: 27. Average years in the league: 6.
Average age of starters on the Bulls: 28 Average years in the league: 7.

You might say, "Slow your roll, Phil. Looks like the Bulls are older than the Pistons." Well, if you consider the starters only, than yes, they average a higher age. But that age comes from two players, and speaks more to the imbalance in the ages of the Bulls starting five.

Average age of players listed by Phil (starters and bench): Pistons, 28.9. The Bulls, 26.9,
Average experience of player listed by Phil (starters and bench): Pistons, 7.2. the Bulls, 5.1.

So, overall, the Pistons of '04 average 2 extra years in both age and experience.

The Bulls ARE young, especially where their best players are concerned, and age should be considered when deciding what types of moves you want to make. It is one of their flaws, and I hope they are given time after this season to mature and continue to play together.

Also, Dan Patrick is full of crap.

Friday, May 11, 2007

My God! My Bulls!

That game was awful. Just terrible. It is obvious we are not the team that Detroit is.
"From my seat, when they want to do something out there, they do it," coach Scott Skiles said. "When they want to penetrate, they penetrate. When they want to shoot threes, they shoot threes. Even when we're guarding them, they've been able to make shots."
You got that right, Scott. As Prince was killing us, I thought, "No wonder they didn't draft Carmelo. This guy's the best small forward in the league." I couldn't be more impressed with Detroit.

I have thoughts about the Bulls flaws. They have a few. They are small. I've got some ideas about what they need. Size, size, and more size. But I don't think they need to blow it up.

Plus, there is another game to be played. How a team plays, at home, when facing elimination is important.

Has football season started yet?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Some Thoughts As I Turn On The Cubs Game.

It's the bottom of the ninth. The Cubs cling to a one run lead. Dempster in to close. Dempster pops up Bautista for the first out. He walks McLouth, and gives up a hit to Doumit. There is a bit of a lull as the ball gets back to the pitcher. The cameras find Piniella, obscured by the railing along the dugout, hollering at Rothschild. Rothschild, looking a bit surprised at having to get up, hops out of his seat and trots quickly out to the mound.

Dempster gives up the tying run on a fly out to right and now we go to extra innings, but I liked that moment. Lou gives everyone shit. No one is exempt. I think it is starting to show in their play, despite this blown save by Dempster.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Bulls V. Pistons, Game Two.

So here we go. Game two, Bulls V. Pistons. If the Bulls lose this game the series isn't over, but we all know the probability of the Bulls winning four of six.

Or do we?

Of course, it's fantastically hard to do. Turn a series around against a championship level team, when you are down two-zero? Good luck!

But it isn't impossible. It isn't "harder" than winning a championship. Championship teams do it all the time. A serious contender, and I think the Bulls moving in that direction, puts up a fight.

One of the things I most enjoy about the NBA playoffs is the extreme shifts in momentum within games. Within a series. At some point, every championship team has to "turn that corner." Perhaps the most famous moment like this is Jordan hitting that shot against Cleveland. The Bulls didn't win the ring that year, but they had begun an ascent that in hindsight seems almost inevitable. But if he doesn't make that shot, do they win six trophies?

If Rasheed Wallace hits a couple shots and L.A. doesn't come back to beat Portland, do they win three straight? Detroit was down three-one to Orlando in the first round the year before they won. They came back to win that series. They win the next year and McGrady still hasn't gotten out of the first round. Dallas let the Finals slip away last year and look at them.

Oh, they just tipped off. Tangent done.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Sweet Home Sports - The Bear Cave.

Phil also posts for The Bears Cave. Check it out.

The State Of The Blog.

Jerious Norwood, a frequent visitor and constant supporter of this site, has called attention to our lack of posts. I have no defense. I'm a lazy writer with kids and a job.

What I would like to say is thanks to everyone that reads and links to Double-Nickel. You are all powerful cool. But, since I can't guarantee that the posts will pick up, I totally understand if you feel like dropping us from your links list.

I started this site to get friends together to write about sports. I saw the guys at IDYFT, seemingly old friends all, and thought what a wonderful idea, I'll copy it. Other than that had no clear idea how it would be structured.

With that in mind, I don't want to delete it. If anyone wants to post they still can. If you feel like writing about sports, drop me a line, your in.

We'll see where it goes from here.