Game Thread #11: Bulls at Denver Nuggets

Whither J.R. Smith?

Not fully buying today's hype that the Bulls let one get away when they dealt the then newly-acquired Smith to Denver in the offseason. He has started off well, shooting 37% on three-pointers and averaging 14 points in 27 minutes a night. He's still very young and an amazing athlete.

But I still seriously doubt such early success would've happened here, as his reputedly-poor defensive effort would've kept him off the court. I won't get into the guy's 'makeup', since it's hard to glean such things merely off of reports (and those who've feuded with Byron Scott isn't exactly a select club), but the immediate trade indicates he wasn't "the Bulls type of player": someone who wants to get better and is willing to work in practice to do so. My only problem was that they didn't even get him into camp to find out for sure, but (apparently) time was of the essence to get under the cap to sign Adrian Griffin. While Griffin isn't much in terms of production, the coaching staff felt for a deep bench role he was the better fit. Tough to argue that, for while I'm usually a cheerleader for talent-over-intangibles, when you're talking bench players it becomes more important to have those intangibles when the game-minutes will be sparse.

So add J.R. Smith to the list of guys bemoaned as one 'the Bulls let go'. Will it turn out to be a mistake? Maybe, but like Jamal Crawford or Tim Thomas, even considering success elsewhere Smith was likely not going to fit in Chicago. Now, If it's a mistake that the coaching and personnel staff overvalue such things as practice habits and willingness to improve to the point where it keeps them from being a better team, then that will be called out in time. But so far, in a big-picture sense, I think their 'standards' have worked. Whether J.R. Smith drops 25 tonight (while the Bulls shoot 30%) or not will have little meaning on that bigger question.

On to the rest of the Nuggets, who I'd describe overall as average (on both ends of the floor) and hurting. Both Kenyon Martin and Nene are out for tonight, although I wouldn't doubt that Martin's season-ending knee injury may actually benefit the Nuggets this season. The most distinctive thing about the Nuggets is that they are the fastest-paced team in the league, and coupling that with the high-altitude setting of the Pepsi Center, may have an impact on the minutes dispersal on the Bulls roster.

Ben Gordon injured his hand in the Lakers game, but no word if he's out or not. I have a feeling that even if he's in he'll shoot terribly and blame the hand. Which may be a valid excuse, but it's still suck.

Blogging with the Enemy: Nugg Doctor | Solid Gold

This is an open game thread, and hopefully I've preempted any reactionary 'Fire Skiles/Pax for not keeping J.R. Smith!' comments, but I doubt it...

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