[Going to commandeer this fanpost since there's been good discussion already throughout the day on this subject. My words are first, then the original text by SoulEater after the jump. Just the first of many Bulls-Cavs stuff. -ed.]
When initially thinking over this series I thought back to one of the first games of the season, an 86-85 Bulls win in Cleveland. Just looking at the score you can remember what type of game that was too: an ugly, low-possesion affair in which two defenses clamped down on eachother. At the time (look at those shots at Taj! I didn't ease up as much as he just got better) I was just as impressed with the Bulls defense as I was at how easily LeBron was discourgaged out of the game.
Luol Deng is a solid defender, and a very good team defender and rebounder for his positition. But he's rarely known to be the type to stop the dynamic wings of the league one-on-one, let alone do so to the most athletic and powerful ever at the position in the NBA's history. But that night he did, whether it was just LeBron coasting in an early-season game or not. Lebron abandoned the lane early and relied on contested jump shots, to the point where I think by the time he woke up and tried to barrel into the lane against Noah in the game's final posession, the refs forgot that's a call LeBron usually gets since they hadn't been seeing him do it all night.
(It was also a night where Shaq looked to be a terrible fit. The Cavs worked some of that out as the weeks went on, but it could be that his return is actually a detriment. Unfortunately for us I'd guess his injury means he won't be playing much anyway, and certainly not if he's not helping)
A lot has changed for both teams since then. The Cavs have added yet another versatile weapon in Antawn Jamison (though Derrick Rose being healthy is like a whole 'nother weapon for the Bulls), and the Bulls team defense has suffered since the trade deadline which replaced minutes for John Salmons and Tyrus Thomas with those for Flip Murray, Jannero Pargo, and Hakim Warrick. I did not see the game during Noah and Rose's absence where James Johnson supposedly gave LeBron some trouble on both ends, but even if we suspend disbelief by assuming that game is a reliable sample, I can't see VDN giving James Johnson too many minutes this series anyway.
Which could be an issue, because the reason to bring up the bench options (deposed or remaining) in the first place is that the primary defender on LeBron all series, Luol Deng, has not looked healthy since his latest return from his latest injury. Credit to him for coming back and fighting through in order to get his team to the playoffs, but while it was better than seeing him absent, it was clear that his lateral movement and leaping were not completely back. And though I'm sure he prefers not having the early rest instead, his reward is to guard LeBron James.
There is now way to guard LeBron but it's interesting to think about.
Maybe have some stones and a slingshot?
Are there any LeBron Rules?
I'm sure there will be some debate in the next few days and of course Luol Deng is going to get the nod. But JJ is certain to get his share of time on the King. After all this is not the regular season this is the best player in the world doing what he was born to do on the biggest stage in the NBA against our Chicago Bulls with the zebras by his side might I add.
We all know Luol Deng hasn't been the same player since getting injured.. again. So these two will have their work cut out for them. Personally I find it an interesting subject.
This is a big time for Mr. Deng and his trade value can either rise or fall to zero in this series. I mean look what it did for BG. Maybe thats not fair because BG was playing for a new contract and Deng has his.(but still) He's getting paid no matter what happens. So maybe Luol is the key to the series?
The spotlight is going to be beating down on our once promising young talent. Does it make you nervous?Does me.
So then the question is how do the Bulls go about guarding LeBron James? Clearly the Cavs are going to trap and blitz Derrick Rose all series and I assume the Bulls will double James to try to make his teammates beat them.
Pretty tough. Mo and Gibson feed off LeBron and the Bulls can't match their 3 point shooting.
I wouldn't be shocked if by the end of this series JJ is taking over for Deng because he's just not getting the job done. Kinda like tonight. I guess he could surprise me and prove me wrong.
Kinda sad though watching Flip Murray kinda just makes me think this guy would have helped to some degree had he not been traded. Because after all what is it that Flip does for this team that Tyrus didn't already? A few bad shots and some that go in? Acie Law has sure worked out for Vinny.
After watching Tyrus tonight it was easy to let go. But I wonder if he could have helped in this series. I guess we'll never know.
So if you have any ideas please send them to Joakim Noah who will be player coaching during this series.