While there were few better options for an offseason acquisition than Rip Hamilton, what his addition definitely won't do is make up the athleticism gap the Bulls have against some teams. The Warriors, led by their two lead-guard lineup of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, proved to be quicker in all aspects last night. From completely shredding the initial defensive layer, to drawing fouls, to crowding and swiping the ball on defense, they made the Bulls look slower and older than a team that's really not that much of either.
It starts with the one guy who's supposed to be the youngest and fastest, and only fair that it does the same as after thrilling victories: Derrick Rose. Those covering the team seemed to have their storyline ready of Rose's supernatural revenge-focused mindset, though I've thought he's the type to treat every game seriously, because of last year's debacle in Oakland. But Rose again varied from 'facilitator' to 'listless', depending on your viewing mindset. Rose only really took it upon himself to score when it looked to be already over, and by then the three-pointers needed weren't falling, as he was 1-8 from that range on his way to a miserable 4-17 shooting performance.
It's not news that when Rose isn't playing at MVP-type levels, the Bulls aren't that great of a team. But what's more worrisome is when Rose is subpar and the rest don't even look to be above average. And it starts with what should be the Bulls #2 option, Carlos Boozer. Boozer not only had an anemic 6 points in his 26 minutes, but he was consistently abused by his contemporary (in position and salary) David Lee. Boozer was also partly responsible for no less than three turnovers where Rip Hamilton failed to connect on an entry pass. Noah fared slightly better and Taj Gibson was part of a desperation comeback unit in the 4th quarter, but the entire Bulls frontcourt looked not only slow themselves, but fairly weak: often not being able to finish or getting the ball stripped before they even had a chance to.
One hero of Monday night was Luol Deng, who looked as aggressive as he did on opening day with even better results, finishing with 22 points on 15 attempts. He played 41 minutes as he's a part of any kind of lineup Thibs looked for, whether it was the starting unit or the small-ball that finished out the game (in which Noah, Boozer, and Hamilton all sat). In fact, the true 'bench mob' unit was barely out there tonight, a strategy I applaud but only works if Deng and Boozer actually can carry the offense for stretches. Watson and Korver provided some needed threes (Korver's a bit too late) but there was not much else that went right.
The Warriors are a unique problem for the Bulls, and Ellis's shooting was streaky-good. Though Golden State isn't coming to the United Center, this season it doesn't mean that the Bulls won't have to face a similar situation again. Whether it was their backcourt being consistently beaten on transition or their frontcourt looking cement-shoed compared to their counterparts, the Bulls did not respond well to an active, high-paced opponent. The Bulls usually can find a way to stink those teams out by forcing tough shots, but their own turnovers made that impossible. It'll probably be a rare sight this season, but on the other hand there's a potentially similar yet much better opponent that often looks too-athletic themselves.