If Vinny Del Negro makes a change in his starting lineup and/or his offense tonight when the Bulls host the Phoenix Suns, he said it won't be because of strong statements by Ben Gordon and Luol Deng after a 107-93 loss Wednesday at Cleveland.
Gordon, who figures to start in place of Thabo Sefolosha alongside Derrick Rose given the Bulls' early struggles on offense, dropped his guard after he scored 31 points off the bench against the Cavaliers.
''Starters have to get off to a good start; that's their responsibility,'' Gordon said after Sefolosha went scoreless and starting forward Tyrus Thomas had one point. ''They have to step it up. Maybe Coach needs to mix something up a little bit.''
Deng, who scored 18 points at Cleveland but has struggled to contribute consistently on offense during the team's 2-3 start, said: ''I still don't feel I'm playing how I want to play. We have to find sets that we're productive from and try to give teams different looks. We stayed with similar sets, especially in the fourth quarter. We have to switch it up a little bit.''
Del Negro dismissed the idea he would take such suggestions to heart.
''No, no, no; they're the players, I'm the coach,''
These aren't especially inflammatory comments by Gordon and Deng, but a bit surprising considering they're part of the John Paxson "good, team guys" crew that he claims he assembled. KC Johnson lets us know it was more just them answering questions.
They have their points but I'd prefer they didn't go through the media to make them. Especially Deng, who's been incredibly bad for a majority of the games this season. But not just that, he's questioning the offensive sets when it looks like the team isn't running the sets they're given. They're standing in their spots, sure, but it looks to me like things are breaking down because of over-dribbling and being stagnant off-the-ball, not because of the particular sets.
If this is just a veiled way for Deng to say he should be getting the ball more in the 4th, I can't say he's shown he's earned that, regardless of his bump in pay.
Good on Vinny if he changed things up, I won't consider it bending to the will of his pseudo-stars. And the lineups aren't the most pressing problem, Sefolosha's playing poorly but so is Deng, Thomas, and Noah. But I do think it'll help. Starting Aaron Gray to foul defend Shaq tonight though....