Through the first two games of the new season, Nikola Mirotic leads the Bulls with a net rating of +34.4 when he's on the floor. When he's off the floor, the Bulls have a net rating of -28.3. To put it another way: Fred Hoiberg's team looks potent and inspiring when Mirotic is in the game and familiarly anemic in ways related to the previous regime when he's on the bench.
If you watched Chicago's opener against Cleveland and their meeting with the Nets the next night in Brooklyn, you probably don't need to waste your leisure time digging through stats to realize Mirotic's impact. He's been on fire from three-point range (7-of-12), he's helped open up driving lanes for Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose and he's at least been fighting on the defensive end, which is about all you can ask for.
Best of all, he's playing with a certain 'fuck you' strut that makes heat checks look like in-rhythm jumpers and craziness look like confidence. Kevin Love found this out the hard way:
And so did Bargs:
This is everything Bulls fans day-dreamed about during a rookie season that was equal parts mesmerizing and confounding. And so far, the decision to start Mirotic over Joakim Noah is making Fred Hoiberg look like a genius.
Let's talk about that decision for a second. To people who watched the Noah-Pau Gasol pairing personify Struggle Ball throughout last season, it became apparent that the two big men simply shouldn't be sharing the court together. From an outsider's perspective, though, the choice to start Niko over Noah was bold as hell.
Didn't Noah just finish fourth in MVP voting two years ago? Wasn't he just Defensive Player of the Year? Isn't he a team leader? And how would the Gasol-Mirotic pairing possibly hold up defensively? Valid concerns, all of them, but Hoiberg trusted his instincts and empowered Niko to turn the Bulls from a plodding two-post team to a dangerous four-out attack.
It's the way Hoiberg revitalized Iowa State and now he's doing the same thing for the Bulls. More shooting and better spacing just makes the game easier for everyone involved. Sometimes basketball is a lot less complicated than it appears to be.
The rest of the Bulls' front court situation will take some time to develop, but at this point the first question that needs to be asked is simple: how do the other big men complement Niko? He's the rock of this group now, and everyone else needs to figure out ways to accentuate his strengths and cover up his weaknesses.
It's only been two games, but Mirotic really does look like the perfect power forward for today's NBA. The fact that the Bulls found a player like this in the 20s of the draft isn't something you should take for granted. And then when you consider Jimmy Butler was taken a few picks later in the same draft ... man. That's how a good team turns into a great team and how an aging team maintains competitiveness without needing to bottom out.
Pau pets a dog
Bulls players walked by 2 bomb sniffing dogs on their way to the lockerroom. In Pau Gasol fashion, he petted both of them.— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) October 28, 2015
Derrick's double vision
Derrick Rose said he played the whole game with double vision.— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) October 28, 2015
Rose said he has been told he could have double vision for "a couple more weeks."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) October 29, 2015
When reporters have asked Rose about his vision, he's responded by saying things like "I'm a pro" and "I'm a hooper". Excuse the sudden return of HumbleBot, but am I the only one who thinks it's pretty insane he's been this effective with impaired vision?
I've been really encouraged with Rose's play so far. Yeah, he's only shooting 39.4 percent from the floor in the first two games, but his shot selection has been noticeably better.
Of Derrick's 33 field goal attempts so far, only three have been three-pointers. Twelve of his attempts have come at the rim (defined as less than five feet from the hoop) and 20 of his shots been from less than eight feet, according to NBA.com.
After watching Rose undermine himself with crummy shot selection all season last year, the change in his approach has been great to watch. I'm chalking it up to a combination of the new found spacing Mirotic provides and Hoiberg's voice getting through to him on the type of shots he can make and the type of shots he can't.
It's early, but there's reason to be optimistic about Derrick. Just please, divine basketball beings, keep him healthy.
Suck it, LeBron
I will safely assume the vast majority of people reading this site take great pleasure in any and all moments of failure for LeBron, but I won't apologize for deeply appreciating the opportunity to watch him play basketball.
With that being said, sometimes it only feels right to taunt him like you're a pro wrestler. [cracks two beers, chugs them to uproarious applause, throws empties at LeBron's feeble body):
GOOD GOD, THAT'S ZITO MADU'S MUSIC:
All Lebron saw on that drive pic.twitter.com/3sQwsZgM0h— Zito (@_Zeets) October 28, 2015
For as life affirming as that Pau block was, Jimmy's effort to seal the game on the next play was just as great:
Black Bart Simpson forever. This photo is incredible:
(credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)
I'm worried about Noah
This feature is too long as it is, so let's give it another week and see if Mr. Zero Points can score more than zero points. I've been pessimistic about him all offseason, and seeing his declining free throw numbers didn't help matters:
Joakim: we love you. Just be better, if it's possible.
Meanwhile, in Fort Greene
A look at the Bulls' upcoming schedule:
Friday, Oct. 30 @ Detroit Pistons
Setting the over-under for Andre Drummond rebounds at 22.5, and that might be too low. The Notorious SVG has these guys playing well.
Sunday, Nov. 1 vs. Orland Magic
Holy shit, the Magic rule. Elfrid Payton's hair is a puzzle with missing pieces, Hezonja has Kanye-level swagger and Aaron Gordon is just starting to calibrate himself for a season full of dunking on fools. Be scared:
I watched the start of the Magic-Wizards game on Wednesday, and Orlando's broadcast opened with a cut of Magic players talking about Scott Skiles. They all sounded deeply depressed already and the season hadn't even started! I can't wait until Skiles gets fired in 2018 and for the Magic promptly finish with the No. 2 seed.
Tuesday, Nov. 3 @ Charlotte Hornets
I'd say I'm a big fan of progressive haircuts, but Jeremy Lin's hair is ... not good. On the plus side, his un-gelled bowl cut is a gift that just keeps giving:
Thursday, Nov. 5 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Damn, already? Sweet. I'm just hoping Rose doesn't come down with dysentery before the game.
December 6, 2010 is the last time Derrick Rose played against the Thunder.— Sean Highkin (@highkin) August 10, 2015
My position on the Thunder is they're awesome and I love them. Someone should give me tickets to this game, IMO.
THE BOOZ NEWS
What, you thought the Booz News was dead just because Carlos Boozer isn't in the NBA? Pssssssh.
God damn, is this good. Bomani and LeBatard hit on everything: Boozer punching the ref in the dick, Boozer suing Prince, Boozer growing up in Alaska. The highlight, though, has to be asking him about the time he infamously showed up to a national TV game against the Celtics with shoe polish on his head.