Before we start, I'd like to express a few thoughts on Derrick Rose. I was fortunate enough not to have watched either of his previous two injuries live as they happened. Hell, the first time Rose hurt his knee I wasn't even on Twitter, and truthfully -- I didn't know a place like Blog a Bull existed. In many ways, this injury feels like the first to me because I've never been so connected or plugged into Bulls basketball.
Sports can be unfair, but I just want the best for Derrick Rose. One day, maybe I'll be able to properly verbalize how much of an impact he's had on me, but until then, I just want whatever is best for him. I don't want to talk about the money, or his basketball playing future, or even the Bulls' future just yet -- I just want the best for Derrick Rose.
Sorry, thanks for indulging me. I needed that.
Now, let's get to the basketball. Watching the nitty-gritty -- screen and roll defensive schemes, seeing wrinkles in offensive sets, watching Tom Thibodeau at like a maniac on the sideline -- was actually kind of therapeutic. Although the Bulls lost and looked emotionally defeated, there was still plenty to takeaway from this game. So with that, I'd like to share nine observations with you.
1) Bulls Switching Screens
This marks the second game in a row where we've witnessed the Bulls switch screens much more freely than they ordinarily do. Perhaps, the quality of opponent explains this as the Bucks and the Hornets aren't exactly the Showtime Lakers. What was fairly interesting, though, was that the Bulls were switching screens all over the floor. They did it on sideline pick-and-rolls, they did it on high-ball screens, and they did it on off-ball screens.
Check out this switch, here:
It doesn't get any more cut-and-dry than that. As simplistic an example as you'll find. But what I started to notice as the game went on is that the Bulls switched almost every screen involving Taj Gibson.
As you see above, in nearly the identical spot on the floor as the previous example, Gibson and Kirk Hinrich switch on a screen where the Bulls usually ‘ICE' the play -- meaning Hinrich would funnel the ball-handler towards Gibson and make more of an effort to be on the ball-handler's hip. Instead, as you see here, the Bulls live with a straight up switch. Hinrich wouldn't concede his man to Gibson so easily if the Bulls were ‘ICE-ing' the play. And it winds up costing the Bulls two points not only on this play, but also a few other times when they switched with Gibson later on in the game.
2) Guarding Aaron Brooks
Charlotte got caught going under exactly one screen involving Brooks, and here it is early in the first quarter:
After this play which resulted in a made three by Brooks, the Hornets switched up their coverage and made Brooks beat them on the drive for the rest of the night. And it worked, as after starting the game 3-3, Brooks made just one of his final nine shots.
3) Showing on Al Jefferson
Jefferson is one of the more skilled offensive big men in the league, he's a truly a gifted scorer in the post. The Bulls respect Jefferson's ability, so almost every time he touched the ball in the post, they would send another player to go show and provide help. What I mean by that is the Bulls wouldn't just trap Jefferson on the block, but rather they sent whoever was guarding Michael Kidd-Gilchrist -- usually Mike Dunleavy -- to stunt at Jefferson, act as though a trap was coming, which would hopefully require him to kick the ball out.
It wasn't a trap, because the player guarding Kidd-Gilchrist would almost always retreat before making it all the way to Jefferson. It was simply a ‘show' to ensure Jefferson was mindful of the added attention. And actually, Thibodeau pulled Tony Snell for showing too late on a possession in the fourth quarter. Thibs went back to Dunleavy, who is pretty good at this defensive technique.
4) Pau Gasol Seeing More Double-Teams
Almost every time the ball reached Gasol in the post when Hinrich was in the game, Charlotte doubled Gasol. It would have happened more if Chicago hadn't basically gone exclusively to high pick-and-roll with Gasol, utilizing him at the elbow instead. Rose being out of the lineup might have a tangential effect on this, but for the most part, teams have sent extra help if Gasol was beating them up down low. Surely, though, teams face a far less difficult decision to double Gasol when they are leaving Hinrich or Brooks open rather than Rose.
5) Charlotte Taking Advantage of Pau
Check out this little rub screen Mo Williams sets on Gasol, here:
This is a great play design by Charlotte. Gerald Henderson ends up driving in scot-free for a jam as they took full advantage of Gasol's laziness. You'll notice Gasol is in awful defensive position -- which is not uncommon -- as he's easily screened by a player a full foot shorter than he is. He's standing straight up and showing little court awareness, he doesn't even see the ball! Credit Hornets' coach Steve Clifford for recognizing Gasol's lazy tendencies on defense and exploiting them, thus nullifying the one skill Gasol does have on that end: shot-blocking.
6) Cody Zeller, a Young Joakim Noah?
Call me crazy, but I see a lot of Joakim Noah in Cody Zeller's game. Zeller's a guy who doesn't really have a niche on offense, or much skill for that matter, but he's an athlete that works really hard. He even zipped a couple of Noah-like passes from the high-post. The passing, I did not expect, but aided the comparison nicely. However, where I really see the comparison is on defense. Zeller's not the shot-blocker nor the rim protector Noah is, but he's rarely out of position, especially in ‘ICE' on side ball-screens. Zeller slides his feet like a guard and has really smooth hips. Surely, the young product out of Indiana's got a long ways to go, but I like what I saw last night.
7) Double Post Up?
I'm not sure you'll catch any other team in the league doing what I'm about to show you. Three players 6-foot-9 or taller in such close proximity to one another:
I don't really like the spacing at all on this play, everything is just too congested for my liking. Also, you might notice, Hinrich's man is barely paying attention to him per usual. I'll warn you now, Rose being out is probably going to result in these re-watches becoming a Kirk bash-fest pretty quickly.
8) Aaron Brooks' Free Throws
According to Basketball Reference, last night was the first time in Brooks' career that he missed five free throws in a game. His previous career-high for misses was three, which has happened only once. So twice in 455 career games Brooks has missed more than two free throws in a game.
9) Who Else But Lance Stephenson
We'll end on a lighter note, or perhaps a painful one. Here's Lance Stephenson stepping directly on some dude's manhood while trying to save a loose ball in the second quarter. For some reason, it feels like this is the kind of thing that could only happen to Lance Stephenson.
Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Drop a comment below and we'll hash it out down there.