It truly wouldn't be a Chicago Bulls season unless everybody on the roster is hurt at some point. Like, as soon as we learn Derrick Rose is expected to return this season, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson get hurt. Pau Gasol is sick. Kirk Hinrich is, well, hold onto to that thought. And in the biggest stunner of all, I once again was not invited to Joakim Noah's birthday party over the weekend. But in all seriousness, the Bulls had themselves a hell of a weekend on the court. So let's get right to it, here are nine observations I'd like to share with you.
Note: I'm not sure how I feel about 'The-Re-Watch' as the name for these things. So if any of you have a name suggestion, I'd love to hear it.
1) Hey, There's Mike Dunleavy
Since Dunleavy returned from an ankle injury on Feb. 10, he'd gone scoreless twice and scored fewer than five points in three other contests. The guy missed over a month of action, so some rust was to be expected. All the little things Dunleavy does -- timely cuts, bumping cutters, supreme court awareness -- all showed. But he couldn't quite seem to find his groove on offense.
Against Minnesota, though, Dunleavy was just sensational -- he hit threes, drew a couple charges, played the four when the Bulls were in a pinch, worked the glass and even won a jump ball -- it was one of Dunleavy's better all-around games this season. Low key, Dunleavy playing great was probably the most encouraging development out of this game.
Oh, and Dunleavy's patented strip-steal move deserves some love, too:
Not only does Dunleavy get the best of Timberwolves' rookie Adreian Payne on the defensive end, but he draws a foul on Payne trying to fight through his screen on the subsequent possession:
Now that's veteran savvy, man. Think Dunleavy could spare Kirk Hinrich some?
2) Bulls Running Plays For Tony Snell
Snell shot 52.2 percent from three-point range in February. That's obviously incredible. So naturally, the Bulls have started running some plays to get him more looks from deep:
Above, Snell receives a pass on the right wing, but reverses the ball back to the top of the key which initiates the play. Once he passes back to Hinrich, Snell loops his way through a couple of screens with the finishing product looking like this:
Catch-and-shoot three-pointers are one thing, but to be able to knock down looks coming off screens? That's some next level stuff right there. A sign that Snell's rapid rise isn't a fluke and that he can embrace added responsibility. I think we may have to take Tom Thibodeau on his word here, looks like Snell's cracked the rotation for good.
3) Pick-and-Roll Coverage
Granted, this is Ricky Rubio -- a miserable shooter -- but check out where Dunleavy is positioned in relation to his man setting the screen on Hinrich. The Bulls are trying to close off Rubio's driving angles, and this is something they definitely did not do against Milwaukee or Charlotte.
4) Doug McDermott Actually Played
There might not be another opportunity to talk about McDermott again this season, so might as well take advantage of it here. Truth be told, I'm not much a fan of McDermott's game, and that's aside from the fact the Bulls made a terrible trade to get him in the first place. He's a skilled player, but he just doesn't seem to have a natural fit on the floor.
Having said that, it's still ridiculous that E'Twaun Moore -- a guy signed on a non-guaranteed contract in September -- is getting in games before McDermott. Moore is fine and all, but Chicago invested heavily in the man with a sweet stroke and a thousand nicknames. Calling him a bust would surely be premature, but I think it's safe to say that year one has been a colossal failure.
5) Tom Thibodeau Playing Guys Who Aren't Healthy
I understand that a player playing hurt or less than 100 percent is probably the norm, so in that regard, Thibs is no different from any other coach in the NBA. It's a reality every coach is faced with and deals with differently. However, it's stuff like going to the media after the game and admitting Pau Gasol was playing under the weather:
Thibs on Gasol 4&15: "I want to give Pau credit, Pau is sick, very sick. He knows we’re shorthanded; he got out there and gave us everything— Sam Smith (@SamSmithHoops) March 1, 2015
To me, that immediately makes me question why Nazr Mohammed is even on the team. Or Doug McDermott. Or Cameron Bairstow. What happened to next man up? Obviously it's admirable of Gasol to play because the team could use him -- the Taj Gibson injury depletes much needed frontcourt depth -- but I mean, are the other players on the bench completely unplayable? Thibodeau's decision to play Gasol 33 minutes certainly tells me as much. I'm not saying Thibs playing seldom used bench players would have given the Bulls a better shot at winning the game -- in fact, the Bulls probably would've lost by more -- but we just entered March. This isn't do or die time.
But wait, there's more:
Thibodeau on Hinrich 0-7: "Kirk is battling through injury; we’re shorthanded and he is giving us what he has."— Sam Smith (@SamSmithHoops) March 1, 2015
What a shocker, right? Thibs protects Kirk Hinrich on record for about the fifteenth time this season. So of course, Hinrich has to play 25 minutes while hurt and E'Twaun Moore gets to play thirty seconds. Of course. Hell, I'm positive Moore could've gone 0-7 if he was playing through turf toe and a chest contusion. Just imagine what he could've done completely healthy!
Look, I'm a Thibodeau defender, but this stuff is indefensible. Are a sick Pau Gasol and a hurting Kirk Hinrich really putting the team in the best position to win? Well, we found that out the hard way on Sunday. But would a healthy combination of Nazr Mohammed, Cameron Bairstow, Doug McDermott and E'Twaun Moore put the team in any worse of a position? Well, unfortunately, we'll never know the answer to that.
6) High Ball Screen Coverage
Really hard to be overly critical of Thibs' game plan here because in a perfect world, the Bulls want teams to be taking midrange jumpers out of high screen-and-roll. The thing is, though, is that Chris Paul feasts around the elbow area on the floor, and it's just one of those Catch-22 situations. Paul is a master at orchestrating high ball screens, and when you combine his expertise with DeAndre Jordan's exceptional screen-setting ability -- you just have to hope Paul isn't knocking down the open jumpers he's going to get. On Sunday, he was. And the Bulls truly were stuck between a rock and a hard place, there.
7) Nikola Mirotic In The Post
Mirotic played a really good game on Sunday, but his work on Matt Barnes in the post was especially encouraging in the fourth quarter. Before Sunday, I'm not sure how often we've seen Mirotic beat up an opponent for going small like Doc Rivers chose to do by putting Barnes on him. In part, Mirotic got the better of Barnes because the Bulls were running everything through Joakim Noah in the high post during the fourth quarter, thus providing Mirotic plenty of space around the rim to get optimal post position.
Although I believe Point Noah isn't the solution to the Bulls problems on offense with Rose out of the lineup, god damnit that goofy bastard can pass the rock. Noah was throwing beautiful lead passes to Mirotic, akin to a quarterback throwing his receiver open. The way Mirotic and Noah played together on Sunday only further reinforces my belief that those two on the floor together presents the best big man tandem the Bulls have.
8) Aaron Brooks Can't Make Shots Anymore, Apparently
I don't need to mince words here, Brooks has shot 11-44 since becoming a starter. But yeah, the Bulls are totally better without Derrick Rose.
9 (oth) Ugh...
If you haven't already seen it, I'm absolutely taking the opportunity to show you this:
CRAZY THING: HE'S DONE SOMETHING SIMILAR EARLIER THIS SEASON:
And then, the obligatory screen-shot of nobody caring to guard Hinrich. He actually pass fakes to the man in the corner before shooting here, and still nobody on the defense even bothers to close-out on him!
Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Drop a comment below and we'll hash it out down there.