Things I Like/Don’t Like Through Two Preseason Games

Derrick Rose - The Return - Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers
(Photo Credit: Ron Hoskins/Getty Images)

(Originally published in 2013)

We have two Chicago Bulls preseason games in the books.  Here are a few things I like/don’t like early on:
I LIKE:

  • Derrick Rose: I mean, obviously!  I was anxious on Saturday night to see how he looked…and he looked fantastic.  His skills are showing some rust, but he was in double figures in both games.  He’s getting to the line (shooting a putrid 60%), but that will come.  He’s not finishing at the rim crisply or consistently…yet, but again, these are his first 2 games in 18 months and against Indiana he had to play against Roy Hibbert, who’s one of the better defensive centesr in the NBA.  He’s explosive and I don’t want to exaggerate, but he’s quicker than before.  I kept hearing him say that and I just shrugged it off.  We’ve heard everyone from D-Rose to Apollo Creed say they were in the best shape of their life and it’s rarely true, but he is.  I watched a lot of D-Rose games during the offseason, so I don’t think I was like the casual observer who might’ve been blindsided and just forgot he was quick.  He’s incredibly fast with that first step and his handles seem much improved, if that’s even possible.  Once the rust is gone, watch out.  Another thing I’m loving about D-Rose: He’s attacking the rim and not settling for jumpshots.  In 2011-12, perhaps due to nagging injuries, he settled for a lot of long jumpshots and shot 43%, the lowest of his career.   We could count on one hand the number of jumpshots he’s taken these first two games.  That’s a good thing.  We need crazy aggressive Derrick Rose and not passive, jump shooting Derrick Rose.  I like what he’s doing so far.
  • Jimmy Butler: He hasn’t been excellent from the field yet, but against the Pacers he made it to the line 12 times. 12 times! That’s ridiculous.  He made it to the line 4 times against Memphis.  Oh and the defense is still there, though he did struggle a bit against Jerryd Bayless early on last night.  He’s acquired 6 steals in 2 games and is averaging 10 points in just 27 minutes so far this preseason.  And it might just be me, but he looks like he’s improved his handles.  I like what I’m seeing from Jimmy Butler early on.
  • Taj Gibson: Okay, okay, Taj Gibson.  I see you. I’ve been critical of Taj Gibson and even went as far as saying we should trade him and get out of that awful contract, but he’s come into this preseason in tremendous shape, bulked up, and obviously has refined his offensive game.  So far he’s averaging 16.5 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, and shooting an awesome 63% from the field.  Here’s my only concern:  We’ve seen bursts like this from Taj before, typically in the postseason.  Can he keep this up for an entire regular season AND the postseason?  I’m hoping it’s not fool’s gold.  But I definitely like what he’s doing so far.

I DON’T LIKE:

  • Contract Year Luol Deng: My goodness….16 shots against the Pacers?  What the heck, Luol?  He was on pace for 30 shots that game! 30 shots! FOR LUOL DENG!  He didn’t shoot as much against Memphis, but he did seem a little bit out of the flow of the offense.  There were times it seemed like he forced an unnecessarily long jumpshot as the offense was still getting initiated.  One thing is for certain:  Chicago is really trying to make him a focal point of the offense.  He’s posting up, catching it off screens, and attacking the rim.  Basically, stuff I’m not certain he’s good at anymore.  We’ll see, but if Deng doesn’t play within the scheme of the team, this could be an ugly season for him.
  • The Awkwardness of Carlos Boozer: I love Boozer.  He’s one of my top 3 favorite Bulls on this team behind Rose and Butler.  But he just looks uncomfortable out there.  This isn’t new and I alluded to it on Twitter last night as well, but he and Derrick Rose just don’t seem to have great chemistry.  2 years ago, I always thought Boozer played better with CJ Watson and I remember a game against Orlando that he put up like 27 points and 10 rebounds or something with Rose out.  He was just great in that game.  On paper, Rose and Boozer should be a lethal combination.  It should be similar to Deron Williams and Boozer, but Rose is a much better player than Williams.  Those pick and rolls should just flow.  Boozer has that nice mid-range shot and you can’t let Rose drive.  It should be a great combination.  I’m not saying this isn’t working out, but I’d like to see a little more.  Again, it’s early in the preseason, so let’s see how it plays out.
  • Offensive Execution: The starting five especially are having difficulty executing an offense.  That could be a number of factors: Noah is out, Butler and Rose really have never played together, Deng has been a chucker so far, Boozer seems awkward.  This isn’t something to worry about, but it’s definitely something to watch.

Things I Need To See More Of:

  • Erik Murphy: I have to admit, I like “The Nightcrawler” Tony Snell, but he hasn’t looked like he belongs out there yet.  Erik Murphy has, which is a huge surprise to anyone who watched him in Summer League.  He looks completely comfortable out there.  His box score won’t show it, but he’s been hustling, he’s playing solid defense, he’s getting a few rebounds, and he fits in the flow of the offense.  This is really an encouraging sign and his improvement might speak to why the Bulls haven’t signed another big man to backup Noah/Mohammed.  Maybe they have some faith in the Murphy/Gibson combo.  I still need to see more of it, but I like it early on.
  • Marquis Teague: What’s up with Teague?  He gets a little bit of time the past two games and his supposedly improved game looks exactly like he did last year.  He looks hesitant, unable or unwilling to attack the rim, and shaky.  Not a good sign so far.  I did see him knock down a jumper against the Pacers and he unveiled a completely different shooting motion than last year.  If he’s improved his jumper, that will be a positive in itself.  If he gets more aggressive, we could be seeing some good things out of Marquis Teague soon.  It’s still too early to tell.
  • Carlos Boozer’s defense: Anyone else notice Boozer has been much more active on defense?   It’s the preseason, but he’s been locked in defensively.  Yes, he’s had lapses, but that seemed more like physical lapses (aka lack of speed/vertical) than effort, which is a great sign.  He’s been giving a lot of effort so far. I’m hoping it keeps up.
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