A 4 post collection

Book Review: The Soul of Basketball

 •  Filed under book reviews, nba, bulls

If you jumped into a time machine to the Summer of 2010 and then the ensuing basketball season, there would be about three things you'd notice about me:

  1. I was always at The Gingerman (yes I know it's the GMan now, but it will always be The Gingerman to me)
  2. Basketball, specifically LeBron's free agency and the Chicago Bulls, were a constant topic of conversation both when I was sober and when I was not.
  3. I was working too much on a project in the Northern Suburbs of Chicago, so my outlet was basketball and alcohol. Two solid outlets based on points 1 and 2.

With those three things, it was a no-brainer that I was going to pick up and read The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown Between LeBron, Kobe, Doc, and Dirk That Saved the NBA by Ian Thomsen. The book was about what I expected, which was that I wouldn't learn much new since I was one of those people that consistently refreshed Twitter for every morsel of information from July 1 2010 until that fateful day that LeBron James announced he would be taking his talents to South Beach.

But this book was able to tell me some new things. I didn't know much of Dirk Nowitzki outside of what he did on the basketball court, so a lot of the new information I learned was about him. The history of his training regiment, his internal anguish and how much he took his team's losses on him even though outwardly he always kept that same demeanor, and how he always felt like an outside. The one thing that shocked me the most is that during the Summer of 2010, not one team besides the Mavericks went and contacted Nowitzki. They were all chasing LeBron, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade. But not one reached out to him. I don't think it was because they didn't think he was worth it, but because they assumed he was re-signing in Dallas no matter what. I can't count number of times I said while discussing NBA Free Agency while drunk with friends that the Bulls should just reach out and point Dirk to Huettenbar as a rectuiting pitch and see what happened. We knew he was staying there, but the fact no one called is just crazy. I mean why not try?

Thomsen obviously had great access throughout for this book and it showed in his reporting with all four of the major characters in the title. But I think he missed an opportunity to tell the full story of the 2010-2011 NBA Season by completely ignoring the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls were less than a supporting character in this novel, they were a two sentence piece during free agency and just a one sentence entry between Miami beating the Celtics and then getting to the NBA Finals against Dallas. I mean Derrick Rose was named the MVP that season pretty much because he wasn't LeBron, and that aspect of the season needed some attention on it. Also treated sort of like a by product of the season and not a real story was the Oklahoma City Thunder. They were a bit player in the Dallas run to the NBA Finals, but it would have been good to build them up more with their young core of Durant, Harden, and Westbrook that would be vanquished by Miami's Big Three. I felt both of these were storylines Thomsen could have and should have explored if he wanted to really talk about the soul of basketball and the "saving of the NBA".

Quick Review: 3 out of 5 stars.

Win #1

 •  Filed under nba, bulls

Sure the Hawks suck, but I will take a win anywhere I can get it with this Bulls team. I was working on a few things most of the night, so I didn't get to watch anything besides the final five minutes. Of course there was enough there to have some comments.

  • Why in any situation would the defender on Markkanen hedge towards one of the Bulls ball handlers in a high pick situation? I mean Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine, David Nwaba, and Kay Felder aren't going to be taking many people to the rim on a high screen ... so why even bother hedging on the screen and leaving Markkanen for a second? The play is designed to get him shots. But that's what Mike Muscala did for Markkanen's game sealing three. I bet Budenholzer will get on him in film session for that.
  • I know the Bulls offense is pace and space. But damn in the final four minutes when you are nursing onto a lead, the Bulls should not be jacking up threes early in the shot clock like they were playing a video game (or are the Golden State Warriors).
  • Robin Lopez's pass from the three point line to a cutting Justin Holiday was basketball poetry in motion. We won't mention the fact that it took about four cuts and a lot of running around for anyone to get close to being open for Lopez. And no one ran to the ball.

I like winning. It makes things more fun.

Thank you, The Athletic

 •  Filed under bulls, nba

Yesterday I complained about the Bulls beat writers, and specifically highlighted Nick Friedell and his blazer who has been covering this team since, I believe, before the Thibs era. But in the last two days, the beat writers at The Athletic have done just what I want them to do, focus on the now and not on the how we got where we are.

The recent hire at The Athletic, Darnell Mayberry, has been a refreshing read. He comes to Chicago after covering the Thunder and provides a much needed new perspective. His recent article, 10 takeaways from the Bulls' first three games, is everything I pay for from a beat writer. Just a snippet or two to show what I mean:

Two early areas of concern are Markkanen’s passing and his physicality. He has yet to register an assist despite ranking second on the team in minutes at 34 per game, and he’s turned it over eight times. It’s a very tough ask — and feels like nitpicking — for a 20-year-old rookie with three NBA games under his belt. But Markkanen’s improvement as a passer will only help make him a more lethal scorer because it would allow him to keep defenders off balance with his playmaking ability. But there’s a silver lining. It took Kevin Durant six seasons to log more assists than turnovers.
Some of Markkanen’s early playmaking and ball security issues remind me of a young Durant, who, when he wasn’t throwing it to the other team, often fumbled the ball off his foot or got stripped easily on drives to the hoop. Durant’s read-and-react recognition gradually improved, and there’s no reason to think Markkanen won’t also improve in that department as things slow down for him and he gets settled and becomes more comfortable in his feel for the game.

It's not that Mayberry compared Markkanen (I am going to have to remember that there are two K's and just one N. It's tough) to Durant, it's that he spent time thinking up the comparison. I don't think Lauri is going to be Kevin Durant, but I love reading about the parallels.

But Mayberry is not the only one at The Athletic Chicago. All summer I have been reading Stephen Noh, too. He has the history behind him, but once the season has gotten started he has focused on the floor, and I appreciate it. Of course he's also focusing on Markkanen, but there isn't much else given that LaVine and Dunn are hurt and there are only so many shenanigans Robin Lopez can do with mascots. A quick example from some of Noh's work on Lauri:

Coach Fred Hoiberg did some really nice things to get Markkanen going right away. The Bulls ran the same play, a popular NBA set called “Oklahoma,” to set Markkanen up for open 3-pointers twice within the first few minutes of the game.
Robin Lopez is the best screen-setter on the team, and the Bulls should use him a lot to get Markkanen open. The play worked like a charm twice in a row, giving Markkanen plenty of space to get his shot off. Kudos to Hoiberg for thinking of the best ways to get those two big men to play off each other.
Hoiberg also had Markkanen frequently setting screens away from the ball. That's another clever way to get any player open, and a couple of times Markkanen was able to catch the ball with a head start and with the defense off-balance.

So while the traditional beat writers and bloggers still wish we were in the past, I will be staying reading The Athletic and looking to the future. It's the only way to get through the season, but at least we have a direction.

Bulls Beat Writers and Bloggers, We Get It ...

 •  Filed under bulls, nba

I mean this in the nicest way possible, we get it, you hate John Paxson and Gar Forman and think they along with the rest of Bulls management are incompetent. I cannot disagree with you, but what I don't need to do is hear it every single game recap and story. The storyline of this season doesn't need to be that management is terrible and has ruined a once proud franchise. That was the storyline of the last three years, and we don't need to continue it.

They made a decision. They decided to blow it up. Something all of you have asked for at many different times over the last three years. They couldn't blow it up without trading Jimmy Butler, something you all said needed to happen to blow it up and tank for a top pick. Now they did it, and they didn't get enough for Jimmy Butler and are incompetent. We get it, you hate them. I don't like them much either. But at least we know the direction they are going in. We aren't trying to be the eight seed, we are trying to get the number one pick.

Nick Friedell, I'm looking at you and your blazer. Two stories, both just continuing to lay the foundation that GarPax are terrible and have no idea what they are doing. I get it, that's your plan for the season.

Story 1: Chicago's hopeful rebuilding narrative fell apart with one punch

Story 2: The story of the Chicago Bulls' downfall

We get it. We really do. We just don't need the story of this season to be the story since Derrick blew out his knee. We had that story and it made basketball unenjoyable at times. Why don't we just let bad play make the basketball unenjoyable this year instead of the need to continue a storyline that the Bulls management is as incompetent (or even more) than the braintrust down in Phoenix. (If you want a clusterfuck, just head there, wow. And Sarver has meddled more than Reinsdorf ever would and has).