Sunday, January 3, 2010

Click-a-Bull (Kirk/Caron, Rose, Gar/VDN, James Johnson)

I already posted my quick reactions to the Kirk Hinrich/Caron Butler trade rumor. Here is a little more detail on the finances / cap implications ...

Caron Butler to Miami or Chicago?

Even before the whole gun thing with Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton, the Washington Wizards had been a disappointing team this season. Finally healthy, many expected them to compete with a big three that should be among the league's best. Instead, they're 10-21, one of the worst records in their conference, and the discord in the locker room just seems to grow and grow.

Before the incident, Wizards brass was reportedly looking at some sort of major trade, likely in the next two weeks according to former Washington Times' beat writer Mike Jones. Originally believed to be shopping Arenas and his monster contract, the recent happenings make it more likely that a different Wizard is moved, and the chatter right now is that could be Caron Butler.


According to Jones, a source close to the situation is suggesting that Butler could be packaged up with the seldom-used Mike James and sent to the Miami HEAT or Chicago Bulls. From Chicago they'd likely be looking for Kirk Hinrich and the expiring contract of Jerome James. There was no mention of who might be offered up from the HEAT.

The offer for the Bulls would be a huge upgrade in talent that wouldn't compromise the team's desire to pursue a marquee free agent this summer. Mike James and Jerome James are both expiring deals in the $6 million range, and both Hinrich and Butler make in between $9.5 and $10 million this season. Financially it would even help the Bulls because Butler has one less year on his deal than Hinrich does—something that could prove to be very helpful when it comes time to extend Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose.

Rose scores 30 to lead Bulls over Magic 101-93
Derrick Rose(notes) made a statement and issued a warning.

If there are any doubts about his ankle, forget it. And if anyone wants to count out the Chicago Bulls, forget that, too.

“If we continue to play this way, good things are going to happen for us,” Rose said.

Like this.

Rose scored 30 points and the Bulls beat the Orlando Magic 101-93 on Saturday night for their season-high fourth straight win.

For all the speculation about coach Vinny Del Negro’s job status, the Bulls are playing their best ball of the season—and so is Rose, who finished two points shy of a career high he set against Atlanta last month.

Slowed by an ankle injury early on, he started the new year on the right foot after averaging just over 20 points in December.

“I was just trying to attack,” he said. “I’ve told you that I’d do anything to help my team win, and that’s what I was doing out there tonight.”

Gar sent the correct message

There was an interesting contrast in the last couple of days between two struggling Central Division rivals.

Indiana president Larry Bird gave third-year coach Jim O'Brien a resounding show of support, saying if any players have a problem with the coach, the players are more likely to be leaving.

Bulls general manager Gar Forman was asked Tuesday if second-year coach Vinny Del Negro has full support of the organization and replied “Our organization is behind what we’re doing. We’re still optimistic with where we’re going. I don’t think anyone is happy with where we are today and our goal is to get better each and every day."

I've got to declare Forman the winner in that exchange. If you're paying money to watch a 12-17 team (or 9-21 in the case of the Pacers), do you really want to hear that a coach has full support of management? No, things need to improve.

Play better and there will be no reason to make a change -- that's the only message worth sending right now.

Happy New Year

If Derrick Rose and the Bulls keep playing the way they have over the past week, there's no doubt that the new year will be much better than anyone could have hoped for at the end of the old one.

The reigning rookie of the year started off 2010 in style on Saturday night, scoring 30 points and leading his teammates to a 101-93 victory over the Magic.

"It's great," Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro said after his team's fourth consecutive win. "Our guys are playing with confidence. We're sharing the minutes a little bit. We've got more bodies to go to. All of that's a plus. [We've] got to continually attack and play more sound. We turned the ball over a little bit in some key times, but I was very happy we kept attacking. We got to the [free-throw] line 27 times and we shot it well at the line. A lot of positives overall. To beat Orlando, one of the top teams in the league, is a good confidence [boost] for our team."

A huge boost is more like it. This win was the Bulls' biggest of the season to date and it proved to the young team that when they play well as a group they have the ability to compete with the upper echelon teams. After weeks of frustration, misery and speculation about their coach's future, the Bulls locker room has suddenly turned into a more confident and much happier place.

Johnson starting to gain Del Negro's confidence
The Bulls have two rookies on their roster, forwards Taj Gibson and James Johnson, and they have followed different paths through the first third of their first season.

Gibson, 24, out of USC, worked his way into the starting lineup quickly when Tyrus Thomas got injured. He has started 18 games, averaging 8.3 points and 6.1 rebounds.

Johnson has played in 22 games but averages a little more than 10 minutes a game. Now, though, coach Vinny Del Negro's confidence in Johnson appears to be growing.

"He makes some mistakes, but his preparation is better, and he can do a lot of things off the dribble," Del Negro said of Johnson. "I try to give him a little feel for the game. He's a good kid with good intentions. He's just got growing pains."

Del Negro said it is inappropriate to compare Johnson to Gibson.

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