Saturday, March 13, 2010

Click-a-Bull (Trades, Rose's Wrist, Dwight's Advice, Frustration/Losing, Rose, Bench) + Bears/ Willie Gault

Check out Box #5 in Marc Stein's Weekend Dime

5. Eastern Conference

The Bulls were determined to land no less than a first-round pick when they parted with Tyrus Thomas before last month's trade deadline. Yet you have to wonder if Chicago is already wishing it could have a do-over on the Thomas deal it struck with Charlotte.

Chicago, remember, could have sent Thomas to the Knicks for Al Harrington and a second-round pick. That deal would have given them a decent future trade asset -- since second-rounders have some value, too -- as well as the productive Harrington, who would undoubtedly be helping the Bulls cope better with the injury absences of Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.

But the Bulls, after advanced talks with the Knicks on a Harrington deal, instead elected to send Thomas to Charlotte for Flip Murray, Acie Law and a lottery-protected 2012 first-rounder. Which I suspect they'll come to regret unless the pick they're getting from Charlotte helps them sweeten a subsequent trade.

Although losing Noah and Deng has mostly crushed the Bulls defensively, they've also been a bottom-five team in offensive efficiency all season and could certainly use Harrington's scoring ability in the race to snag a playoff spot before this summer's free-agent bonanza.

And that was Chicago's goal. The Bulls have maintained all along that -- while creating maximum salary-cap space for the summer was their primary 2009-10 focus -- their aim is making a second successive trip to the playoffs. If that's indeed the target, Harrington would have been an ideal midseason pickup, given that he's playing on an expiring contract himself at just over $10 million. He could have helped address Chicago's scoring issues without infringing on its offseason intentions.

Harrington ranks third in the league this season with 17 games off the bench with 20 points or more, second only to Atlanta's Jamal Crawford (26) and Sacramento's Carl Landry (18).

MRI confirms Rose has sprained wrist, no serious damage

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose will miss tonight's game verses the Miami Heat with a sprained wrist, but an MRI today confirmed no fracture or ligament damage, the team announced today.

He is listed as day-to-day, meaning he could play Tuesday when Chicago visits Memphis.

Rose injured his left wrist on Thursday in the first quarter of Chicago's game at Orlando after a collision with the Magic's Dwight Howard.

Rose leads the Bulls with averages of 20.4 points and 5.7 assists this season.

Rose should ignore Howard's advice

Looking at Dwight Howard’s second injury-inducing foul in 29 days against Derrick Rose, I don’t think there is any chance the Orlando big man will be fined or suspended.

But both of those fouls are essentially the same. Howard never tried to block Rose’s shot on either play, though in the Feb. 10 game, Howard did take a swipe in a failed effort to keep Rose from getting a shot off after the collision.

The two plays in question were definitely, “I’m going to knock you on your butt to show I’m a bad man” fouls. Both times, Howard claimed he had no intention of injuring Rose, which may be true. But he had every intention of drilling Rose in mid-air.

Following both games, Howard bragged about his success as a road block.

“I think if you hit something that doesn't move, you usually end up falling,” he chuckled after Thursday’s game.

Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy joined the chorus.

“He (Rose) is going full speed, and he's hitting basically an immovable object,” Van Gundy said.

Hinrich blows top, Bulls blow game 108-95

The Bulls lost another game -- their seventh straight -- and Kirk Hinrich lost his cool with 4 minutes, 43 seconds remaining in a 108-95 loss to the Heat on Friday night.

After the Heat's Dwyane Wade appeared to travel underneath the basket before Brad Miller fouled him, the Bulls were assessed a flagrant foul. Hinrich argued vehemently and was assessed a technical. Miller also got a technical. When Hinrich continued to argue and charge the officials, he was ejected. Hinrich appeared to make contact with referee Bennie Adams, which could be cause for a suspension.

"It was because the referee stopped. That's the only reason he bumped him," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Kirk was walking toward him, and then the referee turned and they bumped. Kirk wasn't going there to bump him. … There was some contact, but it was because the referee had stopped right in front of him like that. That's all it was."

Miller expressed his frustration with the officiating Friday night.

Feeling sorry for Vinny. OK. Enough. Now what about Derrick?

It’s not as if Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro had any chance to come back next season even if they slipped into the playoffs this season.

But when you combine Del Negro’s coaching shortcomings with a run of injuries to four of the five starters, then you’ve got a death spiral that almost makes you feel sorry for Del Negro.

Not sorry enough to argue for bringing him back to continue this two-year mistake, mind you, but sorry enough that he won’t even have a chance to delude himself into believing he has a case.

Heading into Thursday night’s game in Orlando, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng were hurt and out. They’re not superstars, but then the Bulls aren’t good, so, while Noah and Deng barely would be third or fourth options on top teams, they’re Kareem and Worthy here.

Then Derrick Rose, the Bulls’ Magic, got hurt in the first quarter and had to leave the game, again because of Dwight Howard, and I’m thinking, maybe the Bulls could rent Adam Burish for certain games.

Anyway, at one point in the second quarter, the Bulls had Acie Law, Jannero Pargo, Brad Miller, Hakim Warrick and Taj Gibson on the court, and Gibson is dogged by plantar fasciitis, by the way. That’s not a lineup, that’s a rec league entry.

So, it was ugly early. It was hopeless early. It was painful early. But because I’m Li’l Stevie Sunshine, let me point out that the bright side of the Bulls’ being bad and dead was it allowed for guilt-free viewing of “The Office’’ and “30 Rock.’’

Noah will remain out for a while. Deng, too, perhaps. But the big question is Rose. Or maybe I should say the big decision is Rose, and here’s why:

Every playoff minute that Rose gets will be valuable in his growth, but not so valuable that I’d risk his health by rushing him back to a cruddy roster in some lame attempt to beat Miami, Charlotte, Toronto or Milwaukee for a playoff spot.

Bulls should try using more of the bench

The lesson to be learned from Friday’s loss to Miami wasn’t about anger management.

The Bulls were probably overdue to let off a little steam, so the 4 technical fouls collected in their seventh straight loss won’t be a big deal –- as long as Kirk Hinrich isn’t suspended for mistreating an official. That probably won’t happen, but it’s possible.

What the Bulls need to do during these difficult, shorthanded times is get to know the bench. Sure, Brad Miller and Taj Gibson give the Bulls the best chance to win right now. But running those two big men into the ground won’t help the long-term cause at all.

Looking just at the line score, Miller doesn’t seem overworked against Miami. He was credited for 34 minutes and played well, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

But consider that Miller, 33, played 16 minutes straight to open the second half. He finally checked out at the 7:39 mark of the fourth quarter, then was back in a minute later.

Derrick Rose will probably be back in the lineup on Tuesday in Memphis, but Luol Deng could be out a few more games and Joakim Noah is probably two weeks from having a chance at playing.

What better time than now to take a look at more reserves? Hakim Warrick logged just 10 minutes against Miami. Joe Alexander and Acie Law played garbage time. Maybe those second two guys aren’t quite ready to help right now, but with a little experience, who’s to say they won’t help win some games in April?

Nearly 50 years old, could Willie Gault still play in the NFL?

The most intriguing free agent in pro football has 333 career receptions for 6,635 yards (19.9 yards per catch) and 44 touchdowns. He is one of the elite kick returners to ever play the game, and boasts the sort of athleticism that evokes names like Bo and Herschel and Thorpe (and makes Terrell Owens look like Kurt Sohn). Most important, he is as smooth as a chocolate swirl, and word has it he dances a little funky.

Yet despite all the accomplishments and accolades, the man has yet to receive a single contract offer from an NFL franchise in 17 years.

Paging Al Davis

Mr. Al Davis, please report to the nearest telephone

"Can I make a comeback?" asks Willie Gault. "Absolutely. Will I? If someone calls, I'd be very open to the idea."

According to Gault, Gault's family, Gault's friends, old media guides, the Pro Football Reference Web site, Nexis/Lexis and official hospital records, Gault was born Sept. 5, 1960, which means he turns 50 in six months.

Yet according to reality, visual analysis and all possible rules of physicality, Gault is 25. Thirty, tops. His face appears virtually unchanged from his mid-1980s heyday with the Chicago Bears, when he was a key part of the Super Bowl XX champions. His skin is natural and unwrinkled, his hair thick and well groomed, his teeth straight and white as fresh whipped cream. There is no gut or double chin; no love handles or cankle cheese.

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