Bulls can't match Thunder's young talent

Bulls can't match Thunder's young talent

Posted by mikemcgraw on Tue, 01/05/2010 - 01:31
This was a bad matchup for the Bulls from the start. Veteran teams might find ways to outsmart the Thunder, but the Bulls have a tough time matching up with OKC’s talent and it showed in Monday’s 98-85 loss at the UC. Russell Westbrook is Derrick Rose’s summer workout partner in California and Westbrook seemed intent to put on a show. He hoisted 24 shots on the way to 29 points. With Westbrook and Kevin Durant working well, their Thunder teammates got plenty of open looks. Rookie James Harden knocked down 3 of 5 shots from 3-point range and Oklahoma City was surprisingly effective defensively with big men Nenad Krstic, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison. Rose wasn’t as good as he has been, but still produced 19 points and 7 assists. When the Bulls were getting plastered by a 26-7 run in the third quarter, I would have liked to see Rose try to get to the foul line once or twice. He did drive a couple of times, but the Bulls couldn’t get anything going. --The starters played reasonably well, but the Bulls’ bench was awful on Monday. Just after I suggested dealing John Salmons and Brad Miller for Tracy McGrady several days ago, both players perked up and provided some nice bench strength. Against the Thunder, they were no-shows. Salmons hit 1 of 8 shots for 3 points, no assists, 2 rebounds and 1 steal in 24 minutes. Miller had 2 points and 2 boards in 16 minutes. I don’t mind Tyrus Thomas missing outside jumpers (he went 3 for 12), as long as he battles for offensive rebounds. He had 3 in 21 ½ minutes against OKC. His 3 turnovers helped make it clear that he’s usually better off shooting jumpers than trying to drive into traffic. --I forgot to mention in the print edition that Derrick Rose was named Eastern Conference player of the week on Monday after averaging 26.7 points, 5.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds in five games. Kevin Durant was Western Conference player of the week. He had a string of seven straight games scoring at least 30 points snapped against the Bulls. --The rest of the week should go a long way toward determining if the Bulls have it in them to finish the year strong. The first task is to stay competitive in Charlotte on Tuesday. They’ve been miserable all season in the second half of back-to-back games. The second challenge is to play well throughout the weekend, when they visit Milwaukee on Friday, host Minnesota on Saturday, then host slumping Detroit next Monday. Getting to 19-19 before the ice show road trip begins in two weeks is conceivable. RUMOR MILL: FORGET BUTLER I saw one a few days ago about Washington ready to trade Caron Butler, perhaps to the Bulls for Kirk Hinrich. The only benefit to the Bulls in this one is Hinrich’s deal runs two more years, while Butler is done after next season. Otherwise, it makes no sense for the Bulls and I’m reasonably certain it’s not happening. Butler has played small forward his whole career, so plugging him in at two guard is a stretch. Then if the Bulls are intent on building a defensive base, which GM Gar Forman has promised several times, they wouldn’t trade one of their best defenders for someone from a team that has consistently refused to play defense over the years. The biggest drawback is Butler makes about $1.5 million more than Hinrich next season and the Bulls can’t afford to squish their cap space next summer. Butler’s scoring average (17.2) and field-goal percentage (.431) are also down quite a bit from what he did the last three seasons. Adding Mike James to fill in at point guard doesn’t sweeten the pot. James has been passed around like a hot potato the past five years, a clear sign that teams don’t like him. NATE THE GREAT In case you missed it, New York guard Nate Robinson pulled off a shocking performance against Atlanta on New Year’s Day. The pint-sized point guard had been benched for 13 consecutive games by Knicks' coach Mike D'Antoni, but was suddenly set free for this game. Robinson responded by scoring 41 points, hitting 18 of 24 shots and for nearly every basket down the stretch as New York upset the Hawks 112-108 in overtime. Did D'Antoni suddenly decide Robinson deserved a chance to play, or was this a showcase hoping Houston will get interested in trading Tracy McGrady? The Knicks are desperate to unload either Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries, whose contracts run for another year. LOOK TO THE WEST Who would have thought Boston would go out West and lose three straight to the Clippers, Golden State and Phoenix; while Philadelphia would beat Portland, Sacramento and Denver? The Bulls are in playoff contention now, but the Sixers and Charlotte and starting to make a move.
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