Tagged: Joakim Noah


Are There Any Real “Big Men” Left in the NBA?

The New York Times’ John Krolik has an interesting piece about the erosion of post-up play in the NBA.  To bring his point home Krolik unearthed this jaw-dropping stat from Synergy Sports:

According to Synergy Sports, Nowitzki, Boozer and Bosh have combined for 1,119 post-up possessions this season. The rest of the starting power forwards and centers on the remaining playoff teams have combined for 318. That’s every center remaining in the playoffs, plus Serge Ibaka.

Wait it gets better:

Kobe Bryant alone accounted for 337 post-up possessions this season.

If there’s any bright side to this development it’s that these last few years have also brought a resurgence in skilled defensive big men.  Players such as Tyson Chandler, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Marcus Camby, Joakim Noah, and of course Dwight Howard put forth stellar defensive efforts around the basket on a nightly basis.  Right behind these guys are the likes of Brendan Haywood, Andrew Bogut, Roy Hibbert, Andrew Bynum and Andres Biedrins who are also adept interior defenders.

That said, no one will confuse this current crop of big men with the mid 90s cohort that included David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Shaquille O’Neal.

It remains to see precisely how post play will evolve in the NBA, but if recent trends continue devolution might be a better word the trajectory of interior play in the NBA.


rose on lebron

Are the Bulls Better Than We Thought

After struggling to put away the Indiana Pacers Chicago looked somewhat vulnerable. But on Sunday night Chicago put on a masterful defensive clinic that stifled the Miami Heat and reasserted the Bulls’ supremacy over their eastern conference counterparts.

Coming into the game it was odd hearing reporters recount how Lebron James and Dwyane Wade almost signed with Chicago during this past off season. All that this trivial tidbit did was (a) remind everyone that Chicago would have been a better fit for either Wade or Lebron, and (b) stoke Derrick Rose’s competitive juices even further. Rose as some will recall opted not to participate in last summer’s recruiting frenzy, deciding instead if someone wanted to come to Chicago, they would come to Chicago. Not to say that Rose or his Bulls teammates needed the extra motivation, but hearing james, Wade and the national media waxing nostalgic about what could’ve been, must’ve been as appealing as having to sit through an exes’ wedding. Sure you’re over her, but you also wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to kick her husband’s ass in a competition.

Interestingly enough it wasn’t until watching yesterday’s game against Miami that I was finally able to place my finger on what team the Bulls reminded me of. Chicago is a stabler and better coached version of–wait for it–the Lebron led Cleveland Cavaliers. Both are mid-west teams led by a homegrown hero. Both featured centers that are all elbows, energy and hair. Both have undersized power-forwards with checkered playoff backgrounds. And both rosters will filled out with fringe specialists.

While some will argue that Chicago has a decisive edge in the talent department, I think it’s more nuanced than that and more based on the roles that various players inhabited. For example with Luol Deng is much better than Anthony Parker, there’s also no way that Keith Bogans would’ve cracked Cleveland’s rotation. Having a coach like Thibodeau capable of developing a defensive game plan helps immensely.

But what I think sets the Bulls apart from the Lebron-era Cavs apart is their unrelenting hunger that at times borders on rage. With Lebron at the helm the Cavs were at times perturbed, maybe disapproved of the competition set out in front of them, but they more often carried themselves as if they were a team destined for greatness rather than one who had to fight for it. Chicago on the other hand is compromised of a bunch of high energy nuisances. Everyone is either always moving around, flinging elbows, and pasting themselves to an opponents jersey. Whereas Cleveland might take on this demeanor when they fell behind, the Bulls start out like this–every game.

The team of destiny ethos that hovered over Cleveland has now been transported to Miami, which is why on the eve of the conference finals, Miami’s two premier players were often led into discussing what could’ve been rather than the matter at hand. Meanwhile the Bulls have no past to dote on, for them the most important thing in the world is the game at hand.

Thus while Chicago’s talent was already obvious, Sunday’s victory proved that this team has the DNA of a champion.


Can The Bulls Continue Escaping Pacers?

My wife was aghast on Saturday afternoon when I told her I had a lot riding on Saturday’s Bulls/Pacers game.  Given that” thou shall adopt a gambling habit” was not among our wedding vows, she didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, and quite honestly I don’t think “I predicted that the Bulls wouldn’t sweep this series on the layupline” was the most convincing explanation.

As much as I wanted the Pacers to win, I knew the Bulls were going to win because (1) The Pacers led the entire game (2) But they didn’t have a commanding lead early enough. Underdogs have better chances at winning when can hang around just long enough to pull off a  late run to steal the game, or, they jump so far ahead that the favorite is unable to complete a comeback.  But when a team like the Pacers can’t pull away quick enough, you knew the Bulls were going to win it.

What will be interesting to watch as these playoffs progress is exactly how  Bulls players other than Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Kurt Thomas respond to being tested by the Pacers.  Will they feel relieved at escaping and become susceptible to a let down in the later rounds?  Will their opponents adjust to the weaknesses now being exposed by the Pacers (e.g. Carlos Boozer’s inability to get on the floor at the end of games)?

And for the Pacers, will they see coming close in game one as a moral victory and throw in the towel if they don’t win game 2, or will they dig in deeper and take games 3 & 4 at home?