In the summer of 1983, Texas Rangers manager Doug Rader said of the red-hot Chicago White Sox, “They’re not playing that well. They’re winning ugly.” Thus, “Winning Ugly” became the motto of that White Sox team. A team that would not cool off until they reached the playoffs (when a 3 year old Judas Pato watched them in their ALCS series at Comiskey Park). It was a phrase that the Sox and Chicagoans embraced in that first term of Reagan.
Lately, that term has been getting throw about while describing your Chicago Bulls, but in a much less endearing fashion. Since Joakim Noah underwent the knife and was declared to out for 8-10 weeks, the Chicago Bulls have looked less than impressive – particularly on the offensive end. Yet, they have still pulled down a 4-2 record over this stretch, hence, Winning Ugly.
The first factor to this ugliness deals with the new look defenses facing the Bulls. Outside of Kyle Korver (who cannot create his own shot), the Bulls three point shooters are more open-look guys, rather than the rise-up-and-knock-one-down-with-a-defender-draped-on-them types. Without Noah’s power game down-low (his offensive game is much better than he gets credit for), defenses are laying back a bit and clogging the lane. In short, they are daring the Bulls to shoot. And shoot they have. Since Noah’s last game against the Toronto Raptors, the Bulls have settled for way too many jump shots. “Settled” may not be the correct word…
Derrick Rose has driven less to the basket as of late. This is a direct result of Noah being absent. As mentioned above, opposing defenses have compacted the lane without the presence of Noah. Ergo, Rose has tried to drive, but he is finding less opportunities down there and more turnovers. Earlier in the season, a Rose drive was a no-brainer. Two results developed when he did this: A. a high percentage (due to his skill) shot, or B. a dish to an open player. Lately, Rose has been driving into heavy traffic and getting caught up in the air. This has been resulting in more turnovers and blocked shots.
The reason defenses have tightened the lane is not that Noah is some kind of offensive powerhouse more than he has a respectable inside game. Kurt Thomas has been starting at center now and the only inside game he can boast is the “set layup” (as Joelseppit coined), aka little to nothing. Kurt Thomas is much more comfortable setting up for mid-range jumpers (if you can call his two-inch vertical a “jumper”). Carlos Boozer is much the same way. Even though his inside finishing puts Thomas’ to shame, Boozer much prefers the spot-up, or fade-away jumper.
Yet, points in the paint is not the sole deficiency in the Bulls attack. With Derrick Rose being, arguably, the fastest player in the NBA with the ball, this team should excel on the fast break. Yet, when you subtract Noah from the equation, you take away one of the more apt centers in facilitating a fast break. In his stead, you have a geriatric Danny Glover, who ain’t gonna run shit. In addition to this, you have Thibodeau’s insistence in starting Keith Bogans, and you are left a retarded fast break offense. It is easy to breakdown: Bulls – Noah + Glovertoooldforthisshit + Bogans/Thibodeau = No Fast Break
With Noah in the lineup the Bulls were excellent in getting points in the paint and running circles around the opposition on the break. Without Joakim, those two stats have went bizarro on this team. The opposition are now smoking the Bulls in both categories. So while you hear Rose say things like, “A win is a win,” after a homely effort against the Bucks, these inadequacies are going to start turning to losses after the Bulls leave this easy stretch of their schedule. Winning Ugly is not graceful, but acceptable for the common Bulls fan. Losing Fugly on the other hand, makes Judas a dull boy.