Assessing what Bulls preseason told us
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau shouts instructions to his team during the first half of the preseason finale Friday against the Indiana Pacers in South Bend, Ind.
By Mike McGraw
Other than a groin injury to Kirk Hinrich, the Bulls have no reason to complain about the preseason.
They capped off a 5-2 exhibition campaign with a wire-to-wire 97-90 victory over Indiana on Friday in South Bend, Ind. A popular pick to dethrone the Bulls as Central Division champs, the Pacers used everyone in their normal rotation except for guard George Hill.
"It was great to play a really good team," Carlos Boozer told reporters after the game. "It was good preparation for us moving into the regular season. We all know us being without D-Rose, we'll probably be the underdog in every game we play.
"That's all right. We're ready for that challenge."
After taking Saturday off, the Bulls have three days to practice before opening the regular season Wednesday against Sacramento at the United Center.
There's really no way to tell if Hinrich will be ready to play in the opener. The Bulls were reminded over and over last season that it's better to let the small injuries heal.
With the preseason complete, here's a look at what went well and where's the cause for concern with the Bulls:
Starting five: Even with replacement point guards on the floor, the Bulls' starting unit outplayed the opposition most every time it took the floor.
Richard Hamilton (14.3 points) and Carlos Boozer (13.1 points, 6.7 rebounds) appeared to be in top form, while Luol Deng (13.2 points) showed no signs of being bothered by his injured left wrist.
The defense: During the preseason, the Bulls ranked first in the league in rebounds per game (48.4), second in points allowed (87.1), second in steals (11.0), fourth in defensive field-goal percentage (.408) and fifth in blocked shots (6.1).
Imagine that, a Tom Thibodeau-coached team further ahead on defense than offense.
By the way, the NBA's top three rebounders in the preseason were ex-Bull Omer Asik (11.6), Joakim Noah (10.4) and New Orleans rookie Anthony Davis (9.9).
Nate Robinson: Twice during the preseason, Robinson started in place of Hinrich, and both times he played very well. He averaged 22.5 points, 10.5 assists and shot 54.6 percent from the field as the starter.
In general, Robinson is light years from the brash, loud, shot-happy youngster who played for the New York Knicks. He has grown into a mature, reliable, positive teammate who has made plenty of friends in the locker room.
Holes in the bench: As mentioned above, Robinson has been solid. Same with Taj Gibson (7.3 points, 8.0 rebounds) and Nazr Mohammed (6.6 points, 5.6 rebounds).
Shooting guard Marco Belinelli finally hit his first 3-pointer of the preseason Friday but overall he struggled. The former New Orleans Hornet shot 29.4 percent in the preseason.
If his performance doesn't improve, Thibodeau may consider trying Deng or Jimmy Butler as backup two guard.
Rookie point guard Marquis Teague didn't do much to inspire confidence, but at 19, it figured he'd need some work.
The offense: During the preseason, the Bulls ranked 26th in points scored (90.4), 28th in field-goal percentage (.405) and 30th in 3-point percentage (. 258).
That's no reason to panic, but most quality NBA teams shoot well from 3-point range.
Vladimir Radmanovic: The first free agent signed by the Bulls this summer barely played in the preseason. Is he a veteran Thibodeau will stick on the shelf until needed, like Kurt Thomas two years ago? Or is Radmanovic just not the coach's kind of player?
Time will tell. Radmanovic made a comment two weeks ago about wishing he had more information on Thibodeau before starting Bulls training camp.
Then again, no team plays more than 10 players regularly. Radmanovic and Teague appear to have the 11th and 12th spots in the rotation wrapped up.
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