Max Mandel's Blog

Max Mandel

Nov 22

Getting to know the opponent: Q&A with

By Max Mandel Posted in: Bulls, Blazers
While most Trail Blazers fans were probably strictly focused on the opening round playoff series against the Houston Rockets, the rest of the basketball world turned their attention to the engrossing match up between the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics. Although the Bulls eventually lost the series, guys like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah turned in terrific performances. While Rose and Noah are back in Chicago this season, the Bulls did lose Ben Gordon in free agency. In order to get a better sense for how guys like Rose and Noah are developing, as well as how the team has managed to replace the clutch shooting of Gordon, we decided to check in with Sam Smith and Adam Fluck from I am a Trail Blazers fan would like to thank Sam and Adam for taking the time to answer our questions regarding the Bulls and the game on Monday night.

I am a Trail Blazers fan: One of the defining moments of the playoffs last season was Ben Gordon routinely hitting huge shots for the Bulls. How has this team replaced the production of Gordon on the offensive end, and who do they now look to when the game is on the line?

Sam Smith: There is no actually replacing a unique talent like Ben Gordon. The Bulls still are uncertain who will fill that role, though it is probably either Derrick Rose or John Salmons for now. The theory was the team's improved defense would make up for Gordon's scoring for now, and that has occurred as the team's defensive numbers all are much improved. The issue with resigning Gordon was that it would eat into the team's plans for being a major player in the summer of 2010 free agency. They wanted to keep Gordon, but in the end couldn't afford to risk not being able to offer a max deal if some top free agent wanted to come in 2010.

I am a Trail Blazers fan: After missing last season with an injury, it appears that Luol Deng is healthy and playing well. What impact does Deng have on this team and how has he meshed with guys like John Salmons and Derrick Rose?

Sam Smith:
Deng has come back strong from his stress fracture. Deng is a player who relies more on movement and slashing to get the ball and score. Rose is a willing passer and Salmons is adjusting to being a shooting guard now, so there hasn't been any problems with overlap as there were at times with Gordon.

I am a Trail Blazers fan: Although he is arguably the top young point guard in the NBA, Derrick Rose hasn't made the second year jump that many people assumed he would. What have been the main reasons behind his struggles during the beginning of the season?

Sam Smith: The principal issue was an ankle injury in the first exhibition game that kept him out about four weeks. As a result, his conditioning was affected and he's had problems regaining that explosiveness. Also, with Gordon gone the defenses have collapsed more toward Rose with neither Salmons, Hinrich or Deng considered great three point shooters.

I am a Trail Blazers fan: Who is one guy that doesn't receive much attention from the national media that Trail Blazers fans should keep their eyes on when these teams meet on Monday night?

Sam Smith:  He's getting attention now, but Joakim Noah has been the best player on the team this season. He's even been at times the best fourth quarter scorer with tips and hustle plays. He has been leading the league in rebounding and is a relentless hustler, going after every rebound and loose ball. Though he shoots the most unconventional shot anyone has seen which we call the tornado, he has been effective against every big man he's played.

I am a Trail Blazers fan: In James Johnson and Taj Gibson the Bulls have two very capable rookies in the front court rotation. What type of contributions have Johnson and Gibson made so far, and what type of role do you see each playing as the season continues?

Sam Smith: Johnson hasn't played much and hasn't made any contribution as a result. Gibson has been a pleasant surprise, especially with Tyrus Thomas injured. He's a mature rookie and through a bit small at power forward is smart, works hard and has confidence in a mid range shot he can make.


  1. it will be very interesting to see who the bulls can land this summer, they could be a big name maxdeal guy away from contending...

    by huusy on 11/23/2009 12:35 AM
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