So a lot has been happening recently, so I figured it's worth checking in:
Luol Deng: I have no problem with the Bulls keeping Deng. Deng is a versatile player, a hard worker, and the kind of guy who, in my opinion, will one day show the type of savvy veteran leadership that is essential to building a successful squad. But Deng is not a first option. And I feel like the front office here in Chicago thinks he is. His whole style is too rigid, too consciously constructed. He reminds me of Bill Bradley, maybe not so much in the tactics he employs (although somewhat in that sense), but in the sense that Deng doesn't have superstar talent, he just spends lots of time in the gym crafting a pallet of moves. He doesn't have the improvisational capacity to score at will. In other words, the man can't take people off the dribble. Nobody on this Bulls squad can take anybody off the dribble. Andres Nocioni thinks he can, but he is wrong. Well, OK. Rose may one day be a sizable offensive force beyond his distribution abilities, but for now this team needs someone who can really slash. If anyone even remotely tries to make the argument that Ben Gordon can create off the dribble, you are wrong. Dribbling into a double team and forcing a pull up jumper does not count.
Ron Artest (I am going to assume this Artest thing is still going to happen): So, hilariously enough, this whole Ron Artest-Rockets thing has already gotten off to a bad start. I was actually surprised how quickly the mere mention of Artest was able to create locker room problems, although I probably shouldn't have been. Either way, if this goes through, I think the Rockets will be a force to be reckoned with. Despite the last 48 hours, I actually think Adelman can keep a lid on Crazy Pills.
First and foremost, this team will be a defensive monstrosity. They were already one of the best defensive teams in the league, and as a couple of people have correctly noted, if it weren't for Artest antics, he would be a perennial all-NBA defensive first teamer. Artest is icing on the cake on that end of the floor.
For me, the questions lie more on the offensive end of the court (where, oddly enough, a lot of people feel the real upside to this trade is). I already feel like this team has problems with offensive fluidity (consider the fact that once the McGrady-Yao balance was decided by Ming's injury, the Rockets maintained a huge winning streak). Not big problems, but quietly I feel they have pecking order issues. Artest has said he is willing to be a third or fourth option. He has said he is willing to come off the bench. This is the right attitude. My worry is that when Artest gets his hands on the ball, he will forget all that. He can be a bit of a black hole. Now, if he really believes in his teammates, really believes he need not be the first option, this could all be mute. I just am concerned he may not have the presence of mind to execute that out on the floor. That being said, he is a deceptively smart basketball player for somebody who is so bat shit nuts.
Europe: I was completely ready to get on the "EVERYBODY IS GOING TO EUROPE, LET'S FREAK OUT" train, until somebody (I can't remember who or I'd link'em. Maybe Matt Moore) said that Olympiacos just signed a 11-10 per game guy for the most in the history of euroball; No way they have the money to poach anybody who happens to be a serious star. And that's when I calmed down.
Spurs (obligatory): I'm underwhelmed by our off-season moves so far. Yes, Mason was a good pickup, and despite his mediocre summer league performance, I'm content with George Hill. But I really feel we need to pick up a more dynamic offensive weapon. We need to go after J.R. Smith.
N.B. According to some, the fact that the Spurs are unlikely to resign Robert Horry makes this off-season a big success.
USA Basketball: Make sure to check out a blogger roundtable I contributed to coming up sometime within the next week over at Upside and Motor regarding the Olympic team. And check out (maybe) something similar over at HP regarding the difference between major market and small market franchises.