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Phil Jackson says the Bulls ‘overachieved.’ So that means the Lakers…

Oct 29, 2011, 4:30 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

There are so many things Phil Jackson will miss about the NBA. The comfy feel of a custom chair brought in just for him. The smell of reporter sweat as he toys with them like a cat with a mouse. The lavish comforts of studio hosts proclaiming him as the best thing since sliced bread. The roar of the crowd, so vivid he can almost here them now… “We want tacos! We want tacos!” they seem to say.

All that’s gone, replaced by a quiet fade into the sunset.

But good news! Being retired doesn’t mean Jackson has to give up his favorite pastime: taking potshots at other coaches, teams, and players! Woo!

From ESPN Chicago:

“I think they overachieved last year as far as record and how they got to the spots they got to in the playoffs,” Jackson said Thursday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “They still have to have some steady shooters from the outside to complement the penetration they have, and then (Carlos Boozer) has to have that post-up game that he was brought there to give them.

“They just can’t be one-dimensional in that regard. They have to have those complementary pieces to assist Rose in his game.”

via Phil Jackson said Chicago Bulls need to add pieces to help Derrick Rose – ESPN Chicago.

Jackson’s comments should rank about a -500 on the outrage scale. Everyone knows that Rose needs more surrounding help. The overachieved thing is interesting, however, as is the assessment of their personnel moves.

At another outlet, last fall I gave the Bulls a C+ for their offseason. I later adjusted it to a B- based off the hiring of Tom Thibodeau, who I had overlooked. (I re-did the grade prior the season starting, so I wasn’t just using revisionist history after they won.) Bulls fans were apoplectic, as you’d expect, and I looked like a moron the entire season especially when they won the most games in the NBA.  Let me say that again. I gave a B- to a team that won the most games in the NBA. 

But here’s the question. Were they really that good? Were they always doomed to an elimination based on their roster?

Let’s consider the Spurs for a moment. The Spurs had one of the best seasons in franchise history. They were the number one seed. But their season and roster makeup is considered a monumental failure because they were ousted by an eighth seed in the first round.

The Bulls, on the other hand, made it all the way to the conference championship. That settles that question, right? Except that if the Bulls had played the Grizzlies, don’t you think that might have been pretty tight, considering the Bulls had what can be considered the toughest five-game series win in recent history? They struggled mightily with Indiana. Struggled mightily with the Hawks. In essence, if it weren’t for Derrick Rose going above and beyond in three games in the playoffs, the Bulls are looking at longer series and possibly getting eliminated by the Hawks. The Hawks.

“But they didn’t, so this is pointless” Bulls fans might say, and they’d be correct. They did win those series, they didn’t play Memphis, and they did win the most games in the NBA and wind up in the conference finals. But the reason I gave them a B- early was because their biggest acquisition was Carlos Boozer. And anyone who’s paid attention to the Jazz over the past four years could have told you that Carlos Boozer is not the way to a championship. He is not Rose’s Pippen, Kareem, Shaq/Kobe, or even his Manu. And that was their big signing.

Other than that? Ronnie Brewer who didn’t really make much of an impact, Kyle Korver who alternated being brilliant and terrible in the playoffs, and… yeah, other than that it was just Thibodeau. Thibodeau, who was the real cause of the Bulls’ run. Their offense wasn’t up to snuff, but Thibodeau’s defense made lineups featuring both Boozer and Korver terrific defensively. That’s insane in itself. Yet it was Thibodeau’s inability to adjust that lead to problems in the playoffs and their eventual demise at the hands of the Heat.

Now, let’s go back one more time.

I’m saying here that the Bulls weren’t really that impressive, that their signings were less than formidable, and that their making the conference finals is kind of a sham, a case of overachievement.

You realize the 2008 Celtics struggled with the Atlanta Hawks to the nth degree in the first round, then fought down the Cavaliers in a similar manner to the Hawks, before taking down the Pistons? What’s the point? The point is that great teams struggle in the playoffs. Everyone struggles in the playoffs at some point, save for the truly greatest teams, or at least those with dominant matchup advantages.

The Bulls didn’t have a B- offseason. They had an A+ offseason, because they made the moves which lead to wins. But it’s going to be really interesting to see how this team develops over the next few years. They won’t amnesty Boozer, though they should. And Thibodeau eventually is going to have to make changes to his style and approach or he’s going to become the anti-D’Antoni, the NBA version of Marty Schottenheimer. All defense, but not enough knives being brought to a gun fight.

Finally, if the Bulls were overrated and made the Finals, then what were the Lakers last year? Interesting question for Jackson.

  1. ch4wordpress - Oct 29, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    The LAkers last year are like the bulls in jordans last year. The biggest hurdle for big clubs is change. Big clubs tend to get great players who fight and fight as athletes and as employees and end up playing longer than they should in a primary role and the club suffers for it. Like the chicago of yore, Derrick Rose like MJ, is doing it all in his youth, but he will need help like Jordan did with Scotty and etc over the years to make it so. The question is, can chicago pay for the help?
    no NBA 2011-2012

  2. lucky5934 - Oct 29, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    I don’t think they overachieved at all. Their season was a product of a watered down Eastern Conference, and ultimately a weaker version of the NBA than most of us grew up with.

  3. goforthanddie - Oct 29, 2011 at 5:34 PM

    Thank you Captain Obvious. Now go back to your Montana shut-up-edness.

    • texmex2 - Oct 29, 2011 at 9:25 PM

      How many rings you got cowboy?

  4. ndirishfan1 - Oct 29, 2011 at 6:01 PM

    He was asked a question and gave an honest response. Did anybody ever believe the Bulls had more talent than the Hawks? The Celtics? Anywhere near enough talent to be the #1 seed in the East? I don’t recall too many people saying that.

    The article even states that Thibedou made a team getting major minutes from Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver to be a great defensive unit. Isn’t this the definition of overachieve? Nobody was called overrated, they were called overachievers. Big difference, isn’t there?

  5. dadawg77 - Oct 29, 2011 at 9:11 PM

    When it comes to the talent level of a team, there are probably (Heat, Magic, Lakers, OKC) where the Bulls wouldn’t of had the best player on the floor. That goes a very long way in winning games in the League. Now the Bulls need to build around Rose because of his size he can shut down easier then the other top four, why LeBron can stop him but he can’t stop LeBron.

  6. trbowman - Oct 30, 2011 at 12:34 AM

    Most overrated coach in history. Stop talking.

    • blueintown - Oct 30, 2011 at 8:23 AM

      Really? People are still saying this?

      • trbowman - Oct 30, 2011 at 10:54 AM

        I can’t wait until Mike Brown is winning championships in LA and everyone is gonna shut up about how great Phil Jackson

      • blueintown - Oct 30, 2011 at 11:10 AM

        Oh, so you judge success on winning championships? Well in that case…

        Seriously. Who is the greatest NBA coach–either of all time or currently–and why? How do you make your determination?

  7. chicagofan - Oct 30, 2011 at 6:22 AM

    The Bull’s Lost in the Conference Finals to a team many of you pundits declared the best of Alltime and what preseason rating did you give them? Noah played with his injured thumb and his rebounding was terrible against the Heat, Boozer was exposed for being too short a power forward and having an inadequate low post game in the Playoffs. The Bull’s achieved the best record inspite of both of these players missing more than 15 games in the regular season to injury. I love Phil but I would argue that Boozer and Noah underachieved in the playoffs and maybe we will get to see if they are a real contender in Dec. Also, the owner’s are greedy ,ruthless SOBs like the rest of corporate America and I would like to hear what Phil has to say about that rather than his assessment of a team that lost in Conf Finals.

  8. davidly - Oct 30, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    Finally, if the Bulls were overrated and made the Finals, then what were the Lakers last year? Interesting question for Jackson.

    And one he answered in his first post season interview. Being a sports writer, you probably know that already, don’tcha?

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