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Why Fire Vinny Now? When Will the Chicago Bulls Peak?

After falling to the Celtics, there’s been plenty of idle chatter about whether Chicago Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro should be fired.  And it’s all silly chatter from ignorant corners.  (Really, have you listened to some of these talk radio hosts?  Have they ever watched a basketball game in their life?)

Could the Bulls have won that series with a little better coaching?  Most likely, yes.  Could they have won the series with slightly different refereeing?  Even more emphatically, yes.

Reinsdorf decided to go cheap on a coach, and he lost out on probably $3-$5 million in second round play-off money by going cheap, so the basketball gods have punished him.  I mean, do you really think the Bulls were going to get by the Magic?

Vinny was hired to guide a young team that nobody expected to do much.  The most important thing he did was calm down a young team that was ready to throw both of it’s coaches in the lake, last season.  Have you heard the grumbling about Vinny that you did about Skiles and Boylan?  No.  His first task is a slam dunk.  Now to the fan, you’re more interested in a title than the team not wanting to lynch to the coach.  This raises a more important question, in regards to Vinny’s longevity: when do Reinsdor/Paxson/Forman expect this team to peak and make a title run?  (Jordon was a 6-year and sidekicks Pippen and Grant had three years apiece under their belt when the classic Bulls made their first title run.)

When you’re planning a team, if all goes well, you should have a window where you can compete for a title.  Among the various factors are the skill levels of your players, the age of your players, who your coach is, and the composition of other teams.

If you look at the Bulls, the only player with significant age on him that might be around in three years is Brad Miller.  He turned 33 in April and will be 34 when his contract expires with the fabled 2010 free agent crop.  He could probably play for a few more years, but there have been some questions of decline (that might have to do more with the decline of the Kings than with him — time will tell). John Salmons is 29 and can also opt-out of his contract in 2010.  He’s in his prime and will likely want to be paid, but figure he should be a strong performer for at least another 3-5 years, barring injury.  Hinrich is the next oldest at 28.

Basically, before trades commence, assuming people are resigned, this core group should be able to play together at a high level for at least 4 years before the pieces around Derek Rose start to age and decline.  And remember: Rose is only 20, while Noah, Thomas and Deng are all 23.  They’ve got a decade in them.

Do you think the Bulls can make it to the Finals next year?

All the players will be a year older and the only one on the “old man” watch will be Miller.  If you count Ben Gordan as resigned, you’ve got a quality 3-guard rotation.  If Deng is healthy, you’ve got a sick 1-2 punch at small forward.  While you’d like to see a low-post option added, rotating Thomas, Noah and Miller between power forward and center has been effective.  But the real question is, do you think the Bulls are better than:

Boston: Maybe they should’ve gotten past Boston, but Garnett was down.  Boston’s near-term title hopes center on how well Garnett can come back from injury.  Rajan Rondo made the jump to star during the play-offs, and he should help offset any age-based decline that might sink in with Ray Allen (another 2010 expiring contract).  Big Baby and Leon Powe have grown nicely and both are restricted free agents you’d think would be back.  Pierce can opt out of his contract in 2010, but you’d think have another 3-4 years in him (although he needs to rest this off-season — poor guy looked worn out).  The Celtics are positioned decently with expiring contracts to fill in holes, and their young talent could keep pace with the Bulls if they continue to mature.  A healthy Garnet at 85% and the Bulls don’t get past Boston.  If not, it’s a real series.  Rose and Rondo should get used to each other.

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