When Richard Hamilton’s Detroit Pistons won the 2004 NBA Championship, there were no superstars. Only center Ben Wallace made the All-Star Game from a team that won 54 games and Hamilton led the team at 17.6 points per game. He was the de-facto go-to scorer, though his 14.9 field goal attempts per game were 25th in the league.
That’s why the veteran, beginning his second year with the Bulls but the first time without Derrick Rose, knows that the Bulls offense can be successful without a high volume shooter and scorer.
“In this league, in order to be a great team you’ve got to have production from all the guys on the floor. You can’t just have one guy do the bulk of the scoring,” he said, “because good teams key on that and in the playoffs it’s hard to win like that. So in order for us to be good and successful, we all gotta be better. We all gotta help each other without Derrick and bring more of a team theme to win games.”
The Bulls are hoping to get some of that production from Carlos Boozer, who has looked impressive early in the preseason. The 30-year-old has averaged 13.2 points in just 24.5 minutes in six games. And though his scoring will be important for a team looking to make up Rose’s 21.8 points per game from a year ago, Hamilton has seen Boozer’s aggressiveness benefit the outside shooters as well.
“The more productive he is in the paint, it makes everybody’s job easier. Not just him scoring the ball, but him making plays,” Hamilton, averaging a team-high 14.8 points per game, said. “When we can get the ball down there, it makes the perimeter guys’ jobs a lot easier, because now the defense can’t just focus on guys on the perimeter. They’ve got to focus on guys down low.
The Bulls certainly will see production from small forward and 2012 All-Star Luol Deng, as well as Joakim Noah. That three-headed monster, coach Tom Thibodeau said, is essential for any team and the theory has not changed despite Rose’s absence.
“I think you always want three primary scorers, and that’s always been the case,” Thibodeau said. “It was the case when Derrick was here. So I think when you look at the game, your ability to try to make it hard on your opponent’s three primary scorers, they’re gonna try to make it hard on your three primary scorers.
“And then the responsibility of the primary scorer is when you’re 1-on-1, you want to score. When a second defender comes, he has a responsibility to hit the open man and make the right play. So there’s a lot of responsibility that comes along with being a primary scorer.”
Whether that primary scorer becomes Deng, who led the Bulls with 16.7 points per game when Rose sat, Boozer or Noah, expectations from outside have been lowered until that trio emerges.
But just as Hamilton saw it in Detroit, he has no problem with the Bulls flying under the radar without their proven go-to scorer and leader.
“We love it. We love it, because you love to be the underdog,” he said. “You love to do stuff when people don’t expect you to do anything. It makes you strive and go out and want it even more.