Bulls bounce back in big way as bench sparks blowout win over Mavs


Bulls bounce back in big way as bench sparks blowout win over Mavs

My, how things can change over the course of two days. After an early-season controversy about how Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau distributes his minutesin Monday nights stunning home loss to Milwaukee, the popular opinion was that the Bulls starters played too many minutesto a dominating performance by the teams bench on Wednesday, the tenor surrounding the Bulls (7-7) has dramatically changed, following a 101-76 victory over the Mavericks (7-9) at the United Center.

Ive been around forever, so Ive experienced everything you can experience in this league. Ive been part of expansion teams, Ive been a part of championship teams, Ive been part of teams that have dealt with injuries, so its all part of an NBA season and how you function, and to me, I dont want to change the process of what we have in place, Thibodeau said, foreshadowing his teams drastic improvement, after the teams morning shootaround Wednesday at the Berto Center.

I have the belief that we can get it done, I do, and when you go back and look at all the games this season, weve been in position game to win. With the exception of the Clipper game a blowout defeat on the road, every game was there to be had.

With both teams playing without an injured superstarin the case of the visitors, future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki is out indefinitely with knee issues, while point guard Darren Collison missed the contest with a finger injuryand below their usual standards, it was a close-knit affair at the outset, especially because each squad was coming off a gut-wrenching defeat in their previous outing.

Veteran forward Shawn Marion (18 points), a Chicago-area native, got off to quick start for the Mavericks, utilizing his unorthodox and active game, and was complemented by the low-post play of center Chris Kaman, as well as fill-in starter Dominque Jones, who played in place of Collison.

For the Bulls, the tandem of Luol Deng (22 points, six rebounds) and Joakim Noah (13 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, three blocked shots) were effective early, but as production from their teammates was virtually nonexistent and Dallas managed to manufacture quality looks on offense, the hosts fell behind.

However, the defensive effort picked up and Deng took it upon himself to carry more of the scoring load, leading the Bulls to go on a 13-4 to close the opening period and overtake their guests en route to a 24-23 score through the end of a quarter.

The Bulls much-maligned bench rose to the occasion as the second quarter began, starting with backup shooting guard Marco Belinelli (11 points), mired in a shooting slump all season, got the home crowd excited by knocking down his first shot.

The likes of holdover reserve Taj Gibson (eight points, eight rebounds), instant-offense scorer Nate Robinson (14 points, six assists) and second-year swingman Jimmy Butler (13 points) also got going, helping the hosts extend their lead to double digits.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau rode his second unit, giving him the added benefit of resting his starters after they played the vast majority of the teams last game, and it resulted in a comfortable winning margin. Defense also remained a constant for the Bulls and at the intermission, they held a 58-42 halftime advantage.

After the break, the Bulls dominance persisted, as the team continued to have an outstanding rhythm on offense, leading to quality shots and a gaudy field-goal percentage. Defensively, they put the clamps on the high-scoring and potentially explosive Mavericks, who couldnt manage much offense outside of Marions consistent point production.

As Dengs scoring and Noahs interior play propelled the starters, who were buoyed by Robinsons energy off the bench, the Bulls kept a steady grip on their ever-growing winning margin.

Solid play from Butler, Belinelli and Gibson ensured that they kept rolling and heading into the final stanza, the hosts were ahead, 77-58.

Unlike their last outing, the Bulls didnt let up as the contest waned on, maintaining both their focus and stranglehold on the contest as the fourth quarter opened. Thibodeau rode his productive second unit, led by Robinsonthe diminutive point guard was the catalyst with his electric blend of scoring and playmakingand Butler, who was effective in transition and as a slasher.

When Deng, the leagues minutes-per-game leader, finally exited the game, it became evident that the Bulls would coast, but upon the entrance of seldom-used backups like rookie Marquis Teague and veteran forward Vladimir Radmanovic, it was official.

If the Bulls loyalists were disgruntled prior to the contest, they certainly got their moneys worthand then someas backup center Nazr Mohammeds follow-up dunk in the final seconds put them over the century mark, giving them free Big Macs to go along with the win.

Its the NBA, so if you win by a lot or you lose by a lot, youve got to get ready for the next game. So, your approach cant change, Thibodeau said in the morning, before launching into a critique of the media that seems apt after the victory.

Well, you guys have got to pick your week. Last week, I wasnt playing the starters enough. Now, Im playing them too much. I just try to stay consistent. The important thing is to study the team, study each game, get ready for the next one, try to keep the team moving in the right direction and you dont want to get too high, you dont want to get too low. You just want to study, get better, improve.

Welcome back: Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk's 'best medicine'


Welcome back: Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk's 'best medicine'

ST. LOUIS – Eddie Olczyk’s morning at Scottrade Center was full of hugs and handshakes, of questions and encouraging words, of smiles and even some tears.

It was a busy morning but a good one for Olczyk, who Wednesday night will do his first hockey broadcast since being diagnosed with colon cancer in August. For the first time in a while, Olczyk felt like himself.

“It feels normal. It feels comfortable,” said Olczyk, who will be alongside Doc Emrick when the Blackhawks face the St. Louis Blues. “I just feel invigorated. Seeing a lot of familiar faces, guys busting chops and a lot of well wishes.”

Olczyk went through his usual game-day routine, including quick chats with Blackhawks players following skate. On Wednesday those talks were that much more special, for both sides.

“Great to see him,” said Ryan Hartman. “When I first saw I was pretty excited to see him back. It’s definitely a presence you know when you’re watching games, that voice you heard growing up. He looks good, looks healthy. He’s in a battle but he looks really good.”

Olczyk will also be in the booth on Thursday night when the Blackhawks host the Edmonton Oilers. Past that, he’ll play it by ear. He’s talked to NBC and Blackhawks president John McDonough, who Olczyk said gave him an “open canvas” in terms of scheduling. If Olczyk feels good on Saturday and the Blackhawks play on Sunday, he’ll try to get back in the booth.

“We think about him every day and we’ve had the pleasure of having him come by a couple of times. Having him be here today for a road game is great to know,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “But he has a tough battle ahead of him and he’s doing everything he can to fight it. We support him every single day.”

Olczyk started chemotherapy treatments in September and he has his good and bad days. Those will continue for a while. So will his fight to completely beat this. But for at least the next two nights Olczyk gets to return to a normal routine, and that’s the perfect panacea for a trying time.

“I’m overwhelmed with everybody,” Olczyk said. “But this is the best medicine I’ve had in a long time.”

Lauri Markkanen will start in his NBA debut; how have other Bulls fared doing so?

Lauri Markkanen will start in his NBA debut; how have other Bulls fared doing so?

One of the fallouts from the fight between Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic is that it unfortunately leaves a void at power forward for the Bulls.

Mirotic suffered a concussion and multiple facial fractures, while Bobby Portis was suspended for eight games on Wednesday. Both players will be out until the calendar flips to November, opening up minutes at power forward.

In the short-term, at least, the starting role will be filled by Lauri Markkanen, Hoiberg said.

Markkanen will join a list of eight other Bulls who started in their NBA debuts. Before Markkanen takes the floor tomorrow in Toronto, here's a look at those other rookies fared.

1983: Ennis Whatley, PG

The first underclassman selected in the 1983 NBA Draft (13th overall), Whatley scored six point on 3 of 6 shooting and tallied eight assists and two steals in his debut. He committed four turnovers but it didn't hurt the Bulls in their 104-97 win over the New Jersey Nets. Whatley wound up setting the Bulls rookie record for assists in a year (662; 8.3 per game) but was traded after two seasons due to substance abuse.

1984: Michael Jordan, SG

The highly anticipated debut of the Bulls' future was inauspicious. Jordan scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, but he did stuff the box score: he added six rebounds, seven assists, two steals and four blocks in a team-high 40 minutes. The Bulls, led by Orlando Woolridge and Quintin Dailey, cruised to a 109-93 win over the Bullets. Jordan bounced back nicely, though, averaging 28.2 points in the following 14 games. You know the rest.

1999: Elton Brand

Brand debuted against the Knicks on Opening Night, scoring 14 points on 3-for-11 shooting. He went 8-for-10 from the free throw line and added to his line with eight rebounds and two blocks in 35 minutes. The Bulls, entering some of the uglier days in franchise history, lost to the Knicks, 84-74. Brand wound up splitting Rookie of the Year honors with Steve Francis, averaging a double-double (20.1 points, 10.0 rebounds) for the 17-65 Bulls. He was traded for high school star Tyson Chandler a year later.

2000: Khalid El-Amin

The only second-round pick on this list, El-Amin started at point guard against a Kings team that wound up winning 57 games. El-Amin held his own in the 100-81 loss, scoring 11 points and handing out three assists in 27 minutes. He shot 4-for-7 and connected on his only 3-point attempt. It was one of 14 games El-Amin started before being replaced by none other than Fred Hoiberg. It was El-Amin's only season in the NBA.

2002: Jay Williams

What could have been. The No, 2 pick in the 2002 NBA Draft shined in his NBA debut, going for 13 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in 33 minutes. The Bulls topped the eventually playoff-bound Celtics, 99-96. Williams played 75 games as a rookie, averaging 9.5 points and 4.7 assists. A motorcycle accident that following offseason derailed his career far too soon.

2004: Andres Nocioni

Nocioni signed as an undrafted free agent in 2004, and the 25-year-old was ready to play out of the gates. His 17 points were the most of anyone's debut on this list, but he shot 5-for-19 and committed five turnovers in 42 minutes. It wasn't all bad, though, as he grabbed 14 rebounds and had two steals before fouling out in the final minute of double overtime against the Nets. The Bulls fell, 111-106. Nocioni struggled in his rookie season after that, finishing with averages of 8.4 points and 4.8 rebounds.

2004: Ben Gordon

Not exactly the greatest debut for the 3rd pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. Gordon missed all six of his shots from the field and made three free throws in 17 minutes. That was it outside of one turnover and one personal foul. And there's some irony in the fact that Gordon started this game; he only started two other games that rookie season, and was named the Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 15.1 points on 40.5 percent shooting from deep.

2008: Derrick Rose

It was a quiet debut for the eventual Rookie of the Year. Rose, the overall No. 1 pick that June, scored 11 points on 3-for-9 shooting and handed out nine assists in the Bulls' win over the Bucks. Rose went on to average 16.8 points and 6.3 assists in 37.0 minutes that season, and he'd be named an All-Star the following three seasons after that. Ah, the good ol' days.