Bulls

All-Star Roundup: Chicago backcourt raring to go

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All-Star Roundup: Chicago backcourt raring to go

Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011Posted: 5:40 p.m. Updated: 9:08 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

LOS ANGELESAmidst all the hoopla and hullabaloo of the NBAs All-Star weekend, one Derrick Martell Rose remains unchanged. This isnt Chicago, where hes a hometown hero, but the surprisingly large smatterings of Rose jerseys in downtown L.A.and Bulls gear, in generalshows that the third-year guard has become a nationwide phenomenon, despite his low-key persona.

Its very exciting, being here at a young age, just going through this experience. Its great, I appreciate it and I feel blessed to be here, Rose said of the experience Saturday afternoon at the Los Angeles Convention Center, following practice for Sundays game. More appearances, more media, everything. I just have to get used to it now. Everything is going all right.

Its fun, just being here with my family, with my friends, just walking around, going shopping and stuff like that. So, its been all right.

As the starting point guard for the star-studded Eastern Conference team, Rose plans on distributing the ball to the likes of LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudemire and fellow Chicagoan Dwyane Wade, all big-time finishers.

Thats going to be crazy. We have a lot of other great players on our team, too, but I think that our starting five is just crazy, where anybody can just get it and push it up the courtexcept for Dwightbut it should be an exciting game. It should be very competitive, said Rose. My job is to pass the ball. I dont have to score in this game. Ive got a lot of great scorers on my team. Were going to play an up-tempo type game and its just going to be fun.

While Rose clearly plays a game that appeals to fans, he insists he doesnt truly grasp how to excel in a more exhibition-type setting.

Ive been in a couple all-star games, at any level, but Ive never won MVP or something like that. I dont know why. Its fun playing in them, but its just a regular game to me, said Rose.

Instead, Roses goal for Sunday mirrors what he does for the Bulls on most nights: Win. Try to do anything to win.

Just pass the ball, push the ball up the court, pass it ahead, do whatever, he continued. You do think about it entertaining the fans, but you do want to win. Trust me. Just being on that team last year, the way the guys were coming back to the huddle and seeing the way they were talking about defense and offense, they want to win that game.

Thats the biggest thing, winning this game.

Rose did acknowledge that his natural game will probably have spectators on their feet, whether at the Staples Center or in their living rooms.

I think the way that I play is an exciting way. A lot of moves that I do are exciting to some people, he admitted. Bringing that to the game, I know its going to be fun.

Regardless of what he tells the media, dont be shocked if Rose gives a little extra effort to make up for his inaugural All-Star appearance last year, when he wasnt completely healthy and received scant playing time.

I was very hurt, but I had to play. Somehow, I had to play in that game, no matter what, said Rose, who added that hes approaching this years contest as if it was his debut All-Star Game. Thats the way Im looking at it right now, where Im going to have an opportunity to play a lot of minutes and just try to take advantage of those minutes because of last year.

Rose briefly touched on his strategy for Saturday nights Taco Bell Skills Challenge (he won the event in 2009), in which hell compete against New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry.

Its going to be hard. The passing is hard. Youve just got to stay focused and try to make the right passes at the right time, explained Rose. You cant speed through the thing because youll end up messing up. Youve just got to take your time.

Looking ahead, Rose also talked about the impending return of center Joakim Noah following the All-Star break and how it would benefit the Bulls, particularly in transition and when opposing defenses key in on him.

Jo is a guy that, sometimes you see him pushing the break sometimes, handling the ball and I think another thing that hes going to bring to our team is his passing. Thats going to help our team, said Rose. Now, when teams double team comeKurt Thomas and those guys, theyve been doing a great jobbut Jo, he does a great job, too, and he can finish at the rim sometimes, if theyre playing his passing too well.

Rivers touts Rose as early MVP favorite

Eastern Conference head coach Doc Rivers joked about playing Roseas well as Orlandos Howard and Miamis trio of James, Wade and Chris Bosh47 minutes each Sunday, while playing his own quartet of Celtics (Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo) a minute apiece.

Rivers got serious, however, when discussing the Bulls and specifically Rose.

The Bulls have the MVP. They do. Derrick Rose, in my opinionright now, if I had to votehes the MVP of the league, said Rivers. When you have one on your team, especially with all the other guys and what Thibs is doing, theyre right in there. They can beat us and we can beat them. Its going to be tough.

Still, although hes partial to former Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau, Rivers somewhat surprisingly gave his midseason coach of the year vote to another coach with Chicago ties.

Thibs is always the Coach of the Year because hes my favorite guy, said Rivers. But actually, I would probably vote for current Philadelphia 76ers and former Bulls head coach Doug Collins, as crazy as that sounds. But Thibs would be right up there, too.

Rivers, a native of Maywood, Ill.just on the outskirts of Chicagoalso discussed coaching a starting All-Star backcourt consisting of two Windy City natives.

You know, I didnt even think about that," said Rivers. "Thats going to be pretty cool. That is good. Theyre both very athletic. We talk about it all the time, me and D-Wade, and now Rose, same thing. Chicago guys, they all stick together, they all know where each other are from and its just really neat. I think that its the best city, as far as basketball.

Wade honored Chicago backcourt to start for East

Unlike Rivers, Wade was more than aware of the significance of two Chicagoansboth South Sidersstarting in the East backcourt.

Its great for our city, for Chicagoa great city that doesnt get as much pub as other citiesto look and see that weve got two guys that start in the All-Star Game in the backcourt, said Wade, a graduate of Richards High School in Chicagos south suburbs. Rose has figured it out. Hes figured out how good he can be in this league and hes a bonafide All-Star for many, many years to come. I didnt know Derrick growing up in Chicago, but as a Chicago guy, I know how tough it is, how rough it is to grow up there, but Im proud of him and Im happy for him.

I know itll be dynamic. When I look out there before the game, Im going to say something to him, to look and see, This is big for where we come from, he continued. To have two guys from Chicago starting in the backcourt of the All-Star Game, thats an honor. We represent a lot of guys from Chicago thats going to be back there looking at this game, thats happy and excited for both of us. I will make sure I mention that to him and let him know that this is an honor for us to be here together, and Im glad that we could do it.

Wade also touched on his brief summer dalliance with the Bulls during free agency last offseason, when he considered pairing up with Rose and returning to his hometown.

Of course I broke it down to see would it work with both of us in the backcourt, with two guys that need the ball a lot, two guys that arent necessarily as proven shooters as other guys. But then I thought, Man, it would be dynamic, as well," said Wade. "Two guys that can break a defense down, two guys that can finish, etc. And then being my hometown."

That kid Rose is going to be great for a long time and you dont get the chance to play with too many great point guards too much," the 2010 All-Star Game MVP added. "That was very tempting to me.

Bulls legend impressed with Bulls, Noah

CSNChicago.com briefly caught up with former Bulls legend Artis Gilmore, who is in town for the festivities. The 7-foot-4 Gilmore still keeps up with the Bulls and is optimistic about their chances this season.

With Derrick Rose and with the addition of Carlos Boozerof course he started off injuredI think theyre playing extremely well right now and with Joakim Noah getting healthy, theyve got a chance to really excel and have success, Gilmore told CSNChicago.com. Certainly, nobody gave them an opportunity to pass the Celtics, the Magic and Miami, but I think theyre right there.

Gilmore is impressed with the development of Noah, likely the Bulls best at his position since his own playing days.

Jo has really developed and grown. He has really improved. Hes turned into an outstanding athlete, said Gilmore. I watched him in the 2009 first-round playoff series when they had an opportunity to beat Boston and they came up a little short, but they took them to a seven-game series. I watched the same sequence and saw his growth, where he would miss a layup in Noahs rookies season and in his second year, he really took it with force and the ball would go in. Every possession counts so much in the playoffs.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-4544-23, and 22-6.

5. Jordan wins fourth title and finishes greatest individual season ever, June 16, 1996

It’s hard to comprehend just how much Jordan accomplished during the 1995-96 season. We’ll try:He won his fourth championship, was named NBA Finals MVP for a record fourth time, won All-Star Game MVP, won a record 72 games, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, was the league’s leading scorer and became the Bulls’ all-time leader in games played. So when he dropped a casual 22 points in Game 6, it marked the end of one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Oh, and Space Jam came out a few months later.
 
4. Jordan hits six triples, scores 35 points in first half against Blazers, June 3, 1992

During the 1991-92 regular season, Jordan never made more than three 3-pointers in a single game. In fact, the most 3-pointers he had in any two-game stretch that year was four. So when he began burying triple after triple in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, even Jordan couldn’t believe it, giving a shrug toward the NBC announcers as if to say, “I don’t know, either.” Jordan finished the first half with six triples and scored an NBA-record 35 points. The Bulls cruised in the second half, so Jordan finished with only 39, but his shrug remains one of the most iconic NBA Finals moments in history.
 
3. Jordan battles the flu, scores 38 in Game 5 on his way to fifth title, June 11, 1997

The Flu Game. Jordan was battling a nasty illness in the lead-up to a pivotal Game 5 in Utah, and there were concerns about whether he would even suit up. Hours before tip Jordan got out of bed and made his way to the arena, looking to halt Utah’s momentum after it had taken Games 3 and 4 to tie the series. The Jazz came out red-hot while Jordan looked sluggish, but he responded with 17 points in the second quarter alone to give the Bulls a halftime lead. Jordan then keyed a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to erase a Jazz lead, and he hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls a three-point lead. The Bulls hung on, and Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen’s arms walking off the floor. His final line? 38 points, 13 of 27 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Two days later the Bulls won the title in front of a sellout Chicago crowd.

2. Jordan scores 63 points against Celtics in playoff loss, April 20, 1986

Jordan had just turned 23 years old when he took to the Boston Garden floor to face Larry Bird in his prime and the Celtics. These Celtics had gone 40-1 at home, led the NBA in field goal percentage defense, started FOUR future Hall of Famers and had a fifth come off the bench. They would ultimately go down as one of the all-time greatest teams, and Jordan made them look absolutely silly. He played 50 minutes in the double-overtime thriller, shooting 22 of 41 from the field and making 19 of 21 free throws, including the last two with no time on the clock and the Bulls trailing by two at the end of regulation. He scored 54 in regulation, added five in the first overtime and four in the second. He also led the Bulls with six assists. It still stands as the NBA record for most points in any playoff game. Twenty-three years old. Twenty. Three.

1. Jordan scores 45 in final game with the Bulls, securing sixth championship, June 14, 1998

Jordan’s final game with the Bulls was iconic. Like so many of these moments, die hards know exactly where they were. The 45 points were majestic, and while he only had one rebound and one assist he affected just about every possession on both ends. But what we’ll remember most is the final 37 seconds. Jordan drove to the basket for layup that cut Utah’s lead to one, then stripped Karl Malone from behind on the next trip down. That gave the ball back to the Bulls with 20 seconds left. Jordan let the clock tick down to around 9 seconds before making his move from the left wing, driving right on Bryon Russell, (maybe pushing off) and pulling up for a jumper at the foul line. The shot was good with 5.2 seconds remaining, and John Stockton’s ensuing 3-pointer was off the mark. It gave Jordan and the Bulls their sixth NBA title, and marked the perfect ending to his Bulls career: getting it done on both ends, in the clutch, and finishing with a victory. Because it encapsulated so much of his 14-year career in Chicago, it’s our top Michael Jordan moment.

Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn have moments in highlight-filled rising stars challenge

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn have moments in highlight-filled rising stars challenge

LOS ANGELES—Kris Dunn wanted to have some fun in the Rising Stars game while Lauri Markkanen wanted to get a win.

Both accomplished their goals, being on opposite sides for the first time as the best first and second year players were divided into U.S. and International teams, with the World Team winning 155-124 Friday night at Staples Center.

It wasn’t set up for either Dunn or Markkanen to truly stand out considering the presence of Lakers and Celtics players who were more notable and flashy, along with the spectacular exploits of rookies Donovan Mitchell (Utah) and Dennis Smith Jr (Denver).

Those two certainly wowed the crowd at times with half-court alley-oop passes, giving a preview of what Saturday night will look like, considering both will be in the dunk contest.

Dunn scored nine points in 18 minutes while Markkanen scored 15 in 22 minutes. Both came off the bench, ceding to the likes of Sacramento’s Buddy Hield (29 points) and Bogdan Bogdanovic, who turned the game into his own 3-point showcase with 30-foot bombs, hitting seven triples for 26 points off the bench.

Boston’s Jaylen Brown led all scorers with 35 points and 10 rebounds, playing for the U.S. team, showing his entire bag of tricks with spectacular dunks and dribble moves for jumpers.

Markkanen had his moments in the “game within a game” category. When prompted by World coach Rex Kalamian that the first player to get a block would get $100, Markkanen tipped the next shot at the rim and pointed to the scorer’s table, but wasn’t credited with the block.

However, he felt like he got his pound of flesh with Dunn on a tip-dunk. The two didn’t have their moment

“I almost jumped over his head. That counts,” he joked.

Dunn made sure that although he and Markkanen were on opposite sides that he remained Markkanen’s biggest fan.

When asked who was his pick for rookie of the year, he repeatedly said “Lauri Markkanen”, over the likes of Mitchell and Kyle Kuzma from the Lakers, another standout rookie.

His reasoning was simple.

“Why? He hit eight threes in Madison Square Garden,” Dunn said, half-jokingly.

Half-jokingly.

“For Lauri to be a rookie and have so much confidence in himself and to play in big time games, especially at Madison Square Garden. I’m gonna keep bringing that game up. Because He had eight three’s. You don’t see that too mnay times. Lauri is a big player for us,” Dunn said.

Markkanen probably won’t win the award but to see Dunn so steadfastly support his teammate in this way is a good sign for a budding relationship, despite the light moments of competitiveness where Dunn said he wanted to take advantage of Markkanen on the perimeter.

Markkanen’s game has been aided by Dunn on the floor and one could see how the quality of looks Markkanen had in the past few weeks suffered with Dunn out due to a concussion.

Dunn’s turnaround directly led to the Bulls turning around their season in December, and he remembers what he was doing this time last year at the All-Star break when he wasn’t selected to be part of the rookie challenge.

“Thibs had me in the gym,” Dunn said.

It seemed unlikely but he’s rebounded nicely, being a shoo-in for 15 points, eight assists and two steals on a nightly basis. Turning the corner has been a bright spot in the season.

“I wouldn’t say a specific game but each and every game I started to get more comfortable, not with myself but with my team,” Dunn said. “Being a point guard, you gotta build that chemistry with your teammates and try to figure out where everybody needs the ball. How you can be aggressive and lead at the same time.”