Bulls

Beyond the Arc: Is Rose MVP at quarter pole?

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Beyond the Arc: Is Rose MVP at quarter pole?

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
10:58 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

With most NBA teams about a quarter of a way through their schedules, its become apparent Derrick Rose wasnt kidding when he asked reporters on media day, Why cant I be the best player in the league?

Derrick ranks among the league leaders in both scoring and assists, almost single-handedly carrying the Bulls to first place in the Central Division.

How would you rank Derrick among the leagues M.V.P. candidates? Are you surprised at how quickly hes advanced to the superstar level? Do the Bulls even need another All-Star caliber player to contend for the Eastern Conference championship? Please post your comments in the section below.

Even after taking off my Rose-colored glasses, and putting aside the fact I get the chance to watch every second of his games, I find it impossible not to put Derrick among my top M.V.P. choices after the opening 20-25 games. With Kobe Bryant not putting up his customary numbers for the Lakers, and LeBron James sacrificing some of his offense by playing with the new Big 3 in Miami, the race for M.V.P. could be more wide open than its been in years.

Oklahoma Citys Kevin Durant was supposed to emerge as an M.V.P. candidate this season, but he got off to a slow start with the Thunder. Yes, Durant is leading the league in scoring, but hes shooting a poor percentage from the field, and Oklahoma City hasnt taken the step a lot of the experts predicted in terms of being the Lakers top challenger in the West. Matter of fact, you could make the argument that Durant isnt even the best player on his own team, with Russell Westbrook having a bigger impact on both ends of the court.

Right now, my top M.V.P. candidates would be Derrick, Amare Stoudemire, Dwight Howard and Dirk Nowitzki. San Antonio has the best record in the NBA, but no clear-cut number one star. Tim Duncan has slowed down with age, and even though Manu Ginobili is back to All-Star form, hes hardly an M.V.P. candidate. Similar story with the best team in the East. Boston has a share-the-wealth offense, and youd probably have to say NBA assists leader Rajon Rondo is their most valuable player at this point.

Nowitzki has led the Mavericks to the NBAS longest winning streak this season, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Hes right behind Rose in the league scoring race, and always seems to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line.

Similarly, Howard has been able to keep Orlando near the top of the East despite the fact a lot of the teams perimeter shooters are off to slow starts. Howard has increased his scoring average, while still playing game-changing defense. The Magic lead the league in fewest points allowed, and Howard is the single biggest reason, with his ability to block and alter shots.

Stoudemire has been a revelation for the Knicks, who were criticized around the league for giving a five-year, 100 million contract to a player with bad knees and a sometimes questionable attitude. Stoudemire just established a Knicks franchise record by scoring 30 points or more in eight straight games - all Knicks wins. New York looks like a lock for the playoffs, and if theyre able to work out a trade with Denver for Carmelo Anthony, watch out.

But after saying all that, my M.V.P. vote at the quarter pole would go to Rose. Not only has he dramatically improved his outside shooting and scoring, hes also done a much better job of directing the teams offense. Rose is averaging eight assists a game, even without having low post threat Carlos Boozer in the lineup for the first 15 games.

When Derrick goes to the bench for a few minutes of rest, the difference in the teams offense is obvious. The Bulls have trouble getting into their sets, and run the shot clock down to the final seconds looking for an open shooter. And, when Rose returns, the defense immediately has to alter its approach, trying to keep him from getting into the paint where he can do the most damage.

Having Rose on the court makes everyone in the Bulls line-up more dangerous, especially Kyle Korver. Hes been a huge factor in the fourth quarter of recent games, getting open shots because of all the defensive attention on Rose, and to a lesser extent, Boozer. The Bulls schedule for the rest of the month is filled with teams that have losing records. It will be interesting to see what kind of record theyll be able to carry into the New Year.

Carmelo's Power Play

In case you missed it, Carmelo Anthony played at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon, scoring 31 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a 129-125 loss to the Knicks. The fans at MSG gave Melo a standing ovation when he was introduced before the game, letting him know how much theyd love to see him in a Knicks uniform. And, Knicks fans might get their wish sooner than they expected.

Carmelo and his representatives basically told Denver management that hell only sign a contract extension if hes traded to the Knicks. Forget about staying in Denver, or going to the Bulls, Nets, Magic or Rockets. Anthony and his celebrity wife only want to play on the biggest stage in New York, and if Nuggets management cant work out a deal, Melo will just play out his contract and go to the Knicks as a free agent this summer.

Denver General Manager Masai Ujiri thought he could always turn back to a proposed trade with New Jersey for rookie Derrick Favors, two first-round draft picks, and Troy Murphys expiring contract if he couldnt find a better deal elsewhere. Or even consider a Bulls package of Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, James Johnson and a first rounder.

Now, it looks like the Knicks or bust. And, after working in Toronto where that franchise was held hostage by Chris Boshs upcoming free agency, Ujiri knows he cant let Anthony walk away for nothing in the summer. So, look for the Nuggets to eventually accept a Knicks package that includes Eddy Currys expiring contract, Danilo Gallinari, possibly Wilson Chandler or Anthony Randolph and a first-round draft pick the Knicks would need to acquire from a third team.

That type of deal would create another contending team in the East, with Carmelo giving the Knicks a big-time scorer to go along with Stoudemire and much-improved point guard Raymond Felton. All of a sudden, the balance of power in the NBA is shifting East, with a revitalized Knicks team possibly joining the Celtics, Heat, Magic, Bulls and Hawks as potential 50-win teams.

At this point, would you even want to see the Bulls make another bid for Anthony? Or, do you think this Bulls team as currently constructed can compete with the Easts elite teams in the playoffs THIS season?

Should the Bulls consider making a slightly smaller deal to add a scoring threat at the shooting guard position like Jason Richardson, Richard Hamilton or O.J. Mayo?

As always, we appreciate your input. Please post your comments in the section below. It should be a lot of fun this December as we get ready to gift-wrap holiday presents while the Bulls prepare to gift-wrap victories against a very favorable schedule the rest of the month. Enjoy the hoops!

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.