Bulls

Bulls fans will witness passing of torch

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Bulls fans will witness passing of torch

Monday, April 4, 2011
Posted: 4:45 p.m.

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

When the Bulls host Phoenix Tuesday night, the game will mean more than just a chance to move closer to wrapping up the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The sellout crowd at the United Center will get a chance to watch two-time league MVP Steve Nash pass the point guard torch to Derrick Rose, who looks like a lock to win his first Most Valuable Player award this season.

Where does Nash rank on your list of all-time point guards? And, how long will it take for Rose to join the ranks of Nash, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, John Stockton and Oscar Robertson on the list of all-time greats at the position? Please post your comments in the section below.

READ: Season winds down, Bulls playoff picture heats up

Nash has been an amazing story, arriving in Phoenix as an undersized, virtually unknown 1st round draft pick out of Santa Clara. Nash played behind Kevin Johnson when he came into the league, and the Suns eventually traded him to Dallas, where he teamed with Dirk Nowitzki to turn the Mavericks into a Western Conference contender. Then, Mavs owner Mark Cuban decided not to offer Nash a long-term contract when he hit free agency, figuring his skills would start to decline in his 30s. Instead, Nash returned to Phoenix, and won back-to-back MVP awards, directing the leagues most prolific offense.

Now at age 37, Nash is close to the end of the line, and Rose has replaced him as the leagues best point guard. Sure, there were other presumed successors to Nashs crown like Chris Paul and Deron Williams, but Paul broke down physically and Williams star lost a lot of its luster from his involvement with Jerry Sloans departure in Utah and subsequent trade to New Jersey. Now, its Rose, Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo rising to the top of the point guard class, and plenty of talented young guys right behind them like John Wall, Brandon Jennings and Stephen Curry.

Back to Nash, its amazing how big a role he played in the Suns success. Nash has missed 32 games since he rejoined Phoenix in 2004-05. The Suns are 10-22 (.313) over that span in games without Nash, compared to 359-177 (.670) in games Nash has played. Thats what being an MVP is all about.

Rose is clearly irreplaceable with the Bulls. Despite the fact either Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer has been out with injuries for most of the season, Rose has carried the Bulls to the best record in the East and 2nd best record overall in the league. Hes the only player in the NBA to rank in the top 10 in both scoring and assists, something Nash never did during his MVP seasons in Phoenix. And, Derricks work ethic and desire to win have rubbed off on his teammates, taking them to new heights.

READ: Bulls' Rodman, Winter, Gilmore in Hall of Fame

Nash missed the Suns game against San Antonio Sunday because of the flu, but head coach Alvin Gentry says Nash should be able to go against the Bulls. And, lets hope thats the case, because its only fitting that Rose would wrap up his first MVP season with another vintage performance against Nash. During Derricks brief three-year career, hes led the Bulls to four wins over Phoenix in five tries, averaging 26.8 points and 6.4 assists, compared to Nashs 13 points and 9.6 assists. Who knows, maybe Nash will decide he cant play against the Bulls Tuesday, not because of the flu, but because of a severe case of Rose-itis.

So, when youre enjoying the Bulls-Suns game Tuesday night, think about the amazing rise of Derrick Rose. Hes gone from Rookie of the Year to All-Star reserve to the presumed league MVP in the span of three years, and remember the best is still to come. Derrick is only 22!

So, where do Nash and Rose rank among the list of best point guards of all-time? Please post your comments in the section below.

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.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

There's not often hype surrounding a game between two of the NBA's worst teams, but Tuesday's Bulls-Lakers matchup was intriguing to many because it offered a chance to see a pair of top rookies compete. 

Oh, but you didn't think we meant Lonzo Ball and Lauri Markkanen, did you?

Nah, it was two different, less-touted first-year players that ended up stealing the spotlight at the Staples Center. 

Kyle Kuzma and Antonio Blakeney may not be household names, but they sure played like they were in the Bulls' 103-94 loss. 

Kuzma, the Lakers rook drafted 27th overall, has been a spark for Luke Walton's squad all season long. Boasting a terrific scoring arsenal, the Utah product carried the load for the Lakers' offense in the first half, dropping 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He finished the game as L.A.'s leading scorer with 22 in 40 minutes. But if you still need a more in-depth scouting report on Kuzma, just let Lonzo break it down:  

More importantly for Bulls fans, though, was the play of their undrafted guard who's signed to a two-way deal. 

Blakeney, the unofficial Summer League MVP, came off the bench on Tuesday and immediately left his mark on the game. The 21-year-old out of LSU posted 15 in the first half, finishing through contact as well as connecting on outside jumpers. 

Blakeney's shooting isn't reliable quite yet, but his energy has clearly influenced Hoiberg's rotation. The guard went from playing one NBA minute in the Bulls' first 11 games to playing 75 in the last four. Given that his two-way deal allows him to only spend 45 days with the team, it'll be fascinating to see how creative Gar Forman and John Paxson will get with his contract if this type of production continues. 

In a season that's obviously going to have its share of rough moments, an offseason flyer hitting is a huge plus for the rebuild. 

As for the recognized rookies, Lonzo's shooting woes persisted and Markkanen had maybe his worst offensive performance of his young Bulls career. Combined, they finished 7-for-30 with 21 points. Not ideal. 

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

The Zach LaVine comeback is one step closer as the shooting guard was cleared for contact practice after checking with his doctors in California. 

LaVine will go through a step by step process over the next few weeks and the Bulls will gauge his progress to see when the best time for his return will be. 

But, given the nine-month process from his ACL injury he suffered in February, he's right on track and there doesn't appear to be any setbacks. 

"There’s no real timeframe, I guess," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said at practice Monday. "It’s really going to be on how he feels. We’ll try to do a little more every day with him. We did a little bit, got him some light contact today just to get the process started.

"He’ll be able to play a little two-on-two with not a lot of practice time these next 10 days. But we’ll throw him out there and continue to try to get him feeling better. There’s going to be a mental hurdle that he’s going to have to clear as well. I know he’s excited. His teammates are excited and the coaches are obviously excited as well."

LaVine's recovery has gone as planned since his arrival in Chicago from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night. Targeting a mid-December return seems realistic but of course, the Bulls will take every precaution to make sure he's healthy for the long term, both for LaVine and the franchise, as he's a restricted free agent this summer--and they have no plans on letting him walk. 

LaVine told NBC Sports Chicago recently that he wants to get on the floor immediately but the Bulls know they'll have to protect him from himself in the meantime. 

"He’s going to have to string together a lot of really good days, and he knows that," Hoiberg said. "He understands that. The important thing is he’s right on track from where it was said after the injury. He’s been doing a great job with his rehab. He’s on time. He’s doing everything that’s asked of him. His strength numbers are where they’re supposed to be. I’m confident he’s going to keep making progress. But we’ll absolutely monitor it daily and hopefully it’ll just continue to get better."

The Bulls aren't sure if they'll send LaVine to the G-League but it's certain they have plans on not only how to use him when he steps on the floor but also a regimen they've stuck to, to ensure there are no real setbacks. 

Hoiberg has been salivating over having a true scorer at that position since trading for him, and LaVine has been eager since his arrival to prove to the Bulls and fans that he is a franchise player. 

Prudence in the moment of progression, though, appears to be the approach taken by both sides.