Bulls

Bulls reflect on successful 4-3 circus trip

316503.jpg

Bulls reflect on successful 4-3 circus trip

Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010
1:05 PM
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

With their successful 4-3 record over the course of the dreaded circus trip, the franchise's first winning record on the annual road swing since the 1997-98 campaign, the final year of the championship dynasty, one would imagine the Bulls are riding high, content with their success and experiencing burgeoning confidence with the imminent return of power forward Carlos Boozer on the horizon. Think again.

"You're looking at everything, so there's some things we're doing well, some things that we're below average in that we have to clean up, but we also want to keep adding to the foundation that we're building. So, there's a lot of work to be done," said Tom Thibodeau.

"Overall, I thought we played fairly well on the circus trip. We still have a lot of work to do and quite frankly, we don't want to look backwards; we want to look ahead and get ready for Orlando."

"I think we play hard, we're playing unselfishly. Our readiness to play, I'm still concerned about that. We're getting in holes to start games," the never-satisfied rookie head coach added. "In the NBA, you can find something every night, if you're looking for something what you'd like is to have the mental toughness and the belief that you can win under any circumstances. If you're doing the right things, you should have a chance to win."

Thibodeau's philosophy clearly has rubbed off on the team, which has displayed outstanding determination despite a disturbing tendency to have to make uphill climbs after allowing huge deficits even in the face of extreme fatigue, such as on the aforementioned West Coast trip.

"We feel like we let some games get away, truthfully. We felt like at San Antonio, we had a great opportunity to get a win. Denver, unfortunately, they knocked down a last-second shot," reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer told CSNChicago.com. "I wouldn't say we're satisfied, but we came into practice Monday working hard, trying to get better and we're getting back at it."

"I definitely could tell the Bulls were tired, but we're the type of team that's going to keep fighting throughout the whole game play defense toward the end of the Sacramento game but we can't dig ourselves a hole like that in the beginning because it takes too much energy out of us. Against a good team, they're not going to let us come back. Not to take anything away from them, but a veteran team, they wouldn't let us come back in the game," added Derrick Rose after Saturday's win to conclude the trip.

When told that this season's squad had accomplished something that hasn't been done since the days of Michael Jordan, Rose had a practical response.

"That's good, but it's still early in the season. If anything, I want you to say we were close to that team at the end of our season. Making it past the first round of the playoffs we're not looking ahead that far," added Rose. "We're just balling right now. We know that we've got a decent team and the coaching staff is doing great preparing for the games, Thibs is doing great in practice making sure we play hard every single time and we're holding ourselves accountable on the court, so I think that's a good thing."

Even though they're being tough self-critics, the Bulls are proud of their performance, setting the stage for them to enter December with a winning record and one of their key players in Boozer expected to make his debut soon.

"I'm excited. We've got a very good group of guys. We go on a road trip like that and take on some very good teams championship-level teams lost a couple of close games to those teams that we thought we had a chance to win in our opinion," observed Boozer, who had a courtside view for the entire trip and is arguably the team's biggest sideline cheerleader. "When we get back full force, we should be something to reckon with."

"I think a lot of people in the NBA overlook just your team getting along together off the court. I think a lot of the times, you put a bunch of individuals together just because of what they're capable of doing on the court. I just think our chemistry on and off the court has been unbelievable and this trip has been great for that," said Luol Deng. "Every team has things that they've got to correct. I'm not saying that's our only issue there's a lot of stuff we've got to correct but I really believe we're going to keep trying to make it better. We're going to keep working on it, keep working in practice and try to avoid that."

"Honestly, I think Coach did a good job of getting our mind off that the circus trip as a whole. In the past, it was just what everybody talked about and I think Coach did a good job this year. We took it one game at a time. It didn't feel like the circus trip; that wasn't our mindset. That's just the right way to attack it," continued the team's longest-tenured player. "Obviously everyone knows he's a great coach, but he really knows how to manage us. A great group of guys, but he knows when to make us work hard and when to step it up. It's just been a great trip, but now, we get back home and refocus."

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.

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

2-23_butler_hurt_espn.jpg
ESPN

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

The NBA may have lost another top superstar due to injury.

On Friday, Jimmy Butler appeared to have suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee. He left the game against the Houston Rockets unable to put any pressure on his right leg and needed assistance getting back to the locker room. 

Here's a video of the incident:

Coach Tom Thibodeau said that Butler will have an MRI when the team returns to Minnesota on Saturday.

Butler drew a lot of headlines last weekend after not playing in the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Entering Friday, Butler led the league with 37.3 minutes played per game.

The Bulls also take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Saturday night.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.