Bulls

Bulls Roundup: Boozer's playmaker skills on display

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Bulls Roundup: Boozer's playmaker skills on display

Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010
2:46 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

WASHINGTONWhile the Bulls defense was the key to Wednesdays blue-collar win over the Wizardsand the teams turnover issues were the bane of head coach Tom Thibodeaus existencea dominant 30-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist effort by power forward Carlos Boozer was a significant reason Chicago triumphed in the sloppy affair.

Boozer was always expected to produce as a scorer and rebounder, but despite Thibodeaus insistence that the former All-Star was an excellent passer, it was not until Wednesday that his skills as a playmaker were truly on display. In fact, a week after it was learned that Joakim Noah would miss eight to 10 weeks of action following surgery on his right thumb, Boozerwho repeatedly tells reporters that Noahs diverse range of skills cant be replicatedhas shown that the Bulls will still be able to facilitate offense for the whole team by playing through the post.

If you cut and youre open, hes going to pass it to you without hesitation. Hes got great vision, so we think we can play through him quite a bit, which weve done, and we can generate a lot of high-quality shots from that, Thibodeau said Wednesday. As long as the balls getting into the paint first, whether its through his post-up or Derricks dribble penetration, thats how we want to play, inside-out.

Boozer was obviously a major scoring presence against Washington, using his power and smarts to fluster the Wizards inexperienced frontline. When Wizards head coach Flip Saunders sent double teams at him, Boozer was able to set up his teammates for easy opportunities.

They brought a lot of players at me. They double-teamed me a little bit more and I just tried to find an open guy. I turned the ball over a little bit trying to get it to him, but for the most part, I thought we did a good job of moving when they double-teamed me. I tried to do a good job of finding the open man, said Boozer. When we have Taj and Jo in the game, the pressures still going to be on me and D-Rose to score the ball. Thats our jobs out there, but even more now without Jo and Taj out there. Me and him are used to that. Were used to having the ball in our hands and having the pressure on us to put the ball in the basket. Its everybody else.

Now you see Kurt Thomas hitting wide-open jump shots. Ronnie Brewers getting more shots. Well draw attention to uswell get double teamsand our job is to make the right play. Thats why I had seven assists because they put two people on me and I just tried to find the right man that was open. Thats part of playing basketball.

Rose indicated that while his on-court chemistry with Boozer hasnt peaked yet, he enjoys the fact that the power forward takes some pressure off him as a playmaker.

Its great. Of course, my shot wasnt falling tonight. My legs were gone. But his passing, finding people on the open cut, doing things like that, it helped us out tonight, said Rose. Right now, were still feeling each other out. Certain plays, were still not there yet, but were going to get to the point where, in clutch situations like that, were already going to know what to do, so I cant wait until that moment.

Boozer, always quick to praise his teammates, knows that in Noahs absence, it will take an overall team effort to maintain Chicagos recent winning ways.

You see how good Kurt Thomas has been playing. Hes been playing his butt off, stepping up and taking that challenge. Taj Gibson will do the same thing when he gets over his concussion. Big Omer Asik right here next to me has been playing phenomenal. As time moves along, well figure out more and more ways to win. We cant replace Joakim Noah. Let me make that clear. But were trying to find ways to win without him.

Rose enjoys matchup with former backcourt mate

After the win, Derrick Rose discussed matching up with Kirk Hinrich, who started at point guard for the Wizards with No. 1 overall pick John Wall sidelined with a knee injury.

It was fun. It was going to be challenging, especially somebody thatI was his rookie a couple of years agoso just playing against him was bringing back memories, said Rose. But I wanted this win."

The battle between the pair was more even than perhaps some expected, with Hinrich going for 19 points and nine assists to Roses 25 and five, as the veteran attempted to attackalmost literally, Rose jokedon both ends.

You know Kirk is a hack? To let you all know, he is a hack, first of all, Rose quipped. It was great playing against him. If anything, it made me better.

Gibson ready to go, but agrees with Thibodeaus caution

Taj Gibson played less than a minute at the end of Wednesdays gameall at the end of the first half, spelling the foul-riddled Boozerdespite being cleared to play before the contest after working out with coaches both Wednesday afternoon and during pregame warm-ups. However, Gibson, who missed Tuesdays win over Philadelphia in the aftermath of suffering a concussion in Saturdays loss to the Clippers, wasnt disgruntled about his lack of playing time.

I felt capable, but its different when youre on the road. You need contact. I said the same thing to myself before the game. I was like, Im ready to go out and play, and help my team, Gibson told CSNChicago.com Wednesday. At the same time, a practice under my belt would be good because coming in this morning, doing the drills and running up and down, I was fatigued a little bit, trying to figure out how to keep myself motivated and keep my energy going.

Thibodeau discussed his reasoning for Gibsons scant action after the game.

That was a tricky one because he hasnt practiced and I think going against Fred Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi is a little different than going against an NBA player. We needed him for the short period that he did go in, but I didnt feel comfortable with him being out of so many practices, to put him in. But if the need was there, I was going to put him in again and actually, I thought about it in the fourth quarter at the end, Thibodeau explained. I wanted to see him practice first, so hes comfortable, too. Normally, when a guy comes back from injury, not that he has to have a lot of practices, but I generally believe at least oneand hopefully you can have more than onebut at a minimum. But hes been out for a while.

Rookie Asiks comfort level gradually improving

Although he only played six minutes in Wednesdays win, backup center Omer Asik was active, scoring two points, grabbing four rebounds and blocking two shots. In fact, his productivity made it seem odd to observers when Thibodeau refused to substitute either Boozer or center Kurt Thomas when they each picked up their fifth foul in the fourth quarter. But you wont hear the soft-spoken Asik complaining.

I just try to do my job to help the team. When I get minutes, I just play hard. I just try to help the team to win the games, thats it, Asik, whose limitedbut understandable and ever-improvingEnglish makes him reluctant to talk to the media on the record, told CSNChicago.com.

In his last three gamesthe teams first three without NoahAsik is averaging 4.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per night, up from his rookie-year season averages of 2.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.7 blocks. Asik played heavy minutes in the preseason and even saw regular minutes during Boozers early-season absence, but has lost time in the rotation since the Alaskans return to the lineup this month.

The 24-year-old native of Turkey, selected in the same draft as Rose, believes that despite some ups and downshes often been a force on the boards and defensive end, but has struggled to finish strong on offense, with foul trouble and making free throwsin his debut campaign, hes constantly developing.

My development is going better than the beginning of the season, Asik told CSNChicago.com. Every game, I learn one more thing about basketball. Every game, Im getting better.

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.

Bobby Portis apologizes to teammates as Bulls continue to deal with all-around complicated situation

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AP

Bobby Portis apologizes to teammates as Bulls continue to deal with all-around complicated situation

The mending hasn’t yet begun for the Bulls, but perhaps a good sign in moving forward from the Bobby Portis punch that delivered a concussion and broken facial bones to Nikola Mirotic is that it isn’t being ignored.

Fred Hoiberg is being tight-lipped about where matters stand, but he did at least say Portis returned to practice and apologized to the team Friday afternoon. Hoiberg wouldn’t reveal the contents of Portis’ apology and Portis didn’t address the media, but it’s clear things aren’t business-as-usual at the Advocate Center.

“Bobby was back at practice. It was good to have him back in here,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously, everybody’s looking forward to having Niko back in here, as well, hopefully soon.”

When asked about Portis’ spirit, Hoiberg deflected and preferred to talk about what adjustments the team will have to make in the immediate future, especially with rookie Lauri Markkanen having to go against Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the home opener Saturday night.

“That’s the biggest thing we have to do as far as preparing until we get our guys back, is throwing different lineups out there and hopefully getting better with our execution,” Hoiberg said.

Justin Holiday admitted that things aren’t normal, saying the actual games to start the season won’t serve as a welcome distraction because this isn’t something that can just be treated trivially.

He wouldn’t venture into getting into his teammates’ head, saying “Bobby came into today like Bobby. We’re not quite sure what he’s thinking mentally. We can’t assume that.”

But one thing that can’t be assumed is a sweeping under or pretending.

“I mean I don’t necessarily think this is a situation for us to get past,” Holiday said. “I think it’s a situation that obviously (needs) to be brought to the forefront. It’s a situation that needs to be taken care of for those two to be able to come together and be brothers again. I don’t think we’re trying to get past it.”

Holiday has been a leader during this early time, so his words and definitive tone were noticeable.

“They say sometimes you need time to heal,” Holiday said. “Again, we have to think about both situations in this. One guy is trying to get back healthy. And again, I don’t know. I wish I did. I wish we could just fix this the right way, but that’s not the case.”

It’s complicated all around, with no real precedent.

For Hoiberg, his handling has two faces. Since Portis is able to practice but has to sit out seven more games on a team-mandated suspension, he has to walk the line of incorporating Portis in daily drills and activities but also has to prepare a team that wasn’t prepared for two power forwards being out for an extended period.

That was on display Thursday as Quincy Pondexter likely played that position for the first time in his career, and it’s highly unlikely Paul Zipser practiced there at all with the depth the Bulls had until now.

“We have to get our guys ready to play positions that they haven’t played,” Hoiberg said. “We’re getting them in here early. We’re getting a group in to work on our execution. Quincy not only hasn’t played in two and a half years but I don’t know if he has ever played the 4.

“You just have to do the best with what you have.”

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

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USA TODAY

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

Quincy Pondexter’s trade to Chicago makes him a newcomer. His birth certificate makes him a veteran. But it’s his story that makes him worth listening to.

Even in the eye of team chaos, Pondexter’s debut with the Bulls had such a special meaning that when he entered the game to start the second quarter, he thought he would come to tears.

Having been out of basketball the last two years after knee surgeries went bad, Pondexter came close to dying in a New York hospital in January when his organs began to fail after a MRSA infection.

Catching MRSA can often lead to death.

“It wasn’t looking good,” Pondexter said. “It was tough. I prayed. My family was there close to me. Being able to play basketball again in less than a year is crazy. It’s all God. This journey has been amazing.”

His journey took him from being in New Orleans, where his knee troubles started, to being an addition to the Bulls in a trade months ago when the Bulls picked up cash and a second-round pick from the Pelicans.

Pondexter joined high school teammate and close friend Robin Lopez on a team needing some leadership, and due to the punch Bobby Portis threw to Nikola Mirotic Tuesday afternoon, it put Pondexter in position to get on the floor as a backup power forward behind rookie Lauri Markkanen.

If the Bulls were smart, they’d probably put Pondexter in a room to talk to his teammates about his struggles, especially the two teammates who may have to share the same floor in several weeks.

“The competitive nature of our team has been really terrific and we wouldn't want to trade that for anything,” Pondexter said. “It hurts those two guys aren't here right now. But we love them and we love what they brought to this team.

“I think my age on my ID solidifies me as one of the veterans. When you do things the right way, that's what it means to be a veteran. Show up first, last one there. That's what it means to be a veteran. Establishing myself there and doing things that are right, the guys have followed and listened and embraced me and I love it.”

No word on whether Pondexter got teary-eyed when he got a breakaway steal and dunk for his first points since the 2015 playoffs, when the Pelicans were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual champion Warriors.

“I know I’m going to get emotional on the court later on and probably tear up,” Pondexter said after the morning shootaround. “I told Robin that a thousand times. People don’t know what you’ve been through. There are a lot of times they’re not there besides your close family and friends. I appreciate them carrying me through this whole process.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg can relate to Pondexter, with Hoiberg’s heart ailment cutting his career short. When the Bulls coach speaks about the frailty of the game and how precious things are in the NBA, Pondexter is living, breathing proof.

“I’m really really happy for Quincy. For a time there, his life was in danger with his infection. I know he’s really excited to get his career going again,” Hoiberg said. “I never got that opportunity to get back out there. I tell these guys to cherish it ever day. You never know when it can end. All of a sudden. For Quincy to get this chance, it’s awesome.”

Pondexter, with the straightest of faces, called basketball his “obsession” and he felt happy to get back on the floor, if even for a few minutes.

“I love it to death. It’s my life,” Pondexter said. “Basketball is what got me through it---my family and basketball. It was like, ‘How can I make this story even better? Do I quit?’ No. I watched so many inspirational movies, 'Hacksaw Ridge.' They get you through tough times because you say, ‘That’s going to be me.’ I’m going to be able to inspire someone down the road. That’s really helped me.”

A hamstring injury slowed Pondexter in training camp, which would explain his lack of explosive lift in the season opener.

No one was really sure if the Bulls would hold onto him for the season, but it’s clear he holds value beyond the box score. When he finished his media session, Lopez turned to Pondexter and said, “Now you’re stuck with me”, putting his arm around his teammate.

“Being able to play after two and a half years, it feels like hundreds of surgeries, getting traded to this organization. It's been a lot,” Pondexter said. “I wouldn't trade any of that for this moment right now and how I feel in my heart. I can't wait to get on this floor and play with my teammates and try to do something special. The journey is worth it.”