Bulls

Bulls teammates eager for Rose's return

722416.png

Bulls teammates eager for Rose's return

Whether Derrick Rose returns to the Bulls lineup in Sundays afternoon matinee at New York, Tuesdays home game against the Knicks or one of the teams other remaining 10 games this regular season, his teammates will welcome him back with open arms. That seems obvious, but even after posting a stellar record with the leagues reigning MVP sidelined due to a litany of injuries currently a strained right groin the Bulls are under no illusions that despite owning the NBAs top record, they can make it to the promised land without the All-Star point guard, regardless of how many times Tom Thibodeaus mantra of having more than enough to win games proves true.

C.J. Watson, Luke John Lucas III, those guys have been doing a great job stepping in for him, but having Derrick just makes it easier. A lot of attention on him offensively, his defense has been great and it just makes it easier for everyone when everyone is healthy, Luol Deng explained. Everybody knows were a better team with him. Weve got 10 games now. I think weve really got to lock in as a team. The practices weve got, those 10 games and just trying to get better and see how good we can be going into the playoffs. Weve learned a lot from last year and just going into now, I think well be better prepared. Last year was the first time for a lot of us, going that deep, but were expecting to go deep this year and we really want to lock in, and then give it a run.

Of course. He needs to also, continued Roses fellow All-Star, when asked if it would be beneficial for Rose to be back in action for the regular seasons stretch run. Hes getting healthier and hopefully hes out there soon. The sooner hes out there, the better. Also, getting in game shape. It takes a while to get in that type of shape.

Im excited. Im looking forward to it. It just makes it a lot easier. With Rip being back and Derrick being back, those guys, they know the game of basketball and its definitely going to make it easier.

Reinforced Joakim Noah: We definitely want Derrick back out there. He helps, you know? But even when Derrick comes back, its not going to be easy. Weve got a long road ahead with a lot of games, a lot of battles and with Derrick back, we have to play hungry and when we play hungry, were tough to beat.

Echoed Carlos Boozer: Weve been holding it down without him, but we cant wait to get him back out there.

Perhaps the player who will be most ecstatic to see Rose on the court again will be Watson, whos been battling through a variety of ailments, both disclosed and undisclosed, throughout the injury-riddled campaign, but bounced back from a recent slump with a solid performance in Thursdays home win over Boston, which snapped a season-high two-game Bulls losing streak.

Next question, joked the backup point guard and fill-in starter, when asked about the nature of his woes. Its tough, but Ive just got to fight through it. Short season. Everyones banged up on our team.

Its pretty hard, continued Watson, who noted that he doubts Thibodeau rests him during practices and games after Roses return Maybe. You never know. Maybe he wakes up and feels good one day, he quipped despite the coach stating earlier in the week that its a possibility, something aided by not only Lucas play, but the organization signing veteran journeyman point guard Mike James for the remainder of the season, his fourth stint with the team this year. Just got to stay in the gym, getting shots, getting treatment and hopefully get better.

It also helps that the other member of the Bulls starting backcourt, Rip Hamilton, is healthy again. While Hamilton still hasnt consistently displayed his famed shooting accuracy in the two games since his return from a right-shoulder injury, hes been aggressive and has shown flashes of versatility on both ends of the floor as he tries to regain his timing and rhythm.

Im definitely satisfied with it. You hate to miss shots. My legs feel great. thats a big plus. But each game, I get a little better. I dont have any setbacks, so thats the biggest thing, said Hamilton. Everythings timing with me right now. We dont get the opportunity in practice to go up and down, play five-on-five.

Added Deng: I knew Rip could score before he came in, but honestly, his basketball I.Q. is very high and I think its something that we need. I think he reads the game real well and at times, when you need a basket or just making a smart play out there, you need a vet like that when were struggling as a team to make a play."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are the playoffs in sight for the Bulls?

bulls-stl-pod-115.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are the playoffs in sight for the Bulls?

On this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Seth Gruen and Ben Finfer join Chuck Garfien on the panel.

The Bulls win again. Do they dare think playoffs? Vincent Goodwill joins the guys to discuss.

Plus, they debate where the “Minneapolis Miracle” ranks amongst the greatest plays in NFL playoff history and if Tom Ricketts is right to say that Sammy Sosa needs to put everything on the table to rejoin the Cubs family.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Should Zach LaVine's minute-restriction make way for the Bulls' winning restriction?

Should Zach LaVine's minute-restriction make way for the Bulls' winning restriction?

The time goes by fast for Zach LaVine, from tip-off to the time he’s subbed out for Denzel Valentine as part of his minute-restriction plan.

“It goes by really quick. I look up, I’m like man, it’s already seven minutes,” LaVine said. “But that’s why I’m trying to make the most of the 20 minutes, think I’m doing a good job so far. I set out to help in every way I can.”

For the damage he does in his limited time, it’s making the Bulls and their winning-restriction plan go to mush, as he put up 18 points with five rebounds, five assists and more importantly, more minutes will be on the horizon sooner rather than later. After the Bulls’ 119-111 win over the Miami Heat Monday at the United Center, one has to wonder if the Bulls are approaching a crossroads for the season—or if unfortunately for the front office, the checkpoint on the long-term plan has already been unwillingly passed to the point of no return.

At 17-27, the Bulls are, in a sense, where they didn’t want to be—straddling the line between going for a playoff spot or getting as bad as possible to get in the best possible position for the lottery.

They’re here because Kris Dunn is playing like a top-half point guard and Lauri Markkanen is performing like a top-three rookie, shooting the three with a volume that would be the best for a first-year player in NBA history—a perfect fit for Hoiberg’s system.

Markkanen is growing perhaps into the superstar they hope to draft in June while LaVine will do everything he can to prove he’s more than a max player but a legit superstar who can play winning basketball along with filling up a box score.

And they’re managing to win close games at a rate experienced teams usually do, playing with a poise and freedom that stemmed from low expectations and a 3-20 start.

“We knew they were on a winning streak and just tried to play hard,” Markkanen said after a 17-point, nine-rebound night. “And play unselfish like we always do. And we had much success, so that tells a lot.”

The Heat was in a similar position last season, starting out 10-31 before making a charge so strong the Bulls had to win every game down the stretch to secure the final playoff spot.

After a so-so start, the Heat are nearly on a 50-win pace with a similar roster and no one with the ceiling of LaVine or Markkanen—along with having to replace Dion Waiters’ scoring and swagger, as he’s out for the season with ankle surgery.

John Paxson took the reins this offseason and firmly made the decision to begin a painful and possibly long, rebuild. But when affordable acquisitions like Justin Holiday starts shooting 50 percent from 3-point range and torches the Heat for seven triples and 25 points, it makes then plan harder to execute.

When Nikola Mirotic sprinkles some pixie dust on his game before the start of the fourth quarter to go from being scoreless to scoring 18 in the last 12 minutes to close out their third straight win, it puts the pressure firmly on the front office to make a big decision, yet again.

“The thing we’re chasing is that we’re trying to continue to grow and get better,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Take steps in the right direction. That’s all we talk about. We’re not talking about what’s at stake.”

Hoiberg is keeping his eyes and ears away from the front office's plans, as it does him no good but to bunker down with his locker room and peck away at this record.

He may not be discussing it with his team, but LaVine said the team is watching the Eastern Conference standings, game-by-game. At six games behind eighth-seeded Detroit, there’s four teams between the Bulls and a playoff spot—while being four-and-a-half games behind the Orlando Magic at the cellar.

And with the Magic rumored to be going all-in on selling before the trade deadline, willing to unload Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja, according to the New York Times, it’s clear they’re trying to cement themselves at the top of the lottery.

The Golden State Warriors are coming to the United Center in two days, and it’s likely the requisite beating will take place to quell some of the immediate optimism. But after that, the Bulls have some winnable contests that will likely have them right about where they are now, with each passing game lessening the likelihood of plummeting to the bottom.

It leaves Paxson and the front office in a precarious position, as the team is playing with more spirit and togetherness thus leading to praise the front office for its roster construction.

Trading a fourth-quarter performer like Mirotic would go over well in most circles, and although Mirotic is saying all the right things about having the most fun in his NBA career and wanting to play more with Markkanen, he still wants out and he prefers to go West.

One could see the Bulls taking a deal from the Utah Jazz in the form of expiring contract Joe Johnson and a protected first-round pick, then possibly buying out Johnson and letting him go to a contender with the pick being the crown jewel of the deal.

The longer he stays, the more games the Bulls win, the harder this becomes—and one has to ask about the futures of Robin Lopez and Holiday—who would be valuable as a reserve for a playoff team.

But would the Bulls trade anybody for the sole purpose of getting worse in the meantime? Hard to say but hard to envision Paxson doing anything less than what he deems equal value.

This season started with drama, proceeded as planned but took a turn towards something unexpected—and rather quickly.

And like LaVine’s minutes, the Bulls will have to make another decision because deadlines are approaching faster than even they could foresee.