Bulls

Bulls teammates eager for Rose's return

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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."

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.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill recap the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, look at the continued growth of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and discuss if Bobby Portis is part of the Bulls’ long term future.

They also check in on LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, discuss whether or not the Golden State Warriors can make another title run and the latest on the status of San Antonio Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard. The guys also discuss how Oklahoma guard Trae Young could look in a Bulls uniform if he’s available for them in the draft.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.