Bulls

Bulls wary of struggling Lakers

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Bulls wary of struggling Lakers

DEERFIELD, ILL. It wasnt supposed to be like this for the Lakers.

After assembling a star-studded roster, featuring holdovers Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and offseason acquisitions Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, amidst coaching changes and injuries, theyve stumbled to a 17-24 record.

Its crazy, with all the talent they have. I think a lot of people thought that they would figure it out by now, just the type of players that they have. I think theyll figure it out. I think they better hope that it doesnt happen too late. But theyve got a lot of guys that know how to play. But Im surprised that theyre struggling the way that they are, said Bulls veteran guard Rip Hamilton, who grew up playing with and against Bryant in their Pennsylvania high school days. Its burning Bryant, especially with all the weapons they have. Its not just like they have a regular team.

But that doesnt mean the Bulls arent wary of the Lakers, whom they host Monday evening as part of the NBA slate of games for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Theyre a great team. I know their record might not show it, but theyve got a lot of talent, Carlos Boozer said. Obviously Kobe, one of the best of all time. Steve Nash, one of the best of all time. Dwight, probably the best center in the game. Pau Gasol, one of the best power forwards. Theyve got a lot of talent on that team, a lot of length.

Taj Gibson chimed in: We see them as a dominant team, especially on offense, but its up to us to go in there and take care of business, and know that weve got to run our plays, run our style of defense and just take care of home court.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau thinks nothing at all is wrong with the Lakers, who are in danger of slipping out of playoff contention.

Theyve had a lot of change. Theyve had injury. Any time you have Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, thats a loaded team. Mike DAntonis a great coach. This team is very, very dangerous.

"Whether its the Lakers, the Clippers, San Antonio, Memphis whoever youve got to approach it the same way, he explained. Gasol has been nicked up, but he looks like hes moving a lot better now. Kobes Kobe. Nash is overcoming his injury. Metta World Peace is playing like he always does, except hes shooting the ball better than he has in the past.

Thibodeau attributed some of their struggles to Howard, who was ejected in the first half of the Lakers Sunday-afternoon loss in Toronto, still trying to find his groove after offseason back surgery.

Youre talking about a guy thats coming off back surgery, so you know that as the season goes along, hes going to get stronger and stronger. Howard has been a very dynamic player in this league for a long time. He impacts the game with his shot-blocking, rebounding. Hes underrated in terms of how he scores and hes extremely intelligent defensively. Hes only going to get stronger as the season goes along, said the coach, before delving into the common strategy of Lakers opponents to intentionally foul Howard, a woeful free-throw shooter, late in games. Well, its a strategy. Sometimes its good, sometimes it isnt. Hes such a force at the rim that you dont want to just give him those shots. His ability to dunk and finish at the rim you cant give him those shots.

Another wild twist in the Derrick Rose saga

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USA TODAY

Another wild twist in the Derrick Rose saga

We may have seen the last of Derrick Rose on a basketball court. 

According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin and Adrian Wojnarowski, the point guard, who's currently recovering from ankle injury, is away from the Cavaliers organization and contemplating his future in basketball: 

The news may come as a shock considering Rose is still only 29 years old, but the Chicago native has experienced triumphant highs and depressing lows like few others in league history. Undoubtedly, that's taken a toll. 

From youngest MVP in league history to injury-prone backup, the former No. 1 pick of the Bulls has seen it all in his nine-year career. And just last season in New York, his passion for the game was called into question after missing a game without informing coaches, players or staff to attend to a family issue. 

He decided to team up with LeBron James in Cleveland last offseason -- a move that nobody could have predicted five years ago -- on a veteran's minimum contract, and averaged 14.3 points before, you guessed it, being forced to sit with injury. 

Fred Hoiberg, who coached Rose for one season in Chicago, weighed in before Friday's Bulls-Warriors game: 

If Rose ultimately decides to step away for good, eerie parallels can be drawn to Doug Collins' NBA stint. Collins didn't have quite the upside Rose had, but he was a three-time All-Star before foot and knee injuries cut his career short at, yes, also 29. 

It's another sad twist in the Derrick Rose Story. He may be the greatest 'What if' in NBA history. 

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Warriors defense. Even though Draymond Green and Kevin Durant will sit tonight, the Warriors defense has more than enough to challenge the prized rookie. The Dubs' team defense is among the best in the NBA, thanks to their physicality, attention to detail and speed. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard.