Bulls

Jimmy Butler's 39 points lead Bulls past Pelicans

Jimmy Butler's 39 points lead Bulls past Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jimmy Butler defied any inclination to give in to fatigue, and the rest of the Chicago Bulls followed suit with the kind of performance that left little doubt about their desire to make the playoffs.

Taking the court on the Gulf Coast one night after a narrow victory on the shores of Lake Michigan, Butler poured in 39 points to lead Chicago to a 117-110 win over the recently resurgent New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.

"I just want to win. I think my will to do that is going to overcome all the fatigue," Butler said. "At this time of the year, everybody's tired, everybody's nicked up. But when you have mental toughness, you overcome all that."

Butler made 14 of 26 shots, including all three of his 3-point shots, to help the Bulls win for the fifth time in six games. The All-Star guard's final points came on a step-back jumper with 20 seconds left to stem a late Pelicans run.

Chicago took sole possession of seventh in the Eastern Conference after beating a Pelicans squad that came in having won eight of 11 and six straight at home.

Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg marveled at the way Butler was "just shooting from all over the floor, the rhythm that he had going ... just rising up and shooting it like there is nobody else in the gym."

"It was a great performance to get us going, get us a nice lead at halftime, and hold out down the stretch."

Butler hit nine of his first 11 shots and it didn't seem to matter who guarded him. He made everything from a short step-back fade over the 6-foot-11 Davis to decisive mid-range jumpers coming off of screens and a pair of 3s in the first half, when he had 25 points.

"He made some tough shots, shots off one leg, turnarounds, contested," said Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, who had 30 points and 11 rebounds. "I think they played a little harder than us and it showed with the offensive rebounds, with the 50-50 balls."

Bobby Portis, who finished with 21 points, hit six of his first seven shots. His and Butler's accuracy helped Chicago shoot nearly 57 percent during the first half. The Bulls led by as many as 19 in the second quarter before going into the halftime up 63-47.

Chicago still led by 13 with less than three minutes left, but New Orleans quickly got as close as six when Davis' jumper capped a 7-0 run that began with Jrue Holiday's 3.

However, New Orleans missed a chance to get closer when Paul Zipser blocked Holiday's transition layup with 36 seconds left. Butler then drained his final basket, a 20-footer over Holiday from the right side, to help the Bulls close it out comfortably.

Could star-crossed Derrick Rose be ready to call it quits?

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AP

Could star-crossed Derrick Rose be ready to call it quits?

I'll never forget watching the reaction of Derrick Rose after he found out his hometown Bulls had won the rights to draft first overall in the 2008 lottery. Rose was smiling from ear to ear as he imagined the possibilities of leading the team he rooted for growing up back to greatness. And, the fact the Bulls faced such long odds to win the top pick made the news even sweeter for the soft-spoken teenager from Simeon high school.

Rose took the NBA by storm, turning in the kind of highlight reel plays Bulls fans hadn't seen since the Jordan era. He was named Rookie of the Year and matched a record set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by scoring 36 points in his very first playoff game against the Celtics. The future couldn't look brighter for Chicago's hometown hero.

Rose really took off in his first season playing for Tom Thibodeau, averaging 25 points a game while leading the Bulls to a league-best 62-20 record, in the process becoming the youngest MVP in NBA history. The Bulls lost to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it appeared only a matter of time before Rose brought NBA championship to the city of Chicago.

But then came that fateful Saturday afternoon in April of 2012 when Rose ruptured his left ACL playing the meaningless final minutes of the Bulls' playoff opening win over Philadelphia. The Bulls would go on to lose that series while Rose headed off to a long and frightening rehab. The wunderkind suddenly robbed of his amazing gifts with one fateful misstep.

Rose sat out the entire 2012-13 season, drawing criticism from many fans and some media members who expected Rose to return after the mid-season All-Star break. Eleven games into the 2013-14 season, Rose was hurt again, this time with a season-ending right meniscus tear. Forget the flashy Adidas marketing campaign about Rose coming back better than ever, we would never see the explosive league MVP again.

Only Rose, his family and his trusted friends know the extent of the frustration that Derrick went through as he tried to prove to all the doubters he could still be one of the league's best players. Rose grew more combative with the media when questioned about trying to reshape his game given the new physical limitations. He would have one more knee surgery while a member of the Bulls, missing about six weeks in the 2014-15 season following another right meniscus tear.

Rose had one more heroic moment in a Bulls' uniform, banking in a three-point heave to give the Bulls a 2-1 series lead over LeBron James and the Cavs in the 2015 playoffs, but Cleveland would go on to sweep the next three games of the series, ending Rose's last chance to lead his hometown team to a championship.

Rose was traded to the Knicks in June of 2016 after the Bulls failed to make the playoffs, but after having a productive 2016-17 campaign in New York, Rose would suffer yet another knee injury, leading to another summer of rehab and doubt.

After talking openly with reporters about getting a shot at signing another max contract in September of 2015, two years before he would hit free agency, Rose could only land a veteran's minimum deal to hop on board with LeBron and the Cavs this season. He played fairly well in seven games, averaging 14.3 points on 47 percent shooting from the field, but then an injury sidelined him again, this time an ankle sprain.

Which brings us to Friday's bombshell that Rose was leaving the team to "re-evaluate his future in the NBA." Would the self-described "hooper" actually pull the plug on his NBA career at the age of 29? It seems like all the years of injuries, rehab and reduced effectiveness have taken a substantial physical and emotional toll.

In Rose's mind, he's still one of the league's elite players and should be held in the same regard as LeBron, KD, Steph, Russ and James Harden. Problem is, his body has already betrayed him, and the stat sheets that continually show more turnovers than assists are becoming too difficult to ignore.

Maybe some time away from the daily grind will convince Derrick he still loves the game and wants to get back with the Cavs to play whatever role is needed for a team with an excellent chance to get back to the Finals next June. Or maybe being with his son and family members during the holiday season will convince him that the cycle of injury and rehab is something he just doesn't want to endure anymore, even at the price of giving up the $80 million remaining on his shoe contract with Adidas.

Cavs coach Ty Lue says he's confident Rose will return to the team after some time away, and LeBron has been vocal in his support of Rose trying to re-establish his identity with a championship contender. My best guess is Rose will play again for the Cavs this season, but whether he wants to continue down the road of many injured stars, moving from city to city on minimum contracts, just might not be worth it anymore.

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.