Bulls

No letdown, Bulls win laugher for fifth straight

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No letdown, Bulls win laugher for fifth straight

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
Updated 12:17 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Fears of a letdown the night after a huge win over the defending champion Lakers were unfounded, as Chicago (14-8) avoided the dreaded trap game phenomenon and easily dispatched visiting Minnesota (6-18), 113-82, Saturday evening. Led by a career-high five 3-pointers from Derrick Rose and tremendous offensive balance, the Bulls cruised to their fifth consecutive victory.

From the start of the season, were trying to build the right habits and we were talking about being ready for each game and how important that isyou want to be consistent in your approach. You want to do the same things and I think its important not to look ahead or look behind. You want to learn from each game and correct the things you need to improve upon and prepare for the next opponent. In this league, all the teams are talented, so if youre not ready to play, every team is capable of beating you, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards.

After Timberwolves small forward Michael Beasley (16 points, six rebounds) got off to a quick startalthough not reviving the past debate about whether he or Rose (21 points, seven assists) should have been the top pick in the 2007 NBA Drafthis Bulls counterpart, Luol Deng (19 points, four rebounds, three assists), fueled the home teams early surge by hitting his four shots. Dengs offensive effort was complemented by a balanced attackRose, Carlos Boozer (17 points, seven rebounds) and Joakim Noah (nine points, 10 rebounds, six blocked shots) all contributed in the opening minutesthat allowed Chicago to build a double-digit cushion over the visitors.

I thought we got off to a good start, remarked Thibodeau. I thought our team defense was very good and I thought our rebounding was terrific.

Added Deng before the game: I think the Cleveland gamenothing against Cleveland, but we werent at our bestand after beating such a good team, its so easy to let up, but I expect we learned from last time to just go out there and be aggressive early, especially the starting five.

The ever-energetic Noah shared his thoughts on the Bulls avoiding the proverbial trap game against the lowly Timberwolves.

Theres not much you can do. I think its a mindset thing. Youve just got to come out and understand whats at stake. Energys a funny thing. Its easy to come up for a game like the Lakers because you know the energy and the crowds going to get you going, said Noah. I think we have a great crowd. Were lucky. They dont really let you be down too much because theyll get on you and thats a good thing.

A subplot: Noah and Minnesotas Kevin Love (23 points, 15 rebounds) lived up to their billing as the leagues two leading rebounders, as Noah snatched six in the period, while Love grabbed eight caroms.

When we rebound well, we have a better chance of winning. I dont know what the numbers were, but I think we rebounded the ball pretty well as a team, said Noah, who led the Bulls to a 53-36 edge on the glass. Love is a handful. Hes not the highest jumper or anything, but hes somebody whos mastered the craft. That might be an understatement. Hes very good at what he does.

Added Thibodeau: I think, overalland the way Love has been rebounding is incrediblebut I thought our team rebounding was excellent. I thought our help was very good and when someone left Love, I thought our weak side filled in and we were on his body and he still got a lot of rebounds, but I thought our gang rebounding was very good.

Following a Rose buzzer-beater to end the period, the Bulls held a 27-18 advantage.

Chicagos bench apparently wasnt in the mood for a letdown performance, as it extended the winning margin left by the starters after Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went with an all-reserve unit in the second quarter. A particularly aggressive Taj Gibson (12 points, 10 rebounds, three assists)the second-year power forward had been a solid contributor as a rebounder and defender off the bench, but struggled as a scorer as of lateand swingman Ronnie Brewer (eight points, five rebounds) were the main catalysts during this stretch.

Having maintained the lead, Thibodeau came back with his starterswith the exception of sharpshooter Kyle Korver (12 points)midway through the period and with Boozer finding his groove, the Bulls lead became as swollen as the inflatable Benny the Bull mascots that raced on the United Center floor during television timeouts.

First of all, when you add a player like Boozer, who hasnt really played in the system defensively, just integrating him into what we were doing and he was hurt in the preseason, so he was just thrown into the action right away. He was there, but the game goes at a different pace when youre playing out there compared to watching and playing in practice, explained Noah. I think that hes understanding the schemes a lot better and as a team, I think that were shrinking the floor a lot better in pick-and-rolls. I think our help side is coming along better than it used to. Weve still got a ways to go and thats a very good thing.

Thibodeau concurred: Hes still not 100 percent, but what he does for offense is give us an opportunity to establish an inside game through the post. Hes a very unselfish passer, excellent in the pick-and-roll and he has great instincts; he knows how to find seams. Defensively, I think hes still finding his way. Theres some parts he does extremely well. His rebounding is still not where his ability ishes proven to be a great rebounder in this league; hes done it throughout his careerso as he gets his legs under him, I think his rebounding will continue to improve also.

Propelled by a strong close to the half by Rose, Chicago took a 58-37 advantage into the intermission.

A Minnesota surge keyed by Love to start the third quarter snapped the Bulls out of their reverie, as an 8-0 run rectified things, as Chicago quickly dug the Timberwolves a 22-point hole to climb out of by virtue of offensive efficiency and stout defense.

Were moving in the right direction, said Rose of the teams defensive effort. Guys are hustling, were closing down the paintmaking sure that somebodys right therebut I think we have to take more charges and block more shots.

Even according to the high standards of Thibodeau, The defense is coming around. I think our ball pressure has improved, our weak side has improved, but we still have a long way to go. Theres a lot of areas we can improve upon.

Rose hit three long bombs (he was 5-for-6 from deep and 8-for-10 from the field in the game) to keep the Bulls ahead by a healthy amount. Chicagos offensive balance and adequate effort on the other end of the floor allowed them to coast to an 87-65 lead through three quarters.

I was just taking what they give me and right now, theyre giving me time to shoot, said Rose afterwards. Whatever the game tells me to do, Im going to do it and my man was sagging and they left me wide open to take the shot theyre giving me forever to shoot, so Im just shooting it.

Going off picks, they have to chase me over now and thats my whole key to this yearsomebody like Steve Nash, you cant go under on him or hell shoot, so right when I get that down, I think Ill be more of a threat, he explained further. Im trying to show everybody what Ive been working on. You want to show opponents new things, so that they know its going to be a hard night. They were leaving me wide open on the shots, I was just taking my time, my teammates were passing me the ball when I was open, and I was just shooting.

The way I worked on it this summer, I have a lot of confidence in my shot and Im going to shoot it, no matter what or how many shots I miss. As you can tell, as many games where Ive been missing early, Im going to continue to shoot, continued Rose, who credited Bulls assistant Ron Adams for diligently making sure he performs daily maintenance on his shot. I know thats a big part of my game now, being able to hit a consistent jump shotespecially from behind the arcand Im grateful that Im hitting all these shots.

I told you before the season started, somebody in the low post like that, sometimes youve got to double team him or if the guard even takes an inch, Ive got to be able to spot up, so as long as they keep double-teaming Los Boozer and leaving me wide open, Im going to shoot.

Opined Thibodeau: Hes put a lot of work into it. He gets there early, he stays late and he does it year-round. His commitment to the team and to the game is very unique and special.

Noah chimed in: Hes gaining more and more confidence on his three-ball. Its a scary thing.

Korvers marksmanship, Brewers all-around play and Gibsons energy paced the Bulls early in the final stanza. As in every Bulls blowout win, the games biggest drama became whennot ifChicago would crack the 100-point barrier, which led to free Big Macs for the loyal home crowd, as the Bulls cruised to the eventual triumph with the starters sitting out the entire period.

I dont know if theyll be upset with me or not, but it was a good chance for our bench and I think our bench has been playing very well, said Thibodeau. I thought they helped us get the Lakers game turned around and theyre playing really good defense, theyre moving the ball and theyre playing with energy, so it was good to see them play an entire fourth quarter.

Games like this are lovely, where we put away a team, everybody played well and thats what were supposed to do, added Rose. Everybody came out focused and ready to play.

I think we had a good shootaround, he continued. We came out aggressive and attacking them.

Added Noah: When we play with an edge to us for 48-minutes, were going to be tough to beat.

Thats the only thing that matters, not getting too caught up in the hype. Theres definitely a little buzz going on right now about the Chicago Bulls. It feels good to win five in a row, but weve just got to stay hungry, stay humble and stay driven. Weve still got a lot of work to do to become the team that we want to be and we want to be one of the elite teams in the East.

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.”