Bulls

No magic for Bulls in Boozer's debut

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No magic for Bulls in Boozer's debut

Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010
Updated 12:16 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Sometimes one team just has anothers number. Sometimes numbers tell the story. Sometimes the storys even simpler than it seems.

In Carlos Boozers Chicago debut, the Bulls (9-7) were shellacked by the Magic (14-4), 107-78, mirroring the vicious beating they took in Orlando during the preseason.

While not reflected from the very outset, the Bulls low energy, regressed defensive and shockingly poor rebounding were seized upon by the visitors.

They beat us in every facet of the game, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, speaking without a podium, as if the blowout defeat meant he was stripped of the privilege. You cant allow a team like this to get off to a start like they did.

We dont want to make any excuses. We thought the start of the game led to our demise, continued Thibodeau, who listed a litany of his teams flaws on the evening, including defense of the pick-and-roll, post and perimeter varieties rebounding and stagnant offense. Theyre a heck of a team, a well-balanced team."

But Thibodeau was reluctant to blame the teams poor play on the team incorporating Boozer into the system.

Its hard to say, said Thibodeau. We were low energy, we played without pace, so we didnt get any scoring opportunities and we didnt make quick decisions, which you have to do against this team.

We had 21 rebounds as a team so I thought we werent reacting the way we would like, he continued. They did a good job. They were into us. Weve got to fight a lot harder.

As for Boozer himself, the two-time All-Star power forward finished with five points and two rebounds in over 21 minutes of play. While disappointed in his own performance, Boozers energy was to be commended, although the results werent there yet.

I would say the first four or five minutes, the games were a lot faster than our practices were for me, so it took me a little bit of time to adjust to it. But I did a better job of adjusting to it as time went on in the game, said Boozer, who said he felt no ill effects to his injured right hand afterwards.

Looking back on it, you feel rusty now, but I didnt feel bad out there. My legs were good, my wind was good. I just didnt do too many good things out there, didnt get a lot of rebounds, didnt play good enough defense. As a team, we didnt play our best game tonight.

That was to be expected. It was his first game, added Thibodeau. I liked his energy and itll only get better. I thought he had some good catches in the paint and those were shots that he normally makes.

It feels great to have him back, but this is a process and weve just got to keep grinding and keep getting better. He hasnt played in a while, but I think that as a team, its not about one player on this team, chimed in Joakim Noah, who scored 16 points but was amazingly held to zero rebounds. It never has been. As a whole, weve got to control what we can control and we definitely have to rebound the ball better.

Rebounding was certainly a central theme, as the Bulls a premier team on the backboards in the league corralled only 21 rebounds to Orlandos 44.

Although Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard is an elite interior player the visitors concerted effort to get him the ball in the early going led to them being able to pick apart Chicago with penetration from point guard Jameer Nelson and swingman Vince Carter, not to mention deep shooting from their legion of marksmen the Bulls typical gang-rebounding approach usually is enough to stave off inferior rebounding squads.

Not on this night.

Its frustrating to lose the way we lost. I feel like were obviously a better team than we showed tonight. We got outrebounded by a lot, opined Noah. It just shows weve got a long way to go.

Thats my job, to rebound the basketball, and I wasnt able to do that tonight, so Ive got to a better job of that. Come in tomorrow, work hard and get ready for the next one, added the always-tough self-critic. Howard is obviously a load to handle, but theres no excuses in this league. Hes obviously one of the best for a reasonIve got to do a better job rebounding the basketball.

In Boozers mind, the Magics outside shooting the United Center guests shot 10-for-21 from long range was Chicagos major issue.

The biggest thing was their threes. They had 10 threes. After the first maybe five or six minutes, they gave it into Dwight every time. We started collapsing in the paint, Jameer started driving, we started sinking in a little bit, leaving their shooters wide open. By the time we got back to their shooters, the shot was already up and in the air, he said.

Added Derrick Rose: They did a good job with putting the ball inside and making us work on digging and getting out to their shooters, and thats their type of game.

To Rose, however, the circumstances surrounding the game played a part in the teams less-than-inspired showing.

Of course, games like this are always going to be rough first game back from a long road trip but weve just got to get used to playing with each other. I knew it wasnt going to be pretty or anything, but when we get our connection going, I think well be all right, said Rose, who scored 15 points and four assists. The first game back from a road trip usually is kind of hard. Weve just got to find it and not put our head down.

Rose expects the chemistry and cohesion with Boozer to develop in time and finds it understandable that an immediate connection isnt there yet.

He took a long time off, where he didnt touch a ball for a while. When he did, his timing wasnt right there. But we already know what type of player he is and hell get his game back pretty soon, explained Rose. Time will tell. Hes a basketball player and the only thing he needs is a couple of days or so, a couple games, and hes going to be back.

Added Thibodeau: The normal progression will be tomorrow, practice. I think hell get more comfortable and hell settle down. As his conditioning and timing comes around, hell get better and better.

The rookie head coach doesnt expect Boozer to be his old self right away. Rather, it sounds as if he just wants him to fit into the teams scheme for the time being.

To me, it starts with a defensive mindset. Rebound the ball, get us into the open floor, get some easy scoring opportunities. Hes great with execution, sets a great screen, very good pick-and-roll player, so I think thatll help. When hes catching in the paint, hes got great hands, said Thibodeau. When he gets going, that gives us another weapon where we can attack inside.

Boozer himself boils it down to a much simpler strategy after a debacle like this: The good thing is weve got practice tomorrow and weve got a chance to get back at it on Friday.

See? Simple.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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.

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

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ESPN

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

The NBA may have lost another top superstar due to injury.

On Friday, Jimmy Butler appeared to have suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee. He left the game against the Houston Rockets unable to put any pressure on his right leg and needed assistance getting back to the locker room. 

Here's a video of the incident:

Coach Tom Thibodeau said that Butler will have an MRI when the team returns to Minnesota on Saturday.

Butler drew a lot of headlines last weekend after not playing in the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Entering Friday, Butler led the league with 37.3 minutes played per game.

The Bulls also take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Saturday night.

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.