Bulls

Rose, Bulls soar over Howard-less Magic

441647.jpg

Rose, Bulls soar over Howard-less Magic

Sunday, April 10, 2011Posted: 2:40 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

ORLANDOIt was a much closer call than expected, but the Bulls held off a short-handed Magic team, 102-99, Sunday afternoon at the Amway Center.

Yet another stellar performance by MVP frontrunner Derrick Rose led the way for Chicago (60-20), who remains in the hunt for the NBAs top record and home-court advantage throughout the upcoming playoffs.

Our defense wasnt very good, our rebounding was below average and we didnt take care of the ball. We were fortunate to win, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team shot 60 percent from the field, but committed 21 turnovers and allowed the Magic to compete on the glass without All-Star center Dwight Howard. Youre starting earlier and theyre down Dwight. You know theyre going to play hardOrlando always plays hardyou know theyre going to play unselfishly and if youre not guarding the three-point line, youre going to be in trouble.

After getting off to a 9-2 start, it appeared as if the Bulls would run the short-handed Magic out of their own building. Orlando (50-30), however, had its own ideas and behind a combination of long-range bombing and varied scoring from center Ryan Anderson (28 points, 10 assists, 4-for-8 three-point shooting)starting in place of the suspended Howardthe Magic kept the game tight in the early going.

A win is a win, observed Rose. In this league, its hard to win, even when the best players on the other teams dont play, some of the other players that come off the bench are playing for their opportunity.
READ: Bulls gunning for that No. 1 spot

Although Magic shooting guard Jason Richardson complemented Andersons offense with efficient scoring of his own, Rose (39 points on 12-for-16 field-goal shooting and 10-for-10 free-throw shooting), got to the rim at will, keeping the Bulls ahead of their hosts.

With Rose keeping his foot on gas throughout the first quarter and Carlos Boozer (12 points, six rebounds, six assists, three steals) also contributing with his polished low-post game, the Bulls extended their lead to 32-24 at the conclusion of the opening period, propelled by 70 percent shooting from the floor.

The two squads exchanged 6-0 runs to start the second quarter, but the Bulls Bench Mob seized the games momentum with their typically hard-nosed defense and up-tempo offensive style, led by Taj Gibsons (nine points, 11 rebounds) relentless inside play.

Taj has been playing terrific, whatever role you put him in. You play him at the four, you play him at the five, praised Thibodeau. He plays defense, he challenges shots, he blocks shots, he sets great screens, hes playing with a lot of energy.

Orlando again rallied, however, and even after Thibodeau filtered his regulars back into the contest, the Magic drew closer.

The inspired interior play of undersized big man Brandon Bass, along with timely scoring from Richardson and fellow wing Hedo Turkoglu, brought the home team all the way back, tying the contest at 46 apiece with 1:31 remaining in the first half.

The Bulls closed the period strong, scoring a pair of baskets to give themselves some breathing room, which was taken away by a Jameer Nelson prayer from just inside halfcourt at the halftime buzzer, giving the visitors a slim 50-49 advantage at the intermission.

Orlando capitalized off Chicago turnovers in the second half, hustled for offensive boards and kept up its torrid three-point shooting, but the Bulls' collective lack of timing, general offensive futilityoutside of Rose and Luol Deng (15 points, five rebounds, five assists)and up-and-down level of energy allowed the Magic to stay in the game even without their superstar big man.

Chicago tried to pull away from its hosts down the stretch of the third quarter, but with tight officiating and Magic marksmanship acting as deterrents, the tight-knit nature of the affair persisted. Through three periods of play, the Bulls clung to an 80-77 lead.

Explained Thibodeau: If you dont go into this game with a multiple-effort mentality because of their ability to execute the pick-and-roll and then spread you out with four shootersyoure not closing out hard and youre not blocking out, and youre not fighting for the balltheyre going to hurt you, either with the three or the second shot. In this case, they hurt us with both.

The final stanza didnt get off to the start the Bulls desired, as the second unit was unable to string together productive possessions on offense, forcing Thibodeau to reinsert Rose earlier than usual to counter the strong showing from Orlando counterpart Nelson. The Chicago native responded immediately, but the Magic kept coming, aided by surprising contributions from the likes of former Bulls guard Chris Duhon.

Critical calls by the game officials factored into the tight game as the contests stretch run approached, but where the Bulls became disjointed, the Magic seized the moment, making clutch plays to give the home team the lead in crunch time, further inciting an already raucous Amway Center crowd.

Rose continued to be the Bulls primary optioneven more than usualand after both teams rapidly exchanged steals, the floor generals transition dunk gave the visitors a 95-94 lead with approximately two minutes to play.

After Anderson and Boozer knocked down a pair of free throws each on the subsequent two trips, both teams made defensive stops in which two official video reviews were needed to determine possession.

On the ensuing possession, Rose blew by Nelson and dished off to Gibson, who was fouled while attempting a dunk with 14.2 seconds remaining. Gibson hit the first attempt and although he missed the second, Deng corralled the offensive rebound and the ball eventually got to Rose, who knocked down two foul shots to give the Bulls a 100-96 lead with 9.9 seconds to go.

Derrick was Derrick. You cant ask anything more of him, said Thibodeau. Hes being trapped, he still was able to make a lot of good plays, make shots. He carried us.

WATCH: Sam Smith weighs in on the NBA MVP Debate

Orlando didnt give up, however, and with 2.7 seconds left, Richardson knocked down a three-pointer to make it a one-point game. On the ensuing inbounds, Boozer was fouled with two seconds on the clock. After he hit both of his attempts from the line, Orlando called a timeout and Nelson threw up another miracle three-point attempt, but the potential game-tying basket was ruled after the buzzer.

We dodged a bullet in the end, said Thibodeau. We got lucky.

Added Rose: We had them. We should have easily put them away, but we continue to let teams come back. Its going to hurt us if we continue to do this, but were definitely happy with the win.

Box Score

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.

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

jimmy_butler_twolves.jpg
USA TODAY

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler was absent from the scoresheet of the All-Star Game, unless you count a “DNP-Coaches’ Decision” as activity. Whether due to the All-Star festivities of the weekend or even the grinding minutes he plays under Tom Thibodeau, it wasn’t truly surprising to see him want to have a night off of sorts.

But what was mildly surprising was the reflection he displayed on Saturday at All-Star Media Day in reference to his time with the Chicago Bulls. Usually, Butler’s armor is up because of his feelings surrounding his draft-night departure.

“I learned a lot in Chicago,” Butler said. “Just all through the season and life in general. What to do, what not to do and how to adapt to any situation that you’ve been in. I’ve done that to the best of my abilities. I have a ways to go in that.”

It’s clear he’s still grasping the weight of his words as the best player on a team, or at least, the player whose words impact everything around him.

“A people pleaser? No, I just didn’t say much,” Butler said. “Now I just don’t care. I never talked whenever I was in the league at an early age. It really didn’t matter, nothing I did was gonna make or break us when it comes to losing a game. Now it does and I have a lot to say. Half the time it’s not the right time or right way to say it but it’s okay.”

Whether it was the battles with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg or the internal struggles in the Bulls’ locker room through his ascension from bench warmer to rotation player to impact player to now, a legitimate star, he’s modifying his approach—just a tad.

“I’ve never been the best player on my own team. I was in Tomball,” he joked, in reference to his beginnings in small town Texas. “I wasn’t in junior college. At Marquette I wasn’t. I’m probably not now. In Chicago I wasn’t. You just pick up on it, watch others and learn.”

He admitted to writing in a journal and reading self-help books now that he’s in Minnesota. The novel he’s reading now, “Faith, Forward, Future” is authored by Chad Veach, a Los Angeles pastor and the subtitle of the book says “Moving past your disappointments, delays and destructive thinking.”

Whether he started the book following a slow start with the Timberwolves in November, where his nightly numbers looked like one of a high-level role player, he took some self-evaluation before leading the charge since, playing like an MVP candidate with 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 49 percent shooting since the start of December.

“It’s relatively new. Yeah, basketball is still basketball but it’s hard when somebody else is coming in and roles change overnight,” Butler said. “You gotta see where you fit in with the group. At the end of the day you gotta win. I didn’t feel the way I was playing was our best opportunity to win games.”

Bringing along the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Towns being a fellow All-Star for the first time, has been a process.

“I’ve never actually had to be a leader,” Butler said. “I just always done what I was supposed to do, didn’t say much and played hard. Now you know, everybody wants to call someone a leader.”

He disputes taking a softer hand, especially as Towns and Wiggins seem to struggle with sustaining concentration at critical moments. The Timberwolves won’t be able to make those mistakes during the playoffs, but he’s being more selective with his words.

“I’m not soft,” he said. “If I see something wrong, I speak on it. If you don’t like it, oh well. You’ll get over it.”

One thing he could take a bird’s eye view of was the aftermath of LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s comments to the “Uninterrupted”, where they were criticized by cable news hosts for speaking out against President Donald Trump.

No stranger to criticism, Butler would likely have the same approach if he dipped his toes into that arena.

“I like it. You got the right to say what you want and you speak on what you think is right,” Butler said. “Good for them. And they are magnified in a very big way. They embrace it and they’re doing the right thing, I’m all for it.”

And if the day comes where he doesn’t stick to sports, Butler’s directness and lack of diplomacy would certainly cause an interesting reaction.

“I don’t care. Whatever I believe in, I believe in,” Butler said. “Everybody else does it. You see everybody on Twitter and the Internet doing it and saying what they want to say. We just have a different job than the person to our left and right.”

Well, not quite a warm and fuzzy Jimmy Butler.

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

anthony_davis.jpg
AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”