Rose, Bulls win battle of point guard wizardry


Rose, Bulls win battle of point guard wizardry

Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010
Updated 12:37 AM

By Aggrey Sam

What was expected to be a docile opponent, a tune-up for more formidable foes and a brief respite before an arduous road trip ended up becoming more of a battle than the Bulls anticipated. A mostly uninspired affair, Chicago outlasted the visiting Washington Wizards, 103-96, Saturday evening at the United Center.

All the stuff about the road trip, Im concerned more about our practice and Houston. All the stuff about going on the road, the circus, all that stuff Im not concerned with that. Im worried about the next game, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. In this league, I dont think you can ever relax. Washington, theyre a talented team.

When the ball was on the board, we werent blocking out or making contact, they were jumping over us, he continued. Thats something that we have to improve upon. Weve been a very good rebounding team all year. I would say give them credit. I would also say our concentration wasnt what it should have been.

Washingtons porous interior defense was exposed immediately, as Chicago looked to force feed touches to Joakim Noah (21 points, nine rebounds) and Taj Gibson for point-blank attempts early. That tact worked out successfully for the most part, although Wizards center JaVale McGee sent back a couple Bulls shots in a display of the Windy City natives tremendous athleticism.

Keith Bogans (11 points) maintained his hot hand from the teams previous victory, knocking down a pair of three-pointers consecutively, as he demonstrated good chemistry with Derrick Rose (team-high 24 points, eight assists) in drive-and-kick scenarios.

The live-bodied and occasionally undisciplined enigmatic forward Andray Blatche picked up an early technical for briefly berating an official Wizards, however, didnt go away. No. 1 overall draft pick John Walls (16 points, six assists) game-changing speed it was virtually indistinguishable from Roses; yes, the rookie is equally fast allowed Washington to get into transition, permitting some of their high-flying athletes to get scoring opportunities out of the constraints of a more deliberate half-court set.

In addition, veteran reserve guard Gilbert Arenas (game-high 30 points) who was mildly booed upon his entrance to the game by the United Center crowd, which, moments before had shown their appreciation for his teammate, ex-Bull Kirk Hinrich (six assists) gave the visitors an added perimeter threat with his still-deadly outside-shooting ability. An unlikely suspect in the form of extremely active backup big man Hilton Armstrong (game-high 10 rebounds) provided yet another weapon for Washington, giving them much-needed offensive continuity to go along with a zone defense that proved to be somewhat effective.

If Chicagos defense wasnt up to par, the teams offense wasnt far behind. Rose couldnt find his touch (1-for-8 shooting in the first period), untimely turnovers occurred and the players as a whole appeared hesitant, leading to a one-point 25-24 deficit after a quarter, with Noahs typically strong inside play the biggest positive.

The disjointed play of the home team didnt instantly cease in the second period, but a concerted effort by Luol Deng (20 points, nine rebounds, six assists) to carry Chicagos offensive load at least erased the Wizards lead early in the quarter. Deng was countered by Arenas own aggressive offensive stance, which wasnt necessarily productive to Washingtons cause.

The games pace suited neither team and the atmosphere in the arena didnt accurately reflect the close-knit contest, although the affairs sloppy nature was a prime contributor. A play from the United Centers guests a vicious alley-oop dunk (plus the foul) by McGee from Wall over Kyle Korver after McGee blocked a Rose layup attempt on the previous possession was actually the catalyst that seemingly inspired Chicago (and the fans), as the Bulls would open up a slight cushion in its aftermath. Chicago showed much more of a sense of urgency, with Taj Gibson blocking multiple shots, Rose pushing the tempo and the lead ballooning to 50-42 at intermission in the Bulls favor.

After seeing your teammate take a tough foul, the way he Korver played, he just went after it. That was a hustle play, it was a great play for him. We dont really care about him getting dunked on. Its going to happen. But after that, just showing how much courage he had, Gibson told CSNChicago.com It makes guys even more hungry. Plus, when the other team talks, you want to be behind your teammate 100 percent.

Added Rose: We knew that we had to change the momentum of the game. That dunk could have definitely changed the game, but we kept it simple, made simple plays, guys made hustle plays.

While the Bulls werent exactly proficient offensively to begin the second half, they were able to shut down the oppositions attack, with Washington held scoreless from the 1:31 mark in the second quarter until 7:35 in the third, an 11-0 extended run (spanning the intermission) for Chicago. Rose finally began to get into the groove offensively the Bulls picked up the effort on the defensive end, allowing him to set the pace with his dangerous transition abilities and the ever-consistent Gibson was also impactful, knocking down his patented baseline jumper with precision.

When we were coming in, we knew we had to pick it up when Thibs put us back in the game. Usually he wants a lot of energy, he wants us to be focused, just keying in on things and just push the ball and go inside-out, whether thats hitting the post, drive and kicking out and he wants everybody to be aggressive and take shots that they usually take, said Rose.

The moment of urgency was fleeting, however, and the uninspired play of both teams continued through the end of the quarter, with Chicago holding a 72-58 advantage.

In the final stanza, the Bulls would attempt to turn things up a notch and put the Wizards away, but their opponents despite injuries to Wall and forward Yi Jianlian werent ready to lay down without putting up a fight. Noahs energetic interior efforts, Dengs in-the-flow scoring and balanced play from Chicago in general went head-to-head with scoring outbursts from the Washington perimeter trio of Arenas, Hinrich and talented reserve swingman Nick Young (11 points). All of a sudden, neither team wanted to give the game away any longer

Arenas is a great, phenomenal player. Coming off the bench, nobody really took him lightly. We understand he can put up 30 any given night. What more can I say? Hes a great player and he showed it tonight in the second half, Gibson told CSNChicago.com about Arenas, who hit four of his game-high seven three-pointers in the final stanza.

Arenas was shooting shots where we were in his face, falling down, shooting from halfcourt he was hitting everything, concurred Rose.

That was the funny thing. I was like, Man, Id rather shoot from the three-point line than get inside, explained Arenas. I think with the ankle injury, it was hard for me to go in and start pushing off. Now that its getting better, Im feeling more comfortable getting in there.

Urgency was back in the picture for the Wizards, as Wall returned and Arenas maintained his hot hand from the outside, giving the semi-antagonistic fans a glimpse of his past All-Star capabilities. For the Bulls, the games stretch run became about survival; not an ideal approach, but one that left them with the ideal ending after it became clear the Wizards had run out of gas.

Ill say it started from shootaround, where we werent that focused and Thibs was getting on us and it carried over into the game, so we could basically tell what kind of game it was going to be from shootaround, said Rose. The same things that he was telling us in practice that we needed to do, we didnt do it in the game and thats make them run off the 3-point line.

Were playing with fire. We gave up 38 points in the fourth. We didnt cover the three-point line. You cant do that. They were maybe one or two possessions away from the game being really close down the stretch. I give them credit, they fought the whole game. We got loose, said Thibodeau. The fourth quarters supposed to be your best quarter. We were careless with the ball, we closed short. Theyre the type of team, they knock a few in from three especially Arenas it doesnt take much to get them going. For him, hes still a heck of a player.

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.

Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history


Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history

We're trying to figure out the best season in Bulls franchise history, and we want your help in deciding.

Because the Bulls tout the greatest player in basketball history, who could have made up this list by himself, we're giving Michael Jordan his own side of the bracket. But the other side of the bracket is also filled with some pretty memorable and remarkable campaigns.

So read up on each matchup and then have your voice heard by voting on our Twitter page here. Check out the entire bracket in the graphic above.

The Jordan Region

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96) vs. No. 8 Michael Jordan (1990-91)

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96): Jordan was on a mission in his first full season back from retirement. He led the Bulls to a then-record 72 wins with a regular-season MVP award, All-Star MVP and romp through the NBA playoffs, where the Bulls went 15-3 en route to their fourth NBA title. Jordan won his eighth straight scoring title at 30.4 points a game, with nine games where he put up 40 or more. He saved his best for Detroit, scoring 53 with 11 rebounds and six steals in early March. To prove Jordan was getting better as he aged, he shot a career-high 43 percent from 3-point range at age 33.

No. 2 Michael Jordan (1990-91): 1990-91: Jordan's second MVP came with his first NBA title, as he was at the peak of his powers physically combined with the ultimate team success, with the Bulls finally getting past Detroit before defeating the Lakers in the Finals. He shot a career-high 54 percent from the field while averaging 31.5 points, six rebounds and 5.5 assists as he began to fully embrace the triangle offense in Phil Jackson's second season. Jordan had 57 games where he shot better than 50 percent from the field, and was among the league leaders in steals at 2.7 per game while earning his fourth straight All-Defensive First Team honor.

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11) vs. No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94)

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11): Where to begin? The youngest MVP in league history took the league by storm, averaging 25.0 points and 7.7 assists while leading the Bulls to a league-best 62 wins. Rose had been named an All-Star the previous season but took his game to new heights in Year 3, appearing in 81 games, making 128 3-pointers (after making a combined 32 his first two seasons) while helping the Bulls rank first in defensive efficiency under first year head coach Tom Thibodeau. Rose and the Bulls lost in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat, with Rose shooting a paltry 35 percent on 24 attempts per game. But his historic season will always go down as one of the franchise’s best, and the only non-Jordan MVP.

No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94): Yeah, well what would Scottie be without MJ? We found out that answer in 1993-94, when Pippen took the reins of the franchise as Jordan rode the Birmingham bus as a minor-league baseball player. Pippen responded with a sensational season, averaging 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He averaged 2.9 steals, shot 49 percent from the field and became a 3-point threat for the first time in his career. He was named First Team All-NBA and All-NBA Defensive First Team, and finished third to Hakeem and The Admiral in MVP voting. He averaged 22.8/8.3/4.6 in the postseason but ultimately proved it was easier to win in the spring with MJ by his side. Still, this individual season was one of the franchise’s best, if not the best. Hardware isn’t everything.

NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander


NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

For most of the college basketball season, John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats ranked among the nation’s biggest underachievers. Calipari had perfected the one-and-done route in Lexington, recruiting classes full of McDonald’s All-Americans every year, making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and then sending those talented freshmen off to the NBA. Matter of fact, Coach Cal’s ability to get players ready to play professionally is the foundation of his recruiting success.

However, this season the tried and true formula ran into a bit of a speed bump. Injuries and inconsistency led to double digit losses for the Wildcats during the regular season, and an uncertain tournament outlook. That’s when freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander emerged as the leader of this young team, and sparked Kentucky to a Southeastern Conference tournament championship.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been even better in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 19 points with 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the Wildcats’ opening round win over Davidson, then coming back with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in a victory over Buffalo.

At 6-6, Gilgeous-Alexander has the ability to shoot and pass over smaller defenders, while also possessing the quickness that is so crucial at the point guard position. Yes, he is very thin at 180 pounds, but has the frame to put on weight once he’s introduced to an NBA strength training program.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been Kentucky’s most efficient player throughout the season, shooting 49% from the field and nearly 42% from the 3 point line. He has the quickness and ball-handling ability to break down defenses and get in the paint for easy scores or assists. As the season progressed, Gilgeous-Alexander took on the role of go-to scorer late in games, sparking Kentucky’s runs in the S.E.C. AND NCAA tournaments.

So, by now I’m sure you’re asking, where does he fit with the Bulls? 3 weeks ago I was hoping Gilgeous-Alexander might be available in the 16-22 range where the Bulls might be able to get him with the Pelicans’ 1st round pick acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade. Unfortunately, his outstanding post-season play has him rocketing into the late lottery in the most recent mock drafts, and he could move up even higher if Kentucky advances to the Final 4.

The Bulls are happy with Kris Dunn as their starting point guard, and both Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne are under contract for next season. But if somehow the Pelicans fall out of the playoff field in the West (which seems very unlikely right now), adding an athletic combo guard like Gilgeous-Alexander would be an outstanding pick at 13 or 14.

So, when you’re watching Kentucky play in the NCAA Tournament, keep an eye on the tall, skinny guard wearing #22 and try to project just how good he might be on the professional level.