Bulls

Rose elevates Bulls to sixth straight victory at UC

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Rose elevates Bulls to sixth straight victory at UC

Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011
Posted 9:23 PM Updated 12:19 AM

By Aggrey SamCSNChicago.com

Talk about schizophrenic. A first-half effort that resembled last week's lackluster road losses was followed up by a dominant second-half performance Monday evening at the United Center, where the Bulls (25-12) roared past the Pistons (12-25), 95-82.

The visitors, in the midst of turmoil spawned from the rumored Carmelo Anthony trade saga (longtime guard Rip Hamilton is reportedly a key component), used perimeter shooting and a spread-the-floor approach to get off to a solid start. Chicago, on the other hand, went with the dual-pronged approach of primary scorers Derrick Rose (aggressive drives to the basket, mirroring the efforts that earned him a career-high 19 free-throw attempts Saturday) and Carlos Boozer (displaying excellent touch on the interior) to facilitate offense in the early going.

With Chicagos defense not quite at the same level as it was Saturday night against the Celtics, Detroit went often to versatile stalwart Tayshaun Prince (15 points, three rebounds, three assists), who was able to produce points in a variety of ways. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went deeper in his bench in the opening period than usual, but despite the adjustment, the Pistons held a 25-20 lead after a quarter.

Were still sluggish in the beginning, especially on defense, Rose observed. We cant do that against a great team.

Offensively, the Bulls continued to struggle early in the second period, thusly falling into a hole against the visitors. Pistons reserve swingman Tracy McGrady came off the bench to have another brief flashback (as he had in Detroit, the last time the two teams faced off) and suddenly, Chicago was down by double digits midway through the quarter, with Boozer (27 points, 10 rebounds) seemingly the only Bull who could get his offense going.

Then came the reinsertion of Rose (29 points, seven assists, five rebounds) and the subsequent rejuvenation of the United Center crowd, following one of trademark powerful two-handed dunks in transition. However, the Bulls couldnt significantly cut into the deficit, with Detroits sizable lineup of Prince and McGrady as 6-foot-9 ballhandlers, Hamilton and 6-foot-10 sharpshooter Austin Daye (14 points) on the wings and either rookie Greg Monroe or veteran Chris Wilcox (13 points, nine rebounds) inside (in the stead of former Bull Ben Wallace, who was sidelined with an ankle injury early in the contest), befuddling Chicago and giving the visitors a rare advantage on the glass, even without the services of Wallace.

The intriguing Daye perhaps benefited the most from the non-traditional set, first gaining momentum with a spectacular blow-by dribble move past Bulls reserve Kyle Korver and an explosive finish. Chicagos lack of offensive balancebesides Rose and Boozer, the only players to score were third option Luol Deng (suffering from a touch of the flu) and reserves Taj Gibson (eight points, five rebounds, two blocked shots) and Ronnie Brewer (11 points, six assists), the latter of whom contributed more with his passinghurt them tremendously and after a half, they trailed, 55-43.

Actually, the first quarter was just as bad as the second. In the second, we had a number of matchup problems because of the size we had out there, said Thibodeau. I thought we were low energy on both endsdefensively and offensivelyand so I thought the third quarter, we came and the first five minutes, I thought our energy was very, very good on both ends of the floor. Then, we got going a little bit and the game became easier. I thought our defense was terrific.

Added Rose: We knew that playing the way we did in the first half, we werent going to win the game like that. Theyre a team that can score a lot of points. Theyve got a lot of isolation players, where if one of them gets hot, they can get going. It was tough, but we came back.

Boozer chimed in: They kicked our butt. Second half, we tried to adjust and do a better job.

Theyve got talented guys. Tayshaun is as versatile of a guy as we have in the league. Obviously T-Macs been that throughout his career. I was very impressed with the kid Daye. Very good player, very good young player. Obviously Stuckey and Rip. Theyve got a lot of guys who can play. Theyre very talented, he continued. Its part of the game. Sometimes matchups can go one way or another. We run different plays that may or may not be effective, but you saw how we took care of it in the second half.

We werent playing good on offense or defense and we all came in the locker room pissed off and angry and basically, wanted to play better. We wanted ourselves to play better and so we did.

Deng started the second half with a more aggressive offensive mindset, scoring, then finding Boozer for a dunk on a nice drive-and-dish scenario in short order.

Boozer was also a major contributor and with an improved defensive effort, the Bulls quickly trimmed Detroits winning margin.

A considerably better shooting percentagein large part due to Boozers dominance and efficiency insidegave the Bulls a semblance of offensive flow, but just as they appeared to overtake their Central Division rivals, Detroit would muster up a timely basket to retain the lead. A Deng stealone of two notable hustle plays in the quarter for the longest-tenured player on the teamand uncontested transition dunk would eventually get the lead for the home team.

I wanted to come out with a lot of energy. Somebody just had to do something and everyone just follow. We just came out, we had a lot more energy and it turned out to be a better half, the flu-stricken Deng told CSNChicago.com. I had to do that receive IV fluids before the game. I was low on the energy; that kind of played into it, you could see in the first half. The second half, I kind of just put it aside and even if its just talkingsome kind of energyand hopefully guys would feed off of it, and we had better energy as a whole.

Coach always preaches about bringing something to the team the team needs. In the second half, I felt like we needed energy and I felt like I wanted to be that guy. I thought the whole team did, he continued. I thought the second half, everyone picked it up a level and being down 12, we did a good job of just getting our offense going from our defense.

The Rose M-V-P chants began in earnest toward the periods conclusion, after the All-Star point guard powered through contactThibodeaus reasoning for why hes finally getting more trips to the foul lineand finished, despite a strong foul. Rose then hit a deep jumper near the third quarters end, giving the Bulls a 76-70 advantage heading into the final period.

Part of our job as leaders on the team is to get everybody going, so we try to be aggressive on offense and try to be aggressive on defense. Obviously that third quarter, I took over early, he Rose took over late. Thats the mark of our job. Weve got to go out there and be aggressive from start to finish because the rest of the guys are going to follow what we do, said Boozer. As soon as the ball gets tipped, were trying to be extremely aggressive.

Rose justified his fawning kingdoms worship on an early fourth quarter fast break, when he caught a towering alley-oop pass from Brewer well above the rim for a see-it-to-believe-it one-handed flush.

Before I came to this team, I was at a restaurant in Utah and I saw D-Rose dunk against Phoenix. In my opinion, thats one of the better dunks of all last year. So, I knew he was capable of jumping that high, said Brewer. I just didnt want to throw it too low and have a turnover, and start a fast break in the other direction. So, I knew if I threw it high, it was going to be a turnover out of bounds or he was going to make a play and fortunately, he made a play and made me look good.

Recounted Rose: I just went up and got it. Ronnie threw it up. Simple one-hand dunkI dont know how I caught it. I was just in the moment.

Added Boozer: That was the play of the night for us. We got excited. It was a decent pass by Ronnie Brewer, then D-Rose made it spectacular.

His overall level of focus was tremendous, as he was aggressive as a scorer and even a playmaker on the defensive end.

Stuckey hit some great shots against me. I jumped at all of them, but hes a pro, hes going to hit some shots. Youve got to make sure you jump at all of them, said Rose of his defensive improvement. Im just trying to make it hardI can leap pretty good when Im in my vertical position and just jump as high as you can, and make sure theyre leaving their feet at the same time because you dont want to get a stupid foul.

Praised Thibodeau: Hes obviously a spectacular offensive player, but the thing that I like is the improvement that hes made defensively. I think hes gotten so much better and I think hes working on it really hard.

I also think, during the course of a game, he can read and react to what we need the most. I thought he came out in the third quarter with a lot of aggressiveness and he got them back on their heels. Hes tough to guard when he plays like that.

In fact, the entire team was opportunistic defensivelyplaying the passing lanes, protecting the rim and taking chargesand with long-coveted transition opportunities finally materializing, Chicagos lead swelled to a comfortable cushion. One play spelled out the collective effort better than anything: Gibson diving for a loose ball out of bounds, near the scorers table, as Detroit accrued a shot-clock violation; Thibodeau was the first to congratulate his player and help him to his feet.

A Brewer 3-pointer gave the Bulls a double-digit lead and down the stretch, Chicago maintained their advantage by keeping up their solid defense and executing on the offensive end. Chicago cruised to the win, with the visitors making the requisite late-game fouls, to no avail.

Tale of two halves tonight. We didnt do a very good job in the first half, but the mark of a good team is can you step up to the challenge and play better and to a man, we came out there and played better. We stepped up to the challenge of what they brought and played much better, especially on defense. Thats why we won the game, said Boozer.

We acknowledge that we have to play much better. This is a game that we pretty much escaped because we played so much better in the second half than in the first half. That cant be the mark of our team. We cant continue to get down early and have to rely on our capabilities to come back. We have to be a team thats consistent and works to be more consistent throughout a 48-minute game, especially now that we have two games on the road that are big games for us after playing poorly last week on the road.

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.”