Bulls

Rose lets his game do the talking in return to lineup

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Rose lets his game do the talking in return to lineup

Although Derrick Rose didnt address the media after Monday afternoons Bulls win over the Hawks he reportedly received treatment for his ailing back, then left the United Center his teammates had plenty to say about the reigning league MVPs return to the lineup after a five-game hiatus.

While Roses stat line of 23 points, six assists and five rebounds speaks for itself, the subtleties his presence brings to the table for the Bulls transformed the team from simply a blue-collar group reliant on only defense to win games to a squad with a game-changing player ready to be unleashed if needed.

Having Pooh back, it just opens up everything. He was very aggressive and when hes aggressive like that, it opens up everything for everybody and gives us a lot of confidence, observed Joakim Noah.

Were not going anywhere without that guy. Every game is different. Sometimes theyre going to blitz and trap Derrick. Our game plan changes when they do that. Derricks a great passer. He does a lot of things great, so some games, hes going to attack the rim. Hes going to take whatever the defense gives him and not force the issue or anything like that, so overall, I think having him playing is huge for us.

Carlos Boozer noted that Roses impact on the contest started from early in the opening period, after the Bulls started slowly, and extended through the waning moments of the affair.

Thibs called a great 20-second timeout and Pooh just picked the pace up for all of us. Next thing you know, it was drive to the bucket, and-one, free throws, jump shot. It was awesome to watch, said the power forward. He did the same thing in second half. Came out, was super-aggressive and his scoring ability got everybody in the right spots. His poise down the stretch gave us a great calm out there.

Reserve point guard John Lucas III who played major minutes alongside the superstar in crunch time Monday, but will most likely feel the impact of Roses return the most when backup point guard C.J. Watson comes back to the lineup spoke about how he knew in advance that Rose would be up to speed in his first game back.

Oh, its always good to have our whole team get healthy. Now, we just need to get Rip and well be full strength, but our whole thing is, when Derrick came back, we knew he was going to be ready. We kept telling him, Dont rush. Take your time. We got this. Well hold it down. Take your time because were going to need you in the long run. Right now, just get healthy, because weve got the second half of the season coming up after All-Star break, the diminutive scorer explained. When Derrick steps on that court, hes never tentative. This is what he does, this is what he loves. Even in practice the other day, when we were playing, I didnt want to hit him or bump him, but he was like, No, this isnt how its going to be in the game, so we went all-out. And I was like, Oh, youre ready. Youre going full speed, game speed. Go out there and do what youve got to do.

Thats the one thing thats good about our team. Everybody knows their role. Derrick comes back, that means minutes are going to be cut short for me, C.J., all of us, but were not complaining because we want to win. Thats the biggest thing, winning on this team and were happy that hes back and hes getting healthy. You all just saw a glimpse you all obviously know what he can do full strength but for him missing as many games as he did, it looked like he didnt miss any.

Luol Deng, the Bulls other All-Star, discussed how with Rose back, hes able to shoulder less of a burden as a playmaker and can get back to his traditional role on the team.

Its so much easier, man, with him being back, especially defensively. I really lock in defensively. I know offensively hes going to create for everyone and get everyone shots, he said. Its great. Having him back, I dont have to focus so much on creating and everything else. On offense, just get back to our regular roles, what makes us a great team. Defensively, focusing on hustle plays, rebounding and offensively, some nights theres going to be a lot of scoring from me. Some nights theres not, but thats the role and thats the way we play.

Its good to have Derrick back. Hopefully after the break, Rip will be back. Weve got one more game, Milwaukee, and hopefully from there on out, everyone will be back on the squad, Deng continued. He played well. Hes going to get more comfortable as he plays more, but its really great to have him back and we cant wait to get Rip back also.

Speaking of Hamilton, who Deng and Lucas seemed to be openly pining for, sources tell CSNChicago.com that hell likely return after the All-Star break, either in the Bulls Feb. 28th home game against the Hornets or on their subsequent three-game road trip.

There is also the slim possibility that the veteran shooting guard plays Wednesday against Milwaukee, as hes been increasing his activity level as of late while he recovers from his right thigh and groin injuries, in addition to mourning the passing of his grandmother.

But first things first, lets get back to Rose, who didnt look rusty in the least, though he obviously can raise his game to another level once hes back in the groove. Still, not bad for the first game hes played as Boozer said, Youve just got to keep watching him play, but he was pretty damn good today" when he hasnt looked hobbled since early this month.

His explosion was there. His drives were there," said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. "Conditioning-wise, hes not where he normally is. But thats to be expected. Overall, Im very pleased. He said he felt real good out there. The big thing was making sure he was 100 percent and pain-free. Then he had to be cleared medically. Then he had to feel very good about playing. We went step-by-step with him. He did his rehab. Then we did non-contact stuff. He didnt have problems with that. Then we went to contact and he didnt have problems with that. Who were playing didnt have anything to do with it. He felt he was 100 percent and could go. Well just go from here. He said he felt well out there.

You dont want him to change who he is. Thats the nature of the game. Guys are going to be aggressive and attack. Youre always concerned about health. But a guy could get hurt in practice or shootaround. Thats part of the game. Hes done a good job with his rehab. Our trainers have done a great job with him. We felt comfortable. As long as hes pain-free and feels 100 percent, we felt good with him playing. He met all the criteria that we were looking for him to meet before he played again. So were good with it.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

There's not often hype surrounding a game between two of the NBA's worst teams, but Tuesday's Bulls-Lakers matchup was intriguing to many because it offered a chance to see a pair of top rookies compete. 

Oh, but you didn't think we meant Lonzo Ball and Lauri Markkanen, did you?

Nah, it was two different, less-touted first-year players that ended up stealing the spotlight at the Staples Center. 

Kyle Kuzma and Antonio Blakeney may not be household names, but they sure played like they were in the Bulls' 103-94 loss. 

Kuzma, the Lakers rook drafted 27th overall, has been a spark for Luke Walton's squad all season long. Boasting a terrific scoring arsenal, the Utah product carried the load for the Lakers' offense in the first half, dropping 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He finished the game as L.A.'s leading scorer with 22 in 40 minutes. But if you still need a more in-depth scouting report on Kuzma, just let Lonzo break it down:  

More importantly for Bulls fans, though, was the play of their undrafted guard who's signed to a two-way deal. 

Blakeney, the unofficial Summer League MVP, came off the bench on Tuesday and immediately left his mark on the game. The 21-year-old out of LSU posted 15 in the first half, finishing through contact as well as connecting on outside jumpers. 

Blakeney's shooting isn't reliable quite yet, but his energy has clearly influenced Hoiberg's rotation. The guard went from playing one NBA minute in the Bulls' first 11 games to playing 75 in the last four. Given that his two-way deal allows him to only spend 45 days with the team, it'll be fascinating to see how creative Gar Forman and John Paxson will get with his contract if this type of production continues. 

In a season that's obviously going to have its share of rough moments, an offseason flyer hitting is a huge plus for the rebuild. 

As for the recognized rookies, Lonzo's shooting woes persisted and Markkanen had maybe his worst offensive performance of his young Bulls career. Combined, they finished 7-for-30 with 21 points. Not ideal. 

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

The Zach LaVine comeback is one step closer as the shooting guard was cleared for contact practice after checking with his doctors in California. 

LaVine will go through a step by step process over the next few weeks and the Bulls will gauge his progress to see when the best time for his return will be. 

But, given the nine-month process from his ACL injury he suffered in February, he's right on track and there doesn't appear to be any setbacks. 

"There’s no real timeframe, I guess," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said at practice Monday. "It’s really going to be on how he feels. We’ll try to do a little more every day with him. We did a little bit, got him some light contact today just to get the process started.

"He’ll be able to play a little two-on-two with not a lot of practice time these next 10 days. But we’ll throw him out there and continue to try to get him feeling better. There’s going to be a mental hurdle that he’s going to have to clear as well. I know he’s excited. His teammates are excited and the coaches are obviously excited as well."

LaVine's recovery has gone as planned since his arrival in Chicago from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night. Targeting a mid-December return seems realistic but of course, the Bulls will take every precaution to make sure he's healthy for the long term, both for LaVine and the franchise, as he's a restricted free agent this summer--and they have no plans on letting him walk. 

LaVine told NBC Sports Chicago recently that he wants to get on the floor immediately but the Bulls know they'll have to protect him from himself in the meantime. 

"He’s going to have to string together a lot of really good days, and he knows that," Hoiberg said. "He understands that. The important thing is he’s right on track from where it was said after the injury. He’s been doing a great job with his rehab. He’s on time. He’s doing everything that’s asked of him. His strength numbers are where they’re supposed to be. I’m confident he’s going to keep making progress. But we’ll absolutely monitor it daily and hopefully it’ll just continue to get better."

The Bulls aren't sure if they'll send LaVine to the G-League but it's certain they have plans on not only how to use him when he steps on the floor but also a regimen they've stuck to, to ensure there are no real setbacks. 

Hoiberg has been salivating over having a true scorer at that position since trading for him, and LaVine has been eager since his arrival to prove to the Bulls and fans that he is a franchise player. 

Prudence in the moment of progression, though, appears to be the approach taken by both sides.