Bulls

Rose ready to make another big jump in year 3

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Rose ready to make another big jump in year 3

Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010
4:42 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

Remember when Derrick Rose posed the question Why cant I be the best player in the league? when I asked him about his individual goals for the season at Bulls Media Day? Well, winning MVP honors might not be within the 3rd year guards reach THIS season, but theres no reason why he couldnt make the jump to join the ranks of the top 10-12 players in the NBA.

Where would you rank Rose among the NBAs top players? Please post your comments in the section below.

Certainly hes in the top 25 after making his first All-Star team last season. And, coming off his gold medal winning performance as the starting point guard for Team USA at the World Championship in Turkey, hes getting more national recognition than ever before. Dont be surprised if Rose is voted in as a starting guard for the Eastern Conference at this seasons All-Star game in L.A. Hes becoming more comfortable in front of the television cameras during interviews, and hes added a number of national endorsements to his resume.

But when you get right down to it, what matters most is what Rose and the Bulls can accomplish on the court this season. And, if you watched Rose race through the Toronto defense Tuesday night, you got a small sampling of what he intends to do to opposing teams this season. Rose worked on improving his shooting range all summer, and he says he now has complete confidence in his ability to knock down 3-pointers. His mid-range jumper looks better than ever, and we know there isnt a defender in the league who can stay in front of him when hes got the ball in an open court situation.

You can figure Derrick will get off to a fast start this season while Carlos Boozer continues his rehab from a broken hand. Rose will be counted on to provide 18 to 24 points a night, and take the shots in clutch situations. New coach Tom Thibodeau wants his team to push the ball whenever possible, and theres not a faster guard in the league than Rose when it comes to speed off the dribble. Thibodeau is experimenting with playing 7-footers Joakim Noah and Omer Asik together, and the idea behind that is to dominate the defensive boards and create more blocked shots, sending Rose into the open court to attack outnumbered defenders on the fast break.

Right now, my list of the top 6 players in the league would be LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. After that, theres a larger group of star players that would include Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Pau Gasol, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Steve Nash. In my opinion, Rose is already part of that second group, and going into the 2011-12 season, he just might be ready to crack the top half dozen.

Watching Rose with the ball in the open court is the biggest treat for Bulls fans since the days of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. And, dont forget, Derrick just turned 22, so his best days are still ahead. It will be a lot of fun watching Rose and the Bulls continue to grow in the years ahead.

NOAH SHOWING HIS VERSATILITY

Another player poised to make a jump this season is 4th year center Joakim Noah. He almost put up a triple double in the pre-season win over Toronto, with 16 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists. Noah is more confident and determined than ever after signing that long term contract extension with the Bulls. Forget about losing the desire to play hard once you receive the big money. Joakim is player harder than ever, running down loose balls and battling for every rebound on both ends of the floor.

Noah put in a lot time this summer with Thibodeau working on his offensive skills, and the work has obviously paid off. Noah showed a nice touch last season shooting jump hooks with either hand, and he became a lot more consistent knocking down the open 15 foot jump shot. This season, look for Noah to be used even more as a facilitator in the offense, both on the block and at the high post. He has tremendous passing skills for a big man, as evidenced by his beautiful backdoor feed to a cutting Rose for a twisting reverse lay-up against Toronto.

When Thibodeau goes with his big line-up playing Noah and Asik together, Joakims ability to run the floor and crash the offensive glass will become even more valuable. Noah probably wont boost his scoring average much, especially when Boozer returns to action in late November, but his all-around game should draw attention from Eastern Conference coaches when its time to pick All-Star reserves in February.

So, what do you think? Will the Bulls have two All-Stars this season? Will Rose be voted in by the fans as an All-Star starter? And, where do you think Rose ranks among the NBAs elite players?

Please post your comments in the section below. Only two weeks until opening night in Oklahoma City, so enjoy the rest of the pre-season.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

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.