Bulls

Rose takes over, wills Bulls to victory yet again

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Rose takes over, wills Bulls to victory yet again

Saturday, March 26, 2011
Posted 10:00 p.m. Updated 11:48 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE It was the type of performance that an observer completely unfamiliar with his work could see and immediately jump on the MVP bandwagon. With the Bulls down double digits in the second half, Derrick Rose led a thrilling comeback effort with unselfishness and individual greatness to stun the Bucks, 95-87, Saturday night at the Bradley Center .

Rose: I didn't do s& yet

Just trying to take over the game, getting to the basket. You learn from every game that you play in, especially when its towards the end like that and I was just trying to win the game, Rose stated simply, as is his nature. When the chance is there, I just try to take the correct shot and tonight, it was driving the ball.

Elaborated Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: His will, the pace, making plays, scoring. Whatever we needed, he provided.

Hes done it all year, hes got to continue to do it and the thing I really respect about him is hes never satisfied, the even-keeled coach, who admitted he tries not to be in awe of Roses brilliance, continued. The important thing for him is the win. Hes not concerned with what hes doing individually. Hes more concerned about what our team is doing and his defense continues to improve.

After starting slow for the second consecutive evening Milwaukee got out to an early 15-8 leadthe Bulls played in catch-up mode, flipping the switch after a timeout. Chicago , playing in front of a Bradley Center crowd consisting of majority Bulls fans, stopped settling for jumpers in a nod to Thibodeaus inside-out preference.

Following the timeout, Rose (30 points, career-high 17 assists)serenaded with MVP chants from almost the outsetwent on a scintillating coast-to-coast jaunt for a three-point play and continued to assert himself offensively, driving to the basket relentlessly to either score or create opportunities for his teammates.

The home-standing Bucks, fighting for the Eastern Conferences final playoff spot, bent but didnt break, mustering up enough offense from swingmen Carlos Delfino (23 points) and John Salmons (25 points), the erstwhile Bull, to take a 25-21 lead into the second quarter.

Starter Luol Deng and four-fifths of the Bulls Bench Mob built upon the teams first-quarter momentum, tying the game in relatively short fashion, but the Bucks answered with a 5-0 run, prompting Thibodeau to call timeout and filter his regulars back into the contest. Once again, Milwaukee created some breathing room and once again, Chicago was forced to make a comeback.

Propelled by Rosehis lightning-speed crossover and equally amazing, acrobatic finish excited Bulls and Bucks fans alikethe visitors narrowed the gap, but true to form (at least the first half of this particular game), Milwaukee again opened up a comfortable winning margin, despite Roses ongoing heroics.

An exchange of baskets marked the end of the halffollowing yet another Rose three-point play with 3.9 seconds remaining, Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings (13 points) made a layup at the halftime buzzerafter which, the Bulls trailed, 48-44.

Salmons scorched his former team with four jumpers to start the third period, increasing Milwaukee s lead to double digits as part of a 12-1 Bucks run that ended with the first of two Keith Bogans three-pointers in a short span.

Although the lid finally came off the rim for the Bulls, it didnt come off for the home team, as Salmons hot handthe well-traveled veteran scored 12 third-quarter pointswouldnt cool off and he received able assistance from his teammates.

Chicago predictably stormed back, as Roses playmaking abilityon consecutive possessions, he made spectacular dishes that resulted in Bulls layupsled the charge to make it a competitive affair again. At the conclusion of three periods, however, Milwaukee still held on to a 74-69 advantage.

Trying to play hard, thats the biggest thing. Staying together, we fought our way back, explained Rose of his approach. If you look at the game, in the third quarter, I was just trying to feel the game out. I probably didnt shoot that much, just passing the ball. Just trying to beat the double team as a passer and it was rolling for us. Guys were finishing the baskets and we were playing an up-tempo type game.

Its almost the same thing. people always change up. First, they go under screens. Stopped that. Go over the top, just me one-on-one with the big. Kind of learned how to deal with that. Sending a third person over, the shooters have got to be ready to shoot. Ive almost seen every coverage you could possibly believe theyd be in, continued Rose, discussing the defensive strategy of Milwaukee and other teams against him. Just get the ball out of my handsme putting pressure on them opens up everybody on the court.

Early in the year when they were double-teaming me, I was forcing shotsjust forcing them, just to be forcing thembut now, Im getting into the lane, feeding that guys thats open and just leaving it up to them.

Added Thibodeau: They were trapping him and he was making the right plays. Thats what we want him to do. Hes very unselfish, created easy offense and he was in attack mode, put a lot of pressure on them and got us easy shots.

He studies, he prepares and I think that hes gotten to know his teammates a lot better. His teammates have gotten to know him a lot better and as you see the different defenses, you have to read and react very quickly, and knowing that hes so unselfish, I think it makes our team unselfish, he continued. Often times, hes getting trapped and theyre trying to get the ball out of his hands, and its the second pass thats getting us the wide-open shot. As long as everyones willing to pass the ball, it makes you a much more efficient team, much more difficult to guard.

A three-point play by Ronnie Brewer kicked off the fourth-quarter scoring and with a small-ball lineupRose and C.J. Watson together in the backcourtthe Bulls applied defensive pressure to the Bucks and looked to push the pace on offense.

Thibodeau eventually went back to a more conventional lineup, but that adjustment didnt put a cramp in Chicago s style, as the Bench Mob preserved the nature of the tight-knit battle heading into the games stretch run.
Carlos Boozer had a strong second half on the receiving end of numerous Derrick Rose assists and finished with a double-double of his own, scoring 14 points and reeling in 11 rebounds. (US PRESSWIRE)
Upon his return, Rose seamlessly blended his pass-first instincts (Carlos Boozer, who scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, was a beneficiary) and elite scoring abilitymostly getting to the charity stripe, as the Bucks struggled to defend him off the dribble and were thusly forced to put him on the foul linefamiliarly putting the team on his shoulders in crunch time as the game hung in the balance. Additionally, Chicago s defense buckled down to get stops on crucial Milwaukee possessions.

We have a lot of confidence in our defense and thats the strength of this team. We feel like were never out of it. Were fighters. Were a team of fighters and I think weve showed that since the beginning of the year. Even when we were going through adversitywed go down a lot, come backwe were always fighting. Were a team with a lot of character and were playing with a lot of swag right now.

If it wasnt a passhis fast-break assist to Joakim Noah (12 points, 11 rebounds) tied the game at 87 apieceRose made, then it was a basket, such as his tough runner in traffic to give the Bulls an 89-87 lead with 1:53 remaining to put the visitors up for the first time in the contest.

The All-Star point guard continued to work his magic, also hitting the next two shots to give the Bulls a 93-87 advantage with 42 seconds on the clock, a margin supported by Chicago s sound defensive efforts.

Derrick, with the pressure of the game, hes great in those situations. Hes got a lot of poise and a lot of confidence and I think that comes from his preparation. Hes ready to handle those things and he always makes the right play, whether its him finishing at the rim, pulling up or hitting an open teammate. And hes not afraid. He has great courage, said Thibodeau. Milwaukees playing extremely well. Theyre playing very, very hard. Theyre a tough team defensively. Its hard to get a good shot against them and Rose did whatever he had to do to put us in a position to win.

We dodged a bullet. We trailed most of the game. Thats two games in a row defensively we were very poor in the first half. Weve got to change that, he continued. This team has shown a lot of resolve all season long. The rebounding again was very good, but the slow starts are not something that we like, so were going to have to take a look at that to see how we can improve.

A Bucks turnover, resulting in a Rose-to-Brewer fast break and layup put the game away. Not only was it an exhilarating comeback, but another addition to Roses season resume, one that should conclude with a league MVP award and possibly further gratification, in the form of team postseason success.

But according to Rose, even this stellar performance couldnt convince him all the individual attention was justified.

Im getting there. Im learning every game, watching other great players in the NBA.

The worst thing you can do is give me confidence. No matter what Im doing, doing whatever. If I get any type of confidence, its going to be hard to stop me, said Rose. I didnt do anything yet. Ive still got a goal. Weve got to get to the second round. Thats what were trying to do now.

You can just feel the vibe in the locker room right now, were happy, he continued. Weve got a bunch of good guys who love playing with each other.

Were confident against anybody in the NBA. Weve proved we can play against all the best teams now.

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.

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

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USA TODAY

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

The Zach LaVine timeline for a Bulls debut remains the same, although he’s ahead of schedule in every metric of his return from ACL surgery this past February.

It doesn’t mean he isn’t angling for more work and pushing his limits to learn the offense he’ll be featured in, along with taking contact “here and there,” in his words. He’s supposed to wait nine months from the day of his February 14 surgery before taking contact, which would put him at a November 14 practice before the Bulls go to Oklahoma City.

“I should be doing contact really soon. It all depends on them,” LaVine said in his first public words since media day several weeks ago. “I’m pushing them as hard as I can, but at the end of the day we still gotta be careful. I feel great. I’m doing everything I was doing before. I’m pretty sure I can do contact, but we’ve got to stick to that schedule. But every day I’m just getting back, trying to as close to 100 percent as I can before I come back.”

LaVine was at Air Canada Centre getting a workout in before the Bulls opener against the Raptors and has gotten in heavy workouts on the off days with the assistant coaches in the meantime.

Sticking to the schedule will be on both LaVine and the Bulls, although both sides could be tempted to cut corners a bit. It would be human nature for the Bulls to show the NBA world their centerpiece from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night, as well as LaVine to want to be the frontline player he feels he deserves to be.

“Yeah, it’s definitely hard. I don’t like missing games,” LaVine said. “Before the injury I didn’t really miss any games. I think I missed one or two in my career, so it really sucks just sitting there, not being able to help. I try to help as much as I can from the sideline. You know, give a little advice here and there, but yeah it hurts.”

He’s also in line for a big-time extension, having passed the deadline for extensions for players in his 2014 draft class. He’ll have to wait until the summer, especially since it didn’t make sense for him to extend unless it was a max deal.

“Obviously, I want to be here for a long time,” LaVine said. “And I feel the deal is going to get done, either then or next summer. I don’t have any fear in that. I think I know I’ll be in black and red for a little bit longer. I’m very happy and looking forward to that day as well. The main concern is just getting back on the court, get my legs ready and try to help the team as much as possible until then.”

LaVine was averaging a career-high 18.9 points as a third option behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but will be featured in Fred Hoiberg’s offense as a first and maybe even second option, too—especially seeing how anemic the Bulls offense has looked in the first two games.

“With the team that we have and the system that (Fred Hoiberg) put in, we’re going to get up a lot of threes,” LaVine said. “When we’re on we’re going to blow some teams out with those threes. When we’re off, as the last couple games have shown, it’s going to be a struggle to score sometimes, but I think that’s where I can come in and help, and I can’t wait to get out there and start playing.”

Never lacking for confidence, LaVine hasn’t been deterred by the losing or even the unfortunate Bobby Portis-Nikola Mirotic incident from last week.

“We’re building something here. People understand we’re going through a little bit of that process,” LaVine said. “But we’re going to play and win. When I’m on the court, I’m trying to win. Wins and losses do happen. We can always take positives from both of those. That’s how you grow.”

As for Mirotic, LaVine hasn’t spoken to him but has sent texts—as it seems many of the Bulls have reached out to their teammate over the last several days.

“It was unfortunate. That’s what happens when two players are battling I guess,” LaVine said. “I don’t think either of them were in the wrong. It was just something that happened, an altercation. Men are men sometimes. We never should have that happen. But I think we’ve moved past it. Bobby’s in a good spot. We’ve all tried to contact Niko. I think we’ll all be able to move forward.”

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”