Bulls

Rose willing to play through pain against Kings

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Rose willing to play through pain against Kings

Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010
12:32 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Despite a sore neck, Derrick Rose expects to play in the Bulls game Saturday night against the Kings.

"It's up to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. It's a little sore, but I'm willing to play through it," said Rose, who received a massage in the training room during Chicago's buzzer-beating Friday night loss to Denver. "It feels decent. We'll just have to see. I still have problems turning fast certain ways, but I think when I'm playing, I should not be thinking about it."

"I'm just trying to stay positive right now, just think that I'm going to play the whole game. C.J. Watson played great yesterday, so if I can't play, I know that he'll come in and back me up pretty good," added Rose, who later indicated the decision to play rested with him. "I'm going to go test it out now, shoot for a little bit and see how it is. If it's hurting, take a pill and still go out there and play."

Rose, received treatment -- electronic stimulation -- on the team's flight from Denver to Sacramento following Friday's game.

"He's doing a lot better today. He's going to go through pregame warm-up and if he's fine after that, he'll go," said Thibodeau. "Once he gets out there, if he feels good, we want him to play. But if he doesn't feel good, then we don't want him to play. If he's injured, he should sit. But if he's just hurting, then he should play. If he sits out -- like I said yesterday -- I'm more than confident in the guys that we have on that bench."

Thibodeau said power forward Taj Gibson -- who received limited minutes last night, getting pulled early in both the first and third quarters and never returning in either half -- would likely play.

"He's going to go through the warmup and if he's feeling fine, he'll go. He seemed like he was moving around OK at the hotel," said Thibodeau.

Newly-signed point guard John Lucas spoke to CSNChicago.com about missing two clutch free throws in Friday's loss, which enabled Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony to hit the game-winning basket.

"That game's over with it, it's behind us," he said. "I told them I'm sorry I let them down just because I make free throws. Like Coach Thibs and everybody told me, just move on to the next game. We've got Sacramento. You have no excuses. It doesn't matter about your flight or what you were going through that day. It comes down to knocking the shot down, knocking the free throws down with confidence. I went in there with a lot of confidence to shoot them. The second one, I knew it was in there, but when it hit the back of the rim -- it's a tough situation. I washed it off and moved on to this game.

"Everybody wants that opportunity to make that big shot -- that home-run shot -- and for me, to take the ball out, I'm always going to make the right decision to get the ball in because that's more important than anything else, especially when we didn't have any timeouts left," continued Lucas, who played for Thibodeau in Houston when the Bulls head coach was a Rockets assistant. "Just for him to put me in a situation like that -- just getting here -- shows a lot. I just apologize to my team. I feel like I let them down. I didn't just let my teammates down. I let the city of Chicago down and the whole organization."

Thibodeau explained his thought process for having the newly-signed guard in at crunch time late in the game in Denver.

"John is capable of inbounding the ball. He fulfilled that role for us in Houston," explained Thibodeau. "You base your decisions on the players you have available at that particular time. John was actually in C.J.'s position, C.J. was in Derrick's position and then Kyle Korver was the guy obviously we were trying to get the ball to.

"In those situations, John's an excellent free-throw shooter and I'm confident in his ability to make those. I've seen him make big free throws before. It didn't work out last night, but it will the next time."

As far as the seven-game road trip as a whole, Thibodeau isn't concerned about the Bulls' history -- or even recent history -- on the dreaded Circus Trip.

"Well, I don't want to look back and I think the big thing for us is looking at the game that's in front of us because that's what we try to do as a team. The big thing is coming into tonight's game concerned about Sacramento; the last game of the trip, making sure our focus stays on Sacramento and not thinking about going home. For the most part, I think our guys have done a great job with their attitude and their approach to each game," said Thibodeau. "There's good and bad with everything. When you look at where we are right now, there's a lot of areas we think we can do better in, so we want to continue to concentrate on our improvement. We've done some good things, I think we've shown some toughness, but there's some areas I think we can do a lot better.

"It's a probably a combination of a lot of things. The big thing is to develop the right mindset. You can win in any situation and if you look hard enough, you can find an excuse every night. That's part of the NBA -- the back-to-backs, the four games in fives nights -- everyone has to go through it and I think the real quality teams in this league find a way to overcome those things."

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.

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.”

Miscues, miscommunications and missed shots: Bulls offense struggling all around

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USA TODAY

Miscues, miscommunications and missed shots: Bulls offense struggling all around

Denzel Valentine corralled a rebound and casually dribbled up the right side of the floor, unaware of the final 5 seconds ticking off the clock in the third quarter. The second-year shooting guard moved toward the basket as the buzzer sounded, only realizing his gaffe as the red lights behind the backboard lit up. It was that kind of night for the Bulls offense, and one that highlighted carelessness, a lack of talent and obvious growing pains as the rebuild begins.

Fred Hoiberg’s group finished with more turnovers (20) than assists (18), shot 38 percent from the field and were doubled up on points in the paint in an ugly 87-77 loss to the Spurs on Saturday night. Adding to the issues were only nine free-throw attempts and 28 percent shooting from deep on a night where the Bulls played well enough defensively to earn a win.

But they couldn’t take advantage of a Spurs team playing without Kawhi Leonard. The ball stopped for long periods of time in the halfcourt, the fast break was non-existent and miscommunications were frequent, even when they didn’t result in one of those 20 turnovers.

“We had 20 turnovers that led to 23 points…that’s what kills you,” Hoiberg said. “A team goes on a run and they get easy ones, pick-sixes, you’re all of a sudden in a big hole. And obviously did not shoot the ball well today.”

The struggles came from across the board. Only Cris Felicio was turnover-less of the nine Bulls who played. The backcourt tandem of Jerian Grant and Justin Holiday combined for 11 of 32 shooting. Rookie Lauri Markkanen showed flashes with eight first-half points, but finished 5 of 14 and committed three ugly turnovers. Robin Lopez made the first 3-pointer of his career 630 games in, but a 29-year-old leading the way for a young rebuilding group could be deemed bittersweet at best.

It capped off a whirlwind first week for the Bulls, who dealt on the fly with the fallout of the altercation between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis. Losing Mirotic and Portis hurt from a talent standpoint, but it also threw a wrench into Hoiberg’s rotation and scheme. It thrust 20-year-old Markkanen into the starting lineup; Paul Zipser has shifted to playing more power forward (while also starting at small forward); Lopez is being asked to score more than ever, and at times be the primary option.

“With everything we’ve had going on the past week, with playing guys different positions that they haven’t played yet,” Hoiberg said, “we’re still trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to go out there and play. We’re getting stuck at times because guys are in the wrong spots.”

The Bulls opened Saturday night with a solid first quarter, scoring 21 points, assisting on nine of 12 baskets and committing just three turnovers.

The final three quarters couldn’t have been more different. The second unit again struggled like it did in allowing the Raptors a 20-2 second-quarter run on Tuesday. Even without Leonard the Spurs’ defensive length cut off passing and driving lanes, forcing the Bulls to dribble down the shot clock and turn to isolation basketball or contested 3-pointers.

The Spurs couldn’t pull away thanks to an inspired defensive effort by the Bulls, but the offensive stalling rendered it moot; the Bulls took 28 3-pointers and 37 shots in the paint, an ugly ratio when considering the nine free-throw attempts. The bench shot 7-for-19, but most of that came in garbage time.

“One thing we definitely need to work on is attacking the basket,” Lopez said. “I think there are times where we all get a little jumper-happy on the perimeter. I think we need to have a good balance.

We need to be aware of that. We’re a team that doesn’t have a lot of room for error so any time we concede the ball like that, we don’t get up a shot attempt, tat’s going to really hurt us.”

Kris Dunn may be closer than expected to returning to the lineup after dislocating his finger in the preseason. It would give the Bulls help on that dismayed second unit, knocking Kay Felder (3 turnovers in 15 minutes) out of the rotation. Once Mirotic and Portis return in November, Hoiberg will have more flexibility with his rotations as well as some insurance if frontcourt foul trouble arrives.

None are go-to scorers, and not even Zach LaVine's 19.8 points per game last season will save the Bulls once he's healthy. Season-long struggles like Saturday night are on the way for a young team searching for pieces of the future. That's expected, and in the long term it benefits them as more Lottery balls roll toward Chicago.

But in a season in which success will be judged not on wins and losses but improvement from game-to-game, but the Bulls have set the bar low in the season's first week.