Bulls

Schanowski: Rose off to MVP-caliber start

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Schanowski: Rose off to MVP-caliber start

Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010
7:08 PM
By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

Heres a few observations after watching the first two games of the 82 game NBA marathon for the Bulls. As always, were interested in what you think. Please post your comments in the section below.

1. DERRICK ROSE REALLY DOES WANT TO BE IN THE MVP DISCUSSION

Remember back on Bulls Media Day when Derrick responded to a question about his individual goals for the coming season by saying. Why cant I be the best player in the league? Well, even though its only been two games so far, Rose is playing at an MVP level, averaging 33.5 points and 6.5 assists. Yes, he is shooting more than either he or the coaching staff would prefer, but with Luol Deng and Kyle Korver off to slow starts, the Bulls offense doesnt have the kind of balance we expected. Derrick has been a high-volume shooter by necessity, not by choice, and he singlehandedly rescued the Bulls from an embarrassing home court loss to Detroit, scoring 22 of his career-high matching 39 points in the 2nd half.

Rose worked hard all summer to improve his 3-point shooting, and hes probably the toughest point guard in the league to defend right now.

2. JOAKIM NOAH MIGHT JOIN ROSE IN THIS SEASONS ALL-STAR GAME

Talk about coming out with a vengeance, Joakim Noah has played like a man on a mission through the first two games, averaging 16.5 points and 18 rebounds. I had a discussion with my studio partner, Kendall Gill, about where Noah ranks among the Easts top centers. Kendall says he has Noah number 2 behind Dwight Howard, and Im starting to think hes right. Andrew Bogut and Brook Lopez may be better scorers, and Noahs University of Florida teammate, Al Horford, made the All-Star team as the Easts back-up center last season, but its hard to imagine any of those guys beating out Noah if he continues to play at the pace hes set during the opening week. Thank goodness it looks like Noahs foot problems are in the past thanks to new shoes complete with customized orthotics.

3. TAJ GIBSON STILL A VALUABLE PIECE OF BULLS PUZZLE

When the Bulls signed Carlos Boozer as a free agent this past summer, most people expected Gibson to be relegated to a lightly-used back-up, who might have to play some center to get additional minutes. Well, because of Boozers hand injury, Gibson is still in the starting line-up. He scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the season opener at Oklahoma City, and then scored 11 big points in the come-from-behind win over Detroit. Taj is extremely active on the offensive glass, giving the Bulls 2nd chance opportunities, and hes an underrated scorer. Even when Boozer comes back, Gibson will find his niche as an ultra-aggressive frontcourt banger who wont have to worry about the foul problems that sometimes limit his play as a starter.

4. BULLS NEED KYLE KORVER ON THE FLOOR

Maybe Korver is still struggling because of the ankle injury he suffered during the pre-season, but his presence in the line-up forces opposing defenses to alter their approach against the Bulls. When Korver hit that three pointer in the 4th quarter against the Pistons, their entire defensive philosophy seemed to change. All of a sudden, they were paying extra attention to Korver coming off screens, allowing Rose more opportunities to break down his man in half-court sets. And, with more defensive attention on Korver, Rose was also able to get the ball to Gibson and James Johnson for some easy baskets down the stretch. Tom Thibodeau has said repeatedly Korver needs to improve his defense, and the truth is, if he doesnt do a good job on the defensive end, his minutes will be limited. But, the Bulls gave him that 3 year, 15 million dollar contract for his ability to shoot the ball from long range, and space the floor for Rose and Boozer. Thibodeau needs to get Korver as many minutes as possible for the Bulls half-court offense to flourish.

5. SHOOTING GUARD POSITION COULD BE A PROBLEM

Its no secret the Bulls would have loved the chance to sign Joe Johnson in last summers free agent derby, and pair him with Rose. But Atlanta blew everyone out of the water by signing Johnson to a max contract that theyll likely come to regret in the coming years. The Bulls then focused their attention on Orlandos sharp-shooting J.J. Redick, but the Magic chose to match a front-loaded offer sheet that many NBA observers thought would be too rich for their blood given the fact they were already well over the leagues luxury tax threshold. That left the Bulls pursuing down the line free agents like Ronnie Brewer, Keith Bogans and C.J. Watson. All of those players have their strengths, but none is really the ideal compliment to Rose. Bulls management looked into the possibility of acquiring Portlands dynamic shooting guard Rudy Fernandez, but the Blazers wouldnt make the deal for just the Bulls first round draft pick, which figures to be somewhere in the 20s. As a result, the Bulls look like they might be a shooter short right now, but that could change quickly once Korver gets over his ankle issues and Deng starts to heat up.

6. BOOZER CANT GET BACK QUICK ENOUGH

For years, weve been talking about the Bulls lack of a classic low-post scorer, and they addressed that need over the summer by signing Boozer. But until his broken finger heals and he can get comfortable with his new teammates, the Bulls are very much a work in progress. Its crucial they find a way to stack up some wins with five of their next six games at home before the dreaded Circus trip out west. Boozer should provide a lot of options for the Bulls half-court offense, easing the reliance on Rose to create something almost every time down the floor. If you havent watched Carlos much over the years, hes a perfect fit for the Bulls system because of his ability to score in the post, run the high screen and roll with Rose, and also hit the 15 to 17 foot jumper with consistency. Plus, hes averaging double figure rebounds over his career. Carlos, heal up soon. Your teammates REALLY miss you.

So, what do you think of the Bulls 1-1 start? Please post your comments in the section below, or send me an e-mail. Should be an interesting week ahead with home games against Portland and the Knicks, followed by a trip to Boston on Friday. Enjoy the hoops, and well be talking to you on SportsNet Central at 6:30 and 10.

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

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

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AP

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bobby Portis publicly issued an apology to Nikola Mirotic for the punch that broke two bones in Mirotic’s face and caused a concussion earlier this week.

Portis was suspended eight games by the NBA while Mirotic will be out 4-6 weeks after he goes through concussion protocol, following an incident in Tuesday’s practice where the tensions boiled over between the two power forwards.

“I'm wrong for what I did. I want to publicly apologize to Niko,” said Portis outside the Bulls locker room at the United Center, hours before the home opener against the San Antonio Spurs. “I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls organization, and most importantly my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is.”

Sticking to clear talking points, repeatedly saying “we were competing” as a way to describe the incident, it was a more toned down version of Portis. Portis is usually colorful and engaging when talking to the media.

Saturday, he was muted, almost robotic in a sense. And he didn’t want to go into the incident in detail, one that many sources have said was instigated by Mirotic as the two were going back and forth physically during several possessions.

The play before, things intensified, causing assistant coach Randy Brown to step in and break things up. The next time downcourt, Mirotic apparently charged at Portis and Portis responded with one punch that sent Mirotic to the floor.

Gently choosing his words, Portis said, “We were competing and kinda went back and forth and things happened.”

When asked if he was shoved, Portis reiterated the two were competing although numerous accounts say Mirotic did push him leading up to the direct incident.

“Yes I was surprised by my own action,” Portis said. “That's not who I was, as I first stated. I'm a competitor at the end of the day but I never meant to hurt my teammate.”

Portis and Mirotic have not yet spoken, although Portis said he’s called and texted Mirotic with no response. It hasn’t been determined whether Mirotic will take legal action on Portis.

“Not concerned with that at this point,” Portis said. “At this point I’m just trying to publicly apologize to Niko and my teammates, and that I’m real sincere about the situation.”

Portis will be allowed to practice during his suspension, having returned Friday and Portis believes things can be mended with he and his teammate.

“Going forward I want to make sure that me and Niko are cool and we can be teammates again,” Portis said. “I'm pretty sure we can. We just have to repair this relationship.”

Justin Holiday said the issue will have to be addressed head on as opposed to being swept under the rug or letting the element of time naturally heal things. Whether that conversation is initiated by teammates or the coaching staff or front office, as long as both are wearing a Bulls uniform, it will be necessary.

“It hasn’t been arranged, but I’m pretty sure we’ll have to talk it out,” Portis said. “And I’m pretty sure it will be a gentle conversation. I’m pretty sure we can get past this.”

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.”