Bulls

Spurs, Texas two-step too much for Bulls

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Spurs, Texas two-step too much for Bulls

Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010
Updated 1:48 AM
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

SAN ANTONIO The difference was the final result.

No, Derrick Rose wasnt quite as offensively prolific as he was in the fourth quarter of Tuesdays win over Houston, but he did throw a major scare into the Spurs with a 13-point final period as part of his 33 points for the night.

Unfortunately, for Chicago, a less-vulnerable opponent in San Antonio refused to succumb to Roses one-man gang efforts, holding off the Bulls, 103-94, Wednesday evening, snapping the Bulls four-game winning streak.

A racehorse tempo from the outsetsurprising the Spurs opted to push the pace so much against the much younger Bulls, instead of a more methodical style, since theyre capable of bothled to transition opportunities for both squads.

Each team was clicking offensively, with Luol Deng (18 points, seven rebounds) and Joakim Noah (10 points, 14 rebounds) getting off to extremely active starts for Chicago, with DeJuan Blair and Tim Duncan (16 points, 18 rebounds, five assists)guarded individually by second-year forward Taj Gibson initially, the future Hall of Famer took advantage with his savvy, skill and still-considerable abilitymatching their efforts for the home team.

With the game suited to his style, Derrick Rose took advantageone particular acceleration by Duncan for a fast-break layup wowed the AT&T Center fansand with his confidence in his perimeter jumper soaring after his previous nights efforts, he took the initiative to knock down outside shots when given the opportunity.

The contests breakneck speed yielded early substitutions on both ends, with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich inserting versatile young combo guard George Hill (14 points) for Manu Ginobili (a starter after so many years of being the teams sixth-man extraordinaire) to maintain a transition-friendly unit, veteran Antonio McDyess to give Duncan some rest (they would eventually replace every starter except point guard Tony Parker within the period), with Chicago counterpart Tom Thibodeau countering with reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer (10 points) for starter Keith Bogans to add a dose of athleticism and Kyle Korver (10 points) for Gibson to match up with a smallish San Antonio quintet.

Popvichs liberal use of his bench was an interesting aspect to the coaching chess match, as Thibodeau has thus far kept a tighter leash on his rotation, making it a possibility that the games pace could wear down Chicago.

Regardless, a strong offensive quarter from Noah and Rose propelled the Bulls to a 25-18 lead after a period of play.

As the tradition this season has beensave for Tuesdays surprising performanceChicagos second unit got off to a ragged start to the second quarter, even with starters Rose, Noah and Deng in the contest. The Spurs, however, werent markedly better and the Bulls maintained their slim cushion.

After a timeout, Deng remained with the group of reserves and provided valuable offensive contributions, bouncing back from a rough shooting performance in Houston. Deng was aggressive and expertly blended perimeter jumpers, tough finishes at the rim and moving without the ball for dives to the basket.

Meanwhile, the Spurs simply struggled to put the ball in the basket. Finding open looks wasnt an issue, but San Antonio had difficulty finishing at the rim and their shots from outside point-blank range were doggedly contested by the visitors, who adhered to one of Thibodeaus key defensive philosophies to a T. All of the above added up to the Bulls slightly increasing their winning margin, nothing to take lightly against an opponent of the Spurs caliber.

Brewer was a major part of the Chicagos burgeoning momentum, as he went on a one-man flurry of critical plays in a short sequence. The offseason acquisition knocked down a free-throw line jumper, exploded for a dunk in transition, followed a missed fast-break layup with a tip-in and smartly made an extra pass to an open Korver for a 3-pointer, aiding the Bulls as their lead swelled to 15 points.

Backup center Omer Asik and backup point guard C.J. Watson were also key during this stretch. Asik played solid post defense on Duncan, was a presence on the glass and capped off his solid play with a thunderous dunk off a pick-and-roll.

Watsonwho has been erratic at times in the young seasondid a nice job securing the ball as a ballhandler, maintaining the Bulls fast pace, making sure the offense ran well and generally being aggressive, enabling Rose to get an extended rest.

I always have confidence in them, explained Rose. In practice, they whip us sometimes.

Thibodeau would reinsert his starters to close out the half and while Chicagos offense continued to run smoothly, San Antonio would also step theirs up in an effort to play catch-up with the Bulls.

Parker (21 points, seven assists), in particular, made a concerted effort to get to the basket as the second quarter wore on, aiding the Spurs in their comeback attempt.

At intermission, however, Chicago held a 47-37 advantage over the home team.

San Antonio immediately sliced the Bulls lead to three to begin the third quarter, necessitating a Thibodeau timeout with just under three minutes played since the break.

The visitors momentum was snatched by the veteran squad, which played with an increased gusto, presumably following typically fiery Popovich halftime motivation. Even with Thibodeaus adjustments, the Spurs clearly had it rolling.

Thirty-seven to 12 in the third quarter. They got us back on our heels to start the third, said Thibodeau. The bench was playing great, then we wanted to get the starters back in before the end of the first half and then we were flat to close the second quarter, and thats how we started the third. That team over there, you give them easy scoring opportunities, their confidence goes up and theyre hard to guard."

Third quarter, we came out, we couldnt hit any shots. The shots that we usually take, they werent hitting and with a team like that, you cant do that, added Rose. Just in that third quarterthose three or four minutesthey just werent falling.

It feels bad. We had them. A team like that, youve got to continue to go out there and play the same way because theyre not going to stop. Right when we went up 10 and came out in the third quarter, we were supposed to keep on being aggressive going to the hole, he continued. I think thats where we made our mistake, not attacking the basket. But were going to look at film, go over it and next time, were going to have plays where guys are forced to go to the basket.

Its a good position to be in. we didnt end the half well, but we felt like, up 10, we could have came out better. The way we came out in the third quarter was terrible, concurred Deng. They came out in the third quarter, they kind of took the lead and never looked back.

A much more comfortable Richard Jefferson, in his second season with San Antonio, knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the contest, and two consecutive Duncan buckets from in close allowed the Spurs to overtake the Bulls midway through the period.

Another Chicago timeout ensued, with Thibodeau replacing Gibson and Bogans with Korver and Brewer for a quicker, more offensive-minded lineup. However, nothing seemed to work, as the visitors were on the wrong end of a 27-6 run to start the half, as San Antonios offense was clicking on all cylinders and the Bulls poor shot selection didnt do much to help matters.

Aside from Duncan, Jefferson (12 points, five reboiunds) and Parkers quick drives and savvy finishes at the rim, backup power forward Matt Bonnerwho Popovich enlisted to start the second halfwas a major contributor for the Spurs, giving them an unexpected source of point production.

Rose seemed to briefly quell the spurt with a slashing layup, leading to a Popovich timeout, but a Ginobili (20 points, five assists, four rebounds) driving southpaw slam and a subsequent Hill floater put an end to that notion.

Bonners been playing really well. We were concerned about it going in. He spreads you, a range-shooting four and their penetration got to us alsoTheyre quick and I think when Bonners out there, there were more pick-and-rolls and our coverages were very good in the first half and not so good in the second, observed Thibodeau.

So, 37 points in the first half and then 37 in the third quarter. We have to adjust better, keep the ball in front and we have to challenge shots. The rebounding was problematic.

Chicago was forcing shots, pressing too much and outside of Rose, the team struggled to manufacture offense or even good opportunities. Heading into the final stanza, the tables had completely turned, with the visitors trailing, 72-59, to the finely-tuned machine that calls San Antonio home.

We came out flat. We missed a lot of shots, shots we normally make and our defense, we didnt do what we were doing in the second quarter, surmised Deng. Thats a good team. Once they got ahead, they did a good job of keeping the lead and thats something weve got to learn when we get the lead like that.

Coach keeps talking about 48 minutes. I think to get to the next level, thats something weve really got to focus onthe whole teamguys coming in and the starters doing a better job of keeping their lead. Any time you put a team down like that, youve got to end it. You cant let them come back like that. The momentum was in their favor the whole second half.

Thibodeau trotted out an all-reserve lineup of Korver, Asik, Brewer, Watson and seldom-used (at least recently) Brian Scalabrine to start the fourth quarter, perhaps making Bulls fans think back to the end of the teams last loss, to New York at home. The group, however, was effective at the outset of the quarter, before the Spurs resumed their onslaught.

The deficit continued to widen, but the understudies remained feisty and gave enough of a semblance of hope that Rose came back into the contest to help mount a comeback attempt.

Rosewith Watson alongside him, freeing him to concentrate on scoringvaliantly tried to once again shoulder the offensive load, hitting four consecutive shots to make it a single-digit contest.

Just trying to do something. Doing whatever it takes and at that time, we couldnt get a groove going, so I tried to spark something up, said Rose. We had it going for a minute, but that team was too good. They stopped it.

Derrick can score the ball and hes been doing a great job for us, and hes going to keep doing what he does and thats score and be a facilitator on the court for us, said Noah. Hes playing at a very high level and its just on us to do a better job as bigs to make it easier for him, especially defensively.

The home crowd became subdued, perhaps with the knowledge of the All-Star point guards exploits the night beforeor even just a healthy respect for the superstar hes developed intobut their beloved Spurs would respond with a quick combination platter of Ginobili and Hill long bombs sandwiched around a Parker layup.

Deng, now back in the contest, hit a pair of runners to keep pace with San Antonio, which didnt cease scoring. Still within striking distance, the two squads mostly traded baskets down the stretch, although a deep triple from Rose made it a two-possession game with under a minute to play.

Forced to foul because of time considerations, the Bulls simply ran out of options in the games waning moments.

The only thing that was good in the fourth quarter was that we fought back and were in position, said Thibodeau. Theyre the type of team you cant make mistakes against. We made a lot of mistakes in the second half.

To win on the road against a quality team, we have to play for 48 minutes and were still not doing that, so we have to do a better job with that, consistent effort, defend, rebound, low turnovers. If we do that, were going to be in a position to win. Now, we defended in the first half. We didnt defend at all in the second, the first-year head coach went on to say. Rebounding was poor. Part of that is were playing small. Low turnovers was goodI think that helped us stay somewhat in the gameand we settled for a lot for a lot of jump shots. The big thing is getting that ball into the paint, whether it be through post-up or dribble penetrationour decision-making has to be a lot quicker.

With a team like that, you cant miss shots and not play defense on the other end because theyre too good. Theyre going to score. Theyre just a good team and hopefully we learn from this and go out there and try to win the game against Dallas Friday, concluded Rose. We dont have our head down. Were still going to go out there and play hard. This is only one game.

I dont know if it was fatigue or whatever, but the beauty of the NBA, we play in a couple of days and weve still got a good feeling about ourselves. We had them, we let them go and weve got to learn from it.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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.

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

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USA TODAY

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler was absent from the scoresheet of the All-Star Game, unless you count a “DNP-Coaches’ Decision” as activity. Whether due to the All-Star festivities of the weekend or even the grinding minutes he plays under Tom Thibodeau, it wasn’t truly surprising to see him want to have a night off of sorts.

But what was mildly surprising was the reflection he displayed on Saturday at All-Star Media Day in reference to his time with the Chicago Bulls. Usually, Butler’s armor is up because of his feelings surrounding his draft-night departure.

“I learned a lot in Chicago,” Butler said. “Just all through the season and life in general. What to do, what not to do and how to adapt to any situation that you’ve been in. I’ve done that to the best of my abilities. I have a ways to go in that.”

It’s clear he’s still grasping the weight of his words as the best player on a team, or at least, the player whose words impact everything around him.

“A people pleaser? No, I just didn’t say much,” Butler said. “Now I just don’t care. I never talked whenever I was in the league at an early age. It really didn’t matter, nothing I did was gonna make or break us when it comes to losing a game. Now it does and I have a lot to say. Half the time it’s not the right time or right way to say it but it’s okay.”

Whether it was the battles with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg or the internal struggles in the Bulls’ locker room through his ascension from bench warmer to rotation player to impact player to now, a legitimate star, he’s modifying his approach—just a tad.

“I’ve never been the best player on my own team. I was in Tomball,” he joked, in reference to his beginnings in small town Texas. “I wasn’t in junior college. At Marquette I wasn’t. I’m probably not now. In Chicago I wasn’t. You just pick up on it, watch others and learn.”

He admitted to writing in a journal and reading self-help books now that he’s in Minnesota. The novel he’s reading now, “Faith, Forward, Future” is authored by Chad Veach, a Los Angeles pastor and the subtitle of the book says “Moving past your disappointments, delays and destructive thinking.”

Whether he started the book following a slow start with the Timberwolves in November, where his nightly numbers looked like one of a high-level role player, he took some self-evaluation before leading the charge since, playing like an MVP candidate with 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 49 percent shooting since the start of December.

“It’s relatively new. Yeah, basketball is still basketball but it’s hard when somebody else is coming in and roles change overnight,” Butler said. “You gotta see where you fit in with the group. At the end of the day you gotta win. I didn’t feel the way I was playing was our best opportunity to win games.”

Bringing along the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Towns being a fellow All-Star for the first time, has been a process.

“I’ve never actually had to be a leader,” Butler said. “I just always done what I was supposed to do, didn’t say much and played hard. Now you know, everybody wants to call someone a leader.”

He disputes taking a softer hand, especially as Towns and Wiggins seem to struggle with sustaining concentration at critical moments. The Timberwolves won’t be able to make those mistakes during the playoffs, but he’s being more selective with his words.

“I’m not soft,” he said. “If I see something wrong, I speak on it. If you don’t like it, oh well. You’ll get over it.”

One thing he could take a bird’s eye view of was the aftermath of LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s comments to the “Uninterrupted”, where they were criticized by cable news hosts for speaking out against President Donald Trump.

No stranger to criticism, Butler would likely have the same approach if he dipped his toes into that arena.

“I like it. You got the right to say what you want and you speak on what you think is right,” Butler said. “Good for them. And they are magnified in a very big way. They embrace it and they’re doing the right thing, I’m all for it.”

And if the day comes where he doesn’t stick to sports, Butler’s directness and lack of diplomacy would certainly cause an interesting reaction.

“I don’t care. Whatever I believe in, I believe in,” Butler said. “Everybody else does it. You see everybody on Twitter and the Internet doing it and saying what they want to say. We just have a different job than the person to our left and right.”

Well, not quite a warm and fuzzy Jimmy Butler.

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”