Bulls

Stiff neck sidelines Rose; Boozer regaining touch

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Stiff neck sidelines Rose; Boozer regaining touch

Friday, Nov. 27, 2010
Updated 6:35 p.m.

By Aggrey SamCSNChicago.com

DENVER -- Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is out for Friday's game against the Nuggets after experiencing neck spasms since Wednesday's dramatic double-overtime win in Phoenix.

Rose, who got treatment for his neck before the tilt in Denver, briefly spoke to reporters in the Pepsi Center visiting locker room prior to the game.

"I don't know where it came from. Probably sleeping, changing beds in hotels during the team's current seven-game road trip. I don't know what it is," said Rose, who continued to struggle turning his neck to address reporters. "It's too early right now to know if I'll play Saturday against Sacramento. I would hate to miss two games, but I talked to Bulls general manager Gar Forman, I talked to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. They said that if it's not feeling right, it's not a problem for him to miss the game."

"I was under the impression that it was a stiff neck. We were hopeful that he would be better today and he wasn't," said Thibodeau. "We wanted to see how he would be right before the game and it's a little bit better, but not good enough where he can play."

"It's day-to-day. Hopefully it'll be better tomorrow."

"For me to have this injury, it's hard. Knowing that we were getting into a little groove, coming off a big win like that, then coming here and having to sit out, it's tough," added Rose, who said he experienced neck problems during high school, but usually after being fouled hard or taking a charge. "But I guess I've just got to suck it up. It's all about trust and having confidence in your team. I've got trust and I have confidence in my teammates."

Although backup point guard C.J. Watson will start in Rose's place, one of those teammates is John Lucas III, a familiar face. The free agent point guard -- who was with the Bulls in training camp before being waived toward the end of the preseason -- was signed by the Bulls today and flew from his home in Houston to Denver just in time for the game (he arrived at 3:45 for the 7:00 tip-off, taking a cab from the airport directly to the arena).

"I didn't know what I was going to do, if I was going to go overseas or come back," said Lucas, who averaged 2.2 points and 0.8 assists in five preseason contests. "If I was going to go overseas, I was going to go to China where he played last season for the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks. The season doesn't start until later on in December, so I was just down there in Houston working out with my dad former NBA player and coach John Lucas and a couple other players who were still waiting to go overseas or trying to get into the D-League. I really didn't give myself a deadline to make a decision. I just wanted to enjoy the holidays with my family because last year being overseas, I missed every holiday. I kind of took the time to relax, follow my little brother University of Texas point guard Jai Lucas because it's his senior year, so I got to make all of his games, and just work out. Just stay fit, stay ready because you never know when the call would come, like today. I was literally at Wing Stop eating and I got the phone call. I had to rush to the house, pack bags and head to the airport.

"We just got done working out. We got done with our second workout for the day -- I'm excited. I'm glad to be back. Great group of guys, coaching staff," continued Lucas, who spent parts of two NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets. "When my mom was driving me to the highway, I was going over the playbook, so I could remember all the actions, so if I do get a chance to get in today, I'm not confused about anything -- I'm here, I'm going to give it everything I've got like always and prepare myself for each and every game."

Thibodeau was glad to get insurance in Rose's absence.

"I thought he played well in training camp. He's got experience in the league. Wherever he's been, he's dominated the level of play below the NBA," said Thibodeau, who was an assistant coach under the elder Lucas in Philadelphia. "Obviously with Derrick being out, we wanted another player for insurance at that position and we can also play Ronnie Brewer there -- Lucas knows the system, he knows how to run the team and he can shoot.

"We have more than enough to win with. C.J.'s going to start. He'll play more minutes; he'll play starter's minutes. The bench will get more minutes. When they've gotten more minutes, they've played well."

In other injury pregame news, Bulls power forward Taj Gibson will play Friday after missing Wednesday's win with a sore right ankle. Denver's starting point guard, Chauncey Billups, is out.

Boozer making progress

Currently sidelined Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer continues to make progress, appearing to be regaining his touch in a pregame workout Friday at the Pepsi Center.

"It felt good. Got a chance to work out again. Worked out yesterday, worked out today. Feels good. It's a little sore. Still not strong enough," said Boozer, who told reporters he "100 percent" expects to practice Monday in Chicago.

As for when he'll play in a game, Boozer was a bit more coy.

"I do have a target date, but I'm going to keep that to myself. I've got to have a little bit of mystery. I can't tell you all everything," quipped Boozer. "When it doesn't hurt anymore. When I go out there, work out, shoot, do all my drills, play five-on-five with the guys, let it get hit in practice and it doesn't hurt. To be truthful, I'll probably end up playing through that pain for the first couple weeks because I'm anxious to get back out there. Not where it would detriment my hand -- because it hasn't moved in five weeks. Now that it's moving again and I'm shooting and I'm working it, there's going to be a little something pain there for a little bit, until it gets stronger. Just sitting in a cast for five weeks."

"It's hard right now because we're really not practicing, but it was encouraging to see him do all the things that he did today. Of course, tomorrow there won't be anything and when we get back, I expect him to practice," confirmed Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. "He actually looked good in the shootaround today. He was making shots. He's been shooting, but he was actually making some today. He hasn't gone through contact yet. Shootaround this morning was basically shooting, running through offense and going over the schemes, and he was fine, but it was the first practice he really went through."

Boozer was just happy to be out on the court with his teammates.

"I bet Tom did say that," laughed Boozer. "It just feels good to get back out there. I've been shooting little bunny shots around the rim -- I'll be back out there soon."

"It's soreness and pain just from moving the wrist. I was talking to 'Lu' Bulls teammate Luol Deng about it because he went through it a few years back, and he just told me it takes time to get stronger. There isn't anything like playing shape. I think I've done as good of a job without contact and playing, but playing with these guys in practice and playing in games will get me back where I was at."

Boozer also discussed his adjustment to his two-fingered protective glove apparatus.

"It's OK. It's not my favorite. I'd rather wear nothing, but I might have to wear something for the first couple days. I don't know if I'm going to wear it too much. I'd rather just play without it, to be honest. We'll see."

"We've got some good doctors in Chicago."

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.

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

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USA TODAY

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

Quincy Pondexter’s trade to Chicago makes him a newcomer. His birth certificate makes him a veteran. But it’s his story that makes him worth listening to.

Even in the eye of team chaos, Pondexter’s debut with the Bulls had such a special meaning that when he entered the game to start the second quarter, he thought he would come to tears.

Having been out of basketball the last two years after knee surgeries went bad, Pondexter came close to dying in a New York hospital in January when his organs began to fail after a MRSA infection.

Catching MRSA can often lead to death.

“It wasn’t looking good,” Pondexter said. “It was tough. I prayed. My family was there close to me. Being able to play basketball again in less than a year is crazy. It’s all God. This journey has been amazing.”

His journey took him from being in New Orleans, where his knee troubles started, to being an addition to the Bulls in a trade months ago when the Bulls picked up cash and a second-round pick from the Pelicans.

Pondexter joined high school teammate and close friend Robin Lopez on a team needing some leadership, and due to the punch Bobby Portis threw to Nikola Mirotic Tuesday afternoon, it put Pondexter in position to get on the floor as a backup power forward behind rookie Lauri Markkanen.

If the Bulls were smart, they’d probably put Pondexter in a room to talk to his teammates about his struggles, especially the two teammates who may have to share the same floor in several weeks.

“The competitive nature of our team has been really terrific and we wouldn't want to trade that for anything,” Pondexter said. “It hurts those two guys aren't here right now. But we love them and we love what they brought to this team.

“I think my age on my ID solidifies me as one of the veterans. When you do things the right way, that's what it means to be a veteran. Show up first, last one there. That's what it means to be a veteran. Establishing myself there and doing things that are right, the guys have followed and listened and embraced me and I love it.”

No word on whether Pondexter got teary-eyed when he got a breakaway steal and dunk for his first points since the 2015 playoffs, when the Pelicans were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual champion Warriors.

“I know I’m going to get emotional on the court later on and probably tear up,” Pondexter said after the morning shootaround. “I told Robin that a thousand times. People don’t know what you’ve been through. There are a lot of times they’re not there besides your close family and friends. I appreciate them carrying me through this whole process.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg can relate to Pondexter, with Hoiberg’s heart ailment cutting his career short. When the Bulls coach speaks about the frailty of the game and how precious things are in the NBA, Pondexter is living, breathing proof.

“I’m really really happy for Quincy. For a time there, his life was in danger with his infection. I know he’s really excited to get his career going again,” Hoiberg said. “I never got that opportunity to get back out there. I tell these guys to cherish it ever day. You never know when it can end. All of a sudden. For Quincy to get this chance, it’s awesome.”

Pondexter, with the straightest of faces, called basketball his “obsession” and he felt happy to get back on the floor, if even for a few minutes.

“I love it to death. It’s my life,” Pondexter said. “Basketball is what got me through it---my family and basketball. It was like, ‘How can I make this story even better? Do I quit?’ No. I watched so many inspirational movies, 'Hacksaw Ridge.' They get you through tough times because you say, ‘That’s going to be me.’ I’m going to be able to inspire someone down the road. That’s really helped me.”

A hamstring injury slowed Pondexter in training camp, which would explain his lack of explosive lift in the season opener.

No one was really sure if the Bulls would hold onto him for the season, but it’s clear he holds value beyond the box score. When he finished his media session, Lopez turned to Pondexter and said, “Now you’re stuck with me”, putting his arm around his teammate.

“Being able to play after two and a half years, it feels like hundreds of surgeries, getting traded to this organization. It's been a lot,” Pondexter said. “I wouldn't trade any of that for this moment right now and how I feel in my heart. I can't wait to get on this floor and play with my teammates and try to do something special. The journey is worth it.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: Trounced by Raptors in season opener

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Trounced by Raptors in season opener

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Will Perdue break down the Bulls season opener vs the Raptors. They’ll explain why Bulls fans should be very happy with the debut of rookie Lauri Markkanen and Kendall points out why he expects the Markkanen/Lavine combo to be great on the offensive end. They’ll also go over their concerns at point guard, and Will shares his story of how Greg Popovich dealt with a losing Spurs team in 1996-97.