Bulls

Thibodeau discusses Bulls All-Star chances

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Thibodeau discusses Bulls All-Star chances

BOSTON Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau isnt one to play favorites usually, but its an open secret in team circles that hes a huge fan of Luol Dengs approach to the game, work ethic and consistency.
That why it was no surprise that when Thibodeau was asked about which Bulls have a chance to be named an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve Jan. 24, when the coaches votes are in, Deng was the first name out of his mouth.
Deng, certainly. To me, hes shown he should almost be a lock, in my eyes, based on the way hes played from the start of the season to the finish, Thibodeau said after the teams morning shootaround Friday at TD BankNorth Garden. I thought two years ago, Luol deserved to make and didnt make it. Then, he ended up making it last year, so sometimes it takes some time to build up and to finally be recognized because people will tend to look at the entire season also.
Deng, a first-time All-Star last season, downplayed the significance of the honor.
I think, as a player, you always want to be an All-Star. I think it just says a lot about your career, it says a lot about your team, people respecting your team with the record that you have and what youve done, so its something that you want to have, he explained. If youre not an All-Star, its not the end of the world, as long as you know youre having a good season, people appreciate what you do, your teammates appreciate what you do. You want to be an All-Star, but if youre not, you still could have a great season without being an All-Star.
Thibodeau also made cases for his other two frontcourt starters, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
I think Joakim started off great, sort of tailed off a little bit with the flu, but is picking it up again. Carlos has been steadily getting better from the start of the season, to where hes playing great right now, he said. I think all three deserve consideration, but those things are so political. As I said, you can make a case for all of them and I think when you win it helps, and winning is the most important thing.
After Thursdays announcement of the All-Star Game starters, there are only seven spots left to go around on each conferences squad, so the competition is stiff. Although the Bulls fourth-place record in the East and the appreciation observers have for how the team has performed without Derrick Rose is considerable, its tough to see two, let alone three players getting the nod to play in Houston next month.
At the end of the day, none of us got voted in. Voting is fans and thats what they think, so thats what it is. But other than that, after that, whoever makes it, its what the other coaches think. Someone whos been playing well against them or someone that they see has had a good season, and as a player, all of us have got to respect that, Deng said. If were all in it, were all in it. But everybody deserves it. If none of us are in it, we know that were still playing well enough to be considered or for some people to think we should be in it.
Thibodeau believes that his coaching peers will take winning into account, which could help his players of the teams currently above the Bulls in the standings, Miamis Chris Bosh, New Yorks Tyson Chandler and Indianas Paul George have good chances to be named as reserves which could help his frontcourt stars be named ahead of players with better statistics, but worse team records.
I think most coaches do and I think coaches will look at what a guy brings to the team overall, have they done it consistently and then, some guys, its a build-up, too, he observed. But you can make a case for a lot of guys and theres certainly a lot of guys that are playing well, and are also deserving, and not just our three.

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.”

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.”