Bulls start trip by visiting familiar face

Bulls start trip by visiting familiar face

Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011Posted: 10:15 PM

By Aggrey Sam

LOS ANGELESThings are looking up for the Chicago Bulls these days. In addition to the teams current five-game winning streak, the Bulls are also racking up accolades and the health of key players is improving.

But as proud as the Bulls are of Tom Thibodeau winning the NBAs January Coach of the Month of the award, Taj Gibsons second straight Rookie Challenge appearance and of course, Derrick Roses All-Star starter status, they might be more excited about trying to continue their winning ways on their five-game West Coast road trip.

I think this one will be really good for us. Were playing really well right now and it will be a good test for us. The first road trip was great, but I think weve improved a lot, said Luol Deng. It will be good to be away together for two weeks.

Added Gibson: Its fun. We get to have a lot of team bonding. Guys are close-knit. Were already a close bunch, but its even better the second time around and Im looking forward to try to win some more games in a row.

I think were way stronger. I think were much more mentally stronger because weve been on the road, Gibson expounded. Plus, most guys are real healthy. Were getting Joakim back very soon.

Noah, who got the cast off his right hand before the Bulls departed for Los Angelesand beat a massive snowstorm in Chicagomade the trip with the team and has been cleared for the non-contact portion of practice.

I want to come back as ready as possible, said Noah. I just want to be back out there and play at 100 percent. I dont want it hurting after resting all this time. I just want to be right and go out there and help the team as soon as I can.

No pain, but it still feels a little stiff, so Ive got work to do, continued Noah, who worked with Hall of Famer and Bulls legend Scottie Pippen after Mondays practice. Rehab is a big part of what Ill be doing for the next couple weeks."

Remarked Thibodeau on Noahs progress: Noah is getting some shots up, going through dummy offense, closing out.

Gibson has battled back from his own recent health scare, a sprained right ankle.

Im feeling fine, said Gibson. Long first night of pain, but I came back strong. I just wanted to play through it.

Im very surprised because its the same injury that nagged me the early part of the season, he continued. When I re-aggravated it, I thought I was going to probably be out for some games. I really couldnt feel anything in my foot.

The teams state of health aside, if they are to continue their recent momentum, it starts with Wednesdays matchup with the Clippers at the Staples Center, where they will try to avenge a December home loss, take on Rookie of the Year favorite Blake Griffin and visit with former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro. After losing 13 of their first 14 games, the Clippers have become respectable lately and are a force at home.

Theyre playing very good right now, sharing the ball. Theyve got some key players on the team that are carrying them. Theyre a team where they can scare you. They can come out and you never know whats going to happen. We know weve got to come out and play hard because theyre very talented, said Rose. I'm a little bit surprised but I take my hat off to Del Negro. Theyre playing decent basketball right nowtheyre dangerous, especially at home.

I guess hes learning, coaching them very well. Theyre playing with a lot of confidence right now. Everythings jelling for them. Theyre winning more games and that does have something to do with the coaching. It tells a lot. Im happy for him. Its got something to do with the coaching, especially with the way that theyre playing right now.

Gibson talked about the prospect of trying to stop Griffin.

Hes a phenomenal player, said Gibson. Were going to have our hands full.

And if he attempts one of his poster-worthy dunks? Im going in to try to get the block or try to take the foul.

Thibodeau added: Youve just got to try to make him work for his points. Concentrate on body position, try to give the appropriate help without over-helping, where you open everything up for everybody else. He has a rare combination of power, strength and quickness, along with touch. He can face you up and put it on the floor. He poses a lot of different problems for you.

Hes very unselfish, too. If you double team him, hes looking to make the right play. He plays with a lot of poise. For a young player to do the things that he does is very impressive.

The Bulls head coach was also complimentary of the other Clippers.

Shooting guard Randy Foye is playing extremely well with leading scorer Eric Gordon being out," Thibodeau said. "If youre helping off starting center DeAndre Jordan, all of a sudden, he gets 15, 20 points on you.

Perhaps, however, the Clippers resurgence begins with veteran point guard Baron Davis. The Los Angeles native started off the season out of shape and injured, but has rebounded to be a leader for the young squad.

Hes rejuvenated. You can see that. Hes healthy again and hes playing with a lot of fire. If hes healthy, hes one of the best point guards in the league and hes been that for a long time, said Thibodeau. Hes been derailed with injury at times and thats certainly slowed him down, but I think that hes healthy now, he looks good and theyre a good team. I think that has him excited. Hes playing with a lot of juice. Hes playing at a very high level right now.

Added Rose: Hes been playing well, dishing the ball, giving the ball to Blake, giving the ball to all their shooters so they can hit shots and hes been aggressive.

Rose still remembers the Bulls tough December one-point loss to the Clippers in Chicago, in which he missed a late free throw that could have sent the game into overtime.

Weve got to get this one tonight. I think we let that one slip back at home, so it gives us a chance to get a little revenge back at their place, said Rose. I think that Im supposed to hit every shot like that at the end of a game, especially a free throw. It gives me something to think about and just knowing how that feels after a game-just being madI think it helps you grow as a player. You cant feel any worse than that, when walking off the court and you see everybody putting their jackets on, and just leaving because of you and it hurts, man. So, if anything, it makes me stronger.

The same goes for his team, as they start a road trip on which they are confident and expect success.

I dont think you ever get there and to me, its how youre playing, too, and we want to continue to improve, but I think the formula for us is not going to change, said Thibodeau. Sometimes its harder to get established on the road, but thats when your concentration comes in and your preparation.

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.

Justin Holiday continues to string together solid efforts amid tough Bulls losses


Justin Holiday continues to string together solid efforts amid tough Bulls losses

The Bulls came out on fire against the Bucks, putting up 40 points in an explosive first quarter. Unfortunately they followed that up by scoring 41 points in the second half. But the offense of Jabari Parker and Justin Holiday was pretty much the only thing working for Chicago on Friday night.

Holiday’s effectiveness as an aggressive, dependable floor-spacer continues to showcase what makes him such a valuable NBA player. Unfortunately, that value has been mostly squandered on a Bulls team that lacks a diverse offensive attack.

Holiday contributed 9 points on 3-3 shooting from the 3-point line in the first quarter. He kept this momentum rolling in the second, and ended up not missing a single shot in the first half. Holiday ended the first half 6-6 from the 3-point line but went on to only score once more in the second half. He ended the game with 20 points, the second-leading scorer on the night for Chicago.

On a night where Zach LaVine was clearly gassed from the burden of carrying the offense all season (6-20 from the field), only Parker could provide a solid secondary option. Parker’s effectiveness also tapered off dramatically in the second half, as he stopped taking 3-pointers and didn’t get to the free throw line at all. Early season struggles were to be expected from Parker, as he is on a new team with a roster full of young players. But his shot selection is what has been so frustrating to watch. 

Results do not have to be immediate, but seeing as Parker is taking a greater percentage of his shots from long 2-point range than last season, it is clear he hasn’t fully bought in to the idea of getting all the way to the basket or shooting the 3-pointer without hesitation. And that is why players like Holiday—one of Hoiberg’s loyal soldiers from his first year as Bulls coach—are so crucial.

It is clear that Hoiberg’s preferred playing style has stuck with Holiday and hopefully, that it can rub off on the other players.

We have discussed before how his 3-point attempt rate (72 percent) is the perfect indicator of how often he is hunting the 3-point shot. But the problem is that this current Bulls roster needs more players who create 3-point looks for others, rather than knock them down.

Heading into Friday night’s game, Holiday had been assisted on 72 percent of his 2-point shots and 95 percent of his 3-point shots. This season, he has been assisted on 57 percent of his 2-point shots and 90 percent of his 3-point shots. This is an alarming sign for the Holiday, as he has never been a player known for creating his own shot and the decline in assisted baskets means he is being forced outside of his comfort zone on offense.

It is no coincidence that Holiday’s 3-point percentage in November (35 percent) is lower than his 3-point percentage in October (40 percent). He played 34 minutes per game in October before that number got increased to 37 minutes per game in November. Holiday has been in the top 10 in minutes all year and there is no end in sight for his tremendous minutes load with the Bulls being so thin on the wing.

The 2019 NBA offseason for Chicago will likely be about finding players they can comfortably play at the small forward spot. But Bulls fans should appreciate Holiday’s play while he’s here, as he has been one of the team’s more consistent players. Holiday has done a decent amount of leading by example—especially when it comes to playing the way Hoiberg wants to—and continues to show why he can continue to be a valuable piece on this Bulls team.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks can't solve rookie Cal Petersen in shootout loss

Four takeaways: Blackhawks can't solve rookie Cal Petersen in shootout loss

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the United Center on Friday:

1. Blackhawks can't solve Cal Petersen

With Jonathan Quick (knee), Jack Campbell (knee) and Peter Budaj (sick) out, the Kings trotted out former Notre Dame standout Petersen to make his first career NHL start between the pipes. And he didn't disappoint.

The 24-year-old stopped 34 of 35 shots (.971 save percentage) in 65 minutes of play and denied Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in the shootout to earn his first victory in the big leagues.

"He was good, yeah," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "The third period was more like it. If we’d had 60 minutes [like that] maybe we break him down eventually. He did well, he did a good job. I thought we had a little more traffic, got some more pucks to the net. That was better. But you can’t help but think if we’d have had that push earlier, then we’d get paid off for it."

2. Line changes serve as third-period spark

After failing to generate many scoring chances in the first two periods, Jeremy Colliton spruced up his top-six by putting Brandon Saad with Kane and Toews and Nick Schmaltz with Alex DeBrincat and Artem Anisimov. They saw the benefits almost immediately.

Saad scored 2:39 into the final frame after burying a feed at the doorstep by Toews for his third goal in six games, tying the game at 1-1.

'We showed some resiliency battling in the third," Saad said. "It was definitely a slow start. We've got to play a full 60 minutes to win hockey games, but I think it shows some character how we can battle back in the third. And then overtime we had some chances and some puck possession, and when it comes down to a shootout it can be anyone's game. But the message for us is to play a full 60, because when we play well you can see that we have opportunities and a better chance to win the hockey game."

3. Power play comes up empty

Special teams was the deciding factor in the Blackhawks' last two games. They gave up two power-play goals in 66 seconds against Carolina on Monday and then beat St. Louis 1-0 on Wednesday thanks to a power-play goal of their own.

The Blackhawks had three power-play opportunities against the Kings, and all three of them came in the second period. They recorded a combined six shots on goal during them, but reverted back to some old habits by waiting for the open shot and lacking net-front presence.

"You get three in the second, it would be nice to get one," Kane said. "Even if you're not getting anything on it, it's nice to get momentum off of it. I thought we did a decent job of getting momentum, getting some chances and some looks. Sometimes you've just got to converge on the net and hopefully get those rebounds and try to find a way to get one a little bit dirtier."

The Blackhawks also allowed a breakaway chance towards the end of the third power play, but Corey Crawford saved the day. Tyler Toffoli scored 19 seconds after the Blackhawks' first power play to make it 1-0 Kings.

4. Meet your newest Blackhawk

The Blackhawks had a visitor at morning skate in Carter Holmes, an 11-year-old from Wisconsin, who is battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma. As part of the Make-A-Wish Experience, Holmes became a Blackhawk for a day and practiced with the team, including his favorite player Patrick Kane.

"I might have to change my number," Kane joked about Holmes, who wears No. 88 because of Kane. "I think he was a little bit better than me out there today."

It was the first time Holmes skated since being diagnosed on June 30, four days after his team took first place at a tournament. Holmes feared that he would never be able to play hockey again, but that won't be the close. He's expected to re-join his teammates soon, even if it may take a while to get back into game shape.

"It's pretty special," Kane said of Holmes, who will drop the ceremonial first puck on Sunday for "Hockey Fights Cancer" Night at the United Center. "Sometimes you're just playing hockey and worried about the business aspect of it, but days like today you can take a step back and realize there's more important things out there."