Bulls

All-Star Roundup: Chicago backcourt raring to go

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All-Star Roundup: Chicago backcourt raring to go

Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011Posted: 5:40 p.m. Updated: 9:08 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

LOS ANGELESAmidst all the hoopla and hullabaloo of the NBAs All-Star weekend, one Derrick Martell Rose remains unchanged. This isnt Chicago, where hes a hometown hero, but the surprisingly large smatterings of Rose jerseys in downtown L.A.and Bulls gear, in generalshows that the third-year guard has become a nationwide phenomenon, despite his low-key persona.

Its very exciting, being here at a young age, just going through this experience. Its great, I appreciate it and I feel blessed to be here, Rose said of the experience Saturday afternoon at the Los Angeles Convention Center, following practice for Sundays game. More appearances, more media, everything. I just have to get used to it now. Everything is going all right.

Its fun, just being here with my family, with my friends, just walking around, going shopping and stuff like that. So, its been all right.

As the starting point guard for the star-studded Eastern Conference team, Rose plans on distributing the ball to the likes of LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudemire and fellow Chicagoan Dwyane Wade, all big-time finishers.

Thats going to be crazy. We have a lot of other great players on our team, too, but I think that our starting five is just crazy, where anybody can just get it and push it up the courtexcept for Dwightbut it should be an exciting game. It should be very competitive, said Rose. My job is to pass the ball. I dont have to score in this game. Ive got a lot of great scorers on my team. Were going to play an up-tempo type game and its just going to be fun.

While Rose clearly plays a game that appeals to fans, he insists he doesnt truly grasp how to excel in a more exhibition-type setting.

Ive been in a couple all-star games, at any level, but Ive never won MVP or something like that. I dont know why. Its fun playing in them, but its just a regular game to me, said Rose.

Instead, Roses goal for Sunday mirrors what he does for the Bulls on most nights: Win. Try to do anything to win.

Just pass the ball, push the ball up the court, pass it ahead, do whatever, he continued. You do think about it entertaining the fans, but you do want to win. Trust me. Just being on that team last year, the way the guys were coming back to the huddle and seeing the way they were talking about defense and offense, they want to win that game.

Thats the biggest thing, winning this game.

Rose did acknowledge that his natural game will probably have spectators on their feet, whether at the Staples Center or in their living rooms.

I think the way that I play is an exciting way. A lot of moves that I do are exciting to some people, he admitted. Bringing that to the game, I know its going to be fun.

Regardless of what he tells the media, dont be shocked if Rose gives a little extra effort to make up for his inaugural All-Star appearance last year, when he wasnt completely healthy and received scant playing time.

I was very hurt, but I had to play. Somehow, I had to play in that game, no matter what, said Rose, who added that hes approaching this years contest as if it was his debut All-Star Game. Thats the way Im looking at it right now, where Im going to have an opportunity to play a lot of minutes and just try to take advantage of those minutes because of last year.

Rose briefly touched on his strategy for Saturday nights Taco Bell Skills Challenge (he won the event in 2009), in which hell compete against New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry.

Its going to be hard. The passing is hard. Youve just got to stay focused and try to make the right passes at the right time, explained Rose. You cant speed through the thing because youll end up messing up. Youve just got to take your time.

Looking ahead, Rose also talked about the impending return of center Joakim Noah following the All-Star break and how it would benefit the Bulls, particularly in transition and when opposing defenses key in on him.

Jo is a guy that, sometimes you see him pushing the break sometimes, handling the ball and I think another thing that hes going to bring to our team is his passing. Thats going to help our team, said Rose. Now, when teams double team comeKurt Thomas and those guys, theyve been doing a great jobbut Jo, he does a great job, too, and he can finish at the rim sometimes, if theyre playing his passing too well.

Rivers touts Rose as early MVP favorite

Eastern Conference head coach Doc Rivers joked about playing Roseas well as Orlandos Howard and Miamis trio of James, Wade and Chris Bosh47 minutes each Sunday, while playing his own quartet of Celtics (Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo) a minute apiece.

Rivers got serious, however, when discussing the Bulls and specifically Rose.

The Bulls have the MVP. They do. Derrick Rose, in my opinionright now, if I had to votehes the MVP of the league, said Rivers. When you have one on your team, especially with all the other guys and what Thibs is doing, theyre right in there. They can beat us and we can beat them. Its going to be tough.

Still, although hes partial to former Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau, Rivers somewhat surprisingly gave his midseason coach of the year vote to another coach with Chicago ties.

Thibs is always the Coach of the Year because hes my favorite guy, said Rivers. But actually, I would probably vote for current Philadelphia 76ers and former Bulls head coach Doug Collins, as crazy as that sounds. But Thibs would be right up there, too.

Rivers, a native of Maywood, Ill.just on the outskirts of Chicagoalso discussed coaching a starting All-Star backcourt consisting of two Windy City natives.

You know, I didnt even think about that," said Rivers. "Thats going to be pretty cool. That is good. Theyre both very athletic. We talk about it all the time, me and D-Wade, and now Rose, same thing. Chicago guys, they all stick together, they all know where each other are from and its just really neat. I think that its the best city, as far as basketball.

Wade honored Chicago backcourt to start for East

Unlike Rivers, Wade was more than aware of the significance of two Chicagoansboth South Sidersstarting in the East backcourt.

Its great for our city, for Chicagoa great city that doesnt get as much pub as other citiesto look and see that weve got two guys that start in the All-Star Game in the backcourt, said Wade, a graduate of Richards High School in Chicagos south suburbs. Rose has figured it out. Hes figured out how good he can be in this league and hes a bonafide All-Star for many, many years to come. I didnt know Derrick growing up in Chicago, but as a Chicago guy, I know how tough it is, how rough it is to grow up there, but Im proud of him and Im happy for him.

I know itll be dynamic. When I look out there before the game, Im going to say something to him, to look and see, This is big for where we come from, he continued. To have two guys from Chicago starting in the backcourt of the All-Star Game, thats an honor. We represent a lot of guys from Chicago thats going to be back there looking at this game, thats happy and excited for both of us. I will make sure I mention that to him and let him know that this is an honor for us to be here together, and Im glad that we could do it.

Wade also touched on his brief summer dalliance with the Bulls during free agency last offseason, when he considered pairing up with Rose and returning to his hometown.

Of course I broke it down to see would it work with both of us in the backcourt, with two guys that need the ball a lot, two guys that arent necessarily as proven shooters as other guys. But then I thought, Man, it would be dynamic, as well," said Wade. "Two guys that can break a defense down, two guys that can finish, etc. And then being my hometown."

That kid Rose is going to be great for a long time and you dont get the chance to play with too many great point guards too much," the 2010 All-Star Game MVP added. "That was very tempting to me.

Bulls legend impressed with Bulls, Noah

CSNChicago.com briefly caught up with former Bulls legend Artis Gilmore, who is in town for the festivities. The 7-foot-4 Gilmore still keeps up with the Bulls and is optimistic about their chances this season.

With Derrick Rose and with the addition of Carlos Boozerof course he started off injuredI think theyre playing extremely well right now and with Joakim Noah getting healthy, theyve got a chance to really excel and have success, Gilmore told CSNChicago.com. Certainly, nobody gave them an opportunity to pass the Celtics, the Magic and Miami, but I think theyre right there.

Gilmore is impressed with the development of Noah, likely the Bulls best at his position since his own playing days.

Jo has really developed and grown. He has really improved. Hes turned into an outstanding athlete, said Gilmore. I watched him in the 2009 first-round playoff series when they had an opportunity to beat Boston and they came up a little short, but they took them to a seven-game series. I watched the same sequence and saw his growth, where he would miss a layup in Noahs rookies season and in his second year, he really took it with force and the ball would go in. Every possession counts so much in the playoffs.

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.

B/R names Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season

B/R names Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season

Bleacher Report named Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season. The list included five players whose expectations have exceeded what author Grant Hughes, felt is realistic for this upcoming season. It is not entirely shocking for LaVine to make this list, and his defense was the main reason he was included. But the potential for his offensive output to get even better was somewhat overlooked. 

Per Hughes:

In 2016-17, he ranked 441st out of 468 players in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus metric. Last year, he was 490th out of 521. According to Basketball Reference, he's never posted a defensive box plus-minus in positive territory. He topped out at minus-2.0 in his abbreviated 2017-18 season.....It's hard to justify rotation minutes for a player like that, let alone $78 million.

Hughes’ critique is harsh, but based off of statistics that are hard to argue with. LaVine has indeed been one of the worst defenders in the league for the entirety of his NBA career, and his netting of the $78 million falls hand-in-hand with Jabari Parker’s comments on players not being paid to play defense. But for the Bulls to take the leap from lottery-to-playoff contender, at least a league-average D will have to be cobbled together. But that responsibility will not fall solely on his shoulders, and that is why I am skeptical on the idea of LaVine being “overhyped”. 

The post goes on to elaborate that even if LaVine was to recapture the magic of his solid 2016-17 season, he still would be a player who gives up more points on defense than he gets his team on offense. That is a strong possibility, but with the addition of Wendell Carter Jr. as another rim protector, capable of at least providing a hard hedge (if not an outright switch), there is a possibility that LaVine becomes a more aggressive defender out on the perimeter. But that is unlikely, and a much more realistic outcome is LaVine’s offensive value surpassing what is expected.

LaVine’s strength last season was his ability to get to the free throw line. Despite coming off a major ACL injury, he was able to get 4.5 free throw attempts per game, a mark that would’ve had him sandwiched between players like Kyrie Irving and Victor Oladipo had he qualified (LaVine only played in 24 games). It was the highest free throw attempt rate of his career, and assuming he expands on that in a year where he should be completely healthy, he will be one of the best in the league at getting to the line. 

His efficiency will be helped by players like Parker and Lauri Markkanen, who will draw attention off of him. LaVine’s 3-point percentage last season was 34 percent, a number that was more of a reflection of that fact that he was still working his way back into game shape. That 3-point percentage will soon trend more towards the 38 percent mark he shot the previous two seasons. And his 3-point attempts were also down, another mark that is sure to trend upwards, especially with Parker’s inclusion as a scorer who does most of his half-court work in the mid-post area. 

The way the 2018-19 Bulls are built, there is little behind Kris Dunn in the way of a reliable backup point guard, though there is belief internally that Cam Payne can develop into that player. But there is a strong possibility that LaVine will be used as a backup point guard to free up minutes for one of Justin Holiday, Denzel Valentine or Chandler Hutchison. And in his rookie year, playing point guard, LaVine had an assist rate of 24 percent, but also an incredibly high turnover percentage. Since making the full-time switch to shooting guard, he has not posted a turnover rate above 10 percent. So, if he can adjust to the fact that there are other players capable of scoring 20 points on the floor—like he did in Minnesota—it is entirely possible for LaVine to be a player capable of getting you 20 points and five assists per game while scoring efficiently and avoiding turnovers. Even if his defense continues to be dreadful, a player who can keep the offense running well from either guard spot is definitely valuable in today’s league. 

In his last season with Minnesota, LaVine had a usage rate of 21.7 percent, a number much lower than his extremely high 29.5 usage rate last season with the Bulls. And while many think of LaVine as a high-volume shooter, his usage rate last year was likely a result of him forcing the issue to try to prove he was worth a significant investment. With his shiny, new contract in tow, LaVine should be focused on making the team better, and get one step closer to his Timberwolves self. On that squad, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins each scored 20+ points per game, while LaVine was averaging 18.9 points per game. And the team finished in the top 10 in the NBA in offensive rating.

It is not crazy to think the Bulls could have their own high-scoring trio in LaVine, Markkanen and Parker. And if that is the case, then the expectation is for LaVine to be a efficient scorer who can occasionally spot the open man. Hyped? Yes. But overhyped? No one is banking on him being an All-Star, though it remains in the realm of possibility. The idea that he is overhyped is based on the fact his new contract is $78 million and he is poor at defense, but this is overlooking the fact that LaVine has proven he is a player capable of having a large role on a top-10 offense. September 30 can’t get here fast enough.  

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

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USA TODAY

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

Lauri Markkanen doesn't often feel short.

The Bulls forward is 7-feet tall, which even in the land of NBA giants makes him one of the tallest players on the court at all times. So when Markkanen stands next to Yao Ming, it changes perspective quite a bit.

Markkanen posted a photo with him and the 7-foot-6 Chinese Hall of Famer. Markkanen looks like a child.

Makes you wonder if Markkanen pulled some "What's the weather like up there?" jokes just because he otherwise never can.