Bulls: Derrick Rose grateful to be on pace for 70 games played


Bulls: Derrick Rose grateful to be on pace for 70 games played


ATLANTA—It probably doesn’t seem like it to a skeptical fan base, but Derrick Rose is on pace to play his highest percentage of games since his 2010-11 MVP season, even if he misses tonight’s game against the Atlanta Hawks.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Rose is questionable with right hamstring tendinitis, and he could miss his second straight game with the recovery.

“He obviously knows his body very well,” said Hoiberg at Atlanta’s Philips Arena following the morning shootaround, in which Rose did everything but the walkthrough.

“Something flared up (at Tuesday’s practice), it was three games in four nights,” Hoiberg said. “He had some swelling in that hamstring. It’s better than it was but he’s still got some soreness.”

Having played in 48 of 56 games, Rose is participating at an 85.7 percent clip, which would put him on track to play around 70 games this season. If you would’ve told him before the season he would play 69 or 70 games, he would’ve gladly accepted the outcome.

“Hell yeah, hell yeah,” Rose told CSNChicago.com after his session with the media. “Especially with everything I’ve been through, the year I have coming up (next year) and just everything. I’m grateful to be out here, appreciative to be out there.

“I wish I could play in every game, I wish I could’ve played all 82. Realistically I gotta bring it back down to reality and know that my body is a little bit differently.”

Breaking his orbital bone on the first day of training camp, along with the “general soreness” or “hamstring tendinitis” terms has brought upon the naysayers who believe Rose just willfully sits out games despite being healthy enough to play, but virtually everyone involved with the Bulls trusts him when he says he’s hurting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

After all, this February has been his best since March 2012, the lockout season that ended in the first of his debilitating knee injuries. He averaged 24.3 points and 9.4 assists in seven games that month.

This February, he’s at 21.9 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds in eight games so far. In three games since the All-Star break, Rose has taken it up another notch, with 26 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists on 57 percent shooting, 50 from three and 92 percent from the line.

In that three game sample size, his offensive rating is a Curry-like 124 points per 100 possessions.

With that production, Hoiberg isn’t qualming too much about Rose’s body fighting back a bit.

“He had a pretty good load in three games in four nights,” Hoiberg said. “He had a great burst, his energy was excellent. We’re not putting any risk out there. Our doctors and trainers don’t seem too concerned.”

Never one to nail himself down to firm expectations, understandable considering the way he’s career has gone, Rose just wanted to play more than he has in years past.

“I never put in my head a number I wanted to get to,” Rose told CSNChicago.com. “My thing was playing and how many games it is, it’s what it is. I just wanted it to be more than the years I got injured. It could’ve been 20, 25, 70, 75, it really didn’t matter as long as I’m on the floor, that’s all I needed.”

He’s done that. He’ll likely surpass the 51 games he played last season, and this is right around the time he underwent meniscus surgery on his right knee in 2015.

With the way he’s playing, he isn’t too worried about not being able to regain his rhythm whenever he does step back on the floor.

“Not at all. It’s a process,” Rose said. “I already put it into my mind that the year would be a long year. All I could do was work on my body, control what I could control and the rest is out of my hands.”

Hoiberg doesn’t believe it’ll be a long-term issue and neither do the team doctors, so as long as Rose can finish the season on his feet and not have the prospect of being on his back at a surgeon’s table, it’s a success.

“Yeah, just play,” Rose told CSNChicago.com. “As long as I know I gave it my all and I played as hard as I can, I could care less what happened at the end of the year, knowing I gave it my all.”

3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

The Bulls recorded their first win of the preseason with Sunday night’s 105-91 win over the Raptors. Here are three takeaways:

We got a peek at Jim Boylen's regular-season rotation

We had a clue that Boylen was going to go with Tomas Satoransky as his starter after he chose to sit him with the starters in the Bulls third preseason game against the Indiana Pacers. Sunday confirmed this idea. Boylen stated before the game that he would be starting to roll out his regular season rotations, and we saw "Sato" start next to the regular Bulls starting group of Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and the returning Wendell Carter Jr.

On top of seeing the starting group, we got to see Thaddeus Young in his probable role as the sixth man, coming in for Carter to provide the Bulls with more of a small look where Markkanen acts as the center.

Markkanen was particularly effective on the glass against the smaller Raptors frontline sans Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam. Lauri collected a double-double, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds, including four offensive rebounds. 

Giving an even greater effort on the glass will push Markkanen closer to All-Star status and it is not out of the question as we have seen him raise his rebounding average every season. Games like Sunday night's show that all of the muscle Markkanen added this offseason is going to pay dividends in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and beyond, which will allow the Bulls to play smaller more often to get dynamic scorers like Coby White on the floor.

White came in as a substitute for Porter, giving the Bulls another small-ball lineup in which LaVine acts as the small forward next to him and Satoransky.

Satoransky was great, finishing with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 turnovers in 21 minutes. Sato pushed the pace but also could sense the right time to pull the ball back out and run a play in the halfcourt.

In general, the Bulls trotted out more three-guard lineups in this game, and the size of big guards like Satoransky and Kris Dunn help the Bulls blur the lines between wing and guard, mitigating some of the risks involved with not having a traditional wing on the floor.

On the flip side, the perimeter skills of a big man like Young allow the Bulls to play bigger lineups in which Young plays small forward next to two big men. In Sunday night's win over the Raptors, Young finished the game second on the Bulls in rebounds (7) and assists (3), while being in the right spot more times than not on D. 

With stretch-five Luke Kornet (2-of-7 from 3-point line vs Raptors), the gritty, playmaking Ryan Arcidiacono (3 assists, no turnovers), and rookie Daniel Gafford rounding out the rest of the new Bulls' Bench Mob," Boylen will have the ability to play many different ways, affording us a fair chance to see what he is made of as an NBA head coach. He is already passing his first test of showing that he is open to change, with the Bulls shooting 49 3-pointers on Sunday night, keeping their promise of being more aggressive from deep.

The Zach LaVine All-Star push starts now 

Overall, Zach LaVine has not been shy about already being at an All-Star level of play, you just have to ask him.

LaVine came into Sunday night's game sixth in the league in preseason scoring, averaging 22.0 points per game through two contests, and he kept up that scoring onslaught in a big way. He finished Sunday's win over the Raptors with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in just 24 minutes of action. He finished the night with four turnovers as well, and while you would like to see the assist-to-turnover ratio improve, high turnover totals are just the name of the game for high-usage stars.

Besides, Boylen and Co. likely would rather see LaVine collect some turnovers trying to make the extra pass—something the Bulls have committed to hard this preseason—rather than trying to iso and make a play for himself.

Notably, the LaVine-Markkanen pick-and-roll that figures to be a staple of the Bulls offense for a long time again made an appearance in this game, looking crisp at moments as defenses struggle with scrambling to Markkanen at the 3-point line or worrying more about LaVine's oftentimes dominant drives to the rim.

While it is encouraging to see LaVine score effortlessly, that is not a new development for Bulls fans. The true mark of improvement for LaVine will be his defense and playmaking, both of which looked good on Sunday night.

LaVine racked up two steals and showed an improved awareness and aggressiveness when prowling the passing lanes. What makes defense so huge for LaVine, besides the fact that his effort-level sets the tone for the team, is that he so often turns opponent turnovers into points in transition for Chicago.

The Bulls had 14 fastbreak points and 17 points off of turnovers in their win over the Raptors, with LaVine's efforts playing a large hand in the win. 

Coby White continues to score in bunches 

It has been stated many times how Coby White was more of a shooting guard in high school and only transitioned into being more a lead guard at North Carolina. And those natural scoring instincts have shown up time and time again in the NBA preseason, especially in transition. 

If you get White going towards the rim with a head of steam in transition, he will make it to the basket before the 24-second shot clock hits the 19-second mark, a remarkable display of his blazing speed.

Of course, everything is to be taken with a grain of salt in the NBA preseason, as we are often seeing White (and others) face off against a team's backups or even worse, players that won't even make an NBA roster. But what White has done well should play in the regular season, too. He scored 18 points on 37.5% shooting from the field, including hitting 4 of his 12 attempts from 3-point range. White was 2-2 from the free throw line and finished with one assist and no turnovers. 

It looks like it will be a while before we see Coby White look like an NBA-level floor general but he is already playing like an uber-confident, spark plug shooting guard.

The Bulls can utilize White's scoring in the regular season knowing that even if his court vision isn't where they want it to be, his shoot-first mentality and propensity to keep the ball moving should result in lower turnover totals than your usual score-first point guard.

The long-awaited debut of the Bulls starting lineup, rusty Wendell Carter Jr. and all

The long-awaited debut of the Bulls starting lineup, rusty Wendell Carter Jr. and all

After getting a look at each point guard in the starting lineup this preseason, Jim Boylen finally got a look at what appears to be his starting lineup for Opening Night. 

Tomas Satoransky started as the point next to Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. That group was down 10-7 when Carter subbed out at the 8:36 mark but looked better in later stints in the game. 

Carter was noticeably slow on his first step on his defense, specifically on plays where Raptors center Chris Boucher was able to use his speed and length advantage to finish at the rim. But he was solid on the glass, even chipping in on the offensive rebounding side of things, grabbing 3 offensive boards in the first half alone. 

Carter was clearly re-adjusting to the speed of NBA basketball and as play-by-play broadcaster Stacey King noted during the game, he "just doesn't have his legs underneath him." He was 1-6 from the floor, struggling to get lift as he went up for putback layups around the basket. 

That being said, he was decent, more so on the defensive side of the floor where he became more active as the game wore on.

In his 16-minutes stint, Carter posted 2 points, 7 rebounds, an assist and a block, while picking up 3 personal fouls. 

Outside of Carter's return stint, the Bulls new-look starting group looked solid and offers hope as we approach the start of the NBA regular season.