Bulls

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

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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.”

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

We all know what Zach LaVine is capable of doing on the offensive side of things. But what about his defense?

It's no secret that LaVine has had his fair share of struggles on defense, but Kris Dunn thinks highly of his 23-year-old teammate and what his potential is at the other end.

"On the defensive end I just told him, 'You're as fast as me. You're more athletic than me. There's no way you shouldn't be a good defender in this league. You could be one of those guys who could be dynamic in the passing lanes because you're so athletic and fast.'" Dunn said of LaVine. "And personally, I like to score. If you get in a passing lane, that's a dunk for yourself and because you've got so much bounce that's when you get the crowd on their feet — maybe do a windmill, a 360, something.

"But I think he's been going a good job on the defensive end. It's not going to be easy. We all got to learn and I think we're all trying."

Improving his defense would obviously be a big step forward for LaVine (and the Bulls), and he knows it. 

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” LaVine said when assessing his preseason. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

LaVine and the Bulls travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Thursday night in their season opener. You can watch Bulls Pre- and Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago before and after the game for highlights and analysis.

3 keys for Bulls in season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers

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USA TODAY

3 keys for Bulls in season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers

1. Provide help defense on Joel Embiid early and often. Embiid's high usage rate means going to score regardless, and has even added moves like a step-back jumper that he can go to comfortably from 15-feet. But if you make him see multiple defenders and force him to be unsettled, you can harass him into poor shooting nights like Boston did (Embiid shot 9-for-21 on Tuesday night). There were plays where as soon as Embiid took one or two dribbles, a help defender—even a guard—was flying in to go for block shot opportunities.

Wendell Carter Jr. earned the starting center job with his ahead-of-his-age defensive IQ, but no matter how ahead of the curve he is, stopping Embiid will take a group effort. He can become enamored with the 3-point shot, so the Bulls will have to work together to coax Embiid into taking poor shot attempts. Boston did a great job of denying him deep post position om Tuesday night, cutting off the Sixers' easiest source of offensive production.

Wendell Carter Jr. will get his first big defensive test on Thursday night, as he will have to use his lower body strength to prevent Embiid's low post dominance. We have seen Carter struggle with bigger low post scorers in the preseason, and if the Bulls don't provide help fast, Carter will be in trouble.

If Carter does what many rookies do, and tries to use his hands to stop Embiid from gaining ground, the referees will call a foul quickly, especially since he is a rookie learning the ropes. Helpside defense will be the difference in this game for the Bulls.

2. Get back quickly and build a wall on transition defense. Below is the combined shot chart of Embiid and Ben Simmons from Tuesday night against the Celtics. Notice where the attempts are mostly concentrated. 

Ben Simmons and Embiid like to put pressure on the opposing defense by putting pressure on the front of the basket, and with good reason. They are both dominant finishers in the paint and questionable outside shooters.

In 207-18 Embiid shot 57 percent when 0-3 feet from the basket, Simmons shot a staggering 83 percent in the 0-3 foot range, which is even more impressive when you consider that defenses are gameplanning for his drives. We all know that Simmons will likely never be an even average 3-point shooter, and Embiid shot a dreadful 25 percent from the 3-point line last season despite a career-high 214 attempts. But the above the break 3-point shot is a major part of the Philadelphia offense, with Embiid shooting a much better 30.4 percent on above the break 3-pointers. 

Chicago would be wise to let the Sixers get these shots. 

In transition Simmons (or Markelle Fultz) will run the break with Embiid trailing directly behind them, either looking for a straight-line drive to the basket or an above the break 3-pointer after their forward momentum has been stopped. 

If the Bulls can summon the words of former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and form a wall around the restricted area, they can wall off aggressive drives from the Sixers young, dynamic duo. The Bulls need to force this game to be about turnovers and free throw makes, areas in which the Sixers have struggled last season (dead-last in the league in turnovers and 23rd in FT percentage).

3. Force the defense to move side-to-side. Philadelphia had a top-five defensive rating last season, and a big reason for that was that while the Sixers would often switch one through four, they wouldn't switch the five, meaning Embiid was often dropping back on pick-and-roll D and stationing himself near the basket. Staying as close as possibe to the rim obviously is beneficial to the Embiid, who has averaged 2 blocks per game for his career. But when you get Philly's aggressive defense to shift, they try to jump passing lanes to ignite their fastbreak, which can lead to plays like this:

The above play contains the exact type of ball-movement and cutting principles that Fred Hoiberg has stressed throughout the preseason. Zach LaVine is the type of quick, explosive guard that the Sixers can have trouble containing with their personnel, more so that they are depending on Fultz so much. But if the Bulls get bogged down into a bunch of one-on-one play, it will allow Embiid to sit back and be a huge deterrent at the rim. Carter's ability to stretch the floor—along with Bobby Portis' shooting—should be enough of a threat to keep Embiid occupied, but if not he will not respect their shots, and simply clog up driving lanes.

Handoff plays contained some of Carter's best moments this preseason, so we should expect to see Hoiberg call for lots of plays that get a Bulls guard or wing attacking a backpedaling big.