Bulls

Bulls fans will witness passing of torch

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Bulls fans will witness passing of torch

Monday, April 4, 2011
Posted: 4:45 p.m.

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

When the Bulls host Phoenix Tuesday night, the game will mean more than just a chance to move closer to wrapping up the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The sellout crowd at the United Center will get a chance to watch two-time league MVP Steve Nash pass the point guard torch to Derrick Rose, who looks like a lock to win his first Most Valuable Player award this season.

Where does Nash rank on your list of all-time point guards? And, how long will it take for Rose to join the ranks of Nash, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, John Stockton and Oscar Robertson on the list of all-time greats at the position? Please post your comments in the section below.

READ: Season winds down, Bulls playoff picture heats up

Nash has been an amazing story, arriving in Phoenix as an undersized, virtually unknown 1st round draft pick out of Santa Clara. Nash played behind Kevin Johnson when he came into the league, and the Suns eventually traded him to Dallas, where he teamed with Dirk Nowitzki to turn the Mavericks into a Western Conference contender. Then, Mavs owner Mark Cuban decided not to offer Nash a long-term contract when he hit free agency, figuring his skills would start to decline in his 30s. Instead, Nash returned to Phoenix, and won back-to-back MVP awards, directing the leagues most prolific offense.

Now at age 37, Nash is close to the end of the line, and Rose has replaced him as the leagues best point guard. Sure, there were other presumed successors to Nashs crown like Chris Paul and Deron Williams, but Paul broke down physically and Williams star lost a lot of its luster from his involvement with Jerry Sloans departure in Utah and subsequent trade to New Jersey. Now, its Rose, Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo rising to the top of the point guard class, and plenty of talented young guys right behind them like John Wall, Brandon Jennings and Stephen Curry.

Back to Nash, its amazing how big a role he played in the Suns success. Nash has missed 32 games since he rejoined Phoenix in 2004-05. The Suns are 10-22 (.313) over that span in games without Nash, compared to 359-177 (.670) in games Nash has played. Thats what being an MVP is all about.

Rose is clearly irreplaceable with the Bulls. Despite the fact either Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer has been out with injuries for most of the season, Rose has carried the Bulls to the best record in the East and 2nd best record overall in the league. Hes the only player in the NBA to rank in the top 10 in both scoring and assists, something Nash never did during his MVP seasons in Phoenix. And, Derricks work ethic and desire to win have rubbed off on his teammates, taking them to new heights.

READ: Bulls' Rodman, Winter, Gilmore in Hall of Fame

Nash missed the Suns game against San Antonio Sunday because of the flu, but head coach Alvin Gentry says Nash should be able to go against the Bulls. And, lets hope thats the case, because its only fitting that Rose would wrap up his first MVP season with another vintage performance against Nash. During Derricks brief three-year career, hes led the Bulls to four wins over Phoenix in five tries, averaging 26.8 points and 6.4 assists, compared to Nashs 13 points and 9.6 assists. Who knows, maybe Nash will decide he cant play against the Bulls Tuesday, not because of the flu, but because of a severe case of Rose-itis.

So, when youre enjoying the Bulls-Suns game Tuesday night, think about the amazing rise of Derrick Rose. Hes gone from Rookie of the Year to All-Star reserve to the presumed league MVP in the span of three years, and remember the best is still to come. Derrick is only 22!

So, where do Nash and Rose rank among the list of best point guards of all-time? Please post your comments in the section below.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls fail to close another close game in loss to Raptors

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls fail to close another close game in loss to Raptors

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 93-92 loss to Toronto.

0:45 - Reaction to losing another close game

2:00 - Kendall Gill stops by to give Matt Peck a hard time about Derrick Rose

3:30 - On Wendell Carter Jr and wanting more

4:45 - Viewer comment on Bulls shooting 46 three-point attempts

7:20 - Concern over Lauri Markkanen

8:10 - Viewer comment still believing in Lauri

9:40 - Viewer comment on Wendell Carter and Daniel Gafford

12:10 - Viewer comment on running more pick n roll w Zach and Lauri

15:35 - Viewer question on Otto Porter and Hutchison

16:30 - Viewer trade idea: Kevin Love for Markkanen

17:15 - Any comfort in coming close to beating two of the top teams in the East?

20:30 - Viewer comment on losing games

23:00 - Viewer comment on Coby should start

24:05 - Viewer comment pandering to John Sabine

24:40 - Sabine shares his weird dream that involves Jim Boylen

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

In Bulls' loss to Toronto Raptors, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford rejuvenated the United Center

In Bulls' loss to Toronto Raptors, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford rejuvenated the United Center

Monday night, 14,775 fans attended the Bulls' latest in a line of hard-fought defeats: a 93-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors. That's the smallest reported crowd at the United Center for a Bulls game since Dec. 16, 2004.

For stretches, though, it felt like a full house. 

"The UC was great tonight, the fans were awesome," Denzel Valentine said.

The starters carried the team, to start: Of the Bulls' 50 first-half points, 46 were scored by Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. But it wasn't the usual suspects that pushed the Chicago faithful's decibel count to levels unheard of in the earlygoing of this season.

Thank Valentine and Daniel Gafford, in large part, for that. With the Bulls trailing 61-58 at the 4:45 mark of the third, Jim Boylen turned to a bench-dominated unit of Coby White, Valentine, Thad Young, Gafford and LaVine to spark his group. It was a potential tipping point in the game: The Raptors were in the midst of an 11-3 run and the Bulls' offense was fizzling. White, Valentine, Young and Gafford had four points between them upon entry.

With that move, the fates tilted towards the home side. For a time.

"It was great minutes from them," Satoransky said of Valentine and Gafford after the game. "I think [Denzel] is feeling more himself right now. And DG will always bring that energy. He's one of the most athletic guys I've ever seen, his energy... will always refresh our game."

It certainly did in this one. Gafford blocked three shots and notched 10 points over the game's final quarter-and-a-half. Valentine scored all 13 of his points for the night after that juncture in the third, shooting 5-for-9 from the floor and 3-for-7 from 3-point range. The Bulls finished the night 12-for-46 from 3-point land.

"Just energy," Valentine said, of what that bench unit brought. "We started playing defense. It started on the defensive end, started in transition, getting rebounds. Played with a little bit more life. Playing with each other too. We were moving the ball together."

"We go in, we produce with the minutes that we get," Gafford said. And on what the fans gave back: "There was definitely energy. I was blocking shots, Denzel was knocking down shots, we were getting stops on defense. We were doing everything we needed to do to win the game, and the crowd helped us do that."

Of course, they didn't do it alone. In spite of not scoring, White played a solid defensive game and finished the night with eight rebounds and five assists. Young and Kris Dunn each hit crucial 3-pointers in the third. But watching Valentine and Gafford ignite the home crowd made it even more surreal that neither of them cracked the regular rotation until mid-to-late November.

"We got a bond," Gafford said. "He finds me when I'm open, and I find him when he's open... We just go out and play basketball."

That strategy helped the Bulls build an 85-77 lead with eight minutes left in the game, but the team's good fortunes faded fast from there. After an alley-oop from Valentine to Gafford gave them their 84th and 85th points of the night, the Bulls didn't score for the next five-and-a-half minutes of game action. The Raptors surged down the stretch. The Bulls scrapped, but ultimately faltered when it mattered most.

Both Gafford and Valentine found themselves in the Bulls' closing lineup — Valentine by way of the hot-hand, Gafford in Carter's stead after he fouled out with just under four minutes remaining. A Valentine transition layup, Markkanen 3-pointer and Gafford layup represented the Bulls' only points of the final eight minutes.

"We gotta learn how to put it away. If we can't at the end of the third quarter, we gotta put it away at the beginning of the fourth," Gafford said. "We just gotta learn how to put it away, seal the deal." 

But, as a team, they didn't. And thus, the bottom line doesn't change. The Bulls won a(nother) moral victory or two tonight, but when the final points were tallied, they were on the short end. That's the only stat that matters, especially to those 14,775 that stood behind their team, in person, tonight.

"It’s disappointing when we don’t win games. It’s disappointing when we don’t win home games," Boylen, who has presided over only 10 home victories in his tenure, said. "Nobody is running from that."

"No excuses, nobody cares, we just gotta come out and play hard and learn from our mistakes," Valentine said. "It's tough, because we lose the last three and we were up in the fourth [quarter], I think, in all of those games. So it's tough. But hopefully at some point we'll figure it out."

Gafford and Valentine provided a jolt, but because of the result, they're only would-be heroes — their combined performance amounts to nothing more than an all-too-familiar silver lining. In some ways, that stings even more.

"That's why this game is so frustrating," Satoransky said. "Because I know we were there. Fans were engaged and I think we played very well, and we missed a lot of shots. You know, that always hurts."

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