Bulls: Fred Hoiberg suggests Derrick Rose shouldn't have played to start season


Bulls: Fred Hoiberg suggests Derrick Rose shouldn't have played to start season

With every slithering drive to the basket, and every under control 3-point attempt that has been shot with more accuracy than Doug McDermott this month, Derrick Rose is making a believer out of Fred Hoiberg.

The Bulls coach said what everybody is seeing and stating: Rose is playing his best basketball of the season when the Bulls need him most, with Monday’s efficient performance against the Sacramento Kings as the latest evidence.

Since the All-Star break, Rose has been a model of efficiency, averaging 20 points and 5.2 assists on 52 percent shooting and 50 from 3-point range.

“He’s playing his best stretch of basketball. There’s no doubt about it,” Hoiberg said. “He’s raising up and taking and making clutch shots with no fear. He’s attacking the basket. He’s doing a good job finding mismatches and throwing ahead on the break. And his defense has been much better the last few games, applying more hand pressure, getting deflections and getting in the ball better on the pick-and roll.”

[BULLS ROAD AHEAD: Derrick Rose cruising for the Bulls]

Unprompted, Hoiberg added he felt Rose came back too soon after his orbital bone surgery, the injury he suffered in the first 30 minutes of training camp in October. It something the Rose naysayers are sure to shoot down, considering it goes against the narrative surrounding the point guard says he’ll find any reason to sit out games.

“Did he come back too soon? Looking back on it, we could’ve got him in better rhythm and better shape to start the year,” Hoiberg said. “But he wanted to be out there with his teammates for the first game.”

Given the benefit of hindsight, Hoiberg doesn’t know if he would sit Rose if something freakish like that happened again, given how he looked when he played the last couple preseason games.

“Maybe. That’s a hard decision to make at that time because he wanted to be on the floor,” Hoiberg said. “And he had a really good game in that Cleveland game (18 points). He didn’t shoot a high percentage but his attack was really good. It’s hard to say. Hopefully he doesn’t have the same thing happen to him next year.”

His sluggish start to the season had many openly questioning whether he could get back to an elite level, but he’s showing very few effects of the nagging injuries that caused him to miss games here and there the last two months.

His play has gradually improved month to month, as he originally stated from the start of the season, and his post All-Star offensive rating of 108 points per 100 possessions is the highest since his 115 mark in the pre-All-Star break 2011-12 campaign.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

As in months before his first serious knee surgery.

“It says a lot and you can tell because he puts in so much extra work on off days, he's in here shooting,” Doug McDermott said. “Even before the team photo today, he was in here getting a bunch of shots up. It's really paying off, his shot looks great and he looks very explosive getting to the rim.”

And it’s coming in the nick of time.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:

Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.