Bulls

Bulls-Heat not just another game

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Bulls-Heat not just another game

MIAMI -- It's the biggest NBA game of the season! Its outcome will have implications that will be remembered in June!

For once, it's no exaggeration. Well, not completely.

Sunday's showdown between the Bulls and Heat is truly the NBA's most anticipated event of the season, at least thus far. But it's just another regular-season game.

Still, let's be honest: Chicago and Miami are the class of the East, and no disrespect to current league-best Oklahoma City -- or other West contenders, such as defending-champion Dallas, the two L.A. teams or even underrated Memphis -- but a game pitting the reigning MVP, Coach of the Year and what's regarded as the best defense in the business against the "Big Three" is as good as it gets for late January, especially in this lockout-shortened campaign. And Derrick Rose can downplay it, but all eyes will be on Biscayne Blvd. Sunday afternoon.

Since the last time the two squads faced off, in the Eastern Conference Finals, much of the personnel has stayed the same. However, the offseason moves made by the respective front offices have been impactful.

Role players were the Heat's focus, as veteran "three-and-D" specialist Shane Battier, rookie point guard Norris Cole and even former Bulls center Eddy Curry, a Chicago native, took their talents. Meanwhile, the Bulls opted for quality over quantity, acquiring Rip Hamilton to fill their void at shooting guard, the team's only addition since last season, now that the short stint of journeyman point guard Mike James, waived Saturday, is over.

While those moves will have some say in Sunday's result, a cursory analysis of the matchups and brief evaluation of the season to date reveals that many of the same questions from a year ago still exist. But whether LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can be simultaneously productive, Rose gets enough help from the highly-scrutinized big-man duo of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer or even if Luol Deng returns from torn ligaments in his left wrist is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

For the record, Bosh was playing some of the best basketball of his brief tenure in Miami prior to Wade, who looked remarkably spry in Friday night's Heat win over the reeling Knicks, returning from a sprained ankle. Unfortunately for Bulls fans, James' issues in the clutch haven't yet against Chicago. And while there will likely be plenty of focus on Rose's approach and how the Bulls' big men play following their various struggles last spring, perhaps a more important aspect of the game will be how effective the Bulls' perimeter players -- such as Hamilton, who, like Deng, is a game-time decision -- are when Miami's defense inevitably collapses on Rose.

Regardless of whether the two teams are prohibitive favorites to face off again at the same juncture where they met last postseason, keep in mind that the Bulls swept last year's regular-season series over the Heat before bowing out in five games in the conference finals, an indicator that, game of the season or not, maybe less significance should be placed on an early-January affair. But boy, won't it be fun to watch?

Coby White focused on development, winning for Bulls, not All-Star weekend

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USA Today

Coby White focused on development, winning for Bulls, not All-Star weekend

On Friday, Coby White will find out if he makes the Rising Stars Challenge as part of All-Star weekend in Chicago.

“It would mean a lot,” White said Tuesday. “Hopefully, I’ll be one of the ones selected. But like I always say, if not, it's not the end of the world for me. I won't let it define who I am. But to represent Chicago in Chicago for All-Star weekend, it would be a big deal for me. It would be a blessing for sure.”

White said he hasn’t spoken to Lauri Markkanen or Kris Dunn about the experience, which pits prominent first- and second-year players in a Team USA vs. Team World format. Both of those Bulls have played in the contest, which is scheduled for Feb. 14.

“We’re just trying to focus on winning right now,” White said.

White has produced several memorable scoring binges this season, although the Bulls drafted him with the No. 7 pick in last June’s draft to eventually play a lead guard role. Coach Jim Boylen said White’s decision-making is “developing,” which is typical for young players.

“I’ve seen some terrific improvement from Coby in his decision-making, his ability to get us organized,” Boylen said. “We all know that he knows he has room to grow there. But he has focused on it, he’s been pounding the film. He watches the film with the assistant coaches and then he watches film with me before every game. We have about a 20-minute spot on game day that him and I sit and watch film, talk about situations.’’

Bulls' Jim Boylen on Victor Oladipo's return: 'It's good for the league'

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USA Today

Bulls' Jim Boylen on Victor Oladipo's return: 'It's good for the league'

One year and six days after rupturing his right quad tendon, Victor Oladipo is scheduled to make his return Wednesday against the Bulls.

The Pacers All-Star guard was averaging 18.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists when he went down.

“I'm very happy for him. He's a terrific kid, a terrific guy. That injury he had was a really tough one. I'm sure he's worked as hard as anybody, from what I know of him,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “As I've said before, injuries in this league are heartbreaking. But he's a competitive guy and it's good for the league that he's back.”

The Pacers not only surprisingly weathered the storm of losing Oladipo to win 48 games and qualify for last season’s playoffs, they currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference at 30-17.

The Bulls, who are vying for their first three-game win streak of the season, are two games out of the playoffs as they begin a three-game trip.

“We had a moment in Orlando where we were playing a team that was close to us in the standings, that we were trying to catch, and we fell short in that moment,” Boylen said of a Dec. 23 road loss. “Now we're going to be in another situation where, first we've got a division opponent, then we have a team that we're chasing in the standings. So we'll see how we handle those situations.

“The beauty of this is we have a young group that's going to play some meaningful game. That's what we hoped for, that's the situation we're in and we'll see how we handle it. I expect this group to play hard and play together and we'll see what happens.” 

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