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Bulls: Rose skips USA minicamp; Westbrook praises Rose's workouts

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Bulls: Rose skips USA minicamp; Westbrook praises Rose's workouts

Attendance at the USA Basketball minicamp was mandatory for anyone wishing to be considered amongst the final 12 for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, and although a couple players had excused absences, Derrick Rose did not.

Rose opted to skip the minicamp, which obviously disappointed USA Basketball Executive Director Jerry Colangelo, but Colangelo stated the program would move forward without the Bulls’ point guard.

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook works out with Rose in Los Angeles and wasn’t surprised Rose decided to skip the minicamp.

“No, it’s his decision,” Westbrook said. “Obviously, he did it before, won a gold medal (in the 2014 World Championships). It’s his first summer to get healthy, to get an opportunity to be healthy and get some rest.”

Westbrook and Rose work out with famed trainer Rob McClanaghan, who was also in attendance at the USA minicamp. McClanaghan said Rose knew the stakes of the three-day event but declined anyhow, and with the glut of point guards who appear to have a leg up on Rose, he wouldn’t be wrong to surmise it would be a tough sell to make the final 12.

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MVP Stephen Curry and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul are locks, along with Westbrook being versatile enough to play both guard spots. Washington’s John Wall and Rose aren’t the traditional international point guards because they aren’t exceptional outside shooters, while Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, when healthy, does fit the mold.

Nevertheless, the good news is Westbrook had high praise for Rose in their summer workouts, considering the two have been linked together as attacking, athletic point guards.

“He looked good. Real good.” Westbrook said. “Back to himself. Back to D-Rose.”

But McClanaghan understood Rose wanting to give himself some time off after undergoing meniscus surgery in late February which made way for his postseason showing.

“Right now, he just wants to stay healthy,” McClanaghan said. “I definitely think his rhythm is back. Just going every day. His timing and his rhythm are his biggest thing.”

“Finishing at the rim. That’s definitely a little better. Just going back to five days a week, coming in every day, same time. He’s been in LA the whole time. He hasn’t had much going on.”

Aside from a trip to China for an Adidas promotion, McClanaghan has said Rose has spent most of his offseason in Los Angeles in preparation for this season—the first time since the 2010-11 season where he finished it healthy.

When someone asked how his explosion looks compared to then, when he was a 22-year old MVP, McClanaghan laughed: “That was awhile back.”

[MORE: Thibodeau has no regrets following departure from Bulls]

“Again, he looks like the old Derrick to me,” he said. “Again, last summer too. But now having that full year and a good playoff run and all that, everything with the mental stuff is back too. I think everything has come together this summer. He’s got momentum going into the summer unlike last year. Mentally, physically, he looks ready to go.”

Multiple knee procedures and setbacks later, there’s again question marks that can’t be answered until he steps on the floor again — honestly, there’ll always be question marks until he proves he can do it consistently.

But Clanaghan believes being paired with Westbrook can help Rose, seeing someone so competitive go after it every day. The two have been linked since the 2008 Final Four, when Rose’s Memphis team beat Westbrook’s UCLA squad in the national semifinal.

“The work he’s put in has been great,” McClanghan said. “So there’s no reason he won’t have a great year. I work Derrick and Russell together. It’s amazing how competitive those guys are in the workout. Unlike many guys in the league, those guys push each other. Being friends is a good thing but within the workout you can see the competition, it’s really fun. Going back to Predraft 08. So getting back to those old times.”

Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

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Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

In a five-game span Wendell Carter Jr. saw preseason action against Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and Myles Turner. The 19-year-old rookie had his share of expected ups and downs but performed well enough that Fred Hoiberg officially announced him a starter for the team’s season opener tomorrow night.

His reward for all that hard work? A matchup against All-Pro center Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

It’ll be an eye-opening experience for the Duke product, who just a year ago was readying himself for his first season of college basketball and a season-opening matchup against Elon. It’s safe to assume Embiid will pose a few more problems than did Phoenix center Tyler Seibring.

“Joel Embiid was one of my role models growing up,” Embiid said before practice Wednesday. “He was someone I always wanted to pattern my game after. Just to go up against him is a remarkable feeling. He’s a very physical player. He’s a very talented player. I’m going to be able to stack up and see what all I need to work on to last in this league.”

While it’s no easy task against a talent like Embiid, who was named All-NBA Second Team last season, Carter’s most important job will be staying out of foul trouble. Carter piggy-backed an impressive Summer League with a preseason that included averages of 7.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in 21.1 minutes. But those numbers also included 7.7 fouls per 48 minutes. He racked up 17 fouls in five games, and had at least three in each.

Embiid only went to the line five times in Tuesday’s season-opening loss to the Celtics, but that was primarily against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Al Horford. Embiid won’t face as much resistance against Carter, putting the pressure on the rookie to stay on the floor.

“He’s going to have to navigate that without using his hands,” Fred Hoiberg said. “We have to be all five aware. It’s just not a one-man problem with Embiid. We have to have great awareness of him and try and mix up coverages and hopefully make him take tough shots, knowing that he’s going to hit some of those. You just can’t get deflated when he does.’’

The decision was a mere formality – Bobby Portis will start at power forward – after the frontcourt combination played considerably better in the Bulls’ final two preseason games. Though Jabari Parker was initially slotted in at power forward following Lauri Markkanen’s elbow sprain, Portis’ impressive preseason forced Hoiberg’s hand. Portis averaged 17.0 points and 5.8 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field in just 22.4 minutes.

“It’s all about combinations out there and we felt like Bobby gave us a great start with the way he was playing,” Hoiberg said. “And then we kind of changed things up with that second unit and put the ball in Jabari’s hands, so it was more that in trying to get guys out there with the right combinations.”

Lopez may have an expanded role if Carter gets into foul trouble early, while Parker will be the facilitator on a second unit that doesn’t have much in the way of a point guard. It’s anyone’s guess as to how the frontcourt will play out once Markkanen returns in roughly a month; if Portis and Carter continue playing well, Hoiberg could opt to keep them together on the second unit and put Lopez back in the starting lineup.

But for at least Opening Night – the Bulls also get Andre Drummond and the Pistons on Saturday – it’ll be the seventh overall pick getting his NBA feet wet with a matchup against arguably the best center in basketball. But’s it a role he’s earned, and on a Bulls defense looking for any sort of improvement, Carter is the player who can anchor it.

“His defense is always going to be important for us. He’s the guy that’s the anchor in that starting unit at the rim,” Hoiberg said, “and he’s done a really solid job of making perimeter guys taking contested shots when he gets switched off, or staying vertical at the rim and trying to make a big finish over the top of him, so yeah, again it’s a great challenge, great opportunity for Wendell.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

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