Bulls

Bulls' Rose vs. Clippers' Paul: Must-see on 1230

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Bulls' Rose vs. Clippers' Paul: Must-see on 1230

On Christmas Day, the Bulls will face the Lakers, where they will face a squad minus longtime stalwart Lamar Odom. It would be presumptuous to call the Lakers, featuring a new head coach in Mike Brown after Phil Jackson's retirement, a team in disarray. But after trading Odom to the defending-champion Mavericks for a nearly 9 million trade exception and failing to acquire Chris Paul in an attempted deal with the NBA-owned Hornets -- both the departed Odom and holdover Pau Gasol, who would have been shipped to the Rockets, reportedly took umbrage at the swap, as did veteran leader Kobe Bryant -- short of somehow acquiring Dwight Howard (which would likely require trading both Gasol and center Andrew Bynum to the Magic), the aging Lakers are now perceived as no longer one of the league's elite teams.

So while Derrick Rose won't face off with Paul in the season opener, he'll take on his fellow All-Star point guard on the Bulls' first road trip, when the team returns to Los Angeles on Dec. 30, before returning to Chicago in advance of the home opener New Year's Day at the United Center. Paul was dealt to the other tenants of the Staples Center, the Clippers, late Wednesday, in exchange for promising young shooting guard Eric Gordon, former All-Star center Chris Kaman, second-year small forward Al-Farouq Aminu and a 2012 first-round draft pick, courtesy of the Timberwolves.

The trade was finally consummated after the Clippers, like the Lakers, had their initial trade proposal -- which didn't feature Gordon, who averaged 23 points per game last season and is due to be a free agent next summer -- rejected by the league. Including Gordon, who is poised to be on the fringe of an All-Star Game berth, in the transaction was a high price to pay for the Clippers, who now have four point guards with Paul, the recently acquired Chauncey Billups (signed after being waived by the Knicks), incumbent starter Mo Williams (who was shipped to L.A. in exchange for Baron Davis, due to be amnestied by the Cavaliers, last season) and Eric Bledsoe, a second-year player currently out with a knee injury.

For former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro, there could be worse problems -- Billups could fill Gordon's void at shooting guard -- as reigning Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin at power forward, free-agent signee Caron Butler at small forward and re-signed athletic young center DeAndre Jordan (the Clippers matched the Warriors' four-year, 43-million offer sheet) is a potent frontcourt for the unselfish Paul to distribute to. The Clippers still have a long way to go before being taken seriously as a contending team, but based on their roster, anything short of a playoff berth would be a major disappointment.

When compared to the Clippers' big splash, the Bulls' shooting-guard saga, which resulted in Rip Hamilton signing a reported three-year, 15-million contract Wednesday, seems minor, regardless of the disparity of the two teams' respective situations entering the season. However, while the Bulls have an eye on a championship and the Clippers are just seeking respectability, one thing's for certain: Dec. 30, perhaps even more than the season opener, will be must-see TV.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen stumps for Rudy Tomjanovich's Hall of Fame bid

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USA Today

Bulls coach Jim Boylen stumps for Rudy Tomjanovich's Hall of Fame bid

In case you forgot, Jim Boylen once worked for Rudy Tomjanovich. In fact, the former Rockets coach gave Boylen his NBA start, hiring him as an assistant coach and video coordinator way back in 1992.

Boylen saw first-hand the coaching chops and commitment Tomjanovich displayed as the Rockets won back-to-back NBA titles while Michael Jordan was playing baseball in the mid-1990s. So it's beyond loyalty when Boylen says he believes, like many others, that Tomjanovich belongs in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The organization named Tomjanovich a finalist over All-Star weekend in Chicago.

[RELATED: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett highlight Hall of Fame finalists]

"He's deserving," Boylen said. "I don't know why he's not in there yet. It doesn't make sense to me. Two championships, a gold medal."

That's a reference to Tomjanovich coaching USA Basketball's gold-medal winning team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Tomjanovich is an occasional visitor to the Advocate Center to watch Boylen.

"What he did with those Rockets teams and his playoff games — sixth seed in '95 — nobody's duplicated that. To win it from the sixth seed, play on the road like we did," Boylen said. "He has an unbelievable record in elimination games, which I think is a true test of your coaching and being able to communicate your message. I think he's getting in."

Does Boylen possess inside information?

"No," Boylen said, smiling. "He's due."

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Injury notes: Latest on Wendell Carter, Otto Porter, Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn

Injury notes: Latest on Wendell Carter, Otto Porter, Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn

Jim Boylen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. spent the majority of their time speaking to media after the team’s first post-All-Star break practice laying a trail of injury-related tea leaves.

Carter has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain since Jan. 6, and Porter hasn’t played since spraining his foot on Nov. 6. Both took part in practice (which featured “some contact” according to Boylen) and are inching closer to respective returns, though nothing is official as of yet.

"Otto participated in practice and got his legs underneath him. Wendell, we kinda put him in for two possessions, then take him out for two and kinda getting him back comfortable," Boylen said.

“Just taking it one day at a time,” said Carter, who said on the Friday of All-Star weekend that he was shooting for a return this Thursday (Feb. 20) against the Hornets. “I practiced today and it felt okay, so I'm just taking it slow. Don't want to rush anything, and end up hurting again, so that's where I'm at right now.

“Depending on the coaching staff, depending on how I'm feeling come game time, of course I want to play Thursday, but I'm [going to] do what's best for the team and for myself."

Boylen declined to say officially whether Carter will be available Thursday, also taking a “we’ll see” approach. Carter is about six weeks into his initial four-to-six week recovery timeline.

Porter, who said he’s “close” to 100 percent, doesn’t yet know when he’ll be back and that “time will tell” how many practices he needs before sliding back into the Bulls’ lineup. He remains without a timetable, and said he is unsure if he’ll be eased back in on a minutes restriction when he is able to return.

“I was able to do everything. I feel good,” Porter said. “I’ll continue it a day at a time, making sure my pain is free."

When asked, Boylen said he doesn’t yet have a clear idea of when Lauri Markkanen (who has been out with a pelvis injury since Jan. 24) might return to practice. This Friday marks four weeks into Markkanen’s initial four-to-six week timeline

There was also no update on Kris Dunn on the two-week anniversary of his initial two-week re-examination timeline for a sprained right MCL suffered against the Nets on Jan. 31.

[RELATED: Bulls preparing for possibility of losing Kris Dunn for rest of season]

Still, things are moving in the right direction for the Bulls on the injury front. The team entered the All-Star break on a six-game losing streak that ties a season-high, but Boylen maintained playing competitive basketball down the stretch remains a goal. At 19-36, they will resume play five games behind the Magic for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

“I think doing both, I think that's what our challenge is this year,” Boylen said of the team’s dual objectives of winning and developing. “Part of development is you hope to play in some meaningful games, and we've had a couple of those situations this year compared to last year, and I'm hoping we can have more. I'm hoping.

"Health is part of that and just getting better. I got a good group of guys that play hard, and we gotta continue to do that, and hopefully improve as we go down the stretch here.”

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