Bulls: Thibodeau's silence shows unhappiness with Rose not getting calls


Bulls: Thibodeau's silence shows unhappiness with Rose not getting calls

In 37 career playoff games, Derrick Rose has gone without a free-throw attempt in seven of them — and more pressing, twice in the two games thus far against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So when it was suggested to Tom Thibodeau that he do something different strategically to put Rose in positions to earn trips to the line, he coyly turned the tables.

[RELATED - Jimmy Butler named NBA's Most Improved Player]

“Who’s that?”

Clearly not hard of hearing, Thibodeau wanted the entire press corps at attention so when Rose’s name came up, he jabbed again.

“Say that again,” he requested.

Then the words Thibodeau wanted to hear finally came tumbling out, to the desired affect.

“Derrick hasn’t gone to the line,” it was stated.

“Thank you,” Thibodeau said with a smile.

Mission accomplished.

Thibodeau isn’t going to get fined by the league for criticizing its officiating, so he wants his message to be sent without saying it, much in the form of Pat Riley, Phil Jackson and Chuck Daly, master manipulators in terms of protecting their stars.

“You know he’s aggressive,” Thibodeau said. “There’s nobody like him. He’s got power, speed, strength, quickness, so he’s generating speed and there’s contact. And then it’s a judgement. So I guess he’s got to go harder.’’

[MORE - Why the Bulls' interior help defense must improve]

Rose isn’t the player he was in 2011, when he went to the foul line 8.4 times a night in the playoffs. This time around, he’s much more perimeter oriented, getting to the charity stripe just 2.4 times this postseason.

But it doesn’t mean he’s strayed away from the basket altogether; he’s just not getting the benefit of the doubt from the officials — a stark contrast to his counterpart Kyrie Irving getting there 21 times in the first two games this series.

Heading into Game 3 tonight, one would think the gulf between Rose’s performances on a one-day rest against two days or more could be tightened if he could get to the foul line more.

“You don’t know how anyone will shoot the ball on a given night,” Thibodeau said. “You have to be able to deal with that. What you have to be able to count on are things you can control — your energy, your concentration, how you run the team, go out there and do your job.”

Rose himself wouldn’t like a stat line of 14 points, 6.7 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 5.5 turnovers on 30 percent shooting — which is what he does on a one day rest — compared to averaging 24.2 points, 6.7 assists and 2.7 turnovers on 48.1 percent shooting on two or more days rest.

The Bulls are aware of those stark statistics, they just hope things begin to trend in the other direction, pointing out he’s only two months removed from surgery on his right meniscus.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the playoffs, Bulls fans]

“Gotta get out there and play. He has missed a lot of time,” Thibodeau said. “He’s working his way back. He had surgery again this year. It’s not only three years of rust but he played a good chunk the first half of the season and then missed a good chunk the second half. Each day, he’s feeling better and better. It’ll come around.”

And getting to the line would be a big part of that recovery.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.