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Chicago native Brown spoils Rose's show

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Chicago native Brown spoils Rose's show

Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010
Updated 2:41 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

LOS ANGELES Its far too early in the season to call this a pivotal game, but the Bulls (7-5) ability to hang with the Lakers (13-2) throughout Tuesdays 98-91 loss yielded the premise of a team capable of matching upper-echelon competition through the first three quarters and change, that is.

A tooth-and-nail battle morphed into a case of Chicago playing catch-up late, as Los Angeles bench was the difference outscoring the Bulls reserves, 39-10 as the visitors faded late at the Staples Center.

They put a lot of pressure on us. I thought they made the right plays and they shot the three extremely well. We were closing short and theyve been shooting the three great all seasonthey got uncontested looks and they made shots, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Overall, in the first three quarters, I thought we played well. But again, to win on the road against a quality opponent, you have to play for 48 minutes and were still not there.

A hot start by the Lakers was immediately countered by the visitors, who appeared unfazed by the bright lights of the Staples Center, complete with courtside celebrities like Denzel Washington and the ever-present Jack Nicholson.

Taj Gibson (16 points, 12 rebounds) a game-time decision after suffering a foot injury in the days leading up to the game who played his college ball at nearby USC, was particularly active early, proving that his slump-busting outing against Dallas Saturday was a start of a trend and not a fluke.

Luol Deng (13 points; 11 in the first quarter and none in the second half), due for a good game after a few quiet nights, was aggressive offensively, leading to one of his subsequent hot starts.

The Bulls were aggressive in pushing the tempo early, resulting in a slim cushion over the home team, with Derrick Rose (30 points, eight assists) serving as a facilitator and Joakim Noah (19 points, 13 rebounds), while not offensive proficient initially, providing his trademark energy, playing compression shorts-tight defense on Lakers big man Pau Gasol (12 points, 11 rebounds), creating for others as a playmaker and being a factor on the backboards.

Meanwhile, the Lakers were sparked by who else? superstar Kobe Bryant (20 points), who carried the offensive load for the two-time defending champions while his running mates found their collective stride, although the versatile Lamar Odom (21 points, eight rebounds) would make more of an impact as time went on.

Following a Shannon Brown (21 points) triple with 0.4 seconds to go in the opening period, things were tied at 26 apiece.

Brown, a reserve guard and Chicago native, put his stamp on the game in the second quarter, but for the most part, the Bulls reserves held serve against their Lakers counterparts, although the visitors would face a light deficit.

"All I know is my teammates got me the ball in a position where I can help the team win and I knocked down shots for them," said Brown, who attended Proviso East High School -- the alma mater of former NBA players Michael Finley and Doc Rivers, the Boston Celtics coach -- in Maywood, Ill., in Chicago's western suburbs. "I dont know if they were prepared or what, but I know Dec. 10 or whatever the case is, however it goes, theyre going to be prepared and they played great today."

We knew going in he Brown was playing at a very high level. Youre concerned with him in transition, but youre concerned with the way hes cutting right now and you cant go under on screens, and youve got to stay on his body and you also cant allow him any spot-up threes, said Thibodeau. Hes shooting the ball right now with a lot of confidence; you can see it when hes raising up.

Concurred Rose: Hes shooting the ball well this year, got a lot of confidence, doing great for them, but we should have made him a driver.

Upon Roses re-entry into the contest, the All-Star point guard took a more aggressive approach, putting pressure on the defense with quick jaunts to the rim.

Despite Browns continued surprise offensive output (18 first-half points), the game remained a tight-knit affair, mostly due to Noahs dominance on the glass, his tag-team partner Gibsons quiet efficiency and Roses offensive presence.

The Lakers wouldnt make it easy with their active hands and solid shot-blocking defensively, and Chicago was down by a pair, 51-49, at the break.

Keeping in line with their habit of slow third-quarter starts, the Bulls were on the wrong end of an 8-0 run to start the second half.

We tried to make (Gasol's) catches hard, we tried to make him work and also, he missed some shots he normally makes, but again, I think the way they run their offense its not a one-dimensional offense they move the ball, they have Kobe off the dribble and they have Pau inside. It forces your defense to collapse, explained Thibodeau. I think they took 25 threes, so youre pulling people in when the ball does go in and when Kobes isolated, youre committing help to him, as well.

A cold-shooting performance was partially offset by Noahs efforts on the offensive glass, as well as Roses scoring efforts, which allowed the visitors to slice into the deficit.

The contest evolved into a virtual tte--tte between Rose and Bryant, with the respective superstars going bucket for bucket the youngster actually took the upper hand as the quarter went on although the contributions of Odom and Noah were also major factors. Chicago battled back to trail by a lone point, 74-73, heading into the final stanza.

The Bulls remained in close contact in the fourth quarter, with Browns continued heroics and Odoms all-around play spurring the Lakers, although surviving a stretch without Rose and Noah proved to be key for Chicago.

The Lakers, however, got timely plays from reserves outside of Brown such as swingman Matt Barnes (10 points), backup point guard Steve Blake and rookie bruiser Derrick Caracter aiding the home team in slightly widening their winning margin.

I think they Brown, Barnes and Blake add a lot to the team. Experience, shooting and they have quality backups at all their perimeter positions now, said Thibodeau. All three are very good defenders. I think that sometimes gets overlooked.

Of course, everybody in the league knows their bench is like a transition team, added Rose. They get out in the open court, trot ahead, shoot a lot of threes and they were hitting them tonight.

Theyve got a great team. Theyre a deep team. They went small tonight, they had a lot of shooters out there and we didnt do enough job of closing outtheyve got some guys who werent really known as great shooters shooting some high percentages, Kyle Korver chimed in. Theyre a tough team. Youve got to give them credit. Nights when you dont focus on Kobe or Gasol, they obviously go off. Those guys have been shooting the ball well all year. Its not like its the first night those guys have hit shots. Your natural tendency is to sink in and weve talked the last few days about sinking in and clogging the paint, but youve also got to chase them off the 3-point line. Most of them werent wide open, but weve got to jump with them and make them take a couple dribbles, and we didnt do that tonight.

Suddenly, the home team would display why they are the two-time defending champions, going on an extended run with a small-ball lineup (the Lakers shot 10-for-25 behind the arc for the game) and stout defense (limiting the Bulls to 18 fourth-quarter points) to blow the game open and push their once slim lead to double figures, with the collective effort of Los Angeles second unit playing the role of catalyst.

The Bulls simply couldnt mount another late, Rose-propelled comeback, and the Lakers cruised to the home win, despite tough defense on Bryant by Deng down the stretch.

The Lakers, theyre a heck of a defensive team. Youve got to make quick decisions against them, observed Thibodeau. Youve got to move their size and when they finished the game, they were small and quick. I thought we settled sometimes, too.

Opined Rose: We were just making sure every shot that they took was contested. Everybody that played Kobe did a good job, especially Lu toward the end, making sure that he contested shots and making sure he didnt get the open looks. Their bench just did the job tonight They were hitting tough shots. They went small and a lot of players for them stepped up their game.

It kind of tells us where we are exactly. It tells you where you are and if you can compete against them and we feel like we can compete against everybody, said Noah. It was tough because youre trying to double team Kobe and trying to get the ball out of his hands, but we work on it and its something were trying to do better. I feel like defensively, we did a pretty good job, but there are still areas we have to improve on and I think thats the great thing about this team. Everybody wants to improve and everybody wants to compete with the elite teams. Were not there yet, but were pretty close.

When guys are hitting shots the way they are; those were some contested shots, as well. If you look at the way we played and the things that we can control, I feel like we didnt shoot the ball particularly well, but well see them in a couple weeks, he continued. When you play a game like that, the way we played, I feel confident that we have a chance in a couple weeks to maybe beat them at home.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Jim Boylen takes positive approach to injuries, Bulls' disappointing season

Jim Boylen takes positive approach to injuries, Bulls' disappointing season

One thing that has stood out throughout this disappointing Bulls season is Jim Boylen’s positivity.

Following most every game, he has highlighted in-game moments that he feels are signs of progress, even if they’re as basic as winning a quarter. He has praised players for their care factor and development.

The approach, like many of Boylen’s, has bothered some fans and observers. Perhaps not to the degree that his late-game timeout usage or rotational decisions or systems have, but the trait has caused some angst nonetheless.

It also stands in contrast to when Boylen first took over for the fired Fred Hoiberg. You remember his “shock and awe” campaign, the one where he openly questioned his players’ conditioning, made them do push-ups and in general sounded like a drill sergeant.

But the approach has at least served Boylen well as the Bulls have endured yet another stretch of injuries that has bordered on ridiculous. Wendell Carter Jr. is aiming for a Saturday return, while Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen are trending in the right direction.

But the Bulls weren’t expecting to be playing two-way player Adam Mokoka rotational minutes in February, particularly alongside Cristiano Felicio and Shaq Harrison.

“What I’ve learned to do from people I’ve worked for and from being in this business is I take it as it comes,” Boylen said following Thursday’s practice at Advocate Center. “I try to stay in the moment, do the best I can to help this team get better and grow. I do not worry about tomorrow and I try to stay right in where we’re at. And where we’re at right now is banged up.

“I cannot wallow in that negativity or the things I can’t control. Otherwise, I don’t do as good a job on that floor teaching the guys that are practicing and are playing and staying positive and upbeat. And that’s what I get paid to do. I take a lot of pride in my attitude in these moments. That’s what this league is about to me. It’s easy when your team is healthy and you’re playing good and you’re winning games. But a lot of us in the league right now are going through these moments. And that’s part of it.”

So Boylen will continue stressing whatever he sees as positive, trying to set an example for his young team. On Thursday, that featured more talk of the Bulls’ shot profile. The Bulls rank second in shots from 5 feet or less and ninth in 3-point attempts.

“We have areas on the floor that we really value. A rim-2, which is right at the rim in the restricted area, or a corner 3, those are your highest-valued shots. Then you have a mid shot and an above-the-break 3. There are four distinct areas that we talk about,” Boylen said. “You would like more of the rim-twos and the corner 3s because those are the most valuable shots.”

The next step is converting them. The Bulls rank 26th in shots from 5 feet or less and 22nd in 3-point percentage.

“You hope to make those good looks you get. You hope to finish plays at the rim. And we’re working to do that,” Boylen said. “And that’s strength and youth and toughness and all those things we’re developing, You would say Coby White’s finishing has improved dramatically as he’s grown in the system. Our shot profile is very good.”

At 19 games under .500, that’s more positivity from Boylen.

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Coby White's NBA future goes beyond positional values

Coby White's NBA future goes beyond positional values

Among the hot topics for Bulls’ fans during this disappointing season has been the development of rookie guard Coby White. The Bulls drafted White with the 7th overall pick last June with the hope that eventually he could take over the starting point guard job and hold it for the next decade-plus.

White burst on to the scene by scoring 42 points in his first two NBA games and followed that up with back to back games of 27 and 26 points in November. He set a franchise record by making 7 three-pointers in the 4th quarter of a home-court win over the Knicks with his college coach Roy Williams watching from the stands. White quickly became a fan favorite, bringing back memories of past streak shooters like Ben Gordon, Jamal Crawford, and Nate Robinson.

Still, White hasn’t been immune to the typical growing pains experienced by a 19-year-old NBA rookie. He went through a few stretches of sub-par shooting and inconsistent playing time, averaging just 9.4 points during the month of December while shooting 37.7% from the field. And January wasn’t a whole lot better, with White averaging 10.3 points on 39% shooting.

Part of the problem was White being asked to take on more playmaking responsibilities, which took away from his natural aggressiveness as a scorer. The Bulls’ coaching staff finally told Coby to go back to what made him so successful as a high scoring guard in high school and college: attack the basket in transition and use his quickness in pick and roll situations to create shots for himself and his teammates.

With Kris Dunn likely out for the rest of the season because of a knee injury, White began to play more minutes with Zach LaVine, and all of a sudden they’ve become a formidable 1-2 punch. White and LaVine just became the first Bulls’ duo since Bob Love and Chet Walker in 1969 to score 30-plus points apiece in consecutive games.

LaVine is no stranger to high scoring games, but the 6th year guard is genuinely excited about how good his young backcourt mate might turn out to be. “He’s coming into his own, and I’ve said this from day one, he’s special. He can score the ball like no other,” LaVine told reporters after the loss to Oklahoma City on Tuesday. “He’s continuing to get better. He’s 20 years old. I think he’s starting to find his groove right now.”

So, back to the original point. What’s the best way to develop a young scoring guard like Coby White?

We’ve seen several teams in recent years trying to build their offense around a pair of dynamic guards, like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson with Golden State, John Wall and Bradley Beal with the Wizards, the former Toronto backcourt duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, and James Harden teaming up with Chris Paul and now Russell Westbrook in Houston. Is that the model the Bulls will follow? Or do they need to have more of a facilitating point guard to play alongside LaVine?

Clearly, the old way of defining positions no longer applies in the world of professional basketball. Rather than force White to reign in his game to be more of a traditional point guard, the Bulls need to embrace the offensive firepower generated by two explosive backcourt scorers.

White’s recent offensive onslaught came in part because opposing defenses are focusing so much attention on slowing down LaVine. That duo should find even more operating room in the future when the starting frontcourt of Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. is back on the court, and next season there will likely be another lottery pick to add to the core.

Whether White starts for the rest of the season or not isn’t the issue. He’s playing starter’s minutes now and is on the court with LaVine in closing lineups.

Tomas Satoransky has only one fully guaranteed year left on his contract and has the versatility at 6-foot-7 to play all three perimeter positions. Ryan Arcidiacono will continue to be a depth option. Dunn will be a restricted free agent this summer and might not return. The Bulls need to continue to develop White’s passing and decision-making skills while understanding what really makes him special is the ability to score points in bunches. There’s no reason why White and LaVine can’t be effective playing together, especially since White is an active and willing defender with good size at 6-foot-5.

Very little has gone right for the Bulls this season, but if Coby White can continue to build off his recent flurry of 30+ scoring games, the backcourt will be a real problem for opposing teams in years to come.

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