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Defense returns, Bulls steal victory from Jazz

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Defense returns, Bulls steal victory from Jazz

Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011
Posted Feb. 9, 10:35 p.m. Updated 1:08 a.m.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

SALT LAKE CITYThe Bulls (35-16) knocked out two birds with one stone Wednesday night in Utah. Not only did they snap their two-game losing streak, their trio of former Utah residents knocked off their former team, the Jazz (31-23), 91-86, in front of a hostile Energy Solutions Arena crowd. While Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and especially Ronnie Brewer got some redemption out of the win, it was a stellar effort fromwho else?Derrick Rose, this time on both ends of the floor, that led to the victory.

Honestly, it was Derrick, Luol Deng told CSNChicago.com. I just really believe Derrick has grown as a player and I really think he took the game over today. He made some tough shots, made that steal defensively.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: He was in attack mode.

He did everything. He ran the team, made shots, made hustle plays and he had to chase Utah point guard Deron Williams around a ton of screens, too, and thats not an easy thing to do. His effort was great.
Carlos Boozer heard boo's nearly every time he touched the ball in his first game back in Utah after signing with Chicago during the off-season. (AP)
In his return to Utahwhere he went from star to polarizing figure to the object of hatredBoozer (14 points, six rebounds) was the subject of the crowds derision from the outset. Boosnot Booz, as in his nickname, which Jazz fans faithfully chanted during his heyday in Salt Lake Cityrained down on the two-time All-Star power forward and it didnt help that his longtime backup, Paul Millsap (20 points, 14 rebounds), got off to a quick start in comparison to Boozers early mishandles and difficulty finishing around the rim.

I felt a little bit of everything in regard to his emotions. The great thing about it, it was a great atmosphere. I thought I did a great job of holding my composure. It wasnt one of my better games, but I fought through it, said Boozer. It was a grind-out game. There wasnt a smooth rhythm to it.

Of his matchup with Millsap, he added, It was competitive and Im happy for him. He got a lot better and Im proud of him.

Boozer didnt delve too much into the particulars of the crowds response to his presence, but Deng shared his thoughts with CSNChicago.com.

It almost felt a little bit like hate, said Deng. I really wanted Carlos to do so well. As a team, we all wanted that.

Its a team game, always, but there was a little bit of Lets try to make sure these guys do well and try to get a win and thats just the type of team we are, he continued. We didnt talk about it. Carlos had a tough game, I had a tough game, but we came up with a win.

Brewer also discussed the return of himself, Boozer and Korver to their former home gym.

You didnt know how they were going to receive us. We knew they were going to be tough on Booz. Kyle and myself really didnt know our reception was going to be, but it felt good to hear some cheers and people saying stuff when youre on the court, said Brewer. You hear some of the stuff when its quiet. You know how loud it is in there, so you really dont hear a lot, but its good to get a win in this building because I know, personally, its a tough place to get wins.

Despite Boozers struggles, the Bulls jumped out to an early lead behind the aggressive offensive play of Rose (29 points, seven assists) and Deng (eight points, seven rebounds, four assists)Kurt Thomas was a beneficiary of their playmaking and the teams overall ball movementin addition to improved team defense. Millsap, however, didnt relent and along with versatile forward Andrei Kirilenko (13 points, 10 rebounds, four blocked shots, two steals), Utah climbed back and ended the opening period with a 23-21 advantage.

Some instant offense in the form of backup point guard C.J. Watson (he actually entered the game in the first quarter, due to Rose picking up his second foul) and solid overall play from the second unit helped the visitors overtake the Jazz early in the second quarter, creating some separation from the home team. Boozer continued to struggle, but the Bulls maintained their slim cushion, despite the emergence of big man Al Jefferson (26 points, eight rebounds, three blocks)Boozers de facto replacement; Utah shrewdly acquired him in the offseasonas a low-post scoring presence and Chicago went into the half with a 44-41 lead, in large part to Roses defense (a hot topic after he was criticized by Portland small forward Nicolas Batum after the Bulls loss to the Trail Blazers Monday; his offense wasnt shabby either, as he used his speed to get to the rim repeatedly) on Williams (11 points, 12 assists), who was held to five first-half points.

I was very locked in. D-Will, were almost like the same way, where if you let us have our way, were going to try to come at you every single time, said Rose. If it wasnt for my team, I wouldnt be able to do what I did tonight, with the passing, trying to force him places and just trying to contest all his shots.

While Rose was typically humble of the job he did against his counterpart, Boozer had high praise.

Such a stud, man. Carried us again offensively, like normal, he told CSNChicago.com. Defensively, he was phenomenal, made D-Will work for everything he got. Not that many people can match up with D-Will and D-Rose proved that hes one of those guys thats elite and I dont think theres any confusion that D-Will didnt play well. D-Rose just stepped up to the challenge of playing against a great player and played great.

Chimed in Korver: Derrick, he plays so hard, hes so tough, he puts so much pressure on whatever defense is guarding him and hes super athletic. Hes able to play incredible defense. I think sometimes, hes expending so much energy on the offensive end that its tough to play perfect defense all the time. We ask a lot of him, but I thought he played really well tonight.

Added Brewer: Rose did a great job containing him and we just tried to be there for him when D-Will was making pocket passes and getting other guys going because we knew they had a great offense and great guys inside, so we just had to slow him down.

The combination of Millsap and Jefferson propelled Utah early in the third quarter, as the Jazz briefly seized the lead from their guests. The contest evolved into a physical, back-and-forth affair worthy of the pregame hype and to boot, Boozer started to positively affect the game.

Utah, their fans are known. Theyre great. Theyre really into the game here for 48 minutes and they try to do whatever they can for their team to get the win. Their fans are very intense. It was a good, hard-fought game tonight, Thomas, who picked up both a flagrant foul (which he disputed was a flagrant) and a technical, told CSNChicago.com of the atmosphere. It definitely was physical, but I definitely feel back in the day, the game was more physical than it is today. But it was definitely an intense game.

Jefferson was an absolute force for the Jazz and with Williams content to set up his teammates, Utah appeared to be in rhythm, leading Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau to go to his benchTaj Gibson for Boozer, Omer Asik for Thomas and Brewer for Keith Bogansto give Chicago a more athletic, defensive-minded lineup. Asik, in particular, really gave the Bulls a boost with his play around the basket (and competent free-throw shooting) and with Rose faring well in his head-to-head matchup with Williams, the Bulls led, 66-60, after three quarters of play.

I thought our bench was terrific tonight. I thought our bigs did a really good jobOmer and Taj, protecting the basket...and Derrick was Derrick, said Thibodeau, before focusing on Asiks play specifically. Those offensive rebounds really kept us alive and that gave us some energy. Defensively, I thought Asik was very good. Jeffersons a tough cover. He can score the ball, he can get you with his shot fakes, he can get you in the air, he knows how to find open seams. So, he had a bigger night than we would have liked and Millsap got going early.

Deng told CSNChicago.com, I thought our bench was great. Omer was great, Taj was great and thats what weve been saying all year. This isnt the last night where I wont play well or Carlos doesnt.

Chicago sustained their tenuous lead early in the final stanza, matching Utahs toughness in the physical contest; Thomas was assessed a flagrant foul midway through the quarter, his fifth of the contest. Additionally, Williams began to assert himself as a scorernot that Rose, who hit timely buckets when the Bulls needed them most, didntand it seemed as if every spectator in the building was on their feet.

As the games stretch run approached, the visitors continued to ward off persistent Jazz comeback effortsa Korver triple was key; he told reporters afterwards, Thats what you live for, right? of the clutch shotalthough Jefferson (with Williams spoon-feeding him passes; he also made two blocks on Boozer, while Kirilenko made an impressive weak-side block of his own against his former teammate) was as unstoppable as Rose on the other end of the floor. A flurry of turnovers from the final minute onward made for ragged, yet exciting playthe play of the game occurred when Rose missed a shot, chased down Williams and knocked the ball away from behind to regain possession for the visitorsand with the Bulls leading by a lone point, Rose was fouled on a drive with 13 seconds remaining.

I was hoping that he took one more dribble. The crowd really threw him off. He thought they were cheering, like Score! But thank God that I made it there in time, where he still had it in his right hand, Rose recounted. Coach always says it starts with me, the way I play the ball, the way Im aggressive. Every single thing kind of comes down to it.

Said Thibodeau: That was a great hustle play and we needed it. That basically wins the game.

Added Boozer: Hes a bad manshot after shot, defensive play after defensive play. He was a man tonight.

He hawked D-Will down and stole the ball, put the game back in our hands. He comes down, makes a play, gets fouled, makes both free throws.

Chicagos All-Star point guard drained both foul shots to give Chicago an 89-86 lead, prompting a Utah timeout. Brewer, of all people, swiped a pass by Williams, his best friend, and was fouled with 7.4 seconds to go, before he could get an uncontested transition layup.

They were going to D-Will and if he wasnt open, he was going to try to get it to someone else for a three. We just defended the three and I came up with the steal. To me, it means more that Thibs put me in to get the defensive stop and I was able to do it. He had trust in me to go out there and make a play, said Brewer. It just happened to be against the team I used to play for. Its just part of basketball. Thats how I approached it.

Added Korver: Weve all been in that spot a lot of times in Utah and thats kind of what they go to, so we were ready.

The reserve swingman, a Utah draft pick who was unwillingly traded to Memphis last season before signing with the Bulls in the offseason, knocked down a pair of free throws to make it a two-possession game.

Were still not playing well defensively, but I thought we did what we had to do to get the win, said Thibodeau. The thing that I did like is I thought the mental toughness at the end, to do what we had to do to come up with the win, to come up with the loose balls, to hustle. When you do that, you give yourself a chance.

Added Rose: It was very important, especially for them the former Jazz players and current Bulls. Coming back, the fans were crazy. Booing them, cheering themfor some of them, but not for Boozbut it was a big game. Everybody was saying we were surprised it wasnt nationally televised with all the build-up.

Deng told CSNChicago.com, Its big. Weve done a good job all year of just focusing on the next game. We know we lost two, but we came in today and we wanted to end that losing streak. I dont think we lost three consecutive games all year. We talked about that before the game.

Now that we won, we want to keep going on a winning streak. Winning is really everything in this locker room. It washes away everything, whether you played good or bad, as long you win, thats history.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's 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.

How former Bull C.J. Watson is working to inspire children through books

How former Bull C.J. Watson is working to inspire children through books

C.J. Watson carved out a 10-year NBA career with not just talent but also an ability to overcome odds and tune out doubters.

So whenever the former Bulls guard encountered skepticism for his latest dream, he’d answer every "Why” with a "Why not?”

That dream? To create children's books. Watson, 36, has now published two titles: "CJ’s Big Dream" and "CJ’s Big Project." The first came out last November, the second in March.

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“It was just a random idea I had to challenge myself and try to push myself,” Watson said in a phone conversation. “I want to try to continue to be an inspiration. Playing in the NBA is an inspiration to kids. But I wanted to continue to offer kids knowledge and tell my story through books.

“Kids are the next generation of leaders. They’re the next entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers. Some kid will grow up to be President. I just wanted to try to share some gems and drops of knowledge. I want to try to propel little boys and girls and let them know it’s OK to shoot for their dreams and to dream big.”

The books were written by author Tamika Newhouse and illustrated by Cameron Wilson based on stories shared by Watson. Watson spent hours on the phone over a six-month period with Newhouse, sharing his stories and his vision for the project, which is scheduled to include at least one more title.

They are based on Watson’s upbringing in Las Vegas, where he first experienced doubts for his NBA dream.

“These are true stories,” Watson said. “I made it to the NBA after growing up in the inner city and not having the same resources or same chances as some. Growing up, seeing graffiti, abandoned houses, drugs, gangs, it can be discouraging. But I had a great support system that kept me focused on my goal.”

The second book focuses on the time Watson received an F on a science project in school. But the teacher offered him a chance to re-do it, which taught him a valuable lesson.

“The second book talks about working hard and the importance of getting good grades to be able to play sports,” he said. “That was the important thing in my household. If we didn’t have good grades, my brother and I couldn’t play sports.”

Watson is the father of two children with one on the way. His parents, Cathy and Charles, stressed education and reading as they raised him and his brother. He majored in psychology at Tennessee, which is in his parents’ hometown of Nashville, Tenn.

“My parents came from an area more poverty-stricken than I did,” Watson said. “You always want better for your kid, right? We might not have lived in the best area, but they always put my brother and me in the best schools to give us the best chance to succeed.

“They also were big on me and my brother doing community service. We’d go feed the homeless. We’d go visit nursing homes to care for the elderly. When I was younger, I always said if I made it that I wanted to give back.”

Watson and his family established his Quiet Storm Foundation in 2009. That foundation established an active presence in Chicago during his two seasons with the Bulls.

Watson is eight years removed from that stint, where he played an important role for a reserve unit so potent that it achieved its own nickname. “The Bench Mob” proved a significant reason the Bulls led the NBA in regular-season victories in consecutive seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

“It was definitely fun. It goes by fast. Chicago was probably some of the best years I had in the NBA,” Watson said. “We could’ve achieved more. We weren’t picked to do much that first year and surprised everybody. Then that second year, D-Rose got hurt.

“I felt like they should’ve kept the team together maybe a couple more years to try to see what could’ve happened. But it’s a business at the end of the day.”

Watson isn’t surprised Rose, who he backed up, is thriving again after a series of knee injuries, surgeries and rehabilitations.

“Definitely a great teammate, probably one of my favorites,” Watson said. “Injuries take a toll on you. He was held up to the MVP standard and some people judged him unfairly. But he has worked so hard. I’m definitely rooting for him and I’m always watching.”

Watson played for Charles Oakley’s team in the Big3 last summer, a 3-on-3 pro league that was canceled this summer because of COVID-19. He isn’t sure if he’ll play again if the league resumes next summer.

“It was fun. But it’s a different league. It’s pretty brutal. They don’t call any fouls. It’s kind of an old man’s game,” Watson said. “My body may have had enough.”

No matter his decision, Watson’s mind remains sharp.

“These books definitely are not a money maker. It’s a passion project,” Watson said. “Unless you’re a big-time children’s author, you probably won’t make a living at this. But I just did it to inspire kids and challenge myself. It’s kind of like the NBA. I never thought I’d make the NBA.  But lo and behold, I worked hard enough and got there.”

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Windy City Bulls standout PJ Dozier secures multi-year deal with Nuggets

Windy City Bulls standout PJ Dozier secures multi-year deal with Nuggets

Since going unselected in the 2017 NBA Draft, PJ Dozier has had his fair share of stops, from brief stints signed to the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, to successive one-year pacts with the Oklahoma City Thunder (2017-18) and Boston Celtics (2018-19). He spent most of the latter two tenures in the G League.

Dozier began the 2019-20 season signed to the Denver Nuggets on a two-way deal, but assigned to the Windy City Bulls, the Bulls' G League affiliate, along with 2019 second-round draftee of the Nuggets Bol Bol. 

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On Tuesday, the Nuggets officially announced they are converting Dozier's two-way deal into a multi-year contract with the team.

It's great news for Dozier, who enjoyed a dominating campaign for Windy City. In 18 games with the team, he averaged 21.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals on 43.8-32.6-74.1 shooting splits. A 6-foot-6 playmaking wing, Dozier flashed plus ball-handling, scoring and facilitating ability at a position of supreme value in the modern game.

He parlayed all of the above into a midseason All-NBA G League selection, but was recently left off the end-of-season all-league teams, presumably due to a limited sample size. He was called up to the Nuggets in mid-January and made an immediate impact, scoring 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting (2-for-4 from 3) in his debut, a win over the Charlotte Hornets. He reset his NBA career high one week later with a 15-point outing against the Houston Rockets.

In the run-up to the NBA pausing its season, Dozier appeared in 21 of 26 games for the Nuggets, averaging 4.1 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He'd appeared in just eight career NBA games before that stretch. 

How much of an imprint will he make on the Nuggets' rotation when the NBA season restarts? It's too soon to say. But it seems the longtime G League standout's breakthrough at the next level could be coming.

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