Bulls

Despite youth, Cook brings experience to Bulls

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Despite youth, Cook brings experience to Bulls

DEERFIELD -- Newly acquired Bulls sharpshooter Daequan Cook is just 25 years old, but he brings to his new team a winning background.

In his lone year of college at Ohio State, the Dayton, Ohio, native played in the NCAA championship gamelosing to Joakim Noahs Florida teamand last season, as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, he played in the NBA Finals alongside Bulls backup center Nazr Mohammed, albeit for spot minutes.

Still, the six-year NBA veteran is confident that his experience, as well as his renowned outside marksmanshiphe was the NBA All-Star weekend three-point shootout winner in 2009can help the Bulls.

I feel like its a good opportunity for me. Im looking forward to it and today was a great start, he said after Sunday afternoons practice at the Berto Center. The biggest part was playing on a team thats been to the Finals, having that experience as a young player. Coming into this team with a lot of guys that love to play hard and have the opportunity to play in the playoffs. I think thats one of the biggest roles I have right now.

The Bulls are a very exciting team, very young team and they play very well together. The most important thing for me is to play my role and do whatever Coach asks me to do, continued the shooting guard, who noted that a few teams contacted him after he cleared waivers Friday afternoon, following the Rockets waiving him last week.

Chicago was one of the first ones, but I went with what was the best for for me, give me the best opportunity and Chicago was the team.

The Bulls will be Cooks fourth NBA team after beginning in his career in Miami under Pat Riley, being a fringe member of the Thunders rotation, then getting traded to Houston in the early-season blockbuster James Harden trade. A 6.9 points-per-game career scorer, he averaged 3.4 points a contest in 16 games for the Rockets this season.

Were excited to have the opportunity to pick him up, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said of Cook, a career 36.5 percent three-point shooter. Hes another quality shooter, he can shoot the three, so hes got to come in, learn his teammates, learn the system and just get ready.

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Thibodeau was hesitant to say whether Cook, the 14th player on the Bulls roster, would get a chance to crack the rotation, making the situation seem reminiscent of their mid-season acquisition of veteran swingman Rasual Butler two seasons ago.

Were going to see. I thought early on, hes a pretty good team defender. I think he still can improve with his individual defense and well see where he is once he gets going a little bit, Thibodeau said. Right now, were pretty much set with our rotation. He has to learn, get ready and you never know. Over the course of the season, you need everybody. Hes been around a little bit, so we know what hes capable of. He can come in and knock down a couple three-point shots in a very short amount of time, so I think he complements the players that we have.

Cook said he harbored no animosity toward the Rockets for waiving him, indicating that it was a mutual decision.

The most important thing was there wasnt going to be an opportunity for me to play and that was the thing, and we parted ways. I have nothing bad to say about the team, which is good and thats about it. Now its time to get focused and get prepared to play with the Bulls now, he explained. Im going to work. The most important thing here is just working hard and being patient, and when I get the opportunity to play, just play my heart out.

He understands that if and when he does receive playing time, hes expected to help the shooting-deficient Bulls improve from long range.

I take a lot of pride in that. Being young in this league and known as one of the best shooters in this league right now is a good thing, but I just cant settle for that, knowing how important it is to know that its going to be more than my shooting that gets me out there on the floor, he said. Whatever my role is on this team, whether its shooting, rebounding or defending, Im going to play that role to the best of my ability and Im just looking forward to doing it.

Everybody goes into a slump from time to time. I wasnt pinpointing the Bulls because of that. I just came over here, just figuring out what team I could help best, regardless of what it was.

Besides Mohammed, Cook was also teammates with Nate Robinson during the diminutive scorers stint in Oklahoma City. While Cook acknowledged that hes aware of Robinsons verbal tendencies, hes also been picking the backup point guards brain to speed up his adjustment to the Bulls.

Weve been talking all day, especially with Nate more than anything because hes a guard, Im a guard, of course, and hes been in a lot of positions Im going to be in on the court, so talking to Nate more than anything about a lot of the things that have been going on out here, he said. Being around Nate, thats one of the things youve got to roll with. Hes a great guy.

Perhaps Robinsons advice included tips on playing for Thibodeau, but after Cooks experience with the Heat upon entering the league, hes confident that hell be able to fit in quickly.

Ive played for Pat Riley, one of the best in the league, so I dont think hell be much tougher than Pat. So, Im just looking forward to having the opportunity to play for Coach, Cook said. Coach Riley was a great coach and now I get the opportunity to play for Coach Thibs, whos an up-and-coming great coach, as well.

Even if Cook doesnt see the court much this seasonbarring injury to the shooting guards ahead of him in the rotation, though his signing could make starter Rip Hamilton more expendable as next months league-wide trade deadline loomswith his youth and ability to spread the floor, his half-season stint could be a somewhat of an extended tryout for the future.

Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

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USA TODAY

Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

It’s tough to call the position battle for the backup point guard spot on a Lottery-bound team important, but here we are two days into the Bulls’ season.

It won’t move the needle in NBA circles and Dwane Casey won’t be putting in additional time getting ready for Saturday’s game, but there appears to be potential for change in Fred Hoiberg’s rotation.

One day after an embarrassing display in a season-opening loss to the Sixers, Hoiberg said the Bulls have yet to make a decision on a potential lineup change for tomorrow’s affair against the Detroit Pistons. Kris Dunn, who missed Thursday’s game for the birth of his first child, was not at practice on Friday and may or may not be available for the home opener.

That could prompt changes after Cam Payne, inserted into the starting lineup, was largely ineffective, failing to score on 0 of 4 shooting in 21 minutes.

“We’re gonna see how practice goes today and then make that decision,” Hoiberg said. “It’s still up in the air on what we’re gonna do.”

The loss certainly can’t fall on just Payne, as the Bulls went lifeless after a 41-point first quarter that had them in the lead after 12 minutes. From there the Sixers outscored them by 29 in the second and third quarters, facing little resistance from a Bulls defense that doesn’t appear to have made much improvement from a year ago, Dunn or no Dunn.

Philadelphia shot 48 percent from the field, scored 20 fast-break points and 46 points in the paint, cruising to 102 points through three quarters before reserves finished things off. Even with Dunn the defensive prospects don’t look good, meaning Hoiberg might have to make changes to ignite the offense that scored just 35 points in those second and third quarters.

The Bulls could go a few different routes. Zach LaVine’s hot hand in the first quarter – 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting – saw the ball in his hands, and he even added two assists.

“It's a collective effort. You've got to have all five guys out there trying to play the right way and again, we found a recipe with Zach, especially in that first unit, where we let him bring the ball up the floor,” Hoiberg said. “We ran a couple actions where he was the facilitator and we put Cam in the corner. So a lot of that will be dictated by who has it going on a particular night and last night it happened to be Zach, so he was the one that was doing a lot of facilitating.”

Past a point guard-less lineup, the backups to Payne – Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis – could also see extended minutes going forward.

Arcidiacono had 8 points and 8 assists in 28 minutes, though the majority of those stats came in garbage time. Still, he hit a pair of 3-pointers and didn’t turn the ball over, and five of his assists resulted in makes at the rim.

Ulis, acquired off waivers last week, could inject some life into the second unit.

“He’s ready. He’s done a good job in practice,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve gone through the system with him as far as what we expect and if there’s a point in the game where he can go out there and we feel he can help us, I’m confident that he’ll go out there and give us good effort.”

The point guard rotation isn’t the key to unlocking the Bulls as a lockdown defensive team, or no longer suffering the offensive dry spells that happened Thursday. But in a season that’s already showing signs of adversity, shaking up the lineup might be Hoiberg’s only chance.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.