Hoiberg defends resting Rose, says Bulls will rely on him down the stretch


Hoiberg defends resting Rose, says Bulls will rely on him down the stretch

Given the Bulls' myriad injuries and lengthy, time-zone-jumping road trip, Fred Hoiberg defended the team's decision to rest point guard Derrick Rose in Monday night's loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

Rose was scratched from the lineup about 15 minutes prior to tip-off in Charlotte and was ruled out with "general body soreness" before the Bulls' 108-91 loss, the 12th in their last 17 contests.

That drew the ire of some, believing the Bulls - already being without Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic - needed all hands on deck to help the losing skid.

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But Hoiberg defended what he called a "collective" decision to keep Rose on the sidelines. The Bulls were playing their fifth game in seven nights and Hoiberg didn't like the way Rose was moving in the lead-up to the game. After two days off, Rose is expected to play Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks, a team also mired in a slump having lost seven of 11 games.

"Last game, it was the right decision," Hoiberg said at Wednesday morning's shootaround at the Advocate Center. "We made the decision collectively to sit Derrick the other night and a lot of it was based on how he was moving around out there. So hopefully a couple days of rest will get him back playing well tonight (against the Atlanta Hawks) and after the All-Star break, 30 games, we’re going to need him for all those."

Rose is on pace to play in 71 games this regular season, which would be more than the 61 games he's appeared in the last three seasons combined.

He's also playing arguably the best basketball of his post-ACL tear career. Since Christmas Day, a stretch of 20 games, Rose has averaged 18.8 points on 45 percent shooting and 4.2 assists in 31.6 minutes per game. His points per game have gone up each month, from 13.3 in November to 20.8 points in four February contests. Rose also has averaged 35.1 minutes per game in February, the most of any month since his ACL tear. After a turbulent start to the season in which he dealt with blurred vision and ankle problems, he's been at his best at a time when the Bulls need him to be.

"You look at Derrick’s season, he had an unbelievable summer, got himself in as good a shape as he’s been in a long time, and such a freak injury that first day of training camp, and (so) he doesn’t have a training camp," Hoiberg said.

"Now he’s catching up, he’s working from behind and maybe he came back a little bit too early from that injury, we can all look back on that. But he’s playing the best he has all year and again the way we need him to play. Now it’s a matter of getting our other guys healthy. And if Derrick can play this style, this type of basketball with a healthy roster then good things can happen with this team."

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The Bulls' roster won't be completely healthy for weeks, perhaps months. Fred Hoiberg said Wednesday that Mirotic, who underwent an appendectomy and a hematoma removal, is still "in a lot of pain" and has lost about 15 pounds. The second-year forward had his stitches removed Wednesday which Hoiberg said will "get him a bit more upright," though there's still no timetable for his return.

Hoiberg breathed a sigh of relief that Butler, who told Rose he heard a pop in his knee, did not tear any ligaments. But the two-time All-Star missing three to four weeks with a knee strain will put more of a burden on Rose, who has totaled 39 points and 19 assists in the two games Butler has missed thus far.

The Bulls won't be able to afford many more off-days from Rose, as they sit just 1.5 games ahead of the ninth-seeded Hornets. Still, Hoiberg is confident Rose's soreness was more a product of the team playing five games in seven nights (in four different time zones) than any lingering or potential injuries.

"It’s just something where we need to continue to work," Hoiberg said. "(Rose) has had his best stretch of basketball of the season and we just need to continue that trend in getting him playing the right way."

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 famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch the 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.