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."

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games


Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East


Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.