Bulls

Memphis Massacre: Bulls top Grizzlies by 40

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Memphis Massacre: Bulls top Grizzlies by 40

Updated: Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012 at 11:05 p.m.

Tom Thibodeau must have taken notes from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick while he was a Celtics assistant coach. The Bulls head coach declined to disclose the fact that a starter would be held out of the lineup during his pregame media availability.

But it wouldnt matter Sunday night, as the Bulls (4-1) beat the Grizzlies (1-3) in a laugher, 104-64, at the United Center. Although visiting Memphis was also short-handed, the home teams focus and defensive intensity were impressive in the rout.

I liked the way we approached the game. I thought we were good on defense and good on offense, so it was a step in the right direction, said Thibodeau. We had a lot of things go our way tonight.

The newest Bull, Rip Hamilton, sat out of the contest, due to a groin strain, which meant the inclusion of swingman Ronnie Brewer (17 points, seven rebounds, five assists) in the starting lineup. For some teams, that could be an issue, but Brewer, who has been playing well from his usual reserve role as of late, stepped up in the opening period by attacking the basket and knocking down his improving outside jumper.

You need everybody, Thibodeau explained. Our bench has played very, very effectively in short minutes.

Ronnie stepped in and hes played great all preseason, played well in the regular season, so it was good for him to get extra minutes, he continued. Hes playing with a lot of confidence and he has right from the start of training camp. I think he just picked up where he left off. At the end of last year, he was playing really well, so I think hes gotten his confidence back and we need him.

With two defensive-minded squads facing off, the early-game shooting percentages were predictably ugly, but the home team, boasting the drive-and-kick abilities of Derrick Rose (16 points, six assists) and the all-around efforts of Luol Deng (11 points, seven rebounds), obtained a bit of breathing room. Chicago continued plugging away and with stout defense leading the way, acquired a 25-12 advantage after the opening period.

The low-scoring affair followed the same pattern in the second quarter, with the Bulls gradually extending their winning margin, as the Grizzlies were forced to play without the services of Zach Randolph, the teams go-to scorer.

Deng and fellow forwards Carlos Boozer (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Taj Gibson were productive against the scrappy visitors, who utilized the likes of second-round draft pick Josh Selby, new acquisitions Quincy Pondexter and Dante Cunningham and free-agent pickups Josh Davis and Jeremy Pargo, the latter of whom started at point guard in place of the injured Mike Conley.

Memphis is a tough team, said Thibodeau. We caught a break with Randolph getting hurt and of course, Conley being out.

Boozer took advantage of Randolphs absence to hit mid-range jumpers, attack the glass and even wreak havoc on the interior with his feathery touch on post moves, reaching a double-double by halftime. Along with stifling defense that held the visitors to 26.8 percent shooting from the field, Roses floor leadership also played a big part in the Bulls taking a seemingly insurmountable lead, 54-28 into the break.

Carlos was big, said Thibodeau. He was really, really good. Ran the floor, played defense, rebounded the ball, scored. He played really, really well.

Chimed in his longtime teammate -- with the Utah Jazz before joining the Bulls -- Brewer: He was really aggressive. I think he set the tone. We were going to be aggressive offensively and we were going to be aggressive defensively. He was making shots, he was rebounding and he was playing like the old Booz that I know.

Things didnt get any better for the visitors after the intermission, as Rose looked to be more assertive as a scorer and other than center Marc Gasol (eight points, 10 rebounds), the Grizzlies couldnt muster up much offense against their hosts. Chicago continued its recent trend of pushing the pace and implanting its transition game, leading to easy baskets off Memphis turnovers.

Derrick, he gives you whatever the team needs. He got us off to a really good start with his defense, pushing the ball up the floor and when hes pushing the ball like that, it gets everyone moving, and we needed that energy. His line doesnt really reflect how well he played, said Thibodeau, always conscious of how hes pacing his team. The thing is, right now were just concerned with improving every day. The minutes part of it Derricks in great shape; he can handle the big minutes. Luols in great shape; he can handle big minutes. The thing I did like is we needed our bench guys to get more minutes. Theyve earned more minutes, but its hard to give it to them.

Joakim Noah (eight points, seven rebounds), was also a valuable contributor, doing everything from hitting his patented Tornado jumper to making plays for his teammates with his playmaking ability, and of course, crashing the boards.

The Grizzlies hole got deeper and deeper as time went on, and an improbable third quarter highlighted by the play of backup center Omer Asik (eight points, eight rebounds, three blocked shots) concluded with the Bulls up by 40 points, 84-44.

It helps my game improve, especially offensively. Those type of games help me a lot, Asik told CSNChicago.com. I try to play more aggressive on offense.

Concurred Thibodeau: Omer was very good and Omers starting to react to the ball again, his rebounding was terrific, clogging up the lane.

The final stanza began on a negative note, as reserve point guard C.J. Watson injured his left elbow diving for a loose ball early in the period, prompting Thibodeau to insert third-stringer John Lucas III. Still, Memphis woeful offensive showing meant that, for all intents and purposes, the game was long over the crowd in an oddly subdued United Center began chanting for Thibodeau to substitute fan favorite Brian Scalabrine into the contest but Lucas didnt make any assumptions, as he poured in eight points almost immediately, matching the point total of any Grizzlies player at the time.

When you have an injury, the next guys got to step in. thats why you have them, said Thibodeau about the point guard, whose father he once worked under as an assistant coach. John has filled that role before.

Bulls fans got their wish, as Scalabrine entered the contest, and rookie Jimmy Butler scored his first two regular-season NBA points. In fact, by the end of the game, the only mysteries were whether Scalabrine would score (he wouldnt), Lucas would reach double figures (he didnt) and if any Grizzlies would reach double figures (reserve swingman Sam Young finished with 10 points) in the blowout victory.

I think every game is important. You dont want to start the season at home with a bad taste in your mouth, especially with the shortened season and how many games are coming up in a short amount of time, so we wanted to get this first win. We knew that they were a good team, said Brewer, who briefly played for the Grizzlies after the Jazz sent him to Utah in a midseason trade the season before the Bulls signed him as a free agent.

We knew we couldnt take them lightly and we had to play them tough, so thats what we did, Brewer concluded.

Wendell Carter knows vet teammate Robin Lopez will 'have part of the blueprint for me'

Wendell Carter knows vet teammate Robin Lopez will 'have part of the blueprint for me'

Robin Lopez has played for five different teams in 10 NBA seasons, but not for lack of being a good teammate.

The 29-year-old veteran has been a positive presence in the locker room year in and year out, and especially during a trying 2017-18 in which playing time was scarce.

Lopez, making way for minutes from Cristiano Felicio, appeared in just 64 games, and played 113 minutes in seven games after the All-Star break. But he continued his role as a conssumate teammate and maintained a positive attitude, something that wasn't lost on his teammates.

Now entering a contract year, Lopez is expected to have a role for the Bulls but again will be mentoring another young big, Bulls' first round pick Wendell Carter Jr.

"I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’ve heard plenty of stories about Robin, seen them first hand. It’s going to be exciting just to get to meet him, get to learn from, being in the league for 10 years," Carter said at his introductory press conference on Monday. "It’s someone that will have part of the blueprint for me."

Veterans have long been an important part of a rookie's acclimation to the league. Lopez was has been teammates with a pair of impressive rookies in Anthony (with the New Orleans Hornets) and Kristaps Porzingis (with the New York Knicks).

Those players were certainly destined for greatness. But having a veteran presence in Lopez had to have helped in the early stages of their careers.

Fred Hoiberg mentioned as much on Friday in how he's seen Lopez from a teammate perspective.

"I think Robin is the perfect guy for Wendell to learn from. You look at what has happened our last few years with young players – with Bobby Portis, with Cristiano Felicio – and Robin is so instrumental," Hoiberg said. When you have a guy on the floor who can teach these guys the ropes, it’s so beneficial.

"I look back on my career, I had Reggie Miller and Chris Mullin, Hall of Fame type players. I learned so much more from them than I did from the  coaches that I played for. Robin is going to be terrific for those players. He’s going to beat the hell out of them on days, and he’s going to be there to support them as well.”

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.