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MVP? Rose's best lifts Bulls past NBA's best

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MVP? Rose's best lifts Bulls past NBA's best

Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011
Posted 9:46 p.m. Updated 11:37 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

When it comes to the leagues contenders, the Bulls (38-16) have either dispensed with them in businesslike fashion or avenged a previous defeat.

The visiting Spurs (46-10) were treated no differently, as the NBAs top team fell to Chicago, 109-99, Thursday night at the United Center, behind a career-high scoring effort from All-Star point guard Derrick Rose (42 points, eight assists, five rebounds, one turnover) in the Bulls final game before All-Star weekend.

WATCH: Rose all smiles after win

Both coaches marveled at Roses outing afterwards.

Hes something, huh? That was some performance, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. It was great leadership. He got us off to a great start.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was even more effusive in his praise.

That point guard whats his name? I didnt know his name before the game; maybe I should have checked wow. Wow. He was something. We scored 99 points, shot 49 percent, made seven threes and youd think wed have a pretty good chance to win, but he negated that. He did a hell of a job, quipped the dry-humored coach.

What do you want me to say? Good-looking kid, great demeanor, doesnt beat his chest, class act, on top of his phenomenal play. All those qualities are going to serve him well.

When informed of Popovichs complimentary statement, Rose took his typical humble route.

I really dont know how to take that, but for a coach to say that, especially him, it means a lot, said the Chicago native, who was still smarting over his alma mater, Simeon Career Academy, losing in the city playoffs the previous night. I was just trying to win the game, doing whatever it takes to win and tonight, I guess it was scoring the ball.

San Antonio used the formula that earned them the leagues best record through the All-Star break heavy doses of backcourt stars Tony Parker (26 points, four assists) and All-Star Manu Ginobili (16 points, three assists) at the games outset, with Ginobilis herky-jerky game and Parkers uncanny finishing ability setting the pace.

Unfortunately, that didnt leave much room for other Spurs including future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan (14 points, nine rebounds, three assists) to get involved, resulting in the home team running out to the lead.

A comparatively more balanced Bulls attack paved the way to an early advantage, as the team seemingly made a concerted effort to pound the ball inside, with Carlos Boozer (15 points, six rebounds) being the main beneficiary in the opening period, connecting in all four of his field-goal attempts.
Rose to compete in All-Star Skills Challenge

Rose, however, was the protagonist, as usual, slashing and dashing flawless playmaking acrobatic finishes, the norm with Rose, highlighted his efforts his way to the bucket in his point-guard duel with Parker and with Luol Deng (19 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two blocked shots) getting more involved offensively, Chicago held a 30-25 winning margin after a quarter of play.

Twenty-six-year old rookie sharpshooter Gary Neal (16 points, 4-for-5 three-point shooting) sparked San Antonios second unit early in the second quarter, enabling the Spurs to narrow the gap, despite the cohesiveness and defensive play the length of Taj Gibson (six points, six rebounds, two blocks) and Omer Asik posed problems for the visitors, while swingman Ronnie Brewers (nine points, three rebounds, two assists) high activity level provided an offensive boost off the Bulls bench.

While Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus reinsertion of Boozer gave the team a lift on offense, Duncan became more involved and the return of Parker allowed the Spurs to overtake the home team midway through the period. Soon afterwards, Thibodeau brought back Rose and Deng both of whom made immediate impacts, regaining the lead for Chicago and the Bulls built a slim cushion late in the quarter, going into the intermission with a 58-51 advantage.

Rose picked up where he left off when play resumed, melding his oft-overlooked passing abilities with his supreme scoring skills and Deng also maintained his high level of play from the end of the previous half, prompting Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout. Regardless of Roses simple pleas that he was just doing what was needed to secure a Bulls win, he revealed that some pregame motivation also factored in.
Derrick Rose went 18-for-24 on field goals inside the three-point line and said a pregame talk from head coach Tom Thibodeau got him more pumped up than normal. (AP)
Coach told me to come in his office, gave me a speech about being aggressive. A motivational speech. I love a coach like that, where hes showing emotion even before the game. Its just me and him talking and hes showing emotion. I wanted to get up and yell with him, but I kept quiet and tried to take that out on the court, he recounted.

When you have Coach being emotional like that, its going to make you want to play hard, especially me. You cant be too nice as a coach. Youve got to have some meanness in you and hes definitely that coach, where hes hard on players at certain times and its working.

When asked about whether he could ascertain Thibodeaus motivation, Rose didnt profess to have an answer, but simply told reporters, It worked.

His teammates also noticed Rose, always a fierce competitor, appeared to be even more keyed up for the contest.

Me and Derrick spoke before the game, and we just spoke about how big this game was. I knew right away he would be ready. Ive been playing with him for a while now, said Deng. When he had it going in the second half, I just told him, Keep shooting, especially when they went under on the screen because his shot has improved so much.

Added Boozer: D-Rose just took the game over. All we had to do was get him the ball and play defense. We recognized it early. They really couldnt stop him. I just said to him, Keep attacking until they stop you. Hes playing phenomenally and he played great again tonight.

But steady San Antonio regrouped, led by Duncan asserting himself offensively and Parker continuing to affecting the game with his ability to penetrate the Bulls defense, finish shots in the lane and make plays in transition.

Neither side gave an inch and mistakes were magnified in this affair, as a premium was placed on both offensive execution and defensive matchups, and while the veteran Spurs were able to slice into the deficit, Rose displayed his takeover mentality down the stretch run of the period. Through three quarters, the Bulls maintained their lead, 83-75.

Stout defense by the home team marked the beginning of the final stanza, as Chicagos second unit played with energy and sustained the Bulls lead, with blocked shots and dunks Gibson, who will represent the team this weekend in Los Angeles in both the Rookie Challenge and Shooting Stars competition, made one of each thrilling the United Center audience.

A Deng three-pointer eventually gave the Bulls a double-digit advantage and while it appeared that they were clicking on all cylinders on offense (Rose specifically), the Spurs (Neal specifically) remained lying in the weeds.

Parker continued to stay active in his tete-a-tete with Rose, but the Eastern Conference All-Star starter left nothing to chance, with a fading jumper to beat the shot-clock buzzer with under three minutes remaining perhaps sounding San Antonios death knell.

Chicago cruised down the stretch, heading to victory behind Rose, who, perhaps spurred by the ever-present M-V-P chants from the crowd, kept pouring in the points until Bulls could safely claim the win.

I really couldnt tell, Rose said of notching his career-high point total. We were just trying to hold them off. We just tried to keep the lead, as if they were ahead.

Thibodeau downplayed the significance of beating the Spurs, while simultaneously praising the Bulls opponent.

The statement is they did a good job getting ready to play, said the coach. To me, the bigger challenge is looking at your improvement. I think weve gotten better as weve gone along. But we cant be satisfied and theres a lot of work to be done. The really good teams continue to get better. And you can use San Antonio as an example. Theyre the model franchise over the last 10 years. Theyve been so consistent and play so smart and find different ways to win. Each year, theyre in the thick of it.

Unlike their coach, his players admitted to being excited about not only the win which avenged their November loss in San Antonio, giving them at least one win over all the teams regarded as the NBAs elite but the squads momentum heading into the extended weekend vacation.

So far this season theyve been the best team in the NBA. Its good for our team, to go into the break with that kind of mindset, beating such a good team, said Deng. Last time when they got us, we didnt have Carlos and at one point, we were up 17.

Concurred Rose: I think that we get up when we play those teams, where everybodys on the same page. We fought our way back in some of those games. Its exciting. It gives us a challenge. Its our measuring stick. Coach says every game is that, but this is the game that says how good we are, especially because we lost to them back in the beginning of the season.

Weve got a lot of confidence right now, knowing that we can beat some of the best teams in the NBA, he continued. When we come back, weve just got to stay focused and weve got to work even harder... weve still got a goal and thats to win a championship.

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.

Bulls mailbag: Where do the Bulls go from here?

Bulls mailbag: Where do the Bulls go from here?

The Bulls might lead the league in moral victories. Unfortunately for them, those don’t count in the standings. And so a season that began with playoff aspirations has led to a flooded inbox.

The Bulls have consistently been one of the top teams in attendance across the league, albeit with one of the largest capacities among NBA arenas. With the recent reporting on the dip of attendance at the United Center, do you see this metric getting through to the Reinsdorfs on the current state of the Bulls? Is it a measure being talked about internally that could lead to change? - Hugo M.

I also received a question via Twitter from T.K. asking if Mr. Reinsdorf is “feeling the pressure” from the dipping attendance. Pressure may be overstating matters, but it absolutely is being talked about internally. It has caught the Reinsdorfs’ attention. How could it not? The Bulls have finished first or second in attendance in 16 of the previous 19 seasons. This season also is the third straight they’ve ranked outside the top-10 in capacity, which hadn’t happened since 2003-04. Coincidentally, that’s the first season in which John Paxson had taken over for Jerry Krause, whom most fans thought Reinsdorf would never touch. But five seasons of rebuilding and two straight in which the Bulls ranked ninth and fifth in attendance — and 13th in capacity —  finally led to change.

Will it happen again? Only the Reinsdorfs know. Obviously, if the losing and sagging attendance continues throughout the season, changes would be on the table.

When will the Bulls make a change at head coach and the front office? Will they ride this out the rest of the year or do something midseason? Because they have to do something, right? – Tim G.

This season does feel different because everyone from ownership to management to Jim Boylen publicly stated progress would be made. Playoffs were even publicly set as the goal. And at the very least, competitive basketball was to be expected. At least the Bulls finally are showing signs of that. However, playoffs certainly feel like a longshot.

I’ve heard no talk of in-season changes. The Bulls just tried that last year. And remember: They’re still paying Fred Hoiberg this season, although his $5 million salary is offset by almost half thanks to him landing a job with Nebraska. Boylen is one of the lowest-paid coaches in the league. So if ownership and management concluded after this season that he’s not the right fit anymore, his salary isn’t prohibitive to swallow. But I wouldn’t expect such determinations to come from ownership on management and management on coaching until after the season.

In your sitdown with team president Michael Reinsdorf earlier this year, he stated that he doesn't like the term "GarPax" and that Gar Forman and John Paxson are "individuals" and have "different roles.”  However, his quotes in the article don't really spell out the differences and in fact he says "Gar and John" twice.  Can you help clarify?  I ask because at some point, the Bulls will need to make a coaching change (god bless Jim Boylen and his lame coaching speak, but the writing is on the wall). And I presume at some point, the Reinsdorfs will say to themselves: “We can't let the same people pick a third coach?”  Is the hiring of a coach a Gar decision?  A Pax decision? Somebody actually makes the decisions right?  Constant change (see Knicks) is ridiculous and unproductive, but at some point the fans do need some change, even if it’s for change's sake. Grasping for some kind of hope here, but will they ever get new blood in the front office ever? Or is this it? This can't be it can it? This is probably it. - Nit B.

Your angst, and humor, is palpable.

Also, I’m not sure where you’re getting picking a third coach. This management team has hired five, although Vinny Del Negro was largely seen as an ownership hire after a tortuous process that featured top choices Mike D’Antoni and Doug Collins not working out for various reasons.

The reason Michael referred to them as “Gar and John” is that, while their day-to-day duties are different, all major organizational decisions are made with input from all the top decision-makers. Forman focuses on scouting and talking to agents and other executives throughout the season. Paxson focuses on setting the culture, big-picture items and is around the team more.

For coaching hires, it’s my understanding that the two Reinsdorfs, Forman and Paxson all talk it out and reach a consensus. That said, Hoiberg is largely viewed as endorsed and pushed by Forman, while Boylen had strong support from Paxson and ownership.

You asked a lot of questions but to answer one: Yes, somebody actually makes the decisions. And those largely are reached by debate and discussion and consensus. As for new blood, let’s see how the season concludes. As mentioned above, if this losing and sagging attendance continue, changes have to be on the table.

You’ve been around the block a few times. Where does Boylen rank in terms of hatred from the fanbase? There’s been a few incompetent coaches this franchise has had. - Jay R.

As Louden Wainwright III once sang, “hate is a strong word/I wanna backtrack/the bigger the front/the bigger the back.” But I digress.

It’s always difficult to paint with broad brushstrokes. Yes, I receive plenty of dislike for Boylen via emails or @s on Twitter. I also see some support. At least in my little world, the dislike outweighs the support. But to answer your question, I’m now up to eight head coaches covered, not counting the other Jim Boylan who served as an interim head coach.

Here are your requested (subjective) rankings, from beloved to frustrated: Phil Jackson; Tom Thibodeau; Scott Skiles; Bill Cartwright; Fred Hoiberg; Vinny Del Negro; Jim Boylen; Tim Floyd.

Some brief elaboration: The first three won so they should be self-explanatory. Cartwright was such a decent man and had some leftover goodwill from winning three titles as a player that he ranks ahead of coaches who directed playoff teams. The reason Hoiberg, who had one playoff season, ranks ahead of Del Negro, who had two, is because a lot of the fan feedback I received during Hoiberg’s tenure is that he wasn’t given the proper personnel to fit his style. Boylen and Floyd have lost a lot, so they should be self-explanatory, too.

One last thing about coaching: The NBA is a players league. Coaching is important, obviously. But a lot of success or failure comes down to the rosters. Give Floyd a roster with Michael Jordan and maybe he doesn’t rank so low.

How bad does it have to get for the Bulls to realize they have no chance at making the playoffs? If the realization comes, then what? I don’t see any sort of path forward for this team that involves a title or even competing in the near future. Could they really blow it up again? It seems to be the only way towards a title but I’m thinking that would take the Reinsdorfs clearing house. Unfortunately, it is a bleak future and a long road no matter how you look at.  - Ben V.

This dynamic has my antennae and intrigue up as well, less so for coaching or management changes and more for the roster. If the Bulls don’t right the ship and at least start playing more competitively in the next month, are they active sellers at the February trade deadline? Remember: They traded Jimmy Butler and fully believed at least two of the three players they received in return could approach All-Star status. To this point, that hasn’t happened.

Through a very soft part of the schedule, the team is on pace for 26 wins. There have been no meaningful improvements from our vaunted “core” and from a cap perspective we are basically locked into this roster through the 2021 season when OPJ (he will 100% pick up his option, you can’t convince me otherwise) and Felicio are off the books  Can ownership in good faith really run this front office, coaching staff, and roster out there for 100 more games over the next season and a half? How many front office groups get a chance to rebuild from their own disastrous attempt at a rebuild gone fully off the rails? - A frustrated fan on the edge, Nick, Glen Ellyn

This ties into management’s future and is again a dynamic that has me intrigued. As I’ve reported countless times, the reason ownership has so much faith in this management team is because it watched it flip over a roster inherited from Krause (save for two players) and turn it into the well-liked and perennial playoff teams of Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Ben Gordon. Then, after one disastrous season, management walked into Derrick Rose and had that team on track to compete for titles until Rose’s torn ACL. So whether fans like to hear it or not, ownership believed in management’s ability to construct a competitive roster when starting over. That’s why this season has been so disappointing to this point. And it’s also why, if this disappointment continues, it will be fascinating to see what comes next. After all, ownership, management and Boylen all are on record as saying this season would be different.

With how pathetically thin the Bulls are on the wing, why hasn’t Boylen tried Thad Young there? It seems like he would be quick enough to make it work in spots and Young absolutely needs more minutes than the 21 or so he is averaging per game this season. – Nick P.

Boylen said he and his staff discussed this possibility and that Boylen also talked to Young about it. But it hasn’t happened. Dunn has played well as a starter and Denzel Valentine has revived his rotational role. But Young is playing the second-fewest minutes of his career. And while he knew he didn’t sign here to start because of Markkanen, he also thought he’d be playing more. Young is as professional as they come, but he has shared his desire to play more with several in the organization. He logged a season-high in minutes on Wednesday.

Taking into account the way the Bulls have been playing, and now the news that Otto Porter Jr. is going to be out at least another month, it looks like this season is going to be a total disaster. It’s beginning to look like the Bulls should throw in the towel and try to salvage the season by readying itself for next season. Since we won’t be able to attract any top free agent next year, it seems the next best thing would be to move some of our players who don’t show any signs of being well-balanced players. That includes Ryan Arcidiacono, Shaq Harrison, Kris Dunn and Kornet. Is it possible to trade any or all of those players for an early second-round pick next year? We’d be far better off if we lucked into a player who can make as much of an impact on the game as Daniel Gafford is now doing. I’m not suggesting that we move any of the core, but I’m not necessarily against it if it brought us one true All-Star player next season. Perhaps Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen for a top 10-20 type player. It’s evident that the Bulls will have to make some moves soon to move the franchise in the right direction. The status quo will not work. Especially if management stands behind Boylen. - Rick L

Only Kris Dunn would have any value of the non-core players you mentioned (and as an aside, wasn’t he recently part of the core?). And his value would be minimal. Over the summer, it was even less but he has played well and might be able to bring back a back-end rotation player or a heavily-protected first-round pick. LaVine and Markkanen wouldn’t bring back an All-Star level player.

And therein lies the rub: If Porter opts in, which is likely, this roster almost certainly will look similar next season. The Bulls have little flexibility next offseason. This is why the Bulls banked on LaVine and Markkanen taking big jumps that, to this point, haven’t happened.

It’s been good to see a more aggressive Lauri Markkanen the last few games. How much do you think his struggles have been on him versus the system Boylen wants to play? – Matt A., Australia

Why can’t it be both? I do think Markkanen struggled early with being mostly relegated to a stationary 3-point shooter. He also missed a ton of open looks, which is on him. With the equal opportunity, multi ball-handler system, Markkanen often faded to the shadows. Again, that’s on both him and the system. Then it became somewhat mental for him. To Boylen’s credit, he has used sets designed to get Markkanen on the move more of late and Markkanen has started to respond.

In your last mailbag, you answered two questions to someone who endured being a ballboy during the Ron Mercer days. I am the same age, and I'm hoping I can get a couple questions answered myself because I survived those days as well as a fan---without the benefit of being the ballboy. It feels like those years all over again right now. The roster might be a little better, but records aren't much better between the teams. “Through thick and thin” was the slogan I remember growing up with as a Bulls fan having just missed the Jordan years. So many things that can be asked about the year so far, so I'll stick to just two for now.

It seemed like Boylen might have let it slip about Lauri having an oblique issue. Lauri's well-documented struggles have been one of bigger storylines I feel Bulls have had this year, and Lauri has been able to keep quiet for the most part it seems on his end. His responses in postgame questions from the meeting haven't generated as much buzz as some of LaVine's interviews. Did Boylen let it slip about his injury, or is there something different to how the Bulls are handling injuries this year?

Secondly, what should fans ACTUALLY make from the struggling attendance? Videos/pictures of empty upper bowl are becoming aplenty on Twitter. Social media makes it easy to gather fans ready for a drastic change within the organization, but how can we expect the organization to respond, if at all, to the struggling attendance at home games?– J. Boa

Anyone who remembers THAT slogan gets two questions, although I already answered your second above. I barely remember that slogan and I covered that era.

Markkanen's oblique issue never landed on the injury report. The injury report is a sensitive topic because most every player has some sort or bump or bruise at this point of the season. Do you list everybody and then list them as probable? That's the approach the Bulls seemed to take last game as nine players landed on the report, including most with minor ailments and listed as probable. Markkanen has four 20-point games this month. He's coming around and the oblique talk will be in the background here.

What does the K.C. stand for? Steven R., via Twitter

Kenneth Carl. But you can call me K.C.

Actually, I don’t mind Kenneth Carl and my college basketball teammates call me Kenny Carl. But I’ve been called K.C. my entire life. My parents were hip to the initials from Day One.

As this "improved" roster has scuttled through the light part of the schedule at basically the same winning percentage as last year (8 wins in 25 = .32, 27 of 82 in 2018 = .329), how likely does it seem that the Bulls will actually win less games this year? Mike K., via Twitter

Can they play the Hawks more? That would be something if it happens, particularly after how widely praised their offseason moves were and the public posturing for improvement by the organization. I still think the Bulls are better than their record indicates. I picked them for 36 wins before the season. But, yes, any way you analyze it, this season has been a disappointment.

Thanks for all the questions. Talk to you soon.

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NBA Mock Draft: Will any franchise-changing player be found in 2020?

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USA TODAY

NBA Mock Draft: Will any franchise-changing player be found in 2020?

At this point last year, lottery-bound teams had the consolation of knowing they might have a shot at a transcendent, once in a generation talent.

Duke forward Zion Williamson had already separated himself from the rest of the 2019 draft class with his unparalleled athleticism at 6-foot-7, 285 lbs., looking like a bigger, modern-day version of Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. There was a consensus among NBA talent evaluators that Williamson would be the No. 1 overall pick.

While we wait for Williamson to make his regular season debut with the New Orleans Pelicans, it’s pretty obvious there won’t be a Zion-like talent available for the team that wins the top pick through the 2020 draft lottery.

Through the first month of college games and international league competition, it’s looking like the 2020 NBA Draft lottery will mostly be made up of point guards and wing players. Some of them could wind up being multiple time All-Stars, but it is unlikely that any of them come close to generating the type of buzz created by Williamson a year ago. The only thing we know for sure is you can expect plenty of changes between now and June!

Check out Mark Schanowski's latest 2020 NBA mock draft here!

(Draft order based on standings at the start of games on Dec. 11)