Bulls

No clowns on Bulls' pivotal Circus Trip

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No clowns on Bulls' pivotal Circus Trip

Monday, Nov. 15, 2010
11:18 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

The November circus trip is here. Starting Tuesday in Houston, the team will play seven straight road gamesincluding three sets of back-to-back contestsconcluding Nov. 27, with the next game at the friendly confines of the United Center not until Dec. 1, when Orlando visits Chicago.

Success on this annual trip has been fleeting for the squad in recent years, but its understood throughout the organization that its key to perform well, as a disastrous journey could put them behind the eight-ball when jockeying for playoff position in a campaign with high expectations later in the season Facing a murderers row of opponentssuch as the Texas Triangle of Houston (the first game of the trip).

Were just going to take it one game at a time. Were not worried about anybody else on the road trip but Houston. Weve got to focus in and key in on them. They have very good guard play and they have a threat on the insidethats Scola and if Yao plays again, hell be a threat on the insidebut our focus is just on that one game, said Derrick Rose after Saturdays win over Washington. One game at a time. We cant look ahead. We know that were playing against some good teams, but we still have to take it one game at a time, just prepare ourselves and focus in on that one team.

Its really going to help our team. This year we have a lot of good guys that like hanging with each other. Were young, were getting into a little groove, so I think that should help us, our vets, we can relate to them. They have young spirits, were always hanging around them, so I know everybodys going to be hanging with everybody this trip, he continued. I think its all discipline. Were going on the West Coast, of course the weathers going to be different, you want to go out more, so I think its all about discipline. Dedicating yourself and sacrifice by not going out and getting some rest.

This is a new year. Im not worried about last year, last years over with. I know I have a new team, new coaching staff and thats how were looking at it.

Added Taj Gibson: Right now were just focused on one team at a time, the same way we did last year when we went on that awesome winning streak over there. Just one game at a time, you cant focus on the overall thing about games in the past or how our team did in previous years.

If the players sound focused, their coach should get some credit, as the unified message from the team first emanated from Thibodeau immediately after Saturdays win.

All the stuff about the road trip, Im concerned more about our practice and Houston. All the stuff about going on the road, the circus, all that stuff, Im not concerned with that. Im worried about the next game.

And with that, heres a look at the Bulls upcoming slate:

@ Houston-Nov. 16:

Yao Mings shaky health statusand frustrating minute-limithavent exactly been a boon to the Rockets, who have gotten off to a rough start. Although the Rockets have often played spoiler and embraced the role of giant-killer during their centerpieces numerous injury stretches in past seasons, they simply lack firepower with floor general and former Most Improved Player Aaron Brooks sidelined. Houston is getting excellent production out of inside-outside duo Luis Scola and Kevin Martin, and diminutive undrafted point guard Ish Smith is teaming up nicely with backup Kyle Lowry in Brooks absence, but not reaching an agreement with free agent center Erick Dampierwho would have formed a tag-team duo with former Bull Brad Miller behind (or for) Yaohurts them in the paint.

@ San Antonio-Nov. 17:

The Spurs, currently on a seven-game winning streak, have shown signs that they may be gearing up for one last gasp as a true championship contender, reprising the role theyve played for the majority of the last decade and change before the past few good, but not great seasons. Even with future Hall of Famer Tim Duncans numbers taking a slight dip, Tony Parker is healthy again and Manu Ginobili has been quietly superb to start the season. With Richard Jefferson finally settling in after a dismal debut campaign a year ago and a cast of role playersrugged second-year big man DeJuan Blair and 26-year-old rookie sharpshooter Gary Neal, to name a fewcontributing nightly, longtime San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovichs squad certainly wont be an easy out for the Bulls.

@ Dallas-Nov. 19:

During the preseason, the Bulls got two looks at the deep and talented Mavericks, who are touting defensestop if youve heard this before in regards to an early-season Dallas teamas their calling card. With two above-average seven-footers manning the middle in ex-Bull Tyson Chandler and backup Brendan Haywood, the back-line support, defensive presence and rebounding chops to be a long-term threat this season certainly exist. Mavs superstar Dirk Nowitzki is showing no signs of slowing down, Jason Kidd is still a consummate floor general and scorers galoreJason Terry and Caron Butler, not to mention veteran energy guy Shawn Marionalso abound, making the final stop in the Texas Triangle another doozy.

@ Lakers-Nov. 23:

While the Bulls will get some much-needed days off upon their arrival on the West Coast, a formidable challenge in the form of the two-time defending champion Lakers comes with the trip to Los Angeles. Even though the Lakers are no longer undefeated, one can make the argument that they have been the most impressive team in the league at this point in the young season. Kobe Bryant has been better than many observers expected him to be with his litany of nagging injuries, Lamar Odom has been in playoff form after a summer of USA Basketball, Pau Gasol looks like the leagues best big man on most nights and Ron Artest picked up from the high note he left off in June. Additionally, newcomers Steve Blake and Matt Barnes have fit in well and Andrew Bynums absence has hardly been noticed, making for an already-dangerous bunch with a high ceiling for improvement.

@ Phoenix-Nov. 24:

The loss of Amare Stoudemire has been noticeable on a squad that already struggled with interior defense and rebounding. With Steve Nash still running things, however, Phoenix is never out of a gamejust ask the aforementioned Lakers, against whom the Suns hit 22 3-pointers Sundayand with a versatile array of underrated offensive talent around him, this game could be a shootout for the Bulls. Depending on which of last weeks games against run-and-gun opponents Chicago chooses to modelthe ugly loss to New York or the defensively-dominant win over Golden Stateit could either be a pleasant Thanksgiving for the team or a somber holiday in the Rockies.

@ Denver-Nov. 26:

The combination of mile-high altitude, an always-intense Denver home crowd and a chance of post-Turkey lethargy could all be factors in this contest. The Nuggets precarious health situation could give the Bulls a boost, but a revenge-minded team playing in front of their fans might balance things out. Duplicating the defensive effort made against Carmelo Anthony in Chicagosans his explosive third-quarter scoring burstis a tough task, but necessary for a team with big aspirations and a prideful defensive philosophy.

@ Sacramento-Nov. 27:

The weakest opponent on the trip is the final foe, which already sets off a red flag as a potential trap game, even keeping in mind memories of the Tyreke Evans-led 35-point Kings comeback win at the United Center last season. Sacramento, considered a Western Conference sleeper by some entering this season, has experienced issues with inexperience, discipline, chemistry, a porous defense and an off-key offense. Still, its a team with some talentchiefly Evans, fellow second-year player Omri Casspi, blue-collar power forward Carl Landry and high-risk, high-reward rookie big man DeMarcus Cousinsand the anticipation of returning to the Windy City is a dangerous distraction.

Prediction:

Given their difficulties on this trip in the pastand the fact that theyre still without Carlos Boozerfinishing 4-3 would be considered successful for the Bulls. In order to do that, winning two of the three Texas Triangle games will be key; Houston is winnable enough, but beating Dallas or San Antonio will be tough. Even with their lone significant break of the trip taking place in L.A., beating the defending champs will be an uphill battle, so a win in Phoenix the following night will be of the utmost importance with the post-Thanksgiving rematch against Denver looming. Obviously not looking past Sacramento before coming home will be significant, as the team will want to be on an upward swing upon returning to Chicago. A guess: 3-4, which is still respectable and would leave the Bulls relatively unscathed with hopes of Boozers imminent return.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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.

Jim Boylen remains resolute in development goals for Bulls season

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USA Today

Jim Boylen remains resolute in development goals for Bulls season

The Bulls entered Tuesday night's matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder 20-38 and 1-8 in their last nine games. But head coach Jim Boylen, for his part, remained resolute — even optimistic — in comments to assorted media before the game.

“It is a win-loss league, but that’s not the only thing that gets evaluated,” said Boylen, who owns just a 37-79 record at the helm of the Bulls. “Are we establishing a style of play? I think we have. Have we cleaned up our defense that needed to be cleaned up? I think we have. Have we established a shot profile that’s top five in the league? I think we’re three right now in the shots we get compared to other teams. So those are all positive things.

“And then you can look at the what-ifs, which I don’t do very often. With our shot profile, what would Otto Porter do in that shot profile? He’d be pretty successful, and Lauri Markkanen, and right on down the line. I’m not worried about my personal record or my win-loss record. I’ve been asked to establish a style of play, to have a disciplined approach and develop a young group of guys.”

Boylen then went on to cite the progress of Coby White, Daniel Gafford and Cristiano Felicio as positives over the course of the season. And that’s fair. Still, his verbiage is a noticeable shift from before the season, when the playoffs were a stated goal.

“It is hard for me. But that’s not my calling. That’s not what they ask me to do,” Boylen said when asked if stacking losses has been hard for him as a competitor. “Nobody in this organization said to me, ‘You got to win this many games.’ Nobody said to me, ‘Hey, we’re going to talk about wins and losses all year.’ Not one time have they said that to me.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t want to win. It doesn’t mean we’re not trying to win, but nobody said that to me. I have to honor the organization with trying to do this thing the right way. If we do that and if we can get healthy, I feel good about it.”

What was and will be said behind closed doors can be speculated upon. What can’t be argued: The Bulls are 5.5 games out of the eighth seed, have beaten one above-.500 team this year and a playoff gasp is unlikely. And though Boylen alluded to how good Markkanen and Porter might look in the context of the team’s current shot profile, we saw Markkanen’s fit in practice for 46 games. With the caveat that he was battling nagging injuries all season, the results for the third-year forward were regression across the board. The team was 3-6 when Otto Porter Jr. fractured his foot on Nov. 6.

All of the above and more have culminated in reports of potential organizational change in the offseason. The exact nature of that change has yet to be determined, as does Boylen’s future with the team if the front office, coaching staff or player personnel is overhauled. 

But Boylen said his win-loss record being used against him in that evaluation would be a surprise.

“Yes, it would,” he said. “I don’t foresee that happening.”

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Coby White, Chris Paul share bond that's bigger than basketball

Coby White, Chris Paul share bond that's bigger than basketball

Coby White has scored a season-high 33 points in back-to-back games, but he's staying level-headed as hype and hysteria swirls around him.

“You’re going to have highs and lows over the season. I try to be the same throughout. That’s kind of how I live my life,” White said Tuesday. “It’s great and all but I just try to stay positive. A lot of people are saying congrats and whatnot. But I just have to keep getting better.”

This same approach served White well the last time he faced his mentor, Chris Paul. The Bulls blew leads of 26 points in the first half and 10 points in the fourth quarter to lose 109-106 at Oklahoma City in December.

Afterward, a posed picture of White and Paul smiling on the court after the gut-wrenching defeat landed on social media. Some critics pounced, saying that was neither the time nor place for fraternization.

Never mind that White played for Paul’s AAU team and received mental and emotional support from the All-Star guard as White’s father lost his battle with cancer.

“He means a lot to me and my family, especially me. He’s been there for me for a long time now,” White said. “I played for his AAU organization. He’s like a big brother, a mentor for me, someone I always looked up to and he’s always been by my side no matter what.

“Whenever I needed something, I knew I could call on him, and he had my back through anything. He’s always supported me through everything. I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for me.”

There are basketball benefits, as well. White studies Paul’s game, noting that he outscored the Bulls by himself 19-16 in that fateful fourth quarter in Oklahoma City.

“I love that he’s super smart. He’s a technician with the basketball. He can do it all — finish, get to the lane, shoot the 3. He’s such a leader, vocally and by example. He’s willing to go that extra mile for anything,” White said. “His leadership is what stood out to me. Even in AAU, him being the coach, you still see that Alpha Dog mentality with him on the sideline.”

White said the two talk occasionally during the season and certainly will Tuesday, no matter the outcome.

“Coming into the league, I wanted to be good really quickly. I know it doesn’t work like that,” White said. “So he just told me to be patient, keep grinding and everything will take care of itself.”

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