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No letdown, Bulls win laugher for fifth straight

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No letdown, Bulls win laugher for fifth straight

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
Updated 12:17 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Fears of a letdown the night after a huge win over the defending champion Lakers were unfounded, as Chicago (14-8) avoided the dreaded trap game phenomenon and easily dispatched visiting Minnesota (6-18), 113-82, Saturday evening. Led by a career-high five 3-pointers from Derrick Rose and tremendous offensive balance, the Bulls cruised to their fifth consecutive victory.

From the start of the season, were trying to build the right habits and we were talking about being ready for each game and how important that isyou want to be consistent in your approach. You want to do the same things and I think its important not to look ahead or look behind. You want to learn from each game and correct the things you need to improve upon and prepare for the next opponent. In this league, all the teams are talented, so if youre not ready to play, every team is capable of beating you, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards.

After Timberwolves small forward Michael Beasley (16 points, six rebounds) got off to a quick startalthough not reviving the past debate about whether he or Rose (21 points, seven assists) should have been the top pick in the 2007 NBA Drafthis Bulls counterpart, Luol Deng (19 points, four rebounds, three assists), fueled the home teams early surge by hitting his four shots. Dengs offensive effort was complemented by a balanced attackRose, Carlos Boozer (17 points, seven rebounds) and Joakim Noah (nine points, 10 rebounds, six blocked shots) all contributed in the opening minutesthat allowed Chicago to build a double-digit cushion over the visitors.

I thought we got off to a good start, remarked Thibodeau. I thought our team defense was very good and I thought our rebounding was terrific.

Added Deng before the game: I think the Cleveland gamenothing against Cleveland, but we werent at our bestand after beating such a good team, its so easy to let up, but I expect we learned from last time to just go out there and be aggressive early, especially the starting five.

The ever-energetic Noah shared his thoughts on the Bulls avoiding the proverbial trap game against the lowly Timberwolves.

Theres not much you can do. I think its a mindset thing. Youve just got to come out and understand whats at stake. Energys a funny thing. Its easy to come up for a game like the Lakers because you know the energy and the crowds going to get you going, said Noah. I think we have a great crowd. Were lucky. They dont really let you be down too much because theyll get on you and thats a good thing.

A subplot: Noah and Minnesotas Kevin Love (23 points, 15 rebounds) lived up to their billing as the leagues two leading rebounders, as Noah snatched six in the period, while Love grabbed eight caroms.

When we rebound well, we have a better chance of winning. I dont know what the numbers were, but I think we rebounded the ball pretty well as a team, said Noah, who led the Bulls to a 53-36 edge on the glass. Love is a handful. Hes not the highest jumper or anything, but hes somebody whos mastered the craft. That might be an understatement. Hes very good at what he does.

Added Thibodeau: I think, overalland the way Love has been rebounding is incrediblebut I thought our team rebounding was excellent. I thought our help was very good and when someone left Love, I thought our weak side filled in and we were on his body and he still got a lot of rebounds, but I thought our gang rebounding was very good.

Following a Rose buzzer-beater to end the period, the Bulls held a 27-18 advantage.

Chicagos bench apparently wasnt in the mood for a letdown performance, as it extended the winning margin left by the starters after Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went with an all-reserve unit in the second quarter. A particularly aggressive Taj Gibson (12 points, 10 rebounds, three assists)the second-year power forward had been a solid contributor as a rebounder and defender off the bench, but struggled as a scorer as of lateand swingman Ronnie Brewer (eight points, five rebounds) were the main catalysts during this stretch.

Having maintained the lead, Thibodeau came back with his starterswith the exception of sharpshooter Kyle Korver (12 points)midway through the period and with Boozer finding his groove, the Bulls lead became as swollen as the inflatable Benny the Bull mascots that raced on the United Center floor during television timeouts.

First of all, when you add a player like Boozer, who hasnt really played in the system defensively, just integrating him into what we were doing and he was hurt in the preseason, so he was just thrown into the action right away. He was there, but the game goes at a different pace when youre playing out there compared to watching and playing in practice, explained Noah. I think that hes understanding the schemes a lot better and as a team, I think that were shrinking the floor a lot better in pick-and-rolls. I think our help side is coming along better than it used to. Weve still got a ways to go and thats a very good thing.

Thibodeau concurred: Hes still not 100 percent, but what he does for offense is give us an opportunity to establish an inside game through the post. Hes a very unselfish passer, excellent in the pick-and-roll and he has great instincts; he knows how to find seams. Defensively, I think hes still finding his way. Theres some parts he does extremely well. His rebounding is still not where his ability ishes proven to be a great rebounder in this league; hes done it throughout his careerso as he gets his legs under him, I think his rebounding will continue to improve also.

Propelled by a strong close to the half by Rose, Chicago took a 58-37 advantage into the intermission.

A Minnesota surge keyed by Love to start the third quarter snapped the Bulls out of their reverie, as an 8-0 run rectified things, as Chicago quickly dug the Timberwolves a 22-point hole to climb out of by virtue of offensive efficiency and stout defense.

Were moving in the right direction, said Rose of the teams defensive effort. Guys are hustling, were closing down the paintmaking sure that somebodys right therebut I think we have to take more charges and block more shots.

Even according to the high standards of Thibodeau, The defense is coming around. I think our ball pressure has improved, our weak side has improved, but we still have a long way to go. Theres a lot of areas we can improve upon.

Rose hit three long bombs (he was 5-for-6 from deep and 8-for-10 from the field in the game) to keep the Bulls ahead by a healthy amount. Chicagos offensive balance and adequate effort on the other end of the floor allowed them to coast to an 87-65 lead through three quarters.

I was just taking what they give me and right now, theyre giving me time to shoot, said Rose afterwards. Whatever the game tells me to do, Im going to do it and my man was sagging and they left me wide open to take the shot theyre giving me forever to shoot, so Im just shooting it.

Going off picks, they have to chase me over now and thats my whole key to this yearsomebody like Steve Nash, you cant go under on him or hell shoot, so right when I get that down, I think Ill be more of a threat, he explained further. Im trying to show everybody what Ive been working on. You want to show opponents new things, so that they know its going to be a hard night. They were leaving me wide open on the shots, I was just taking my time, my teammates were passing me the ball when I was open, and I was just shooting.

The way I worked on it this summer, I have a lot of confidence in my shot and Im going to shoot it, no matter what or how many shots I miss. As you can tell, as many games where Ive been missing early, Im going to continue to shoot, continued Rose, who credited Bulls assistant Ron Adams for diligently making sure he performs daily maintenance on his shot. I know thats a big part of my game now, being able to hit a consistent jump shotespecially from behind the arcand Im grateful that Im hitting all these shots.

I told you before the season started, somebody in the low post like that, sometimes youve got to double team him or if the guard even takes an inch, Ive got to be able to spot up, so as long as they keep double-teaming Los Boozer and leaving me wide open, Im going to shoot.

Opined Thibodeau: Hes put a lot of work into it. He gets there early, he stays late and he does it year-round. His commitment to the team and to the game is very unique and special.

Noah chimed in: Hes gaining more and more confidence on his three-ball. Its a scary thing.

Korvers marksmanship, Brewers all-around play and Gibsons energy paced the Bulls early in the final stanza. As in every Bulls blowout win, the games biggest drama became whennot ifChicago would crack the 100-point barrier, which led to free Big Macs for the loyal home crowd, as the Bulls cruised to the eventual triumph with the starters sitting out the entire period.

I dont know if theyll be upset with me or not, but it was a good chance for our bench and I think our bench has been playing very well, said Thibodeau. I thought they helped us get the Lakers game turned around and theyre playing really good defense, theyre moving the ball and theyre playing with energy, so it was good to see them play an entire fourth quarter.

Games like this are lovely, where we put away a team, everybody played well and thats what were supposed to do, added Rose. Everybody came out focused and ready to play.

I think we had a good shootaround, he continued. We came out aggressive and attacking them.

Added Noah: When we play with an edge to us for 48-minutes, were going to be tough to beat.

Thats the only thing that matters, not getting too caught up in the hype. Theres definitely a little buzz going on right now about the Chicago Bulls. It feels good to win five in a row, but weve just got to stay hungry, stay humble and stay driven. Weve still got a lot of work to do to become the team that we want to be and we want to be one of the elite teams in the East.

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.

Add Wendell Carter to list of unknowns that define the 2019 Bulls

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USA TODAY

Add Wendell Carter to list of unknowns that define the 2019 Bulls

The 2018-19 season was supposed to begin bringing answers to the Bulls’ rebuild. A healthy offseason for Zach LaVine, head coaching stability for Kris Dunn and a gym membership that Lauri Markkanen clearly made the most of was the lead-up to expectations of progress – if not a few more wins – in Year 2 since dealing Jimmy Butler on the night of the 2017 NBA Draft.

It was also the unwrapping of rookie Wendell Carter Jr. The Bulls selected the Duke center as a high-floor prospect, someone who could help complement Markkanen’s shortcomings, fill an immediate need and provide an anchor to a Bulls defense that had ranked 28th in efficiency the previous season.

Four months after a promising offseason the Bulls are 10-35, the second worst record in the NBA behind the post-LeBron-depleted, Kevin Love-less Cavaliers. Even the most ardent supporters of tanking must be at least somewhat concerned that the team has shown little growth under both Fred Hoiberg and, more recently, Jim Boylen. The Bulls really don’t know what they have outside of a volume scorer in Zach LaVine, a uniquely built Lauri Markkanen and a plus defender in Dunn.

And after news broke Friday, that Carter will miss the next 8 to 12 weeks – and presumably the rest of the season – after undergoing surgery on a sprained thumb, he can be added to the list of unknowns that is defining a lost season.

Carter had his bright spots to be sure – he finishes his rookie campaign averaging 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks – and despite his smaller build for an NBA center, proved he can anchor a unit. It’s unfair to dig in to his numbers too much considering he spent the majority of his minutes alongside Bobby Portis, Markkanen and Jabari Parker, who aren’t exactly Serge Ibaka replicas. The Bulls’ defensive efficiency was almost identical when Carter was on the floor (115.7) as it was when he was off it (115.6).

He was a fearless shot blocker – ask Russell Westbrook – with exceptional footwork for a 7-footer (and 19-year-old) who didn’t back down in a starting role while facing Joel Embiid, Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan in the first week of his NBA career (he also faced Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic in the preseason).

He was an above-average pick-and-roll scorer, showing off some chemistry with Zach LaVine the last few weeks that was clearly built up in the early part of the season when LaVine was a usage monster and Carter was being asked to be a second or third scorer.

That was the good. Carter also had a serious fouling problem, tied for fifth in the NBA in personal fouls per game (3.5) despite playing just 25.5 minutes a night. Those numbers had thankfully dropped off some in January, as he averaged only 2.6 fouls per game after averaging 3.8 in 29 games over November and December.

He had his offensive limitations but was working through them. Though he was featured less as a distributor out of the high post once Boylen took over, Carter showed a soft touch around the rim, averaging a team-best 66 percent from shots inside 5 feet; to put that number in perspective, Deandre Ayton and Jaren Jackson Jr. were at 71 and 70 percent, respectively.

The 3-point shot we believed would be part of his game never came to fruition. He was asked to do more offensively under Hoiberg because of the injuries, but he still averaged twice the 3-point attempts (1.0) as he has under Boylen (0.4). Then again, he connected on just 18.8 percent of his 32 triples.

That’s where the final 37 games really would have helped Carter. Boylen has shown some open-mindedness toward pushing pace and allowing his young core full of athletes to play at the style they’re most comfortable in. Carter would have been part of that.

There’s also been plenty of discussion about the time Markkanen, LaVine and Dunn have spent together on the court. Their net rating is a ghastly -20.3, no real leader has taken over among the three and there has been little progress as a collective group.

But Carter is part of that, too. It’s easy to lump the three together because they were the return for Butler in 2016, but the Duke product is just as much of the core as Markkanen and LaVine are. This was a critical period for Carter to play in pick-and-roll action with Dunn, and learn defensive tendencies playing alongside Markkanen. Instead, Carter finishes his rookie campaign playing just 312 minutes with Dunn and Markkanen on the court together.

It’s tough to truly give Carter’s rookie season a grade. Markkanen set the bar high for expectations from the No. 7 pick, and Carter gave us a handful of “wow” moments. There’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to progress and turn into the center of the future. He wasn’t going to post the raw numbers Markkanen did, and while the Bulls expect big things from him he was clearly low on the seniority totem pole behind LaVine, Markkanen and Dunn.

Now, like so many of the Bulls’ key figures in this rebuild, we’ll wait and see what happens. Even if Carter does return at the tail end of the season to give him some momentum, it won’t make up for the 12 weeks he’ll miss – both in game action and in practice. His rookie season ends as an unknown, much like it’s been in every facet of the Bulls’ season.

 

Wendell Carter Jr. could be out 8-to-12 weeks after surgery

Wendell Carter Jr. could be out 8-to-12 weeks after surgery

In the first part of the season, the Bulls were overwhelmed with injuries. It now appears the team has been dealt a massive injury blow.

Rookie center Wendell Carter Jr.'s left thumb injury is severe enough that surgery is recommended for Carter. If he has surgery, the Bulls said in a press release he is expected to miss 8-to-12 weeks.

Carter suffered the injury Tuesday at the Lakers. An MRI on Wednesday showed a sprain and further tests from team specialists resulted in the recommendation.

If Carter is out for 12 weeks, he could miss the rest of the season. The 19-year-old has been a bright spot for the Bulls this season, averaging 10.3 points and 7 rebounds per game while shooting 48.5 percent from the field.

Carter losing development time in a season where the Bulls are primarily focusing on trying to develop their young core is a blow to a rebuilding effort. The Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson said Carter could still opt out of surgery and try to play through the injury.

Johnson followed up with a source saying surgery is "almost certainly" the plan.

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