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No ulcer issues; Rose, Bulls feast on Magic

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No ulcer issues; Rose, Bulls feast on Magic

Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011
Posted Jan. 28, 9:51 p.m. Updated 12:27 a.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

It wasnt quite Michael Jordans flu game in terms of the stage or significance but a day after revealing he was suffering from stomach ulcers, newly-named All-Star Game starter Derrick Rose helped the Bulls (32-14) overcome a 40-point performance by Magic (30-17) center Dwight Howard.

After two embarrassing losses to Orlando (once in the preseason, once in Carlos Boozers Bulls debut) this season, Chicago utilized a stout defensive effort on everybody but Howard and a huge second half from Luol Deng to conquer their fellow Eastern Conference contenders, 99-90, Friday night at the United Center.

WATCH: Rose describes impact of ulcers

An inauspicious start to the contest seemed like a bad omen for Chicago, but although the Bulls bounced back quickly behind two three-pointers from the unlikeliest of contributors, much-maligned starting shooting guard Keith Bogans Howards interior dominance was problematic, as the All-Stars combination of size, athleticism and physicality overwhelmed an undersized Bulls frontline, aiding Orlando in jumping out to a slim cushion.

Although Rose struggled shooting the ball in the first period he shot 3-for-11 over the course of the quarter he showed no ill effects from missing two days of practice in the wake of his stomach-ulcer diagnosis, displaying the quickness and athleticism that have become his trademarks.

Derricks Derrick. The game starts, hes going. I thought he was terrific. He didnt shoot the ball well, which I sort of expected. Hes had six of the last nine days offI loved the way he played. I thought he played tough, I thought he made the right playswhen you take everything into consideration not practicing, not feeling well and to do everything that he did, you cant say enough about him, praised Thibodeau.

He looked the same. Its amazing. When he plays, he plays so hard and hes taking hits all the time, but the thing that I respect about him, he always gets up. He gets knocked down, no call, gets back up, demeanor the same, attacks the next time. You cant say enough about that type of attitude.

WATCH: Thibodeau thinks Deng having All-Star season

Added Boozer: We take our hat off to him. I told him as soon as the game was over, Way to gut through it for us. He had a great floor game 12 assists, two turnovers great point guards do that. Im proud of him.

As Rose got his legs under him and fresh legs off the bench primarily in the form of Ronnie Brewer (nine points, six rebounds) and Taj Gibson (seven points, five rebounds), both of whom made immediate impacts gave the Bulls a boost, they overtook Orlando late in the opening period, ending the first quarter with a 24-23 lead.

All week, we just worked hard. Coach has been pushing me on my post moves. When I came in, we just played with a lot of energy, said Gibson. Bench guys, we just come in and attack. Were real defensive-oriented.

The game remained close-knit through the midway point of the second frame, as both teams second units effectively canceled each other out. Gibson and Brewer continued to provide energy for Chicago and while Boozer (16 points, 16 rebounds, four assists) eventually found his groove, his Orlando counterpart, Brandon Bass, along with reserves Ryan Anderson and talented Gilbert Arenas, held down the fort for the Magic. For Chicago, Brewer, in particular, stood out with his finishing around the rim and rebounding from the wing.

Going into the game, you look at their roster youve got Gilbert Arenas coming off the bench, J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson they contribute a lot for them. They really get them going when they make those subs, so we wanted to match their intensity and take it up a notch. Weve got guys who step in and play big for us, night in and night out C.J., Kyle, myself, Taj, Omer so we just try to go out there and play hard, Brewer told CSNChicago.com.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau opted to guard Howard (40 points, 15 rebounds, three blocked shots) one-on-one, focusing instead on Orlandos legion of sharpshooters. However, a small-ball Chicago lineup featuring Boozer guarding the massive center individually didnt pay off, as the massive Orlando center led the visitors to a 51-46 halftime advantage.

We did a great job of getting them off that three-point line. Theyre a great three-point shooting team. Obviously when theyve got that monster, he gets a lot of attention and he kicks it out most times. We didnt want him to have 40, but we didnt want to double him either, so we played him single coverage, said Boozer. The great thing about it, we did a great job on their three-point shooters, we did a great job rebounding.

At the end of the day, the three is more dangerous than the two. You werent trying to give him 40 points. You dont want to give anyone 40 points. But hes the best center in the NBA. If you play him one-on-one, hes going to get some buckets and tonight, he was also hitting his free throws, he continued. We knew over the course the game, it was going to work out. We believe in Coach Thibs and his system and we followed it to a T and it worked.

A clearly frustrated Howard offered his thoughts on the strategy after the game.

I dont know if it was effective. I got their bigs in foul trouble. I hope they do it again, opined Howard. On offense, we didnt do anything. We didnt move the ball. We came down, one shot. One pass, shot. We cant win that way.

The Bulls are an improved team. Theyre very good, but it was just too easy for them, he continued. We cant be a championship-contender team playing defense like we did tonight.

After intermission, Deng (26 points, eight rebounds) joined the party for the Bulls, reeling off 11 points in the third quarters first three minutes and change, and playing with a much greater sense of urgency on both ends of the floor after contributing just two points in the first half.

I had two shots in the first half and one of them was a three that I didnt really think was a great shot I just tried to get myself going but I didnt really feel that I was missing shots, explained Deng. When I came out in the third quarter, I took my regular shots. We rested the last two days and I had good legs, so I used that energy.

Having those days off, we could come out and not be in a rhythm, but I thought Coach did a good job of keeping us active in practice, getting up a lot of shots and coming out tonight, playing the way we did, he continued.

Added Boozer: Luol got us going. That whole third quarter, he was on fire. We just kept finding the hot hand.

The opposing coaches had differing viewpoints on Dengs performance.

You cant say enough about Luol, lauded Thibodeau. In my opinion, hes had an All-Star season in the first half. Hes done everything for our team."

Countered Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy: He Deng dominated the second half. We didnt guard him at all.

Additionally, Boozers blend of mid-range jumpers and low-post scoring was clicking, but perhaps more importantly, Thibodeau employed rookie backup center Omer Asik to guard Howard, which was somewhat successful. Asik didnt shut down Howard, but his length and size at least allowed the Bulls to respectably guard the All-Star one-on-one.

He turns every time to his right-hand hook shot. The coaches told me before the game, when he gets the ball, just close out to his left shoulder, Asik explained to CSNChicago.com. I tried to do that. I did it good sometimes; I did it bad sometimes.

The Bulls, in general, ramped up their intensity after the break, using stout defensive play to turn the tables on Orlando and build a double-digit cushion over the visitors, sending the United Center crowd into a mild state of ecstasy during an extended 20-5 run, prompting Van Gundy to halt the bleeding with a timeout.

Rose, while clearly not 100 percent he occasionally squatted or clutched his stomach during dead balls and an accidental blow to the face from former Bulls point guard Chris Duhon didnt help but his scoring presence and playmaking ability at less than full strength were more than enough to help the Bulls take a 80-68 lead into the fourth quarter.

This is the NBA: No Boys Allowed, said Rose afterwards. Mind over matter. I think about some of the old players. When they played, they had injuries that were worse than mine and they still fought through. I look at myself as an old-school type player and when I think back to those days, that really gets me through hard practices or hard games.

It feels like youve got a sword on your knee or something and every single time you get in the shower or water touches it, that burning sensation, because its open. So, every time I swallow, every time I eat something, you can feel it. Its sore, he continued. Going to the hole, I was hoping not to get hit in my stomach. There were a couple times I got hit, but if anything, I was trying not to lose my breath.

As the games stretch run approached, the Magic couldnt put more than a mild scare into the Bulls, as Arenas with starting point guard Jameer Nelson taking an early exit with a sore right knee, the enigmatic midseason acquisition became the teams primary ballhandler struggled with the dual responsibilities of defending Rose and running Orlandos offense effectively.

Howard continued to be a force, but the Magic couldnt quite get over the hump an Arenas transition layup with 1:28 to make it 93-90 was as close as theyd get as Deng made plays on both ends and Rose hit clutch free throws to seal the deal, fittingly serenaded by chants of M-V-P.

I hope my play says that, the way that I play. Of course, everybody wants to say that, but I hope you see the way that Im playing that Im one of the elite players in the NBA, said Rose. Its a lot of hard work, but if it wasnt for my teammates, I wouldnt be in this position.

Deng spoke of the significance of beating one of their conference rivals.

Big win. Its one of the teams in the Eastern Conference that everyone kind of looks up to and they beat us up pretty good the last time we played them, so we did a good job tonight, he said. The Bostons, Orlandos, Miamis, when we go out and beat those teams, I think we send a message out there that weve got a good team.

Concurred Gibson: This game was kind of a statement game because we know were going to see them in the future and the way they beat us last game, we didnt like that.

We had a lot of motivation. When we watched the film, we didnt look like our normal Chicago team, he went on to say. We rebound the ball well and play defense, and we didnt do any of those things the last game, so we just wanted to make a statement and play hard.

Boozer, with the experience of several playoff runs in Utah, took a different tact.

Its still January. Its not April, he remarked. Were not heading into the playoffs. Were not even at the All-Star break yet.

Perhaps, but it was the type of feel-good victory especially given the circumstances of the teams last meeting that at least provides inspiration down the line. Still, at the games conclusion, thoughts didnt waver far from Roses situation.

If tonight, I cant breathe or cant eat right or Im having stomach problems, Ill definitely let them the Bulls medical staff know, said Rose of his status for Saturdays back-to-back home game against the Indiana Pacers. But other than that, Im playing.

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.

Versatility is Wendell Carter Jr's calling card

Versatility is Wendell Carter Jr's calling card

Wendell Carter Jr. didn’t come to the NBA Draft Combine with the boastful statements made by his peers, refusing to declare himself the best player in a loaded draft.

But it doesn’t mean he lacks for confidence.

Carter Jr. is one of the more intriguing prospects in next month’s draft, even though he doesn’t come with the heavy fanfare of what many expect to be the top three picks.

One of those top three players was Carter Jr’s teammate at Duke, Marvin Bagley III, relegating Carter Jr. to a supporting role of sorts in his lone collegiate season. He couldn’t turn college basketball upside down as a freshman; He didn’t have the opportunity to, still averaging 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 29.1 minutes last season.

“Bagley's a phenomenal player. He came into college basketball, did what he was supposed to do,” Carter Jr. said. “My role changed a little bit but like I said, I'm a winner and I'll do what it takes to win.”

Like he said, considering it was the fifth time he patted himself on the back, describing his positive attributes. It didn’t come across as obnoxious, but more an affirmation, a reminder that his willingness to sacrifice personal glory shouldn’t overshadow his ability.

“I'm pretty versatile as a player,” Carter Jr. said. “I'd just find a way to fit into the team, buy into the system. I'm a winner. Do whatever it takes to win.”

When asked about his strengths, he didn’t hesitate to say he’s “exceptional” at rebounding and defending, certainly things teams would love to see come to fruition if he’s in their uniform next season.

Playing next to Bagley and not being the first option—or even the second when one considers Grayson Allen being on the perimeter—forced him to mature more in the little things.

“It was (an adjustment) at first,” Carter Jr. said. “I knew what I could do without scoring the ball. I did those things. I did them very exceptional. I found a way to stand out from others without having to put the ball in the basket.”

“I think it did do wonders for me. It definitely helped me out, allowed me to show I can play with great players but still maintain my own.”

If he’s around at the seventh slot, the Bulls will likely take a hard look at how he could potentially fit next to Lauri Markkanen and in the Bulls’ meeting with Carter Jr., the subject was broached.

“Great process. I was just thinking, me and him together playing on the court together would be a killer,” he said with a smile.

“I know they wanna get up and down the court more. The NBA game is changing, there's no more true centers anymore. They wanna have people who can shoot from the outside, it's something I'll have to work on through this draft process.”

An executive from a franchise in the lottery said Carter Jr’s game is more complete than Bagley’s, and that Carter Jr. could be the safer pick even if he isn’t more talented than his teammate.

It’s no surprise Carter Jr. has been told his game reminds them of Celtics big man Al Horford. Horford has helped the Celtics to a commanding 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals over the Cleveland Cavaliers, in no small part due to his inside-outside game and ability to ably defend guards and wings on the perimeter.

Horford doesn’t jump off the screen, but he’s matured into a star in his role after coming into the NBA with a pretty grown game as is. Carter Jr. has shown flashes to validate those comparisons.

“Whatever system I come to, I buy in,” Carter Jr. said. “Coaches just want to win. I want to win too. Whatever they ask me to do. If it's rebounding, blocking shots, setting picks, I'm willing to do that just to win.”

He was also told he compares to Draymond Green and LaMarcus Aldridge, two disparate players but players the Bulls have had a history with in the draft. The Bulls passed on Green in the first round of the 2012 draft to take Marquis Teague, and in Aldridge’s case, picked him second in 2007 before trading him to Portland for Tyrus Thomas.

As one can imagine, neither scenario has been suitable for framing in the Bulls’ front office, but whether they see Carter Jr. as a the next versatile big in an increasingly positionless NBA remains to be seen.

“I definitely buy into that (positionless basketball). I'm a competitor,” Carter Jr. said. “Especially on the defensive end. Working on my lateral quickness, just so I could guard guards on pick and roll actions. Offensively I didn't show much of it at Duke but I'm pretty versatile. I can bring it up the court. Can shoot it from deep, all three levels.”

His versatility has come into play off the floor as well, deftly answering questions about his mother comparing the NCAA’s lack of compensation for athletes to slavery.

Carter Jr’s mother, Kylia Carter, spoke at the Knight Comission on Intercollegiate Athletics recently and made the claim.

“The only system I have ever seen where the laborers are the only people that are not being compensated for the work that they do, while those in charge receive mighty compensation … The only two systems where I’ve known that to be in place is slavery and the prison system, and now I see the NCAA as overseers of a system that is identical to that.”

As if he needed to add context to the statement, Carter Jr. indulged the media members who asked his opinion on the matter—or at least, his opinion of his mother’s opinion.

“A lot of people thought she was saying players were slaves and coaches were slave owners,” Carter Jr. said. “Just the fact, we do go to college, we're not paid for working for someone above us and the person above us is making all the money.”

As sensible as his comment was, as direct as his mother’s statements were, he still finds himself in a position where he has to defend his mother. In some cases, teams asked him about her—but that’s not to say they disagreed with her premise.

“My mom is my mom,” Carter Jr. said. “She has her opinions and doesn't mind sharing them. In some aspects I do agree with her. In others...you'll have to ask her if you want to know more information.”

“I never thought my mom is ever wrong. But I think people do perceive her in the wrong way. Some things she does say...that's my mom. You have to ask her.”

The versatility to handle things out of his control, as well as understanding how his season at Duke prepared him for walking into an NBA locker room should be noted.

There’s no delusions of grandeur, despite his unwavering confidence.

“I'd come in and try to outwork whoever's in front of me,” Carter Jr. said. “That's the beauty of the beast. You come into a system, There's players in front of you 3-4-5 years and know what it takes.”

“I would learn those things and let the best man win.”

After historical season at Oklahoma, Trae Young ready to make immediate impact in NBA

After historical season at Oklahoma, Trae Young ready to make immediate impact in NBA

There once was a period in NBA Draft history when leading the country in scoring all but guaranteed a top-5 draft pick. All-Americans were the talk of the class, and if he could pass, too, all the entire better. And if that player was a freshman? Forget about it.

But there’s never been a time in history when a player led the country in both scoring and assists. And it was done by a freshman, all of 19 years old. And yet for all Oklahoma point guard Trae Young accomplished in 32 games, doubters remain. He’s not the consensus top pick in next month’s NBA Draft. He might not even be a top-5 pick. He could even fall out of the top 10.

And that’s because the draft has become a science, of sorts. Position-less basketball is taking over, multiple ball handlers are on the floor for a team more time than they’re not, and height/length/wingspan and the rest of those Jay Bilas buzzwords mean more than ever.

And that is Young’s shortcoming (no pun intended). We’ll get the negatives out of the way before telling you why the Sooner is built perfectly for today’s NBA. He measured just under 6-foot-2 and weighed in at 178 pounds, which he told reporters was 10 pounds heavier than he was five weeks ago. His 6-foot-3 wingpsan was the smallest of all NBA Draft Combine participants, as was his 8-inch hand length.

So it’s reasonable to understand why he isn’t a slam dunk option at the top of the draft. But there’s also a number of reasons this 6-foot-2, defensive liability could also hear his name called in the top 5. And it’s because he’s the most dynamic offensive player college basketball has maybe ever seen. And, for the third time, he’s 19 years old.

“I think I’m the best overall player in the draft," he said Friday at the NBA Draft Combine. "My main focus isn’t necessarily to be the best player in this draft. My motivation is to be the best player in the NBA and that’s what I’m focusing on each and every day.”

Young, a five-star recruit from Norman, Okla., double-doubled in his first collegiate game. He double-doubled in his second game. In games 3-8 he scored between 28 and 43 points, all while leading unranked Oklahoma to an unlikely 7-1 record. Then December 16 happened. And over the course of the next eight games Young took college basketball by storm.

In a span of one month, from Dec. 15 to Jan. 15, Oklahoma went from unranked to No. 4 in the country. Young’s numbers in that eight-game stretch? 31.4 points, 11.3 assists, 4.9 made 3-pointers and 1.6 steals in better than 34 minutes per game. His lowest scoring output in that time frame was 26, and in that game he handed out 22 assists, which tied an NCAA record. He had double-doubles in seven of the eight games, and had to settle for 29 points and five assists on the road against West Virginia, one of the country’s top defenses.

Young’s Sooners went into a nosedive after that, going 4-10 to finish the regular season and putting them close to the bubble, especially after a loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament. Young, the catalyst and only real option for the Sooners, posted modest 24.5 points and 7.5 assists, but wasn’t able to get a hold of the runaway train. The Sooners lost their opening round matchup to Rhode Island, a game in which Young scored 28 points.

But the roller coaster season is in the rear-view mirror. Young’s game is pretty straightforward: he’s a pick and roll nightmare for defenses, has the best range of anyone in the country and finds open shooters with ease. He’s a do-it-all offensively, and has naturally drawn comparisons to Stephen Curry.

“I love the comparisons. He’s a two-time MVP and a champion,” Youg said. “I’m just trying to be the best version of Trae Young, that’s all that matters to me. I’m just getting started in this thing.”

Young will make his presence felt wherever he winds up on June 21. Though he needs to continue adding weight to withstand the physical nature of the NBA (as well as an 82-game season) his skill set was built for today’s game. Though his shooting numbers came at a rather inefficient clip – 42 percent shooting, 36 percent from 3 – those will improve as he’s asked to take fewer shots at the next level.

His passing numbers should also improve; despite the 8.7 assists per game he wasn’t exactly paired up with knockdown shooters in Norman. If a team is able to pair him next to a stout defender – not unlike Isaiah Thomas playing next to Avery Bradley in Boston – his offensive game will cancel out any defensive deficiencies.

“My main focus is going to the right team,” he said. “It’s all about the fit for me and whether that’s (No.) 1 or whatever it is, I’m going to be happy and ready to make an impact and that’s what they’re going to get.”

That impact will be felt. Young opted against naming teams – he has met with the Bulls, he said – but mentioned that he has looked at teams picking in this year’s Lottery and knows the playoffs are a possibility if he enters the mix and leaves his imprint on a team in Year 1.

“There are teams in this draft that I think are one piece away, two pieces away from being a team that’s in the Lottery this year but not next year,” Young said. “There’s been some teams that I’ve met with I feel like if I’m on that team that I can make a big impact for them.”

He made that impact at Oklahoma, and despite his measurements there’s nothing to dislike about his game. He set records, carried a team for four months and dealt with adversity. That, as well as a lethal jump shot, will have him ready for the next level and whatever team selects him in six weeks.