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Rose, Deng help Bulls make statement vs. Heat

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Rose, Deng help Bulls make statement vs. Heat

Friday, Feb. 25, 2011
Posted Feb. 24, 9:43 p.m. Updated 12:33 a.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

With both teams now at full strength both Chicago center Joakim Noah and Miami superstar LeBron James missed the last matchup with injuries Thursdays matchup between the Bulls (39-17) and the Heat (42-16) didnt have to come down to another late-game South Side showdown between the Eastern Conference All-Star starting backcourt of Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade.

This time, it was a team effort, with Luol Deng joining forces with Rose to counter Miamis duo of James and Wade, leading to a 93-89 Bulls win at the United Center.

This was a playoff game. This was definitely a playoff atmosphere, playoff intensity, Deng told CSNChicago.com afterwards. That team wanted to beat us tonight. they came out with their best. We gave our best, too.

Carlos Boozer (16 points, nine rebounds) got off to a strong start for the Bulls, scoring on two traditional three-point plays in the early going. However, Miami then scored on five consecutive possessions, four of which were on fast breaks.

James (29 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) scored on three of those trips all in transition throwing down a ridiculous reverse slam, a powerful one-handed dunk and a full-speed layup. Sandwiched between James flurry and an uncontested Wade (34 points, eight rebounds) dunk was a Mario Chalmers (12 points, four rebounds, four assists) baseline layup, Miamis only halfcourt score of the run.

Noah (seven points, eight rebounds) temporarily stopped the bleeding with a putback dunk, displaying the energy that had United Center fans pining for his return, but it was a short-lived halt to the onslaught by the visitors.

I feel like I definitely have a lot of work to do, but it feels great to be out there, just competing. I feel like the game is still pretty fast for me, but Im getting the hang of it, said Noah. My thumb feels great. My thumb feels fine. I think I can handle a whack or two.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: I thought Jo his numbers wont reflect it but I thought he played better today. In each game it will be similar to Carlos in each game, hell get better and betterthe thing that you can count on from Jo every game, is that hes going to give you everything that he has.

Transition offense was the Heats early calling card Miami scored 16 first-quarter fast-break points living up to the potential observers imagined they had when the superstar trio of James, Wade and Chris Bosh first inked deals last summer. At the conclusion of the opening period, the Bulls trailed their guests from South Florida, 31-23.

After the first quarter, I thought our defense came back. I thought our effort was a lot better. Obviously we werent pleased with the start of the game, Thibodeau said. Our floor balance was poor, I thought we were quick-shooting the ball and put them in transition. Then, when they get a head of steam, theyre hard to stop.

Chicago gradually closed on the Heat early in the second quarter, with the Bulls second unit playing their usual up-tempo, defensive-oriented brand of basketball. Thibodeau filtered his regulars back into the contest, but the home team couldnt immediately make up more ground.

Bosh who missed his first seven shots from the field drew the crowds ire when Boozer dropped him to the floor with what looked like a phantom elbow upon further review, drawing an offensive foul on the Bulls power forward. The play was exacerbated when Noah was called for a ticky-tack foul while guarding Bosh on the subsequent Heat possession, further infuriating the already-rowdy Windy City audience.

Miami kept its poise and again built their winning margin to double digits behind the quietly efficient scoring of Wade, prompting Thibodeau to call timeout. With Rose (26 points, six assists, five rebounds) and Deng (20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) both struggling to produce points (Deng finally got on the board in the last minute of the first half), Chicago trailed Miami, 53-44 at the intermission, following a James jumper at the halftime buzzer.

Although the Bulls effort to start the third quarter was clearly ramped up a notch, the dual dominance of James and Wade kept the Heat comfortably ahead. Rose began to force the action in a good way looking for his own scoring opportunities, rather than just facilitating for others.

Deng also got himself more involved and the subsequent momentum allowed Chicago to challenge Miamis lead midway through the period. Wade satisfied the home fans desire to pile on by receiving a technical foul, seemingly after being frustrated by Keith Bogans physical, dogged defense.

Spurred by Deng who was unusually demonstrative, indicating the importance of the primetime affair the Bulls went on an 11-2 run to pull within a point of the visitors, leading Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra to call timeout to refocus his aggravated squad. A spinning Rose jumper put the Bulls up for the first time since the first quarter to extend their spurt.

I really dont care what people say. Honestly, I swear. I just want to win and that makes me play well. My whole mindset is even if Im not shooting the ball well my whole mindset is, Lets win this game somehow. I always just stick with that. Even when I have a bad shooting first half I dont even think I had a bad shooting half; I just shots four shots we didnt move the ball. We did that in the second half and the ball was just finding me, Deng told CSNChicago.com. I just knew we had the momentum our way and I just wanted to hype up the whole stadium, everybody. I was just feeling it.

While Deng may prefer simply blending in, as long as the Bulls win, both Rose and Thibodeau singled out his efforts.

Big Shot Lu, he was the reason why we won tonight and Im happy for him. He played great, played hard and still able to hit big shots, said Rose. Lu, hes been solid the whole year consistent, playing hard he had to face LeBron tonight, somebody who he really takes that challenge. He stepped up and he was still able to go out there and be effective the whole game.

Hitting shots, playing defense, making big drives, passing the ball. He did everything perfect.

Added Thibodeau: Lus been great all year. When youre around him every day and you see his leadership ability and the way he works, you cant say enough about him and Ive said this all year: hes our glue. He keeps us together. When things are going tough, hes the same. He doesnt get rattled and you can count on him.

With Rose the M-V-P chants started coming with greater frequency and Deng propelling Chicago, Miami was on its heels, as the Bulls clung to a slim winning margin. After a Rose runner off the dribble on the Bulls final possession of the period, Chicago held a 71-67 advantage heading into the final stanza.

Led by Dengs strong play carrying over, the always energetic Ronnie Brewer (eight points, four rebounds) and the rebounding of Omer Asik (11 rebounds), the Bulls second unit came out with increased gusto in the fourth quarter. The reserves played scrappy and intense, making plays in transition and opening up a nine-point lead in the first two minutes of the period, compelling Spoelstra to call a timeout.

We didnt get going defensively until Asik and Taj came into the game and brought a lot of energy into the game which is what you want from your bench as did C.J. Watson and Ronnie, said Thibodeau. Swarming, getting deflections and getting the ball up the floor quickly. So, they were huge. Tonight, our bench gave us a huge spark.

The visitors were unable to manufacture any offense other than Wade and James Bosh made one of his 18 shot attempts and Chicago was in complete control halfway through the quarter, with Thibodeau reinserting his regulars.

However, the Bulls stagnated offensively and the Wade-James combination simply bullied their way to the basket, with their supporting cast narrowing the once-wide rebounding margin, as well as the score.

Chalmers knocked down a three-pointer he became the first Heat player other than James and Wade to score in the second half to give Miami the lead, as part of a 13-0 run by the visitors.

A corner triple from sharpshooter Kyle Korver (seven points, 2-for-6 three-point shooting) ended the run and regained the advantage for the Bulls as the games stretch run approached.

Out of a timeout, swooping Rose layup set the tone for Chicago, which sandwiched a defensive stop around a Deng pull-up jumper. After yet another Bosh miss, the two combined on the Bulls next possession, as Deng chased down an offensive rebound and Rose knocked down a three-pointer to give the home team an 89-84 lead with 1:06 remaining, leading to a Miami timeout.

It was a clutch shot, especially towards the end, said Rose, who reacted with more emotion than usual after hitting the basket. The clock running down and me having the ball in my hands, it was a tough shot.

Quipped Noah: If youre not going to be invested emotionally against the Miami Heat in front of 25,000 people going crazy, I dont think you ever will. Youre not an emotional person. Youre not human.

D-Rose likes playing in the big games. He likes competing against the best and hes proven what hes all about.

Wade hit a difficult, fading jumper with 59.1 seconds left, making it Thibodeaus turn to pause the game for strategic purposes.

Rose missed a jumper over James and was then called for a blocking foul on a James shot in transition with 36.8 seconds on the clock. James hit the ensuing free throw to tie the contest at 89 apiece.

With James defending him, Rose drove, drew the defense and found Deng in the corner for a wide-open three-pointer, which he canned with 16 seconds to go, giving the Bulls a 92-89 lead.

I was going to shoot the shot until D-Wade came over and Lu was wide, wide open. Hes my shooting partner in practice and every time we get to the corner, he goes 9-for-10 or 10-for-10, so I knew it was going to be an easy shot for him, recalled Rose. Lu came up and hit a huge shot, man. They doubled team, he was wide open, so why not pass?

It was great, man, especially being in a situation like that in my hometown and got the ball in my hands you best believe that shot was going to go up, but they double teamed and I just read the play, he continued. I was just trying to take advantage of my quickness with him James being big.

Added Thibodeau: I loved Derricks play at the end of the game, just trusting a teammate. They collapsed on him and he made, without hesitation, the right play, and Lu knocked the shot down.

Deng told CSNChicago.com: I just told myself, Be ready. Derrick made a great play. I was so wide open, I took my regular shot.

The lead would hold up, giving the Bulls the advantage in their season series with the Heat, with the two teams third and final matchup coming up in Miami on Chicagos upcoming five-game road trip.

It feels amazing. It shows you, the NBA, its so mental. Its all about how you come into games and we were resilient tonight. It was a team effort, said Noah. Yesterday, you lose to Toronto and its the end of the world. Twenty-four hours later, you beat Miami and people treat you like youre on top of the world.

Opined Boozer: We knew our game in Toronto wasnt characteristic of our team we dont give up 118 points to a team and the biggest thing for us was getting back to playing Bulls defense, and tonight, we did that against one of the best teams in the league. It was a bigger deal for us to get back on track. Holding them to under 90 points with the talent that they have is a big deal.

Concluded Rose: Were just trying to prove that we can compete with some of the best teams. Were trying to continue playing the same way.

When we beat them the first time, people were saying, Okay, they beat them, but LeBron wasnt playing. Tonight, we beat them, they had their whole team. It was a tough game, but we pulled it out, he continued. We can go on a run now. I think our confidence is high now. I think its a great win to come back home to, especially off the All-Star break. Weve got to keep it up.

They know that we can compete with them with everybody on the court.

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)