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Rose's return fit for a King, gives Bulls winning trip

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Rose's return fit for a King, gives Bulls winning trip

Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010
Updated 2:25 AM
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Through the middle of the third quarter, it seemed as if the Bulls' positives strides on their current seven-game road trip were all for naught.

Then, the determination witnessed on the treacherous stretch kicked in, and buoyed by the return of Derrick Rose to the lineup, Chicago (9-6) utilized a sustained fourth-quarter run to get out of town with a 96-85 victory over the Kings (4-11).

Rose (30 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) returned to the lineup and picked off where he left off, making the game's first basket, as well as his next four shots.

"When I saw him walking around, he looked a lot better today. When I saw him walking around, he said he felt a lot better," said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau about his star point guard, who was a game-time decision after sitting out Friday's buzzer-beater loss to Denver with a sore neck. "After he warmed up, I asked him again. He said he felt great, so I wasn't really concerned about it."

"I thought we were tired. Derrick really helped us a lot -- he had fresh legs -- he helped us a lot in the first half," added teammate Luol Deng. "I think Derrick is the best point guard in the league right now, as long as he just keeps playing like this. He carries us a lot and he's making a lot of us better."

Against the lowly Kings, it seemed as if the Bulls -- injury-riddled or not -- could cruise to an easy victory to close out their arduous road trip. However, Sacramento point guard Tyreke Evans (17 points, nine assists, six rebounds) -- Rose's fellow Rookie of the Year and successor at the University of Memphis -- had different ideas, matching his counterpart's effort with his own personal scoring binge to give the home team a slim winning margin.

Evans' smooth drives to the basket and transition scoring ability got a young Sacramento squad going, giving the sparse Arco Arena crowd something to cheer about. With momentum clearly working against them, Chicago trailed, 28-21, after a quarter of action, mostly by virtue of the Kings' aggressive play and inadequate Bulls defense.

Reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer (eight points, 10 rebounds, three assists) keyed a Bulls' second-quarter push with his aggressiveness and playmaking, capably aided by Joakim Noah's (17 points, eight rebounds, five assists) always-energetic interior play.

"I think he's in really good shape right now and the first half, he was the only one really on the board," Thibodeau said of Brewer. "They were knocking a lot of balls out of our hands and some stuff like that, but Ronnie, he was rebounding in traffic and his energy was real good. I wanted to get him quickly in the second half to get that energy back in the game.

"We have a number of players who have started a number of games in this league, so you know if you're down a guy or a guy gets into foul trouble, that whoever is going in is capable of playing well and I think it's been proven throughout the year so far."

Sloppy turnovers, however, led to the Kings countering their guests with easy fast-break opportunities, resulting in the home team maintaining their slight cushion and even extending it, despite Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau reinserting his regulars.

Behind the likes of frontcourt youngsters Jason Thompson (18 points, nine rebounds), Donte Greene (13 points, seven rebounds) and Omri Casspi -- as well as Evans in the backcourt and veteran center Samuel Dalembert (12 points, six rebounds) -- the Kings simply outworked Chicago, leading to a the visitors facing a 57-44 halftime disadvantage.

After intermission, the Bulls attempted to chip away at the double-digit deficit, but Sacramento's persistent energy and ability to get high-percentage looks made that task nearly impossible. In the midst of trying to build an identity as a defensive-oriented team, Chicago appeared to be taking a step back in that department, possibly due to tired legs from the long road swing.

In their typical fashion, the Bulls would make an inevitable run, using a quicker lineup and an increased tempo to decrease the gap against their inferior opponents, although Thompson and Dalembert, in particular, continued to play well for the Kings. The opportunistic Bulls, seemingly over the lethargy that plagued them through the first half, trailed, 76-69, after three quarters.

Chicago's charge resumed at the start of the final stanza, with Deng (22 points, nine rebounds, four assists) leading the way offensively and a much-improved defensive effort (the Bulls forced multiple 24-second violations) leaving Sacramento stymied.

An emphatic Noah dunk off a nifty spinning post move -- part of 7-0 run to start the quarter -- tied the game, and the atmosphere in the arena was noticeably different.

"In the first half, it was hard to really judge anything we were doing defensively because the intensity wasn't there and our technique wasn't there. In the second half, once the intensity picked up and the technique picked up, it was better," said Thibodeau. "I didn't think our pressure was good enough in the first half -- in the second half, our pressure was much better and Derrick was tremendous. I thought Ronnie Brewer played with great energy. I thought that was a big lift and then Luol got going a little bit in the second half."

The Bulls' lead was short-lived, as the Kings refused to relent, perhaps smelling a rare victory on the young season was in their grasp. The game developed into a chippy, tightly-knit affair with hard fouls galore on both ends of the court.

More experienced in those situations, the Bulls began coming up with a knack for making the majority of the contest's pivotal plays -- grabbing loose balls, taking charges, hitting free throws -- down the stretch, with usual suspects Rose and Noah contributing heavily.

Rose's razor-sharp ballhandling allowed him to get into the lane and score with ease, while Noah's grit, defensive presence and finishing ability made an equally significant impact.

"Noah's never gassed. He played tough. He played a lot of minutes and the breakaway -- normally, that's a dunk -- but I thought his defense in the second half was tremendous," Thibodeau remarked about the charismatic center. "Multiple effort -- he was everywhere, he's challenging at the rim, he made it hard and -- that's what we need from him every night."

Brewer's first-half success carried over, as the offseason acquisition showed an increased comfort level in creating opportunities for himself and others, and Deng's timely scoring only helped the Bulls widen the gap between themselves and the young Kings.

The tables had turned, and what had been a nip-and-tuck battle turned into a comfortable Bulls lead going away as Sacramento derailed down the stretch to go 4-3 on the circus trip -- the first winning record on the annual road swing since the 1997-98 season, the last year of the Bulls championship dynasty.

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.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.