Bulls

Sore Rose, Gibson should be ready for Bulls' playoff opener

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Sore Rose, Gibson should be ready for Bulls' playoff opener

When Aaron Brooks stepped onto the floor with the first five to start the second half in the Bulls’ regular-season finale, murmurs could be heard through the United Center as the fan base was likely petrified over whatever could be wrong with Derrick Rose.

After all, everything had been geared toward this postseason, and with the way he played up until Wednesday night, something wrong with Rose wouldn’t be so much ominous as it was expected.

But it was just left knee soreness, and the Bulls point guard pulled himself out from participating in the Bulls’ come-from-behind win over the Atlanta Hawks, which clinched their first-round matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.

“Not worried,” Rose said afterward. “It’s something I felt before in the past, probably USA (basketball, in the summer). But I felt good. I’m not worried about it coming up again. It’s just tonight wasn’t the night.”

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Rose patiently answered queries from the curious media, as there was no injury report released by the team on him as he sat at the end of the bench from the third quarter on.

It’s important to note it wasn’t the right knee, the one Rose had surgery on in late February to remove his meniscus, causing him to miss six weeks of action and placing real doubt on whether he would return to the floor this season.

“He had a little bit of soreness in his knee,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The guys are kind of nicked up right now, and I want to play it safe. We just decided to sit him out the second half.”

Not only did Rose sit the second half, but Taj Gibson left the game in the third quarter with a left shoulder strain, and the Bulls were already without Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich for the evening.

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Gibson took a cortisone shot at halftime, and there’s no real concern about him missing Game 1 on Saturday night. Rose’s status doesn’t appear to be up in the air, either, but with this Bulls team for this season, nobody’s taking anything for granted from an availability standpoint.

“I took that at halftime so I’d be feeling a lot better come Saturday,” Gibson said. “I’m OK going forward. Got the shot, looking forward to feeling a lot better tomorrow. Another day of rest, practice, should be fine.

“I was in a lot of pain all yesterday, even in Brooklyn I was in a lot of pain, but I just kept playing, trying to be tough, just trying to go after it and put my body first, put my body before the team, no excuses, gotta keep being tough. It’s that time of the year. Gotta push out all the excuses, all the negativity, and it’s time to go.”

Rose said the same thing moments earlier, the “no excuses” mantra that will likely be manna to a starved fan base. Playing just a handful of games before the postseason certainly feels like a dangerous proposition, but Rose knows that doesn’t matter much now anyways.

“I think nobody cares now,” said Rose to laughs. “I think it’s all about playing. Like I said, going into these playoffs, no excuses and get the job done. That’s the mindset.”

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Both sides felt it was pertinent to take the long view — as in preparing for Saturday and hopefully for their sake, a long run into late spring. Had Wednesday been a playoff game, Rose said he would’ve been on the floor.

“Probably had it a couple weeks back,” said Rose when asked if he felt soreness before. “But it wasn’t no point in fighting through it tonight. Playoff game, yes, but I believe in my teammates, that’s one of the reasons there wasn’t any pressure.”

Brooks of course played the hero in Rose’s stead, and Thibodeau said he knows Rose would’ve liked to play a little more to get more rust off.

“I just thought with the way it was going it was better for him not to play and Taj as well,” Thibodeau said. “We are going to play it safe. We just want to make sure anyone who is nicked up, they are getting rest now.”

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:


Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.