Bulls

Watson steady in Rose's absence

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Watson steady in Rose's absence

CLEVELANDJust the insinuation that John Lucas III was somehow playing above his head when both Derrick Rose and C.J. Watson were out of the lineup riled up Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Hes no more pleased with the implication that Watsons consistently excellent play in Roses now three-game absence is somehow surprising.

What you cant overlook is what C.J. is doing. C.J. is making us play with a pace and hes doing a great job of running the team. Then, John comes in and its the same thing, high energy, said Thibodeau after the Bulls Friday night laugher over the Cavaliers, when reporters tried to give shooting guard Rip Hamilton his share of the credit for the teams improved offensive flow. We felt C.J. had a great year for us last year, we really did, and he was the one guy who was certainly deserving of more minutes.

Every time that he had gotten extended minutes last year, he played at a very high level, and he played at a high level with the short minutes, he continued. He shot 39 percent from three, ran the team great, he and Derrick showed that they could play together. C.J. is a terrific player and hes a high-character guy. He does a great job with the second unit, hes the leader of the second unit and hes shown that he can lead the first unit. Hes a high-quality player and as I mentioned before the game, regardless of whos out, we feel we have more than enough to win with.

Thibodeau wasnt denying Hamilton his props his Rip is Rip postgame comment, akin to Derrick is Derrick or Lu is Lu, is perhaps his highest praise but he wanted to make sure the soft-spoken Watson was properly feted by the media. Because the normal backup point guard whos looked better than many starters when Rose has been out wont talk himself up.

Its a lot more comfortable this season. Thibs lets me call plays and he just lets me go out there and command the team, and play, really. So, I just go out there and have fun, said Watson, who responded with a little bit, when asked if Thibodeau gives him more freedom on the floor this season. I guess he trusts me a little more.

Whether or not Watson, who scored an efficient 15 points and dropped off seven assists in a head-to-head matchup with touted Cavaliers rookie point guard Kyrie Irving, wants to toot his own horn, his teammates are willing to do it for him.

Youve got to give C.J. a lot of credit. Hes coming off a sprained elbow that popped out of place. Hes been sitting for three weeks, got thrust into the starting lineup and hes been playing phenomenal, said Carlos Boozer, a major beneficiary of Watsons playmaking Friday.

Youve got to give him a lot of credit of stepping in and taking that challenge. Hes doing a great job of scoring the ball for us, hes doing a great job of playing D, hes doing a great job of getting everybody involved.

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

There are diehard Michael Jordan fans.

And then there's this guy.

Forget anybody getting a tattoo of their favorite team's championship trophy. Forget the people who wait for hours in terrible weather just to catch a glimpse of their favorite player.

This dude has a constant, 24/7 reminder of "His Airness":

Yep, that is a full tattoo of a Jordan "23" jersey on his back, complete with a Michael Jordan "autograph" in the middle of the "2." 

Dedication at its finest.

Couple questions: 

A) Does it carry over to the front at all? And if not, is that a plan for the future?

2) Will one of his buddies get a "45" Jordan jersey tattoo or are we just gonna continue to pretend that era never happened?

D) What will that tat look like in a few years? That guy better stay away from the Doritos...

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

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AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.