Offense can succeed without Rose, go-to scorer

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Offense can succeed without Rose, go-to scorer

When Richard Hamiltons Detroit Pistons won the 2004 NBA Championship, there were no superstars. Only center Ben Wallace made the All-Star Game from a team that won 54 games and Hamilton led the team at 17.6 points per game. He was the de-facto go-to scorer, though his 14.9 field goal attempts per game were 25th in the league.

Thats why the veteran, beginning his second year with the Bulls but the first time without Derrick Rose, knows that the Bulls offense can be successful without a high volume shooter and scorer.

In this league, in order to be a great team youve got to have production from all the guys on the floor. You cant just have one guy do the bulk of the scoring, he said, because good teams key on that and in the playoffs its hard to win like that. So in order for us to be good and successful, we all gotta be better. We all gotta help each other without Derrick and bring more of a team theme to win games.

The Bulls are hoping to get some of that production from Carlos Boozer, who has looked impressive early in the preseason. The 30-year-old has averaged 13.2 points in just 24.5 minutes in six games. And though his scoring will be important for a team looking to make up Roses 21.8 points per game from a year ago, Hamilton has seen Boozers aggressiveness benefit the outside shooters as well.

The more productive he is in the paint, it makes everybodys job easier. Not just him scoring the ball, but him making plays, Hamilton, averaging a team-high 14.8 points per game, said. When we can get the ball down there, it makes the perimeter guys jobs a lot easier, because now the defense cant just focus on guys on the perimeter. Theyve got to focus on guys down low.

The Bulls certainly will see production from small forward and 2012 All-Star Luol Deng, as well as Joakim Noah. That three-headed monster, coach Tom Thibodeau said, is essential for any team and the theory has not changed despite Roses absence.

I think you always want three primary scorers, and thats always been the case, Thibodeau said. It was the case when Derrick was here. So I think when you look at the game, your ability to try to make it hard on your opponents three primary scorers, theyre gonna try to make it hard on your three primary scorers.

And then the responsibility of the primary scorer is when youre 1-on-1, you want to score. When a second defender comes, he has a responsibility to hit the open man and make the right play. So theres a lot of responsibility that comes along with being a primary scorer.

Whether that primary scorer becomes Deng, who led the Bulls with 16.7 points per game when Rose sat, Boozer or Noah, expectations from outside have been lowered until that trio emerges.

But just as Hamilton saw it in Detroit, he has no problem with the Bulls flying under the radar without their proven go-to scorer and leader.

We love it. We love it, because you love to be the underdog, he said. You love to do stuff when people dont expect you to do anything. It makes you strive and go out and want it even more.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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