Boozer, Watson step up as Bulls cruise sans Rose

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Boozer, Watson step up as Bulls cruise sans Rose

Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 10:58 p.m.

No Derrick Rose? No problem.

At least that was the case Tuesday night, as the Bulls (13-3) placed all five starters in double figures scoring and cruised to an easy 118-97 rout over the Suns (4-9) at the United Center.

For the second consecutive game, Carlos Boozer (31 points, six rebounds) came out of the gate as an assertive scorer, perhaps knowing his responsibilities were greater with the absence of Rose.

He had help, however, as C.J. Watson (23 points, five assists) filled in capably for the Bulls sidelined superstar and Joakim Noah (13 points, 12 rebounds) appeared to be breaking out of his funk, knocking down a pair of his patented Tornado jumpers.

I thought we had a lot of guys play well. I thought Joakim was great to start the game, very active, going after every ball, hustling, knocked down a couple shots. Of course, Carlos was on fire to start and to C.J.s credit, how hard he worked coming back, particularly on his conditioning, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. I loved the way the ball hopped. The ball was not sticking anywhere. Once we got into a rhythm, we were able to knock some shots down.

Phoenixs fast pace, propelled by former two-time MVP Steve Nash (25 points, nine assists) the last point guard to win the leagues MVP award before Rose, Nashs elite scoring and playmaking were on full display early on actually benefited the Bulls, who wanted to get back to running in transition after playing at a slower tempo as of late.

Phoenix plays with a pace, so the game is going to be faster. I thought Nash put incredible pressure on us early in the game. Its amazing what hes doing at his age, said Thibodeau. Our defense obviously, we need work. I loved our offense. I thought the pace was great.

Rip Hamilton (11 points, six assists), back in the lineup after missing eight consecutive games, was an important factor in the Bulls building a comfortable cushion the veteran shooting guard was a scoring presence and also a playmaker, something needed without Rose available and the Bulls held a 39-31 advantage after a high-scoring opening period.

Rip really was terrific, not so much with his shooting, as much as his playmaking, said Thibodeau. Just having Rip, it gives you another primary option.

Added Noah: Rip is huge because hes a great passer very underrated part of his game and he really demands a lot of attention offensively, just with his ability to shoot the ball, so I think the more we play together, the better well be and its good to have him out there.

Chicagos offense was clicking on all cylinders Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau could take pride in his teams protection of the basketball, if not how many points it allowed as the home teams gaudy field-goal percentage reflected its efficiency.

Beyond the aggressive Watson, who was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor in the first quarter, the Bulls got a significant contribution from Boozer, who knocked down mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper against the porous Suns defense.

I thought we really made plays for each other. I thought we made the easy play, said Hamilton. We didnt really take any difficult shots and when youre doing that, everybody out there is having fun.

More significantly, the heavily-scrutinized post tandem of Noah and Boozer appeared to be extremely cohesive, as the charismatic centers high activity level meshed beautifully with the power forwards deft outside touch. Thibodeau was so confident in his squads first-half performance that in the waning moments of the second period, after the lead had ballooned to a 20-point gap it was 67-47 in the Bulls favor, at the break rookie swingman Jimmy Butler saw some rare early action.

We knew we had to compete better than we did against Memphis. It was an embarrassing loss. Just the way we played, it wasnt right, said Noah. Just taking my shots when they were there and Rip opens up the floor a lot, as well.

Chimed in Thibodeau, weary of questions about the big-man duo: I think they do fine. I think the record speaks for itself.

I think that they played well. I think they were high energy, the ball moved freely, they were playmaking. Jo made a lot of good plays with the ball. Theyre fine, he continued. Jos timing is coming around. Hes a lot more active.

Noahs strong play persisted after the intermission a steal and coast-to-coast push for a layup opened third-quarter scoring as his energy, relentless rebounding and unique ball skills had a major impact on the contest. A 7-0 run to start the period set the tone in the lopsided affair, as the defense-less Suns could do nothing to slow the Bulls offensive rhythm, as wings Hamilton and Luol Deng (15 points, six rebounds) also got things going for the hosts.

Crisp ball movement, which often led to wide-open jumpers while Watson played point guard and facilitated at times and Deng exhibited his typical unselfishness, Hamiltons playmaking was subtly a key to the offensive flow was a marker of Chicagos success, as the high assist totals reflected. Despite Nashs continued brilliance, the Bulls took a 96-68 lead into the games final frame.

Hamilton gave credit to his backcourt partner, Watson, saying, He was awesome, he was great. C.J. did a great job. He got guys in the spots where they needed to be, he ran the offense and when he was open, he took the shot.

Concurred Noah: C.J.s a great point guard and sometimes, its hard when you play behind the MVP, but every time he gets big minutes, he steps up and hes been huge for us. Coming back from an injury like that and being able to play at a high level, its been very impressive.

With the game no longer in doubt, Suns head coach Alvin Gentry rested Nash and his other regulars, filtering in his reserves, and Thibodeau followed suit, giving Bulls reserves like backup center Omer Asik (11 points) an opportunity to get some work, since they hadnt been needed to provide additional firepower earlier in the evening.

With two days off before for their next contest, a rarity in the condensed schedule, a much-needed period of rest and the potential of Roses return loom before Friday, when the Bulls play the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

I thought we had some spurts when we played good defense and especially too, when youre going on the road, youve got to be air-tight with your defense, so thats something that we have to clean up, said Thibodeau. Fortunately for us, we have a day of practice coming.

NBA Draft Profile: Providence PG Kris Dunn

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NBA Draft Profile: Providence PG Kris Dunn

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2016 NBA Draft we will provide profiles of more than 50 prospects, including video interviews with each player, what they're saying leading up to draft day as well as their potential fit with the Bulls.

Kris Dunn, PG, Providence

6'3" | 205 lbs. | 22 years old

2015-16 stats:

16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.5 steals, 33.0 minutes

Projection:

Top-7

Quotable:

“You’re going to get someone who works hard every day. A guy who has great character. My personality resonates because I’m so goofy, I love to laugh. I like to make other people smile and I’m a very hard worker. I like to say I’m a blue-collar worker,” he said. “Nothing was ever given to me. I go after it with everything I have.”

Rotoworld mock draft selection:

6. New Orleans Pelicans: Kris Dunn, PG, Providence – Jrue Holiday has only one year left on his current deal, so the Pelicans could look to find their point guard of the future here in Dunn. A strong defender and excellent in transition, Dunn could create scoring chances on both ends of the floor, plus he has the passing ability which could continue to help Anthony Davis shine, as long as Dunn can cut down on his mistakes. Perimeter shooting has been an issue for Dunn, though he has looked good at times.

Fit for the Bulls:

The Bulls would likely need to move into the first five selections of the draft to have a shot at Dunn. But they're reportedly intrigued at the idea of having him as the point guard of the future. Though he's already 22, Dunn's size, defensive pressure and ability to play in transition all translate at the next level. He could theoretically learn under Derrick Rose for a year - something he said at the NBA Combine he'd love to do - before Rose becomes a free agent in 2017. A backcourt of Dunn and Jimmy Butler would be one of the best defensive tandems in the Eastern Conference. Then again, to get in position to draft Dunn the Bulls may need to part with Jimmy Butler, an unlikely scenario.

Pau Gasol considering skipping Olympics amid Zika fears

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Pau Gasol considering skipping Olympics amid Zika fears

The uncertainty in Brazil over the spread of the Zika virus has Pau Gasol considering not playing in the upcoming Olympics.

The Bulls center, who is set to become a free agent on July 1, spoke with the Associated Press about his reluctancy to travel to Brazil, a country that's been hit by the mosquito-borne virus the last year.

"It wouldn't surprise me to see some athletes deciding not to participate in the games to avoid putting their health and the health of their families at risk," Gasol told the AP.

"I'm thinking about (whether or not to go)," he said. "Just like every athlete, or any other person considering going to Rio, should be thinking about it."

Gasol's absence would be a considerable one for the Spain national team, which earned silver medals in 2008 and 2012.

The virus, which first appeared in Brazil in 2015 and has spread to anywhere between 500,000 and 1.5 million people, has been a large topic of conversation on the horizon of the Olympic Games, which begin Aug. 5.

The report said Gasol has contacted experts to learn more about the virus before making a final decision.

"We need to understand the seriousness of the situation," he said. "Even though there are some soothing words being said, we know that there are different opinions about the subject."

Discussing the Bulls' potential offseason plan

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Discussing the Bulls' potential offseason plan

The Bulls are in the middle of a tumultuous time for the franchise and things aren't going to get any easier this offseason.

On SportsTalk Live, CSN Chicago's Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill came on and discussed what the Bulls can do to get the team in the right direction.

Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah are both free agents. Do they want to come back? Should the Bulls want them back? The STL panel gives their view on the future of those two big men.

Speaking of Noah, is he clashing with Jimmy Butler? After old rumors of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler clashing, rumor is getting out that it might be Noah and Butler that don't get along. Does that mean Noah won't stick around even if the Bulls make him an offer?

Butler and Rose are working out together this offseason. Can they develop some chemistry to come back stronger next season?

Also, the panel debates whether it is better to acquire talent in the offseason or during the season.

Watch the video above for the full discussion.