Bulls fend off pesky Wolves

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Bulls fend off pesky Wolves

CHICAGO--After looking like a dream team early, the Bulls (9-2) fell asleep before waking up late to survive a challenge from the Timberwolves (3-7) in their 111-100 win Tuesday night at the Target Center in Minneapolis, the second game of their only back-to-back-to-back stretch of the season. Several contributors made an impact, but the one-two punch of Derrick Rose and Luol Deng closed it out for the Bulls, who squandered a 24-point first-half lead as a result of Minnesota rookie point guard Ricky Rubio's impressive play.

Propelled by a smothering defense and the assertive scoring efforts of Rose (31 points, 4-for-8 three-point shooting, 11 assists, two blocked shots) and Deng (21 points, 11 rebounds), the Bulls jumped all over the Timberwolves right out of the gate, seemingly scoring at will in both transition and out of halfcourt offensive sets. Thirteen first-quarter points from Rose--in a variety of methods, from deft off-hand finishes after dribble penetration, to three-point bombs off the bounce and wide-open flushes as the result of a backdoor cut--but countering the visitors' ballooning lead was the reigning leave MVP tweaking an ankle late in the opening period, after which the Bulls led, 33-17.

Rose would leave the court between quarters (he'd return to the contest midway between periods after receiving medical treatment for his injury), but his services weren't needed, as an offensively-aggressive "Bench Mob," led by an assertive John Lucas--again playing significant minutes in place of the sidelined C.J. Watson, the diminutive third-stringer's effectiveness allowed Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau to play Rose off the ball for a stretch--Taj Gibson's (three blocked shots) usual high activity level on both ends, Omer Asik (six points, six rebounds), displaying polished post moves, and temporary starter Ronnie Brewer's (17 points) subtle contributions, maintained the Bulls' wide winning margin. However, behind versatile power forward Kevin Love's (20 points, 3-for-8 three-point shooting, 13 rebounds) outside marksmanship and Rubio's playmaking, the Timberwolves made a 20-2 before halftime to trim the deficit and send the Bulls into the break with a 53-47 advantage.

Minnesota continued to chip away at Chicago's increasingly tenuous lead, as the precocious Rubio created for himself and teammates, such as hot-shooting veteran starting point guard Luke Ridnour (22 points, 3-for-3 three-point shooting, 8-for-11 overall) and talented young big man Anthony Randolph (18 points) against their guests, who insisted on settling for perimeter shots. The visitors saw the gap close completely when their hosts tied the score at 70 apiece, but kept afloat by Deng's timely scoring, the Bulls managed to escape the third quarter ahead, 79-74.

Chicago was able to maintain its cushion early in the final stanza due to Deng's consistent point production, Gibson's defensive prowess, sharspshooter Kyle Korver's (13 points, 3-for-3 three-point shooting, 5-for-6 overall) potent stroke and Rose finding his groove again, keeping the hosts, who remained within striking distance, at bay. But down the stretch, the combination of Rose and Deng, as well as the perimeter firepower of Brewer and Korver, were too much for the feisty Timberwolves.

Tom Thibodeau on Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah leaving Bulls: 'It doesn't last forever'

Tom Thibodeau on Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah leaving Bulls: 'It doesn't last forever'

The winds of change are becoming as constant in the NBA as it is in the NFL, as players and coaches are seemingly more associated with their own brands than they are their employers.

Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is living proof of that and wasn’t surprised the winds caught his former bookends Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, as both will start next season as members of the New York Knicks.

Rose was traded before the draft in a multi-player deal while Noah signed a $72 million deal in free agency to go back to his native city.

“It’s sort of the nature of the league. It doesn’t last forever,” said Thibodeau, as the USA Men’s National Basketball team prepares for the Olympics with an exhibition contest against Venezuela Friday night at the United Center. “That was a special group of guys. From where they started, and unfortunately the injuries derailed it some but it was a very prideful group, a proud group.”

Rose and Noah’s best years were with Thibodeau on the sidelines, with Rose winning Most Valuable Player in 2011 and Noah finishing fourth in voting in 2014 before injuries caught them both.

“They never gave up, never succumbed to the circumstances,” Thibodeau said. “They found different ways to win, different guys stepped up. That’s the way the league works. Over time, people leave with free agency, change teams. I’m happy for those guys that they’re gonna get another opportunity. They’ve earned it.”

[MORE: Jimmy Butler says he no longer wears a chip on his shoulder]

Thibodeau’s five-year run in Chicago certainly ended controversially and definitely left many wondering “what if”, but it he knew it wouldn’t be long before taking another position like the one he accepted to become coach and president of the Minnesota Timberwolves this spring.

As usual, he was gracious about the time he spent in Chicago, and the city itself.

“A lot of great memories. Five years coaching and I stayed last year,” Thibodeau said. “I love the city, the fans were great to me the whole time. You look back, you think of all the great memories you have. Great history, great tradition and we had great guys. It was very enjoyable to coach that team.”

Surprisingly, the workaholic coach said the time off was good for him, as it likely gave him a chance for reflection and an opportunity to rejuvenate himself physically and mentally from the unforgiving NBA grind.

“When you take a step back, and you don’t have the next team to worry about, you take a broader view of things,” Thibodeau said. “You get a lot of new ideas, it’s a chance to recharge. You learn a lot. Sometimes taking a step back is a good thing.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans]

The next time Thibodeau walks across the United Center floor after Friday night, he’ll be in gametime mode as head coach of the Timberwolves, doing everything he can to get a win.

The smiles will dissipate and the general ease in which he interacts with the media and other personnel will disappear. But for right now, he’s an assistant to USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski for another Olympic run, hoping to help keep the United States on top of the global basketball world.

“This has been an incredible experience for me, to be around the great players and the hall of fame basketball people you’re around,” Thibodeau said

Bulls sign guard Spencer Dinwiddie

Bulls sign guard Spencer Dinwiddie

The Bulls announced Thursday that the team has signed guard Spencer Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie was acquired by the Bulls in mid-June, but he was then waived by the team at the start of July. Now, with an open roster spot, the Bulls will bring Dinwiddie back to serve as depth in the backcourt. 

He was a member of the 2016 Chicago Bulls NBA Summer League squad, and he averaged 10.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 24.6 minutes through seven games during the team’s successful tournament run in Las Vegas.

Dinwiddie spent the first two seasons of his career with the Detroit Pistons, where he posted 4.4 points, 2.7 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 13.3 minutes per game. A product of the University of Colorado, the 23-year-old was selected by the Pistons in the second round (38th overall) of the 2014 NBA Draft.

Bulls: Jimmy Butler says he no longer wears a chip on his shoulder

Bulls: Jimmy Butler says he no longer wears a chip on his shoulder

The biggest thing on Jimmy Butler—next to his haircut—has likely been the golden nugget-sized chip on his shoulder he proudly wore on his journey from non-entity to All-Star and Olympian.

However, Butler claims that invisible attribute that has taken him to unforeseen heights is gone as he’s two months away from leading a Bulls team that has undergone the most significant roster overhaul in his career.

Perhaps it’s a tacit admission about changing his leadership style, but it’s certainly a change on face value.

“I don’t think I have a chip on my shoulder anymore,” Butler said at USA Basketball practice at the United Center Thursday, one day before an exhibition against Venezuela. “I don’t think I have too much to prove like back in the day. That doesn’t mean I don’t work hard or anything. I just think I go about things a little differently.”

He didn’t actually specify how he’ll do things differently but perhaps the quest for validation that has driven him to insatiable heights and a few questionable moments on the way is over.

With Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose dispatched to New York, followed by the surprising additions of ring bearers Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, perhaps he’s feeling more secure about where he ranks on the team masthead.

“I think I have to catch up with them, with the winning mentality,” Butler said. “I think I can learn a lot from those guys. D-Wade, multiple championships. Rondo bringing in his intensity.”

[SHOP: Buy a Jimmy Butler Team USA shirt]

Wade and Rondo have the championship receipts that Butler doesn’t have, so Butler feels he’ll learn more from them as opposed to worrying about the on-court fit that on paper, doesn’t seem to be ideal.

“I don’t do the analytics and numbers. D-Wade has put the ball in the basket for a number of years,” Butler said. “He’s a great player because of the way he can score. I don’t think you can call him a non-shooter because he can shoot the ball.

“Rondo, call him what you want but he’s effective at what he does. Same thing with myself. You gotta be able to knock down shots.”

Before those new acquisitions, Butler had to deal with the belief he had Rose shipped out as a mark of some type of organizational power, as the two were never fully able to maximize their partnership on the floor to the tune of playoff success or even chemistry.

Then, in a stunning turn of events that seemed to indicate his fingerprints couldn’t be on much of anything, Butler had to endure trade rumors of his own the next day during the NBA draft.

He hasn’t spoken many times this offseason with the exception of summer league and an ESPN media tour in Los Angeles, but the proverbial scars are there and he addressed the rumors.

“That has nothing to do with me, I don’t move guys,” Butler said. “People are gonna think what they’re gonna think. I don’t let it bother me. I know where I stand, I know who I am. It’s one more thing for people to talk about. I don’t pay too much attention to it.”

[MORE: Bulls release 2016 preseason schedule]

He has spoken to Rose since the trade, as Rose attended an USA Basketball game in Los Angeles and the two chatted during the contest. And he exchanged texts with Noah after Noah broke the bank for a $72 million deal with the New York Knicks in free agency.

“We’ll always have love for each other because we’re always teammates, we’ve been in the trenches together.”