Memphis Massacre: Bulls top Grizzlies by 40

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Memphis Massacre: Bulls top Grizzlies by 40

Updated: Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012 at 11:05 p.m.

Tom Thibodeau must have taken notes from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick while he was a Celtics assistant coach. The Bulls head coach declined to disclose the fact that a starter would be held out of the lineup during his pregame media availability.

But it wouldnt matter Sunday night, as the Bulls (4-1) beat the Grizzlies (1-3) in a laugher, 104-64, at the United Center. Although visiting Memphis was also short-handed, the home teams focus and defensive intensity were impressive in the rout.

I liked the way we approached the game. I thought we were good on defense and good on offense, so it was a step in the right direction, said Thibodeau. We had a lot of things go our way tonight.

The newest Bull, Rip Hamilton, sat out of the contest, due to a groin strain, which meant the inclusion of swingman Ronnie Brewer (17 points, seven rebounds, five assists) in the starting lineup. For some teams, that could be an issue, but Brewer, who has been playing well from his usual reserve role as of late, stepped up in the opening period by attacking the basket and knocking down his improving outside jumper.

You need everybody, Thibodeau explained. Our bench has played very, very effectively in short minutes.

Ronnie stepped in and hes played great all preseason, played well in the regular season, so it was good for him to get extra minutes, he continued. Hes playing with a lot of confidence and he has right from the start of training camp. I think he just picked up where he left off. At the end of last year, he was playing really well, so I think hes gotten his confidence back and we need him.

With two defensive-minded squads facing off, the early-game shooting percentages were predictably ugly, but the home team, boasting the drive-and-kick abilities of Derrick Rose (16 points, six assists) and the all-around efforts of Luol Deng (11 points, seven rebounds), obtained a bit of breathing room. Chicago continued plugging away and with stout defense leading the way, acquired a 25-12 advantage after the opening period.

The low-scoring affair followed the same pattern in the second quarter, with the Bulls gradually extending their winning margin, as the Grizzlies were forced to play without the services of Zach Randolph, the teams go-to scorer.

Deng and fellow forwards Carlos Boozer (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Taj Gibson were productive against the scrappy visitors, who utilized the likes of second-round draft pick Josh Selby, new acquisitions Quincy Pondexter and Dante Cunningham and free-agent pickups Josh Davis and Jeremy Pargo, the latter of whom started at point guard in place of the injured Mike Conley.

Memphis is a tough team, said Thibodeau. We caught a break with Randolph getting hurt and of course, Conley being out.

Boozer took advantage of Randolphs absence to hit mid-range jumpers, attack the glass and even wreak havoc on the interior with his feathery touch on post moves, reaching a double-double by halftime. Along with stifling defense that held the visitors to 26.8 percent shooting from the field, Roses floor leadership also played a big part in the Bulls taking a seemingly insurmountable lead, 54-28 into the break.

Carlos was big, said Thibodeau. He was really, really good. Ran the floor, played defense, rebounded the ball, scored. He played really, really well.

Chimed in his longtime teammate -- with the Utah Jazz before joining the Bulls -- Brewer: He was really aggressive. I think he set the tone. We were going to be aggressive offensively and we were going to be aggressive defensively. He was making shots, he was rebounding and he was playing like the old Booz that I know.

Things didnt get any better for the visitors after the intermission, as Rose looked to be more assertive as a scorer and other than center Marc Gasol (eight points, 10 rebounds), the Grizzlies couldnt muster up much offense against their hosts. Chicago continued its recent trend of pushing the pace and implanting its transition game, leading to easy baskets off Memphis turnovers.

Derrick, he gives you whatever the team needs. He got us off to a really good start with his defense, pushing the ball up the floor and when hes pushing the ball like that, it gets everyone moving, and we needed that energy. His line doesnt really reflect how well he played, said Thibodeau, always conscious of how hes pacing his team. The thing is, right now were just concerned with improving every day. The minutes part of it Derricks in great shape; he can handle the big minutes. Luols in great shape; he can handle big minutes. The thing I did like is we needed our bench guys to get more minutes. Theyve earned more minutes, but its hard to give it to them.

Joakim Noah (eight points, seven rebounds), was also a valuable contributor, doing everything from hitting his patented Tornado jumper to making plays for his teammates with his playmaking ability, and of course, crashing the boards.

The Grizzlies hole got deeper and deeper as time went on, and an improbable third quarter highlighted by the play of backup center Omer Asik (eight points, eight rebounds, three blocked shots) concluded with the Bulls up by 40 points, 84-44.

It helps my game improve, especially offensively. Those type of games help me a lot, Asik told CSNChicago.com. I try to play more aggressive on offense.

Concurred Thibodeau: Omer was very good and Omers starting to react to the ball again, his rebounding was terrific, clogging up the lane.

The final stanza began on a negative note, as reserve point guard C.J. Watson injured his left elbow diving for a loose ball early in the period, prompting Thibodeau to insert third-stringer John Lucas III. Still, Memphis woeful offensive showing meant that, for all intents and purposes, the game was long over the crowd in an oddly subdued United Center began chanting for Thibodeau to substitute fan favorite Brian Scalabrine into the contest but Lucas didnt make any assumptions, as he poured in eight points almost immediately, matching the point total of any Grizzlies player at the time.

When you have an injury, the next guys got to step in. thats why you have them, said Thibodeau about the point guard, whose father he once worked under as an assistant coach. John has filled that role before.

Bulls fans got their wish, as Scalabrine entered the contest, and rookie Jimmy Butler scored his first two regular-season NBA points. In fact, by the end of the game, the only mysteries were whether Scalabrine would score (he wouldnt), Lucas would reach double figures (he didnt) and if any Grizzlies would reach double figures (reserve swingman Sam Young finished with 10 points) in the blowout victory.

I think every game is important. You dont want to start the season at home with a bad taste in your mouth, especially with the shortened season and how many games are coming up in a short amount of time, so we wanted to get this first win. We knew that they were a good team, said Brewer, who briefly played for the Grizzlies after the Jazz sent him to Utah in a midseason trade the season before the Bulls signed him as a free agent.

We knew we couldnt take them lightly and we had to play them tough, so thats what we did, Brewer concluded.

Joakim Noah posts Instagram picture wearing Knicks hat

Joakim Noah posts Instagram picture wearing Knicks hat

Joakim Noah doesn't have time for "unnamed league sources."

The former Bulls center posted a picture to his Instagram account on Friday afternoon of himself wearing a New York Knicks hat, indicating he has signed with the team as a free agent.

Jah bless

A photo posted by Joakim Noah (@stickity13) on

Indications since last night, when free agency began, were that Noah, who spent 10 seasons in Chicago, was going to sign with his hometown Knicks.

Last week the Bulls dealt Derrick Rose to the Knicks in a five-player deal. Noah and Rose have been teammates since Rose came into the league in 2008.

NBA free agency tracker: The latest on the Bulls

NBA free agency tracker: The latest on the Bulls

It's Friday evening and the Bulls have not yet inked any new contracts during the free agency period.

But they have been mentioned with a handful of players. Some have been signed by opposing teams, while others remain free agents. Here's a look at the players who have been linked to the Bulls in reports:

July 1: Solomon Hill, SF - TNT's David Aldridge tweeted early Friday morning the Bulls were interested in Hill. The Pacers small forward averaged 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds in 59 games last season. Aldridge tweeted that the Jazz and Grizzlies were also looking at the 25-year-old Hill.

Update: Hill wound up signing with the Pelicans on a four-year, $48 million deal, according to Marc Stein.

July 1: E'Twaun Moore, SG - The Bulls have long been linked to re-signing Moore, who had a career year in his second season with the Bulls. But there's plenty of competition for the combo guard's services. Stein tweeted that Moore was set to meet with teams later Friday and would "move quickly" in a decision. The Bucks, Wolves and Pelicans were three of six teams who reportedly reached out to Moore.

July 1: Dion Waiters, SG - ESPN's Dave McMenamin reported early Friday morning that the Bulls were one of six teams who reached out to representatives of Dion Waiters. One of the biggest surprises in last year's playoffs, Waiters averaged 8.4 points, connected on 38 percent of his 3's and played stellar defense in the postseason. Waiters has attracted the most attention from the Kings, per reports, and there's been little to suggest the Bulls are actively pursuing the 24-year-old shooting guard.

June 30: Tyler Johnson, SG - During Adrian Wojnarowski's free agency show streaming on Yahoo, the NBA reporter noted that the Bulls were interested in Miami's Tyler Johnson. The 24-year-old shooting guard showed promise in his second season with the Heat, averaging 8.7 points on 48.6 percent shooting in 36 games, including five starts. His season was cut short in February due to a shoulder injury. He's a restricted free agent, but with the Heat signing Hassan Whiteside to a max deal and still attempting to bring back Dwyane Wade - and potentially sign Kevin Durant - Pat Riley likely won't have the money to bring back Johnson with a matched offer sheet.

June 30: Evan Turner, SG - On the eve of free agency, Sean Deveney reported that the Bulls, along with the Lakers, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Knicks and Pelicans all were interested in Turner. The Chicago native was in line for a significant payday following a successful year off the bench in Boston, where he averaged 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists in just 28 minutes.

Update: After missing out on Chandler Parsons (Memphis), the Trail Blazers struck quickly and inked Turner to a four-year, $70 million deal.

June 30: Moe Harkless, SF - Thursday night, Alex Kennedy reported that the Bulls were one of five teams, including the Pistons, Wizards, Lakers and Mavericks, interested in the Blazers' restricted free agent. Harkless performed well in last year's playoffs, averaging 11.0 points and 5.1 rebounds. He was particularly impressive in the first round against the Clippers, averaging 12.7 points on 47.6 percent shooting and 6.2 rebounds in the six-game victory. With the Blazers signing Evan Turner to a $70 million deal, it's unlikely they'd match an offer sheet on Harkless.

June 30: Harrison Barnes, SF - The Bulls have been linked to Barnes for quite some time. The Sixers have come on strong as a team that could offer the restricted free agent a max contract. But even if the Bulls or Sixers, or another team, offer Barnes a max contract, the Warriors are reportedly expected to match any deal if they don't sign Kevin Durant, who met with the Warriors on Friday. CSN's David Kaplan also heard from multiple people that Barnes was in Chicago earlier this week. Barnes struggled mightily in last year's NBA Finals, shooting 5-for-32 in the last three games of the series. Still, at just 24 years old, he has plenty of room to grow and hasn't yet been featured as a team's No. 1 or No. 2 option.

How Bulls could land a max free agent and re-sign E’Twaun Moore

How Bulls could land a max free agent and re-sign E’Twaun Moore

Quick note here because we are all eager to get back to our twitter feeds and wild speculation. Even though the Bulls will only have approximately $24 million in cap space, there is one situation in which they can sign a Tier 1 max player AND re-sign E’twaun Moore.

This all hinges on the deal (and discount) that Moore would give the Bulls. The Bulls have Early-Bird rights with Moore; that means they can potentially sign him to a deal and not eat into their cap space. There are a lot of rules into how this works and I won’t bore you with details, but the bottom line is that the Bulls can offer a 3-year deal for approx. $21 million or a 4-year deal for appox $28 million. If Moore accepts this contract, the Bulls just to have account for his ‘cap hold’ of $980,431 in free agency until the actual deal is signed. 

This potential deal would leave the Bulls approximately $23 million to spend, well above the $22.2 million it would take to land a Tier 1 (0-6 year NBA player) in free agency. This includes restricted free agent Harrison Barnes. Again, this only works if Moore doesn’t want to test free agency, or doesn’t receive a better offer in free agency. If Moore wants more money, the Bulls have to use their cap space to sign him to a larger deal.

One important key to any restricted free agent like Barnes, the Warriors will have 3 days to match any offer sheet that Barnes signs. Barnes can’t sign an offer sheet until July 7th, so the Warriors effectively will have until at least July 10th to make that decision. This prevents any team like the Bulls ‘swooping’ in and landing Barnes while Kevin Durant conducts his meetings in the Hamptons.