Rose, Rip backcourt keep Bulls perfect at home

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Rose, Rip backcourt keep Bulls perfect at home

Updated: Monday, Jan. 23 at 11:43 p.m.

Maybe Tom Thibodeaus frequently-repeated mantras about the Bulls depth should be taken more seriously.

Six Bulls (16-3) scored in double figures Monday evening, as the Nets (5-13) became the latest team to be thrashed at the United Center running the Bulls home mark to 8-0 on the season 110-95, earning the home team its fourth straight win.

We have confidence in one another and were not letting any of the attention or any of the critics get to us. Were just doing our thing. Were our biggest critics at the end of the day. Were happy with the record, but were not satisfied. Were just going to keep fighting and keep getting better, said Joakim Noah. I think we could have played better defensively tonight. I think we started off in the first quarter playing solid defense, but I think we let them score too many points at the end, but I guess its good to win by 20 and be critical. I think if you have that mentality, I think were good.

Still short-handed, but with an influx of walking wounded back in the lineup Derrick Rose (22 points, eight assists, five rebounds) and Noah (16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) returned to action after missing four games and a single contest, respectively. The Bulls looked more energized than their weary opponent, playing their third game in three consecutive nights.

But it was fill-in starter (for the injured Luol Deng, who suffered a wrist injury in Saturdays home win over Charlotte) Ronnie Brewer (11 points, five rebounds) who had the hot hand early against a New Jersey lineup that featured four fellow ex-Jazz players (Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur, DeShawn Stevenson and Kris Humphries, who was booed by United Center fans apparently familiar with his brief marriage to reality-show star Kim Kardashian) as starters.

Rose, who knocked down a pair of first-quarter triples, and Noah looked no worse for the wear, particularly the latter, who was active, aggressive and showcased an adept scoring touch at the games outset.

Chicagos depth was tested almost immediately, however, as Carlos Boozer (14 points, nine rebounds, two steals, two blocked shots) picked up his second foul and with Taj Gibson inactive (and Deng, who can slide over to power forward, also out), veteran forward Brian Scalabrine, usually a deep reserve, saw extensive minutes.

In addition to balanced and efficient offense, the Bulls also displayed their trademark stifling defense, limiting the visitors to a mostly poor quality of shot selection. As the opening period went on, however, the Nets, propelled by the playmaking of All-Star point guard Williams (16 points, 10 assists), started to find a rhythm, although after a largely positive quarter of play, the Bulls lead stood at 28-18.

Rip Hamilton (22 points, 10 assists), whose passing was actually his strong point in the games initial stanza, went over the 15,000-point mark for his career, becoming the 120th NBA player ever and 20th active player to do so.

Its a great feeling. I didnt know it until they said it today. I think I owe it to all my great teammates I played with my whole career, said Hamilton of the achievement. All the bigs setting screens and things like that. I think I need to take them all out to eat. But its a great accomplishment.

Bulls fans had a reason to cheer for Scalabrine for more than a token late-game blowout appearance, as the self-described White Mamba scored on an acrobatic reverse layup that brought the crowd to its feet in the second quarter, followed by a pair of nice assists to backup center Omer Asik. A modified second-unit rotation, featuring Hamilton in Dengs role as an all-purpose wing scorer and distributor, helped the home team create more separation and develop a comfortable cushion.

Explained Thibodeau: I wanted to keep a starter out there. Rip is feeling better and better, so we extended his minutes a little bit.

Even after the rest of the Bulls starters were reinserted into the contest, Hamiltons strong play persisted and he was joined by his backcourt partner, Rose, who thrilled the partisan audience with consecutive steals and breakaway finishes, though he didnt utilize any high-wire theatrics, in a nod to concern for his injured toe.

I kind of knew that I was going to play this game, but I had to take my time. I had a lot of days off, so those days will help me with my recovery, said Rose. All the games that I missed, I wanted to play, knowing that this year has been great with winning I cant complain about anything but I hate to sit out, I hate being injured, just missing action, playing against great people, playing against great guards.

It didnt hurt during the game, he continued, though he acknowledged that he was kind of scared on the fast break to really dunk the ball.

After first allowing their guests to cut the deficit to single digits, the Bulls, led by Hamiltons all-around efforts and Rose, who finally showcased his explosion on a powerful drive and finish toward the end of the half, found a comfort zone and at the intermission, held a 59-43 advantage.

To miss as much time as he did and come out and play like he did says a lot about him. His timing obviously wasnt there, but hell get up to speed very quickly and I thought he played very hard, said Thibodeau. He had a lot of explosive plays and I also think when you miss that amount of time, your conditioning goes. Hell get that back quickly.

Noah was a force immediately after the break, finishing at the rim, being a factor on both ends of the glass, putting solid post moves to use and generally displaying the scoring touch he showed off at the beginning of last season, but has been inconsistent since then. The charismatic center was only one aspect of the Bulls efficient offense, which led to gaudy team shooting numbers against their smallish opponents suspect defense.

I feel pretty good. I feel Ive just got to keep working, get back to 100 percent, get my ankle right, said Noah, who described his injured left ankle as feeling pretty good afterwards. Everybodys really focused on recovery more than past years Ive been here. Guys are working really, really hard and we understand whats at stake, and just enjoying it, enjoying playing basketball with a great group of guys.

Added Thibodeau: Hes been playing at a really high level and with him missing last game, I was a little concerned about his timing in this game and he missed a couple bunnies early, but he was extremely active and he got more comfortable as the game went along.

Williams attempted to take advantage of his hobbled counterpart and was somewhat effective in doing so, but he had little help other than sharpshooter Anthony Morrow (15 points) and backup point guard Jordan Farmars (21 points) contributions and thus, the Nets were unable to chip away at their disadvantage.

Meanwhile, Hamilton continued to knock down his patented mid-range jumper at a high clip and Rose put pressure on the defense with shifty, warp-speed drives in transition, leading to the Bulls ending the third quarter up, 85-68.

Its every aspect of the game. Great leadership, playmaking ability, big shot-making ability and more importantly, he makes the right play. When hes open, he shoots. When hes guarded, he makes the right read and if hes double-teamed, he knows where the holes are, said Thibodeau of Hamilton. He makes the game simple, gets easy shots for people, and he runs the floor and he never stops moving, so it makes your offense hard to be defended and I think that becomes contagious also. We had 33 assists, so the ball was hopping. We got into a pretty good rhythm.

Chimed in Rose: Its way easier, knowing that hes the guy thats creating, helping everyone, it takes a load off of me. Hes a great passer. We can give him the ball and he can create for others.

Hamiltons blend of scoring and playmaking set the tone in the final stanza, with Asik (10 points) and backup point guard C.J. Watson also making contributions that kept the home teams wide winning margin intact.

A lot of plays are the same. Its just learning the different terminology and I think every day, I get better at it. The offense is the offense. Every day I get better at reading my teammates. Its just basketball at the end of the day, said Hamilton. With me, its not just about scoring. Theres so many great players on this team and my job is to try to make everybodys job easy. If its scoring, if its passing or whatever.

Rose did find fault with one aspect of his teams performance.

Playing a 48-minute game. Towards the end of the game, we tend to let teams score a little bit, but hopefully we can fix that pretty soon, he said, disregarding the fact that the Bulls currently have the leagues best record. Its too early. Its way too early. First part of the season. Were not worried about that. We know that weve got a long way to go.

Now the Bulls prepare for what promises to be a tough test with the 11-4 Indiana Pacers visiting the United Center.

Were playing against a great opponent on Wednesday, an opponent whos going to be really hungry here. Its always exciting to play against Indiana, said Noah about the Bulls upcoming game against their Central Division rivals and last seasons first-round playoff foe. Were focused right now and weve just got to keep it up, have a good practice tomorrow and do it all over again.

Fred Hoiberg, Jimmy Butler rave about Rajon Rondo's voice, basketball IQ

Fred Hoiberg, Jimmy Butler rave about Rajon Rondo's voice, basketball IQ

With one Bulls practice in the books and one more to go in the night session, it was evident from the primary parties that Rajon Rondo has earned instant trust and credibility with his play.

Or more pointedly, his brain and his mouth.

“He’s got the best voice on the team,” head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “When you have point guard out there who can get you into something and talk the way he does, that sets the tone for everybody.”

Apparently the ultra-intelligent point guard has been a galvanizing force since the team starting convening last month for informal workouts, as Hoiberg believes Rondo has grasped his system instantly and brought some of the younger teammates along.

“The biggest thing that I’ve been most impressed with with Rajon is the minute he stepped on this floor when he got back here in August is he pulled everybody together,” Hoiberg said. “If you have a guy not only offensively getting you into something but defensively making sure guys are pointing and talking and making sure guys are pointing and talking and getting back and matched up in transition, that’s where it starts. He’s been here. He’s been great. He’s a guy who you can watch film with in September before we got rolling here in camp. He got us off to a great start.”

Needing Rondo to be vocal will be a plus for Hoiberg considering the coach’s soft-spoken approach, and those two being on one accord will be a key considering Rondo’s history with coaches over time.

Rondo’s intelligence, which most consider to be genius-like, has already come in handy and will help with the perimeter adjustment of fitting himself, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade together.

“Like I always say, when you put good basketball players out there on the floor you just go,” Butler said. “Everything just falls into place, falls into line. You don’t have to worry about too much of anything. And with him he’s an incredible leader. He just wants everybody to be successful. He’s going to put you in position to be just that.”

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Rondo has led the league in assists three times and his career 8.7 assists-per-game average is third among active players behind Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers) and John Wall (Washington Wizards).

“He has been around the league a long time,” Hoiberg said. “He studies the league. If he sees a small guy guarding Jimmy, he’s going to find a way to get him the ball on the block. The more you can have those guys recognizing things on the floor---if Robin Lopez is coming down and I have to yell, ‘Get the ball to Robin’ then we have issues -- and Rondo obviously will be a big help with that.”

So yeah, he’ll have the ball in his hands plenty.

“He’s super-smart. He really sees things before they even develop out there on the basketball floor, so it makes everybody’s job a lot easier," Butler said. "And not only is he leading the team on offense, but he’s constantly talking on defense, so he’s letting everybody know where they have to be. Wade’s the same way, so he makes everybody’s job easier as well, and you learn from that, so you just follow suit for the most part.’’

Butler joked that there will often be times where a Rondo pass zigs while he’ll be zagging early in camp while chemistry is developing, saying “I’m sorry, Rajon, because you’re going to definitely get a turnover from me one game,” and that he won’t be opposed to Rondo getting on him or anybody else in the meantime.

“I’m good with that,” Butler said. “I’ll challenge him right back if I see something that he’s not doing correctly. I want him to hold me accountable, me hold him accountable, everybody holding everybody accountable, because then everybody is going to learn from their mistakes and not to it again.”

Stan Bowman mum on Artemi Panarin contract talks

Stan Bowman mum on Artemi Panarin contract talks

In July, when asked how contract talks were going with star forward Artemi Panarin, general manager Stan Bowman said he wouldn’t negotiate through the media.

He reiterated that on Tuesday.

“Obviously Artemi's a big part of our team. We're excited for the season he had. We're looking forward to him building on that as well. Then the negotiations will be what they are between his agent and myself,” I respect Tom [Lynn, Panarin’s agent]. He's a very knowledgeable guy, and Artemi put a lot of faith in him. And Tom and I will work to get something done.”

Panarin is entering the final year of his current contract and is coming off a monster rookie season in which he recorded 77 points and took home the Calder Trophy. Panarin took home plenty of bonus money thanks to that season, too.

The 24-year-old could certainly command a hefty price, which would once again be a major concern to the cash-strapped Blackhawks. The salary cap is at $73 million for this season, a small increase from 2015-16 ($71.4 million). Factor in another likely small increase next season and the large contracts the Blackhawks are already doling out – Brent Seabrook’s eight-year deal with a cap hit of $6.875 kicks in this season – and could Panarin be another one that gets away?

But Bowman remains optimistic.

“We're always confident,” he said. “You go into a negotiation expecting to get a deal done. That's the way I've been in the past and that's the way I am now.”