Bulls back in Boston, ready to renew Celtics rivalry

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Bulls back in Boston, ready to renew Celtics rivalry

BOSTON Its only fitting that Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, a native of nearby Connecticut, spent his 55th birthday Thursday in Boston, a place where, from his days as a college assistant at Harvard to winning an NBA championship with the Celtics, hes experienced many pivotal moments during his long career.

Friday, however, its back to business, as Thibodeaus Bulls, after an off day following Wednesdays overtime win in Toronto, will take on the Celtics, his former employer.

Although Boston is coming off a disappointing loss to a hapless Hornets team featuring rookie guard Austin Rivers, the son of Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, in their first meeting between father and son the Celtics were coming off a six-game winning streak before that defeat. In the 2013 calendar year, the Bulls and Celtics, buoyed by the Jan. 2 return of defensive specialist Avery Bradley from injury in their first game of the new year, have identical 6-2 records.

Theyve been playing good lately. I havent seen them play, but Ive seen a couple of stat lines. Scoring a lot more points at home. I think getting guard Avery Bradley back has kind of infused them a little bit. Theyre playing with a lot more energy, a lot more up-tempo. Him and Rondo in the backcourt can D up and be a little bit of a nuisance, so weve got to be ready for them, Carlos Boozer observed. Theyre a very good team. They still have great championship tendencies. They do everything the right way. They play tough D, they try to rebound, they pass the ball. Theyre a very good basketball team, so they pose a big challenge for us. We look forward to playing them.

For teammate Joakim Noah, playing in Boston also has a special meaning, as his coming-out party as an NBA player occurred in the playoffs during his second season, when the Bulls and Celtics staged an epic, seven-game first-round battle, with Thibodeau on the opposing sidelines for the then-defending champions.

Its always fun, a great place to play basketball. They have tough fans and its a great basketball environment, especially with the history we have with them, with the series from four, five years ago? Thats five years ago? Expletive, Im getting old, Noah said. That series was special. Even though we lost, it was my first playoff series and just playing in those overtimes, those hostile environments, playing in games like that are the games that hopefully I can show my grandkids. Even though we lost, I love those games because I feel like they gave me a shot, they gave me confidence to take my game to another level.

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Isaiah Canaan

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Isaiah Canaan

Chicago Bulls training camp is right around the corner, with the first preseason game coming Oct. 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Between then and now, CSNChicago.com will take a look at each player on the Bulls’ roster to preview and possibly project their importance to the team as the Bulls hope to qualify for the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

Player: Isaiah Canaan

Position: Point Guard/Shooting guard

Experience: 4th season

2015-16 stats: 11.0 points, 1.8 rebounds

2016-17 Outlook: It’ll be a game of musical chairs in the Bulls’ backcourt this season with the backup positions and Canaan will be in the mix for playing time at both positions, despite his small 6-foot-0 frame.

He’s more scorer than facilitator and looks for his offense, being aggressive in the pick and roll and in the open floor. It could be a change of pace from Rajon Rondo’s style, as Rondo can push the pace but will definitely be in control. If Canaan beats out Jerian Grant, Spencer Dinwiddie and Denzel Valentine for minutes, he’s going to play at a breakneck speed, looking to force the action and reacquainting himself with a familiar statistic: Field Goals Attempted.

Per 36 minutes last year, he took 13.2 shots and nearly nine of them came from the 3-point line, which accounts for his career shooting percentage being below 37, as he gets up a huge bulk from the long line.

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Having spent the majority of his career with the then-tanking Philadelphia 76ers, Canaan’s value is hard to project and one wonders if he’s gotten accustomed to losing environments.

In Philly, though, he was able to get plenty of experience, playing 77 games last season in what was probably as eye-opening for him as anything he’s ever endured in the NBA.

With the depth, though, seeing the above-mentioned players likely being ahead of him in the rotation means the Bulls won’t be as dependent on him for wins — but during those dog days of the season, when the injuries can pile up and the excitement is low, one wonders if Fred Hoiberg can toss Canaan out there and his energy can help the Bulls to a win or two in February — which could come handy in April when all wins matter if you’re trying to compete for a playoff spot.

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Doug McDermott

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Doug McDermott

Chicago Bulls training camp is right around the corner, with the first preseason game coming Oct. 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Between then and now, CSNChicago.com will take a look at each player on the Bulls’ roster to preview and possibly project their importance to the team as the Bulls hope to qualify for the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

Player: Doug McDermott

Position: Small Forward

Experience: 3rd season

2015-16 Stats: 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds

2016-17 Outlook: It’s been a steady progression for Doug McDermott from his rookie year to last season, as he’s symbolic of what Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wants his system to be: A floor-spreading, free-wheeling wide open system, one that displays the new reality of the NBA.

McDermott, at times last season, showed his proficiency despite his limitations. Few were better from the 3-point line, as he shot 42.5 percent, ranking fifth in the NBA. In semi-transition, he was a sure bet to spot up from the left wing and position himself for a pass and quick release.

With Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo all able to make plays, McDermott will be counted on more than he has before to make shots with space at a premium.

McDermott and Nikola Mirotic will have to provide the shooting to keep defenses honest, which could lead to McDermott being the first sub off the bench for a guy like Wade or Butler, leaving the latter to anchor the second unit in the second quarter.

His game opened up last season after the All-Star break, especially with his ability to create his own shot. It’s not a staple of his game and who knows how much he’ll have to use it with the ballhandlers on the floor, but he did have a reliable baseline fadeaway and one-legged runner he would go to every once in awhile.

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The Bulls’ offense ran better with him on the floor, averaging 116 points per 100 possessions. February produced his best month as a pro, averaging nearly 15 a game on 52 percent shooting—splits that could be more common as his career progresses. But what he gives, he often gives away on the defensive end and it’ll be a battle to keep him on the floor with some of the concerns the team will have as a whole.

Keeping players in front of him with his lateral movement is an issue, and even being in the right place defensively off the ball isn’t a given. But a lot of that is scheme and the Bulls have to be better collectively.

Expecting him to take another step this season as he knows what to expect and gains more confidence in his own game isn’t unreasonable—and finding consistency will be important to his future in the league, as he’ll be eligible for an extension following his third season.

In other words, there’s plenty of tangible and intangible incentive to improve.