Bulls notes: Rose improving core strength

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Bulls notes: Rose improving core strength

TORONTODuring the offseason, Derrick Rose talked about the silver lining of his torn ACL injury being that he could focus on strength training, something he previously neglected, due to his natural physical gifts.

Prior to his teams shootaround Wednesday morning, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau discussed the former league MVPs physical condition and concurred with Roses opinion.

Derricks one of those guys who stays in great shape year-round. Its about where hes been in the past, he said. Hes had to put more time into that, from that standpoint, so I think hes doing more core stuff, more for his lower body and I think guys sort of evolve into that. The longer youre in the league, the more you understand, too, how important that is for maintenance, to be able to endure getting nicked up during the course of the season.

Thibodeau wary of Raptors

As expected, Thibodeau wasnt resting on the laurels of the Bulls 97-58 Monday-night thrashing of Atlanta at the United Center.

The coach added that despite the Raptors mediocre record, he was concerned about their depth.

Thats gone, so you just get ready for Toronto. Practice well today, concentrate, just go step by step, be ready to go, he said. The activity of their bigs, Jose Calderon off the dribble, DeMar DeRozan off the dribble. Kyle Lowry had a pretty good ankle sprain last night, but then came back and played great in the fourth quarter.

"John Lucas III is an X-factor when he comes into the game, Fields is hard-playing, Ed Davis has played extremely well for them up front, Amir Johnson has played well. Aaron Gray is a guy who, if he gets deep post position, hes going to make you pay, Thibodeau continued. Theyre playing well. The last 10 games or so, theyre really playing well.

Lucas still on Bulls' minds

Luol Deng talked about the shoot-first nature of former teammate John Lucas III, known for his instant-offense ability.

Although Lucas is in Toronto, Deng said that the backup point guard still keeps in touch with his old team.

Thats just his game. Theres some guys in this league, you just know when they get the opportunity, theyre going to get shots up and sometimes you wonder why theyre not playing a lot of minutes, and thats probably why. But its just his game, he quipped.

John is always talking smack somehow, whether its on Twitter or texting you, something he saw. Hes always staying on his former teammates.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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