Bulls teammates eager for Rose's return

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Bulls teammates eager for Rose's return

Whether Derrick Rose returns to the Bulls lineup in Sundays afternoon matinee at New York, Tuesdays home game against the Knicks or one of the teams other remaining 10 games this regular season, his teammates will welcome him back with open arms. That seems obvious, but even after posting a stellar record with the leagues reigning MVP sidelined due to a litany of injuries currently a strained right groin the Bulls are under no illusions that despite owning the NBAs top record, they can make it to the promised land without the All-Star point guard, regardless of how many times Tom Thibodeaus mantra of having more than enough to win games proves true.

C.J. Watson, Luke John Lucas III, those guys have been doing a great job stepping in for him, but having Derrick just makes it easier. A lot of attention on him offensively, his defense has been great and it just makes it easier for everyone when everyone is healthy, Luol Deng explained. Everybody knows were a better team with him. Weve got 10 games now. I think weve really got to lock in as a team. The practices weve got, those 10 games and just trying to get better and see how good we can be going into the playoffs. Weve learned a lot from last year and just going into now, I think well be better prepared. Last year was the first time for a lot of us, going that deep, but were expecting to go deep this year and we really want to lock in, and then give it a run.

Of course. He needs to also, continued Roses fellow All-Star, when asked if it would be beneficial for Rose to be back in action for the regular seasons stretch run. Hes getting healthier and hopefully hes out there soon. The sooner hes out there, the better. Also, getting in game shape. It takes a while to get in that type of shape.

Im excited. Im looking forward to it. It just makes it a lot easier. With Rip being back and Derrick being back, those guys, they know the game of basketball and its definitely going to make it easier.

Reinforced Joakim Noah: We definitely want Derrick back out there. He helps, you know? But even when Derrick comes back, its not going to be easy. Weve got a long road ahead with a lot of games, a lot of battles and with Derrick back, we have to play hungry and when we play hungry, were tough to beat.

Echoed Carlos Boozer: Weve been holding it down without him, but we cant wait to get him back out there.

Perhaps the player who will be most ecstatic to see Rose on the court again will be Watson, whos been battling through a variety of ailments, both disclosed and undisclosed, throughout the injury-riddled campaign, but bounced back from a recent slump with a solid performance in Thursdays home win over Boston, which snapped a season-high two-game Bulls losing streak.

Next question, joked the backup point guard and fill-in starter, when asked about the nature of his woes. Its tough, but Ive just got to fight through it. Short season. Everyones banged up on our team.

Its pretty hard, continued Watson, who noted that he doubts Thibodeau rests him during practices and games after Roses return Maybe. You never know. Maybe he wakes up and feels good one day, he quipped despite the coach stating earlier in the week that its a possibility, something aided by not only Lucas play, but the organization signing veteran journeyman point guard Mike James for the remainder of the season, his fourth stint with the team this year. Just got to stay in the gym, getting shots, getting treatment and hopefully get better.

It also helps that the other member of the Bulls starting backcourt, Rip Hamilton, is healthy again. While Hamilton still hasnt consistently displayed his famed shooting accuracy in the two games since his return from a right-shoulder injury, hes been aggressive and has shown flashes of versatility on both ends of the floor as he tries to regain his timing and rhythm.

Im definitely satisfied with it. You hate to miss shots. My legs feel great. thats a big plus. But each game, I get a little better. I dont have any setbacks, so thats the biggest thing, said Hamilton. Everythings timing with me right now. We dont get the opportunity in practice to go up and down, play five-on-five.

Added Deng: I knew Rip could score before he came in, but honestly, his basketball I.Q. is very high and I think its something that we need. I think he reads the game real well and at times, when you need a basket or just making a smart play out there, you need a vet like that when were struggling as a team to make a play."

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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