Despite youth, Cook brings experience to Bulls

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Despite youth, Cook brings experience to Bulls

DEERFIELD -- Newly acquired Bulls sharpshooter Daequan Cook is just 25 years old, but he brings to his new team a winning background.

In his lone year of college at Ohio State, the Dayton, Ohio, native played in the NCAA championship gamelosing to Joakim Noahs Florida teamand last season, as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, he played in the NBA Finals alongside Bulls backup center Nazr Mohammed, albeit for spot minutes.

Still, the six-year NBA veteran is confident that his experience, as well as his renowned outside marksmanshiphe was the NBA All-Star weekend three-point shootout winner in 2009can help the Bulls.

I feel like its a good opportunity for me. Im looking forward to it and today was a great start, he said after Sunday afternoons practice at the Berto Center. The biggest part was playing on a team thats been to the Finals, having that experience as a young player. Coming into this team with a lot of guys that love to play hard and have the opportunity to play in the playoffs. I think thats one of the biggest roles I have right now.

The Bulls are a very exciting team, very young team and they play very well together. The most important thing for me is to play my role and do whatever Coach asks me to do, continued the shooting guard, who noted that a few teams contacted him after he cleared waivers Friday afternoon, following the Rockets waiving him last week.

Chicago was one of the first ones, but I went with what was the best for for me, give me the best opportunity and Chicago was the team.

The Bulls will be Cooks fourth NBA team after beginning in his career in Miami under Pat Riley, being a fringe member of the Thunders rotation, then getting traded to Houston in the early-season blockbuster James Harden trade. A 6.9 points-per-game career scorer, he averaged 3.4 points a contest in 16 games for the Rockets this season.

Were excited to have the opportunity to pick him up, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said of Cook, a career 36.5 percent three-point shooter. Hes another quality shooter, he can shoot the three, so hes got to come in, learn his teammates, learn the system and just get ready.

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Thibodeau was hesitant to say whether Cook, the 14th player on the Bulls roster, would get a chance to crack the rotation, making the situation seem reminiscent of their mid-season acquisition of veteran swingman Rasual Butler two seasons ago.

Were going to see. I thought early on, hes a pretty good team defender. I think he still can improve with his individual defense and well see where he is once he gets going a little bit, Thibodeau said. Right now, were pretty much set with our rotation. He has to learn, get ready and you never know. Over the course of the season, you need everybody. Hes been around a little bit, so we know what hes capable of. He can come in and knock down a couple three-point shots in a very short amount of time, so I think he complements the players that we have.

Cook said he harbored no animosity toward the Rockets for waiving him, indicating that it was a mutual decision.

The most important thing was there wasnt going to be an opportunity for me to play and that was the thing, and we parted ways. I have nothing bad to say about the team, which is good and thats about it. Now its time to get focused and get prepared to play with the Bulls now, he explained. Im going to work. The most important thing here is just working hard and being patient, and when I get the opportunity to play, just play my heart out.

He understands that if and when he does receive playing time, hes expected to help the shooting-deficient Bulls improve from long range.

I take a lot of pride in that. Being young in this league and known as one of the best shooters in this league right now is a good thing, but I just cant settle for that, knowing how important it is to know that its going to be more than my shooting that gets me out there on the floor, he said. Whatever my role is on this team, whether its shooting, rebounding or defending, Im going to play that role to the best of my ability and Im just looking forward to doing it.

Everybody goes into a slump from time to time. I wasnt pinpointing the Bulls because of that. I just came over here, just figuring out what team I could help best, regardless of what it was.

Besides Mohammed, Cook was also teammates with Nate Robinson during the diminutive scorers stint in Oklahoma City. While Cook acknowledged that hes aware of Robinsons verbal tendencies, hes also been picking the backup point guards brain to speed up his adjustment to the Bulls.

Weve been talking all day, especially with Nate more than anything because hes a guard, Im a guard, of course, and hes been in a lot of positions Im going to be in on the court, so talking to Nate more than anything about a lot of the things that have been going on out here, he said. Being around Nate, thats one of the things youve got to roll with. Hes a great guy.

Perhaps Robinsons advice included tips on playing for Thibodeau, but after Cooks experience with the Heat upon entering the league, hes confident that hell be able to fit in quickly.

Ive played for Pat Riley, one of the best in the league, so I dont think hell be much tougher than Pat. So, Im just looking forward to having the opportunity to play for Coach, Cook said. Coach Riley was a great coach and now I get the opportunity to play for Coach Thibs, whos an up-and-coming great coach, as well.

Even if Cook doesnt see the court much this seasonbarring injury to the shooting guards ahead of him in the rotation, though his signing could make starter Rip Hamilton more expendable as next months league-wide trade deadline loomswith his youth and ability to spread the floor, his half-season stint could be a somewhat of an extended tryout for the future.

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.”

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