Game 1: Homecoming of sorts for Philly's Collins

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Game 1: Homecoming of sorts for Philly's Collins

Doug Collins is very familiar with Chicago.

Collins was born in Benton, Ill., and attended Illinois State University, where the court in Redbird Arena is named after him. The 76ers made him the first overall pick in the 1973 draft and he went on to play eight seasons in the NBA, averaging 17.9 points per game.

The Bulls gave him his first shot as a head coach in the 1986-87 season and he spent three years on the sideline in Chicago. The Bulls played in Chicago Stadium back then, so Collins never coached in the United Center.

Collins said his return to Chicago is a "very special feeling" and says he still keeps in touch with Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and others within the organization.

"It's interesting -- Jerry Reinsdorf and I have become the best of friends," Collins said. "We spoke about a month ago for an hour on the phone. He's reached out to me and maybe we'll get a chance to go out to dinner while we're here. He's been a very special guy.

"Bulls VP of basketball operations John Paxson is like a son to me, so I have very strong feelings about him. All the people who work for this organization, basically, they're still here."

Collins coached Michael Jordan during his three years in the league and took the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 1989 playoffs, in which they beat the Cavaliers 101-100 in a thrilling Game 5 thanks to a Jordan jumper.

"I was telling our guys the other day. I remember our '89 run when we got to the conference finals," he said. "I remember flying to Cleveland and thinking about what I was going to say to our guys for Game 5. It was interesting -- the Kentucky Derby was that day and the winner was 'Sunday Silence.' And I just told them that's what it was going to be in Cleveland. And then Michael hit the shot."

Collins hasn't been in Chicago since that 1989 season, but he still has a lot of respect for the Bulls and the city.

"This is a special organization," he said. "Not many teams can have the championship runs that they've had, win 12 games the next year and have sell-outs.

"This is a very special city. They have embraced me. I don't have any championship rings. Jerry's given me six championship watches with great notes that I kept very proudly. I haven't been here since '89. But when I walk down the street, the bus drivers are honking and waving and the fans say how much they appreciated my time. I love this. I love this city and it's going to be interesting to see. I'm sure they're not going to be lovely to me today, but it's a very special place."

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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