Rose making gradual progress, showing flashes of previous form


Rose making gradual progress, showing flashes of previous form

INDIANAPOLISFor a reigning league MVP, a 10-point, 3-for-11 shooting, performance wouldnt normally be termed a step in the right direction. However, when that same player has missed 26 games due to injury and the playoffs are right around the corner, you take what you can get.

Derrick Rose wasnt necessarily efficient as a scorer during the Bulls win over the Pacers, but he was both more explosive and aggressive than he was in Saturdays home victory over the Mavericks. The All-Star point guard only played 26 minutes Wednesday, but in addition to only committing a single turnover and dishing out seven assists, he began to regain his confidence in his still-healing right ankle.

Pushing off, every day its getting better. Im not trying to do too much out there, just trying to play within the team and trying not to get reinjured. Thats the biggest thing and making sure Im playing with a lot of confidence, Rose said afterwards. Im making sure that theyre clean drives. Im not getting hit that much and Im just trying to put pressure on the defense like I was when I wasnt injured.

It feels good. Getting treatment, icing it. Even when Im at home, doping the same thing. Icing it as much as possible. The swelling is down and hopefully I should be ready tomorrow and for the playoffs, he continued. I love playing games like this, just getting my rhythm back. Just being out there, playing defense. Trying to rebound, trying to jump off my right ankle and Im coming along, man. Im very positive, my spirits are up and thats the only thing I need to worry about right now.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Rose was a lot more explosive. Hes gotten more comfortable. He was out a long period of time. When he comes back, he usually gets up to speed pretty quickly. He said this morning that he was feeling a lot better and thats after two days of practice, too. So, thats a real good sign. Im encouraged by that.

He had some real good attacks on the basket and the ball was in and out for him, but seven assists, one turnover, taking care of the ball, running the team. I thought that was very good, he continued. Each day he gets better and better, so thats what were looking for and I think hes getting a lot more comfortable. His bodys feeling a lot better and he needs to play, needs to play in games and I think hell get up to speed very quickly.

Rose acknowledged that he wasnt playing at the same level fans are accustomed to seeing, but some of that is due to both his adjustment in returning from injury and his teammates playing so well.

Im just trying to play within the group. Theyve been doing a good job making sure that Im taking my time, not rushing anything when I come off picks, just trying to make the right play, he explained. Im not worried about that. Im going to be all right. Certain situations, if it was a crazy type of game and at the end, I need to take over, thats what Im going to try to do. If not, Im still going to try to play my game, play aggressive.

Chimed in Kyle Korver: We need Derrick to play some. We dont need him to hurt himself or strain anything, but we need him to play and we need to play with him. Tonight, I thought he moved better. I thought he was more aggressive. Hes still trying to feel it out again, but he made a couple plays tonight where I was like, That was good.

I dont think theres a certain amount of games. I just think theres got to be a couple of plays where youre like, Yup, there it is, and thats going to be it. I dont think you can look at it in terms of games or weeks, or series or whatever you think its going to be. I just think its going to be a couple of plays. All of a sudden, he really moves on that foot and that ankle, and he makes a great play and were all just going to know like, All right, lets go, he continued. Hes still feeling it out a little bit. You can tell. I think he was trying to set guys up, trying to attack, but trying to pick his spots. I thought he looked better than he did the other night, for sure.

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Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.

There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.

If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.

Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.

Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.

“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”

The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”

Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.

But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.

“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”

Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.

“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”

Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.

Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.

“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”

And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.