Watson's return a silver lining in Bulls' loss

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Watson's return a silver lining in Bulls' loss

MEMPHIS As disappointing as the Bulls blowout defeat at the hands of the Grizzlies was a contest Derrick Rose missed because of his sprained left big toe one aspect of the game that was encouraging was the return of backup point guard C.J. Watson from a sprained left elbow.

Watson, who came off the bench behind normal third-stringer John Lucas III, scored 17 points in his return to the lineup. He made his first shot attempt, a pull-up jumper, but more importantly, he displayed no signs of hesitance, despite admitting that he played in pain.

It was all right. Its still in a lot of pain, but Im just trying to fight through it and play, he said afterwards. I can move it pretty good and I can shoot all right. The pain is going to go away, hopefully, throughout the season, so Im just trying to get out there and just play, and help my team.

Watson, who had nine attempts from the foul line, converting seven he also laid out on the court to dive for loose balls, showing hes unafraid of aggravating the injury, in another display of his lack of fear of contact had been diligently working to return to the Bulls lineup, traveling with the team on the road since the injury occurred, ironically against the Grizzlies, on the New Years Day, 40-point home-opener rout.

Ive been working out every day, but game shape is a lot different, said Watson, who originally hurt his elbow diving for a loose ball. But I just tried to go out there and play, and see how it felt.

I fell on it a couple times today. It still hurts, but Im out there, just trying to play, he added. It is what it is. Im just going to go out there and hopefully, I dont hurt it any worse and just play hard.

His coaches and teammates appreciated his effort, even in the wake of the tough loss.

Big positive, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Hes been working extremely hard to come back and you cant say enough about what hes done to get back this quickly, so that was a positive sign for us.

Added Luol Deng: C.J. played well. Its good to have him back and its good for him to have that type of game, but as a team, weve got to a better job. But individually, I thought C.J. did a good job when he came in.

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Isaiah Canaan

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Isaiah Canaan

Chicago Bulls training camp is right around the corner, with the first preseason game coming Oct. 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Between then and now, CSNChicago.com will take a look at each player on the Bulls’ roster to preview and possibly project their importance to the team as the Bulls hope to qualify for the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

Player: Isaiah Canaan

Position: Point Guard/Shooting guard

Experience: 4th season

2015-16 stats: 11.0 points, 1.8 rebounds

2016-17 Outlook: It’ll be a game of musical chairs in the Bulls’ backcourt this season with the backup positions and Canaan will be in the mix for playing time at both positions, despite his small 6-foot-0 frame.

He’s more scorer than facilitator and looks for his offense, being aggressive in the pick and roll and in the open floor. It could be a change of pace from Rajon Rondo’s style, as Rondo can push the pace but will definitely be in control. If Canaan beats out Jerian Grant, Spencer Dinwiddie and Denzel Valentine for minutes, he’s going to play at a breakneck speed, looking to force the action and reacquainting himself with a familiar statistic: Field Goals Attempted.

Per 36 minutes last year, he took 13.2 shots and nearly nine of them came from the 3-point line, which accounts for his career shooting percentage being below 37, as he gets up a huge bulk from the long line.

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Having spent the majority of his career with the then-tanking Philadelphia 76ers, Canaan’s value is hard to project and one wonders if he’s gotten accustomed to losing environments.

In Philly, though, he was able to get plenty of experience, playing 77 games last season in what was probably as eye-opening for him as anything he’s ever endured in the NBA.

With the depth, though, seeing the above-mentioned players likely being ahead of him in the rotation means the Bulls won’t be as dependent on him for wins — but during those dog days of the season, when the injuries can pile up and the excitement is low, one wonders if Fred Hoiberg can toss Canaan out there and his energy can help the Bulls to a win or two in February — which could come handy in April when all wins matter if you’re trying to compete for a playoff spot.

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Doug McDermott

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Doug McDermott

Chicago Bulls training camp is right around the corner, with the first preseason game coming Oct. 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Between then and now, CSNChicago.com will take a look at each player on the Bulls’ roster to preview and possibly project their importance to the team as the Bulls hope to qualify for the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

Player: Doug McDermott

Position: Small Forward

Experience: 3rd season

2015-16 Stats: 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds

2016-17 Outlook: It’s been a steady progression for Doug McDermott from his rookie year to last season, as he’s symbolic of what Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wants his system to be: A floor-spreading, free-wheeling wide open system, one that displays the new reality of the NBA.

McDermott, at times last season, showed his proficiency despite his limitations. Few were better from the 3-point line, as he shot 42.5 percent, ranking fifth in the NBA. In semi-transition, he was a sure bet to spot up from the left wing and position himself for a pass and quick release.

With Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo all able to make plays, McDermott will be counted on more than he has before to make shots with space at a premium.

McDermott and Nikola Mirotic will have to provide the shooting to keep defenses honest, which could lead to McDermott being the first sub off the bench for a guy like Wade or Butler, leaving the latter to anchor the second unit in the second quarter.

His game opened up last season after the All-Star break, especially with his ability to create his own shot. It’s not a staple of his game and who knows how much he’ll have to use it with the ballhandlers on the floor, but he did have a reliable baseline fadeaway and one-legged runner he would go to every once in awhile.

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The Bulls’ offense ran better with him on the floor, averaging 116 points per 100 possessions. February produced his best month as a pro, averaging nearly 15 a game on 52 percent shooting—splits that could be more common as his career progresses. But what he gives, he often gives away on the defensive end and it’ll be a battle to keep him on the floor with some of the concerns the team will have as a whole.

Keeping players in front of him with his lateral movement is an issue, and even being in the right place defensively off the ball isn’t a given. But a lot of that is scheme and the Bulls have to be better collectively.

Expecting him to take another step this season as he knows what to expect and gains more confidence in his own game isn’t unreasonable—and finding consistency will be important to his future in the league, as he’ll be eligible for an extension following his third season.

In other words, there’s plenty of tangible and intangible incentive to improve.