Beyond the Arc: Deng, Noah on Upcoming Season

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Beyond the Arc: Deng, Noah on Upcoming Season

Tuesday, September 22nd

I had a chance to sit down with Luol Deng and Joakim Noah today to get their thoughts on the start of training camp and the upcoming season. You can watch my conversation with Luol here on CSNChicago.com. I'll let you know when the interview with Joakim will be aired.

I was very impressed with Luol's candor about his injury, and the criticism he received in some circles for not finding a way to get back on the court for the Bulls' playoff run. Deng told me the criticism never bothered him because once he looks someone in the eye and tells them the truth, he can't force them to believe what he's saying. He says the stress fracture in his right leg was serious, and he won't be sure he's 100 percent recovered until he gets out on the floor during training camp and competes with his teammates. Luol says he's been playing fullcourt games and doing all his conditioning work without any restrictions, and he's confident he can come back as strong as ever for the upcoming season. He also is looking forward to an expanded role in the offense with Ben Gordon moving on to Detroit, and he's optimistic the Bulls can be an excellent team with a full season of John Salmons and Brad Miller, plus improved play from Noah and Tyrus Thomas.

As for Noah, he told me about his summer vacation trips to France, Las Vegas and his college campus in Gainesville, Florida, but he also spent a lot of time in the gym working on his game. Coaches at the I.M.G. basketball academy in Florida raved about his work ethic and his improved jump shot. Joakim told me not to say anything about his improved offensive arsenal, because he wants to catch the rest of the NBA by surprise. Well, sorry Joakim, but if you're ready to unleash an expanded offensive game, Bulls' fans want to know about it! Joakim also raved about the summer work put in by Tyrus, Derrick Rose and the rest of the Bulls' players. He says the hard work will pay off in better play during the regular season, and more consistency throughout the year. He also believes he's ready to take a big step forward in his career and can't wait to get the season started after the classic playoff series against Boston.

I can't tell you how much I was impressed by the players dedication and optimism for the season ahead. Luol told me most of the team has been back at the Berto Center, doing their conditioning and weight-lifting and also scrimmaging in preparation for the start of camp. Both players said they'll miss Ben Gordon as a teammate, but theyre confident the Bulls have the firepower to replace his offense. Every team in the NBA has reasons to be optimistic heading into a new season, but it sounds like the Bulls believe they're building something special. Only time will tell if they're right, but it should be a fun and entertaining season ahead.

One other Bulls' note, Aaron Gray accepted the team's one year qualifying offer, and he'll return to back up Noah and Miller this season. The Bulls have a well-rounded and versatile roster with 4 centers (including the injured Jerome James), 4 forwards and 5 guards. It's time to get to work with Media Day at the Berto Center on Friday, followed by two-a-day practice sessions on Saturday.

As always, feel free to drop me an e-mail with your questions and comments.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs

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USA TODAY

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs

Watch as the Bulls take on the Spurs tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com, the only place where you can get the hometown call from Neil and Stacey.

Coverage begins at 8 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Attempting to end perfection. The Spurs have been absolutely electric outside of San Antonio this season, winning each of their first 13 road games to begin the year. That's the second longest streak in NBA history, and the Bulls have actually lost two of three at home. The Bulls will be home underdogs as the Spurs look to make it 14 in a row. The good news is the Bulls have defeated the Spurs at home each of the last two seasons.

2. Battle of the two-way studs. There's a real argument to be made that Thursday's matchup will tout the two best two-way players in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having his best offensive season to date, averaging 24.5 points on 46 percent shooting, 1.9 triples, and averaging nearly 91 percent from the free-throw line. Expect Jimmy Butler and Leonard to be on each other's rear most of the night in what should be one of the most fun 1-on-1 matchups in the NBA.

3. Questions at the point. For the Spurs, Tony Parker is questionable to play with a knee injury. If he can't go, it would be Nico Laprovittola and Patty Mills running the point. For the Bulls, Rajon Rondo is coming off a pair of ugly performances in Bulls' losses to the Mavericks and Pistons (and his suspension against the Blazers). Someone needs to step up at the point, and it could decide Thursday night's winner.

4. Pau returns to the UC. Though it didn't result in much success, Pau Gasol enjoyed two highly successful seasons in Chicago. The stat-stuffer was named an All-Star in both seasons, averaging 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 150 games. He's now in San Antonio, filling Tim Duncan's role in the starting lineup. And though his numvers are down from a year ago, he's still capable of putting up numbers, especially against a Bulls' interior that has struggled of late.

5. Getting Doug McDermott back. Dougie McBuckets has been activated to the Bulls roster, and not a moment too soon. Since McDermott suffered a concussion on Nov. 12, the Bulls bench ranks 26th in 3-pointers per game (2.5) and 30th in 3-point field-goal percentage (23.5 percent). Getting McDermott back, even in a small role as he gets his legs under him, will be a major factor against a Spurs team whose offense continues to heat up in December.

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Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

AUBURN HILLS, MICH—Rajon Rondo almost made it to the quarter mark of the season without incident, but his frustrations got the better of him in Dallas last weekend in a situation with Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen.

He returned from his one-game suspension in a light mood, but didn’t take things lightly when addressing questions from the media after the Bulls’ 102-91 loss to Detroit.

Rondo admitted that he feels so strongly about things that he doesn’t let them go as easily as he should, which could have been the case with Boylen. Rondo threw a towel after an exchange with Boylen during the Bulls’ blowout loss to the Mavericks.

“That’s a good way to put it. Me as a player, a point guard, I have to handle a situation better,” Rondo said. “But when I feel a certain way, I’m gonna speak on it. My whole thing is always for the betterment of the team.

“If it comes off wrong or a certain way I’ll try to work on that. But for the most part I’m not a selfish individual, I try to do what’s best for the team, try to watch film with my teammates. That’s just part of the game, who I am.”

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When asked if he actually threw a towel at Boylen, Rondo quipped, “You gotta look at the film,” and tried to downplay the situation as best he could, noting the timing of the event in question.

He apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates and believes there won’t be lasting effects, although the Bulls are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

“Hopefully it’ll be the last three-game losing streak,” Rondo said. “It’s about how you handle adversity. We usually handle it well as far as bouncing back.”

Calling the incident “part of the game,” Rondo didn’t want to address specifics but given his history of instances such as these in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento, this one makes it a little harder to shake the reputation of being difficult to deal with.

“I have a good relationship with my team and I take pride in being a great teammate,” Rondo said. “I think we’re still on the same page. When you lose, things get blown out of proportion. When you win, it covers everything up. So we have to get back to winning basketball.”

His teammates have been supportive both behind the scenes and publicly, and were happy to have him back despite not being able to quell the losing streak.

“It was good. That's our starting point guard. We need veteran guys on this team,” Bulls guard Dwyane Wade said. “We need our bodies. He's our leader today so when we got down early he was the one who kept talking to us defensively. He's so smart out there on the floor, takes certain things away, get out in open transition. The reason we got back in the game, he did a good job of leading us in those moments.”