Bulls appreciate being Holiday Showcase game

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Bulls appreciate being Holiday Showcase game

Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010
10:23 a.m.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
NEW YORKA noon start, away from their families. But all of that pales in comparison to the honorto a man, that was the word used to describe itof playing on Christmas Day.

I think its an honor and a privilege to be playing, and I know its tough for the away teamparticularly the players who have kidsbut thats all part of it and hopefully when we get back, theyll have a chance to spend some time with their families, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said prior to Fridays practice at Madison Square Garden.

Everyone around the worlds going to be watching. Everyone that loves basketball, theyre going to tune in, so its definitely an honor to play on Christmas, echoed Kurt Thomas, who couldnt remember how many Christmas days games hes played inthe former Knick estimated three to fiveover the course of his 18-year career. Its the fact thatmy kidsIm not at home, seeing the Christmas tree, opening up their presents. Thats really the only difficult part, but its part of the job. You just go out there and play, go have fun.

Luol Deng, the longest-tenured Bulls player, hasnt played in any games on the holiday during his career, so he acknowledged how the teams rising status in the league earned them their reward.

I think the league schedules it before the season starts, so I think they schedule it kind of depending on the players you have, Deng told CSNChicago.com. I think it shows a lot, the kind of guys we have on the team and people want to watch us. We could have came in with a bad record, but I think they scheduled it because people at home want to see all these players.

Carlos Boozer, coming from small-market Utah, definitely appreciates the benefits playing on a high-profile squad has garnered.

None Christmas Day games in Utah. I think I played in one in Cleveland, Brons LeBron James rookie year, said Boozer. Its an honor to play on Christmasits for the fans and we take great pride to be one of the teams thats featured for the fans.

Obviously we wouldnt mind spending more time with our family at home, toolike most peoplebut we take pride and honor in what were able to do and we look forward to the game tomorrow.

For native New Yorker Taj Gibson, playing in the Garden, in front of friends and family in his hometown, makes it even more special.

This is a dream come true, remarked Gibson. Hopefully we can get a win and it would be even better.

Deng, who attended high school in nearby New Jersey, shared his sentiments.

I went to high school not too far from here. Im going to have a lot of friends at the gameI always have friends coming hereI have some family in New York, so to me, its always been special because of that. History plays into it, but I think a lot of people, they dont have that connection with Madison Square Garden that I have, Deng told CSNChicago.com. I think everyones excited. Im a little bummed for Jo injured center Joakim Noah, but its part of the game. Hell be back and hell have his days playing here.

Thomas, whose Knicks career coincided with the last time New York was relevant in the league, also savored his return to the worlds most famous arena.

I love New York. I spent a lot of time here. Im always excited to come back here and play, said Thomas. Every time I walk into this building, I see people Ive known for a good number of years.

Going to the NBA Finals in 99, that definitely was the highlight, and just playing here in the Garden every night was just amazing. The fans here were incredible.

Derrick Rose didnt necessarily grow up dreaming about playing on the holiday, but understands its significance for the team.

I never thought about playing on Christmas. I just thought about playing in the NBA. I really didnt think about it when I was younger, like, I cant wait to play on Christmas. Its an honor to be playing on Christmas. I remember the first two years and being at homebeing in Chicago for Christmas, then going somewhere to play the next day, but its an honor to be playing and were playing in one of the best arenas in the world, said Rose. Were on the rise. Were getting noticed, but we still have to handle our business, knowing that this is still a job. We have to take this as very important, and go out there and play hard.

The serious-minded Thibodeau certainly has preached that to his team.

The big thing is its a holiday and its an early game, so theres a lot going on. But we have to be ready, so our preparation today and then early morning tomorrow at the walk-through and then noon start, we have to be focused, said Thibodeau, who will be facing one of the several teams, the Knicks, hes worked for as an assistant coach. Normally, you would haveif its a 7 or 7:30 startyou would have your shootaround in the morning, where you can go through some things live on the court and it changes when its a noon start. Youre in the ballroom in the hotel and youre just walking through things, so from that standpoint, it changes.

Besides that, its just a regular gameor so the participants would have you believe.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

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USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

Here are some of Friday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Saturday on CSN: Bradley vs. Nevada; Illinois State vs. New Mexico

Dwyane Wade, Bulls take first blood with LeBron James, Cavs

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

White Sox reportedly asking for No. 1 prospect plus more in trade return for Chris Sale

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

LeBron James pays off bet, rocks Cubs uniform to the United Center

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 1

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

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USA TODAY

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

Two nights after managing just 90 points in a lackluster home loss to the Lakers, the Bulls entered Friday night’s tilt against the defending-champion Cavaliers with a specific offensive game plan.

Attack, head coach Fred Hoiberg told his team, the interior of the Cleveland defense early to establish a presence in the paint. Knowing the Cavs, for all their strengths that made them NBA champions five months earlier, lacked a true rim protector, the Bulls made it a point to get Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez going.

The Bulls managed to do exactly that, tallying a season-high 78 points in the paint in their 111-105 victory over the Cavaliers. And while Lopez was again his usual efficient self and Gibson turned in his best performance of the season – the two scored 33 points on 15-for-23 shooting – it was point guard Rajon Rondo who proved to be the kick-starter for a Bulls offense that needed to be at its best to match Cleveland’s star power.

Rondo logged his first triple-double with the Bulls in the victory, tallying 15 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. But looking past the raw numbers, it was the shots Rondo took, and the passes he made, that allowed the Bulls to play so efficiently on offense and ultimately come away with their most impressive victory of the year.

Of Rondo’s 12 assists, all but two of the made shots off those passes came from a distance farther than 7 feet. Ten of Rondo’s assists resulted in baskets in the paint, of which the Bulls had 39 as a team. Squaring off against a subpar defender in Kyrie Irving, Rondo was active in knifing into the paint and finding open bigs inside. Rondo had six assists in the first quarter, and all but one resulted in baskets within 3 feet of the hoop.

All four of his made field goals in the first half were layups, as was his only bucket in the third quarter. His putback midway through the fourth quarter was also at the rim, and gave him his tenth rebound to secure the triple-double. Two possessions later he connected on a 3-pointer that gave the Bulls an eight-point lead; Cleveland never got closer than four the rest of the way. Rondo only took three shots outside of the paint. Friday marked the first time in a month Rondo had shot better than 50 percent from the field in back-to-back games.

Past Rondo’s own numbers, Gibson said that the Bulls’ point guard was instrumental in leading the Bulls’ offense to match up against a Cavaliers offense that entered the night second in the league in efficiency.

“He’s like a quarterback. Even though he never really played any contact football the way he always gathers the huddle, he always sees what’s going on in the game,” Gibson said. “He’s always encouraging. He’s pushing it. He’s a great teammate and I know he got a lot of criticism before the year, a lot of people talk about the negative that’s in it, but he’s been showing me nothing but great stuff on and off the court.”

In a game that had a playoff-like atmosphere to it simply because of the matchup between Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, as well as the defending champs coming to town, the veteran Rondo took it upon himself to lead the Bulls offense. Though the Bulls wanted to avoid getting into a track meet against the fast-paced Cavs, Rondo didn’t allow the offense to become stagnant when it was apparent they could get into the paint at will.

“I thought Rondo was great all night long,” Fred Hoiberg said, “getting guys out and running, pushing them. You can hear him yelling “run with me” to get the guys down the floor. Rajon was a huge factor.”

His defense will continue to be a liability – Irving had an off-night shooting more than anything – and he won’t score 15 points each night, but his leadership and ability to run an offense with precision has the Bulls behind their floor general as they head into the season’s second month.

“He’s always inspiring. He’s one of those guys you want to go to war with. He’s one of those guys that’s in the huddle, you know that every time down the court if it’s a wrong call, a foul, a scuffle, if you not feeling right he’s always going to have your back no matter what.”