Bulls fans will witness passing of torch

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Bulls fans will witness passing of torch

Monday, April 4, 2011
Posted: 4:45 p.m.

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

When the Bulls host Phoenix Tuesday night, the game will mean more than just a chance to move closer to wrapping up the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The sellout crowd at the United Center will get a chance to watch two-time league MVP Steve Nash pass the point guard torch to Derrick Rose, who looks like a lock to win his first Most Valuable Player award this season.

Where does Nash rank on your list of all-time point guards? And, how long will it take for Rose to join the ranks of Nash, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, John Stockton and Oscar Robertson on the list of all-time greats at the position? Please post your comments in the section below.

READ: Season winds down, Bulls playoff picture heats up

Nash has been an amazing story, arriving in Phoenix as an undersized, virtually unknown 1st round draft pick out of Santa Clara. Nash played behind Kevin Johnson when he came into the league, and the Suns eventually traded him to Dallas, where he teamed with Dirk Nowitzki to turn the Mavericks into a Western Conference contender. Then, Mavs owner Mark Cuban decided not to offer Nash a long-term contract when he hit free agency, figuring his skills would start to decline in his 30s. Instead, Nash returned to Phoenix, and won back-to-back MVP awards, directing the leagues most prolific offense.

Now at age 37, Nash is close to the end of the line, and Rose has replaced him as the leagues best point guard. Sure, there were other presumed successors to Nashs crown like Chris Paul and Deron Williams, but Paul broke down physically and Williams star lost a lot of its luster from his involvement with Jerry Sloans departure in Utah and subsequent trade to New Jersey. Now, its Rose, Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo rising to the top of the point guard class, and plenty of talented young guys right behind them like John Wall, Brandon Jennings and Stephen Curry.

Back to Nash, its amazing how big a role he played in the Suns success. Nash has missed 32 games since he rejoined Phoenix in 2004-05. The Suns are 10-22 (.313) over that span in games without Nash, compared to 359-177 (.670) in games Nash has played. Thats what being an MVP is all about.

Rose is clearly irreplaceable with the Bulls. Despite the fact either Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer has been out with injuries for most of the season, Rose has carried the Bulls to the best record in the East and 2nd best record overall in the league. Hes the only player in the NBA to rank in the top 10 in both scoring and assists, something Nash never did during his MVP seasons in Phoenix. And, Derricks work ethic and desire to win have rubbed off on his teammates, taking them to new heights.

READ: Bulls' Rodman, Winter, Gilmore in Hall of Fame

Nash missed the Suns game against San Antonio Sunday because of the flu, but head coach Alvin Gentry says Nash should be able to go against the Bulls. And, lets hope thats the case, because its only fitting that Rose would wrap up his first MVP season with another vintage performance against Nash. During Derricks brief three-year career, hes led the Bulls to four wins over Phoenix in five tries, averaging 26.8 points and 6.4 assists, compared to Nashs 13 points and 9.6 assists. Who knows, maybe Nash will decide he cant play against the Bulls Tuesday, not because of the flu, but because of a severe case of Rose-itis.

So, when youre enjoying the Bulls-Suns game Tuesday night, think about the amazing rise of Derrick Rose. Hes gone from Rookie of the Year to All-Star reserve to the presumed league MVP in the span of three years, and remember the best is still to come. Derrick is only 22!

So, where do Nash and Rose rank among the list of best point guards of all-time? Please post your comments in the section below.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

Bulls finalize training camp roster

Bulls finalize training camp roster

The Bulls finalized their training camp roster on Monday morning, in the lead-up to the start of the team's official media day.

The team will carry 19 players into the preseason before cutting that number down a maximum of 15 in late October.

No. 0 Isaiah Canaan, guard: Signed to a two-year, $2.2 million deal in July, Canaan will compete with Spencer Dinwiddie and Jerian Grant for minutes behind Rajon Rondo.

No. 2 Jerian Grant, guard: The combo guard will get a fresh start in Chicago after an inconsistent rookie season with the Knicks.

No. 3 Dwyane Wade, guard: The three-time NBA champion and future Hall of Famer begins the next chapter of his famed career after 13 seasons in Miami.

No. 5 Bobby Portis, forward: After showing flashes of potential in his rookie season, the 6-foot-11 Portis will be in line for an extended role following Joakim Noah's and Pau Gasol's departures.

No. 6 Cristiano Felicio, center: The Brazilian impressed plenty in last season's final month, and he should see significant minutes behind Robin Lopez.

No. 7 D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, guard: The undrafted rookie averaged 14.8 points per game in his senior season at Georgetown.

No. 8 Robin Lopez, center: One of the league's most underrated centers, Lopez was one of five players to average 10 points, 7 rebounds and play in all 82 games a year ago.

No. 9 Rajon Rondo, guard: The veteran point guard led the NBA in assists last season, but playing on his fourth team in three seasons means his best days may be behind him.

No. 11 Doug McDermott, forward: The sharpshooter showed significant improvement from Year 1 to Year 2, finishing sixth in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage. Now about the defense...

No. 15 Thomas Walkup, guard: The All-American honorable mention went for 33 points in No. 14 Stephen F. Austin's opening-round upset win over No. 3 West Virginia.

No. 16 Paul Zipser, forward: The Bulls' 2016 second-round pick can do a bit of everything, and at 22 years old he could be ready to contribute sooner than later.

No. 20 Tony Snell, forward: It may be difficult for the former first-rounder to crack the rotation after a forgettable third season.

No. 21 Jimmy Butler, guard: An All-Star in each of the last two seasons, the 27-year-old Butler is poised for yet another career year.

No. 22 Taj Gibson, forward: The 31-year-old veteran is in a contract year, and should see an even more expanded role after starting 55 games last season - even if Nikola Mirotic replaces him in the starting lineup.

No. 24 Vince Hunter, forward: The 6-foot-8 Hunter averaged 21.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for the Reno Bighorns last season as rookie.

No. 25 Spencer Dinwiddie, guard: A casuality of the Pistons' crowded backcourt, Dinwiddie has a chance to carve out a role in Chicago behind Rajon Rondo.

No 31 J.J. Avila, forward: A standout at Colorado State who graduated in 2015, Avila appeared in four Summer League games for the Knicks, averaging 1.2 points and 1.5 rebounds.

No. 44 Nikola Mirotic, forward: The Bulls will be relying on Mirotic's outside shot, which improved mightily in his second season from 31.6 percent to 39 percent.

No. 45 Denzel Valentine, guard: The jack-of-all-trades will need some time to find his role, but he's an apt passer and outside shooter with good size on the wing.

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

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Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

All the new guys: Last October, the Bulls entered camp with essentially the same roster that lost to Cleveland in the second round of the 2015 playoffs, save for then-rookie Bobby Portis. This time, there’s no Derrick Rose, no Joakim Noah, no Pau Gasol, no Mike Dunleavy, and no E’Twaun Moore.

That’s four starters (essentially) whose performances or presence has been counted on in some way, even through some of the uncertainty that surrounded a few of these guys.

Conceivably, the Bulls can have around five new players in the actual rotation who weren’t thought of this time last year, although last year’s product left a lot to be desired.

The adjustment time and chemistry building starts Tuesday.

Who starts at power forward: All other positions in the first five are set, especially with the new faces. But the pivotal decision for Fred Hoiberg, if it hasn’t been made already, is who will start alongside Robin Lopez at center. It could be Nikola Mirotic, or Taj Gibson or even Bobby Portis, depending on Hoiberg’s sensibilities.

Smart money says it’ll probably be Mirotic considering he’s the best perimeter shooter of the three and actually a decent defensive rebounder. Gibson being a great screener, finisher and defender makes him intriguing as an option, but offensive space will be limited if he’s out there with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. As for Portis, is he ready to take a step toward consistency in year 2?

The point guard: Rajon Rondo’s basketball intelligence is genius level, where he can master a gameplan and probably even devise one of his own that rivals his coaches. The man can counter a play before the opposing defense initiates an adjustment. That said, how will he and Hoiberg mesh this season? He clashed with Doc Rivers, had knock-down battles with Rick Carlisle in Dallas and George Karl didn’t have it in him to fight anybody in Sacramento, let alone Rondo.

Rondo likes playing the game at his speed, with his own feel and rhythm. Hoiberg will have to tailor his style for the new personnel he has, and luckily for him, isn’t a “my way or the highway” type of fellow that’s sure to rub Rondo the wrong way. Will Rondo embrace Hoiberg’s system and become an extension of the coach, or will Hoiberg give Rondo enough rope to explore Rondo’s intelligence to find a middle ground?

Will that even be enough?

The backup point guard: Just as intriguing as the starting power forward battle will be who backs up Rondo at point guard, although it’s likely that player won’t have to fill the traditional role of doing anything aside from walking the ball up and letting either Butler or Wade initiate the offense.

It’s likely Hoiberg will change his substitution patterns to have either Wade or Butler anchor second units in the second quarter, as a way to maximize the time he has with both while not having them invade each other’s space in the halfcourt. So who plays backup point could be more about who fits best next to the best player on the floor as opposed to who the best player is.

It seems to open the door for rookie Denzel Valentine since he can play three positions (although defense will be a task), along with Jerian Grant, Isaiah Canaan and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Grant was a first-rounder in 2015 who wants to show he’s worth that status, while Dinwiddie was projected as a lottery pick three years ago before tearing his ACL at Colorado.

It’s certainly not the most stressful decision Hoiberg will have to make, but a curious one.

Developing an identity: Does it happen in training camp? Who knows, but tones are often set as to what type of squad a team will be. Last season, Hoiberg believed he was building on a solid foundation after Tom Thibodeau’s defense first mentality, but signs of things crumbling began to show very early in the preseason.

This season, with so many new pieces, moving parts and overall uncertainty, there’s question as to what kind of team the Bulls will be. It’s intriguing, to say the least. But what will the Bulls hang their hats on come late October?