Bulls finally get revenge on road-weary Bobcats

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Bulls finally get revenge on road-weary Bobcats

Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011Posted: 10:21 PM

By Chris Cason
For CSNChicago.com

Fueled and focus on avoiding a season series sweep, the Bulls defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 106-94 Tuesday at the United Center.

"You just don't want anyone in this league to have your number," said Luol Deng about the focus placed on the game after having dropped their previous two meetings against Charlotte.

His play backed up those words as he led Chicago with a game-high 24 points and Derrick Rose scored 18 points and handed out 13 assists.

The weary Bobcats were on the last night of a four-games-in five-nights-stand and were coming into the game off an impressive 109-89 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.

Despite its fatigue, Charlotte was able to keep pace with Chicago, battling back from double-digit deficits three times, but their energy faded in the fourth quarter as the Bulls defense clamped down.

After a Gerald Henderson (20 points) dunk with with 11:30 remaining in the fourth, Chicago held Charlotte scoreless for nearly four minutes, before a Tom Thibodeau technical foul put them at the line to break the drought. The Bulls went on a 8-0 run during that time and the Bobcats would only get as close as eight points as Chicago had seized the momentum.

"I thought we tried to give a good effort," said Charlotte coach Paul Silas. "After playing last night, coming here, this team was waiting on us and we had beaten them twice. They had the resolve to come out and whup us and that's what they did."

Charlotte's pressing defense on Rose was particularly impressive holding him without a field goal for nearly 23 minutes -- after he scored 5 in the first quarter -- before two spectacular drives midway through the third gave the Bulls offense a kick start. Despite the trapping to keep the ball out of his hands, he was still able to find teammates for open looks.

"I liked the way Derrick played," said Thibodeau. "They were trying to get the ball out of his hands. He made some key passes and some big baskets. Sometimes you beat the press with the pass, sometimes with the dribble and sometimes with the shot. Derrick did a good job reading what the defense was doing and we had some easy offense off that"

"We were trying to blitz the pick and roll and rotate," said Silas. "We didn't rotate quickly enough. Kyle Korver (15 points, 5-5 FGMA) got some wide open looks when we said don't leave him. It was just one of those nights were it just wasn't happening for us."

If Chicago needed any extra incentive to avoid losing their third and final meeting against Charlotte, they only had to look a couple of seats down from the Bobcats bench where sat Michael Jordan next to former teammate Scottie Pippen.

The pair were shown on the Jumbo Tron after a timeout in the first period and a sold out crowd of 21,391 stood on it's feet and gave a rousing applause.

Not surprised by the ovation or the attention Jordan received, Deng was surprised to see him courtside.

"Just what he did for this organization, this city, the joy he brought here, it should be more cheering," said Deng. They should stop the game. Mike has inspired a lot of people and what he did for this city is amazing. That's just something special. It's not going to happen often. You have to embrace that and enjoy every time you see someone like that."

The Bulls will have one final home game before the All-Star break and it comes against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.

The Spurs are the owner of the league's best record at 46-9 and have already defeated the Bulls, coming back from 17 to win 103-94 back on Nov. 17. Even with San Antonio's record, the Bulls are now 24-4 at home and looking forward to the challenge.

"It's a big game for us," said Deng. "In San Antonio we were up 17 at one point and they came back and won the game. They're having a terrific year. Before the All-Star break, we want to go out right. It's going to be a tough game, they're a very good team but I'm not worried about us not coming ready to play."

NOTE

Kurt Thomas was honored before the game for becoming only the 97th player to reach 1,000 games played.

"All my teammates were congratulating me, a lot of fans around the city so it's definitely a great accomplishment," said the humbled Thomas after the win. "Something I never thought about, never thought I would play this long in the league but for me to reach this milestone. It's definitely great."

At the ripe age of 38, Thomas' grit and toughness has been on full display this season as he's helped keep the Bulls rolling with Joakim Noah being sidelined.

Wade in Bulls jersey: same material, different reality

Wade in Bulls jersey: same material, different reality

Media Day has become old hat for Dwyane Wade, so much so that he could go through the motions, interviews and promotional shots in Miami with his eyes closed.

But he looked like a wide-eyed rookie at times going through everything in the Advocate Center Monday, including the white-and-red jersey that was draped over his chest.

“It's really not the jersey. It's the same material so it feels the same,” he said. “It's a different environment. I was somewhere for so long, I knew where to go, I can walk backwards and get anywhere I want to go. It's just different, but different is not a bad thing.”

Comparing himself to the “new kid” in school, it won’t be long before Wade finds himself being the cool kid in class that everybody gravitates to and follows as an example, being a three-time champion and sure-fire Hall of Famer—at least that’s what the Bulls brass expects to happen.

“If I were a young player on this roster and I saw Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Taj Gibson, Robin (Lopez), I would soak up what they bring,” Bulls Vice-President John Paxson said. “As a young player you want to have longevity and success in this league and there's success right in front of them.”

Wade’s successes came in Miami, which makes Wade’s statement about things being different that much more pronounced—and before he can lead, he must adjust to the Bulls, and they to him.

His usage and his on-court role isn’t clear, as the Bulls are well-aware of the maintenance that comes with a player at his age—a player who was still pretty effective despite decline in the last few years.

“Our medical team and our athletic-performance team, we’ve visited some with him,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “But that’s going to be fluid. I don’t know that any definitive have come from that yet, but it’s obviously something that we’ll watch in regards to Dwyane being a little bit older but really to a number of our players.”

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Adjusting to his body, adjusting to a new city and even to a social conscience that has emerged since signing with the Bulls has been the theme of his summer.

His life—and the lives of many people close to him have changed in recent months and even days. From watching former teammate LeBron James bring home a title to Cleveland to his own departure from Miami after 13 years to sadly, watching Chris Bosh struggle with the news of his basketball mortality meeting up with the threat of his actual life, it’s been one after another after another.

“This news about basketball is unfortunate, and it was not nothing that he wanted to hear I'm sure, and nothing I wanted to hear for him and no one that loves Chris or is around him,” said Wade in reference to Bosh not being cleared by the Heat due to blood-clotting issues that ended Bosh’s last two seasons at the All-Star break. “It's another bump in the road in life that, from a basketball standpoint, Chris Bosh will figure out what he wants to do in life.”

“For Chris, it's a bump in the road for him in life. He's 31 years old, he's got a long life to live. Hopefully he'll get back on a basketball court. In a perfect world. But if not, for me, I'm just happy that we're able to be friends and enjoy life as friends and see him be healthy in that way.”

And oh yeah, he also stood in front of a nationally-televised audience at the ESPY awards two months ago, challenging his fellow athletes to take stock of what’s going on around them and more specifically, the ails plaguing people of color in this country.

It wasn’t so much a stand as much as it was a statement, and others have taken the baton to make waves that will be felt around the NBA.

His battle, he believes, is different from the one Colin Kaepernick is drawing attention to, as Wade sees the endless violence in Chicago and has jumped in feet first to make his presence known.

“I think Kaepernick educated a lot of us on things we didn't know, things we wasn't aware of. I think for me, things in this city that I've seen, we have a different kind of battle here in Chicago, a different focus,” Wade said. “That's what my focus is on. My focus is on this city and what am I capable of doing to help our youth in this city in a bigger way. That's where my focus is.”

“But what (Kaepernick) is doing is great because it's what he wants to do, it's what he believes in and he's using his voice for that cause.”

And as Wade turns the corner, a fresh start after a surprising divorce, the new old kid in town reiterated Chicago is the place for him—even as he adjusts.

“I'm figuring it all out,” he said. “Like I said, I'm happy to be here. At this time in my career, this is where I want to be.”

Bulls begin 'necessary' new era by creating a culture 'to take steps forward'

Bulls begin 'necessary' new era by creating a culture 'to take steps forward'

The busiest Bulls offseason since Gar Forman took as over as general manager and John Paxson became vice president in 2009 came to a close Monday with the unofficial start of the season. The Bulls begin training camp Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Advocate Center, and they’ll do so with eight new faces on the floor, and without perhaps the two biggest faces of the franchise in the 2010s.

But Paxson admitted in his press conference at media day “it was time” to turn the page on a talented group once expected to compete for an NBA title that never lived up to that billing. The decision to trade Derrick Rose and move on from free agent Joakim Noah – as well as Pau Gasol – were difficult ones given those players’ place in Bulls history, but also necessary to move the franchise forward into a new era.

“I didn’t feel that group had a collective fight to it,” Paxson said. “And I think all of us looking back on it, that was true. Change was necessary.

“We had ridden that group a long way. With a little more luck we might have had more success, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. And we just felt it was necessary to try to take some steps forward.”

And while the sweeping overhaul of the roster was noticeable on paper, management is also seeing a different culture transforming on the Near West Side of Chicago they hope will usher in this new period of Bulls basketball.

It’s the reason Forman and Paxson were excited to bringing in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. With a combined 23 NBA seasons, 260 playoff games and four NBA titles, the two longest-tenured NBA veterans on the roster have already begun leaving their mark.

Forman noted specifically that Rondo has been around the team’s facility “a good part of the summer,” and that his work ethic and time spent in the community has rubbed off on his teammates. Wade walked around the Advocate Center floor with a certain larger-than-life persona, and the future Hall-of-Famer’s accolades speak for themselves. Paxson referred to Taj Gibson as “the ultimate pro,” and Jimmy Butler even noted Monday that he wants Fred Hoiberg to coach him harder than any player on the team, to use him as an example in practice and to “get on me about every little thing.”

“That’s another reason changes were necessary,” Paxson said of helping younger players progress. “And it’s created an environment in this building. We have to start from a base level, and a base level is culture and how guys go about their jobs every day. That’s why we’re talking about accountability.”

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Forman and Paxson are also excited about the balance they’ve created. There was some criticism about the Wade and Rondo signings after Forman had said the team was looking to get younger and more athletic – both Wade and Rondo have dealt with serious knee injuries in the past. In that sense, management feels as though they’ve done just that.

In addition to drafting Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine and German wing Paul Zipser, both of whom are 22, the Bulls received 23-year-old Jerian Grant and 28-year-old Robin Lopez in return for Rose. Add 23-year-old Spencer Dinwiddie and Isaiah Canaan (25), and as Forman noted the Bulls will have 12 players in camp under the age of 27, in addition to 10 players with three years or fewer NBA experience.

“And in doing that (retooling with youth) you still want to create a culture that’s conducive to professionalism, a team-first attitude. Some of those things, those intangibles, that are so important. And having that type of veteran experience around your young guys is critical as we go through this phase that we’re changing over the roster.”

Of course, simply overhauling a roster to management’s liking won’t produce wins. That won’t automatically place the Bulls back in the playoffs after they missed out last season for the first time in 2008.

All the pieces need to fit together – no executive, coach or player who spoke Monday seemed overly concerned about Wade, Butler and Rondo (the three Alphas) sharing the spotlight – and head coach Fred Hoiberg will need to show improvements in his second season.

With a plethora of young talent comes training-camp battles that Paxson said will be healthy for the team. Players like Bobby Portis, Doug McDermott, Valentine and whoever wins the back-up point guard spot will have not just the opportunity to learn from Wade, Rondo and Butler, but to play alongside them in expanded roles. Paxson went as far to say that how the Bulls’ role players perform “will probably dictate how well we do.”

It began with Forman and Paxson overhauling the roster, and continued into a busy summer full of individual workouts that impressed both upper management and the coaching staff. But now the speculation and critiques of the roster are over. The start of a new era has arrived in Chicago.

“The vibe that’s with this group right now is just really positive. I think ultimately the expectation (over the summer) was that they had to be professional in their approach every day,” Paxson said. “There’s going to be accountability to everything that they do, and that if we’re going to have any success in any way it’s going to come from us being together and giving great effort.

“That’s the great thing about a new season starting and putting together a team: it’s all out there in front of us.”