Bulls' Johnson set for D-League stint

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Bulls' Johnson set for D-League stint

Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2011
Posted: 11:00 a.m. Updated: 3:34 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

As first reported by AOL Fanhouse, Bulls forward James Johnson is set to be assigned to the D-League's Iowa Energy Thursday, a source with knowledge of the situation tells CSNChicago.com. Johnson, a second-year player, requested the assignment, which will last 14 days, according to the source.

Assigning James to the D-League gives an opportunity to play an extended amount of minutes and will be good for his overall growth, Bulls general manager Gar Forman said in a statement Thursday.

Johnson, a 6-foot-9 forward drafted 16th overall in 2009 NBA Draft, has seen action in 12 games this season and has averaged 3.5 points and 2.0 rebounds per game, with his last playing time in the team's Jan. 4 win over Toronto. As a rookie, the Wake Forest product averaged 3.9 points and 2.0 rebounds in 65 games.

Although Johnson won acclaim for transforming his body in the offseason, he hasn't been able to crack first-year Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau's rotation and was reportedly on the trading block earlier this season. An extremely athletic player, Johnson views a stint with the team's D-League affiliatethe Bulls haven't assigned a player to the team since the 2007-08 seasonas an opportunity to at least gain experience, according to the aforementioned source.

Thibodeau positive about Johnson's assignment

Bullshead coach Tom Thibodeau shed more light into the organizationsdecision to assign second-year forward James Johnson to the IowaEnergy, the teams D-League affiliate.

James has done aterrific job. His attitudes been great, he worked extremely hard inpractice and we just felt because of the way things were going, hewasnt playing much, so we wanted to give him an opportunity to get himsome playing time, said Thibodeau. Games are different than practice,so I think it will be good for him.

I think hes made goodprogress, Thibodeau continued. Defensively, hes improving. Hesworked very hard on his shot and hes got to continue to do so. Theonly way you can get playing time is by playing. Right now, were setin our rotation and this is an opportunity for him to play in somegames.

Thibodeau referenced Johnsons chances to get minutes earlier in the Bulls seasonprior to power forward Carlos Boozers debutand how the situation has changed since then.

Theopportunity was there when Johnson was playing earlier. We had gottendown big in those games and we were looking for a change in energy andthat was basically the role that he was in. Luol Denghas played exceptionally well and he hasnt been hurt or anything, sothere just havent been a lot of minutes there, Thibodeau explained.It wasnt really anything that he did. There just werent minutes. Wehave Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Luol who are really playing that position and then weve moved C.J. Watson some to the two shooting guard, so if you look at the wing minutes, theres not a lot of them there.

Thibodeauadded that Johnson wasnt opposed to the assignment, while a sourcepreviously told CSNChicago.com that Johnson requested to play in theD-League.

It was probably a combination of both a teamdecision and Johnsons request, said Thibodeau. When guys do godown, its important that they want to go downyoure seeing more andmore teams use it that way, when guys arent getting playing time. Youlook at the schedule and if it makes sense to give a guy an opportunitywhere you get 30, 35 minutes to play.

He wanted to do it. Itwasnt a case of him not wanting to go and its not a punishment. Itsjust an opportunity for him to get some playing time and develop, headded. The main thing for me is I just want to see him play. I thinkhell play well and I think thatll give him some confidence. The mainthing is the playing time and the only way hell get it is to go downthere right now.

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.

Slow start to fourth dooms Bulls in loss to Blazers

Slow start to fourth dooms Bulls in loss to Blazers

With his old teammate Robin Lopez in front of him and his feet at the United Center sign on the floor, Damian Lillard threw caution to the wind as he sensed the end was near.

With redemption on his mind and the Bulls on the ropes, Lillard unleashed a long triple that took the air out of the building with five minutes and pushed the Portland Trailblazers lead to 10.

The Bulls got closer but a few disastrous minutes spelled doom in their 112-110 loss Monday at the United Center, their third defeat in four games as they were without Rajon Rondo, who was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team earlier in the day.

Dwyane Wade scored 34 points with four rebounds and four assists in his return from a one-game rest while Jimmy Butler scored 26 with seven rebounds and five assists but the Bulls shot just 42 percent and committed 15 turnovers, many of them unforced against a defense that isn’t known for stopping opponents.

Lillard hit free throws in the final minute after the Bulls pulled to within three with 18.2 seconds left but his triple was a backbreaker.

It gave the visitors the push they needed after trailing to start the fourth, going on a 13-3 run while the Bulls missed 11 of their 13 shots to start the period, halting a relatively smooth offensive game to that point.

And when their offense abandoned them, they couldn’t get enough stops against a potent Trailblazers team that loves playing fast and loose. Chicago native Evan Turner hit two big baskets during the run, as he hit five of six on the night to score 11.

The Bulls harassed Lillard into one of his worst shooting nights of the season in a blowout win a few weeks ago and he made amends with a 26-point, seven-assist night

He looked to start off on the right foot from the jump, taking advantage of Jerian Grant off the dribble.

The Bulls’ defense was confused on rotations, allowing Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe to feast early on. McCollum ran around screens and read a slow-reacting Bulls defense, nailing jumpers over flat-footed defenders.

Crabbe scored 17 off the bench while McCollum hit 10 of 19 to score 24, as the Blazers hit nine triples at 39-percent accuracy.

The trio of guards combined for 45 in the first half and the Bulls needed to make an adjustment.

So Butler started the third quarter defending Lillard and it seemed to throw off the Blazers’ rhythm. The Bulls took a 67-66 lead minutes into the second half and held off the duo until McCollum’s 25-foot triple right at the end of the third.

He dropped in another two minutes into the fourth to give the Blazers a 90-89 lead.

By then, they were in a dogfight and unable to slow down the hot shooting Blazers.

Rajon Rondo used foul language with Bulls assistant coaches following loss to Mavs

Rajon Rondo used foul language with Bulls assistant coaches following loss to Mavs

The Rajon Rondo file has another suspension to the ledger, as he was suspended by the Bulls for one game for “conduct detrimental to the team” and will miss Monday night’s game against the Portland Trailblazers.

It’s the seventh incident in the past few years for Rondo where he’s been suspended by the NBA or the team he’s played for, which of course brings up queries as to the event in question.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wouldn’t elaborate on what took place, only that he met with Rondo Sunday and that the two are on the same page. Saturday night, the Bulls lost in blowout fashion to the Dallas Mavericks, Rondo’s former team.

A source said he used some foul language to some assistant coaches, although he apologized afterwards to the team. One report said the assistant coach was Jim Boylen.

“He and I met yesterday, had a good meeting. He’ll meet us at the plane tonight,” Hoiberg said. “He’ll be back in uniform tomorrow night against Detroit and moving forward. As far as details guys, I’m not going to get in the details of it. We’re going to move past it, and again he’ll be back in uniform tomorrow.”

Hoiberg shut down every question about Rondo, only saying it wasn’t a physical altercation with any players or members of the coaching staff. With Rondo’s history of situations, Hoiberg said he understood the line of questioning but tried to walk the line of supporting the player as well.

“Sure, I understand that,” Hoiberg said. “But I’ll say this, Rajon, as we’ve all said, has been great. A great teammate. I’ve enjoyed the relationship that we developed, and again it’s not going to change moving forward.”

Rondo is averaging 8.2 points, 7.2 assists and 6.7 rebounds in 17 games, and is coming off a poor showing against Dallas, where he had five turnovers and just two points, two rebounds and two assists.

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The Bulls play the Pistons Tuesday to complete their four games in five nights stretch, and Jerian Grant will start in Rondo’s place.

“(Rondo’s) been great. I think this is just another bump in the road,” said Jimmy Butler, who also wouldn’t elaborate on what led to the suspension. “He's a phenomenal damn teammate and I back him on everything.”

When asked whether he agreed with the organizational decision to suspend Rondo, Butler said: “It's not my job to agree or disagree.”

Butler positioned himself as a big Rondo backer Monday in speaking to the media, as the two were together for an NBA Cares event with Robin Lopez.

“I don't feel his reputation fits him at all. Rondo's an incredible basketball player, friend, brother to me now, to us,” Butler said. “I think we love him here. I think the fans love him as well, the organization, I think everyone has nothing but great things to say about him. I don't see where that reputation came from at all.”

Butler wouldn’t even admit to being disappointed about the situation, choosing to stay out of the fray and not issue any controversial statements.

“Nope. Not at all. These things happen, and when things happen you handle it the way you're supposed to handle it,” Butler said. “I think we all love Rondo. I know I do. He's been a great mentor to me, he's made me a much better basketball player. We've got to go out and get one tonight.”