Bulls notes: Rose improving core strength

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Bulls notes: Rose improving core strength

TORONTODuring the offseason, Derrick Rose talked about the silver lining of his torn ACL injury being that he could focus on strength training, something he previously neglected, due to his natural physical gifts.

Prior to his teams shootaround Wednesday morning, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau discussed the former league MVPs physical condition and concurred with Roses opinion.

Derricks one of those guys who stays in great shape year-round. Its about where hes been in the past, he said. Hes had to put more time into that, from that standpoint, so I think hes doing more core stuff, more for his lower body and I think guys sort of evolve into that. The longer youre in the league, the more you understand, too, how important that is for maintenance, to be able to endure getting nicked up during the course of the season.

Thibodeau wary of Raptors

As expected, Thibodeau wasnt resting on the laurels of the Bulls 97-58 Monday-night thrashing of Atlanta at the United Center.

The coach added that despite the Raptors mediocre record, he was concerned about their depth.

Thats gone, so you just get ready for Toronto. Practice well today, concentrate, just go step by step, be ready to go, he said. The activity of their bigs, Jose Calderon off the dribble, DeMar DeRozan off the dribble. Kyle Lowry had a pretty good ankle sprain last night, but then came back and played great in the fourth quarter.

"John Lucas III is an X-factor when he comes into the game, Fields is hard-playing, Ed Davis has played extremely well for them up front, Amir Johnson has played well. Aaron Gray is a guy who, if he gets deep post position, hes going to make you pay, Thibodeau continued. Theyre playing well. The last 10 games or so, theyre really playing well.

Lucas still on Bulls' minds

Luol Deng talked about the shoot-first nature of former teammate John Lucas III, known for his instant-offense ability.

Although Lucas is in Toronto, Deng said that the backup point guard still keeps in touch with his old team.

Thats just his game. Theres some guys in this league, you just know when they get the opportunity, theyre going to get shots up and sometimes you wonder why theyre not playing a lot of minutes, and thats probably why. But its just his game, he quipped.

John is always talking smack somehow, whether its on Twitter or texting you, something he saw. Hes always staying on his former teammates.

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Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

If there's a more maddening player in the Eastern Conference than Nikola Mirotic, that player's psychologist should be getting paid double considering Bulls fans have been talking to themselves about Mirotic so much over the past three years.

And as they've reached no conclusion on Mirotic, along with many other sage minds, only one thing is for certain: March is his month.

Meaning it's the month where it becomes maddening to watch him play and probably equally as maddening for his teammates who've watched his inconsistencies for the better part of four months or so.

Averaging 16.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 41 career March games, it's the only full month where Mirotic averages in double figures for his career—meaning there's a lot of inconsistencies to wade through to get to the proverbial pot of gold.

In 2014-15, he emerged as the NBA's best fourth-quarter scorer that month when the Bulls were without both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Last season, he came back fresh after an appendectomy took a big chunk of his year.

This year, there's no big macro reason. He's just playing definitively, making quick movements and it's paying off as his two best scoring games took place within a four-day span (28 against both Detroit and Milwaukee).

"Right now, you see I'm shooting without hesitation," Mirotic said to CSNChicago.com. "Just catch and shooting. It's a great feeling."

No word on whether Mirotic hears the fans in the arena or the twitterverse screaming for him to ditch the pump fake that he actually admits it got in his head, but this season has been a roller coaster of the most dramatic kind, as the Bulls are still vying for playoff positioning with eight games remaining in the regular season.

"Sometimes, especially when I'm reading you guys (media), Niko pump fake, pump fake," Mirotic said with a smile. "Okay, no more pump fakes, just fire that ball. I'm laughing because you guys are (right)…that's true. You guys want me to shoot. It doesn't look good when you pump fake every time you have a wide-open shot."

Being penciled in as a training camp starter due to the need for floor spacing, Taj Gibson quickly outplayed Mirotic for the power forward spot. Then Mirotic's up and down, down and up, season began.

Kind of like his pump fake that often drew more defensive attention for it's predictability than effectiveness, stability has been hard to find for a player many have been waiting on since the day he was drafted in 2011.

"I know the defenses are ready for my pump fake so now just like, shoot the ball," Mirotic said. "I've been spending a lot of hours working on my shot before practice, after practice, trying to catch the feeling."

Better late than never or too late?

That's the question surrounding Mirotic and he knows it, being aware of his status as a restricted free-agent-to-be, along with his trade value a month ago being so low, the Bulls could only get a future second-round pick for him from teams.

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With the Bulls having so many questions going into the future, who knows if they want to go through the up-and-down, down-and-up cycle with a talented player yet again, with a big-time financial commitment.

In a sense, Mirotic knows he's left plenty on the table as far as his play through the years and seems to be content with playing with a sense of freedom as the season concludes, whether he's back with the Bulls or not for next year and beyond.

"I just wanna leave a good impression for the Bulls," Mirotic said. "Whatever decision they make. It's been a pleasure. A lot of people dream to be here, I was one of those guys when I was in Europe. I was really like, I wanna go there and play for the Bulls. The history they have. For me, it's a dream come true. Whatever decision they make, I make, whatever. I don't know. The years here have been great. I know it's been up and down. It's been a pleasure and I just wanna finish right."