Bulls reflect on successful 4-3 circus trip

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Bulls reflect on successful 4-3 circus trip

Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010
1:05 PM
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

With their successful 4-3 record over the course of the dreaded circus trip, the franchise's first winning record on the annual road swing since the 1997-98 campaign, the final year of the championship dynasty, one would imagine the Bulls are riding high, content with their success and experiencing burgeoning confidence with the imminent return of power forward Carlos Boozer on the horizon. Think again.

"You're looking at everything, so there's some things we're doing well, some things that we're below average in that we have to clean up, but we also want to keep adding to the foundation that we're building. So, there's a lot of work to be done," said Tom Thibodeau.

"Overall, I thought we played fairly well on the circus trip. We still have a lot of work to do and quite frankly, we don't want to look backwards; we want to look ahead and get ready for Orlando."

"I think we play hard, we're playing unselfishly. Our readiness to play, I'm still concerned about that. We're getting in holes to start games," the never-satisfied rookie head coach added. "In the NBA, you can find something every night, if you're looking for something what you'd like is to have the mental toughness and the belief that you can win under any circumstances. If you're doing the right things, you should have a chance to win."

Thibodeau's philosophy clearly has rubbed off on the team, which has displayed outstanding determination despite a disturbing tendency to have to make uphill climbs after allowing huge deficits even in the face of extreme fatigue, such as on the aforementioned West Coast trip.

"We feel like we let some games get away, truthfully. We felt like at San Antonio, we had a great opportunity to get a win. Denver, unfortunately, they knocked down a last-second shot," reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer told CSNChicago.com. "I wouldn't say we're satisfied, but we came into practice Monday working hard, trying to get better and we're getting back at it."

"I definitely could tell the Bulls were tired, but we're the type of team that's going to keep fighting throughout the whole game play defense toward the end of the Sacramento game but we can't dig ourselves a hole like that in the beginning because it takes too much energy out of us. Against a good team, they're not going to let us come back. Not to take anything away from them, but a veteran team, they wouldn't let us come back in the game," added Derrick Rose after Saturday's win to conclude the trip.

When told that this season's squad had accomplished something that hasn't been done since the days of Michael Jordan, Rose had a practical response.

"That's good, but it's still early in the season. If anything, I want you to say we were close to that team at the end of our season. Making it past the first round of the playoffs we're not looking ahead that far," added Rose. "We're just balling right now. We know that we've got a decent team and the coaching staff is doing great preparing for the games, Thibs is doing great in practice making sure we play hard every single time and we're holding ourselves accountable on the court, so I think that's a good thing."

Even though they're being tough self-critics, the Bulls are proud of their performance, setting the stage for them to enter December with a winning record and one of their key players in Boozer expected to make his debut soon.

"I'm excited. We've got a very good group of guys. We go on a road trip like that and take on some very good teams championship-level teams lost a couple of close games to those teams that we thought we had a chance to win in our opinion," observed Boozer, who had a courtside view for the entire trip and is arguably the team's biggest sideline cheerleader. "When we get back full force, we should be something to reckon with."

"I think a lot of people in the NBA overlook just your team getting along together off the court. I think a lot of the times, you put a bunch of individuals together just because of what they're capable of doing on the court. I just think our chemistry on and off the court has been unbelievable and this trip has been great for that," said Luol Deng. "Every team has things that they've got to correct. I'm not saying that's our only issue there's a lot of stuff we've got to correct but I really believe we're going to keep trying to make it better. We're going to keep working on it, keep working in practice and try to avoid that."

"Honestly, I think Coach did a good job of getting our mind off that the circus trip as a whole. In the past, it was just what everybody talked about and I think Coach did a good job this year. We took it one game at a time. It didn't feel like the circus trip; that wasn't our mindset. That's just the right way to attack it," continued the team's longest-tenured player. "Obviously everyone knows he's a great coach, but he really knows how to manage us. A great group of guys, but he knows when to make us work hard and when to step it up. It's just been a great trip, but now, we get back home and refocus."

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.

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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."