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.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Spurs tomorrow on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com, the only place where you can get the hometown call from Neil and Stacey.

Coverage begins at 8 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Attempting to end perfection. The Spurs have been absolutely electric outside of San Antonio this season, winning each of their first 13 road games to begin the year. That's the second longest streak in NBA history, and the Bulls have actually lost two of three at home. The Bulls will be home underdogs as the Spurs look to make it 14 in a row. The good news is the Bulls have defeated the Spurs at home each of the last two seasons.

2. Battle of the two-way studs. There's a real argument to be made that Thursday's matchup will tout the two best two-way players in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having his best offensive season to date, averaging 24.5 points on 46 percent shooting, 1.9 triples, and averaging nearly 91 percent from the free-throw line. Expect Jimmy Butler and Leonard to be on each other's rear most of the night in what should be one of the most fun 1-on-1 matchups in the NBA.

3. Questions at the point. For the Spurs, Tony Parker is questionable to play with a knee injury. If he can't go, it would be Nico Laprovittola and Patty Mills running the point. For the Bulls, Rajon Rondo is coming off a pair of ugly performances in Bulls' losses to the Mavericks and Pistons (and his suspension against the Blazers). Someone needs to step up at the point, and it could decide Thursday night's winner.

4. Pau returns to the UC. Though it didn't result in much success, Pau Gasol enjoyed two highly successful seasons in Chicago. The stat-stuffer was named an All-Star in both seasons, averaging 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 150 games. He's now in San Antonio, filling Tim Duncan's role in the starting lineup. And though his numvers are down from a year ago, he's still capable of putting up numbers, especially against a Bulls' interior that has struggled of late.

5. Getting Doug McDermott back. Dougie McBuckets has been activated to the Bulls roster, and not a moment too soon. Since McDermott suffered a concussion on Nov. 12, the Bulls bench ranks 26th in 3-pointers per game (2.5) and 30th in 3-point field-goal percentage (23.5 percent). Getting McDermott back, even in a small role as he gets his legs under him, will be a major factor against a Spurs team whose offense continues to heat up in December.

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Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

AUBURN HILLS, MICH—Rajon Rondo almost made it to the quarter mark of the season without incident, but his frustrations got the better of him in Dallas last weekend in a situation with Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen.

He returned from his one-game suspension in a light mood, but didn’t take things lightly when addressing questions from the media after the Bulls’ 102-91 loss to Detroit.

Rondo admitted that he feels so strongly about things that he doesn’t let them go as easily as he should, which could have been the case with Boylen. Rondo threw a towel after an exchange with Boylen during the Bulls’ blowout loss to the Mavericks.

“That’s a good way to put it. Me as a player, a point guard, I have to handle a situation better,” Rondo said. “But when I feel a certain way, I’m gonna speak on it. My whole thing is always for the betterment of the team.

“If it comes off wrong or a certain way I’ll try to work on that. But for the most part I’m not a selfish individual, I try to do what’s best for the team, try to watch film with my teammates. That’s just part of the game, who I am.”

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When asked if he actually threw a towel at Boylen, Rondo quipped, “You gotta look at the film,” and tried to downplay the situation as best he could, noting the timing of the event in question.

He apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates and believes there won’t be lasting effects, although the Bulls are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

“Hopefully it’ll be the last three-game losing streak,” Rondo said. “It’s about how you handle adversity. We usually handle it well as far as bouncing back.”

Calling the incident “part of the game,” Rondo didn’t want to address specifics but given his history of instances such as these in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento, this one makes it a little harder to shake the reputation of being difficult to deal with.

“I have a good relationship with my team and I take pride in being a great teammate,” Rondo said. “I think we’re still on the same page. When you lose, things get blown out of proportion. When you win, it covers everything up. So we have to get back to winning basketball.”

His teammates have been supportive both behind the scenes and publicly, and were happy to have him back despite not being able to quell the losing streak.

“It was good. That's our starting point guard. We need veteran guys on this team,” Bulls guard Dwyane Wade said. “We need our bodies. He's our leader today so when we got down early he was the one who kept talking to us defensively. He's so smart out there on the floor, takes certain things away, get out in open transition. The reason we got back in the game, he did a good job of leading us in those moments.”