Bulls starters meshing at the right time?

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Bulls starters meshing at the right time?

INDIANAPOLISFor the 15th time this season, Tom Thibodeau had the luxury of having his starting group together in Wednesday nights win over the Pacers. While each member of the quintet werent outstanding individuallythe starting backcourt of Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton shot a combined 5-for-21 from the fieldthe Bulls head coach liked what he saw in general.

I like the way the starters started the game. It got us off to a good start. Carlos was really good to start. Derrick had a really good bounce to his game and I like the plays that Rip was making off the catch-and-shoot. Rips shots were great shotsthey were all in and outso I was very pleased with our starters, he said. Theres always things that you could do better, that we need to work on, but were getting there. Our starters havent played a lot together all year, so it was a good opportunity for them to get some quality time on the floor and I thought that was good for us. Our bench has been terrific all season long, so it was good. It was good to have everybody.

As has occurred for much of the season, the Bulls Bench Mob carried the squad, with Kyle Korver in particular having an excellent performance with a team-high 20 points, including making four of his six three-point attempts, but there were good signs from the first unit, as well. For example, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah were both extremely productive from the outset, All-Star Luol Deng had a solid all-around night and Rose, the reigning league MVP, appeared to have regained some of his vaunted explosiveness.

Im just trying to play within the group. Theyve been doing a good job making sure that Im taking my time, not rushing anything when I come off picks, just trying to make the right play. Carlos and Joakim are doing a great job of making plays for other people. Lu is playing great, shooting the ball good. Rip is Rip, hitting mid-range and trying to get the line, trying to get people up in the air going into him. I think our chemistry is good. Our bench is even better. Their chemistry is great. They know who should shoot the ball, who shouldnt shoot the ball. Their chemistry is good. Thats the reason why we won the game tonight, Rose explained. Its easy now. Guys arent scared to take shots. If theyre open, were doing what were supposed to do and thats shoot the ball, and moving the ball, so I think our assists are up and were rebounding the ball, too.

Im not worried about that, he continued, when asked about whether hed return to his MVP-level form in the near future. Im going to be all right. Certain situations, if it was a crazy type of game and at the end, I need to take over, thats what Im going to try to do. If not, Im still going to try to play my game, play aggressive.

Unlike a lot of other coaches, Thibodeau is of the mindset that his starters should play significant, if not excessive minutes down the regular seasons stretch run, a position justified by the amount of injuries they incurred over the campaign.

Well see where we are. I want our starters to get more time together, so itll be similar to tonight, but well see how the game unfolds, he explained, when asked about his plans for the Bulls season finale Thursday against Cleveland at the United Center. I just want us to continue to take it step by step. Just get ready tomorrow, have a great walk-through, know Cleveland and the rest of it takes care of itself. Dont worry about all the other stuff.

Korver concurred: Im not into those guys totally staying out. Maybe in certain situations, with certain teams, they can feel that out, but I think for usespecially for us because we have had guys outwe need Derrick to play some. We dont need him to hurt himself or strain anything, but we need him to play and we need to play with him.

Typically, the Bulls win reflected what the team has done all year, with few blips on the radar: Win, no matter how it looks to the casual fan.

Explained Korver: Just a grind-it-out type team. We may have the best record in the league, but we probably also lead the league in ugly games played. Were out there just grinding, man. Were a great defensive team, were a great rebounding team and we definitely rely on both of those things to win.

Added Noah: I think we played well tonight, so thats a good sign and weve just got to keep it up. We just have one more until the playoffs start, so its an exciting time of the year and we just want to be playing the right way.

Even having clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls are proud of achieving the feat in consecutive seasons, but remain focused on the task at hand.

Its huge. Having the best record in the NBA, youve worked hard for it all year and besides, you want to finish the season with good momentum. Weve got our starting unit, we want to get our rhythm down and finish with wins, Deng told CSNChicago.com. I thought we played well. Theres still a lot to work on, get our rhythm down.

Chimed in Rose: Its important, but the only thing weve got to do is win out. The most important thing were thinking about right now is Cleveland.

Is #TheReturn getting a reboot? Report says there's a possibility Derrick Rose comes back to Bulls

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USA TODAY

Is #TheReturn getting a reboot? Report says there's a possibility Derrick Rose comes back to Bulls

Is there another episode of #TheReturn brewing?

The Bulls just departed with Derrick Rose last offseason, but he might be considering a return to his hometown, per a Thursday afternoon report.

Rose had been linked in previous reports to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers, but a return to the Bulls would be downright nuts.

Rose spent the first eight years of his NBA career with the Bulls, the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the 2008-09 Rookie of the Year, a three-time All Star and the youngest MVP in league history back in 2010-11.

While big-time injuries derailed his career in Chicago, the Bulls don't have much in the way of a proven point guard.

Remember, too, that Rose attended a Bulls playoff game at the United Center earlier this year.

Last season with the New York Knicks, Rose played in 64 games, averaging 18 points and 4.4 assists per game. That scoring average was the fourth highest of his career.

Of course, the possibility of Rose coming home is just found in one report, with a couple others dispelling the notion of a reunion.

Ping-pong balls everywhere: Where do the Bulls rank among projected lottery teams?

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AP

Ping-pong balls everywhere: Where do the Bulls rank among projected lottery teams?

When your team is no longer in playoff contention it's always a good time to look forward. The Bulls finally have a direction after trading Jimmy Butler on draft night and will go to a youth movement to build the talent pool back up. And with free agency pretty much wrapped up (although Derrick Rose is making noise) it's time to look at where Fred Hoiberg's group stands among the teams looking for the most ping-pong balls on Lottery night next May.

The numbers in parentheses are the projected over-under win totals in Las Vegas:

Brooklyn Nets (20.5 wins)

The good news? Brooklyn had an excellent offseason. The bad news? It's going to take way more than one good string of moves to fix this mess. In dealing Brook Lopez and a first-round pick for D'Angelo Russell, the Nets gave away their best player for one with a bright future. Drafting Jarrett Allen was another solid move, but he's barely 19 and is more of a project than anything right now. Taking on DeMarre Carroll's and Timofey Mozgov's contracts provide them more talent, but neither should get much playing time during the youth movement. It may be tough for this team to get to 20 wins.

Phoenix Suns (25.5 wins)

There might not be a better young core in the Western Conference than in Phoenix. With Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson (all lottery picks) leading the way, there's optimism about the Suns' future. It just might not lead to many victories in 2017-18. Bender is 19 and the others are 20, and veterans Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler are prime trade candidates. Phoenix is going somewhere, but expect them to pick in the top 3 a year from now.

Chicago Bulls (28.5 wins)

It's difficult right now to project how many wins the Bulls will tally. Restricted free agent Nikola Mirotic is still unsigned, and there are questions about whether Dwyane Wade will be bought out at some point during the season. Zach LaVine's timetable on returning from ACL surgery is still unknown, and the Bulls will take a cautious approach in bringing him back. Robin Lopez could also be dealt at some point. The young guns are going to get all the run they can handle, helping the rebuild while not doing much in the win department.

Sacramento Kings (30.5 wins)

The Kings went 8-17 after dealing DeMarcus Cousins, which projects to a 26-win season over an 82-game span. The good news is Scott Perry made this roster a whole lot better before leaving for the Knicks. Drafting De'Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Frank Mason III, and signing George Hill, Vince Carter and Zach Randolph has this roster looking as deep as it's been in quite some time. They're in the West, which makes things more difficult, but they're a good bet to make serious improvement in 2017.

Indiana Pacers (31.5 wins)

Like the Bulls, the Pacers began their rebuilding phase after dealing a star in Paul George. Indiana grabbed an established two-way guard in Victor Oladipo (25 years old) and 21-year-old Domantas Sabonis, Potential trade candidates are Thaddeus Young, Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic. Myles Turner is a budding star, while young players in T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu and Glenn Robinson III will get plenty of playing time. Those four matchups against the Bulls could loom large as far as the Lottery balls are concerned.

Los Angeles Lakers (32.5 wins)

It looks like the Lakers hit on both their first-round draft picks, as Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma had monster Summer Leagues. Add Brook Lopez, who was outstanding last season, to a talented young core and it appears the Lakers are trending in the right direction. It wouldn't be surprising to see Los Angeles compete for a playoff spot. Plus, the Lakers have no incentive to tank, as their first-round pick in 2018 will go to Philadelphia or Boston. Expect them to move past the Bulls in the win total.

New York Knicks (32.5 wins)

Not sure about this one. It still seems there's a good chance Carmelo Anthony gets dealt, and depending on what they get back in a deal their second best player (behind Kristaps Porzingis) will be $71 million man Tim Hardaway Jr. They won 31 games a year ago, and it's hard to imagine they're better without Anthony, regardless of how inefficient he's become.

Atlanta Hawks (34.5 wins)

No team in the league took a bigger hit from where they were a year ago to now than the Hawks. After winning 43 wins and earning the No. 5 seed in the East, Atlanta lost Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. to free agency and traded Dwight Howard. Essentially it's Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore and a ton of question marks. Taurean Prince, DeAndre' Bembry and rookie John Collins are a good core, but this is going to be an ugly season in the ATL.

Dallas Mavericks (34.5 wins)

We'll go ahead and assume restricted free agent Nerlens Noel returns. So, too, is Dirk Nowitzki back for another year, and the Mavs look like they have a steal in rookie Dennis Smith Jr. They've entered a rebuild, which owner Mark Cuban admitted, but their talent across the board might be enough to get them to the 33 wins they had a year ago. Playing in the West makes it more difficult to project, but they should tally more wins than the Bulls simply on their talent pool.

Orlando Magic (34.5 wins)

This Las Vegas win total is a little confusing. Orlando made nice moves in the offseason, drafting Jonathan Isaac and signing Jonathon Simmons. But that's about it, and the Magic were lucky to win 29 games a year ago. True, they're in a depleted Eastern Conference but it's hard to see Frank Vogel turning around the franchise this quickly. That being said, their young players (Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic, Mario Hezonja and Aaron Gordon) have NBA experience, so maybe they make a jump and it results in wins.