Bulls teammates eager for Rose's return

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Bulls teammates eager for Rose's return

Whether Derrick Rose returns to the Bulls lineup in Sundays afternoon matinee at New York, Tuesdays home game against the Knicks or one of the teams other remaining 10 games this regular season, his teammates will welcome him back with open arms. That seems obvious, but even after posting a stellar record with the leagues reigning MVP sidelined due to a litany of injuries currently a strained right groin the Bulls are under no illusions that despite owning the NBAs top record, they can make it to the promised land without the All-Star point guard, regardless of how many times Tom Thibodeaus mantra of having more than enough to win games proves true.

C.J. Watson, Luke John Lucas III, those guys have been doing a great job stepping in for him, but having Derrick just makes it easier. A lot of attention on him offensively, his defense has been great and it just makes it easier for everyone when everyone is healthy, Luol Deng explained. Everybody knows were a better team with him. Weve got 10 games now. I think weve really got to lock in as a team. The practices weve got, those 10 games and just trying to get better and see how good we can be going into the playoffs. Weve learned a lot from last year and just going into now, I think well be better prepared. Last year was the first time for a lot of us, going that deep, but were expecting to go deep this year and we really want to lock in, and then give it a run.

Of course. He needs to also, continued Roses fellow All-Star, when asked if it would be beneficial for Rose to be back in action for the regular seasons stretch run. Hes getting healthier and hopefully hes out there soon. The sooner hes out there, the better. Also, getting in game shape. It takes a while to get in that type of shape.

Im excited. Im looking forward to it. It just makes it a lot easier. With Rip being back and Derrick being back, those guys, they know the game of basketball and its definitely going to make it easier.

Reinforced Joakim Noah: We definitely want Derrick back out there. He helps, you know? But even when Derrick comes back, its not going to be easy. Weve got a long road ahead with a lot of games, a lot of battles and with Derrick back, we have to play hungry and when we play hungry, were tough to beat.

Echoed Carlos Boozer: Weve been holding it down without him, but we cant wait to get him back out there.

Perhaps the player who will be most ecstatic to see Rose on the court again will be Watson, whos been battling through a variety of ailments, both disclosed and undisclosed, throughout the injury-riddled campaign, but bounced back from a recent slump with a solid performance in Thursdays home win over Boston, which snapped a season-high two-game Bulls losing streak.

Next question, joked the backup point guard and fill-in starter, when asked about the nature of his woes. Its tough, but Ive just got to fight through it. Short season. Everyones banged up on our team.

Its pretty hard, continued Watson, who noted that he doubts Thibodeau rests him during practices and games after Roses return Maybe. You never know. Maybe he wakes up and feels good one day, he quipped despite the coach stating earlier in the week that its a possibility, something aided by not only Lucas play, but the organization signing veteran journeyman point guard Mike James for the remainder of the season, his fourth stint with the team this year. Just got to stay in the gym, getting shots, getting treatment and hopefully get better.

It also helps that the other member of the Bulls starting backcourt, Rip Hamilton, is healthy again. While Hamilton still hasnt consistently displayed his famed shooting accuracy in the two games since his return from a right-shoulder injury, hes been aggressive and has shown flashes of versatility on both ends of the floor as he tries to regain his timing and rhythm.

Im definitely satisfied with it. You hate to miss shots. My legs feel great. thats a big plus. But each game, I get a little better. I dont have any setbacks, so thats the biggest thing, said Hamilton. Everythings timing with me right now. We dont get the opportunity in practice to go up and down, play five-on-five.

Added Deng: I knew Rip could score before he came in, but honestly, his basketball I.Q. is very high and I think its something that we need. I think he reads the game real well and at times, when you need a basket or just making a smart play out there, you need a vet like that when were struggling as a team to make a play."

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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."