Bulls Very Much a Work in Progress

60734.jpg

Bulls Very Much a Work in Progress

Monday, November 2nd

by Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

So what do you think of the Bulls' play in the opening week of the NBA season? We'd love to see your comments in the section below, or feel free to drop me an e-mail.

Here's a few things I've observed. It's pretty obvious the Bulls won't be able to win consistently without a healthy Derrick Rose in the line-up. Derrick insists his pre-season ankle injury is not the reason for his slow start. He says he just needs to work on his conditioning and find the rhythm in his offensive game. But watching Rose play in the first three regular season games, you can see he doesn't have his trademark quickness and explosive first step on drives to the basket. Derrick is one of the best finishing point guards in the game, but he's missed a lot of shots he normally would make. Rose has been able to get past his defender, but hasn't exploded to the basket like he did last season. Once Derrick is 100 healthy again, the Bulls' offense will instantly be better.

Joakim Noah's summer work has paid off. Noah's improved strength and conditioning has allowed him to tirelessly work the backboards on both ends, and so far, he's been the Bulls' best player. He's definitely capable of averaging double figures in points and rebounds, and better equipped to battle other NBA big men for position under the basket. Noah's also showed an improved ability to finish on close range shots in the lane, but his jump shot still looks pretty funky. The Bulls' center position is better than it's been in a long time with Noah, Brad Miller and overseas prospect Omer Asik, a 7-footer from Turkey who should join the team next summer.

The Bulls' coaches still don't have complete faith in Tyrus Thomas. Tyrus got the quick hook in the season opener against San Antonio, and he only played 20 minutes during Sunday's game in Miami. Vinny Del Negro said he wanted to go with a small line-up and more shooters against the Heat, but it still left Tyrus on the bench, wondering about his future with the team. While other NBA teams extended the contracts of their high draft picks from the '06 draft, the Bulls chose to let Thomas play out his deal and become a restricted free agent next summer. That decision alone speaks volumes on what they think of Thomas' future in Chicago.

Luol Deng should have a big season. With Ben Gordon now in Detroit, there are a lot more shots available in the Bulls' offense, and Deng will get a lot of them. He scored 17 points on opening night, and led all scorers with 26 points against the Heat. Even more encouraging than the numbers is Luol driving hard to the basket again, and finishing with a dunk on the fast break. Those are the kind of plays that will allow Deng to average in the 17 to 20 point range this season.

Right now, Vinny and his staff have to settle on a consistent playing rotation and figure out the best way to get open looks for a jump shooting team. The schedule is daunting during the month of November, so don't get too hung up on wins and losses. Look for good ball movement on offense and improved rotations on defense. Those are 2 of the keys to the Bulls making it back to the playoffs next spring.

I'll see you from the United Center with Kendall Gill for live pre-game reports Tuesday during SportsNite at 6:30 before the Bulls-Bucks game on Comcast SportsNet at 7:00.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre and post game studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox crush Royals; Cubs shutout Pirates; Bulls battle Celtics tonight on CSN

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox crush Royals; Cubs shutout Pirates; Bulls battle Celtics tonight on CSN

Here are some of the top Chicago sports stories from Tuesday: 

Five Things To Watch: Bulls battle Celtics in pivotal Game 5 on CSN

Preview: Cubs aim for sweep tonight on CSN

Three more hits for Leury Garcia as White Sox pound Royals

Kyle Hendricks outduels Gerrit Cole in Cubs win

Rajon Rondo return seems possible for Game 5

Clemson's Deshaun Watson is the one situation where a Bears reach has epic upside

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

NBA Buzz: Time for Fred Hoiberg to make adjustments for the Bulls

Duke chatter unlikely to stop, but newly extended Chris Collins wants to be at Northwestern: 'There's no reason for me to look elsewhere'

Teammates see Mike Glennon taking command of Bears offense

Five Things To Watch: Bulls battle Celtics in pivotal Game 5 on CSN

Five Things To Watch: Bulls battle Celtics in pivotal Game 5 on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Boston Celtics today in Game 5 on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. And be sure to 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.

1. Point guards need to be better. It’ll be Isaiah Canaan starting Game 5 at the point for the Bulls, but their game plan can’t be to have him play 34 minutes again. That means one of Jerian Grant or Michael Carter-Williams is going to have to give the Bulls some semblance of good run at times early in the second and fourth quarters. And that’s assuming Canaan can replicate Game 4’s performance.

2. Perfect time for a Jimmy Butler takeover game. Jimmy Butler has been good, not great, in this series. And for a No. 8 seed to upset a No. 1 seed, the eight seed’s best player needs to be great. Butler is shooting just 41 percent – and 24 percent from deep – despite averaging nearly 25 points per game. This could be a game where he decides to take over. When he does that (and is hitting jumpers), he’s unstoppable and can win a game himself.

3. Niko, Portis or Zipser? The Bulls wouldn’t have won Game 1 without Bobby Portis, and they would have had a much tougher time closing things out had Paul Zipser not gone for 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting. One of those two, or the struggling Nikola Mirotic, needs to step up in a big way for the Bulls, especially with Rajon Rondo out and Dwyane Wade struggling.

4. Is this now Isaiah Thomas’ series? With the Celtics going small Isaiah Thomas appears to have found his way offensively. He was dynamite in Games 1 and 2 with one of Gerald Green or Marcus Smart in the small-ball lineup. The Bulls don’t have enough options to throw at him when he’s on his game. There’s a reason he’s an MVP candidate, and if he decides this series is over the Bulls can’t match him.

5. The series is on the line. The Bulls are eight-point underdogs heading into Game 5, and the series is essentially on the line. A loss tonight means the Bulls need a win Friday at home AND a Game 7 road win in Boston against the top team in the East (record-wise). That just isn’t feasible. The season is on the line, and you can bet Fred Hoiberg has told his team as much – as if they needed to be told.

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you're ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Bulls: All of the most recent news and notes