Bulls Very Much a Work in Progress

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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.

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 tonight 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.”