Friday, Dec. 10, 2010
Posted: 3:40 PM
By Aggrey Sam
Phil Jacksons potential final visit to the United Center. Another litmus test for the new-look Bulls with a healthy Carlos Boozer. Derrick Roses youthful brilliance against cagey veteran superstar Kobe Bryant, tutored as teenager, by the way, by one Tom Thibodeau. Two teams on three-game winning streaks.
Subplots abound in Fridays matchup of the Bulls and the Lakers, the teams second meeting in less than a month, with the reigning champs holding off Chicago late in the Staples Center. Not a team known for its modesty, the Lakers have a healthy respect for their next opponent.
Theyve got the personnel. They seem dedicated to it. Its tough sometimes for kids to come in and find a way and get their minds straight and become pros. This crew seems to be drumming to that level of professionalism that it takes to be serious about winning, said Jackson at Friday mornings Lakers shootaround at the United Center when asked if he saw the Bulls approaching the championship-era teams he once coached.
Weve said that theyre going to be in the top five or six in the East, but right now they look that they could even be above that. They look like they could be in the three or four spot.
Carlos Boozer gives them a credible scorer, a guy thats a big body. We like Taj Gibson. Hes played very well since coming in the NBA, but Carlos gives them a real genuine scorer.
Added Bryant: The Bulls are a team that plays well together. They execute extremely well. They play hard.
Boozer is very versatile. He can extend the floor, which is perfect playing with a point guard like D-Rose. You need somebody that can extend the floor and he certainly can do that. He has great hands around the hoop, he has a knack for offensive rebounds and hes a very underrated passer.
Sixth-man extraordinaire-turned-starter Lamar Odom told CSNChicago, Theyre a good team. Theyve got a great defensive coach, great point guard.
Now theyve got Boozer as a scoring forward, really helped them out. I think their addition of Korver there will stretch the floor. Of course, you know what youre going to get from Noah hard defender, going to roll to the basket and rebound, he continued. I think Deng is one of the keys for them, somebody you want to try to keep out of the game. I know for them, its important that he gets going.
Theyre going to be a good team. Theyre going to be fighting for a playoff spot I dont know where, but theyre going to be fighting somewhere fighting to probably upset a team in the second or the late rounds of the playoffs.
After last months close call, the healthy respect the Lakers had for Rose only increased.
Hes a hell of a player. Hes one of the best players Ive ever played with or against. There isnt anything stopping him from getting to where he wants to go with the basketball. He has a high basketball I.Q., Odom, who played with Rose on the gold-medal winning FIBA World Championships USA Basketball squad in the offseason, told CSNChicago.com.
After he either sets somebody up or uses the dribble to get to where he wants to go in the lane, theres not too many guys his size that can elevate and get to the basket and finish with an array of moves.
Hes like an acrobat in the air. He worked on his pull-up jumper the whole summer and its showing because now when he gets going he gets those first two layups, then that jumper gets going guys have got to step out. It makes it easier for him to drive. Hes just playing with boys out there.
Jacksons take on Rose was similar.
Well, there are a lot of players in this game that we pick because theyve been on very good basketball teams in college and theyve been winners in their high school, college days. That doesnt mean theyre going to come into the NBA and be stars. They still have to have the talent, said Jackson. The ones that know how to win seem to perpetually find a way to win, help their teams win and Derrick has that character about him. What separates him right now and had separated him was his ability to hit shots trust his jump shot and this year he seems to have found that confidence that he needs to have the ability to pull up and shoot a shot.
Bryant, who briefly spoke with Rose on the court after the game in Los Angeles last month Just told him to stay healthy and continue the job that hes doing believes Rose can become even better.
I think the skys the limit for him. You see now, with the improvement hes made on his jump shot, just last year to this year, how his game has really gone to another level. I think hes just scratching the surface. I think he realizes now what his jump shot can do and hopefully hell continue to work on it and become a pure shooter, said Bryant, who told reporters Friday, Im passing expletivehe can certainly try, when asked if he was passing the torch to Rose.
I dont think you can develop that. I think you either have it or you dont. I think hes had that since high school, continued Bryant, when queried about Roses developing killer instinct, last displayed Wednesday in the waning moments of the Bulls narrow escape at Cleveland. That separates players, I think. Players of equal ability, its about the engine that you have inside. It certainly gives him an edge.
While the Bulls championship era will never be repeated, the fact that the team closest to doing it gives the current Windy City squad such a hearty endorsement should raise the level of optimism in Chicago.
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.