Del Negro, Thomas Looking to Move Forward

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Del Negro, Thomas Looking to Move Forward

Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010
6:03 P.M.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Prior to the Chicagos road game tonight in Indiana, Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro briefly spoke to the media. Del Negros main concern was Pacers star forward Danny Granger, an All-Star last season

Hes pretty good, by the way, sarcastically opened Del Negro. Shoots a lot of threes, really good on the break, long threes, big right-hand driver, they post him up a lot. Hes been an All-Star and hes a handful, so obviously weve got to pay attention to him.

When asked about the Pacers offense, Del Negro clearly wasnt taking tonights game for granted, despite its futility earlier in the season.

They have been putting up a lot of points lately. They put up a lot in the last several games. They shoot a lot of threes. Our transition defense has to be very solid tonight. We have to contest shots, observed Del Negro. Troy Murphy spreads you out. They lift him and he has great range. Brandon Rush has been shooting the ball very well from deep. The three-ball is going to be very, very important, long rebounds. We have to attack in our own transition on offense and get to the ft line.

Del Negro also indirectly addressed the ongoing Tyrus Thomas situation by talking about his rotation, specifically frontcourt players in Joakim Noahs absence.

Tyrus and John usually come in at the five, six-minute mark in the first quarter, and that wont change tonight. Well get Chris Richard in there and get Brad Miller a little bit of a rest, depending on matchups, whether Pacers center Roy Hibberts in there or whatever big theyre going with, said Del Negro. A lot of the time now, theyve been going a little bit smaller, putting Murphy at the five and playing four other smalls. Well just see how the matchups go and see how we want to exploit them. We may go big when they go small or maybe well go small and see how they match up, well just play out the game and then see how foul trouble is and tempo and things of that nature.

When asked about Miller, whos suffering from knee issues, Del Negro was cautiously optimistic.

His knees still got a little swelling in there, but hes been moving good. Weve had a difficult schedule, as far as back-to-backs, so he hasnt had a lot of rest, said Del Negro. Tonights no different. Well focus in on tonights game, and then another tough one at home against Orlando.

When it was pointed out that the Bulls face some teams below the caliber of some of the stronger teams in the leaguewhom their schedule was front-loaded withpotentially leading to smooth sailing after this weekends All-Star break, Del Negro wasnt so sure.

You would hope, but the old clichyou take one at a time. Weve beaten a lot of the upper-echelon teams; weve also lost to teams that dont have as good of a record, Del Negro explained. We dont have that type of team right now, where you just throw the ball into the post or handle mismatches and things. We have to play smart, we have to be efficient defensively. Our rebounding numbers are down since Joakim Noahs been out, and hes a big part of that.

Thats a big emphasis tonightno questionwell be trying to control the glass, he continued, again focusing on tonights matchup. Not giving them second opportunities, where theyre making threes and putting a lot of pressure on us.

The schedule has not been perfect for us. Weve had a ton of back-to-backs. Over half of our games are back-to-back games, said Del Negro, getting back to the teams schedule. You have to be ready to play and we have to healthy, play smart power basketball and try to keep guys as healthy as possible and as fresh as possible.

CSNChicago.com also spoke to Thomas before the game, although the fourth-year forward didnt have much to say about his suspension or the aftermath.

You know, execute the game plan, said Thomas, when asked about his role this evening.

Nothing to say, was his response when questioned about his current relationship with Del Negro, as well as speculation that hed be playing for another team before the upcoming NBA trade deadline.

Joakim Noah, whos out with plantar fasciitis, didnt travel on this trip, while Luol Deng, who slightly injured his shoulder, will play tonight.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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