No letdown, Bulls win laugher for fifth straight

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No letdown, Bulls win laugher for fifth straight

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
Updated 12:17 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Fears of a letdown the night after a huge win over the defending champion Lakers were unfounded, as Chicago (14-8) avoided the dreaded trap game phenomenon and easily dispatched visiting Minnesota (6-18), 113-82, Saturday evening. Led by a career-high five 3-pointers from Derrick Rose and tremendous offensive balance, the Bulls cruised to their fifth consecutive victory.

From the start of the season, were trying to build the right habits and we were talking about being ready for each game and how important that isyou want to be consistent in your approach. You want to do the same things and I think its important not to look ahead or look behind. You want to learn from each game and correct the things you need to improve upon and prepare for the next opponent. In this league, all the teams are talented, so if youre not ready to play, every team is capable of beating you, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards.

After Timberwolves small forward Michael Beasley (16 points, six rebounds) got off to a quick startalthough not reviving the past debate about whether he or Rose (21 points, seven assists) should have been the top pick in the 2007 NBA Drafthis Bulls counterpart, Luol Deng (19 points, four rebounds, three assists), fueled the home teams early surge by hitting his four shots. Dengs offensive effort was complemented by a balanced attackRose, Carlos Boozer (17 points, seven rebounds) and Joakim Noah (nine points, 10 rebounds, six blocked shots) all contributed in the opening minutesthat allowed Chicago to build a double-digit cushion over the visitors.

I thought we got off to a good start, remarked Thibodeau. I thought our team defense was very good and I thought our rebounding was terrific.

Added Deng before the game: I think the Cleveland gamenothing against Cleveland, but we werent at our bestand after beating such a good team, its so easy to let up, but I expect we learned from last time to just go out there and be aggressive early, especially the starting five.

The ever-energetic Noah shared his thoughts on the Bulls avoiding the proverbial trap game against the lowly Timberwolves.

Theres not much you can do. I think its a mindset thing. Youve just got to come out and understand whats at stake. Energys a funny thing. Its easy to come up for a game like the Lakers because you know the energy and the crowds going to get you going, said Noah. I think we have a great crowd. Were lucky. They dont really let you be down too much because theyll get on you and thats a good thing.

A subplot: Noah and Minnesotas Kevin Love (23 points, 15 rebounds) lived up to their billing as the leagues two leading rebounders, as Noah snatched six in the period, while Love grabbed eight caroms.

When we rebound well, we have a better chance of winning. I dont know what the numbers were, but I think we rebounded the ball pretty well as a team, said Noah, who led the Bulls to a 53-36 edge on the glass. Love is a handful. Hes not the highest jumper or anything, but hes somebody whos mastered the craft. That might be an understatement. Hes very good at what he does.

Added Thibodeau: I think, overalland the way Love has been rebounding is incrediblebut I thought our team rebounding was excellent. I thought our help was very good and when someone left Love, I thought our weak side filled in and we were on his body and he still got a lot of rebounds, but I thought our gang rebounding was very good.

Following a Rose buzzer-beater to end the period, the Bulls held a 27-18 advantage.

Chicagos bench apparently wasnt in the mood for a letdown performance, as it extended the winning margin left by the starters after Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went with an all-reserve unit in the second quarter. A particularly aggressive Taj Gibson (12 points, 10 rebounds, three assists)the second-year power forward had been a solid contributor as a rebounder and defender off the bench, but struggled as a scorer as of lateand swingman Ronnie Brewer (eight points, five rebounds) were the main catalysts during this stretch.

Having maintained the lead, Thibodeau came back with his starterswith the exception of sharpshooter Kyle Korver (12 points)midway through the period and with Boozer finding his groove, the Bulls lead became as swollen as the inflatable Benny the Bull mascots that raced on the United Center floor during television timeouts.

First of all, when you add a player like Boozer, who hasnt really played in the system defensively, just integrating him into what we were doing and he was hurt in the preseason, so he was just thrown into the action right away. He was there, but the game goes at a different pace when youre playing out there compared to watching and playing in practice, explained Noah. I think that hes understanding the schemes a lot better and as a team, I think that were shrinking the floor a lot better in pick-and-rolls. I think our help side is coming along better than it used to. Weve still got a ways to go and thats a very good thing.

Thibodeau concurred: Hes still not 100 percent, but what he does for offense is give us an opportunity to establish an inside game through the post. Hes a very unselfish passer, excellent in the pick-and-roll and he has great instincts; he knows how to find seams. Defensively, I think hes still finding his way. Theres some parts he does extremely well. His rebounding is still not where his ability ishes proven to be a great rebounder in this league; hes done it throughout his careerso as he gets his legs under him, I think his rebounding will continue to improve also.

Propelled by a strong close to the half by Rose, Chicago took a 58-37 advantage into the intermission.

A Minnesota surge keyed by Love to start the third quarter snapped the Bulls out of their reverie, as an 8-0 run rectified things, as Chicago quickly dug the Timberwolves a 22-point hole to climb out of by virtue of offensive efficiency and stout defense.

Were moving in the right direction, said Rose of the teams defensive effort. Guys are hustling, were closing down the paintmaking sure that somebodys right therebut I think we have to take more charges and block more shots.

Even according to the high standards of Thibodeau, The defense is coming around. I think our ball pressure has improved, our weak side has improved, but we still have a long way to go. Theres a lot of areas we can improve upon.

Rose hit three long bombs (he was 5-for-6 from deep and 8-for-10 from the field in the game) to keep the Bulls ahead by a healthy amount. Chicagos offensive balance and adequate effort on the other end of the floor allowed them to coast to an 87-65 lead through three quarters.

I was just taking what they give me and right now, theyre giving me time to shoot, said Rose afterwards. Whatever the game tells me to do, Im going to do it and my man was sagging and they left me wide open to take the shot theyre giving me forever to shoot, so Im just shooting it.

Going off picks, they have to chase me over now and thats my whole key to this yearsomebody like Steve Nash, you cant go under on him or hell shoot, so right when I get that down, I think Ill be more of a threat, he explained further. Im trying to show everybody what Ive been working on. You want to show opponents new things, so that they know its going to be a hard night. They were leaving me wide open on the shots, I was just taking my time, my teammates were passing me the ball when I was open, and I was just shooting.

The way I worked on it this summer, I have a lot of confidence in my shot and Im going to shoot it, no matter what or how many shots I miss. As you can tell, as many games where Ive been missing early, Im going to continue to shoot, continued Rose, who credited Bulls assistant Ron Adams for diligently making sure he performs daily maintenance on his shot. I know thats a big part of my game now, being able to hit a consistent jump shotespecially from behind the arcand Im grateful that Im hitting all these shots.

I told you before the season started, somebody in the low post like that, sometimes youve got to double team him or if the guard even takes an inch, Ive got to be able to spot up, so as long as they keep double-teaming Los Boozer and leaving me wide open, Im going to shoot.

Opined Thibodeau: Hes put a lot of work into it. He gets there early, he stays late and he does it year-round. His commitment to the team and to the game is very unique and special.

Noah chimed in: Hes gaining more and more confidence on his three-ball. Its a scary thing.

Korvers marksmanship, Brewers all-around play and Gibsons energy paced the Bulls early in the final stanza. As in every Bulls blowout win, the games biggest drama became whennot ifChicago would crack the 100-point barrier, which led to free Big Macs for the loyal home crowd, as the Bulls cruised to the eventual triumph with the starters sitting out the entire period.

I dont know if theyll be upset with me or not, but it was a good chance for our bench and I think our bench has been playing very well, said Thibodeau. I thought they helped us get the Lakers game turned around and theyre playing really good defense, theyre moving the ball and theyre playing with energy, so it was good to see them play an entire fourth quarter.

Games like this are lovely, where we put away a team, everybody played well and thats what were supposed to do, added Rose. Everybody came out focused and ready to play.

I think we had a good shootaround, he continued. We came out aggressive and attacking them.

Added Noah: When we play with an edge to us for 48-minutes, were going to be tough to beat.

Thats the only thing that matters, not getting too caught up in the hype. Theres definitely a little buzz going on right now about the Chicago Bulls. It feels good to win five in a row, but weve just got to stay hungry, stay humble and stay driven. Weve still got a lot of work to do to become the team that we want to be and we want to be one of the elite teams in the East.

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.

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What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

The Bulls have made their biggest decision of the offseason but the future of Rajon Rondo and to a lesser extent, Dwyane Wade, is still in the air.

Due to the trade for Kris Dunn and the Bulls having acquired Cameron Payne at the trade deadline last season, it doesn’t appear to be much room for Rondo. Even moreso, considering Dunn and Payne’s lack of production, one would think the Bulls would easily guarantee Rondo’s $13.3 million for next season.

But with the June 30th deadline approaching, it seems more and more like the Bulls will buy Rondo out for $3 million and go with a total youth movement, despite Rondo’s success with guiding some of the young players on the roster.

If not for Rondo’s wrist injury in Game 2 of the Bulls’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics, the Bulls could’ve advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Instead, they’re embarking on what could be a long process that may take years to recover from.

“He’s always been a great teammate and nurturer of the young guys,” said Bill Duffy, Rondo’s agent. Duffy also serves as Zach LaVine’s agent, so he was in attendance for LaVine’s introduction at the United Center.

The handling of Rondo’s benching, re-emergence and subsequent importance to the Bulls this past season has helped Rondo, in a sense. Rondo proved to be a galvanizing force to a degree after being shuffled in and out of the starting lineup.

“I think it’s fair to say he definitely showed a different persona that what had existed but like I said, he’s always been that way, I think it’s more publicized,” Duffy said. “I think he just loves to develop people, always managing and directing. So I think that’s always the case with the younger guys.”

If Rondo is released—and it certainly appears matters are trending in that direction, the 31-year old could have suitors in the New Orleans Pelicans and Indiana Pacers, sources tell CSNChicago.com. One would think the Bulls could use Rondo’s type of straightforward but encouraging brand of leadership in the locker room, but the Bulls have yet to guarantee his contract for next season.

“That’s still to be determined,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’re going to sit down with Bill and talk it through. We do understand that veterans are important for a young basketball team, the right veterans – guys that are good teammates, are supportive of the young guys and can continue to teach them how to be pros. Those are things we’ll be addressing.”

“The proof’s always in the pudding and I think if you talk to the front office and coaches, they really love what he brought and how he handled the challenges last year,” Duffy said. “I think we all mature over time and he’s been in the league a long time. He wants to win but he loves the game. I think he appreciates it more, he’s kinda of in his twilight years or approaching it.”

As for Wade, he exercised his $23.8 million option for next season as he was expected to, but that was before the Jimmy Butler trade that ushered in a new day of change.

There’s been speculation Wade would seek a buyout from the Bulls at the start of free agency but so far, those conversations haven’t been held and Paxson intimated Wade would have to give back a significant amount of that money to become a free agent.

There’s been speculation of Wade joining LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as Carmelo Anthony getting a buyout from the Knicks and following suit.

But the Cavaliers will have very little to offer in the way of cap space, so it’s tough to see Wade giving back a large sum then going to Cleveland for the veterans’ minimum—which would not make up the difference of a “significant” amount.

“I know Gar has spoken with Leon Rose, Dwyane’s agent, As far as the buyout, that has not been broached,” Paxson said. “I would say this: In this type of scenario, it would have to benefit us. It would have to benefit us. Dwyane was a great pro last year, and he’s been around a lot of different situations.”

But with Wade’s history of giving up large sums of money in the name of team, it’s harder to predict his moves. As strong as his relationship with Butler is, the possibility of Butler being moved didn’t affect him picking up his option, so his desire to play competitive or at least meaningful basketball could be weighed against wanting to keep his family comfortable after relocating to Chicago last year and collecting every dollar of his deal.

“He was in Miami when they had a couple rebuilding years as well,” Paxson said. “So right now we’re operating under assumption that he’ll be here. But like I said, if that subject is ever broached by them, it would have to be advantageous for us."