Pacers' Collison a game-time decision for Game 3

Pacers' Collison a game-time decision for Game 3

Thursday, April 21, 2011
Posted: 1:02 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam

INDIANAPOLISWhether Pacers starting point guard Darren Collison plays in Thursdays Game 3 of Indianas first-round series against the Bulls will be a game-time decision. Collison, who sprained his left ankle after crashing into baseline photographers at the United Center during the first half of Mondays Game 2 for Indiana, tested the ankle for the first time since the injury at Thursdays Pacers shootaround.

Feeling good. Im going to be able to play today. Its still up in the air, game-time decision, but I think mostly, Im going to be able to play today. But well see how I feel before the game and Im going to give it a shot, said a confident Collison. I felt fine. We had shootaround, I did my thing. I didnt play too long, thats why its still a game-time decision, but for the most part, I think Im going to play.

Its not going to be 100-percent perfect, but at the same time, the more movement I get, the better it feels, continued the second-year UCLA product. Ill pick my spots. I know exactly when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive.

But Im not really concerned with that. The thing about that, they know you have an ankle injury, so you know theyre going to try to run plays for you. Im well aware of that and Im going to be prepared for that.

Pacers interim head coach Frank Vogel added: Collison looked pretty good during shootaround. Were going to see how he feels, to see if he has any soreness. This is his first live work since the other night. Its going to be a game-time decision.

He wants to play very badly. If its up to him, its a no-brainer. Weve just got to make sure hes effective, continued Vogel, who noted that the decision would be based on how Collison performed during a pre-game workout. Hes got to be able to move to play.

I just have to have a feel, take a look at him and well go from there.

While Vogel preached caution, the upbeat floor general presumed hed be on the court for Indianas first home game of the series.

I think my adrenaline will be up, though. The energy, the excitement of trying to play in Game 3. Its a playoff game, so why not be in it? I dont know when Im going to get my chance again, so Im definitely going to be up for it. So, all that is going to be a factor, said Collison. Ultimately, I think theyre going to give me the decision for myself. They know Im a competitor, they know I want to play as much as anybody else on the court and I definitely dont want to leave my team hanging. I want to be out there.

We definitely feel like this is the game for us. Game 3 is the most important game of the series. We definitely feel like this is a game for us to win. We had a great film session Wednesday, great practice Wednesday and great shootaround.

Echoed Vogel: Were excited about being here. Were excited that we can win. Being back in our building obviously increases the chances that were going to get our first playoff win in a number of years.

While Collison is the Pacers starting floor general, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, as is his custom, was prepared for all of Indianas options at the position if he doesnt play.

Theyre a good team and they have quality depth at the point. If Collison plays, obviously Collisons had an excellent year for them, said Thibodeau. A.J. Price has played very, very well, and T.J. Fords been a good player in this league for a long time. Hes more than capable. We know how good he is.

Aggrey Sam is'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.

Taj Gibson starting for Bulls on Opening Night puts spotlight on shooting

Taj Gibson starting for Bulls on Opening Night puts spotlight on shooting

The Bulls’ starting five is set and healthy before Thursday’s season opener against the Boston Celtics, with Fred Hoiberg announcing that Taj Gibson will start at power forward after his strong preseason.

Or, if one chooses to be a little more realistic, Gibson won the competition in large part due to Nikola Mirotic’s underwhelming showing, as Mirotic came into camp as the favorite with his outside shooting making him a more natural fit offensively.

With Gibson’s insertion, the Bulls will be one of the worst 3-point shooting starting fives in the league, although Mirotic and Doug McDermott can balance things out when they’re on the floor.

“We feel like he has played excellent basketball throughout the preseason,” said Hoiberg of Gibson. “He’s been good in practices. We’ve talked to our guys about that. Niko has had a couple good practices in a row now. You try to get him in a good rhythm coming out of the gate. But that’s the way we’re going to start.”

Hoiberg has touted Mirotic’s practices as being stellar, but he struggled though most of the preseason. It seemed like Hoiberg was attempting to give Mirotic the benefit of the doubt before announcing what should’ve been obvious to those who’ve watched the Bulls in the preseason, that Gibson was the better performer.

“Taj is a fighter,” said Jimmy Butler, who wasn’t surprised with the outcome. “That’s one thing you know you’re going to get from him. He’s one of the toughest guys that we have, somebody that’s always working.”

One of Butler’s main concerns last season was that the Bulls lost their defensive identity, that their toughness left the building when Tom Thibodeau was fired and the offensive-minded Hoiberg was ushered in.

Presumably, Gibson’s nod can be taken as a return to the Bulls’ roots—although anyone in their right mind wouldn’t be wrong to think if Mirotic had been the least bit consistent, he would be a starter and Gibson would be a reserve.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“I think everybody is trying, man,” Butler said. “I’m not going to say that we’ve got the best defenders, that’s for sure, but as long as you’re putting in the effort. Sometimes good defense is just getting in the damn way. I’m telling you.”

The Bulls finished as a middle of the pack team in terms of defensive efficiency last season, but experienced a steep decline after the All-Star break, leading to their first lottery appearance since 2008.

“As long as guys are out there competing, we’ll take it if someone hits a tough shot over you or whatever,” Butler said. “When we think about the offensive end entirely too much that’s when we get down a lot.”

With Dwyane Wade, Butler and Rajon Rondo needing Mirotic to provide the necessary floor spacing to keep defenses honest, it means there’s more pressure on Hoiberg to stagger minutes and alter his rotations early in games.

Wade has shot the ball well in the preseason, but is a career 28-percent shooter from deep. Rondo shot 36.5 percent last season but like Wade, is at 28 percent for his career.

Butler is the best of the bunch, having shot 37.8 percent in 2014-15 but dipped to 31 percent last year, and is a 32.8 percent shooter for his career.

“We just have to step up, take them, shoot them with confidence like we do every day in practice,” Butler said. “I think we’ll be fine. As long as we’re guarding, the offense will take care of itself. We’re constantly in attack mode. There’s more than just shooting 3s.”

Which means a tough task just became all the more complicated. Hoiberg typically replaced Wade with McDermott midway through the first quarter and then brings Wade back to finish up in place of Butler.

More tinkering and some downright wizardry will have to be worked for things to go smoothly—but then again, it doesn’t have to be smooth to be effective.

“if we can things staggered it the right way---and we’ll continue to look at things---what you see on Thursday might not be what you see in the middle of the season,” Hoiberg said. “We have to start somewhere. We’re comfortable with the lineup and the rotation plan we have.”

CSN's Top 25 players in the NBA

CSN's Top 25 players in the NBA

No matter how much you rely on analytics and logarithms in determining who are the best players, ultimately it becomes about judgment.

Should win shares have a greater value than a player’s winning percentage in the playoffs? Is defensive rating a better barometer about a defender’s ability than say, defensive field goal percentage differential? And how much do you weigh how they fare versus playoff teams and non-playoff teams? A legitimate case can be made for all those numbers and many, many more, being used to rank the top 25 players.

Realizing such an endeavor should not be a one-person job, I enlisted the help of my fellow CSN Insiders, compiled our rankings and voila! We made a beautiful, bouncing list of more than two dozen players.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The scoring for this is pretty simple: Each Insider picked 25 players, ranking them from No. 1 through 25. Their number one pick received 25 points, No. 2 got 24, No. 3 got 23 and … you get the picture.

Without any further delay, here is the first annual CSN Top 25 NBA Players list in addition to our "others receiving votes" group.