In the post: Johnson's play draws attention

In the post: Johnson's play draws attention

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010
11:00 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

TORONTO -- Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus familiarity with Brian Scalabrine certainly doesnt hurt the veterans cause, but with Joakim Noah sidelined with flu-like symptoms and foul trouble ailing starters Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, the veteran stepped up and proved his worth.

Hes a solid veteran. He gives you veteran leadership. Hes been in a lot of situations like that and tonight, were short-handed and thats why I like him, said Thibodeau. He stays ready to play, you put him out there and he can guard people and his team defense is very good and offensively, hes smart. He keeps the ball moving, he knows where the matchups are, he knows whos hot, he knows how the plays being defended, so you can count on him.

Derrick Rose is already a big believer in his new teammates influence. Scal, hes the other coach on the floor. When Thibs doesnt know what to run, Scal is always in his ear. If we dont know what to run, Scal is helping me and the other point guards, telling people where to go and thats what we need, just everybody talking on the floor, said Rose. It makes my job a lot easier, where when I come down and Scal knows something, hes coming to me. Weve got great veterans on this team, like Kurt Thomas K.T. when he sees something, hes telling everybody, so were all communicating out there and thats the reason why we came back tonight.

--Rose also had high praise for James Johnsons performance, explaining how the second-year forward has taken strides and improved.

Hes not thinking too much basic move, get to the basket, pull-up shot and thats all he needs. He doesnt need to dribble that much, he just needs to create space a little bit; hes playing with a lot of confidence right now, said Rose.

Added Thibodeau: Johnson was very good. I thought defensively, he was moving his feet, he was down in a defensive stance and offensively, I thought he made great decisions. As for Johnson himself, he attributes his successful evening to his teammates and the teams new system. I like how spread out our offense isWere moving the ball, which just makes my game a lot easier I do anything I have to do. I come off screens when I have to, cut, my man finds me and Im just happy they did today, said Johnson. My team provided offense for me. They spread it out and it was just easy for me to go to work when I got the ball. Once my guy had to help or stunt, then I got the ball and it was easy for me to drive the lane.

--Thibodeau believes swingman Ronnie Brewer is progressing well in his return from a pulled hamstring. Brewer played just under 25 minutes Wednesday his high this preseason and although he didnt put up gaudy statistics (five points, two assists), his coach feels hes starting to get back to his old self.

I really liked the way Ronnie moved tonight. I thought he looked comfortable. He made a lot of great cuts, where he didnt necessarily get the pass for the layup, but his cuts loosened up the defense and created open shots for us, so I thought he was very efficient and it looked like he was moving with a lot of confidence tonight, said Thibodeau. Each game, were trying to give him more and more, and just see how he handles it. In practice, hes doing everything now. Well keep increasing it to see how it goes. Its more precautionary. We could have finished it out, but we wanted to keep his minutes around 25 and then well go from there.

--At the Raptors Wednesday morning shootaround, Toronto point guard Jarrett Jack opined on the NBAs controversial new technical-foul policy.

Ive tried the best I can. I think Ive gotten two technicals so far. But the NBA has the right to upgrade their product, as far as our image is concerned, but in the same sense, we dont want to take away the emotions of the game. Were still human at the end of the day, said Jack. If something happens in a split-second and we have a reaction to it that may not be demonstrative to where were not showing the ref, but allow us to react.

"Nobodys going to sit there expressionless, emotionless. Thats a robot and none of us are that. I think if they just give us some leeway, Im sure that as the season goes along, there will kind of be some leniency with the technical fouls, but as of right now, they kind of have to crack the whip and let everybody fall in line.

Dont forget to follow Aggrey Sam on Twitter at @CSNBullsInsider

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it’s probably a little too late in the season for that, they’ll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They’ll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They’ll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

“The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We’re going to have to match that. We’re going to have to come out and play physical basketball.”

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it’s just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

“I did, actually,” said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he’s scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside’s tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg—although one can imagine how animated he must’ve been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

“It is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute.”

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn’t seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls’ success over LeBron James’ Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

“Against big teams, we play much better,” Mirotic said. “I don’t know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It’s on us. We just have to prove it.”

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who’ve just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

“Sure, we understand,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy.”