Rising to the occasion: Rose wills Bulls to win

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Rising to the occasion: Rose wills Bulls to win

Saturday, April 16, 2011Posted: 2:55 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

It couldnt happen, could it? After an incredible regular season, the top-seeded Bulls couldnt lose the first game of their opening-round series to upstart Indiana?
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No, but only by the skin of their teeth. For the majority of the game, that answer was in doubt, but led by an amazing performance by likely MVP Derrick Rose, Chicago closed Game 1 with a 16-1 run to win a thriller, 104-99, Saturday afternoon at the United Center.

We didnt play well, didnt play our best, but at the end, we did what we had to do to pull out the win, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. We got the win, which is the most important thing.

We know were going to have to play a lot better in Game 2.

Countered Pacers interim head coach Frank Vogel: Im very proud of the effort of our club tonight; very disappointed in the loss. Ive got a great deal of belief in this team. Im not surprised that we almost won this game; should have won this game. Weve been playing about as well as anybody in the NBA the last few weeks and this is going to be a series.

Our guys know we should have won this game. We can play with this team. We can play with any team in the NBA.

One of the few issues of the Bulls successful regular seasonslow startsmanifested itself, as Indiana utilized turnovers to score early transition baskets to complement their effective offensive rebounding, resulting in a 10-4 start for the visitors.

Led by Joakim Noahs (10 points, 11 rebounds) offensive rebounding, Chicago quickly worked its way back into the contest, as the center's uncanny zeal was back in effect from the games outset.

Rose (39 points, 19-for-21 free-throw shooting, six assists, six rebounds) also made his presence felt, but despite his efforts and Carlos Boozers (12 points, six rebounds) early low-post success, the Bulls still trailed their guests.

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Solid team defense and the scoring of offensive catalysts Darren Collison (17 points, nine assists, six rebounds) and center Roy Hibbert (11 points, eight rebounds) were keys for the Pacers, who ended the opening period with a 27-23 advantage.

Chicagos second unit, the Bench Mob, typically sets a certain tone when it comes to energy, but that aspect was lacking in the beginning of the second quarter, as Indianas reserves instead rose to the occasion and widened the deficit. Turnover issues, shoddy marksmanship and inconsistent defensive rebounding persisted for the Bulls and with foul trouble saddling Boozerhe picked up his third foul early in the periodthings werent looking up for the home team.

Though Rose consistently got to the basket to either finish or draw fouls, Chicago simply couldnt make up the necessary ground, not with Collison matching Rose as a scorer and contributions from the likes of feisty second-year power forward Tyler Hansborough (22 points), in comparison to sporadic efforts from Roses supporting cast.

Largely by virtue of their 50 percent first-half shooting from the floor (and 5-for-8 three-point shooting, compared to 2-for-7 from deep and 42.9-percent shooting from the floor for the Bulls), Indiana went into halftime with a 55-51 lead.

Pacers leading scorer Danny Granger (24 points, six rebounds, three assists) came out firing after the break, knocking down a pair of three-pointers and scoring another bucket in the post, giving the visitors a double-digit advantage in the early portion of the third quarter. More significantly, the Bulls simply couldnt buy a basketoutside of Rose, who had his hands full with Collison on the other endand their disappointing performance was reflected by the lull in the usually upbeat United Center audience.

Hansbrough continued to be productive for Indiana, at least until he took a shot from Kurt Thomas and was laid out on the floor, motionless, before he was taken into the arenas tunnel. There, he appeared to be woozy and needed assistance from team personnel, but he returned to the contest in the fourth quarter.

I just got elbowed, said Hansbrough, who noted that he didnt lose consciousness and reportedly had tests performed before he returned to action. I dont think it was anything intentionalits just the way it happenedand got the breath knocked out of me.

But even with the crowd getting behind them late in the period, the Bulls couldnt sustain any positive momentum and trailed through three quarters, 79-71.

It was bombs away to start the final stanza, as both squads contributed to a barrage of three-pointers to start the period. Although Granger did his part to help the Pacers cling to a slowly-decreasing lead, his small-forward counterpart, Luol Deng (18 points, 10 rebounds), finally came alive for the Bulls, scoring in his typically versatile fashion to add to Chicagos push.

After Hansbroughs return, the hyperactive North Carolina alum delivered a hard foul on Rose, causing Dengironically, a Duke productto engage him verbally, earning him a technical foul and the support of the crowd, which he exhorted in the aftermath of the near-skirmish.

Instead of motivating the Bulls, however, the incident seemed to get Hansbrough going, as he picked up where he left off and knocked down three consecutive jumpers, then made a steal and finished off the play with a fast-break dunk, plus a foul, for a traditional three-point play.

Just when it seemed like the Bulls were dead in the water, Noah, the teams inspirational leader, refused to let them sink, making back-to-back playsfirst, one of his patented tip-ins after keeping an offensive rebound alive, then running the floor for a fast-break dunkto bring Chicago within four points, 98-94, with 2:27 to go.

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On Chicagos next possession, Rose drove to the rim, hit a twisting layup and completed a three-point play to bring the Bulls within two points before tying the contest at 99 apiece with a spinning floater in the lane.

Derrick Rose was too much down the stretch, said Vogel. I look at 39 points and Im shocked that I see 39 because I thought that we did a good job most of the night on him. The kids out of this world. Hes got Allen Iversons speed, Jason Kidds vision, Chauncey Billups shooting and Michael Jordans athleticism. How do you guard that? We did a good job on him. He was too much.

Suddenly, the Bulls defense was back at an elite level, racking up defensive stops against their young opposition. With the Pacers defense almost solely focused on stopping Roses penetration, the Windy City native again got into the lane, then kicked it out to sharpshooter Kyle Korver (13 points, 4-for-4 three-point shooting) who nailed a three-pointer with 48.4 seconds remaining, giving the Bulls their first lead, 102-99.

Derrick made a great read. My man helps, hes going to kick it out to me. If he doesnt help, hes going to drive the middle of the lane, Korver explained. Toward the end of the fourth quarter, he was like, Im looking for you, Im looking for you, and I kept telling him, Im ready, Im ready. He made a great play.

Rose added: Kyle is a knockdown shooter. Thats why hes on the court with me at the end of the game. If you help too muchleave him openthats like a layup to him and Im just reading the court. Ive been in that position numerous times and me driving kind of gets everybody coming in the paint, and he was wide open.

On the Bulls next trip, they didnt initially convert, but the irrepressible Noah kept the ball alive and it wound up in the hands of Rose, who was fouled.

With an MVP chant in the background, the All-Star point guard calmly drained a pair of free throws with 14.8 seconds left on the clock, concluding a 16-1 run to end the game. On their final possession, the shell-shocked Pacers were unable to threaten their hosts, as Noah repeatedly denied their attempts around the rim, much to the delight of Bulls fans.

I was just trying to win a game and tonight, it was just me making shots and making plays. Whatever it takes for us to win, Im willing to do, said a relaxed Rose afterwards. Right now, life is pretty good.

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.

Wade in Bulls jersey: same material, different reality

Wade in Bulls jersey: same material, different reality

Media Day has become old hat for Dwyane Wade, so much so that he could go through the motions, interviews and promotional shots in Miami with his eyes closed.

But he looked like a wide-eyed rookie at times going through everything in the Advocate Center Monday, including the white-and-red jersey that was draped over his chest.

“It's really not the jersey. It's the same material so it feels the same,” he said. “It's a different environment. I was somewhere for so long, I knew where to go, I can walk backwards and get anywhere I want to go. It's just different, but different is not a bad thing.”

Comparing himself to the “new kid” in school, it won’t be long before Wade finds himself being the cool kid in class that everybody gravitates to and follows as an example, being a three-time champion and sure-fire Hall of Famer—at least that’s what the Bulls brass expects to happen.

“If I were a young player on this roster and I saw Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Taj Gibson, Robin (Lopez), I would soak up what they bring,” Bulls Vice-President John Paxson said. “As a young player you want to have longevity and success in this league and there's success right in front of them.”

Wade’s successes came in Miami, which makes Wade’s statement about things being different that much more pronounced—and before he can lead, he must adjust to the Bulls, and they to him.

His usage and his on-court role isn’t clear, as the Bulls are well-aware of the maintenance that comes with a player at his age—a player who was still pretty effective despite decline in the last few years.

“Our medical team and our athletic-performance team, we’ve visited some with him,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “But that’s going to be fluid. I don’t know that any definitive have come from that yet, but it’s obviously something that we’ll watch in regards to Dwyane being a little bit older but really to a number of our players.”

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Adjusting to his body, adjusting to a new city and even to a social conscience that has emerged since signing with the Bulls has been the theme of his summer.

His life—and the lives of many people close to him have changed in recent months and even days. From watching former teammate LeBron James bring home a title to Cleveland to his own departure from Miami after 13 years to sadly, watching Chris Bosh struggle with the news of his basketball mortality meeting up with the threat of his actual life, it’s been one after another after another.

“This news about basketball is unfortunate, and it was not nothing that he wanted to hear I'm sure, and nothing I wanted to hear for him and no one that loves Chris or is around him,” said Wade in reference to Bosh not being cleared by the Heat due to blood-clotting issues that ended Bosh’s last two seasons at the All-Star break. “It's another bump in the road in life that, from a basketball standpoint, Chris Bosh will figure out what he wants to do in life.”

“For Chris, it's a bump in the road for him in life. He's 31 years old, he's got a long life to live. Hopefully he'll get back on a basketball court. In a perfect world. But if not, for me, I'm just happy that we're able to be friends and enjoy life as friends and see him be healthy in that way.”

And oh yeah, he also stood in front of a nationally-televised audience at the ESPY awards two months ago, challenging his fellow athletes to take stock of what’s going on around them and more specifically, the ails plaguing people of color in this country.

It wasn’t so much a stand as much as it was a statement, and others have taken the baton to make waves that will be felt around the NBA.

His battle, he believes, is different from the one Colin Kaepernick is drawing attention to, as Wade sees the endless violence in Chicago and has jumped in feet first to make his presence known.

“I think Kaepernick educated a lot of us on things we didn't know, things we wasn't aware of. I think for me, things in this city that I've seen, we have a different kind of battle here in Chicago, a different focus,” Wade said. “That's what my focus is on. My focus is on this city and what am I capable of doing to help our youth in this city in a bigger way. That's where my focus is.”

“But what (Kaepernick) is doing is great because it's what he wants to do, it's what he believes in and he's using his voice for that cause.”

And as Wade turns the corner, a fresh start after a surprising divorce, the new old kid in town reiterated Chicago is the place for him—even as he adjusts.

“I'm figuring it all out,” he said. “Like I said, I'm happy to be here. At this time in my career, this is where I want to be.”

Bulls begin 'necessary' new era by creating a culture 'to take steps forward'

Bulls begin 'necessary' new era by creating a culture 'to take steps forward'

The busiest Bulls offseason since Gar Forman took as over as general manager and John Paxson became vice president in 2009 came to a close Monday with the unofficial start of the season. The Bulls begin training camp Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Advocate Center, and they’ll do so with eight new faces on the floor, and without perhaps the two biggest faces of the franchise in the 2010s.

But Paxson admitted in his press conference at media day “it was time” to turn the page on a talented group once expected to compete for an NBA title that never lived up to that billing. The decision to trade Derrick Rose and move on from free agent Joakim Noah – as well as Pau Gasol – were difficult ones given those players’ place in Bulls history, but also necessary to move the franchise forward into a new era.

“I didn’t feel that group had a collective fight to it,” Paxson said. “And I think all of us looking back on it, that was true. Change was necessary.

“We had ridden that group a long way. With a little more luck we might have had more success, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. And we just felt it was necessary to try to take some steps forward.”

And while the sweeping overhaul of the roster was noticeable on paper, management is also seeing a different culture transforming on the Near West Side of Chicago they hope will usher in this new period of Bulls basketball.

It’s the reason Forman and Paxson were excited to bringing in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. With a combined 23 NBA seasons, 260 playoff games and four NBA titles, the two longest-tenured NBA veterans on the roster have already begun leaving their mark.

Forman noted specifically that Rondo has been around the team’s facility “a good part of the summer,” and that his work ethic and time spent in the community has rubbed off on his teammates. Wade walked around the Advocate Center floor with a certain larger-than-life persona, and the future Hall-of-Famer’s accolades speak for themselves. Paxson referred to Taj Gibson as “the ultimate pro,” and Jimmy Butler even noted Monday that he wants Fred Hoiberg to coach him harder than any player on the team, to use him as an example in practice and to “get on me about every little thing.”

“That’s another reason changes were necessary,” Paxson said of helping younger players progress. “And it’s created an environment in this building. We have to start from a base level, and a base level is culture and how guys go about their jobs every day. That’s why we’re talking about accountability.”

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Forman and Paxson are also excited about the balance they’ve created. There was some criticism about the Wade and Rondo signings after Forman had said the team was looking to get younger and more athletic – both Wade and Rondo have dealt with serious knee injuries in the past. In that sense, management feels as though they’ve done just that.

In addition to drafting Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine and German wing Paul Zipser, both of whom are 22, the Bulls received 23-year-old Jerian Grant and 28-year-old Robin Lopez in return for Rose. Add 23-year-old Spencer Dinwiddie and Isaiah Canaan (25), and as Forman noted the Bulls will have 12 players in camp under the age of 27, in addition to 10 players with three years or fewer NBA experience.

“And in doing that (retooling with youth) you still want to create a culture that’s conducive to professionalism, a team-first attitude. Some of those things, those intangibles, that are so important. And having that type of veteran experience around your young guys is critical as we go through this phase that we’re changing over the roster.”

Of course, simply overhauling a roster to management’s liking won’t produce wins. That won’t automatically place the Bulls back in the playoffs after they missed out last season for the first time in 2008.

All the pieces need to fit together – no executive, coach or player who spoke Monday seemed overly concerned about Wade, Butler and Rondo (the three Alphas) sharing the spotlight – and head coach Fred Hoiberg will need to show improvements in his second season.

With a plethora of young talent comes training-camp battles that Paxson said will be healthy for the team. Players like Bobby Portis, Doug McDermott, Valentine and whoever wins the back-up point guard spot will have not just the opportunity to learn from Wade, Rondo and Butler, but to play alongside them in expanded roles. Paxson went as far to say that how the Bulls’ role players perform “will probably dictate how well we do.”

It began with Forman and Paxson overhauling the roster, and continued into a busy summer full of individual workouts that impressed both upper management and the coaching staff. But now the speculation and critiques of the roster are over. The start of a new era has arrived in Chicago.

“The vibe that’s with this group right now is just really positive. I think ultimately the expectation (over the summer) was that they had to be professional in their approach every day,” Paxson said. “There’s going to be accountability to everything that they do, and that if we’re going to have any success in any way it’s going to come from us being together and giving great effort.

“That’s the great thing about a new season starting and putting together a team: it’s all out there in front of us.”