Rose outplays Paul, Bulls end trip with victory

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Rose outplays Paul, Bulls end trip with victory

Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011
Posted 9:41 p.m. Updated 11:05 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

NEW ORLEANSAfter being on the road for over a week, a weary Bulls (36-16) team wasnt at its sharpest Saturday night, but managed to gut out a 97-88 victory over the Hornets (33-23) at the New Orleans Arena to finish 3-2 on their five-game, Western Conference road trip. While All-Star point guard Derrick Rose again led the way, it was a defensive-intensive second half that paved the way to the win.

At the outset, the pair of stingy-defending squads lived up to their reputation, as open looks were tough to come by. Hornets floor general extraordinaire Chris Paul (15 points, six assists) manufactured some opportunities for himself and others in the early going, while the Bulls main protagonist was Carlos Boozer (17 points, eight rebounds), who got off to a quick start after struggling in his return trip to Utah in the teams last contest.

Former Bulls center Aaron Graystarting for New Orleans in place of the injured Emeka Okaforalso made an early impact before exiting due to foul trouble.

Rose (23 points, six assists), Pauls counterpart as the starting All-Star point guard for his conference, asserted himself more as the first quarter went on, as did versatile Hornets power forward David West (17 points). The close-knit affair saw woeful shooting throughout the majority of the opening period, which ended with the visitors leading, 24-22.

Foul trouble threatened to derail Chicago early in the second quarter, as reserve Taj Gibson picked up his third foulBulls head coach Tom Thibodeau kept him in the game after he picked up two first-quarter foulsand Boozer got his second (like Gibsons third, an offensive foul) after replacing him.

Stagnant offense continued be a persistent trend for both teams, but New Orleans got a jolt in the form of backup guard Marcus Thornton (24 points, six rebounds), an instant-offense type, who helped propel to a nice cushion over their guests by virtue of 14 second-quarter points in just 12 minutes of action. At the intermission, the Bulls, trailed, 53-42.

The start of the game, I thought, was very good. The second quarter was 31-18 and they pretty much had their way with us, said Thibodeau afterwards. We gave them easy scores and theyre too explosive, and they have so many guys who can go off the dribble on you, if you dont have good ball pressure and youre not protecting the paint, theyre going to create havoc, and they did.

Chicago gradually chipped away at the deficit early in the third quarter, with unlikely scorer Keith Bogans (11 points, 3-for-4 three-point shooting) leading the charge, as the much-maligned shooting guard stretched the Hornets defense with his shooting and even drove to the rack for a layup, as well as facilitating offense for his teammates with his highly underrated sense of ball movement.

Im past the personal gratification. As long as we win, Im happy because I know that as long as were winning as a team, everybodys going to look good, Bogans told CSNChicago.com. As long as we get the win, Im cool.

Bogans gave way to Roses dynamic scoring ability and timely baskets from Luol Deng (14 points, five assists), but with Thorntons hot hand still at least warm and Paul orchestrating a balanced New Orleans attack, the Hornets maintained their advantage.

Toward the quarters end, Bulls rookie center Omer Asik (11 rebounds) made his presence felt on the glassChicago dominated the boards in generaland a late Bulls spurt made the count, 74-72, in the home teams favor, through three periods of play.

New Orleans reserve guards, Thornton and backup point guard Jarrett Jack (10 points), continued to be the scourge of the Bulls in the final stanza, refusing to allow Chicago to overtake them.

However, the visitors would eventually knot up the contest and after reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer (nine points, five rebounds) hustled to block what seemed to be a sure Thornton fast-break layup, backup point guard C.J. Watson knocked down a three-pointer that changed the games momentum.

Luckily, I got the block and C.J. came up with a big shot in the corner, said Brewer. For the guys coming off the bench, we just try to provide some energy and the best way to do that is to get small energy plays ingetting a steal, loose ball, blockthat can lead to easy points in transition. It makes the game a lot easier for us.

Praised Thibodeau: Big-time hustle play and thats what I like. Things werent going our way. I thought we hung tough.

We had too many turnovers, but we hustled back several times, prevented scores.

Marveled Rose: Thats hard, manespecially not to foul anyone and just to go up for the blockand I think he was above the square on the backboard when he blocked the ball. It just shows how hard he plays and thats why hes on this team, to play defense.

After Hornets head coach Monty Williams called a timeout to settle his team, Watson insisted on more chaos, converting a steal into a transition layup, further fueling a run that gave the Bulls some breathing room midway through the final frame.

In the third quarter, we sort of fought our way back, got within striking distance and our bench was very, very good. They were active, I thought the rebounding was excellent and we finished the game strong, said Thibodeau. C.J. was great and it allowed us to give Derrick some rest and I thought the rest helped Carlos, too.

Added Rose: They played great, man. Gave us the lead, kept fighting, got blocksBrewer got a big blockC.J. was knocking down shots, Omer and Taj rebounding. Theyre the reason why we won this game.

New Orleans didnt lie dormant, inciting the sellout home crowd at The Hive by cutting the deficit, leading Thibodeau to press pause on the game with a timeout. Questionable calls by the officialsmultiple plays were reviewed early in the game, while later close calls sometimes escaped further scrutinyinfuriated Thibodeau, but the Bulls kept plugging away and actually increased their winning margin to double digits.

As the games stretch run approached, the visitors executed with precision and defended with discipline, enabling them to cruise to victory and finish the road trip with a winning record. Although the perfectionist in Thibodeau couldnt be pleased with every single aspect of the game, the mission was accomplished.

We take pride in our defense and we know that to be a really good team, to be the type of team that we want to be, we have to be consistent. Were still not where we want to be. Theres a lot of work to do and you never have it all figured out, said Thibodeau. Its something that weve got to work on every day, weve got to keep trying to build the habits that will allow us to be success, so when you go on the road or the nights on which youre not shooting well, youll still have a chance to win.

Concurred Brewer: Coming into halftime, they had 53 points. For them to finish the game under 90 points, showed that we really turned the defense up. We got stops, which led to defensive rebounds. That led to easy offense to offense for us and when we do that, were a dangerous team.

At a solid third-place in the Eastern Conference, with two home gamesagainst the Bobcats and league-leading Spursbefore the All-Star break, the Bulls are back to playing the way they were before dropping two games on the swing that just ended.

Overall, great trip. It was a big win. All of us want to go home, its been a long trip, but we found a way to win, said Deng. Weve got a deep team and were going to have nights like this, where our bench carries us, as long as we play defense.

Chimed in Rose: We cant complain about anything. We got this win, we get to go home, play a team Charlotte that beat us two times already.

Added Bogans: At the point of the season right now, people are ready for the All-Star break, so they tend to relax, but Coach has been on us. The older guys, weve been stressing how important it us. The All-Star break doesnt start until after we finish, after the clock goes off Thursday night.

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.

Joakim Noah appreciative of time with Bulls despite 'low blow'

Joakim Noah appreciative of time with Bulls despite 'low blow'

Joakim Noah may be wearing a different uniform, but he's still wearing the same heart on his sleeve.

That much was made clear in his comments made to the New York media on Wednesday.

Noah, who signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Knicks after eight seasons with the Bulls, was asked about comments Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf questioning Noah's future as a main contributor on a team.

Reinsdorf told the Chicago Tribune earlier this month that Noah was "not a frontline player," referencing the team's decision not to bring him back in free agency.

Noah responded to those comments in classy fashion - while also getting his true thoughts across:

“He’s entitled to his opinion,’’ Noah said. “I feel I have no regrets about my time in Chicago. I gave it everything I had. To me that’s all that matters. I did everything I could for that organization. I thought it was a little bit of a low blow, but at the end of the day I have nothing but respect for that organization. I’m just excited for this new chapter of my career.”

No one would ever question Noah's heart, but it's undeniable that his body is beginning to show wear, and his performance has reflected it.

Noah played in just 29 games last season before a season-ending shoulder injury, averaging career-lows in points (4.3), field goal percentage (38.3%), free throw percentage (48.9%) and steals (0.6). That came on the heels of a 2015 season in which he missed 15 games and averaged 7.2 points, the lowest since his second season in the league.

But the Knicks are hoping a rejuvenated Noah, playing in his hometown, will find some magic in his 31-year-old body and be able to get the Knicks back to the playoffs.

Noah, Derrick Rose and the Knicks will square off against the Bulls at the United Center on Nov. 4.

Chicago Mag is right: The Bulls will be must-watch in 2016 with Wade, Rondo

Chicago Mag is right: The Bulls will be must-watch in 2016 with Wade, Rondo

No one knows how all the new pieces the Bulls brought in this offseason - eight, to be exact - will fit together.

The team opened training camp on Tuesday, and it should come as no surprise that everyone seems to be getting along just fine. It won't be until the real games get going close to Halloween that we see how the new team, built by GM Gar Forman and VP John Paxson, fares. And realistically, the squad won't be a finished project until well into 2017.

But as Chicago Mag's Adam Waytz wrote earlier this week, no matter how the new faces - particularly two veteran champions in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo - mesh together, the Bulls will be must-watch television and live streaming in 2016-17.

Yet for all of Rondo’s outward absurdity, a similar strangeness lurks just below Wade’s surface, manifesting in an occasional thrown elbow and, this summer, in his erratic exit from the Miami Heat. Wade had no reason to leave Miami, where he led the team in 2006 to its first championship and holds franchise records for points, games played, assists, and steals. Yet the looming presences of Shaquille O’Neal and Pat Riley on the 2006 team, followed by LeBron James’s arrival in Miami (and subsequent departure!) overshadowed Wade’s steadfast tenure as the most successful athlete in South Florida history. Then came this summer’s contract quibbles.

But Wade’s departure had little to do with money. It was about the Heat, and the league more broadly, slowly wallpapering over his relevance as a top five all-time shooting guard.

This slow burn of Wade’s ego is the flame to Rondo’s fuse. Rondo also unwillingly tumbled into obscurity, with each setback—a 2013 ACL injury, his acrimonious 48-game Dallas stay, and a purgatorial last season in Sacramento (where a national audience ignored his career bests in rebounding and 3-point shooting)—fueling his resolve. For both Wade and Rondo, arriving in Chicago signaled a pressure release—they have already vocally deferred team leadership duties to Jimmy Butler—yet their pride still smolders.

Bulls fans now get to sit back and watch the Wade-Rondo redemption tour, a revenge fantasy that Tarantino could not have stunt-cast better. If all goes as planned, Rondo’s eccentric aggression will allow Wade to access the strange spite he secretly harbors, and Wade’s polish will set an example for Rondo, guiding him to restore luster to his recently tarnished reputation. If nothing else, watching their rejuvenation will be way more fun than pondering the sadness behind Rose’s eyes or wondering whether Noah and Taj Gibson can play together.

One has to wonder, too, about how much Wade's decision to return home had to do with his best friend, LeBron James, doing the same in Cleveland two years ago. And even though he's already dubbed the Bulls as Jimmy Butler's team, it thrusts him back into the spotlight playing for the team he dreamed about ever since he was a kid.

For both Wade and Rondo, it's also an opportunity to rebound from sub-par years. Wade played in 74 games, his most since 2010, but shot a career-worst 45.6 percent from the field, and his 19.0 points and 4.6 assists were the lowest since his rookie season 13 years ago. That's not to say the future Hall of Famer doesn't have plenty left in the tank - he does, at witnessed by his stellar playoff performance - but some added motivation in a new jersey will serve him well.

Rondo has even more to prove. The Bulls will be his fourth team since the start of the 2013 season, and while he led the NBA in assists per game last year (11.7) his shot and defense remain liabilities. Both Rondo and Wade can opt out of their deals after this season, and while that doesn't mean leaving the Bulls per se, there are financial games to be made by the pair having dominant seasons.

Combine that with Jimmy Butler attempting to prove he can play nice with a pair of Alphas, and as Waytz wrote, there will be something new to watch for every night.

Time will tell if Fred Hoiberg can harness the egos, talent and attitudes in the Bulls locker room. But one thing's for certain: no matter the outcome, it'll be worth watching and streaming.