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.

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise

Jimmy Butler didn't come close to following in his trainer's footsteps, but Mr. G. Buckets Unplugged still proved enlightening.

Following a wild Thursday, Butler hopped on the phone Friday afternoon from Paris to chat with Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times about the deal that sent the former face of the Bulls to rejoin Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota.

Butler wanted to be labeled as the face of the franchise, but his comments seem to reflect the old adage "be careful what you wish for."

"It doesn't mean a damn thing. I guess being called the face of an organization isn't as good as I thought. We all see where being the so-called face of the Chicago Bulls got me. So let me be just a player for the Timberwolves, man. That's all I want to do. I just want to be winning games, do what I can for my respective organization and let them realize what I'm trying to do.

"Whatever they want to call me... face... I don't even want to get into that anymore. Whose team is it? All that means nothing. You know what I've learned? Face of the team, eventually, you're going to see the back of his head as he's leaving town, so no thanks."

Whoa.

Butler also spoke about trying to block out all the trade rumors while on vacation in France:

"I mean, I had so many people telling me what could possibly happen, but I just got to the point where I stopped paying attention to it. 

"It's crazy because it reminds you of what a business this is. You can't get mad at anybody. I'm not mad - I'm not. I just don't like the way some things were handled, but it's OK."

Butler doesn't have to be the sole face of the franchise in Minnesota on a team that has two of the top homegrown young stars in the game in Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

The big red button was pressed and Jimmy Butler was ejected from the Chicago Bulls’ present and future as they finally made the decision to rebuild after two years of resisting.

Trading Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the ability to draft Lauri Markkanen represents the Bulls committing to the draft lottery and fully going in on the Fred Hoiberg experience for the foreseeable future, as the prospect of trying to improve through shrewd moves in the East while also facing the likelihood of Butler commanding a $200 million contract wasn’t palatable to their pocketbook or their sensibilities.

On one hand, making a decision — any decision — can be applauded on some levels after years of their relationship with Butler being complicated at best. But the idea of rebuilding and the application of it are often two separate ideals, because the evaluation of a rebuild can often be as murky as the land the Bulls just left.

“What we’ve done tonight is set a direction,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’ve gone to the past where we make the playoffs, but not at the level we wanted to. You know in this league, success is not determined that way. We’ve decided to make the change and rebuild this roster.”

“We’re gonna remain patient and disciplined. The development of our young players is important. The coaching staff has done a phenomenal job. We’re gonna continue down that path. We’re not gonna throw huge money at people.”

The Bulls aren’t exclusive to this territory, the land in which they’ve inhibited for the last couple seasons, which makes the Butler trade about more than one thing.

Not equal parts but part basketball, part fiscal, part narrative and finally, masking some mistakes that have been made over the years but are not as easily rectified. Trading Butler seemed to be the easiest vessel used as an elixir to wash away missteps. Trading a star in Butler is also the easiest way to get heat off a coach or front office in today’s NBA, because few franchises like to make wholesale changes midstream or early in it.

Trading Butler — along with shipping their second-round pick in a box marked for the Bay Area — was also financial, considering many felt if he made it through the tumultuous evening that he would finish his career as a Bull, raking in a hefty sum of cash on the back end.

It’s because of these factors that the evaluation of this trade and subsequently, a painful rebuild, cannot be in a vacuum. (Note: No rebuild is painless, it’s the size of the migraine a team can endure that determines the type of aspirin necessary).

Just taking a look at the players the Bulls got back in the Butler trade illustrates the gray area they’ve now immersed themselves into. The Bulls fell in love with Dunn before he came to the NBA, and aren’t as bothered by him being a 23-year old second-year player who struggled mightily in his rookie year.

Zach LaVine is an explosive athlete who can put up 20 every night — when he’s on the floor. Recovering from an ACL injury is no given, as evidenced by a young phenom who once graced the United Center hardwood before his body betrayed him.

And Lauri Markkanen is a rookie with promise, but nobody can make any promises on what type of career he’ll have, or if he’ll fulfill that promise with this franchise in the requisite time.

“There’s always risk in anything,” Paxson said. “But here’s a guy that’s 22 years old and averages 20 a game (LaVine). He can score the basketball, he can run. He can shoot the basketball. He shot over 40 percent from three. That’s an area we’re deficient in. Markkanen shot over 40 from three in college. Again, it’s an area where we’re deficient. It’s trying to find the type of player that fits the way that we want to play going forward.”

[RELATED: Jimmy Butler bids emotional farewell to Chicago]

General Manager Gar Forman stated after the announcement of the trade that the Bulls would have to hit on their next few draft picks to stop this rebuild from being elongated, but even then there’s no guarantee.

The Sacramento Kings drafted a rookie of the year, then two future max contract players in the same year, followed by another player who’ll command close to max money very soon. But nobody remembers Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside and Isaiah Thomas leading the Kings from the wilderness and into glory, unless recent memory has been scrubbed away from everyone.

Inconsistencies in organizational structure combined with multiple coaching changes and an inability to develop the right young players kept the Kings on the dais of the draft lottery every April.

The Timberwolves, heck, nobody could say they missed when selecting LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and getting Andrew Wiggins in a trade for Kevin Love. It’s because it takes more than the right draft picks, or in the Sacramento Kings’ case, the right infrastructure and environment, to foster an atmosphere of winning.

The Bulls were ready, despite their claims that this was a decision that came across their table right before the draft, because common sense has to be applied. No team makes knee-jerk, franchise-altering decisions that will have reverberations for years to come on the whim of a trade offer from Tom Thibodeau. This was likely decided when the Bulls went out with a whimper in the first-round after shocking the NBA world in the first two games against the Boston Celtics, when their fortunes changed on the trifle of Rajon Rondo’s broken wrist.

It was decided that Hoiberg, the man who endured chants calling for his firing in the second half of the decisive Game 6 loss, needed to have the right type of roster to be accurately judged as a successful hire or failure, and Butler couldn’t be part of those plans.

And just as Hoiberg has been dealt an uneven hand, Butler wasn’t given the type of roster that would accurately judge how he could flourish as a leader, max player and face of the franchise — and probably had less time to show one way or the other relative to his coach.

The longer Butler stayed, the more empowered he would become as his individual accomplishments would rack up because of the dedication he applied to game, the drive he had to place himself in the upper echelon of NBA players.

The better Butler got, the more pressure Hoiberg would be under to mix and match his roster and to foster a relationship with Butler he might’ve been ill-suited to fix. The better Butler got, the more pressure the front office would be under to maximize a prime it didn’t see coming, a prime they can’t truly figure when there’s an expiration date on given Butler’s unlikely rise to stardom.

So getting rid of Butler was the solution and the Bulls have now chosen their path, definitively and with confidence. Emerging from a ball of confusion to parts unknown, from one land of uncertainty to another.