Rose takes over, wills Bulls to victory yet again

427671.jpg

Rose takes over, wills Bulls to victory yet again

Saturday, March 26, 2011
Posted 10:00 p.m. Updated 11:48 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE It was the type of performance that an observer completely unfamiliar with his work could see and immediately jump on the MVP bandwagon. With the Bulls down double digits in the second half, Derrick Rose led a thrilling comeback effort with unselfishness and individual greatness to stun the Bucks, 95-87, Saturday night at the Bradley Center .

Rose: I didn't do s& yet

Just trying to take over the game, getting to the basket. You learn from every game that you play in, especially when its towards the end like that and I was just trying to win the game, Rose stated simply, as is his nature. When the chance is there, I just try to take the correct shot and tonight, it was driving the ball.

Elaborated Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: His will, the pace, making plays, scoring. Whatever we needed, he provided.

Hes done it all year, hes got to continue to do it and the thing I really respect about him is hes never satisfied, the even-keeled coach, who admitted he tries not to be in awe of Roses brilliance, continued. The important thing for him is the win. Hes not concerned with what hes doing individually. Hes more concerned about what our team is doing and his defense continues to improve.

After starting slow for the second consecutive evening Milwaukee got out to an early 15-8 leadthe Bulls played in catch-up mode, flipping the switch after a timeout. Chicago , playing in front of a Bradley Center crowd consisting of majority Bulls fans, stopped settling for jumpers in a nod to Thibodeaus inside-out preference.

Following the timeout, Rose (30 points, career-high 17 assists)serenaded with MVP chants from almost the outsetwent on a scintillating coast-to-coast jaunt for a three-point play and continued to assert himself offensively, driving to the basket relentlessly to either score or create opportunities for his teammates.

The home-standing Bucks, fighting for the Eastern Conferences final playoff spot, bent but didnt break, mustering up enough offense from swingmen Carlos Delfino (23 points) and John Salmons (25 points), the erstwhile Bull, to take a 25-21 lead into the second quarter.

Starter Luol Deng and four-fifths of the Bulls Bench Mob built upon the teams first-quarter momentum, tying the game in relatively short fashion, but the Bucks answered with a 5-0 run, prompting Thibodeau to call timeout and filter his regulars back into the contest. Once again, Milwaukee created some breathing room and once again, Chicago was forced to make a comeback.

Propelled by Rosehis lightning-speed crossover and equally amazing, acrobatic finish excited Bulls and Bucks fans alikethe visitors narrowed the gap, but true to form (at least the first half of this particular game), Milwaukee again opened up a comfortable winning margin, despite Roses ongoing heroics.

An exchange of baskets marked the end of the halffollowing yet another Rose three-point play with 3.9 seconds remaining, Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings (13 points) made a layup at the halftime buzzerafter which, the Bulls trailed, 48-44.

Salmons scorched his former team with four jumpers to start the third period, increasing Milwaukee s lead to double digits as part of a 12-1 Bucks run that ended with the first of two Keith Bogans three-pointers in a short span.

Although the lid finally came off the rim for the Bulls, it didnt come off for the home team, as Salmons hot handthe well-traveled veteran scored 12 third-quarter pointswouldnt cool off and he received able assistance from his teammates.

Chicago predictably stormed back, as Roses playmaking abilityon consecutive possessions, he made spectacular dishes that resulted in Bulls layupsled the charge to make it a competitive affair again. At the conclusion of three periods, however, Milwaukee still held on to a 74-69 advantage.

Trying to play hard, thats the biggest thing. Staying together, we fought our way back, explained Rose of his approach. If you look at the game, in the third quarter, I was just trying to feel the game out. I probably didnt shoot that much, just passing the ball. Just trying to beat the double team as a passer and it was rolling for us. Guys were finishing the baskets and we were playing an up-tempo type game.

Its almost the same thing. people always change up. First, they go under screens. Stopped that. Go over the top, just me one-on-one with the big. Kind of learned how to deal with that. Sending a third person over, the shooters have got to be ready to shoot. Ive almost seen every coverage you could possibly believe theyd be in, continued Rose, discussing the defensive strategy of Milwaukee and other teams against him. Just get the ball out of my handsme putting pressure on them opens up everybody on the court.

Early in the year when they were double-teaming me, I was forcing shotsjust forcing them, just to be forcing thembut now, Im getting into the lane, feeding that guys thats open and just leaving it up to them.

Added Thibodeau: They were trapping him and he was making the right plays. Thats what we want him to do. Hes very unselfish, created easy offense and he was in attack mode, put a lot of pressure on them and got us easy shots.

He studies, he prepares and I think that hes gotten to know his teammates a lot better. His teammates have gotten to know him a lot better and as you see the different defenses, you have to read and react very quickly, and knowing that hes so unselfish, I think it makes our team unselfish, he continued. Often times, hes getting trapped and theyre trying to get the ball out of his hands, and its the second pass thats getting us the wide-open shot. As long as everyones willing to pass the ball, it makes you a much more efficient team, much more difficult to guard.

A three-point play by Ronnie Brewer kicked off the fourth-quarter scoring and with a small-ball lineupRose and C.J. Watson together in the backcourtthe Bulls applied defensive pressure to the Bucks and looked to push the pace on offense.

Thibodeau eventually went back to a more conventional lineup, but that adjustment didnt put a cramp in Chicago s style, as the Bench Mob preserved the nature of the tight-knit battle heading into the games stretch run.
Carlos Boozer had a strong second half on the receiving end of numerous Derrick Rose assists and finished with a double-double of his own, scoring 14 points and reeling in 11 rebounds. (US PRESSWIRE)
Upon his return, Rose seamlessly blended his pass-first instincts (Carlos Boozer, who scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, was a beneficiary) and elite scoring abilitymostly getting to the charity stripe, as the Bucks struggled to defend him off the dribble and were thusly forced to put him on the foul linefamiliarly putting the team on his shoulders in crunch time as the game hung in the balance. Additionally, Chicago s defense buckled down to get stops on crucial Milwaukee possessions.

We have a lot of confidence in our defense and thats the strength of this team. We feel like were never out of it. Were fighters. Were a team of fighters and I think weve showed that since the beginning of the year. Even when we were going through adversitywed go down a lot, come backwe were always fighting. Were a team with a lot of character and were playing with a lot of swag right now.

If it wasnt a passhis fast-break assist to Joakim Noah (12 points, 11 rebounds) tied the game at 87 apieceRose made, then it was a basket, such as his tough runner in traffic to give the Bulls an 89-87 lead with 1:53 remaining to put the visitors up for the first time in the contest.

The All-Star point guard continued to work his magic, also hitting the next two shots to give the Bulls a 93-87 advantage with 42 seconds on the clock, a margin supported by Chicago s sound defensive efforts.

Derrick, with the pressure of the game, hes great in those situations. Hes got a lot of poise and a lot of confidence and I think that comes from his preparation. Hes ready to handle those things and he always makes the right play, whether its him finishing at the rim, pulling up or hitting an open teammate. And hes not afraid. He has great courage, said Thibodeau. Milwaukees playing extremely well. Theyre playing very, very hard. Theyre a tough team defensively. Its hard to get a good shot against them and Rose did whatever he had to do to put us in a position to win.

We dodged a bullet. We trailed most of the game. Thats two games in a row defensively we were very poor in the first half. Weve got to change that, he continued. This team has shown a lot of resolve all season long. The rebounding again was very good, but the slow starts are not something that we like, so were going to have to take a look at that to see how we can improve.

A Bucks turnover, resulting in a Rose-to-Brewer fast break and layup put the game away. Not only was it an exhilarating comeback, but another addition to Roses season resume, one that should conclude with a league MVP award and possibly further gratification, in the form of team postseason success.

But according to Rose, even this stellar performance couldnt convince him all the individual attention was justified.

Im getting there. Im learning every game, watching other great players in the NBA.

The worst thing you can do is give me confidence. No matter what Im doing, doing whatever. If I get any type of confidence, its going to be hard to stop me, said Rose. I didnt do anything yet. Ive still got a goal. Weve got to get to the second round. Thats what were trying to do now.

You can just feel the vibe in the locker room right now, were happy, he continued. Weve got a bunch of good guys who love playing with each other.

Were confident against anybody in the NBA. Weve proved we can play against all the best teams now.

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.

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

The common refrain among coaches in the first days of training camp is “this guy had an incredible summer”, a phrase Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has said so much that even he had to laugh when asked who didn’t have a banner summer period.

Of course, that’s before fans and media get to see anyone play, so we can only speculate who’ll win certain position battles, like the starting power forward spot or how deep Hoiberg’s rotation will go.

So in the spirit of speculation, Bulls rookie Denzel Valentine’s versatility makes him a candidate for the backup point guard position, a spot that is filled with different options for Hoiberg to choose from.

“He’s such an instinctive player. He does a great job,” Hoiberg said. “We talk about making simple plays. You’ve done your job when you beat your man, draw the second defender and make the easy, simple play. Denzel is great at that. That’s not a gift that everybody has. That’s not an instinct that all players have. But Denzel certainly has it.”

One wonders if Valentine could find himself on the outside looking in at the start of the season, like Bobby Portis did last year before all the injuries hit the Bulls and forced him into action.

It’s a different vision than when Valentine was drafted as a late lottery pick after a seasoned career at Michigan State. The Bulls hadn’t signed Dwyane Wade or Rajon Rondo in free agency, and had traded Derrick Rose 24 hours before the draft, so the thought was Valentine could be an instant contributor.

Even still, Valentine can likely play anything from point guard to small forward, but hasn’t gotten extensive reps at the point, yet.

“I’ve played on the wing so far. A little bit of point,” Valentine said. “I got a couple reps on the point, but like 70-30. Seventy on the wing, 30 on the point.”

[SHOP: Get up for the 2016-17 season, Bulls fans!]

He got an early jump on the Hoiberg terminology at summer league, so the language isn’t a big adjustment, but having to learn multiple positions along with the tendencies of new teammates can mean a steeper learning curve.

“Yeah, I just got to continue learning sets and learning guys’ strengths so that I can use that to their best advantage,” Valentine said. “Play-make as best I can when I’m at the point guard spot. Just learning the system, learning guys’ strengths, and then I’ll be better at it.”

The presence of Wade and Jimmy Butler, one of whom will likely anchor the second unit as Hoiberg will probably stagger minutes so each can have the requisite time and space, means even if Valentine were on the floor, he wouldn’t have to be a natural point guard.

Hoiberg does, however, crave having multiple playmakers who can initiate offense or create shots off penetration or pick and roll action, meaning Valentine can work it to his advantage.

“I think he can. Jimmy played with the ball in his hands a lot last year,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy rebounds the ball and if Dwyane rebounds the ball, they’re bringing it. Rajon if he’s out there knows to fill one of the lanes. Denzel is an excellent passer. He’s got such good basketball instincts. So if you can get guys out there who can make plays, that’s what it’s all about. I think you’re very difficult to guard in this league when you have multiple ballmakers.”

Other notes:

Dwyane Wade won’t be taking walk-up triples for the Bulls, despite his call that Hoiberg wants him being more comfortable from behind the long line. Hoiberg does want him being willing and able to take corner threes, likely off guard penetration from Rondo or Jimmy Butler.

When Wade played with LeBron James in Miami, cutting from the corners became a staple, so putting him there could be an old wrinkle Hoiberg is adding to his scheme.

Wade took seven of his 44 3-pointers from the corner last season, hitting two from the right side, according to vorped.com.

“When he’s open, especially in the corners, that’s a shot we want him taking. It’s a thing we worked on yesterday, making sure he stays on balance,” Hoiberg said. “He’s got a natural lean on his shot, which has been very effective, being on the elite mid range shooters in our game. That’s allowed him to get shots over bigger defenders. When you get out further from the basket, especially by the line, you need to get momentum going in, work on your body position and work on finishing that shot. He’s got good mechanics, it’s a matter of finishing the shot.”

Position battles to watch for at Bulls camp

Position battles to watch for at Bulls camp

After the Bulls traded for veteran center Robin Lopez and signed guards Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo in free agency,  the starting lineup for the 2016-17 season was 80 percent complete with Jimmy Butler moving over to small forward. The only real question remained: will Nikola Mirotic or Taj Gibson start at power forward?

Arguments can be made for both players, but early in camp it appears Mirotic will have the edge, based on his three-point shooting ability. The Bulls need to create floor spacing for their wing players (Wade and Butler) who are most effective driving to the basket, and Mirotic has the ability to knock down the three (.355 for his career, .390 last season). Mirotic is also an underrated defensive rebounder with decent size at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds.

Mirotic got off to a fast start last season in a starting role, but eventually went to the bench after a late November-early December shooting slump. His second NBA season was also sidetracked by an emergency appendectomy in late January that caused him to miss almost six weeks of action. Mirotic finished the season strong, and went on to play a lead role with his former Bulls teammate, Pau Gasol, on Spain’s national team at the Rio Olympics. Mirotic will be a restricted free agent at season’s end, so he has a lot riding on establishing himself as a bonafide NBA starter.

It's a similar story for Gibson, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and is looking to land one more big contract when he turns 32-years-old next June. Gibson is known for his relentless work on the boards and his ability to defend power forwards and centers. He’s also 100 percent healthy after dealing with the after-effects of ankle surgery last season. But given the Bulls’ spacing issues, it makes sense for the coaching staff to go with Mirotic alongside Wade, Rondo and Butler, and to pair Gibson with young perimeter threats like Doug McDermott, Denzel Valentine and Isaiah Canaan on the second unit. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg could use Gibson in a backup center role, with McDermott getting minutes at power forward in small ball lineups. Gibson will play, but don’t be surprised to see his name come up again in midseason trade rumors.

So, where does that leave 2015 first-round draft pick Bobby Portis? Portis looked good in Las Vegas Summer League play, showing off improved low-post skills and a consistent three-point shot. But unless Portis has a big preseason, it’s hard to imagine him getting consistent rotation minutes early in the season. Portis could earn some time as a stretch five backing up Lopez, but those minutes might also go to Gibson or second-year center Cristiano Felicio. Portis worked hard all summer, and should be a better all-around player in his sophomore season, but he faces an uphill battle to earn regular minutes. It will be interesting to see how many of the Bulls young players wind up logging time with the Bulls’ new D-League team in Hoffman Estates. Portis might not be involved as a No. 1 draft pick, but Felicio and second-round selection Paul Zipser might want to get familiar with the trip out to the Sears Center.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

The other major training camp battle involves the backup point guard spot behind Rondo. The coaches have a wide variety of options, starting with former Notre Dame star Jerian Grant, who came over in the Derrick Rose trade with the Knicks. The soon to be 24-year-old Grant is the son of long-time NBA player Harvey Grant and nephew of former Bulls star Horace Grant. The Bulls were interested in selecting Jerian Grant in the 2015 draft, but he went off the board a few picks before their turn in the first round.

Grant was a big-time scorer at Notre Dame, but struggled to get on the court in his rookie season with the Knicks. After Kurt Rambis replaced Derek Fisher as head coach of the Knicks, Grant finally got some consistent playing time, averaging 16.8 ppg over the last four games of the season. He’s not a great three-point shooter, hitting just 22 percent from beyond the arc as a rookie, but his ability to get to the basket and create open shots for teammates would give the Bulls consistent point guard play throughout the game.

Canaan was signed late in free agency to give the Bulls another long-range shooting option. He hit 36 percent of his 3’s with Philadelphia last season, averaging 11 points a game. The 25-year-old Canaan figures to be specialist with the Bulls, much like Aaron Brooks who could score points in bunches, but didn’t excel at running a half-court offense. Even though Canaan only stands 6 feet tall, he’s really a shooting guard in a point guard’s body, much like Brooks, D.J. Augustin, Nate Robinson and C.J. Watson who proceeded him.

6-foot-6 Spencer Dinwiddie was considered a potential lottery pick at Colorado before suffering a devastating knee injury that dropped him into the second round. Dinwiddie didn’t get a lot of playing time for Stan Van Gundy in Detroit, but he’s completely healthy now and showed during Summer League play he’s capable of scoring over smaller point guards in the post. His size, scoring ability and defensive skills might push him ahead of the other candidates when all is said and done.

The wild card in the backup point guard derby is this year’s first-round pick Denzel Valentine. Even though he played a wing spot at Michigan State, Valentine was the floor general for Tom Izzo, and is an exceptional passer with outstanding court vision. Since playing time behind Wade & Butler might be limited, Valentine could wind up running the point on the second unit, with Butler on the court as the primary initiator on offense. Valentine’s shooting ability gives the Bulls another floor spacer, and at 6-foot-5, he’ll have size advantage over smaller backup point guards.

Boiling it all down, Hoiberg and his assistants figure to do a lot of experimenting during the preseason to find out which players execute best together. But once the ball goes up for real on Oct. 27, Hoiberg has to decide on his best 9 or 10 players for a consistent regular-season rotation. Matchups could dictate which backup point guards find the floor, but even this early in camp it’s pretty obvious the Bulls are intrigued by Valentine’s potential, and he should get consistent playing time in his rookie season.