Starting Five: Game 3 Pregame News and Notes

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Starting Five: Game 3 Pregame News and Notes

Thursday, April 22, 20101:12 PM

1. After Wednesday's practice at the Berto Center, Bulls head coachVinny Del Negro talked about the teams much-improved performance fromGame 1 to Game 2.

Well, we lost so thats not encouraging, but I felt we respondedwell, said Del Negro. Obviously LeBron James got going in thefourth a little bit, but overall I thought that we were focused, we hadgreat energy, guys were making plays. I thought Derrick, Luol andJoakim had very solid games, Flip was solid off the bench, Taj,everyone contributed. So overall it was a good team effort, we didntlike the final result. Now were back at home. They did what we have todo. We have to step up tonight and play well in order to win thegame."

Del Negro hopes that playing at the United Center will give Chicago aboost, but acknowledged that a better offensive outing will be key togetting a win.

The games emotional, the guys are into it, the atmospheres great,said Del Negro. Tonight were at home, were going to come out with alot of energy. Just because were home doesnt mean all of a sudden,were going to play that much better, but were going to have to playsmarter, be efficient and in the fourth quarter, were going to have toget stops and put the ball in the basket. We have to shoot a little bitbetter and make some open shots to put some pressure on them and gettheir field-goal percentage down. When asked about Joakim Noahs warof words with the city of Cleveland, Del Negro supported his center.

Jo has a free spirit. You have to manage his personality, but hebrings energy all the time, great spirit and wants to get better, wantsto win, so hes got all the right stuff," Del Negro said. "Hes justgot to continually concentrate on what we want to execute and bringthat energy because guys feed off that.

2. Del Negro also addressed criticism of All-Star point guard DerrickRose taking team-highs of 28 and 24 shot attempts, respectively, in thefirst two games of the series.

If he takes 24 shots and makes 20 of them, well then everybody wouldsay, Why didnt he take 30 of them? Theres a balance there, saidDel Negro. We need Derrick to score, but also get his assists and beefficient, and I feel like hes doing that.

3. Del Negro also discussed the 40-point effort of Cavaliers superstarJames in Game 2, and how the Bulls could possibly limit him tonight.

Their record is what their record is because they have depth and whenthe games close, you go to your star player, said Del Negro. Weguarded him well last game and he was still able to make difficultshots -- fadeaways, hes so explosive getting to the basket -- you justhave to pick your spots to make it difficult for him like any greatplayer.

When LeBrons hitting fadeaways and floaters and holding the ball, andwere coming on the double and hes fading away on you, it makes ithardthats what star players do. Weve just got to mix it in on him,weve got to keep him off balance, keep him guessing with the double,play him in single coverage, force him a certain waytheyve seen itall. Were not inventing the wheel here.

Del Negro later invoked the name of another No. 23 familiar to Bullsfans, unwittingly inviting reporters to ask him to make a comparison.

People in Chicago know," he said. "You had a guy here who was pretty good for along time that wore 23. You know how that is. You can have all thegreat defenses you want, but some guys just can make plays over the topof you, whether you bring one, two, three guys. So were just going tohave to get into him, make it as hard as possible and just be effectivein the areas we need to.

Theyre different. Thats animpossible thing to answer obviously. Michael right now, just becauseof his legacy, what he did in the game, to evolve the gameMichael tookit to another level. Im not a big guy on comparing guys because Idont think its fair. In terms of comparing anybody to Michael rightnow is not fair, just because of the MVPs and championships, all thethings he accomplished. And LeBrons at a stage where hes only 25, hehas a long career left and staying healthy and being consistent and allof those things.

4. Rose was absent from Wednesdays practice. Hedidnt participate because of personal reasons -- a family emergency -- butis expected to play in tonights Game 3.

5. Although tonights game is being broadcast nationally, many Bulls fansmay prefer to stick with the insights of the local broadcast duo -- thatknows the team the best -- of Stacey King and Neil Funk. Comcast SportsNet will have the game, as well as Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gillhosting Bulls Pregame Live before the contest and Bulls PostgameLive afterwards. In addition, CSNChicago.com continues to offer afree, live-stream broadcast of the game, including the postgame pressconferences.

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Will the Bulls be able to turn to Rajon Rondo soon?

Will the Bulls be able to turn to Rajon Rondo soon?

It doesn't seem likely but a Rajon Rondo return to the Bulls-Celtics series certainly seems possible, as the injured point guard was launching corner 3-pointers before the start of Tuesday's practice.

Except he was shooting with his left hand, as his right thumb was fractured in the second half of Game 2 in Boston. Game 5 is Wednesday night in Boston, as the Bulls have lost the two games without him and have looked rudderless at point guard.

As of the moment, the Bulls have ruled him out for Game 5 but are noncommittal beyond that, with Game 6 being back in Chicago Friday night.

If he returned it would be a remarkable turnaround considering one of Rondo's teammates called his thumb injury "I've worst I've ever seen in my career", leading to cautious words from Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg.

"This is honestly the first time he has touched a basketball with that right hand. We'll see how it goes. He's going to continue to condition and do everything he can," Hoiberg said. "Just watching him wince a little bit when the ball was coming to him makes me think it's a longshot.

But if there's anybody who can do it and will try to fight through it, it's Rondo because of the competitor he is."

Rondo said he couldn't grip a fork with his right hand, let alone a basketball when he spoke to the media this weekend, and the official diagnosis stated he would be evaluated between 7-10 days, pushing things right between Games 6 and 7, if it gets to a decisive seventh game in Boston.

It's not just Rondo's wizardry that has people fantasizing about Rondo producing a Willis Reed moment, but the lack of confidence in backups Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams is palpable.

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Hoiberg is going with Isaiah Canaan at point guard for Game 5, after he hit a few shots and defended Isaiah Thomas reasonably well, despite Thomas scoring 33 points Sunday night.

Rondo did a good enough job funneling Thomas near the help defense, but it seems to be a foreign process from anyone else this series. The Bulls' dependency on Rondo's brain is obvious, given everything he's been through; Their seeming reliance on Rondo in the physical form is more than shocking, seeing as how he couldn't do right in their eyes  in December and January.

"He obviously wants to get back out there and is doing everything he can to put himself in that position, knowing that it's still a longshot that that happens," Hoiberg said.

The visual, though, in plain view of camera phones and TV cameras, certainly appeared striking as Rondo still had a brace around his thumb before practice.

"We want that guy back, man, but I don't know if it will happen, if it won't happen, I can't tell you that," said Jimmy Butler, who's had to take on more ballhandling responsibilities in Rondo's absence. "But he's still out here, shooting shots with his left hand from the corner."

Butler then added some levity and perhaps a dose of reality to the moment of optimism.

"He just shot that one right-handed by the way and air-balled it. But we love him, man," Butler said.

The Bulls would need more than just a ceremonial Rondo appearance if he were to return, as he supplied the Bulls with a confidence and swagger that hadn't been seen in awhile and hasn't been heard from since his injury—unless you could the Celtics' brimming confidence with two wins in Chicago to take control back of homecourt advantage.

The Celtics have loaded up on Butler and to a lesser degree, Wade, turning them into facilitators rather than attackers or at least guys who can get an easy basket or two during a game.

Rondo was good for setting those guys up along with taking care of Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis, but that responsibility has fallen down the line to players who are just as willing but not as creatively capable as Rondo.

"He's our floor general out there," Butler said. "He knows everything, knows every matchup, every position, and he's still helping over there from the bench, but we really want him healthy and out there for us."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can Bulls bounce back against Celtics?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can Bulls bounce back against Celtics?

In the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, CSN's David Kaplan is joined by the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh and the Chicago Sun-Times' Adam Jahns to discuss the Bulls falling to a 2-2 series tie with the Celtics.

The guys predict how the first-round playoff series will end and talk about how Isaiah Canaan will fare as the starting point guard in Game 5.

Then, the panel discusses whether Matt Davidson should be in the White Sox lineup more and who will still be playing on the South Side when the White Sox rebuild is done.

Finally, the panel discusses a couple of contract extensions for Pat Fitzgerald and Chris Collins at Northwestern.

Take a listen to the episode below: