Starting Five: Game 3 Pregame News and Notes


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, continues to offer afree, live-stream broadcast of the game, including the postgame pressconferences.

The Sixth Man: Dont forget to follow me on Twitter @CSNBullsInsider

-- Aggrey Sam

Taj Gibson starting for Bulls on Opening Night puts spotlight on shooting

Taj Gibson starting for Bulls on Opening Night puts spotlight on shooting

The Bulls’ starting five is set and healthy before Thursday’s season opener against the Boston Celtics, with Fred Hoiberg announcing that Taj Gibson will start at power forward after his strong preseason.

Or, if one chooses to be a little more realistic, Gibson won the competition in large part due to Nikola Mirotic’s underwhelming showing, as Mirotic came into camp as the favorite with his outside shooting making him a more natural fit offensively.

With Gibson’s insertion, the Bulls will be one of the worst 3-point shooting starting fives in the league, although Mirotic and Doug McDermott can balance things out when they’re on the floor.

“We feel like he has played excellent basketball throughout the preseason,” said Hoiberg of Gibson. “He’s been good in practices. We’ve talked to our guys about that. Niko has had a couple good practices in a row now. You try to get him in a good rhythm coming out of the gate. But that’s the way we’re going to start.”

Hoiberg has touted Mirotic’s practices as being stellar, but he struggled though most of the preseason. It seemed like Hoiberg was attempting to give Mirotic the benefit of the doubt before announcing what should’ve been obvious to those who’ve watched the Bulls in the preseason, that Gibson was the better performer.

“Taj is a fighter,” said Jimmy Butler, who wasn’t surprised with the outcome. “That’s one thing you know you’re going to get from him. He’s one of the toughest guys that we have, somebody that’s always working.”

One of Butler’s main concerns last season was that the Bulls lost their defensive identity, that their toughness left the building when Tom Thibodeau was fired and the offensive-minded Hoiberg was ushered in.

Presumably, Gibson’s nod can be taken as a return to the Bulls’ roots—although anyone in their right mind wouldn’t be wrong to think if Mirotic had been the least bit consistent, he would be a starter and Gibson would be a reserve.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“I think everybody is trying, man,” Butler said. “I’m not going to say that we’ve got the best defenders, that’s for sure, but as long as you’re putting in the effort. Sometimes good defense is just getting in the damn way. I’m telling you.”

The Bulls finished as a middle of the pack team in terms of defensive efficiency last season, but experienced a steep decline after the All-Star break, leading to their first lottery appearance since 2008.

“As long as guys are out there competing, we’ll take it if someone hits a tough shot over you or whatever,” Butler said. “When we think about the offensive end entirely too much that’s when we get down a lot.”

With Dwyane Wade, Butler and Rajon Rondo needing Mirotic to provide the necessary floor spacing to keep defenses honest, it means there’s more pressure on Hoiberg to stagger minutes and alter his rotations early in games.

Wade has shot the ball well in the preseason, but is a career 28-percent shooter from deep. Rondo shot 36.5 percent last season but like Wade, is at 28 percent for his career.

Butler is the best of the bunch, having shot 37.8 percent in 2014-15 but dipped to 31 percent last year, and is a 32.8 percent shooter for his career.

“We just have to step up, take them, shoot them with confidence like we do every day in practice,” Butler said. “I think we’ll be fine. As long as we’re guarding, the offense will take care of itself. We’re constantly in attack mode. There’s more than just shooting 3s.”

Which means a tough task just became all the more complicated. Hoiberg typically replaced Wade with McDermott midway through the first quarter and then brings Wade back to finish up in place of Butler.

More tinkering and some downright wizardry will have to be worked for things to go smoothly—but then again, it doesn’t have to be smooth to be effective.

“if we can things staggered it the right way---and we’ll continue to look at things---what you see on Thursday might not be what you see in the middle of the season,” Hoiberg said. “We have to start somewhere. We’re comfortable with the lineup and the rotation plan we have.”

CSN's Top 25 players in the NBA

CSN's Top 25 players in the NBA

No matter how much you rely on analytics and logarithms in determining who are the best players, ultimately it becomes about judgment.

Should win shares have a greater value than a player’s winning percentage in the playoffs? Is defensive rating a better barometer about a defender’s ability than say, defensive field goal percentage differential? And how much do you weigh how they fare versus playoff teams and non-playoff teams? A legitimate case can be made for all those numbers and many, many more, being used to rank the top 25 players.

Realizing such an endeavor should not be a one-person job, I enlisted the help of my fellow CSN Insiders, compiled our rankings and voila! We made a beautiful, bouncing list of more than two dozen players.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The scoring for this is pretty simple: Each Insider picked 25 players, ranking them from No. 1 through 25. Their number one pick received 25 points, No. 2 got 24, No. 3 got 23 and … you get the picture.

Without any further delay, here is the first annual CSN Top 25 NBA Players list in addition to our "others receiving votes" group.