Stiff neck sidelines Rose; Boozer regaining touch

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Stiff neck sidelines Rose; Boozer regaining touch

Friday, Nov. 27, 2010
Updated 6:35 p.m.

By Aggrey SamCSNChicago.com

DENVER -- Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is out for Friday's game against the Nuggets after experiencing neck spasms since Wednesday's dramatic double-overtime win in Phoenix.

Rose, who got treatment for his neck before the tilt in Denver, briefly spoke to reporters in the Pepsi Center visiting locker room prior to the game.

"I don't know where it came from. Probably sleeping, changing beds in hotels during the team's current seven-game road trip. I don't know what it is," said Rose, who continued to struggle turning his neck to address reporters. "It's too early right now to know if I'll play Saturday against Sacramento. I would hate to miss two games, but I talked to Bulls general manager Gar Forman, I talked to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. They said that if it's not feeling right, it's not a problem for him to miss the game."

"I was under the impression that it was a stiff neck. We were hopeful that he would be better today and he wasn't," said Thibodeau. "We wanted to see how he would be right before the game and it's a little bit better, but not good enough where he can play."

"It's day-to-day. Hopefully it'll be better tomorrow."

"For me to have this injury, it's hard. Knowing that we were getting into a little groove, coming off a big win like that, then coming here and having to sit out, it's tough," added Rose, who said he experienced neck problems during high school, but usually after being fouled hard or taking a charge. "But I guess I've just got to suck it up. It's all about trust and having confidence in your team. I've got trust and I have confidence in my teammates."

Although backup point guard C.J. Watson will start in Rose's place, one of those teammates is John Lucas III, a familiar face. The free agent point guard -- who was with the Bulls in training camp before being waived toward the end of the preseason -- was signed by the Bulls today and flew from his home in Houston to Denver just in time for the game (he arrived at 3:45 for the 7:00 tip-off, taking a cab from the airport directly to the arena).

"I didn't know what I was going to do, if I was going to go overseas or come back," said Lucas, who averaged 2.2 points and 0.8 assists in five preseason contests. "If I was going to go overseas, I was going to go to China where he played last season for the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks. The season doesn't start until later on in December, so I was just down there in Houston working out with my dad former NBA player and coach John Lucas and a couple other players who were still waiting to go overseas or trying to get into the D-League. I really didn't give myself a deadline to make a decision. I just wanted to enjoy the holidays with my family because last year being overseas, I missed every holiday. I kind of took the time to relax, follow my little brother University of Texas point guard Jai Lucas because it's his senior year, so I got to make all of his games, and just work out. Just stay fit, stay ready because you never know when the call would come, like today. I was literally at Wing Stop eating and I got the phone call. I had to rush to the house, pack bags and head to the airport.

"We just got done working out. We got done with our second workout for the day -- I'm excited. I'm glad to be back. Great group of guys, coaching staff," continued Lucas, who spent parts of two NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets. "When my mom was driving me to the highway, I was going over the playbook, so I could remember all the actions, so if I do get a chance to get in today, I'm not confused about anything -- I'm here, I'm going to give it everything I've got like always and prepare myself for each and every game."

Thibodeau was glad to get insurance in Rose's absence.

"I thought he played well in training camp. He's got experience in the league. Wherever he's been, he's dominated the level of play below the NBA," said Thibodeau, who was an assistant coach under the elder Lucas in Philadelphia. "Obviously with Derrick being out, we wanted another player for insurance at that position and we can also play Ronnie Brewer there -- Lucas knows the system, he knows how to run the team and he can shoot.

"We have more than enough to win with. C.J.'s going to start. He'll play more minutes; he'll play starter's minutes. The bench will get more minutes. When they've gotten more minutes, they've played well."

In other injury pregame news, Bulls power forward Taj Gibson will play Friday after missing Wednesday's win with a sore right ankle. Denver's starting point guard, Chauncey Billups, is out.

Boozer making progress

Currently sidelined Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer continues to make progress, appearing to be regaining his touch in a pregame workout Friday at the Pepsi Center.

"It felt good. Got a chance to work out again. Worked out yesterday, worked out today. Feels good. It's a little sore. Still not strong enough," said Boozer, who told reporters he "100 percent" expects to practice Monday in Chicago.

As for when he'll play in a game, Boozer was a bit more coy.

"I do have a target date, but I'm going to keep that to myself. I've got to have a little bit of mystery. I can't tell you all everything," quipped Boozer. "When it doesn't hurt anymore. When I go out there, work out, shoot, do all my drills, play five-on-five with the guys, let it get hit in practice and it doesn't hurt. To be truthful, I'll probably end up playing through that pain for the first couple weeks because I'm anxious to get back out there. Not where it would detriment my hand -- because it hasn't moved in five weeks. Now that it's moving again and I'm shooting and I'm working it, there's going to be a little something pain there for a little bit, until it gets stronger. Just sitting in a cast for five weeks."

"It's hard right now because we're really not practicing, but it was encouraging to see him do all the things that he did today. Of course, tomorrow there won't be anything and when we get back, I expect him to practice," confirmed Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. "He actually looked good in the shootaround today. He was making shots. He's been shooting, but he was actually making some today. He hasn't gone through contact yet. Shootaround this morning was basically shooting, running through offense and going over the schemes, and he was fine, but it was the first practice he really went through."

Boozer was just happy to be out on the court with his teammates.

"I bet Tom did say that," laughed Boozer. "It just feels good to get back out there. I've been shooting little bunny shots around the rim -- I'll be back out there soon."

"It's soreness and pain just from moving the wrist. I was talking to 'Lu' Bulls teammate Luol Deng about it because he went through it a few years back, and he just told me it takes time to get stronger. There isn't anything like playing shape. I think I've done as good of a job without contact and playing, but playing with these guys in practice and playing in games will get me back where I was at."

Boozer also discussed his adjustment to his two-fingered protective glove apparatus.

"It's OK. It's not my favorite. I'd rather wear nothing, but I might have to wear something for the first couple days. I don't know if I'm going to wear it too much. I'd rather just play without it, to be honest. We'll see."

"We've got some good doctors in Chicago."

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.

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.

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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.

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.