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.

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Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

If there's a more maddening player in the Eastern Conference than Nikola Mirotic, that player's psychologist should be getting paid double considering Bulls fans have been talking to themselves about Mirotic so much over the past three years.

And as they've reached no conclusion on Mirotic, along with many other sage minds, only one thing is for certain: March is his month.

Meaning it's the month where it becomes maddening to watch him play and probably equally as maddening for his teammates who've watched his inconsistencies for the better part of four months or so.

Averaging 16.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 41 career March games, it's the only full month where Mirotic averages in double figures for his career—meaning there's a lot of inconsistencies to wade through to get to the proverbial pot of gold.

In 2014-15, he emerged as the NBA's best fourth-quarter scorer that month when the Bulls were without both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Last season, he came back fresh after an appendectomy took a big chunk of his year.

This year, there's no big macro reason. He's just playing definitively, making quick movements and it's paying off as his two best scoring games took place within a four-day span (28 against both Detroit and Milwaukee).

"Right now, you see I'm shooting without hesitation," Mirotic said to CSNChicago.com. "Just catch and shooting. It's a great feeling."

No word on whether Mirotic hears the fans in the arena or the twitterverse screaming for him to ditch the pump fake that he actually admits it got in his head, but this season has been a roller coaster of the most dramatic kind, as the Bulls are still vying for playoff positioning with eight games remaining in the regular season.

"Sometimes, especially when I'm reading you guys (media), Niko pump fake, pump fake," Mirotic said with a smile. "Okay, no more pump fakes, just fire that ball. I'm laughing because you guys are (right)…that's true. You guys want me to shoot. It doesn't look good when you pump fake every time you have a wide-open shot."

Being penciled in as a training camp starter due to the need for floor spacing, Taj Gibson quickly outplayed Mirotic for the power forward spot. Then Mirotic's up and down, down and up, season began.

Kind of like his pump fake that often drew more defensive attention for it's predictability than effectiveness, stability has been hard to find for a player many have been waiting on since the day he was drafted in 2011.

"I know the defenses are ready for my pump fake so now just like, shoot the ball," Mirotic said. "I've been spending a lot of hours working on my shot before practice, after practice, trying to catch the feeling."

Better late than never or too late?

That's the question surrounding Mirotic and he knows it, being aware of his status as a restricted free-agent-to-be, along with his trade value a month ago being so low, the Bulls could only get a future second-round pick for him from teams.

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With the Bulls having so many questions going into the future, who knows if they want to go through the up-and-down, down-and-up cycle with a talented player yet again, with a big-time financial commitment.

In a sense, Mirotic knows he's left plenty on the table as far as his play through the years and seems to be content with playing with a sense of freedom as the season concludes, whether he's back with the Bulls or not for next year and beyond.

"I just wanna leave a good impression for the Bulls," Mirotic said. "Whatever decision they make. It's been a pleasure. A lot of people dream to be here, I was one of those guys when I was in Europe. I was really like, I wanna go there and play for the Bulls. The history they have. For me, it's a dream come true. Whatever decision they make, I make, whatever. I don't know. The years here have been great. I know it's been up and down. It's been a pleasure and I just wanna finish right."