Thibodeau's Bulls can't solve his former team

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Thibodeau's Bulls can't solve his former team

Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010
Updated 12:36 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

BOSTON If pulse-pounding action, dramatic comebacks and extra periods werent involved, it just wouldnt be the Bulls and the Celtics.

The return of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and Boston fan favorite Brian Scalabrine were overshadowed by a thrilling affair, in which visiting Chicago was just about left for dead, until an uphill battle against a seemingly-safe Boston lead left a raucous TD Bank North Garden crowd stunned.

Eventually, critical errors by a still-gelling Bulls squad and clutch moments from a veteran Celtics group would seal the visitors 110-105 overtime demise.

We couldnt get stops when we needed them. We made a lot of mistakes. Its always frustrating to lose, Bulls center Joakim Noah told reporters following the loss. Were not there yet, but were pretty close and were only going to get better. And when we do, its going to get real ugly for everybody thats talking real crazy. All the trash that people are talking right now, its going to come back and haunt them because when it counts, were going to be ready.

Behind its boisterous crowd, the Celtics initially threatened to run the Bulls out of the gym or so it seemed, as Boston point guard Rajon Rondo pushed the pace and created defensive havoc in his customary manner, while veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen complimented his backcourt mate with his typical smooth scoring.

To complicate matters, Chicago (2-3) had issues both protecting the ball and finishing at the rim, although the visitors did appear to make a concerted effort to get the ball inside. A brief pattern of Boston (5-1) going on a mini-run, followed by the Bulls storming back was established with Taj Gibsons patented baseline jumper, Noahs activity level inside and Derrick Roses usual strong penetration all serving as catalysts. By the end of the first quarter, the tide had turned, and Chicago held a 23-19 advantage.

The familiar issue of the Bulls reserves being unable to maintain the momentum established by the starters persisted, as the Bulls were held scoreless until midway through the second period. Bostons offense wasnt exactly prolific with its second unit in the contest, but reserve swingman Marquis Daniels provided a major spark, as his versatile and unorthodox game gave Chicago defenders fits.

Both squads regulars would eventually return to the game, but the Bulls remained out of sync, turnover-prone, lacking ball movement, facing foul trouble and unable to adequately suppress the Celtics attack. Bostons Kevin Garnett and his backup, Glen Big Baby Davis, went to work in the low post, contributing significantly to a 24-3 extended run to begin the quarter in which the Bulls were doubled up, 30-15. Noah (26 points, 12 rebounds; both were game-highs), Rose and Luol Deng made valiant efforts to get Chicago back into the game before halftime, but the Bulls would trail, 49-38 at intermission.

Each game, were finding out more and well continue to look at different combinations and see what works best for the team, observed Thibodeau about his bench. You have to see who functions well together and right now, were still searching and I think were capable of playing better.

Boston is a tough team. Theyre excellent defensively, they make it hard on you, theyve got great length, Rondos activity will really bother you. In the first half, we held onto the ball, we went one-on-one, you cant do that against this teamin the second half, we made quality decisions, we got better shots. Thats what you have to do against a quality team, continued the coach, who was particularly bothered by his teams 19 turnovers.

They have a lot of weapons, theyre experienced, they know how to work the game and theyre hard to guardthe thing that gets overlooked about them is not only their individual greatness, but their collective greatness and their willingness to share with each other. So that ball moves through that balls always hopping and that puts an enormous pressure on your defense. Your defense isnt allowed to set and thats something were striving for. We want to get to be like that.

A technical foul called on Noah as the first half ended appeared to have some carry-over to the third quarter, with the Bulls center and Garnett getting into some verbal posturing on the floor. However, while both Garnett and fellow preps-to-pros and South Carolina native Jermaine ONeal were effective inside for the Celtics, Gibsons youthful energy reigned supreme (Noahs ability to get to the line regularly and convert was also key) in the early portion of the second half, as his offensive efforts helped Chicago cut its deficit to single digits.

The Bulls still werent flowing offensively and though Gibson (18 points, seven rebounds) enjoyed a surprising advantage over the cagey Garnett (16 points, 10 rebounds) at power forward, his teammates scoring was intermittent and their frustration over this fact was apparent. Meanwhile, ONeal and Allen were the primary load-bearers for Boston, which maintained a safe distance from the Bulls. Despite Rose (18 points, nine assists) aggressively willing in a few buckets late in the period, Chicago was behind by a 72-64 margin after three quarters of action.

Ive got to get used to double teams. Every time I come off picks, its a double team. Theyre making me pass the ball, said Rose, who was hounded by not only the defensive-minded Rondo, but Bostons post players, who sacrificed open mid-range jumpers by Noah and Gibson in order to harass Chicagos point guard. Im not used to it, so I know Thibs is going to have something for that and were going to be ready next game.

How do we respond to the ball being forced out of Roses hands? Try to make plays. Obviously Derricks our scorer and Derricks our playmaker, and theyre trying to get the ball out of his hands, explained Noah. I think it should work to our advantage. When theres two defenders on the ball like that, especially when theyre trapping at halfcourt, its on us as big men to get the ball and make the play from there.

A promising beginning to the final stanza reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer finished off a nifty give-and-go with a dunk resulted in the Bulls trimming the Celtics winning margin to a two-possession game early in the period. Brewer, whose stint in Chicago thus far has been mostly uneventful, also contributed an open-court theft of Ray Allen, leading to an easy transition finish.

With mostly reserves on the court for both teams, the Bulls continued to chip away at the lead, closing to within two points approximately halfway through the quarter following a Brewer pull-up jumper and a dunk from rookie center Omer Asik. A three-pointer by backup point guard C.J. Watson like Brewer, an offseason acquisition who hadnt found his stride yet put Chicago ahead for the first time since early in the second quarter.

Suddenly, it was a back-and-forth affair, with Rose and Rondo exchanging successful forays to the rim and the games intensity fitting of the arenas festive environment. Out of a Bulls timeout, Kyle Korver committed a costly turnover, resulting in a Ray Allen transition layup plus a foul to make it a two-possession contest. While the floodgates didnt completely open, the momentum definitely shifted to the home team, who teetered on the edge of putting the game away once and for all.

But a resilient Chicago squad wouldnt let up, and after a pair of Deng (20 points, six rebounds) long bombs, the count was evened at 96 apiece. With 34.2 seconds to play and the score still gridlocked, a remarkable hustle play by the always blue-collar Keith Bogans he would dive after a deflected loose ball in the Celtics backcourt and call timeout gave the Bulls a final possession in regulation.

A final play a clear-out for Rose, defended by Rondo was drawn up, but after making his initial move to the basket, the Bulls All-Star point guard was jostled by Rondo (10 points, 11 assists, four steals), lost the ball and the Bulls were unable to get off a final shot.

I lost the balltheres nothing I could say to change that. I guess I couldnt get a shot off, said a dejected Rose. I dont know what it was, but the refs thought it was clean, so theres nothing I can say about it. I guess they made the right call.

We wanted to get the last shot. They were crowding Derrick, so we wanted to just go 1-4 flat and give him a chance to win the game, explained Thibodeau. It was a tough play. I havent seen it, but it looked like Rondo made a good play. There was some contact, it looked like it could go either way. It didnt go our way this time. We have to do better next time.

In the extra period, Bostons Paul Pierce who had a quiet game after surpassing the 20,000-point mark for his career in the Celtics previous outing, another overtime thriller against Milwaukee started the scoring with his trademark foul-line pull-up jumper. Gibson would counter with one of his own. A scoring exchange between the teams ensued, with Bostons Davis (15 points) knocking down a jumper, Korver hitting a huge three-pointer and Allen answering back in similar fashion, before a Rose drive resulted in a foul and two free throws.

This neck-and-neck action turned in the Celtics favor after another Pierce jumper, then a Bulls turnover that made the situation bleak for the out-of-towners, particularly after an explosive Allen (team-high 25 points) dunk over Korver that made it a two-possession contest. However, a Deng tip-in gave the Bulls hope, making it a 108-105 game with under a minute to play. Chicago would get a defensive stop on the next possession, but after a Noah rebound, the centers subsequent push up the court was poked away by Garnett, sealing the deal for Boston.

Garnett was behind me, so I couldnt see himI was trying to make a play. Big mistake. He reached on the rebound and I thought we had the numbers in transition and I should have slowed it down. We should have got a shot up in that situation, recalled Noah. Theres a lot more basketball to be played and as long we come with the right mindset every day and work on our defense, and work on what we need to work, were going to be tough.

Said Thibodeau: We would rather have Derrick with the ball, but Noah has made several plays very effectively like that. In that situation sometimes particularly against a defensive team like that your best look is going to be in transition. Youre not allowing their defense to set. Now, wed much prefer Derrick to handle it and make the decision, but those are things well work on and get better at.

We have high character on the team, theres a lot of toughness and theres a lot of fight in them. Were still not playing up to our capability. Defensively, I think we could do a lot better; offensively, were scoring the ball. Im not as concerned right now about our offense as I am about out defense.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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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What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

The Bulls have made their biggest decision of the offseason but the future of Rajon Rondo and to a lesser extent, Dwyane Wade, is still in the air.

Due to the trade for Kris Dunn and the Bulls having acquired Cameron Payne at the trade deadline last season, it doesn’t appear to be much room for Rondo. Even moreso, considering Dunn and Payne’s lack of production, one would think the Bulls would easily guarantee Rondo’s $13.3 million for next season.

But with the June 30th deadline approaching, it seems more and more like the Bulls will buy Rondo out for $3 million and go with a total youth movement, despite Rondo’s success with guiding some of the young players on the roster.

If not for Rondo’s wrist injury in Game 2 of the Bulls’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics, the Bulls could’ve advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Instead, they’re embarking on what could be a long process that may take years to recover from.

“He’s always been a great teammate and nurturer of the young guys,” said Bill Duffy, Rondo’s agent. Duffy also serves as Zach LaVine’s agent, so he was in attendance for LaVine’s introduction at the United Center.

The handling of Rondo’s benching, re-emergence and subsequent importance to the Bulls this past season has helped Rondo, in a sense. Rondo proved to be a galvanizing force to a degree after being shuffled in and out of the starting lineup.

“I think it’s fair to say he definitely showed a different persona that what had existed but like I said, he’s always been that way, I think it’s more publicized,” Duffy said. “I think he just loves to develop people, always managing and directing. So I think that’s always the case with the younger guys.”

If Rondo is released—and it certainly appears matters are trending in that direction, the 31-year old could have suitors in the New Orleans Pelicans and Indiana Pacers, sources tell CSNChicago.com. One would think the Bulls could use Rondo’s type of straightforward but encouraging brand of leadership in the locker room, but the Bulls have yet to guarantee his contract for next season.

“That’s still to be determined,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’re going to sit down with Bill and talk it through. We do understand that veterans are important for a young basketball team, the right veterans – guys that are good teammates, are supportive of the young guys and can continue to teach them how to be pros. Those are things we’ll be addressing.”

“The proof’s always in the pudding and I think if you talk to the front office and coaches, they really love what he brought and how he handled the challenges last year,” Duffy said. “I think we all mature over time and he’s been in the league a long time. He wants to win but he loves the game. I think he appreciates it more, he’s kinda of in his twilight years or approaching it.”

As for Wade, he exercised his $23.8 million option for next season as he was expected to, but that was before the Jimmy Butler trade that ushered in a new day of change.

There’s been speculation Wade would seek a buyout from the Bulls at the start of free agency but so far, those conversations haven’t been held and Paxson intimated Wade would have to give back a significant amount of that money to become a free agent.

There’s been speculation of Wade joining LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as Carmelo Anthony getting a buyout from the Knicks and following suit.

But the Cavaliers will have very little to offer in the way of cap space, so it’s tough to see Wade giving back a large sum then going to Cleveland for the veterans’ minimum—which would not make up the difference of a “significant” amount.

“I know Gar has spoken with Leon Rose, Dwyane’s agent, As far as the buyout, that has not been broached,” Paxson said. “I would say this: In this type of scenario, it would have to benefit us. It would have to benefit us. Dwyane was a great pro last year, and he’s been around a lot of different situations.”

But with Wade’s history of giving up large sums of money in the name of team, it’s harder to predict his moves. As strong as his relationship with Butler is, the possibility of Butler being moved didn’t affect him picking up his option, so his desire to play competitive or at least meaningful basketball could be weighed against wanting to keep his family comfortable after relocating to Chicago last year and collecting every dollar of his deal.

“He was in Miami when they had a couple rebuilding years as well,” Paxson said. “So right now we’re operating under assumption that he’ll be here. But like I said, if that subject is ever broached by them, it would have to be advantageous for us."