Rose making progress, Bulls thinking big?

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Rose making progress, Bulls thinking big?

Take this with a grain of salt if you will, but Derrick Rose is embracing the challenge of returning to full strength from his devastating knee injury. Yes, the medical prognosis for his return is eight months to a full year, but every athlete is different and those who have doubted the Chicago native's determination to beat the odds before--as in almost everyone who heard his famous "Why can't I be MVP?" Bulls media day declaration prior to last season--have been pleasantly proven wrong in the past.

Rose is already walking with a soft brace on his injured knee and only one crutch, according to a source who has witnessed the Bulls superstar's initial stages of.recovery at the Berto Center. Another source, who spoke to Rose recently, told CSNChicago.com that the All-Star point guard's "spirits are up," a consistent description of his mental state since surgery to repair his torn left ACL last month.

If the point guard does play next season--a reasonable estimation for an early return would be after the All-Star break--something Reggie Rose, the 23-year-old's older brother, pledged immediately after the surgery and echoed by backcourt partner Rip Hamilton on Thursday, he will likely join a roster consisting of several new faces.

In addition to finding temporary replacements for Rose and potentially fellow All-Star Luol Deng, at least for the beginning of the regular season if the small forward opts for wrist surgery following the upcoming Olympics in his adopted hometown of London, as expected, the Bulls will also probably have to fill the spots of "Bench Mob" stalwarts Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson, among others.

Brewer is the least likely to return, as rookie swingman Jimmy Butler is poised to fill his role, while Korver, despite his long-range shooting being such a needed asset on a team mostly lacking that quality, may have too high of a price tag for a team trying to avoid the league's luxury tax.

Although it's a possibility that Watson returns due to both financial reasons and the fact that the Bulls might not find a better player to fill in for Rose at a similar salary, there is a chance that organization looks to upgrade the position during their superstar's absence.

While the front office may seek out minimum-salary veterans at several positions, including point guard, a source tells CSNChicago.com that the Bulls will take a run at future Hall of Famers Steve Nash and Jason Kidd in free agency, trying to convince the former All-Stars that they will have an opportunity to win a championship, of which Kidd has one, from last season with the Mavericks, and Nash has none, in Chicago.

According to the same source, the rest of the team's "core"--starters Rose, Deng, Hamilton, center Joakim Noah and power forward Carlos Boozer, as well as reserve big men Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, the latter of whom is a restricted free agent this summer, though the Bulls are likely to match any offers for him from opposing teams--is "safe," though team management will surely at least listen to trade offers.

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

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USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

Here are some of Friday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Saturday on CSN: Bradley vs. Nevada; Illinois State vs. New Mexico

Dwyane Wade, Bulls take first blood with LeBron James, Cavs

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

White Sox reportedly asking for No. 1 prospect plus more in trade return for Chris Sale

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

LeBron James pays off bet, rocks Cubs uniform to the United Center

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 1

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

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USA TODAY

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

Two nights after managing just 90 points in a lackluster home loss to the Lakers, the Bulls entered Friday night’s tilt against the defending-champion Cavaliers with a specific offensive game plan.

Attack, head coach Fred Hoiberg told his team, the interior of the Cleveland defense early to establish a presence in the paint. Knowing the Cavs, for all their strengths that made them NBA champions five months earlier, lacked a true rim protector, the Bulls made it a point to get Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez going.

The Bulls managed to do exactly that, tallying a season-high 78 points in the paint in their 111-105 victory over the Cavaliers. And while Lopez was again his usual efficient self and Gibson turned in his best performance of the season – the two scored 33 points on 15-for-23 shooting – it was point guard Rajon Rondo who proved to be the kick-starter for a Bulls offense that needed to be at its best to match Cleveland’s star power.

Rondo logged his first triple-double with the Bulls in the victory, tallying 15 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. But looking past the raw numbers, it was the shots Rondo took, and the passes he made, that allowed the Bulls to play so efficiently on offense and ultimately come away with their most impressive victory of the year.

Of Rondo’s 12 assists, all but two of the made shots off those passes came from a distance farther than 7 feet. Ten of Rondo’s assists resulted in baskets in the paint, of which the Bulls had 39 as a team. Squaring off against a subpar defender in Kyrie Irving, Rondo was active in knifing into the paint and finding open bigs inside. Rondo had six assists in the first quarter, and all but one resulted in baskets within 3 feet of the hoop.

All four of his made field goals in the first half were layups, as was his only bucket in the third quarter. His putback midway through the fourth quarter was also at the rim, and gave him his tenth rebound to secure the triple-double. Two possessions later he connected on a 3-pointer that gave the Bulls an eight-point lead; Cleveland never got closer than four the rest of the way. Rondo only took three shots outside of the paint. Friday marked the first time in a month Rondo had shot better than 50 percent from the field in back-to-back games.

Past Rondo’s own numbers, Gibson said that the Bulls’ point guard was instrumental in leading the Bulls’ offense to match up against a Cavaliers offense that entered the night second in the league in efficiency.

“He’s like a quarterback. Even though he never really played any contact football the way he always gathers the huddle, he always sees what’s going on in the game,” Gibson said. “He’s always encouraging. He’s pushing it. He’s a great teammate and I know he got a lot of criticism before the year, a lot of people talk about the negative that’s in it, but he’s been showing me nothing but great stuff on and off the court.”

In a game that had a playoff-like atmosphere to it simply because of the matchup between Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, as well as the defending champs coming to town, the veteran Rondo took it upon himself to lead the Bulls offense. Though the Bulls wanted to avoid getting into a track meet against the fast-paced Cavs, Rondo didn’t allow the offense to become stagnant when it was apparent they could get into the paint at will.

“I thought Rondo was great all night long,” Fred Hoiberg said, “getting guys out and running, pushing them. You can hear him yelling “run with me” to get the guys down the floor. Rajon was a huge factor.”

His defense will continue to be a liability – Irving had an off-night shooting more than anything – and he won’t score 15 points each night, but his leadership and ability to run an offense with precision has the Bulls behind their floor general as they head into the season’s second month.

“He’s always inspiring. He’s one of those guys you want to go to war with. He’s one of those guys that’s in the huddle, you know that every time down the court if it’s a wrong call, a foul, a scuffle, if you not feeling right he’s always going to have your back no matter what.”