Category Archives: Inside the Locker Room

Rose to be next Bulls Hall of Famer after Pippen?

Here’s my MVP ballot for this season:

LeBron James

Kobe Bryant

Dwight Howard

Kevin Durant

Dwyane Wade

Here’s my MVP ballot for 2015:

Kevin Durant

Derrick Rose

LeBron James

John Wall

Blake Griffin

The talk coming into this Bulls/Cleveland Cavaliers series, which resumes 2:30 p.m. Sunday with the Cavs ahead 2-1, was all about LeBron James.

James hasn’t disappointed, averaging 34.3 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three blocks.

But now, it’s about James and Derrick Rose.

“He’s a really good talent,” James said after Cavs practice Saturday. “We’ve got to find a way to contain him.”

Rose, like he did last year in opening the playoffs tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s playoff debut scoring record, is drawing praise and homage for his impressive play.

The subject of discussion at Cavs practice, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, was what to do about Rose.

Rose missed Bulls practice once last week because of the death of a close relative and has been leaving early to be with family.

Still, he has been remarkable in the three games in averaging 27.3 points and 8.3 assists. After seven turnovers in Game 1, Rose has had just one in the last two games while averaging almost 43 minutes and attempting 50 shots. With just about every Cav wing player, including James the last four and a half minutes of Game 3, taking turns defending Rose.

“We all need to take a crack at him,” James said. “Just to show him a different person in front of him. A different length, a different speed to keep him a little contained.”

All of this, for a 21-year-old in his second NBA season, has even left veteran Bulls players trying to figure out where Rose will fit in NBA history.

This is a special player whom you will be talking about for years to come if he remains healthy and about whom you’ll be able to say you saw him at the beginning.

“Me, (Jannero) Pargo and Hakim (Warrick) were talking about this,” said Lindsey Hunter, now a special coach who played guard in the NBA 17 years and broke in backing up Isiah Thomas. “There hasn’t been a guy to compare athletically with him at point guard.

“You look at Steve Francis and he was explosive to the rim, but he couldn’t change ends like Derrick,” said Hunter. “Jason Kidd. He couldn’t play over the rim like Derrick. Isiah wasn’t as big and fast. He’s really in a class of his own.”

Hunter says when you look at the top point guards today, you’d probably go with Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Steve Nash. But Hunter believes Rose combines all their attributes and soon will pass them all.

“I cannot think of a guard who combines everything he does,” says Hunter. “I try all the time. He’s in the mold of Deron Williams with body size. He has the speed of the kid at New Jersey (Devin Harris) and has the hands and passing ability of Chris Paul.

“The athleticism of who?” laughs Hunter. “There is nobody.

“He’s like a mini, compact LeBron,” says Hunter. “He’s a point guard with those attributes. And the way his jump shot is coming along, you can’t stop him. I tell people other than the kid at Utah, Paul when he’s healthy, and you still have to put Nash in there, it’s him. And slowly he’s passing all those guys.”

The critics, of course, say, well, Rose can score but he’s really no point guard. Hunter says he just laughs.

“What is a pure point?” asks Hunter, who has worked with Rose the last two seasons. “I came in during a time when they did not want you to be a scorer (at point). They try to make you conform, but it takes away from who you are. It put me on my heels. You want guys to play in the comfort zone for what they do. Imagine if Derrick played with (three point) shooters and could space the floor. He’d get double figure assists and you could not stop him.”

Hunter said teams know the basic plays and know the Bulls reliance on the pick and roll. It’s no secret.

“He beats a double team and then beats the help and then he’ll finish above the bigs at the rim,” Hunter said laughing at what he just said. “Now his defense is coming. By next year, I think he’ll be in that MVP talk. That’s big.”

So I decided to give it some thought.

It is just Rose’s second season, but this is some pretty special stuff already. And I’ve tried to think if there’s ever been a point guard like Rose with that kind of power and offensive explosion above the rim. I couldn’t really think of any.

So I made a list of the players primarily point guards in the Basketball Hall of Fame and offer my ranking:

Oscar Robertson

Magic Johnson

Isiah Thomas

Bob Cousy

John Stockton

Lenny Wilkens

Walt Frazier

Earl Monroe

K.C. Jones

Tiny Archibald

Slater Martin

Bob Davies

Dick McGuire

Calvin Murphy

I left off Pete Maravich, Dave Bing, Gail Goodrich and Jerry West who were big scorers but also facilitators in an era when guards were just guards.

I think when he’s done Rose could rank behind only Oscar and Magic. Obviously, a lot has to occur and he has to be fortunate to avoid injury and get some better teammates. But Rose’s talent is extraordinary and something most around the NBA never have seen before.

It’s something now to enjoy. Next act: Sunday.

Good guys return to wearing black

The good guys finally are wearing black.
The Bulls Thursday with Game 3 of the first round playoff series are going back to all the players honoring team tradition and wearing black sneakers after they couldn’t get everyone on board in Cleveland.
The reason for the 0-2 start? We’ll see.
As Bulls fans know, wearing black sneakers became a team playoff tradition in the first round of the playoffs in 1989 when the Bulls were big underdogs to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Bulls had finished the season 10 games behind the 57-win Cavs and were swept 6-0 by the Cavs that season. Reserve Brad Sellers came up with the unity idea of wearing black sneakers, which were hi-tops in that era.
No wonder there were so many fewer sprained ankles, but I digress.
Everyone went along and the Bulls prevailed in a classic five-game series with Michael Jordan’s game winning shot to win Game 5 and the series in Cleveland.
Through the six championship seasons and in every playoff series since the Bulls players wore black sneakers.
Last season after a one-year playoff hiatus, the Bulls didn’t have the black sneaker unity for Game 1 in Boston. The Bulls did win in overtime. Kirk Hinrich gathered the team and pushed for the return to black sneakers, and the Bulls went on to lose in Game 7 in what’s been considered one of the great playoff series in league history because of the overtimes.
But this season in the first two games in Cleveland, several players wore white sneakers.
Equipment manager John Ligmanowski said he provided black sneakers for all the players, but some demurred.
Flip Murray has difficulty with some of the sneakers he gets from Nike, so he’ll often buy different pairs at the Nike store on Michigan Avenue. Murray wore white in Cleveland, but said before the game he’d wear black at home.
“They were on me all day,” admitted James Johnson, about teammates joking with his and urging him to wear black sneakers for Game 3. Johnson also wore white sneakers in Cleveland.
Johnson said he was wearing his white sneakers because of his issues with plantar fasciitis and the importance of wearing the correct shoes.
Though there are many theories about the causes of plantar fasciitis, there’s considerable consensus that the biggest issue may be the soft shoes so many of the players tend to wear in this era.
The team has been pushing the players into stiffer shoes, though it’s a sensitive issue because players have shoe contracts and some companies don’t make sneakers firm enough.
Johnson borrowed a pair of black sneakers from Rob Kurz, who was to be on the inactive list, to wear for Game 3.
“You gotta go with tradition,” said Johnson.

Joakim Noah is no great admirer of Kevin Garnett

Leave it to Joakim Noah to get right to the point of the first day of the NBA playoffs.
“That was unbelievable yesterday, that Boston/Miami game,” Noah was saying after practice Sunday while some wild one-on-one games went on among the reserves. “He’s unbelievable that guy… I’m gonna say it. He’s a dirty player. He’s a dirty player.”
That would be Kevin Garnett, and Noah said what most NBA players won’t say but all know: Garnett is a punk and a cheap shot artist, and his elbows in the late game melee at Quentin Richardson was just the latest example.
Noah does love this game.
He plays it with the joy of youth, and you can see in him the collegiate spirit. You watch Noah and you know he won’t take games off to rest, that the joy is in the playing and he would do it even if he wasn’t making the big money. As he spoke with reporters just after noon Sunday, he watched intently as James Johnson, Joe Alexander, Rob Kurz and some others who don’t play much went at it, Noah exclaiming excitedly over the best plays.
Noah would punctuate his answers to reporters with an “Oh (crap),” or “Bust his butt,” in the middle of sentences.
A lot of these talks with the players after practices become casual with general talk you’d have with colleagues, what you did, where you went, what you watched. Noah said he watched the games Saturday night after the Bulls loss to the Cavs—trust me, there’s not much to do in this city I rank 30th among my favorite NBA destinations—and offered his views on the Garnett extracurricular.
“That’s really messed up, man,” said Noah, growing serious in more a disappointed tone. “I’m really excited about that series. It’s gonna be fun. I hope they put (Jamaal) Magloire in more.”
Magloire is a noted physical player often without the most grace.
“I don’t make the decisions,” Noah said when asked whether he thought Garnett deserved a suspension. “He’s always swinging elbows, man. I’m hurting right now because of an elbow he threw. It’s unbelievable. He’s a dirty player.
“It’s one thing to be competitive,” Noah went on, getting into it now. “He’s a dirty player. It’s unbelievable. It’s one thing to be competitive and compete. But don’t be a dirty player, man,” Noah, whose Bulls are facing the Cleveland Cavaliers, said of Garnett. “He knows what he’s doing. It’s wrong. Then after that to say (Garnett’s weak post game explanation of defending a fallen teammate)… I shouldn’t even be talking about that. It’s crazy.”
And how refreshing is this kid?
To play with the emotion and joie de vivre he does, no phoniness, no games or acting, a guy who respects he game and professional behavior and will stand up for dignity.
The Bulls can be proud he’s one of them.
Cleveland Tourism
So let me elaborate on my comment on Cleveland. As they proudly say here, “At least we’re not Detroit.”
There’s an hysterical video you can find on Youtube entitled “Cleveland tourism” that pretty much sums it up. It notes you get to see the sun three times a year, you can buy a house for the price of a VCR, it leads the nation in drifters, the highlight of its downtown is poor people waiting for buses and has an economy based on LeBron James.
The suburbs are like any suburbs anywhere, comfortable with nice homes and two of every fast food place on every block. But since both the baseball stadium and basketball arena are downtown, the teams stay there and there is no more depressing center city anywhere. Among the 30 NBA stops, this always is my least favorite with barely a decent restaurant anywhere downtown, little retail and a gloomy, scary stretch of streets that are deserted once it gets dark.
Noah was in a buoyant mood after practice, obviously, given his newsmaking comments on Kevin Garnett. Celtics coach Doc Rivers joked he didn’t know Noah was in their series. Garnett got a one game suspension for his elbowing. But I also ran across a Tweet from Andrew Bogut sarcastically wondering who started that Celtics/Heat melee. You’d think the Aussies were from Brooklyn if not for the accent. Everyone around the NBA knows Garnett is a punk and relentlessly cheap shots and spews verbal lunacy about it. What a sad way for a formerly great player to be playing his last years.
Anyway, Noah was asked about being booed because he had dared question LeBron James acting like an idiot when he was dancing on the court against the Bulls a few months back. Hey, it’s Cleveland. Ever see the way they dress to the football games?
“I don’t know about Cleveland, man,” Noah moaned. “There’s nothing going on. It’s bad, man. It’s bad.”
So regarding chants of “sucks,” Noah quipped: “What? That Cleveland sucks?”
I think Detroit’s downtown may be worse, but we never stay there with the arena in Auburn Hills. But at least Detroit is close to Canada and those cheap prescription medicines we can’t get here. Hey, you think about that at my age, though Allen Iverson seemed to like it more for the Ontario gambling. Cleveland is close to Erie, Pa., I think.