Tag Archives: chris paul

Rose sets his sights 2012 Olympics in London

By Adam Fluck
On Wednesday, Bulls guard Derrick Rose took one more step closer to another one of his goals—United States Olympian.
Rose was among 27 players named to the 2010-12 USA Men’s National Team program. The selections were announced by USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo.
“I’m happy just to be a part of it,” Rose said on Wednesday. “It’s something that I tried hard in the summer just to make the team and impress the coaches. For me to go there and have the opportunity to be on the team in 2012 means a lot.”
Bulls General Manager Gar Forman presented Rose with his USA Basketball jersey during an on-court ceremony just before the Bulls and Magic tipped off.
As one might expect, the list of players who Rose will join is loaded. Returning to the USA National Team for 2010-12 are 2008 Olympic gold medalists Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Deron Williams. But Rose talked optimistically about making the final cut.
“I’ve got a chance, a pretty good chance to tell you the truth,” Rose said about the opportunity. At the same time, Rose expressed a belief that certain spots on the final roster are more or less assured—players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, for example—which means that only a small amount of roster spots are truly up for grabs.
He saw first-hand how intense the practices were was when he was a member of USA Men's National Team mini-camp in Las Vegas last July, so he has a good idea of what to expect.
“The this past summer was really competitive,” said Rose. “People were getting hurt during scrimmages. Everybody was playing hard, and they make you play hard to tell you the truth when you play against each other.”
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski led the U.S. to Olympic gold in 2008 and in 2010 will look to lead the USA to gold at the FIBA World Championship.
Over the course of 2010-12, USA Men’s National Teams will compete in the 2010 FIBA World Championship (Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Turkey); if necessary the 2011 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament (dates and site TBD); and if the USA qualifies, the 2012 Summer Olympic Games (July 26-Aug. 12 in London, England).
“I’ve just got to continue to play hard and make sure I do everything right for Coach K and the coaches,” said Rose. “I look up to that coaching staff and it would be an honor to be on that team.”
It’s been a very good year for Rose so far. He averaged 23.4 points, 6.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds in January as the Bulls went 10-5 during the month and won five in a row against winning teams during a West Coast road trip, a first in NBA history.
Rose also achieved NBA All-Star status on Jan. 28 when the reserves were announced. He’ll compete in the Skills Challenge this Saturday, followed by the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.
But ever the team player, Rose said his hope is that the Bulls can continue the upward trend when the schedule resumes next Tuesday in Chicago against New York.
“I hope we come back focused, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “We need to get back on the right track and play hard. As long as we play hard, we’ll have a chance to win these games. We have a chance to get over .500 and we have to take advantage of that.”
The NBA trade deadline is also right around the corner and speculation will certainly come with it. The Bulls reportedly will consider a move to improve their position with respect to the salary cap and this summer’s free agent crop.
When asked about a possible move, Rose said he’s fine either way.
“I’m alright with the players that we have,” said Rose. “If they choose to do something different, that’s not up to me. It’s up to the front office to make that decision. I’ll be happy with whatever move they make.”
For Rose, first there is All-Star weekend, the regular season gets back underway next week, and hopefully a playoff run that beings in April. But on Wednesday, Rose couldn’t help but ponder the possibility of adding Olympian to his quickly growing list of accolades.
“I remember watching the Olympics with my Mom when the games would come on really late at night,” he said. “We stayed up watching those games and when they got their medals, I was happy for them. That’s a dream of mine, and hopefully that day will come.”
Audio—Bulls guard Derrick Rose on being named to the 2010-2012 USA Men’s National Team program, All-Star weekend and the second half of the season (02.10.10):

Audio—Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro on Rose’s selection to the USA Men’s National Team program, taking a break over All-Star weekend, and facing the Orlando Magic (02.10.10):

Advertisements

Bulls finish road trip with fifth straight impressive win

The Bulls have been good, winning a fifth consecutive road game Friday in New Orleans thanks to 26 points from Luol Deng, 18 points from Derrick Rose and 13 points and 18 rebounds from Joakim Noah.
And they’ve also been lucky, the Hornets with the game effectively won throwing the ball away with seven seconds to go. That enabled the Bulls to tie the game and send it into overtime on a Deng tip in with two tenths of a second left, the turnover also resulting in an injury to Chris Paul that finally sent him to the bench in overtime as his replacement, Darren Collison, blew a chance to tie the game and the Bulls escaped with a 108-106 overtime victory.
Good and lucky? Tough to beat.
The Bulls now are 23-22 on the season with their five straight wins over five Western Conference winning teams and 13 wins in their last 18 games.
“When you’re winning, everything is positive,” said Deng, whose hustling follow of the Rose  blocked layup attempt for the tie saved the game in regulation. “We’re going into games expecting to win. A game like that, if we had lost four in a row, we might have lost it. But the mentality right now is we can win every game.”
And why not? Because for a team where a month ago it seemed everything was going wrong, now they are getting the breaks. Or is it when you play loose and confident you make your breaks? And though the Hornets made the blunder of the night, it was the Bulls who contributed to it by never giving up even in seemingly a lost cause.
And once again, like in Oklahoma winning when they weren’t shooting so great, 45.1 percent, and holding a second straight good opponent to under 40 percent shooting.
Here was the situation: The Bulls had blown a 15-point late third quarter lead by failing to score a field goal for 10 minutes and were back peddling to a loss, which would have been easy to take and say you had a terrific 4-3 Western Conference trip.
But that’s a sign that this is a Bulls team that’s different and could do something. They didn’t give up when they used to or could have, even after David West, who led New Orleans with 29 points and 14 rebounds, threw in a ridiculous bail out 30 foot three pointer for a 100-98 lead with 52 seconds left.
The Bulls had a brilliant, fierce possession with 30 seconds left.
Paul, with amazingly quick hands, nearly stripped Rose. Rose then hit Deng in the right corner for a three that rimmed in and out. But savvy Brad Miller had West’s arms pinned and West one handed couldn’t grab the rebound and knocked it out of bounds.
Now it’s 17 seconds left in regulation and Bulls still down two.
Kirk Hinrich got the ball in to Rose just before the five second count. Rose, much stronger than Paul, bullied Paul in along the baseline. The Hornets converged. West changed the shot, Rose missed and West recovered the ball in a scramble with 8.8 seconds left and that two-point lead. Inbound, shoot free throws, and with the Bulls out of timeouts it was over. Right? Wrong?
Bulls played retreated to the huddle deflated as the TV camera focused on former Bull Aaron Gray with a big smile, though neither he nor former Hornet Devin Brown played.
The Hornets set up in an angled picket fence with Darren Collison supposed to run Rose into two screens and get the inbounds. Why, I’m not sure. He is an 87 percent free throw shooter, but he is a rookie. Noah did a terrific job backing off inbounding West in front of the Hornets’ bench in the backcourt and playing free safety. The Hornets couldn’t advance the ball because West had recovered the loose ball rebound and moved before calling timeout.
Noah got in the way of the intended pass to Collison as Rose trailed. Deng smothered Peja Stojakovic and as he came open Noah jumped toward him, leaving West now a few ticks to get the ball in.
He panicked and saw Paul seal Hinrich, push off and run toward the basket at the other end. But West overshot him and Paul took off trying to save the ball. Yes, the Hornets, amazingly, were about to turn it over and give the Bulls still another chance! Paul leaped out of bounds to save the ball. He tossed it back in, hitting John Salmons, who was guarding Marcus Thornton. The ball hit off Salmons, but Hinrich saved it before it went out of bounds.
Bulls ball with seven seconds left.
On the play, Paul fell into a cameraman and hurt his knee, and eventually would have to be pulled late in the overtime after missing both his shots and unable to guard Rose any longer.
The Bulls were without a timeout, something coach Vinny Del Negro had been criticized before at times last season. But it worked perfectly this time.
“It worked out better,” said Del Negro. “We were in full motion.”
Hinrich threw ahead to Deng at midcourt and Deng took one dribble and fired crosscourt to Rose in the left box. Rose spun inside past Peja Stojakovic as the defense didn’t have a chance to set. But West came sprinting back and blocked Rose trying to make the tying layup.
“Players win games,” said Del Negro. “They made plays when they had to and I’m proud of them for that.”
Deng gets criticism for his lack of athleticism, his inability to be a high jumping, sky walking small forward. But he competes and is always running and working, and his play was a classic example of never giving up, which suddenly is defining this Bulls group.
With West’s block, Collison and Thornton followed in behind West. You could see Deng at the free throw line watching Rose, and as Rose went in and everyone collapsed toward him, Deng went down the middle toward the basket. West blocked the ball hard into the backboard as Rose tried to come around the other side of the rim. The ball bounced straight back over the heads of the two Hornets with Deng closing and he gently put the ball back in to tie the game at 102 with two tenths of a second left, too little time for a shot but only a tipin which failed.
Overtime.
I thought Hornets coach Jeff Bower had a full head of hair before the game.
It isn’t a play which makes the highlights like a dunk. But it’s as good and timely a play as anyone has made all season on the Bulls.
“We battled,” said a relieved Del Negro. “Our guys didn’t give up.
We showed toughness and found a way, got a big steal. We’ll take it
It’s been a long trip, but I’m proud of the guys the way they battled and hung in there. Brad hit  a big shot (in overtime), Lu’s tip in. It was a total team effort.”
Not too long ago, Del Negro was being condemned for every move, every loss. National reporters were drooling over trying to get him fired with breathless reports of a move immediately.
But Del Negro’s been making all the right moves, and made some big ones Friday.
When the Hornets went with three guards, he had Deng go right at Thornton and punish him on multiple possessions before the slow reacting Hornets staff realized what was going on. The Hornets were trapping Rose on the pick and roll relentlessly, so Del Negro got Miller in for longer stretches to relieve the pressure with his outside shooting and Miller had 14 points. Hinrich did a good job pestering Paul, who had a manageable 18 points and 12 assists while Rose defended shooting guard Thornton, and Del Negro used Miller and Noah in an often effective high/low tandem that often baffled the helpless Emeka Okafor, who didn’t even play in the fourth quarter.
“Guys have been stepping up,” said Del Negro. “Brad Miller…different guys making plays, understanding roles and being a team and being committed and the guys are having fun. Winning breeds confidence.”
After that, the overtime was a shock to the Hornets, who had won eight of their last nine at home. Paul was hurt and limping, replaced eventually by Collison. The Hornets scored first when West spun by Noah and put up an unlikely scoop for a 104-102 lead.
But after the Bulls missed twice, West beat Noah baseline and tried to dunk and it seemed Noah fouled him. But there was no call as the dunk missed. Noah got the rebound and pitched ahead to Hinrich, who ran to the right elbow and pulled up with a 15 footer to tie it at 104.
Paul, his knee having him listing, then missed badly twice on jumpers as he was unable to go to the basket. Rose drove and was fouled, making both, and then Rose hauled down a tough rebound in traffic on a Collison miss. Miller then tried an inside bounce pass that went out of bounds, but Stojakovic missed another jumper. Both teams shot two of seven in the overtime. But the Bulls made the big one.
Coming out of a timeout with 1:16 left, Noah set a pick for Rose and dove to the basket, taking Okafor with him. Then Miller picked again in the same spot in the middle at the top of the key and popped out. Rose went hard right over the screen, followed by Collison and West. Miller was wide open on top 21 feet out. Rose went under the basket and pitched out to Miller standing alone, and Miller downed the shot for a 108-104 lead with 59.8 seconds left.
The Hornets went right back to West, who hit a fallway banker with 48 seconds left to bring the Hornets within two, 108-106.
The Bulls went with the same play with Noah and then Miller screening. This time Rose peeled across right, but didn’t penetrate. As a result, Miller had to step back farther with the defense not dropping off. When he got Rose’s pass across court, Miller was a bit farther out and shot a three short. But Noah went up between West and Stojakovic for the offensive rebound of the game with 27 seconds left.
“You have to play the whole game. Anything can happen,” said Del Negro. “It doesn’t matter if you are up or down.”
Rose dribbled out the shot clock and drove. He crossed over Collison, who appeared to push Rose from behind as West knocked the ball loose and the Hornets recovered without a timeout with about eight seconds left. Plenty of time to tie or win with a three.
But no Paul.
Collison took off down the left sideline, but Hinrich, Deng and Salmons got back and walled him off. He broke right and then as he was trying to retreat back left Deng reached in and knocked the ball away to end the game in one of the more remarkable finishes of the season.
“We just had to suck it up, play good defense and give it our all,” said Rose.
It was an unlikely end to the unlikeliest of road trips.
Because this figured to be the toughest of them all, which final games on long trips usually are, and few teams are out for 13 days as the Bulls were.
But they again started fast and led 30-29 after the first quarter. In these five wins, the Bulls, who once could score 100 points in a game, are averaging 31 points in the first quarter.
Deng got off quickly with a dozen in the first. It’s been interesting to watch the Bulls strategy unfold as they usually open games going to Taj Gibson in the post even though he’s a rookie because he probably has the only true big man postup game. Rose had a beauty of a back door slam dunk on a pass from Gibson, who is remarkably fundamentally sound, especially for a rookie.
Thornton, who is starting for traded Devin Brown, was beating Rose with threes as Rose still needs to pay more attention on defense, where he tends to float. Though Paul is so quick, Rose is much stronger and took Paul inside on a post move early and scored, and Miller closed the first with a three for a 30-29 lead.
Tyrus Thomas, with 11 points, had a good sequence in the second quarter, running out for a score after Hinrich knocked a ball loose and hitting a jumper when the bench went cold.  James Johnson had another awful stretch and it can’t be long before he yields time to perhaps newly acquired Brown as the Bulls constantly lose ground when Johnson comes in.
Hinrich didn’t have a remarkable line with 10 points, six rebounds and six assists. But he was in the middle of everything and had to have had at least a half dozen deflections, stepping into Paul receiving a simple inbounds pass and drawing a charge. It’s why the Bulls have done so well since he returned to the starting lineup for, effectively, the first time in almost two years.
The Bulls led 57-50 at halftime, and you had to love the fast break after Rose, of all guys, broke up a lob attempt. He pitched ahead to Hinrich who threw farther ahead to a streaking Noah for a slam dunk. That put the Bulls ahead 64-55 early in the third quarter. Thomas and Noah combined on a great possession to block two Okafor shots, and on the hook for four more years at an average of more than $13 million per year for Okafor, who rarely plays down the stretch, you wonder what this Hornets franchise will do. And then it looked over when the Bulls went ahead 88-73 with 2:21 left in the third.
But suddenly it became like 3:30 in the afternoon for a lot of workers when that lunch settles in and it begins to get darker and you are oh so dreary and need a nap.
Hinrich forced up a three at the 24-second clock, the Bulls made three straight turnovers and Thomas forced up a quick jumper. Rose stopped the bleeding with a 13 footer. But Hinrich missed a pair of shots and Noah threw a ball away to no one on an inbounds, and all of a sudden it was 90-89 Bulls with about eight minutes left.
Well, 4-3 isn’t bad.
But this group refused to settle.
Rose blew by Collison on a change of pace drive for a score, but Stojakovic tied it with a three with about seven minutes left.
It looked bad for the Bulls as they went cold again, failing to score on the next seven possessions, including Deng missing a pair of free throws. The Hornets went ahead on a Darius Songaila score. But Gibson blocked a West attempt and the Bulls got every defensive rebound and hung in, down 97-92 with 2:48 left.
Still, it didn’t look promising.
“We got some good defensive stops,” agreed Del Negro.
With about two seconds left on the shot clock, Miller drove and pulled up for a push shot in the lane to get within three. West then faced up Noah and Noah pushed him out into a poor jump hook that missed short and Hinrich recovered. He passed to Miller who passed to Rose, who attacked and was fouled and made both to get the Bulls within 97-96 with 1:52 left.
Songaila then missed from the baseline with Hinrich scrambling over for a good contest. Rose went hard from the top with a runner as the Hornets continued to trap and double aggressively, and Noah got in between Songaila and Thornton for the tipin to give the Bulls a 98-97 lead with 1:16 left. But West then hit that improbable three, more a shot put toss, with Paul smothered by Hinrich, for a 100-98 Hornets lead with 51.5 seconds left.
The Bulls tied it as Miller set the screen for Rose. This time Rose went left and passed back to Miller. West had gone to double Rose, and scrambling back, Miller pump faked him and drove and West grabbed him for the foul. Miller made both to tie the game at 100 with 43.7 seconds left.
Paul, of course, would make the play as Rose does for the Bulls. Paul hit Hinrich with a hard dribble left, spun back right and as Noah stepped up, West slipped inside for the pass and scored the layup for a 102-100 with 30.8 seconds left. Just enough time for the most improbable of endings.
“We’re not surprised at our turnaround,” insisted Rose. “We’re playing good basketball, hanging in there throughout the whole game. We’re sticking with tough teams that are usually over .500.”
And beating them.

Rose’s All-Star selection has historic significance

Now that Derrick Rose is an All-Star one question is whether it will hurt the Bulls the rest of the season.
Not that everyone among the Bulls and their fans isn’t thrilled and happy for Rose. But it suddenly becomes a long weekend toward the end of a long season and just before the traditional playoff strerch run.
And for Rose maybe longer than for anyone in NBA history.
Rose will participate in the rookie/sophomore game Friday, the skills challenge Saturday, in which he is defending champion, after an open All-Star practice for fans, and then the All-Star game Sunday before what is expected to be an all time record 100,000 attendance.
I checked with the NBA and there isn’t exactly detailed record keeping on all the All-Star weekend contests as some have changed over the years. For example, there used to be a seniors’ game until too many players were injured during it. But the NBA could not find a record of anyone participating in three events and one every day during the weekend.
And there’s no getting out of anything.
At one time, if you were scheduled for the rookie/sophomore game and then picked for the All Star game you could back out of the rookie/sophomore game. No more. The NBA now requires participation in both games if you are picked for either. And, in Rose’s case, both. You could land a suspension without a good medical excuse.
Rose is only 21, and his family members keep a close watch on him and he’ll likely get enough rest for the weekend to be ready for the unofficial second half of the season.
I talked to him on this trip about his frequent movie viewing and he said he been through many in his collection and was out with a few of his teammates to see some of the new movies, though he gave only an OK to the much hyped Avatar. He did give it a Siskel thumbs up, though it wasn’t quite enough action, which he prefers. Yes, he’s a kid. So it’s been a delight to experience his joy at making the All-Star team.
It officially raises his standing among his peers, though they knew how good he is. I know Bulls fans would like him to do some free agent recruiting when he’s in Dallas, though Rose isn’t that kind of person. I can see him as the kid with his face pressed up against the window of the NBA toy store with a big smile and taking it all in. But that he is there will make an impression on his peers, particularly those who don’t know him and what a terrific teammate he can be, respectful, earnest and talented. It’s the team’s best recruiting poster possible.
It’s also something of a historic achievement for a Bulls player. No one other than Michael Jordan made the All-Star team in just his second season and no Bulls player—even Jordan–ever made the All-Star team at such a young age.
Plus, among the young stars of this era, no one has been an All-Star more quickly. The NBA coaches are saying, in effect, how great they believe Rose can be.
Tim Duncan and Shaq did make it as rookies. But Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Brandon Roy and LeBron James made it in for the first time also in their second seasons.
Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudemire and Chris Bosh made it in their third seasons.
Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki made it in their fourth seasons.
Hello, Derrick, welcome to the elite. Get some rest. You and the Bulls are going to need it for that stretch run.

Bulls lose again, and now comes the good teams

So much for the easy part of the Bulls two week Western Conference road trip.
Uh oh.
The Bulls, after losing 104-97 Wednesday to the now 19-22 Clippers after Monday’s loss to the then 11-27 Warriors, starting Friday in Phoenix face five teams all with winning records and all in a desperate fight for the playoffs, thus making every game for them important.
Yes, the Bulls are staring dead into a seven-loss trip and closing in on what could be the beginning of the end of their season.
And everything looked so promising a few days ago.
“We gave up too many points tonight,” offered Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. “There were times we settled and we did not follow our shots and we let easy baskets go. We had the numbers to convert, but did not follow through. I am disappointed that we lost. But I am happy that this young team is trying hard.”
Though you wondered at times with the halting first three quarters and then a frenzied finish.
“We were short handed tonight and the rest of the team tried very hard to step up their game and get shots,” said Del Negro. “Some of our key players shot well and had their confidence taking the ball to the basket. As a young team we go through the ups and downs. We are playing hard, we competed well and its all about confidence and opportunity. We need to make better decisions and execute better. Their veterans came back, hitting big shots.”
That was Baron Davis, who ruined a perfectly good comeback as the Bulls, after trailing by 14 with just over six minutes remaining, got within four points four different times, the first time with more than four minutes left.
Plenty of time to steal a game the Bulls had to have after Monday’s brutal loss in Golden State against Monta and the D-leaguers.
I asked a scout friend about that game and he said he watched it because he works the D-league games a lot.
“Those guys weren’t even the best guys down there,” he said. “We wondered what they (Warriors) were thinking.”
So the Bulls are there in this game, up nine early and trailing only 75-70 going into the fourth quarter. This despite being outscored 24-10 in fast break points, the category the Bulls must win to have success given their lack of outside shooting. But the Clippers would miss 16 free throws, giving the Bulls plenty of chances.
And it wasn’t your typical road crowd. The Lakers fans’ are into the Lakers. The Clippers fans tend to be curious about the rest of the NBA, and on the day when the NBA announced Derrick Rose’s jersey was the fourth most popular in sales, there were many in a crowd that often seemed as supportive of the Bulls. Yet, it was a worrisome sign for the Bulls to play without great thrust—as Del Negro likes to say, through much of the first three quarters as they were dominated both off the boards and in fast break points, for example.
Marcus Camby was having a huge rebounding game and would finish with 25 rebounds. At one point in the first quarter, he had 11 rebounds, matching the Bulls total. And this was against the league’s No.1 rebounding teams coming into the game.
But the game began to get away from the Bulls to open the fourth as Jannero Pargo and Brad Miller missed and Kirk Hinrich, back from his bout with flu, committed a turnover while the Clippers reserves with Al Thornton, Sebastian Telfair, Craig Smith and Ricky Davis were scoring and adding in a steal and block.
Hinrich was throwing himself around impressively chasing loose balls, apparently replacing whatever hurling he was doing in his hotel room in Golden State. But Hinrich was a nauseating three of 14 shooting. John Salmons replaced Hinrich on the sick list with stomach flu, though it’s apparently not true that he had eaten a bad piece of salmon.
Del Negro rushed Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng back into the game with 90 seconds gone in the fourth quarter and the Bulls trailing 81-70.
It was unusually soon given Del Negro’s habit of leaving those regulars out for about the first five minutes of the fourth. It suggested Del Negro’s desperation as well and knowing this was the game to get.
It didn’t get much better right away as the Bulls missed six of their next seven shots, though Tyrus Thomas, making a rare appearance for almost the entire fourth quarter, was earning it with aggression, helping keep the Bulls close with a steal and dash and getting fouled, and a block of a Smith attempt.
Thomas would finish with his best performance in three weeks with 18 points on an efficient eight of 11 shooting, six rebounds and three blocks.
The Bulls would bottom out at 88-74 with 6:36 left, and then finally seemed to grow as desperate as Del Negro.
Deng, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds, hit a three. Thomas made a steal and then ran out and got a pass from Rose for a slam dunk. Rose made a steal from Telfair and drove for a score, and Noah took the ball from Chris Kaman and put back his own miss.
Rose would finish with 23 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocks, though he’s still not getting the calls with just four free throws. There’s this odd notion as I travel around the league as coaches and executives say to me Rose is not having the year he had last season. And I say he’s way better, that he was injured and insisted on playing through it and his numbers suffered, but the guy has been playing great and without Ben Gordon asked to do so much more. But it seems if you repeat a lie or a misrepresentation, it doesn’t matter what the reality is. Rose has been terrific, and Wednesday he just ran out of time.
Suddenly, after that great sequence of desperate anxiety, the Bulls trailed just 90-86 with 4:09 left.
But Davis, who finished with 23 points including 11 in the fourth quarter, hit a long three over Rose. Thomas answered with a 20 footer, but Davis hit again, this time from about 20 feet.
“Toward the end I wanted to take it upon myself,” said Davis. “I had a good rhythm offensively just from being aggressive defensively.”
Davis, really, can do that anytime he wants, but he’s one of the more mercurial players in the NBA. Given his strength and abilities, he can dominate just about any guard in the league. But he’s known to come committed to play about once a week, or in spurts. Sometimes he seems to take off whole seasons, like he did last year. And he doesn’t have much relationship with coach Mike Dunleavy, not that Davis has been a favorite of any of his coaches. But something got into him late Wednesday, and he was his unstoppable best.
Thomas was fouled and made one of two and then Noah got a Camby shot and Rose drove all the way, making it Clippers 95-91 with 2:25 left. Kaman, who has been terrific this season and ended with 20 points and eight rebounds, missed a jumper and it seemed the Bulls had a good chance.
But Rose got too far under on a drive and missed, and Thomas committed the blunder of the quarter, going for a Davis fake 28 feet from the basket and fouling him. Davis made two of the three free throws for a 97-91 lead with 1:51 left.
Thomas then slipped inside and took an alley oop for a dunk from Hinrich, though you hate to see Thomas just about every time he scores complain openly to the referees for a foul. He did it again with an exaggerated hand motion with arms outstretched and you know this isn’t helping at all the officials’ feelings toward the Bulls. I know. It’s supposed to be objective. But if you keep showing someone up, they remember.
Kaman then got deep post position on Noah on the right block, and Kaman is deadly there when he spins right, and he did so and banked in a six footer for 99-93 lead with 1:19 left. The Bulls came right back as Noah, with 14 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks, beat Kaman down court and dunked again to get the Bulls within four, though time was running out.
Just one more stop.
But Davis, again, hit a runner this time with 48 seconds for a 101-95 lead.
Timeout Bulls. They weren’t making up enough ground, but the Bulls don’t have that three point threat to get them back in games quickly. But they gave it a shot, a long shot, as it were. The Bulls ran a play for Deng to shoot a three, at least from the short right corner. But Deng missed—the Bulls were two of 11 on threes—and Thomas fouled Camby, who conveniently missed both free throws. And then it became a game between two losing teams. Kaman picked off an awful crosscourt pass from Thomas, and threw ahead to Davis. Who for some reason tried to score right away and missed. Kaman got the rebound, but threw the ball into the backcourt for a turnover.
Thomas then missed a jumper, but Rose forced himself in for the rebound and scored and it was back to four again, though with 22.4 seconds. The Bulls fouled Davis, who made both, and Rose effectively ended it with a bad, desperate pass off the backboard for a turnover and a rare show of angry frustration from the usually unflappable guard. That made it 0-2 for California. It was storming in usually sunny L.A. as the Bulls added to it with their tears.
“We came up short tonight,” said Rose. “We have a tough team coming up on Friday. We are going to have to play harder. We have to come out with much more energy. The shots that we usually hit were not falling tonight. We need to try to get the lead and keep it. Our focus was not there. Our foul trouble down the penalty caused us a lot of trouble. They have great players. They played defense and executed throughout the whole game. That is why they got the win.”
So here’s what the next week looks like:
Phoenix with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire, 25-18.
Houston with nobody and averaging more than 100, 23-18.
San Antonio with Duncan, Parker and Manu, 25-16.
Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant, 24-18.
New Orleans with Chris Paul, 22-19.
The Bulls fell to 18-22 and pretty much in a battle for just the final playoff spot with Charlotte, Miami and Toronto seemingly taking those five, six and seven spots after the Cavs, Celtics, Magic and Hawks. And still a half season to go after the Bulls hit the official midway point in Game 41 Friday.
It’s supposed to storm even in Phoenix. Yes, a dark cloud seems to be settling in over the Bulls season as well.

Bulls swat Hornets in big return of Tyrus Thomas

Can Tyrus Thomas save the Bulls? Can Thomas save Vinny Del Negro? Can Thomas save the season? Can Thomas turn the Bulls into serious playoff contenders this season and get consideration for league MVP? Can Thomas be traded?
Yes, Bulls fan can smile again, maybe only briefly, as the much anticipated return of Tyrus Thomas from a fractured arm turned out to be worth waiting for.
Thomas had 21 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, a steal and numerous changed shots in inspiring the Bulls to a 96-85 victory over the New Orleans Hornets, just the second time all season the Bulls have won a game by double digits.
“You saw what his athleticism does for us,” said Bulls coach, Beleaguered Vinny Del Negro (yes, it’s said so often that “Beleaguered” is now officially part of his name). “He was very productive. I liked his activity. It was tough to take him out because he was so productive.”
It was the new look, new lineup, newly energized Bulls in the wacky Eastern Conference whose win thrust (favorite Del Negro word) them to a tie for eighth in the conference at 11-17, just a game and a half behind Toronto for sixth.
We’re No. 8!
“It feels good right now just to get a win and to get one with a margin of victory that we haven’t had for some time,” said Joakim Noah, who had 17 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks and simply dominated Emeka Okafor. “It just feels really good.”
You watch those two teams Saturday in the United Center and you’d never want Okafor in trade for Noah or Thomas. Heck, you wouldn’t take him and that contract for Lindsey Hunter. David West or Thomas? Not even close. West mostly lumbered around trying to post up Taj Gibson without much success, and you wondered why you’d ever though he’d be an improvement. Chris Paul? Either he’s hurt or already asked to be traded. He was awful.
Derrick Rose, who had 14 points, nine assists and six rebounds including four offensive, did a decent job but nothing special as Rose mostly went under screens. Kirk Hinrich, who replaced John Salmons in the starting lineup and helped change the attitude of the lineup, helped out on Paul as the Bulls worked to close the middle against penetration. But Paul has seen that before, and from better defensive teams. Hinrich actually did a better job after halftime on Devin Brown, who scored 22 points in the first half hitting four three pointers. Hinrich stayed with Brown in the third quarter as the Bulls broke open the game with a 23-9 defensive stand more reminiscent of the way they played a few years ago, and Brown didn’t score in the second half.
“They were really effective defensively tonight,” said New Orleans coach/general manager Jeff Bower. “Their bigs were a big factor tonight.”
Who ever said that before?
But it was true.
Noah and Thomas were a great tandem inside, protecting the middle with shot blocking, changing shots and forcing the Hornets to settle for jump shots, a script usually reserved for the Bulls on offense.
The jump shooting Bulls had a staggering 54-16 edge on points in the paint.
Tyrus’ Believe it or Not!
Thomas was the story. He was returning from that bizarre weight lifting accident when he fractured his left arm. The Bulls went 7-15 since then, though when he went out the enigmatic Thomas wasn’t exactly headed toward his first All Star appearance.
Thomas was averaging 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds and was coming off a benching in the team’s big road win in Cleveland when Thomas played just 12 minutes. It seemed the same old story with Thomas of so much potential and tease and so little satisfaction. It seemed to be the beginning of the end for Thomas in Chicago.
But Thomas returned Saturday with the aggressiveness, activity and ability that made him a lottery favorite in the 2006 draft. Here was almost 6-10 of explosive leaping that could help anchor a defense and produce offense. Paired with Noah, it was the kind of size the Bulls haven’t had on the front line for a decade.
And then you began to think what the old timers tell you, that it takes four to five years for big men to mature, and you thought, maybe, just maybe, this could be a breakthrough for Thomas, the injury a blessing of sorts as the sensitive Thomas found himself missed and longed for by Bulls fans and the team. Finally, love instead of condemnation.
“It felt like the first day of school all day,” said Thomas, “a new backpack, supplies, everything. Tonight was just about getting in a rhythm, slowing myself down and getting into the flow of the game. I haven’t played for seven weeks, so I really just needed to be able to slow things down and not play too fast. I was a little rusty, but I just got to keep running hard and everything else will come. As a team, we’ve just got to play hard for 48 minutes on both ends of the court. That’s the most important thing right now.”
When players come back after a long layoff they can have fresh legs and a big first game. They could be off on timing and play badly. They often play early on adrenalin, but that may wear off late in the game or as the first week goes on. So we’ll see. But if the Tyrus of Saturday night was the new Tyrus, the Bulls just might have something.
And something to consider since the speculation has been for some time the Bulls were looking to trade Thomas. If you trade this Thomas, you better come back with something special the way that game with the Hornets went. Then again maybe Thomas never plays as well again. That’s why management is so tough. How do you know with a history like Tyrus has had? But if you can get this kind of production—or anything close to it on a regular basis—you may just have the kind of team you thought you had to open the season that might look very appealing to a top star free agent.
The new starting lineup with Gibson back for Brad Miller and Hinrich for John Salmons did what was hoped for, an energized group that got the Bulls off fast, though they trailed 27-24 after one quarter.
Salmons and Miller never did get it going, combining for five points as Salmons looked hesitant every time he had the ball, as if he were afraid to make a mistake. That was troublesome for the Bulls in the fourth quarter with James Johnson getting a long stretch. Both he and Salmons seemed uncertain and seemed to keep seeking out Rose late in the shot clock to do something.
The Bulls had taken a 15-point lead with under eight minutes left, but Jannero Pargo missed and Johnson committed an offensive foul and you began to think Sacramento and that 35-point blown lead.
“When we got the lead, I knew you guys were thinking about that,” Deng joked to reporters afterward. “I thought we did a good job even though at times we panicked a little bit.”
Del Negro got Johnson and Salmons out, and Noah grabbed a big offensive rebound on another Pargo miss and Pargo scored on a short jumper just before being replaced by Rose. Thomas stayed down on a James Posey shot fake and drew an offensive foul in a smart defensive play. Yes, Tyrus! And then Thomas followed that with a jumper from the elbow as you wanted him to take that 18 footer. Everyone would wince when Tyrus shot, but when you work that hard you earn the shot. Shoot, Tyrus shoot!
Thomas really was all over the pace, going back on defense after that jumper to deflect an inside pass attempt to Posey. Thomas added another elbow jumper as he came off another Hinrich down screen. Hinrich was luring big men into hard screens like John Stockton used to do in that interior Jazz offense. Thomas’ 20 footer was good for a 91-76 lead with 4:11 left, and then Rose, who was trapped all game, fought off two defenders to retrieve the ball and passed out to Hinrich for a three to give the Bulls just enough room.
Oddly, Paul hit a three to bring the Hornets within 13 with just under three minutes left, and we’ve seen the Bulls lose those leads. But the Hornets, for some reason, emptied their bench and gave up despite the Bulls being in the midst of five straight misses and a turnover.
No, they still don’t have that closer, though that’s a problem for another night.
“It feels great to have Tyrus Thomas back,” said Noah. “He was huge. He brings a dimension to us that we just don’t have without him. We are better in transition because of the way he runs the floor and we are also better defensively.”
All of that was obvious pretty much as soon as Thomas entered the game to a nice ovation with 8:52 left in the first half with Gibson in foul trouble.
Del Negro said he’s not going to rush things and not put Thomas back into the starting lineup, which probably is smart.
Thomas certainly wants to start and generally has been resentful when he hasn’t.
But like with Salmons and Miller, perhaps Del Negro is sending a new message of players having to earn that spot. And perhaps it is that carrot that will work with Thomas, that if he comes off the bench for a time he’ll appreciate the chance to start more and work harder to get there.
“I want to leave it the way it is,” said Del Negro. “Let’s not rush into anything. Tyrus gives us great versatility off the bench. He can play the three or four spot. With that new line-up, Kirk gives us a nice thrust and takes pressure off Derrick because he is a guy who makes plays in the open court. We want to have a pace game but also control the tempo and be smart about it. If we can stay healthy and have some good practices, those things should work themselves out.”
Thomas made his presence known right away changing an Okafor shot and then blocking what seemed like a sure dunk for Okafor, who was zero for five for four points and out of place in the Hornets’ offense. The trade of Tyson Chandler, even though Chandler is out again, looks like a disaster for the Hornets as Paul and Okafor clearly have no chemistry.
It would be no surprise if there is some sort of fire sale with that franchise as the team looks disjointed.
“I take my hat off to Joakim Noah. His energy on the glass tonight was great and really big for them,” said Paul. “I told the guys when they were talking about the big lead loss the other night that this was a good team. I told them their personnel are quick and would be a problem for us.”
The Bulls would be.
Later in the first quarter after Paul missed on a drive, Rose took off and found Hinrich who hit a running Thomas for a layup, the kind of easy points the Bulls need to break out of their scoring doldrums, 29th in scoring and shooting coming into the game. Hinrich would add seven assists as the Bulls ball movement was so much better as they had a season high 28 assists on their 42 baskets.
The little known Brown befuddled the Bulls in the first half with 22 points as he kept stepping farther and farther out to shoot those threes, and the Bulls fell behind 42-31 midway through the second quarter.
But Noah kept breaking the momentum, even on offense, the first time with a dunk after a driving miss from Deng. Deng finished with 12 points after five straight games of at least 20, and his scoring could suffer some with Thomas back.
Hinrich dropped in a three on a nice find by Deng, Noah dunked on a Rose inbounds pass on a nice play, Salmons hit a three for his only points (he was one of five), and then Rose had a fabulous spinning layup past the grounded West. Tyrus then picked West clean and ran out for a score and the Bulls were back in it and trailing 51-50 at halftime.
The third quarter was a defensive clinic for the Bulls as they got off fast on offense with Noah again beating Okafor downcourt for a layup and Deng with a nice driving score. Hinrich tailed Brown and Noah and Thomas did a nice job stepping up whenever Paul tried to penetrate. Rose then had time to recover and the Hornets were reduced to one bad shot and out.
As the quarter went on, Gibson had a strong dunk trailing on the break as Rose dropped a pass off, Noah threw in a nice half hook, Tyrus slammed on a good pick and roll with Salmons and even James Johnson got in on the fun with a runner on an assist from Thomas.
Can Tyrus lead the Bulls to a championship?
Will he score four points the next game?
Will he be benched and traded?
Will he become the leader the team so desperately needs?
Is he truly the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma?
Tune in next time for Part II, “The Adventures of Tyrus.”

All-Star voting and Vinny speaks

The NBA Thursday released its first All-Star game fan balloting results, and another year seems like it may go by without a Bulls player being voted to the All-Star team, which would make 11 years.
The fans select the starters and the coaches vote for the reserves. The way the Bulls have been playing this season, it may hurt the chances of anyone from the Bulls getting a coach’s vote, though it seems Derrick Rose remains a possibility.
Rose will be invited to the weekend of events in Dallas to play in the rookie/sophomore game, likely along with Taj Gibson. Rose may also be invited to defend his skills challenge championship from last season’s All-Star game.
In the first balloting, Rose was fifth among Eastern Conference guards, Brad Miller was 10th among East centers and Luol Deng was 11th among East forwards. Joakim Noah, perhaps the team’s most consistent player this season, was not listed on the ballot as the committee of media members preparing the ballot apparently did not know he was a starter although he started much of last season and in the classic first round playoff series.
Here are the East leaders:
Forwards:  LeBron  James (Clev) 649,327; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 533,187; ChrisBosh  (Tor)  303,550;  Paul Pierce (Bos) 131,379; Josh Smith (Atl) 109,404;Danny  Granger  (Ind) 100,122; Andre Iguodala (Phi) 75,146; Michael Beasley(Mia) 58,461; Hedo Turkoglu (Tor) 55,416); Rashard Lewis (Orl) 46,073; LuolDeng (Chi) 37,428.
Guards:  Dwyane  Wade  (Mia)  672,227;  Vince Carter (Orl) 292,002; GilbertArenas  (Was)  212,526; Ray Allen (Bos) 208,276 Derrick Rose (Chi) 196,059;Allen  Iverson (Phi) 136,976*; Joe Johnson (Atl) 118,964; Rajon Rondo (Bos)113,371; Jose Calderon (Tor) 68,084; Mike Bibby (Atl) 48,935.
Centers:  Dwight  Howard  (Orl)  625,279;  Shaquille  O’Neal (Cle) 206,657;Andrea  Bargnani  (Tor) 67,310; Al Horford (Atl) 52,747; Andrew Bogut (Mil)45,920;  Brook  Lopez  (NJ)  39,420;  Jermaine O’Neal (Mia) 38,956; RasheedWallace  (Bos)  36,855;  Kendrick  Perkins  (Bos) 19,408; Brad Miller (Chi)17,188; Tyson Chandler (Cha) 14,062; Samuel Dalembert, S. (Phi) 13,969.
If it holds to form, which seems likely, the East starting lineup will be as it is with LeBron James and Kevin Garnett at forward, Dwyane Wade and Vince Carter at guard and Dwight Howard at center.
The obvious choices, it seems to me, for reserves are Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Joe Johnson. That would leave three spots with Gilbert Arenas, Josh Smith, Brook Lopez, Andre Iguodala and Rose leading candidates.
In the Western Conference, the starters from the initial results are: Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki at forward, Kobe Bryant and, amazingly, since he has yet to play, Tracy McGrady at guard and Amar’e Stoudemire at center. The McGrady situation is intriguing as the Rockets continue to hold him out, allegedly for injury. Steve Nash and Chris Paul are close behind and league officials likely are hoping they pass McGrady in later results.
The delicious irony in the West is with the Spurs, who objected in previous years when Tim Duncan was listed as a center in an effort to purge the ballot of undeserving big men given the league requires 12 centers to be listed. Feeling Yao Ming would get so many votes from Asia, the Spurs requested—and the NBA complied—for Duncan to be listed as a forward. Now, Duncan is fourth among forwards without Yao among the leaders as he’s out for the season.
Meanwhile, back at the Berto Center, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro addressed rumors his job is on the line given the team’s slump and spate of recent blowout losses. Here are some of Del Negro’s comments to reporters Thursday:
“It’s easy to sit back on the sidelines, and everyone has all these great ideas and all these things that people think they know what they’re talking about. But until you live it and do it, no one has an idea. All you (reporters) have to write and do your job and come up with stories and things, and that’s all great, and you have to do that, but you guys really don’t know what it’s like, because you’ve never done it. My thing is, I’m a fighter. We fight as a team. We stick together as a team, and that’s all you control is your effort, your preparation, the opportunity that’s ahead of you. The NBA is tough. Pro sports is tough. You can’t be soft. You got to after it. Guys want to rip your heart out. And you just got to be tough enough to continually persevere and find ways to get better. You can’t take a position like this and not think you’re going to get criticized. It’s part of the deal. If you can’t live with criticism and the heat, then you shouldn’t take the job. You shouldn’t be in pro sports. You got to be able to suck it up and understand it. I get frustrated too, when we’re not playing well. But you just got to keep on pounding the pavement and go to work.”
The Bulls open a stretch of six consecutive home games starting Friday against Golden State. I have personally heard no indication the Bulls are planning to make a change. Of course, I’m not exactly consulted on these things.
I also must say I’ve seen many coaches in this position before with fans screaming for their job and national commentators predicting their departure. Vinny has continued to deal with everyone on a professional basis, hasn’t lashed out bitterly like Tim Floyd was fond of doing toward the end of his tenure and has given no indication it is interfering with his preparation.

Is Tim Floyd the Hornets head hoach in waiting?

How about that Tim Floyd. Hired for yet another NBA head coaching job, this time with a second run as coach of the New Orleans Hornets.
Yes, yes, I know the media release from the Hornets Thursday read they fired coach Byron Scott and replaced him fulltime with general manager Jeff Bower, who also will retain his duties as general manager.
But this is one thing everyone in NBA management knows: You stay in the front office as long as you can because then you are two steps removed from being fired. The coach is first. Look at Scott: In 2008 he was Coach of the Year (that’s why Phil Jackson always says not to win the award) when the Hornets won 56 games. Last season they “slumped” to 49 wins. So that’s an average of 52.5 wins and a 3-6 start. Yes, fired!
As an aside, it was noted that the Hornets with several new players started with the third most difficult schedule playing against teams with a 58 percent winning percentage. The team facing the toughest schedule thus far has been the Bulls, whose opponents have won 65 percent of their games. Of the Bulls eight opponents, four are in first in their divisions and two in second. And that doesn’t include the Spurs. And that’s with road games against Boston, Cleveland, Miami and Toronto. So 4-4 is pretty good. Of course, after Saturday against the 76ers, the Bulls play six straight on the road before returning home to play Ben Gordon and the Pistons.
Anyway, back to our Tim.
Floyd, who coached the Hornets for one season in 2003-04 and who lately had to resign at USC after an apparent payment violation to a player or players, was named the lead assistant. As for the USC stuff, big deal. College basketball is rife with hypocrisy and occasionally someone gets spit out as an example. No problem there. Though it is nice to know Tim after breaking up a much publicized casino fight recently between very angry women with big hair likely won’t be afraid to enforce discipline if and when he becomes head coach again.
Clearly, this seems to me to be a tryout for Floyd to find out if Chris Paul wants to play for him.
I don’t know if Paul had Scott fired, but great players usually do when it comes like this. And Paul is that franchise. He has to be accommodated. That’s the reality with stars. You think Mike Brown would be in Cleveland if it wasn’t OK with LeBron?
Floyd didn’t have a great hand his last time with the Hornets given he had a rebellious Baron Davis and Jamaal Magloire, who divided the team. College coaches generally don’t succeed in the NBA because while they can enforce discipline and accountability in college with their power over scholarships and playing time—and Floyd did before he came to the Bulls in 1998—they don’t have that same cache and ability in the pros because they don’t know the game and the players. So they often lose respect and authority.
It happened to Floyd in Chicago and New Orleans. But he’s always been popular in Louisiana where he went to school and coached previously. So he steps to the head of the line behind Bower, who was an assistant to Floyd when Floyd first coached the Hornets, and no doubt will return to the safety of the front office after this season.
“Accountability was our theme this past summer,” said Hornets Vice President of Basketball Chad Shinn in a team press release. “We talked about the fact that everyone on our staff is held to a certain standard of performance and we didn’t feel this was happening at the head coach level. We feel like we still have an opportunity with our nucleus to get to where we want and Jeff is the right guy, right now to move us in that direction from the bench.”
Said Bower: “As we look at our long-term coaching plans, it’s not about who the head coach is, it’s about the role of the head coach to get the team to perform to their capabilities and reaching our potential this season.”
Which translated means making Paul happy. So who do you want as coach, Chris?
It’s been clear to everyone who has watched the Hornets there were issues. Forward David West, who has been one of the main underachievers, was at the team’s press conference Thursday and talked of the usual philosophical differences (probably referring to Scott’s preference for Sarte and his for Nietzsche) and a stagnant offense. Perhaps if West worked harder it would have been less stagnant.
But that’s when a team sacrifices its coach.
The Hornets are over the luxury tax this season and next with Paul having an opt out in the summer of 2012. Which suggests they have some time to fix things, though stars don’t have much patience.
It could be a heck of a challenge if it does fall to our old friend, Tim
“I’ve obviously known Tim for a long time,” said Bulls general manager Gar Forman, who was brought to the Bulls by Floyd when Forman was an assistant to Floyd at Iowa State. “He’s a terrific basketball coach with a great defensive mind. He’s an even better person. I think it’s great that he’s back in the league. He’ll do a tremendous job for the Hornets.”