Tag Archives: kevin durant

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.

Bulls have a foul taste about Game 1 and want change

Derrick Rose had just made one of those plays in the Game 1 loss to the Cavaliers Saturday, a double move, slipping the trap on top, driving into the lane, changing direction, getting banged again by Shaquille O’Neal, who got credit for a block.

Rose paused and bent a bit, as if saying to himself, “What do I have to do?”

Rose never says much to referees, or anyone, really. None of those histrionics after every drive or screams of faux pain with every contact. Rose does it the way the NBA asks, being professional and classy and allowing the officials to do their job.

But not much later in a stoppage of play he wandered over to one of the referees and said:

“I did not make it into this league by shooting jump shots.”

Silence. There was no response.

Derrick Rose was the No.1 overall pick in the 2008 draft with the reputation of a player who could not shoot. We know differently, and Rose has worked to become better. But how do you become the consensus best player in the draft when you are not known as a shooter? OK, so you are a guy who drives the ball.

But in the Bulls 96-83 loss to the Cavaliers Saturday, Rose with 28 shots—and not many jumpers—got two free throws, both on a drive with 3:11 left in the game and the Bulls trailing 88-77.

So you mean to tell me Rose was on the floor for more than 40 minutes, he was the focus of the entire Cavs defensive game plan and he attempted 27 shots to that point, about double the next most on the Bulls, and he never once was fouled?

Not once!

Not by Shaq lumbering around and jumping in front or LeBron coming up from behind for those blocks, the usual one or two being goal tending which aren’t called, by Anderson Varejao trapping him and chasing Rose everywhere and a guard deep in his grill?

These must be the greatest defensive players in the history of basketball to come up with almost a dozen blocks and never once make enough contact to foul maybe the fastest guard in the NBA, a fearless competitor who got inside the paint 18 times for shots.

And not once did anyone make any serious contact with him!

“We need to put more pressure on them,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said after practice Sunday. “I wasn’t happy with us only getting 11 free throws. We need to not settle and attack off the dribble and get to the line more (eight of 11 free throws overall). We have a tendency to settle for jumpers.”

Del Negro is right, but he needs to do something about it.

I mention this is considering the bracelet I wear that reads, “WWPD.”

That being What Would Phil Do.

Phil would note that Anthony Parker, who needs a roadmap to find the lane, got more free throws than Derrick Rose. How is that possible? Phil would put the referees on notice they are not treating his team fairly. Actually, he’d have said it before the game to let the officials know he’s watching.

Yes, Phil got fined last week $35,000 for noting how many free throws Kevin Durant shoots, which was the NBA’s way of sending a message to all the other coaches. And Phil makes $12 million annually and no one else does, certainly not Vinny.

Sorry, but in the playoffs you have to stand up for your team. And for your best player.

This kid is being treated like a pinball. OK, that’s an ancient reference, though the last video game I played was pong where a dot bounces back and forth off immoveable objects. Yes, that was Rose in Game 1.

Vinny needed Sunday to make this about the referees. I do argue against that at times, and the NBA has been warning coaches and players to stop it. But then you see James scream like he was knifed every time he goes to the basket and Rose keeps his mouth shut and merely surveys his bruises after the game.

I won’t make this argument for Kirk Hinrich, who didn’t attempt a free throw in Game 1, but he generally doesn’t attack the defense, certainly not like Rose.

I thought Rose was terrific Saturday and had no problem with his 28 shots. He doesn’t want to take them, but when he looks around and no one can hit a shot and the game is getting away, what else can he do?

Del Negro defended him Sunday and he was right.

“I did not agree with that (criticism about) 28 shots,” said Del Negro. “We need Derrick to score and get to the basket. He has to cut down on his turnovers (maybe if someone can make a shot and the Cavs can’t send three guys at Rose every time). We need to play well defensively, get out and run and get easy ones and make them guard. There were too many one pass shots. We have to do a better job moving the ball and taking higher percentage shots.”

That’s true, and Del Negro went through all the usual stuff about boxing out, moving the ball, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Yes, the Bulls do have to move the ball better, though to free up Rose. The Cavs are attacking on his first penetration. He’s got to give it up, swing the ball and then get it back for more side isolations.

There was this fuss about Shaq and he likened himself to a diesel truck. I agree. He can’t turn. He had 12 points and five rebounds. C’mon. Hakim Warrick does that in 25 minutes, too. Let’s not get carried away.

Rose, as usual, showed unusual equanimity about his dilemma.

“That’s the way they call the game,” he said. “I can’t say nothing about that. Hopefully, the refs look at what they are doing. We’re still gonna go out and play the game and see if we can get some calls. I know one day it’s gonna change. I cannot get mad. I learned from the New Jersey game (seven turnovers) the refs weren’t calling it right and I got frustrated a little bit. It’s got to change one day.

“The only thing I’ll tell you,” said Rose, “is it’s gonna change one day and when it does it’s going to be scary.”

I also happened to get a message this weekend from one of the coaches whose team is in the playoffs. He had watched the Cavs and Bulls and commented, “It’s like a middleweight against a heavyweight.”

Yes, that is what generally happens in 1 vs 8 matchups, though Rose, not surprisingly, could see only positives in that.

“I want to make history by beating them,” said Rose. “I’ll probably never have this chance again, or if I do hopefully I’m in their position (being No. 1 vs No. 8). I know for the future I’m probably not going to get another chance like this (to upset a No. 1 seed), being this big an underdog. That’s why we want to put it all out there.”

Hey, maybe he knows something about the team getting free agents we don’t.

Still, the Bulls didn’t play very aggressively in Game 1 and got pushed around by the Cavs. The players pretty much acknowledged that and insisted it would be different for Game 2 Monday, that they might be stepping up in class.

Maybe look like at least light heavies.

“Yeah, definitely,” said Joakim Noah. “We were a little bit timid yesterday. We’ll be ready to go Monday. All this is a great learning experience. We’ve just got to keep fighting. They’re very good. There’s no denying that. But at the same time we feel we can compete with them and feel we can win Monday.”

The Bulls certainly looked and sounded confident and relaxed. As Noah spoke, the reserves were involved in heated one-on-one games with Noah providing exclamations of support. James Johnson was impressive, and the hope is he gets some time against James Monday as Johnson can at least deliver some hard fouls. It is time to show some of that kickboxing expertise.

Actually, Joe Alexander was one of the best, though the rap on him has been—fair or not—he’s best at playground one-on-one and up to three-on-three games but suffers in full court games.

Noah said he enjoyed watching so much because he went through that trail by fire of his own.

“You get tired and you really get (upset) at the coaches (calling fouls),” said Noah. “It is adversity at its rawest. It’s interesting to me.”

Noah said his games were with “Tyrus and big Pookie.”

Asked who was Pookie, Noah exclaimed, “Aaron Gray! C’mon, man, you forgot the pookster!”

But it should be no joking come Monday evening.

“We definitely talked about it today,” said Rose. “We’ve got to go out and be totally opposite of how we were last game. I think we were not that aggressive on the defensive end. We have to have some type of swagger or nastiness about ourselves. You’ll see tomorrow.

“No excuses,” said Rose. “Tomorrow we’ve got to come out and start hitting people. No And 1’s. We got to hit people first. If somebody comes down the middle, we’ve got to be aggressive. Tomorrow’s gonna be an aggressive game.”

Bulls begin countdown with win over Pacers

Make that magic number 11. Any combination of 11 Bulls wins or Bobcats losses, or 10 Bucks losses or nine Heat losses, or nine Raptors wins, or…
OK, OK, it’s too soon. But it’s coming. Trading deadline is past and now it’s all about the playoffs.
And the Bulls made another step toward that ultimate goal for this season with a riotous, wide open 120-110 win over the Indiana Pacers that gave the Bulls a 30-27 record.
It moved them to sixth in the Eastern Conference, a game and a half behind Toronto in fifth and two and a half games ahead of ninth place Charlotte.
Last season, the Pistons made the final East playoff spot with 39 wins, and you figure it may take 41 this season with the Raptors, Bulls, Heat, Bucks and Bobcats in a tight race for the last four spots and Charlotte in ninth at just two under .500.
“It’s a win, wasn’t pretty but we got it done,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro offered about the Bulls blowing all of a 23-point first quarter lead, and then opening up after halftime with a 20-10 run and leading by double digits the rest of the way.
“They were very good with the draw and kick,” said Del Negro. “They shot the three very well (13 of 29). It was a game of runs. They made some shots but we got solid performances, obviously from Luol (Deng with 31 points and nine rebounds) and Derrick (Rose with 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists). We gave up too many points but the way they shot you have to give them credit.”
And so onward the Bulls go having won five of their last six and 12 of their last 17. They probably need something like 10 or 11 wins in their last 25 games to make the playoffs, though fifth certainly is within reach with Chris Bosh out of late.
The top four look pretty set at Cleveland first and Orlando, Boston and Atlanta fairly closely bunched.
Now, it is too early to assume the playoffs given Joakim Noah remains uncertain and played just seven minutes, though Del Negro said he didn’t play him in the second half because of matchups and Indiana going small. And Deng, whose shooting touch returned, took a hard bump on his knee and spent the later part of the game with a slight limp.
“You should have seen him earlier,” Rose told reporters after the game. “He was putting Ben Gay all over his body. He looked like an old man.”
Deng doesn’t get much love from the fans (how about me catching on with the latest slang). But he hasn’t missed a game coming off a stress fracture last season, leads the team in minutes played after another 43 in Wednesday’s win and is averaging 17.9 points, second on the team, and 7.3 rebounds.
And Taj Gibson, who had another strong game with 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, has his own plantar fasciitis.
So where’s the advantage? The Bulls are 1-1 against Cleveland and Orlando and 1-2 against Atlanta and Boston. But now the schedule begins to turn difficult again with 10 of the next 11 games against teams with winning records.
“Our upcoming schedule definitely gets tougher, but when we play our best I think we can play with anybody,” said Deng.
The playoffs open seven weeks from Saturday, and nothing is assured yet with that schedule, so the Bulls have to continue to grind it out.
It didn’t look like it would have to be that way Wednesday when the Bulls were thoroughbreds out of the gate, running up a shocking 35-12 lead. Deng had not been shooting the ball particularly well of late, so he’s taken to driving to the basket more, usually off that high screen and curl. But this time he was hitting his shot, and, sadly, after the Bulls took a 12-4 lead with Deng scoring half the points, Deng did not touch the ball once in the next four possessions.
The Bulls scored in three, and then Deng just took the ball and drove, scoring for a three-point play.
The Bulls still have trouble recognizing that hot shooter, but it didn’t look like it would matter this time.
On the next play, the Pacers lost the ball and Rose took off, missing the layup. But three Pacers’ players stood and watched as Deng blew through the middle and followed the miss in. Impressive stuff.
“I really tried to come out aggressively in the first quarter,” said Deng. “I was able to get fouled and get to the line. When they came out to guard me, I was able to get to the basket and when they dropped back I knocked down some shots.”
Rose was pushing the ball impressively and the Pacers, their season pretty much over, were firing off jumpers and admiring their arc. And even on the rare drive, I liked on one occasion how Flip Murray, who had 16 points off the bench and was eight of 10 on free throws as he’s a fearless attacker, shaded Brandon Rush to force him left into a more difficult shot, suggesting even the new guys are picking up the nuances of the defense quickly.
But the Bulls seemed to grow a bit complacent with that big lead and didn’t bother to close much as Danny Granger and Luther Head ended the first with threes. Indiana then opened the second quarter with a Granger three, and after a couple of run outs, Rush hit three more threes and Granger a pair on the way to 21 points for Rush and 20 for Granger and, stunningly, the Pacers pulled even at 54 with about a minute left in the first half.
“They obviously got on a really big run. We were missing our shots and they were making their shots,” said Rose.
From the mouth of babes.
Pacers coach Jim O’Brien had yanked his starters late in the first quarter and went with a lineup of guards and small forwards and the Bulls were slow to adjust. They had Gibson trying to chase Rush too much, and Indiana spread the court and began hitting the long ones.
“They moved Danny Granger to the four and they just really pushed the ball,” said Deng. “They did a good job pushing the ball against us and we didn’t react very well.”
Though the game seemed to be slipping away, you still had to appreciate the individual brilliance, especially Rose.
“Rose is a great player and one of the premiere point guards in the league,” said O’Brien. “Perhaps in a little longer time he’ll be the best in the league.”
Late in the second quarter, the Pacers jumped at Rose with three players on a trap at midcourt, and Rose dribbled out of it in his best Curly Neal style, even if it’s unlikely he ever heard of Curly. He went behind his back and between his legs and through all three quicker than you could see and came out still dribbling the ball. How does he do that?
Meanwhile, the Bulls were attacking inside and going to the free throw line, and eventually that’s a better formula than shooting jumpers.
Still, the Bulls adjusted after halftime and Noah and Hakim Warrick would not get back in the game.
“They were available,” said Del Negro. “I just thought that Taj was playing well and they were going small and spreading us out a lot. I wanted to keep Luol on Granger as much as possible. Also, Murphy puts a lot of pressure on you because he can spread the defense at the four spot. They got back in the second quarter when we were trying to go a little bit bigger.”
Brad Miller lunched in a reverse to open the third, Rose hit a pull up, Gibson picked up a loose ball and dunked it, and you have to love seeing a rookie finish everything so strong. I was watching after the Bulls game the end of the Thunder and Spurs and saw Kevin Durant go up soft for a two handed dunk and have Manu Ginobili swat it away for the turning point of the game. For a rookie, the way Gibson attacks is impressive.
Kirk Hinrich, who had 14 points and five assists, hit one of his two threes, and Hinrich has been impressive and obviously more confident with his shot. He’s taking it quickly instead of hesitating, as he was earlier in the season when he also was looking to move it along instead of making himself a threat.
Gibson rebounded a Deng miss and then Deng got it back and dunked it. And when Rose drove deep and pitched to Deng for a corner three, the Bulls had regained control and an 83-67 lead midway through the third quarter.
Rose then put the exclamation point on the wild 37-28 third quarter with a blow by crossover move past Earl Watson, who is in for defense, and then a switch to the left hand and fade away from big Roy Hibbert for a banker and three point play as Rose would nearly get his first ever triple double.
“I did know (I was close), but I’ll probably never have a triple double in this league,” said Rose. “More than anything I was just trying to get the win.”
He’ll get those triple doubles. Surely, if he even half tries.
The Bulls remained in control in the fourth quarter, and Rose showed why he can get that triple double if he wants.
With the Bulls leading 116-101 with just over three minutes left, A.J. Price stripped the ball from Rose. Price tried to score, pump faking Rose several times as Rose went for none of them. Price finally went up. Rose blocked the shot, basically catching the ball on the way up and taking it away. As Bulls broadcaster Stacey King likes to say, Rose is a guard version of LeBron James.
“We can play either way,” said Del Negro of the Bulls matching when the Pacers went small. “We have guys who can get up and down. We have the athletes to do that especially with Derrick’s ability to push the ball.”
They’ll need it now when March opens Monday with the Hawks and then Memphis, Dallas, Utah, a four game trip to Orlando, Miami, Memphis and Dallas and then back home for the Cavs and LeBron. Check back then as we should have a pretty good magic number. Or desperate situation.

Derrick Rose takes his place among the game’s stars

The cavernous ballroom in the Hyatt Regency Hotel here in Dallas Friday afternoon was the site for about 90 minutes to view and listen to the best basketball talent in the world. It was the big, annual media international interview session for the NBA All Stars, Kobe and LeBron and Duncan and Garnett and a Hall of Fame room of talent.
Each player commanded a table surrounded by reporters, and Derrick Rose sat comfortably in a white t-shirt and jeans taking questions.
Right next to Rose was Dwyane Wade.
Yes, Bulls fan if only.
It seemed more coincidence than NBA portent of Chicago’s “Dream Backcourt 2010.”
Rose and Wade, at some point, will play together in the backcourt Sunday in the 59th NBA All Star game to be played in the Dallas Cowboys’ new football stadium.
As they are proud to say here, they do it bigger in Dallas.
Rose will not start as coach Stan Van Gundy said rather than choose between the two rookie point guards with Rajon Rondo to replace Allen Iverson, Van Gundy said he’ll go with Joe Johnson to start with Wade.
But Van Gundy Friday was absolutely effusive about Rose, who said he expects to play Sunday despite his hip injury suffered against Van Gundy’s Magic Wednesday. Rose estimated given the treatment he’s getting and the rate of healing he’s had he’ll be at about 75 to 80 percent efficiency for Sunday’s game and could also defend his Skills Challenge title Saturday. But no dunking, Rose said.
At least not yet.
“I’m going to continue to do that,” Rose said about his aggressive play despite the ugly fall after colliding with Orlando’s Dwight Howard. “That’s my game. If anything, when I go to the hole I’ll be more aware of how the big guys jump so that I can take the hit better. I’m going to definitely watch it, but I’m going to continually attack.”
Which is good news for the Bulls and the highlight shows. Rose said he expects to be close to full strength if not fully there when the Bulls resume their regular season Tuesday against the Knicks.
“Our first game back I think I should be all right,” Rose said. “Every day I’m getting treatment (ice and stimulation) and the next day it’s getting better. Right now, it’s looking good and the swelling and everything should go down and I should be fine in a couple days.”
Meanwhile, Rose seemed comfortable and at ease with the myriad questions, which included a live streaming from a TV station in China, requests to say hello to fans in various languages, queries about his shoes, his viewing habits and ping pong game.
Rose said that’s one of his few activities as reporters tried to find the man inside when there’s really only a kid living in there.
“I don’t play instruments or anything like that,” Rose answered to one reporter seeking a complex side. “I’m just a plain regular guy. I play video games, listen to music, watch a lot of movies and play basketball and that’s about it.”
Rose did tell an amusing story, and he likes to laugh at himself when he does, about when he was on an Adidas trip to China last summer and volunteered that he was a pretty good ping pong player. So they set up a game with a couple of elementary school kids, about 10 or 11.
Yes, you know what happened next.
“They actually tricked me into playing these two little kids,” said Rose with that self deprecating laugh of his. “They were sixth or seventh grade or something and I’m thinking I’m way older than them and the girl was like third ranked in Shanghai and the boy was ranked seventh and they beat me bad. The girl went to school all day for ping pong. That’s all she did. I’m not playing them anymore.”
Yes, he is just a kid, though one who will lead them.
There’s no question Rose is the playing leader of the Bulls, the player the team depends upon. You didn’t have to tell Van Gundy, who singled out Rose and Kevin Durant as the best young players in the NBA.
“He had to assume the primary role with Ben Gordon gone and their secondary guys are not close to his role and I think it showed up in our game when he went out,” said Van Gundy. “That’s a tough step for any player to make, especially a young player, and he being able to do it so well says a great deal about not only his talent and skills but his mentality.
“I look at a lot of these young guys and I have great appreciation for them,” Van Gundy added. “But Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant, to me those two in particular, in my mind when I watch them the thing I’m impressed with with those two guys they seem to me they’re only interest is to try to win the game. It’s not about their numbers or their notoriety. It’s about lifting their team.
“Derrick’s had to do that taking over the offense in Chicago,” Van Gundy noted. “Kevin Durant’s done that by making more a commitment on the defensive end of the floor. I have great respect for that. I think there’s a lot of talent in this league, a lot of guys who can put up numbers, and then there’s guys who can lift their teams and help their teams win games and Derrick Rose does that to me. He’s quiet. You don’t read a lot of quotable things from him, but when I do read things from him I like what he says, I like how he plays.
They’ve got a great, great player to build their franchise around.
“I talked to Derrick and he says he’s going to do the stuff tomorrow night,” Van Gundy said about the Saturday skills contests. “He says he’s ready to go. If a guy says he’s ready to go I’ll play him. I like the guys in their first All Star game. They’re more excited, more enthusiastic. They bring a different perspective to the game than the guys who it’s sort of old hat and begin taking the game for granted. The guys here for the first time understand what a great honor it is and I expect he’s a guy who’ll go out and play like he does in the season.”
Yes, you see the joy in Rose’s eye when he’s around something like this All Star weekend and the great stars of the game.
Rose said his first All Star memory was watching the 2000 game and the famous Vince Carter dunk contest.
“I just wanted to be a fan there,” Rose said. “I wasn’t thinking about being in the game. I just wished I could be there in the arena. (Now) I’m really happy coming here seeing all the fans and media and being part of this with 100,000 people in the stadium. To be a part of that is crazy. I’ve never been in a football stadium. I never went to the Bears, Soldier Field or anything like that. So for me to be playing in that stadium, I’ll be speechless.”
Rose said his favorite All Star to watch over the years has been LeBron James. Yes, the rest of us are old. I was wearing a belt older than Derrick.
His teammates know that as well, and maybe they had a bit of fun at his expense earlier this season, though it probably doesn’t bode well for where they are coming from regarding the upcoming labor negotiations.
One of the big stories of this weekend is the continuing of preliminary talks on a collective bargaining agreement after the 2010-11 season which could drastically change the league’s salary structure and maybe force a long lockout.
Rose is the Bulls’ player representative.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard him discuss those issues, and when someone asked him Friday, he said they should ask veterans like James or Wade, though he said in the future he hopes to be one of those veteran voices speaking up for his colleagues.
So how, I wondered, did Rose end up the Bulls’ player representative? Though for this weekend with the first big bargaining session Jannero Pargo was in Dallas to represent the Bulls in the talks.
“They said I had to do it,” Rose related. “The whole team. At first we wanted Lindsey (Hunter) to do it. Then he said, ‘No, I ain’t gonna be it.’ He said, ‘D Rose is going to be it.’ and he got everyone in the locker room to say, ‘Guess what? D Rose is our player rep.’ And they were saying, ‘For real?” It was like a joke and then they made it serious.
“So I send emails, make sure I’m at the meetings and I have to let them know everything because if I don’t I hear about it,” said Rose with a roll of his eyes and a smile. But like the game, he’s taking it all seriously.
And, yes, it’s been a quick course of “You’re in Charge” for Rose.
“Making sure we’ll still hungry, playing together and playing team basketball. That’s the biggest concern with our team,” said Rose. “When Joakim comes back, I know we have the team to go out there and compete.
“My teammates have confidence in me and trust in me so much,” said Rose. “I can come down and mess up a whole bunch of times they’ll tell me it’s all right. As a player you want to be that guy to have the ball in your hands and when you make mistakes, it’s all right you can live with it. Last year taking those shots it was new for me. This year I’m getting more comfortable. When I used to take shots at the end of the game I used to miss them and I’d be thinking about it to the next game and thinking about the same thing. Now I don’t think about taking those shots. I want to take those shots and my teammates want me to take those shots. They trust and have confidence in me.”
It hasn’t always been easy and there were some jealousies, but now everyone seems to understand, which is why everyone’s heart sunk when Rose went thump against the Magic Wednesday.
“It was clean,” Rose said about Howard’s attempted block. “He went up for the ball. That’s what centers are supposed to do. Make it tough when you go to the hole. I just opened up my body too much. And he knocked me down.
“At first I thought (it might be a fracture),” Rose admitted. “It really hurt. I haven’t landed like that since I was in high school. So it was a lot of pain. I feel like if it was a playoff game I probably could have shook it off and got a shot.
“(When I was hit I thought) ‘I’m going to hit my tailbone and it’s gonna hurt,’” Rose recalled. “Right when he hit me I knew I was going to fall on my back. He hit me directly in my chest and I knew it was bad after that. I tried to get up, but it was hurting too bad so I had to lay there for a minute. I knew it wasn’t anything broke or fractured when I went out there to shoot the free throw. I knew I’d be all right.
“I’ve got a little limp,” said Rose, “but I’m getting there.”
No, Derrick Rose has arrived.

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.

It’s Thunder Road for the Bulls with fourth straight

They insisted they knew. Even when they were losing 35-point leads at home to bad teams, even when they were in a three game stretch of losing by 32 at home, then to the 1-19 Nets at home and then by 35 on the road. Even when their coach supposedly was being fired any day now and there were injuries and they couldn’t score 100 points and fans were demanding just about everyone be traded. At least Joakim Noah said the Bulls knew.
“Last month it was almost like a disaster,” Noah was saying matter-of-factly after still another impressive Bulls road victory, 96-86 over the Oklahoma City Thunder. “In just a matter of a month. It’s all about confidence. When you can’t win games because you aren’t talented enough that’s one thing. That’s what was so frustrating about the whole thing. We were better than that. We’re showing that now.”
And showing it as impressively as any team in the NBA, once again Wednesday with a dominating win over one of the rising young teams in the league with Derrick Rose leading the way with 26 points, a dozen in the fourth quarter, the Bulls young guys overwhelming the Thunder’s core.
That’s right. No one, perhaps the Cavs, and maybe not even them because they’ve been winning narrowly and mostly at home, has been playing as effectively and impressively as the Bulls.
To recount:
— 115-104 in Phoenix, then 25-18;
— 104-97 in Houston, then 24-18;
— 98-93 in San Antonio, then 25-17;
— And the high flying Thunder, now 24-21 after the Bulls once again closed strong, pulling away from a four-point game with 9:45 left behind a series of spectacular moves and shots from Rose and Brad Miller with a dagger of his second three of the game and dancing and skipping back to the Bulls huddle.
It brought the Bulls back to 22-22 on the season.
“Brad likes to have a good time,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. “He keeps Jo into the game, which is great. He stretches defenses out with his range. He gives you that pump fake and tries to drive. You just have to make sure you have a lot of time on the shot clock if he’s driving from the top of the key because it takes some time to get there for him.”
Yes, even Vinny is starting to loosen up and make jokes.
Winning is the best stand up routine of them all. It leaves them laughing and feeling good all the way home.
“I don’t think anybody in the league or anywhere else thought we’d be sitting here after that (early season start),” said Rose. “But we pulled it together.”
Yes, there’s still another game on this two-week marathon road trip. But this may be as good as the Bulls have played in more than a decade, since the great Jordan championship Bulls. The Bulls now are 4-2 on this road trip. If they win Friday in New Orleans, it would be the best road trip record since the championship seasons.
Last year’s 4-3 trip right before the trades for Miller and John Salmons was the previous best. The worst the Bulls can do is tie that.
“It’s a long season and we always pick it up after the All Star break,” said Luol Deng. “We’re picking it up earlier now, so this is a really good sign.”
There were plenty of good signs in Wednesday’s win with the defense sharp in creating something of a floating zone with aggressive help to keep Kevin Durant on the outside. Durant had 28 points and 11 rebounds, but shot just seven of 19. Though he didn’t shoot well going just two of 13, Kirk Hinrich did a terrific job on Russell Westbrook, who had torched the Bulls in Oklahoma City’s win in Chicago earlier this month.
Westbrook isn’t a particularly good ballhandler or passer, and Hinrich played him tight and Westbrook ended with 10 points and four turnovers. The Thunder tried a defensive switch of their own, moving Thabo Sefolosha onto Rose after halftime. It was effective early in the half, but Rose is growing into that closer’s role and left Sefolosha grasping for nothing on one killer crossover to make it 82-72, beat Sefolosha on top on a clearout with no screen for an 89-73 margin and then closed off the game with a flourish with a two handed tomahawk slam after Gibson had made still another great save outhustling the gasping Thunder players.
“They play really hard,” marveled Durant. “Everyone helps each other out a lot. We could learn from something like that to help us get better as well. They play tough all night. They are scrappy and they have, arguably, the best rebounder in the game in Noah. Taj Gibson did a great job as well. They have good rebounders. It was a tough game for us.”
Yes, that same team that was being booed at home for weeks.
“I know that (fourth quarter) is when my team looks for me to pick up my game,” said Rose, now waiting an announcement Thursday on whether he’ll be the first Bulls player since 1998 to make the All Star team. “Now, I’m that guy to take the shot or get people open. At first at the beginning of the season when we were losing I wasn’t used to taking all the shots like I am now. I’m kind of getting used to it. I’m feeling very comfortable. My teammates trust in me. That makes me more comfortable than anything. I come down miss a shot, two or three in a row and they’re, ‘You’re next shot is going in. C’mon, keep shooting. You all right, you all right.’ That doesn’t do nothing but build confidence and we feel we’ve got a lot of trust in eachother.
“Winning is fun. I can’t lie,” said Rose. “We’ve got a whole bunch of winners on this team.”
And they don’t seem to be settling.
It even seemed Noah, who ceded much of the fourth quarter to Miller’s hot shooting but still finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, was making an open appeal to Tyrus Thomas.
Thomas had his best game on the trip since the Clippers’ loss, getting 13 points and five rebounds in 19 minutes and with a stunning block on an Eric Maynor fast break layup attempt when Maynor was well ahead of everyone. Thomas came sprinting from behind with those long strides and blocked the easy two points.
Noah called it the turning point of the game.
Barely remember?
Because it happened in the first quarter with the Bulls leading 28-21.
It’s because Noah knows, as everyone else does around the Bulls, that if they could get Thomas playing at that level on defense regularly, that with himself and Gibson one of the best defensive inside tandems in the league and with Rose playing as he is, the Bulls could be a team you don’t want to play in the playoffs.
“The turning point of the game definitely was Tyrus’ block,” said Noah. “I think that if we can get energy like that out of Tyrus it elevates our team to a whole different level. I think this was probably our best team effort as a group. Tyrus’ play on the block. There’s no one who can make plays like that on our team. The way he ran down was unbelievable. Tyrus brings something we don’t have. He has abilities nobody on this team has. If we have everyone playing with that focus and energy we’re a tough team to beat.”
Tyrus, of course, is Tyrus, so he also had five turnovers in fewer than 20 minutes and got taken out after a wild one-on-one move for a travel with the Bulls leading 78-70 with 8:21 left.
Tyrus doesn’t like to see me coming, particularly, as I’ve been tough on him. But he is a player who could use accountability, and I also can see what he means when he is engaged. Thomas insisted to me he always is.
“Contrary to what a lot of people think, I think I’m always engaged,” said Thomas. “I got some good looks at the basket, got a few rebounds, a few blocks. I think that’s what I always do. I haven’t really been making shots of late. But seven rebounds in 20 minutes I don’t think is bad. Six rebounds in 18 minutes I don’t think is bad. It’s about getting time and opportunity.”
I did think the Bulls best chances for wins on this trip, like everyone else, was in Golden State and against the Clippers. But in watching the West this season, I thought the Bulls, at least, had a chance at everyone else. Except the Thunder. They beat up the Bulls so badly in early January, I just figured they’d be the toughest matchup.
But the Bulls had a good plan in stringing out Durant, pressuring Westbrook, though I wanted to see more upcourt defense on him, and attacking the boards with Jeff Green more a forward tweener. Green got off fast going at Gibson with 18 in the first half. But he was one of seven after halftime and ended with 24 as Gibson played him more physically and Gibson finished with a career high 15 rebounds in the Bulls 53-40 rebounding margin.
Yes, it’s the Bulls who push around teams now.
Thunder players were moaning some before the game about not liking to play against Miller, who had 14 points off the bench and plenty of banging around.
“Brad was playing big all game,” said Noah, who played just 27 minutes but said his foot felt better. “Sometimes spreading the court the way he’s able to spread the court… we’re definitely different in that aspect. He can spread the court and it makes it easier on D. Rose sometimes, so sometimes I have to suck it up and say it’s not my time.
“That’s his swag right there,” Noah said of Miller’s celebratory leaps after threes. “I’m happy for Brad because he’s having fun again playing basketball. I love it.”
The Bulls jumped on the Thunder early. Noah had a great touch pass to Gibson for a slam dunk. You’ve got to love the way Gibson finishes so strong. Deng hit a pair of threes and was three of four from long distance for the game, Noah had another one of those hustling follows on a Rose drive, and the Bulls led 28-17.
But perhaps more importantly was the start, that team huddle after the introductions. Rose is beginning to speak up.
“I told the guys in the huddle we owe this team,” said Rose.
The Bulls bench in that first run was awful, and the Thunder regained control with a 13-0 close to the quarter to lead 30-28 after one.
But Thomas responded in the second quarter with a jumper and run out for a fast break and dunk, and Miller and Rose began to work their two man game. When Miller sets the pick he can pop out and shoot or drive while Noah isn’t the offensive threat. The Bulls closed the second with a 21-12 edge breaking from a 35-35 tie with in one sequence a Miller three, a Rose pull up jumper and then Rose hitting Miller rolling in for a three-point play and Rose letting out a scream of delight.
“Derrick made great plays for them. He found his teammates and they made shots,” said Green.
The Bulls could have lost it in the third quarter when the Thunder put ball hawking Sefolosha on Rose and the Bulls went cold, shooting 27.8 percent and scoring 12 points as the Thunder players began to aggressively contest shots. But the Bulls were saved with their defense, especially in frustrating Durant, who was just one of four in the quarter.
“We were trying to deny and blitz him and double team him,” said Noah. “We didn’t want to give him nothing easy.”
I thought the key was the way they blitzed on the pick and roll, stringing out Durant and then collapsing into the lane in the sort of shell the better teams employ on defense. It kept Durant on the outside and forcing himself into foul shots.
And then Rose took over the game.
It’s something to see the way now game after game he’s hitting big shots and now making more plays for teammates, a drive and pass into the corner setting up Deng for a three for a 94-83 lead with 1:41 left. Like against the Spurs, every time the Thunder scored, the Bulls would respond and not let the game get away.
“Derrick Rose is playing the best basketball as a Bull,” said Noah. “He’s playing huge for us, making the right decisions, staying aggressive offensively. When you’re point guard is playing like that it leads to good things. We’re a confident basketball team.”
Del Negro also said he’d help me with a bit of explanation as I’ve been joking about his use of the word thrust all the time to explain what he wants.
“I like the thrust (Rose’s) playing with,” said Del Negro. “It means pace and getting the ball out; it means getting your back to the sidelines, it means extending your outlets; it means getting the ball up the court into our early offense. Derrick is making big shots, but his overall game is improving.”
And then there was that dunk to close it, but no dunk contest for him.
“I can jump high, but I’m not creative at all,” Rose said laughing. “Either you’re going to see a one hand dunk or a two hand dunk or a rock the cradle or something like that. You’re not going to see all that other stuff. Jo (sitting with his foot in a bucket of ice) needs to be in the dunking contest. He’s been dunking a lot.”
No, it’s the Bulls who suddenly are dunking every opponent in their way.
“Well, we got beat by a better team tonight,” shrugged Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “There’s no way around that.”
The state of the Bulls is looking very good.

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.