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Bulls and Rose suffer game most foul in loss to Grizzlies

OK, no more Mr. Nice Guy for Derrick Rose.
He tried. He thought being professional was the right way. He thought he’d be rewarded for showing respect, for revering the game, for appreciating authority, for simply not acting out like a brat.
So Rose attacked the defense and the basket over and over Thursday in the Bulls 105-96 come-from-ahead loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and got just two free throws on one possession despite 21 shots.
Enough is enough.
“I don’t know what I’ve got to do to get a call,” Rose offered in a rare bout of open post game frustration. “I don’t know if I’m being too physical or whatever. I’m just going to go in and start making them make the call. Go in and go crazy like some of those other players in the league and hopefully they call it.
“You’ll see,” Rose promised. “Definitely, next game.”
It would be too bad if it has to come to that, a kid who wants to do it right, not complain and stop playing and yell at the referees after every drive like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. But this seems to be what the NBA always will be. The squeaky wheel gets the grease? Sadly.
It’s not fully why the Bulls blew a 17-point second quarter lead and 10-point lead in the third to inexplicably lose to a Memphis team playing the second of a back to back while the Bulls had two off days.
The Bulls were pounded on the boards again, 46-31, with Joakim Noah out probably through the end of the month with plantar fasciitis. There were too many quick jump shots in a 38 percent shooting second half even with Memphis over the foul limit early, and a failure to go for a knockout punch when the Grizzlies seemed disinterested and looking for a quick trip home with a lackluster effort in the first 18 minutes.
Rose finished with 20 points and Luol Deng led the Bulls with 23 points on sharp nine of 16 shooting and showing few ill effects of his knee problems that kept him out of the Monday loss to Atlanta.
But without Noah and with new acquisitions Hakim Warrick and Flip Murray a combined two for 10 for 10 points and not adding much of late, the Bulls margin for error is slight without Noah.
So they need all they can get from Rose, and Rose tried desperately to give it all he could, including an angry looking one handed slam dunk over Zach Randolph on a Brad Miller bounce pass early in the third quarter.
It seemed as much crowd pleasing highlight as Rose statement of frustration over being battered around by a wall of collapsing double and triple teams every time he went to the basket and left to watch he and the ball bounce away.
It’s too bad because even commissioner David Stern has urged players to stop complaining so much about not getting foul calls, and then when someone does the referees seem to ignore him.
“We’ve just got to find a way to end games,” said Rose of the Bulls again blowing a big lead at home. “When we have a team down we have to come out and find a way to put them away. We really want to be in the playoffs. But it’s up to us. Not anybody else. We have to go out there and show how much we want it.”
At this point most observers would say they don’t seem to want it very much.
It was the Bulls third straight loss to fall to 31-30. It’s way more than that. They aren’t playing so much poorly as indifferently, though more in stretches than the entire game. They’ll have great runs, but then settle for jumpers and a lack of body or ball movement.
It also too often seems a funereal atmosphere among the players, little emotion except for several whom seem comfortable with one foot out the door.
“I believe we could have played a lot harder,” said Deng. “It’s not time to panic. We’ve got 21 games left. We’ve got to play with more energy. Early in the game, we did a good job of running out. But we let them back in the game and kept building their confidence. And then with six minutes left or so they made plays and we didn’t.
“I know we did not make shots,” said Deng. “I thought we could have moved the ball better (17 assists). “They had two big plays, and ones (by Marc Gasol) to go up seven (with 3:50 left) and spread out a little. I believe we’ve got a very good team. We just can’t act like we’re a good team. That’s what we did tonight, kind of played like we were better than them.”
This is hardly a roster for overconfidence, even with the nice post All Star game stretch, which was populated more by teams with losing records.
It also didn’t help that it seemed coach Vinny Del Negro also pulled his foot off the pedal along with his players.
The Grizzlies appeared to be going through the motions after an exciting win in New Orleans Wednesday night to move into ninth in the West.
So the Bulls came out flying, moving the ball, outrebounding Memphis 12-9 in the first quarter and shooting 59 percent behind Rose’s 10 points. They led 27-10 when the Bulls started major substitutions, Jannero Pargo for Rose, Warrick for Miller and Murray for Hinrich.
The Bulls still led 32-19 after one, and even with some moves deeper into the bench to open the second quarter, Memphis still seemed disinterested and the Bulls led 49-32 with about five minutes left in the first half.
The Bulls then went with Chris Richard and Warrick again for Taj Gibson, and yes the starters need rest. They cannot play 48. But you just had the feel with this kind of game one more first half spurt and the Grizzlies would have packed it in.
But the Grizzlies got some life to end the second quarter with Gasol and Zach Randolph, who ended with 31 points and 18 rebounds, scoring inside while the Bulls went scoreless on seven straight possessions with three long jumpers and three unforced turnovers.
No sweat, we’ll get ‘em when we need to seemed the attitude.
That enabled the Grizzlies to go to halftime trailing just 51-45 in a game they should have been down 25.
“We are an uptempo, jump shooting team,” agreed Del Negro. “We don’t have a lot of post up guys. When you settle for jump shots, they are going to go in some time and out. You have to guard very well and get up and down the court to get some easy baskets. It makes it hard to control tempo sometimes because if we slow it down without a post up game, we end up running a lot of pick and rolls and isolations with Derrick. We got a little stagnant.”
The Bulls seemed to grab hold of the game again to open the third with that great Rose dunk and Miller, who had 14 points and seven rebounds, with a terrific sequence including a nice cut for a score on a Hinrich pass, a baseline drive and finger roll and then a dunk followed by a gangly arm movement and primal scream (yes, Miller was into it) off another Hinrich feed. The big guy was warmed up.
The Bulls were back ahead 65-55 with 7:10 left in the third, and again I thought they had a chance to make the Grizzlies quit as Memphis went to backup center Hamed Haddadi and already had four team fouls in the quarter. I thought Miller could have head faked Haddadi into a bunch more and spread out the game.
Again, guys like Miller need rest, especially with Noah out. But this seemed one of the more winnable games in this tough March stretch of winning teams for the first three weeks. So you push to get the ones you can without Noah? But Del Negro likes to rest his starters when the opponent goes to the bench, and he took out Miller and Hinrich.
And this is one of those debates you perhaps only make in a loss. A coach gets blamed for playing the starters too much, which has happened this season. So then how can you blame him for playing the starters too little? I don’t. It’s a job open to ultimate second guessing. I don’t fault Del Negro for the loss. Players have to make the plays, and the Bulls are short on those players now. They will need some extraordinary individual efforts this last quarter of the season to make the playoffs. Which may be why Rose has begun his campaign with the officials.
I tend to be more conservative, perhaps like Del Negro, and I like to try to steal as many wins as I can to see if I can hold on down the stretch.
But they always say that’s inexperience and a veteran coach knows how to massage his bench to save the starters. So Del Negro did try that Thursday.
It just didn’t work this time.
Memphis went on a 10-0 run to tie the game as Randolph was just too strong for Warrick, who is more a combo three/four.
“The rebounding and the loose balls, I think, made the difference,” said Del Negro. “Our initial defense was decent. The extra possessions really hurt us. As they got more offensive rebounds, they were making us pay for that. We can’t expect to win when we are giving up 53 percent shooting, that many offensive rebounds and letting them score 60 points in the second half. We were not sharp defensively. We are going to win by defending. We are not going to outscore anyone with the make up of our team right now.”
The Bulls did regain the lead on some hustle plays by Deng that led to free throws and a couple of nice defensive plays by Gibson along with a Deng three. So the Bulls clung to an 80-76 lead after three.
“You have to want it more than the other guy,” said Del Negro pointedly. “We did not put enough pressure on them defensively. They came back after we had a big lead and I’m sure they went into the half feeling confident. When the game got close, they went to Zach and we could not control him.”
Hinrich scored on a drive to open the fourth, twisting his ankle for the first of two times in the quarter, though he said after the game he should be OK for Saturday’s game against Dallas.
But the Bulls had awakened the sleeping giants of the Grizzlies front court and they began to batter the Bulls with drives (a 62-42 points in the paint margin), offensive rebounds, loose balls with the guards flying into the mix and second shots.
Memphis finally took its first lead since early in the game on a Mike Conley floater after an O.J. Mayo rebound at 89-87 with 6:54 left. Mayo finished with 20 points and nine rebounds, including five offensive, while free agent to be Rudy Gay had 17 points, six rebounds, five steals and two blocks.
The Memphis bench isn’t very good, though the Bulls couldn’t take much advantage with their bench five of 16 overall. But Memphis’ starting lineup is far superior to the Bulls’, and this was arguably the weakest team in this three week stretch.
The Bulls got the lead back at 90-89 with 5:29 left on a Hinrich three. But then when Hinrich missed a three on the next possession, Gasol scored on the first of two screen/rolls with Conley in which he successfully sealed off Miller and the Grizzlies pulled away as Bulls errant jumpers shot off the rim in all directions.
“It hurt,” said Hinrich. “We were getting hurt on the boards. At home we’ve had leads and let our guard down. We can’t do that.”
The Bulls top guard, Rose, was down numerous times. But he wasn’t rewarded for the effort. He had three assists, and I counted at least five passes he made out of deep penetration to shooters who missed with no one within five feet of them.
It only gets more difficult from here, so we’ll see how much this Bulls teams has and how much they want or can produce a longer season. So far it doesn’t look promising.


Derrick does Dallas; Rose looking ready

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Well, Derrick Rose got to Dallas and I didn’t. Snow in Dallas and it’s clear in Chicago. Next thing you know Jason Kidd will make the All-Star team.
Anyway, it doesn’t seem to matter that much to the NBA that I’m still at O’Hare rummaging for a flight. Rose got to Dallas for All-Star weekend, and the indications were good late Thursday night that he’d be playing in Sunday’s game after his brutal fall in Wednesday’s Bulls loss to Orlando. X-rays and an MRI showed no significant injuries, though that grimace you see with Rose is not a smile. He was said to be moving a bit better after arriving in Dallas Thursday and would get treatment and another exam from Bulls physical Brian Cole Saturday.
It remains uncertain whether he’ll defend his title in the Skills exhibition Saturday, though indications are Rose will play Sunday.
It’s too bad he suffered the bruised hip that scared and shocked him as much as hurt him as he later told friends it was the first fall he’d taken like that. It’s unfortunate because he might even have started the All Star game because Allen Iverson pulled out for family reasons and was replaced by the Knicks’ David Lee.
That leaves the East team with guards Dwyane Wade, a starter, as well as Joe Johnson and Rajon Rondo. Stan Van Gundy is East coach and I was asking Van Gundy Wednesday in Chicago about Rose and he said he’d hoped to play him a lot because “he’s really good.” So given only Rondo is a point guard, Rose could have replaced Iverson.
That seems unlikely now given Rose figures to be slowed by his hip injury, though generally with replacement starters coaches like to go with veterans. And since it’s an All-Star game it doesn’t matter that much because there won’t exactly be a lot of pressing and trapping the pick and roll.
So it’s possible Paul Pierce could start in the backcourt with Wade, who plays a lot of point guard for Miami. For the West team, Kobe Bryant dropped out for injury season and was replaced, oddly, by Kidd. It obviously was a paean to Dallas and Mark Cuban for hosting the game. Though with the change Dirk Nowitzki should move into the starting lineup with Carmelo Anthony going to the backcourt with Steve Nash as starters.
That’s likely what should be done. But George Karl is West coach and he and Cuban had a celebrated feud in last year’s playoff series and it’s hardly beyond Karl to bench the Dallas players. Yes, All-Star controversy.
But even if Rose doesn’t play—and I don’t expect that—Rose is scheduled for a busy weekend. He and Bryant will appear together to present the awards at a video game tournament Saturday afternoon.
Rose’s schedule generally looks about like this with some changes possible for treatment and medical reasons:

Interview session with world wide media: 12:30.
NBA Cares community work: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Youth clinic: 6:00 p.m.
Rookie Challenge to support teammate Taj Gibson: 8:00 p.m.


All-Star practice: 11:00 a.m.
Labor meeting with commissioner and players association: 12:00 p.m.
Adidas appearance: 12:30 p.m.
Game appearance w/Kobe: 2:00 p.m.
Skills challenge (if participating): 6:00 p.m.


Foot Locker appearance: 12:00 p.m.
Depart for All-Star game: 4 p.m.


Return to Chicago for practice.

So it’s a busy and exciting highlight time for Rose.
Before he left, we sat down for a few minutes and I asked him some of the big highlights of his first season and a half in the NBA:
Favorite game:
“Against Phoenix this year (with the monster dunk). It seemed like everything was clicking for me. Didn’t miss many shots. Making the right plays. It seemed like everything was clicking the whole game.”
Even more than the opening playoff win in Boston, I asked?
“Yeah, even more than playoffs in Boston.”
Favorite dunk:
“Against Greg Oden last year.”
That was his two hand flush taking a left wing pass and dunking over the seven footer in that early season loss.
Toughest opponent:
“Steve Nash. He’s really shifty and takes angles away from you when you are trying to stick him.”
Toughest team:
“The Lakers.”
Did you ever fantasize even about playing for the Bulls when you were at Memphis?
“Never. I never thought I’d be playing for the Bulls. When I first went to Memphis things were so hard at first I didn’t even know if I’d be able to leave after the first year until I got comfortable and things got easier for me. It was tough as a basketball player. I wasn’t thinking where I’d be. The day before the draft I thought I was going to Miami.”
Toughest thing:
“It’s got to be the injury (in preseason). Getting treatment and recovering from it. It’s tough because it’s frustrating, especially if it’s an injury that messes up your strength in basketball. Mine is running and being explosive and when you mess with that it messed with my whole game.”
Biggest thing he learned:
“Games are never over in the NBA. No matter how many points you are down you can always come back. Or get caught.”
“Last year against the Clippers was my first game we came back. We were down 20 and that’s when BG hit that that three to take us to overtime.”
“Watching other people’s expressions on the court when something happens. I laugh at Joakim on the court. He’s the funniest because he’s always yelling crazy stuff out.”
Off court the funniest:
“The bus rides. Everytime we go on the bus someone’s cracking jokes or laughing or telling a story. Every one of our bus rides are fun.”
“The game is much quicker than any game you ever played. I thought I’d seen it at Memphis, but up here the game is so much faster and you have to know so much.”
“Taking it to Game 7; playing in that game was fun. The crowd was going crazy. They hated us. I like being the underdog. Right there was the prime example with them with home court advantage.”
Personal thrill:
“Winning games on the road, seeing the team get confidence, believing in each other and letting them believe in me and I believe in them. It seems I’m way more comfortable, smarter mentally, making the right plays. What the game is all about mentally.”
Best time of life:
“Probably the team in college and high school. We were around each other a little bit more. Here there are businesses guys have to attend and families, too much going on.”
Most proud:
“Playing back in Chicago. I’m blessed. Ain’t too many people out there have the opportunity to do that. For me to be playing here and my mom can see me and she don’t have to travel anywhere to see me and my family can see me anytime they want. Friends can come over my house. It’s fun. I wouldn’t take it back for anything in the world.”

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):

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 shake 35-point doldrums but lose to Knicks

The Bulls lost still another, this time Tuesday in New York, 88-81 to the Knicks, in a game in which the Bulls had the ball and a chance for a three to tie with 30 seconds left.
So they recovered, at least somewhat, from the shock of Monday’s staggering 35-point lost lead against the Sacramento Kings which left the Bulls in perhaps their worst shape in a disappointing season, as a national joke and object of ridicule.
There’s nowhere worse to be, and with a desolate, dispirited first half in which the Bulls trailed 54-31, coach Vinny Del Negro seemingly declared his independence from it all.
Conservative and cautious, always seemingly fearful of upsetting the veterans, Del Negro, instead, began the second half by benching both John Salmons and Brad Miller to go with a faster, more energetic team.
The result was an awakening that carried the Bulls back into the game behind Derrick Rose’s 16 third quarter points and the Bulls within 80-79 with 1:41 remaining.
It’s as close as they would come.
Chris Duhon then came out of a timeout and beat Rose, but shot too hard. the ball was rebounded by David Lee, who had 18 points and 21 rebounds. He was fouled and made both free throws.
Rose then short armed a jumper at the free throw line. Al Harrington, who led the Knicks with 20 points off the bench, missed a three. Rose penetrated and kicked back to Luol Deng, who missed a long two. Jared Jeffries was fouled, but missed both to give the Bulls a chance trailing 82-79 with 33.2 seconds left.
Del Negro said they were supposed to go on top for an isolation with Rose and back pick from Noah, who finished with 10 points and also 21 rebounds. But Kirk Hinrich lobbed, instead, at the rim, and the ball was deflected out of bounds. Taj Gibson snuck inside on the inbounds, but missed the pass in from Rose as he took a bad angle and the ball went out of bounds.
The Bulls elected not to foul with 28.3 seconds left. But Duhon found Lee open on a pick and pop and Lee made the deciding shot and the game ended in a welter of unnecessary free throws that artificially enlarged the final margin.
“It’s tough when you lose, especially the way we did last night,” said Del Negro. “I thought our energy in the second half was much better. When you make baskets and get after it defensively and guys are feeding off it, that’s a good sign.”
The sign I took out of the game, otherwise, is Del Negro, though not betraying a hint of anxiety, signed his personal declaration of independence.
And perhaps, finally, it’s what he needs to do to get this Bulls team on track.
Hold players accountable.
Play badly and you sit. Don’t defend and you sit. Take those crappy, quick jumpers and you sit. Who cares if you are a veteran or if you are playing for a new contract or what you did before.
“I thought Taj came with good energy, Kirk played with thrust,” said Del Negro explaining his decision to open the second half with Hinrich and Gibson. “I felt we needed a jump start. I liked the way we started the third quarter.”
Salmons said afterward he was surprised by the move, though perhaps that reflects more on Del Negro’s handling of the team thus far given Salmons is shooting 38 percent and 31 percent on threes. Salmons also committed a crucial turnover on a lazy pass with 3:16 left and the Bulls down seven and fighting to get back in and didn’t chase down court. Instead, Rose took off immediately and forced the breaking Wilson Chandler to lose the ball.
“John’s got to play through it, play with confidence and aggressiveness and make plays, not always settle for jump shots,” said Del Negro. “Not always try to score but make plays for teammates. He’s got to get back on track.”
Del Negro to start the second half also sat Miller, who put up another 0-fer Tuesday, though in just 13 minutes with three shots. Miller now has made just one shot in the last four games and is one for 15 in that stretch in 79 minutes played.
Which makes you wonder if the Bulls want to make a move with Miller. That’s because the hard luck Trailblazers, the Frailblazers as Mike from Queens suggested to me, lost center Joel Przybilla for the season Tuesday with Greg Oden already out. They have to have a big guy now. Would Portland go for a package around Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw, both free agents? You assume Philadelphia would be in there right away offering Samuel Dalembert. Something to watch.
“Instead of being passive we were attacking the basket and putting pressure on them,” said Del Negro. “Derrick was attacking, Lu was attacking. We got a few easy baskets, which got us back in. We had good shots. We did not get down. Our energy did pick up in the second half, especially defensively and we started making more shots. We got some easy shots instead of settling for jump shots.”
Now, no one is saying this season has been Salmons’ fault or Miller’s fault or any player in particular. That’s something to be shared.
As Noah said afterward, “We definitely have a lot of soul searching to do.”
If someone has to answer for it in the short term, though, it seemingly would be Del Negro. And he knows about that even if he doesn’t follow the standings or read about it. He’s asked about it now routinely and always said it’s out of his control.
Which for the most part it is.
Del Negro, though I’ve never fully discussed this with him, has coached like he’s a former player who always said if he ever got to be a coach he’d handle players the way he wanted to be treated: Give him his minutes and don’t change things around all the time. It doesn’t work. You’re brought in to coach them, not appease them. Hold them accountable and demand the best they have.
And so that appears to be what Vinny finally decided Tuesday. Enough of this standing around and shooting long jumpers when the urge hits you, not concentrating on either end.
Del Negro did address some of the meltdown from Monday’s Kings loss by playing both James Johnson and Jannero Pargo in the first quarter Tuesday, going nine deep after playing just seven Monday and seeing the shots come up short at the end Monday, a sign of tired legs.
After Monday’s game, Del Negro denied fatigue was a factor, but reconsidered and said before Tuesday’s game he could have done a better job getting other players in sooner with a big lead. Though Del Negro also said the team has had a tendency to blow leads, so he wanted to have his better players in.
It’s not uncommon with inexperienced coaches. They tend not to trust the lesser talents and while you’ll see someone like Phil Jackson sit even Michael Jordan and now Kobe Bryant when it his time to open the fourth quarter even if the team is losing, less confident and inexperienced coaches tend to ride their best players as a security blanket. It can backfire, and apparently did against the Kings.
But it was a brutal first quarter Tuesday, though Johnson had a poster slam late in the quarter. Yes, he can be spectacular, but his defense is poor and the Knicks led 22-12 after one and steadily extended the lead to 36-19 with Johnson and Pargo in. Johnson did get another stretch after halftime, but Pargo did not.
It looked over as the Knicks closed the first half to lead 53-31 on a Duhon back door layup, a driving layup and dunk from Wilson Chandler and then Lee rebounding a Chandler miss and finding Harrington for a closing 22 footer. Meanwhile, Deng and Salmons were firing wildly on long threes.
The Bulls were a different team to open the second half. They started off slowly, but their defense was more active as the Knicks missed five of their first six shots. Then Rose took over, pushing the ball for layups and fouls, and throwing in that Olajuwon-like dream shake move he’s picked up when he goes into the lane, though it was the one he came up short on with that last shot against the Kings Monday.
“I had to give it my all,” said Rose. “There’s really is no point in playing the game if you’re not going to go out there and give it your all. In the first half, we were tired from last night. But there are no excuses in the N.B.A.. You still have to go out there and ball. That’s what I tried to do in the second half but we didn’t get the victory.”
Rose would finish with 26 points and he seemed to rouse Deng, who ended with 23 and began again to collect loose balls around the basket for scores. Rose tossed in a fancy drive and Savard spin-o-rama and then ended the third with a full court burst against the clock for a pullup three, just his second three of the season.
The Bulls were within 68-56. And then after the Knicks seemed to regain control to open the fourth even without Nate Robinson (the Knicks are now 6-3 since they stopped playing him and 11-17 to 10-17 for the Bulls), the Bulls defense tightened again with Salmons back in and hitting a big three.
Noah’s half hook following a Rose set up after a Rose hanging drive for a score and another driving layup brought the Bulls within one with under two minutes left. They couldn’t finish, but perhaps it’s a start with Tyrus Thomas’ return from injury expected in the next game Saturday.
“We’re definitely capable of winning and I think that we’re just going through a tough stretch right now,” said Noah. “We’re not playing our best basketball mentally. As a team we’re not very good. So I’m hoping that we can get better and hopefully just find a way to play with high energy for a whole game, not just periods.”

Bulls feel better about this loss to Lakers

You have to hope what happened Tuesday in a hustling, determined Bulls effort, in the end a 96-87 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant’s 42 points, doesn’t become a habit.
Not the playing hard and competing, finally.
The being satisfied with it.
“We’ve just got to learn from this one and get better, improve,” said Joakim Noah, who was a hustling force with 11 points and 20 rebounds, 14 on the offensive boards, the most for a Bulls player in 12 years. “You’re getting blown out by 30 points how can you say we’re improving? Tonight we can look at ourselves and say we gave everything we had (and) put ourselves in position where we had a chance. We can’t get down just missing open shots and some layups. If we bring that energy we should be happy with ourselves.”
Not too happy as it was another loss, the 11th in 13 games to fall to 8-15, three games poorer than last season this time when the Bulls were playing Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes.
It was a lost opportunity, in some sense, as the Bulls got 96 shots to 79 for the Lakers, outrebounded them 51-37, had 14 blocks to five for the Lakers and had more points in the paint, fast break points and second chance points.
The biggest statistic is they scored more than us,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro.
Noah was terrific. Derrick Rose, who suffered a strained rib and left the game for a time, and Luol Deng each had 21 points in a promising sign the way the team in the first three quarters opened the floor more for Rose and speeded up the game with fast breaks.
It helped that Bryant, who scored 20 points in the first quarter playing with a splint on his right broken index finger to show he could, also made eight turnovers and effectively took the Lakers out of their dominant offense by shooting so much.
The Lakers crushed the Bulls in Los Angeles last month going inside repeatedly to their big guys, seven footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, who combined for just 18 shots to 26 for Kobe and 20 threes for the Lakers, 18 through the first three quarters which ended with the Bulls ahead 73-72.
I asked Noah about the difference Tuesday, and he looked up like I’d just landed from France with the Coneheads.
“I think Kobe Bryant taking 30 shots, that makes a difference,” Noah said. “They (big guys) didn’t get the ball maybe as much as they wanted to.”
Then realizing you don’t spit into the wind or question Bad Bad Kobe, Noah added: “When Kobe is hot like that you cannot really be upset.”
Kobe was hot, oooh and aaah hot as he blitzed John Salmons and Kirk Hinrich with jumper after jumper in the first quarter, eight straight in one stretch. Though at the end of the quarter, it was 31-31 in one of the Bulls best quarters of the season.
Actually, I thought the Bulls strategy of not double teaming Bryant was sound. First of all, the Bulls are not a great team at doubling and recovering. They bring the double along the baseline a lot, and then opponents have learned to turn middle on it for an easier shot. Plus, the more Bryant looks to shoot, the more it levels the field with the huge advantage the Lakers have inside.
“They’re a load,” agreed Brad Miller, who seems finally to be coming on as he started to match the big guys and had 15 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
I can hear Bill Walton demanding: Throw it down! Big guy.
“Aaron Gray made a comment one time that Bynum with one of his flatfooted shots was still six inches above me,” said Miller. “They’re long and they’re big, but Jo and Taj (Gibson, who added three offensive rebounds) really played hard.”
It came down to the end, as it often has this season for the Bulls, and there was no one there again, the Bulls outscored in the fourth quarter 24-14 (seven from briefly-a-Bull Shannon Brown) as the Lakers pulled away.
“There isn’t the outside threat (Ben) Gordon presents or the streak scorer that he was,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson earlier had offered in assessing his onetime franchise.
But it’s more than that as the Bulls still can’t seem to find someone to rely on consistently down the stretch in games. It got complicated, I thought, Tuesday when after opening the floor more with isolations, fast breaks and some dribble weave actions, the Bulls reverted to that side to side high pick and roll which gets Salmons standing around in one corner and Deng in another as the defense forms a wall against Rose and the Bulls stop moving.
“You want to get into that role (of closer),” said Deng. “Every competitor in the league wants to be in that role for his team. We’ve got to commit to that guy whoever that guy is.”
But the Bulls don’t seem close to figuring that out.
Deng and Rose divided 13 fourth quarter shots Tuesday, but were a combined four for 13. Noah even took five and was scoreless, though all tips and layup attempts. The Bulls were six of 27 in the fourth quarter while the Lakers were 10 of 18 to take the game. Brown, the Proviso East product, was terrific to open the quarter with a three and one of his highlight dunks. And then Bynum got deep for a three-point play and Bryant added a jumper to put the Lakers ahead 86-77 with 6:53 left. This Bulls team doesn’t make up nine-point deficits in six minutes.
“We kind of addressed it after the game,” said Hinrich, rounding back into shape with 11 points and three blocks.  “If we give this kind of effort night in and night out, good things are going to happen for us. On offense as a team. I thought we got off to a good start.  Then we started missing some shots in the fourth.  We probably got some good looks, but we just couldn’t knock them down.  They might have worn us down a bit. Tonight everyone played hard.  There was some urgency there.  Now we’ve got to build on it.  Even a loss, we’ve got to build on how we competed.”
The Bulls got off to a good start, and Hinrich replaced Salmons five minutes into the game as Salmons kept biting for Bryant pump fakes and fouling. Hinrich ended up playing 31 minutes to 29 for Salmons.
Del Negro probably has a decision to make before long.
This Bulls team with its lack of scoring can’t afford to ease into games, as it often does. It didn’t Tuesday, and the effort was contagious until they wore down or slowed down at the end. But they were scoring, moving the ball, making steals and disrupting the Lakers and even got eight fast break points in the first quarter.
“It was really fortunate for us that (Bryant) was shooting so well,” said Jackson.  “We won’t win many games playing like we did tonight.  We gave up about a gazillion offensive rebounds.  Noah just did a great job tonight.  He’s one of the most talented rebounders in the league.”
Noah even had four of his six blocks in the first quarter. Bryant was on the way to 80 points, but the Bulls were there and looking good.
While Salmons has continued to founder, shooting one of five for two points and zero for three on threes. He cannot seem to find a spot in the offense, and now seems to have settled on hoisting up jumpers after he hasn’t shot for awhile.
The Bulls seemed to operate better pairing Hinrich with Rose. Though a smaller backcourt, Hinrich came out shooting aggressively, making five of 11, competed energetically on Bryant, though without great success, and could take pressure off Rose as an additional ballhandler. It allowed Rose at times to attack from the wing after getting the ball back running through the offense instead of having the defense line him up.
In the perimeter game the NBA has become, you see more teams using two point guards in the backcourt, and it’s been successful for teams like Milwaukee, Houston and Sacramento to help open the court. Del Negro probably is going to have to face at some point soon benching the slumping Salmons and giving him a chance to find his shot against the opponents’ reserves. Del Negro has been resistant to such moves for the way a player might react, though this Bulls team doesn’t have much more time to straighten out this season.
The first quarter was a joy with Bryant going off like that and the Bulls coming out blazing fast with even Miller blowing by Bynum on a drive. The Bulls led 18-9 after Hinrich stripped Bynum and passed ahead to a streaking Rose. The Bulls got a scare then as Rose grabbed his side and left the game with a note from the team saying he wouldn’t return with a rib injury.
“He hurt his rib last week,” Del Negro revealed. “He went for a layin and turned the wrong way and stretched it out again. He kind of aggravated a muscle in the sib cage. He went back in and it felt better when it got loose. We’ll see what the doctor says.”
It was the Bryant Show then, offset by Hinrich shooting and Noah beating the Lakers to the boards.
“He was just making shots,” said Hinrich. There weren’t many times I thought I could’ve done something different. There was handful of times I felt like ‘I should have done this or that,’ but for the most part he made shots.”
“I just wanted to get a rhythm going,” said Bryant, who termed the broken finger the most troublesome injury of his career.  “I got here early and got some shots up.  I felt pretty good.  This is the most challenging one.  I’ve played with sore ankles, broken knuckles and things like that. It’s tough. It affects my follow through.  I’m still having a little trouble handling the basketball.  I have trouble dribbling through traps, but close to the basket I was pretty effective.”
That was at the left elbow, where Bryant went for quick postups and fadeaways, but he wasn’t beating the Bulls.
Rose returned midway through the second quarter with the Bulls down five as Jannaro Pargo and James Johnson were off again, missing all six attempts combined. It may be the chicken-and-egg thing for Johnson, who hasn’t played much. But he hasn’t played well when he has been in, generally making one nice play and then following that with several mistakes and misses.
The Lakers moved ahead 54-48 at halftime, but the Bulls put in a strong third with Deng willing himself to the basket and Rose providing the highlight by splitting a double on top and flashing to the basket for a layup past Pau Gasol, who had 10 points while Bynum had 11, the only other Lakers in double figures.
The Bulls bogged down again to open the fourth and couldn’t recover as no one could get much going. With Bryant sitting the first five minutes when the Lakers went from trailing by one to leading by seven, would it have made a difference to start Rose and Noah in the fourth quarter? Rose did come in with three minutes gone and the Bulls trailing by four, but you have to rest sometime and the Bulls seem fixed on a seven-player rotation until Tyrus Thomas returns, perhaps early next week. But nobody really was effective.
“We’ve got to take a positive out of this one,” said Deng. I’ve thought the last three games, even the Celtics game where we lost by a lot–maybe fatigue set in–we’ve played harder. If we play this way every time, I think we’ll definitely turn this around.”
Follow me on Twitter at @samsmithhoops

Phil Jackson meets the media in his return to Chicago

By Adam Fluck
With the Los Angeles Lakers in town to face the Bulls, Head Coach Phil Jackson returned to the arena where he helped lead Chicago to its last NBA championship. Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Hall of Fame Head Coach spoke on several topics, including coming back to the Windy City, Bulls guard Derrick Rose, the addition of Ron Artest, and his thoughts on this year’s Lakers team. Below are excerpts from his comments, along with the full audio.
On whether he thinks more about the Bulls’ successes during his time in Chicago or the way it ended:“I never think about the way it ended. It ended when it was supposed to end, I guess. That’s all you can say. The fun we had as a group was terrific.”
On his advice for Derrick Rose:“He just has to bide his time as a player and feel out what’s going on. You really know the temperament of your team if you’re a teammate—what’s permissible, what’s not, how to fit in. The role they are trying to put on him, he’s got to grow into that role. It can’t be forced on him overnight.”
On John Paxson in his role as an executive for the Bulls:“I had him as an assistant coach for a year. I really wanted him to get into coaching. I thought he had a great mind for the game. He thought he was too combative for it.”
On similarities between Kobe Bryant’s past situation and Tiger Woods’ current situation (Jackson declined to comment on the specific parties but said the following):“In our society, it’s been true that we build up icons and then tear them down. As much as they’ve been built up, they’ve been torn down. With Michael and his retirement here, there was a scandal about his gambling. Those things are all redeemable if you come back and show your character, and that character is about winning and doing the job right.”
On if there is a comparison between Ron Artest and Dennis Rodman:“There really isn’t. Ron is not the most quiet person and talks a lot. Dennis was very reluctant to speak. He could go through a week of practices and never speak once. But at night after the game was over, sometimes he’d open up and be very funny. The more he got out and partied, the happier he got. The key with Dennis was that he got involved… he did a lot of things to draw attention to himself, but Ron’s not like that.”
On this year’s team with the addition of Artest:“It’s taken on a quiet kind of demeanor. We’re here, this is where the buck stops, so to speak, and he gives us that security that there is a guy out there who is going to drop the weight on somebody if they come in the paint. He’ll stand up and be accounted for when defensively we’ve got to do the job and that’s given us some security.”
Audio—Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro on the team’s strategy against the Lakers, Kobe Bryant and his work ethic, and the coaching job Phil Jackson has done (12.15.09):

Audio—Jackson meets the media prior to his team’s game against the Bulls (12.15.09):