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Forman and Del Negro optimistic about season

LAS VEGAS—Introducing your Chicago Bulls, 2009-10.

G: Derrick Rose
G: John Salmons
G: Kirk Hinrich
G: Jannero Pargo
G: Lindsey Hunter

F: Luol Deng
F: Tyrus Thomas
F: James Johnson
F: Taj Gibson

C: Joakim Noah
C: Brad Miller
C: Jerome James
C: Aaron Gray

With USA Basketball wrapping up its tryout camp here with a public
scrimmage game Saturday, summer leagues completed and just about all
the free agency musical chairs filled with only David Lee with nowhere
to land and Carlos Boozer seemingly in Utah for at least awhile, the
Bulls roster seems complete for at least the opening of the season.

“The roster (is set) as of now,” said Bulls general manager Gar Forman,
who is here with coach Vinny Del Negro to watch Rose’s play in the USA
Basketball mini-camp. “We talk to a lot of teams to see if we can make
ourselves better. Outside of a major type trade, I really don’t see us
doing anything. We would anticipate we will carry 13 players.??We have
a qualifying offer out to Aaron Gray and all indications are that he
will sign it and return.? I like our roster. We like our young core and
where we’re at. We feel pretty good going into the season.”

The Bulls, according to sources, have engaged in preliminary
discussions about numerous players, including Boozer and Lee. As a
restricted free agent, the Knicks are said to be prepared to match any
offer around the $8 million range for Lee. Lee is seeking a contract
worth as much as $12 million a season. No team can or is willing to pay
anywhere near that, sources indicate. And the Knicks have pretty much
said no to all sign and trade possibilities. Lee probably will return
to the Knicks with a qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free
agent after next season, when the Knicks say they would have the money
to sign him. As for the Jazz, they apparently are holding out for a top
starting player and substantial cost savings, which they have been
unable to get for Boozer. They are saying they’ll be patient and could
now wait until well into the season to make a deal. Or just allow
Boozer to play out the season and become a free agent and save his
$12.7 million salary then.

Both Forman and Del Negro sat for interviews Friday after watching Rose
help lead his scrimmage team to a narrow victory in a highly
entertaining game involving some terrific young talent.

You could make a heck of a team of the players here hoping to gain one
of the three or four spots likely to open for the 2010 USA Basketball
team in the World Championships.

Among the most impressive have been Rose, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Kevin
Love, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Devin Harris and Andre Iguodala.

Rose is definitely in contention for a spot as the team is looking for
a point guard, presumably to replace Jason Kidd. It seemed clear
watching Rose for the first time since the playoffs he’s been working
hard on his shot and his body, looking thicker but without losing any
of his quickness.

“It looks like Derrick has taken another step with his maturity,” said
Forman. “It looks like he believes he belongs and he does. He’s been
more vocal. He’s been extremely unselfish, which is unusual in this
setting, which I think is a real positive. You can tell he’s spent a
lot of time working on his shot. It seems like he’s got kind of a
swagger to his game.

“It’s part of his growth,” said Forman. “He knows this. He’s got to
become more of a leader, more vocal. A lot of people have commented in
losing Ben (Gordon) that Ben was a guy who can go make plays at the end
of a game. For Derrick to continue to develop and his game to grow he’s
got to take on more responsibility in that area.”

“Derrick looks like he’s been lifting (weights), which we talked
about,” added Del Negro. “He looks stronger. He’s such an excellent
athlete. He’s working on his shot a lot. His progression will continue
to go north.”

Which is what the Bulls are hoping can lead them into contention at
least in the middle of the playoff pack in the Eastern Conference
despite losing Gordon to the Detroit Pistons in free agency.

“There’s no question we’ll miss some of the things Ben gave us, the
ability to have big scoring quarters, his ability to make shots,
especially at the end of games,” said Del Negro. “Other guys have to
step up. It’s a big year for Joakim and Tyrus, for Derrick’s growth.
John Salmons and Brad Miller will be with us from Day 1. Get Luol Deng
to the level we need him. We’re going to miss Ben in certain
situations, but I feel the rest of the guys can pick up and hopefully
we can be better defensively and rebounding.”

Del Negro insisted the starting lineup isn’t final, though it seems it
will be Rose and Salmons in the backcourt with Deng and Thomas at
forward and Noah at center.

“I don’t know if the starting lineup is set,” Del Negro insisted.
“There are things we’ll do a little differently. We should have a good
rotation, deeper. I thought our rotations at times got a little short
at the end of the season. So hopefully I can get a comfort factor with
the young guys and guys we added to have a deeper rotation. Jannero can
score. Kirk will push Derrick. John and Luol at three. Luol can play
four. James Johnson can play three and four. Without having our leading
scorer, we’re going to have to have other guys producing those points
and also making plays down the stretch for us. We expect a lot for

The general consensus has been the Bulls may have taken a step back
with the loss of Gordon. But Rose was very impressive here and could
take a big step forward. Salmons gives the Bulls that bigger shooting
guard, though some feel he’s better suited at small forward. Del Negro
says he’ll expand the rotation and mix and match more with Salmons and
Deng up front at times and Rose playing with Hinrich or Pargo.

The deadline passed Thursday for the Bulls to lift their qualifying
offer to Gray. So it seems they are intent on bringing him back and it
isn’t likely he gets a bigger offer with few teams going beyond
13-player rosters or spending more free agent dollars.

The Bulls believe having Salmons and Miller all season instead of the
drama with Larry Hughes last season will help. They note Hinrich missed
most of the first half with a thumb injury and Noah was out of shape
and ineffective due to summer and camp injuries. And Thomas is playing
for a new contract and working hard this summer, the Bulls say. Of
course, much depends on Deng’s return to good health and a prior level
of play. But summer is still the time to feel good.

“There’s more continuity having Brad and John going through camp,” said
Forman. “Also with the coaching staff. The players were new to the
staff, the staff to the players. The staff was still trying to figure
out some of their roles. I think they’ll be more comfortable. We
basically have the core of the team that finished last year with some
pretty good depth and feel the two rookies can help us.

“James showed in summer league he is a talented kid,” said Forman. “He
still has a lot to learn and has to get in better shape. But he showed
the versatility he had in college. And Taj. He’s steady and it’s
realistic he can (also) have a role. It depends on how deep Vinny is
going to go with the bench, but there a chance both can get consistent

“Lu is healthy,” said Forman.

The last CAT scan there was no sign of the stress fracture. He’s put on
10-12 pounds of good weight, muscle. He’s been doing a lot of drill
work and he’s stepping up to where now they cleared him to start
running and playing some. We’ve been real cautious but he seems like
he’s fine. Tyrus has had a good summer. He’s been in the gym twice a
day, once in the weight room and once on the floor. He’s really
committed himself to that. Tyrus is trending up. I thought he had a
better year last year. He knows he has to get stronger, continue to
work on his shot. And we’re going to need him to step up and have a big
year for us.

“Joakim, he’s coming back this week (from France),” said Forman. “He
was going to play, I think, in a couple of exhibition games. But the
plan was for him to go over for two weeks and kind of get acclimated to
their system with an eye to the Olympics down the road. But he knows,
like Tyrus, he needs to be in the weight room and get stronger. It’s a
big developmental summer for him. So he’ll be back to work on his
strength and conditioning and skill work. He’s getting bigger. I think
he will be more confident the way he finished the year and the great
summer he’s having. With his game he’s got to be in top condition
because he’s an energy type player. We’re expecting him to progress and
have a good year.

“We’ve had a lot of talks with a lot of teams,” said Forman. “We have
players teams have shown interest in. But most of the stuff out there
has been pure rumor and I don’t know where it’s come from. You can’t
control rumors. You read them but you don’t want to respond to every
one because there are so many. Then what if you don’t respond, do
people think it’s true?

“It’s an important year for us because we want to grow,” said Forman.
“We think we’ve got a team that will compete. We don’t want to solely
look at 2010. We feel we have a chance to have a good team on the floor
this season, but we also feel we will have flexibility moving forward.
You’re seeing a lot of teams making deals for financial reasons and we
are sitting on 20 some million (dollars) of expiring contracts. So
that’s an avenue we can explore. We will be active exploring those into
February and carrying over into the summer depending on how that goes.

“Chicago (is) a great city. We’ve got a great fan base. We’ve got, I
think, some nice young pieces,” said Forman, “that will be attractive
to players (who are free agents) and Derrick Rose is a player, I think,
guys want to play with because he’s so talented yet unselfish and a

Vegas odds generally have the Bulls around 50-1 to win the NBA title
and behind Boston, Cleveland, Orlando and Miami in the East, meaning
most believe the Bulls are a playoff team with similar odds to the
Bulls for the Pistons, 76ers and Hawks. The Raptors and Wizards believe
they’ll have something to say about that. Only about three months to
go. We can hardly wait.

Derrick Rose Playing USA Basketball Roulette

LAS VEGAS—The NBA can take the kid out of you pretty fast.
Derrick Rose is learning that. Rose, effectively, began his second year of NBA life here Thursday trying out for a spot on the USA Basketball team that will play in the World Championships in Turkey in 2010 and the 2012 Olympics in London.
“I wanted to be there (last year when the U.S. team won the 2008 gold medal), on that podium,” said Rose, who said he stayed up with his mom into the early morning hours watching the Olympics. “It makes you want to come out here and be a part of this. You are competing against the world. I wouldn’t care if I started or not. Just to be out here competing with these guys, hopefully I’ll do good and be selected. I’ll do anything they want me to do, sacrifice scoring whatever. I just want to be on the team.”
Rose had a good first day, his shot looking better after what he said were all day shooting sessions since the playoffs and running the break nicely in drills with buddy Kevin Durant, who stood out and seems a lock to be added to the team.
For Rose, it’s all about looking forward after a brilliant rookie season when he was named Rookie of the Year and an eye opening offseason when he apparently became part of an NCAA investigation of the University of Memphis, issued an apology for being seen making a gang sign, lost backcourt running mate Ben Gordon to free agency and the rival Detroit Pistons, and has had his Bulls mentioned in trade talk for Carlos Boozer and perhaps next summer free agency regarding fellow Chicagoan Dwyane Wade.
Rose said he’s spent much of the summer doing promotional work for Adidas and will go to China for a week in August for the shoe company. Rose was at the ESPY awards, where he lost out to Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan for Best Newcomer and has spent considerable time working out and practicing in Los Angeles.
Rose addressed the summer issues for the first time before the first mini-camp tryouts Thursday at Valley High School.
— On Ben Gordon: “I haven’t had a chance to talk to Ben. It hurt a little bit. In high school and college you were used to playing with someone for a couple of years. In the NBA, things change. You’re not going to play with the same people every year. I guess it’s just something I’m going to have to get used to.
“We’ll miss a player like Ben,” said Rose. “He’s a great player who likes to win. But we’ve just got to keep it moving. We’ve still got Kirk Hinrich, John Salmons, Lu (Deng). We just have to play harder next year. I was kind of surprised (when Ben signed with Detroit). It’s going to be kind of hard not having him there. But I just have to fight through it and try to get focused for the season.
“It’s going to be a tough season. Teams got better,” said Rose. “You can’t cry about it. You’ve got to go out there and play with what we have. I (still) feel the season is looking good. I think we should start off good. We still have a lot of experience and that should help us for next season.”
— On the Memphis investigation and gang signs episode: “It’s been (a tough summer). It hurt a little. It was the past. I didn’t do anything wrong in Memphis. With the gang sign, I was just joking around with my friends. Of course, you will be mad (the way the innocent gang sign thing was presented). But it’s the media. You’ve just got to learn from it and go forward. I’m just going to focus on next year and my workouts in L.A. I took the (SAT) test. That’s something you’ll have to ask Memphis (the university said it found no wrongdoing in its investigation). They’re going through it. It’s been hurtful. (I learned) the media is going to do whatever. This whole off season I really was most worried about getting my jump shot better. I can’t (worry about) what they are saying. I’ve been shooting every day. Just trying to get better so I can have a consistent jump shot. I’m staying in the gym for like 700, 800 shots. In Chicago and L.A. Just (working on) coming down shooting like Chauncey Billups to put pressure on the defense so hopefully I’ll be in his shoes some day shooting the shot.”
— On possible additions to the team in the next year: “It would be great (to have Dwyane Wade). He’s a great player, a great leader for his team. I know if he comes to the Bulls we’ll be even better. I’d love to play with him….(Carlos) Boozer is a great guy. Great post player, pick and roll player, pick and pop. For him to come I’d love it. I haven’t talked (to Boozer) or anyone about it.”
— On the No. 1 draft picks: “I saw (the rookies at Summer League on NBA-TV). I was working out with James (Johnson) a little bit in Chicago. My best friend and him were at Wyoming together, so I think I’ll be hanging with him a lot. He likes to dribble. That’s something we need on the team, someone else to drive the ball. He definitely can do that. He’s a threat when he’s on the court and I think he’ll be good for the team.”
Rose said in addition to the jump shots, he’s been working hard this summer on how to get those foul calls.
“I’m working on going to the hole, trying to get fouled more, going into people’s bodies, working on that type stuff,” he said.
Despite it’s reputation, this isn’t that exciting a place to be for kids, which Rose is here since he is 20 and no one under 21 can gamble.
“I’m too young to do anything here in Vegas,” Rose said. “If I’m standing by any (gambling) tables they kick me out. I did that (tried to play a slot machine) in high school when we were out here playing AAU and they almost kicked us out of the hotel. You just come out here to play against the great players. I watch movies. That’s the only thing you can do out here. It costs like $14.99 (at the luxury team hotel). It’s a lot, but it’s worth it.”
And, as Rose says, it’s all about the work and a burning desire to make the team. It’s clear from all he says and after playing against the Olympians last year, Rose is willing to make any sacrifice for the team.
There are expected to be three to four spots open from the 2008 team, most likely Jason Kidd, Carlos Boozer, Michael Redd and Tayshaun Prince moving on. None have backed out yet, but managing director Jerry Colangelo and returning coach Mike Krzyzewski are looking for some young talent to develop continuity for the program.
There were 23 players invited for the tryouts. My guess is Durant is for sure, especially since Krzyzewski said in playing international teams versatility at forward was important because so many power forwards play outside. The team should add a point guard, which I’d say for now would be between Rose and Devin Harris. Harris could have a slight edge now for his defense. They’ll likely add a big man between Greg Oden and Brook Lopez. Oden remains the question mark as he still plays somewhat stiffly and this season will go a long way toward showing whether he also has the toughness. I can see Danny Granger, who wasn’t here Thursday with an injury, given his versatility and shooting long distance ability. Perhaps Rudy Gay, who is a versatile talent you don’t see enough playing in Memphis.
“I love Derrick Rose,” said Colangelo. “I loved him last year coming out of college. He didn’t let anyone down as a rookie. He had a terrific year. If you are looking at our roster and are saying maybe there’s a spot open at that position, he’s got to be right there in any discussion.
“This is a great opportunity in this camp and next season to maybe separate himself from the pack in terms of competition,” said Colangelo. “If you’re looking at the point guard position, what do you have coming back? What kind of point guard are they? What kind of experience do they bring? In his case he has size and strength. He can finish. He’s getting better and better at shooting the ball. What I’m looking for in him, it’s more about body language, composure, relations on the court. It’s all about maturity, growing as a person and player. Without question he’ll be one of our top candidates.”

Small doesn’t come up big for Bulls this time

You figured this "small ball" thing had to catch up to the Bulls at times, and it will continue to do so as it did here Friday with the Memphis Grizzlies jumping all over the Bulls, figuratively and literally, in a 103-96 victory.The loss dropped the Bulls to 10-12 with a wakeup call to play the New Jersey Nets at home Saturday. While Friday was billed as a matchup of the two likely candidates for rookie of the year in the Bulls Derrick Rose (12 points and 11 assists) and the Grizzlies O.J. Mayo (14 points), Saturday's game features Rose and Devin Harris, the two point guards perhaps fighting it out for the last spot among the reserves for the Eastern Conference All-Star team.And once again the Bulls will find themselves looking up. Not drastically in the standings to the 11-10 Nets, but to a front line of several seven footers, whom the Bulls have little counter for but to hit those jump shots and run the fast breaks."You cannot go small all the time," acknowledged Larry Hughes, who continued his hot streak shooting with 12 points off the bench and a pair of threes. "You have to have the paint. It's where the game is won, low post scoring and rebounding. When you go small, it's kind of tough to control the paint. You allow teams to get to the free throw line, get second chance points when you have to double a lot of times. It's tough to go completely small."Though Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro doesn't seem to feel he has much choice with his "bigs" of Drew Gooden, Joakim Noah, Aaron Gray and Tyrus Thomas.Gooden did have 10 points and 13 rebounds, his third straight double/double after two poor shooting games. But Gray, Noah and Thomas played bit parts as the Bulls reverted to those three-guard sets with Luol Deng or Andres Nocioni at power forward and Gooden at center down the stretch.Leading early in the game by 14 after a sizzling first quarter shooting exhibition by Ben Gordon of 18 points with five threes, the Bulls pulled within 83-79 with about 10 minutes left on a Nocioni three. But little Mike Conley snuck in for a rebound, one of a career high 10, and Hakim Warrick hit a short bank shot. Nocioni missed and Rudy Gay knocked in an 18 footer, part of his season high 29. Gooden countered with a nice inside cut for a layup, but Darko Milicic—yes, Darko with season highs of 13 points and 11 rebounds—spun inside for a score. After Luol Deng got himself loose for a reverse along the baseline after a miss, Warrick turned into Dominique Wilkins, bouncing around for a layup off his own miss on three consecutive possessions, 12 points in the fourth quarter to help the Grizzlies pull away.In all, the Grizzlies outscored the Bulls by a whopping 52-26 in the paint, and that was with the Grizzlies missing perhaps 10 layups."Give them some credit," said Del Negro. "Warrick hurt us. Gay hurt us. We didn't handle Milicic well in the post. We couldn't get good matchups against their lineups. I don't always prefer to play small. I felt we needed to go small and trick it up, but we couldn't handle their penetration. They were getting in the middle and breaking us down."As we've heard before with this Bulls team: Live by the jump shot; die by the jump shot.How it happened this time on defense with Gay leaping over Bulls like a young Dr. J was the difficulty you get in trying to squeeze through so often with small lineups. That said, I am not opposed to it with this group, though the question always remains if you give regular time to players like Thomas, Noah and Thabo Sefolosha, the latter finally getting six minutes after sitting out the last five games, do you end up with more production? Or do you run into quicker losses because they give you so little and your guards are your best scorers?It looked that way as the Bulls built a 26-12 lead.First Gordon and then Hughes were punishing and embarrassing Mayo, who couldn't stay with either and the Bulls kept picking on him to take that big lead.But after leading 30-22 after one quarter, Gordon drew his third foul 35 seconds into the second quarter and sat down with 18 points."I was locked in and focused," said Gordon, who finished with 26. "After I got in foul trouble, I wasn't a big factor in the game. I kind of let my team down not being out there."And give him this: You pick on his defense or ball handling, but when the guy is hitting his shot, there are few players in the NBA as deadly. You still need to score to win the game, and it would be difficult to see how the Bulls could score enough to win much with this roster and Gordon not playing.I also enjoy Gordon's direct answers.I asked him if he thought of asking Del Negro if he could stay in since he was hot."Yeah, but I knew he'd take me out anyway, so I didn't bring it up," said Gordon with a gentle smirk.Actually, my favorite comic moment of the game was with Gooden checking in. He was standing in front of the scorers' table when one of the scorers said, "Dwight, can you sit down.""You guys keep calling me Dwight," Gooden says. "It never changes."So after the game I was standing with Gooden and asked him what that was about. He was a first round pick of the Grizzlies but traded a few months into his rookie season. He said everyone always got his first name wrong and called him after the infamous baseball pitcher. So as we're standing there, a local radio guy comes up and says, "Uh, Dwight, can I ask you a question.""See, see," Gooden said. "I think it may be southern for Drew."Anyway, the Bulls went south after Gordon went out, though not right away, leading 54-52 at halftime. The Bulls shot 53.8 percent in the first half with eight of their 54 points inside. Gordon, Hughes and Rose scored 48 of the Bulls 54 first half points. You knew that couldn't last.From a tie at 66 with four minutes left in the third, the 8-15 Grizzlies went on a 15-4 run with Milicic and Marc Gasol scoring inside and Mayo and Gay hitting threes, and Warrick finished it off.The Bulls tried playing zone on occasion, but didn't react well enough to contain penetration and were losing position for offensive rebounds. Given Memphis is a young team and young teams often cannot take advantage, the Bulls tried to front the post on Memphis' big guys, which required Gooden to come over and help behind. But too often that left a guard matched against Warrick or Gay and it was no contest as those guys were jumping over, throwing lobs and dunking in spectacular fashion, especially Gay, a stunning athlete.Deng had 19 points and was as active as he could be gathering up loose balls and following misses. But he is in the unenviable position of playing against the most athletic players in the NBA at the small forward position and had huge problems trying to stay with Gay or Warrick."Gay and Warrick are as athletic as you'll find in the league," said Del Negro. "Their length definitely bothered us. We couldn't sustain anything after the first quarter and were playing catchup in the fourth."Otherwise, it was a homecoming for Rose, who attended the University of Memphis and was tremendously popular here.He was introduced as being from the U. of Memphis instead of from Chicago as he is introduced at the United Center and got a standing ovation from the Grizzlies largest crowd of the season."I have great fans," Rose said. "They came out and supported me and I love them for that."Though the Grizzlies, one of the lowest drawing teams in the NBA, were aware as well and there seemed to be a little extra in their step.“We knew what the people were coming for tonight, but we wanted to put a show on for the fans even though its Derrick’s homecoming,
" said Conley. "
I thought we did a great job of not letting that get to us."Rose's Memphis team was off playing at Georgetown, so they weren't in attendance, but Rose has become close with Mayo and the two talked. Rose said they stayed with one another in the summer in Los Angeles and Chicago and Rose said Mayo is his closest friend among the rookies.They were matched up only occasionally, mostly on switches. But neither played a major role in the game, though it's perhaps more vital for Rose with the Bulls, especially when his teammates' shots stop going down. Still, Rose played more than 44 minutes."I didn't want to force up shots," said Rose. "That's not my type of game. I try to pass if guys are open and let someone else create and I can play off them."I felt like I was at home," Rose added of the appreciative crowd. "It felt good. It seemed like it was a Memphis game."In more ways than the Bulls preferred.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors.

It’s No. 1 versus No. 2 Friday when Bulls meet Grizzlies

Forget Oklahoma and Florida.
This is No. 1 vs. No. 2 Friday, and it’s in Memphis and it’s for the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
It’s really not more than a two-player race for anyone who is paying attention.
The Bulls Derrick Rose and the Memphis Grizzlies’ O.J. Mayo are the two top rookies in the Class of 2008, and no one is even close.
And not just because of the numbers of Mayo averaging 20.8 points per game and Rose at 18.3. After them, there’s Miami’s Michael Beasley third at 13.9, but usually not even a starter. Same with D.J. Augustin fourth and Russell Westbrook fifth. Mayo is setting rookie records now by scoring in double figures in every game this season, now 22 straight, while Rose is leading rookies in assists at 6.1 and Rose is fifth overall in the NBA among point guards in shooting, his field goal percentage a remarkable for a rookie guard 49.5 percent.
They are the class of the class. But who is better?
One game Friday won’t matter that much, and I’m biased having seen every one of Rose’s games. He’d have my vote for sure.
So I decided to ask another biased guy, Ron Tillery, the fine Grizzlies beat writer for the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Ron’s a Chicago native who covered basketball here and then in Seattle before moving to Memphis. You see a guy all season, and if it’s close, as it is between Mayo and Rose, then you go with the guy you’ve seen.
So I wasn’t surprised when Ron said he’d vote for Mayo, though one statistic Ron offered bolstered my case a bit.
The Grizzlies are 7-15 compared to the Bulls 10-11, which gives Rose a slight edge among voters given the way these things tend to go. But perhaps more telling is that the Grizzlies haven’t won a game when Mayo was their leading scorer. I’ve watched the Grizzlies often because I wanted to see Mayo.
He is good. He’s got an NBA game, an ability to go to the basket, create his own shot and space to get it off, all rare for a rookie, though Mayo hardly plays like one.
The problem I have with him, and why I think Rose should be way ahead of him in the voting, is Rose plays the tougher position, point guard. Though Mayo does handle the ball an extraordinary amount of the time, to the Grizzlies’ detriment in the games I’ve watched, I believe.
It may have come to a head Wednesday night when the Grizzlies made a huge comeback to beat Oklahoma City (it is an advantage to play in the West these days with so many bad teams there compared with the East). In watching the Grizzlies, I’ve sensed a tension between Mayo and Rudy Gay for the ball and shots. And there was a bit of a blowup in the first half against the Thunder Wednesday when Gay had the ball on a three-on-one break and ran in and got fouled while not passing to Mayo. Mayo had some words with Gay, and in the fourth quarter when the Grizzlies made a comeback and took the game, Mayo didn’t play at all while forgotten point guard Mike Conley scored 14 points.
Though there always are mitigating circumstances, like trying to come from behind when you are the team’s scorer. This season, Mayo has averaged 16.7 points in wins and 22.7 in losses while Rose averages 19.2 in wins and 17.5 in losses. In watching Rose, I’ve seen that he rises to the occasion and looks to score more when the team needs it.
Many voters don’t get to see most players more than a handful of times. And scoring and big games have a major impact. Mayo already has had four games of at least 30 points, a 20-point quarter and those marks set by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson for scoring in double figures as a rookie.
So, your case, Ron:
“I’m usually an anti-homer guy, and I would vote for Mayo,” Tillery said. “Their numbers are relatively close, but in the end Mayo will score more. I think he’ll shoot a higher percentage and will be better defensively.”
Mayo is 40 percent on threes and 89 percent on free throws, both better than Rose, and Mayo leads in rebounds 4.2 to 3.8. Rose averages 6.1 assists to 2.6 for Mayo.
“More than that,” insists Ron, “he (Mayo) will be more dynamic. He’s already dropped 30 (four) times, 19, 20 in a quarter. The difference is the Grizzlies don’t get a lot of exposure. But when a rookie evokes Bird and Magic, that’s (special).
“You can’t take anything away from Rose, but Mayo is slightly more dynamic,” Ron insists. “Plus Mayo is doing it on a bad team…with teams paying attention to just him and Gay. His basketball IQ is sky high. He’s very mature and makes most of the right decisions. He’s got great court vision and can get his shot off against anybody. Plus he’s deadly from the three and scores in a variety of ways, three ball, floater, mid range.”
Mayo is undersized at shooting guard, and does have trouble with the big twos like Joe Johnson, though most do. Tillery says Mayo always is approachable, though tough on teammates when the team loses. Chris Wallace, the team’s general manager, likens Mayo to a Dwyane Wade type player, though Mayo doesn’t quite have the hops and long arms of Wade.
It’s an impressive case, and one that could sway a lot of voters.
I’m not persuaded because, ultimately, I don’t think you win with a player like Mayo as your top guy because I see him as too selfish and getting in the way of his teammates, and not explosive enough to overcome that with transcendent scoring like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant.
I like Rose better because of the position, his amazing ability to get wherever he wants on the floor like Chris Paul and an explosiveness at the rim I’ve never seen in the history of the NBA for a point guard.
I believe Rose could be a bigger scorer than Mayo if Rose chose to be. But I see him spending the majority of the game seeking out shots for his teammates. His defense isn’t that good yet, though I believe he’ll get much better. Rose is remarkably consistent and seems unaffected by the vagaries of the game. There’s no statistic for this, but Rose seems to me one of those rare players who seems to know by instinct what the team needs to win the game. And his shot is much better than advertised.
It’s Rose’s first game back in Memphis, where he led the U. of Memphis to the NCAA championship game last spring, and final game between the Bulls and Grizzlies this season. The Bulls won the first somewhat easily in Chicago 96-86 in just the third game of the season. Rose had 26 points while Mayo had one of his poorest games with 16 points and five turnovers. Though neither said much about it, you can believe they were aware of the developing rivalry. You figure Mayo wants to make a statement this time.
The Grizzlies hoped to land Rose in the lottery, but when they didn’t they pulled off a trade to get Mayo, whom they identified as the only other star in the draft. They look right on that for now.
So it should be a fun night Friday in Memphis, which I can’t say I’ve had often. Though there was the time I went to Graceland with Bill Walton. I’ll save that story for another time.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors.


I’m going to try to stay away from all the Halloween clichés—horror show, and frightful night and it being scary.
Though Friday night’s brutal 96-80 Bulls loss to the defending champion Boston Celtics (there’s one excuse, at least) was all of those colorful adjectives and more.
The worst part, though, was how unprepared the Bulls were and how indifferent they appeared to be against a really good team. Give Boston that. They know how to win, they are good and they know when a team isn’t up to it. It was reminiscent of some Bulls games we’d see in the 1990’s when the Bulls would come out against some slug, rip off a big lead and then basically cruise the rest of the way knowing the other team didn’t even seem to care to play.
It was impressive to see the way the Celtics veterans would provide multiple screens on the weak side to produce open shots for Ray Allen early. For the Bulls, there’s not nearly as much motion or action and players are too often left in the half court to make a play on their own or off a slow developing high screen.
The Bulls don’t have the talent to play with these veteran and knowledgeable Celtics, but what was discouraging was how indifferent their play and attitude appeared to be, especially in the first half when they effectively lost the game.
Even on the national TV broadcast, former coach Jeff Van Gundy was noting Kirk Hinrich’s poor body language as he ENTERED the game for the first time. The camera would catch Hinrich walking back into plays after he’d miss shots or was arguing with non calls. It does begin to raise the question of whether he can deal with or accept the backup guard role behind Derrick Rose.
Though Hinrich was hardly the only one sleep walking Friday.
It seemed the whole starting lineup was other than Rose, who despite some foul trouble was left on bench an inordinate amount of time by coach Vinny Del Negro. C’mon, was this ever going to be a game coming down to the last minute? Try to get back in the game first before planning to win it at the end.
Rose only had one assist, though that was less from everyone missing shots to him realizing quickly he had to be a scorer. Rose did so on some sharp drives right at Kevin Garnett for layups. But he went out for long stretches after a third foul in the first half and a fourth in the second half, playing 28 minutes, yet finished with four fouls. Though a rookie, he looks savvy enough if you tell him not to foul.
What, Rajon Rondo is going to go off on you?
Rose did commit some rookie blunders early, though it appeared no one had paid much attention to the scouting report. Rondo, despite making a few shots in some playoff games last season, can’t shoot. So you stay off him. The Bulls consistently crowded him early and he drove by for baskets. I know Del Negro and his assistants know enough about Rondo that you let him shoot.
I know it shouldn’t have taken this long, but Boston quickly figured out whom among the Bulls to let shoot: Tyrus Thomas.
Thomas squeezed off 17 in 29 minutes, most from the 17-foot range, missing 15. And most badly. You can hear him saying how they all felt good leaving his land. He had his LSU buddy Baby Davis on him at times and on screens Davis ran straight to the basket when Thomas got the ball, allowing Thomas wide open jumpers. I lost count, but Thomas clanked something like 10 of his first 11, and it’s not like this is Ray Allen having a bad shooting night.
Shooters shoot. Jumpers and runners should jump and run.
Del Negro did get Thomas out after what was his poorest shot, a wild one off a shake and bake—sort of—move after Davis committed a flagrant foul on him.
Thomas did stay with it and upgraded his hustling later in the game, which you’ve got to credit him for. Although it may be because he thought he’d get more shots. But the way he started the game, you’d think Garnett had a serious case of body odor. Thomas seemed to want no part of being anywhere near him.
But it wasn’t all bad.
Joakim Noah was working hard, and though you don’t want to make lineup changes after a bad game—though that’s when they usually come—the Bulls have got to think about getting Noah’s hustle and size into the game sooner. With Drew Gooden and Thomas, they’re just too small to start, and the Bulls have to think about getting more scoring into the starting lineup as Rose, Thabo Sefolosha and Thomas with Luol Deng and Gooden isn’t enough offense.
With that lineup, the Bulls have to push the ball in transition and go to the basket and draw fouls, which worked well against a slower Milwaukee team on opening night. If they cannot do that, which would be difficult against a meticulous, hard working team like Boston, they need better shooting to open the game. It’s OK to change lineups to deal with matchups or teams, especially with a team of developing players and a new coach.
Let them earn their time. Keep them guessing a bit. Let’s see who works and who wants it more.
I’m a little worried about Deng, though not because he had a poor shooting game. He can make shots; it happens. But by this time in his career I’d like to see some post game and some more distance on his shot. Maybe, like with former coach Scott Skiles, he’s being told to stay away from the three-point line. He plays in the summer for England, but it doesn’t appear he’s worked on his game that much, perhaps because of the consecutive contract negotiation summers. He has room to improve.
I know his body type, which is more straight up, makes getting down in a defensive stance more difficult, but it’s also something you’d like to see him improve on, and he should be able to.
Better teams expose your weaknesses, and so the result against a team like Boston is not a great surprise. Like the late coach Cotton Fitzsimmons used to do after a blowout loss: He’d come into the locker room afterward, flush the toilets and say they could start feeling relieved and move on.
But this Bulls team won’t be able to view any loss as an aberration. They need to work to win. I watched some of the Memphis game Friday night, and they have some stuff. Darko may be the game’s worst player, but Marc Gasol is a tough big man who can make some plays and Rudy Gay is a bigtime athletic swingman whom the Bulls will have difficulty containing.
They play Rose and you can bet their guards have heard plenty about him from the U. of Memphis last season. Kyle Lowry looked very good in relief of Mike Conley. They’re not chopped liver or iron filings. But they’re beatable, and Friday’s won’t seem so bad if the Bulls can jump on the Grizzlies quickly at home Saturday. They showed they can against the Bucks.  That’s it, they just were in costume Friday. Pretending to be NBA players. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Just kidding.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors.

Bulls face a tough challenge

A tough night at the office for the Bulls as they shot just 30% from the floor and lost here in Boston 96-80.
The Bulls never got in groove and they played catch up all night long. Starting forwards Luol Deng and Tyrus Thomas went a combined 4 for 27. The Bulls bench, effective on Tuesday against the Bucks, drained only 9 of 29 field goals.
Even in defeat one looks for bright spots….Derrick Rose tallied 18 points. Aaron Gray pulled down 6 rebounds and blocked 3 shots. Joakim Noah collected 13 rebounds -4 on the offensive glass.
Miami destroyed the Kings by 26… Michael Beasley with a 17 and 9.

The Nuggets played without Melo (suspended)-but had enough to beat the Clippers despite Al Thorton’s 30 points.

 The Bulls host Memphis tonight –pre game coverage on the Bulls radio network at 7PM..Bill and I with the call at 730. Comcast Chicago with the TV coverage with Nel, Stacey and Johnny as well. Memphis rallied to beat the Magic last night as rookie O.J. Mayo scored 17 . It should be a terrific night at the United Center watching Rose and Mayo go at it. Rudy Gay is an offensive threat every time he touches the ball. He took twenty six field goal attempts last night and that doesn’t include the 8 trips to the foul line. His 18 footer at the buzzer won it for the Grizz last night over Orlando.

Darrell Arthur has recorded back to back double rebounding games…not bad for a rookie. With road games in Orlando and Cleveland on the horizon the Bulls need to get this one tonight./ A key addition to the Memphis coaching staff was the off season hiring of assistant coach Kevin O’Neill who is regarded as a defensive genius.

Other quick hits…

The Knicks got blown out as Elton Brand (24pts-14 reb) and the 76ers won in Philly. Once again, no Stephon Marbury-no Eddy Curry. My man David Lee with a double-double for NY Not a bad line for Andre Miller-20 points 8 assists 7 rebounds.

Chris Bosh with another big game…Andrea Bargnani off the bench tossed in 17 as the Raps beat GST in OT.

The Blazers edged the Spurs as Brandon Roy came up big. Martell Webster inked a four year extension worth 20 million. I like his game.Indiana resigned Danny Granger to a five year-60 million dollar deal. Did they over pay? Probably but they had to lock him up. He is Indiana’s best all around player. They simply couldn’t afford to lose him on or off the court.Got to go……it’s almost 3AM..just back from Boston.
Always a pleasure!

Chuck Swirsky

News and notes around the league

The Bulls leave for Boston this afternoon. Based on Tuesday’s performance against the Bucks don’t expect any lineup changes.
The Celtics got their rings before their victory over the Cavs. After the game Doc Rivers said the Celtics can put that behind them and now concentrate on basketball… that’s great news for the rest of the NBA.  Can Boston repeat? Or were they a one and done team?
Game time 8PM on ESPN 1000 with Bill Wennington and myself.  Neil, Stacey with the TV call on Comcast.
Just read Greg Oden will be out 2-4 weeks with a right foot injury. Let’s hope sooner or later he gets healthy. Can you say Bill Walton  all over again from early years with the Blazers. Of course Walton led Portland to an NBA title in ’77 ..the Blazers will gladly take that  once Oden resumes playing.
Caught plenty of ball…
Congrats to Michael Curry as he guided the Pistons past the Pacers.  He was born to lead.
Props to Terry Porter as well in his debut with the Suns.
Chris Bosh was rock solid in the Raptors win at Philadelphia.
The Wizards just can’t score as they lost to the Nets.
Should I be impressed with the Knicks or disappointed with the Heat.
Curry and Marbury were spectators.  Make your own comments.
Joe Johnson led the Hawks past Orlando.  JJ can play for me any day of the week.
Rudy Gay isn’t bashful…..
All Carlos Boozer does is play and put up numbers night after night.
Tough  night at the office for BD and the Clipps–Lakers win it 117-79.
ESPN is reporting the Lakers and Andrew Bynum are close on a three year-42 million dollar contract.
CP3 with a typical CP3 game we’ve come to know and expect 21pts 11 assists in the Hornets win over GST
How about the Bucks? Second game in a back to back marching in to a revved up OKC crowd of 19-thousand plus and they beat the Thunder.
How much are the Pacers willing to pay Danny Granger?
Congrats to the Phillies but my interest level in the World Series was below zero.
That’s the update for now.  Thank you for YOUR time.
Chuck Swirsky