NBA

Coverage of pro basketball, with emphasis on the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks.

 

Mike Dunleavy meets with the media

Mike Dunleavy meets with the media

Since Tom Thibodeau has taken over as head coach of the Chicago Bulls, they have never been a team to look back and wonder, “What if?” — not that anybody would blame them if they did. Two major knee injuries to Derrick Rose have robbed Chicago from a legitimate chance to compete for a title, and the Bulls again failed to land their main free agent target this offseason in Carmelo Anthony.

“I don’t want to look backward,” Thibodeau said after Wednesday’s practice. “It didn’t work out then, but it worked out for everybody in the end. We feel very good about having the opportunity to get Pau.”

Indeed the Bulls definitely hit the jackpot signing a rejuvenated (and healthy) Pau Gasol, and rookie sensation Nikola Mirotic, (who continues to improve every time he steps on the court). Chicago has yet to reach full potential, mainly due to injuries, but still find themselves 15-9 and 1st in the central division heading into Thursday night’s matchup against Carmelo’s New York Knicks.

Meanwhile Melo might be wondering “What if?” in New York, where his Knicks are a putrid 5-22. Anthony has recently stated that he, “was close to signing with the Bulls,” but in the end chose to remain in New York, where he signed a five-year, $124-million deal.

Joakim Noah, who spent the offseason trying to persuade Anthony to come to Chicago, also does not dwell on the what ifs.

“I am a live-in-the-moment kind of guy,” Noah said Wednesday when asked if he wonders what life with Melo could have been like. “I don’t try to dwell on what could have happened. I’m really happy with what we have right now. Were a deep team, and we are striving for something pretty different for what they’re striving for in terms of goals this year.”

Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy knows things could have been much different for him this season and was asked if he every wonders where he would be if Anthony had become a Bull.

“Not really, I would be playing basketball somewhere,” Dunleavy answered. “Obviously I am really happy to be here. Sometimes It’s nice to have a Bentley, but a Honda Accord will get you there as well.”

So while Melo may be a flashy, explosive Bentley the Bulls just couldn’t afford, they seem to be just fine settling for the less glamorous “Honda” Dunleavy had mentioned. Gasol is averaging 18.7 points and 11.9 rebounds so far this season and more importantly is already becoming a great teammate.

“He definitely brings a good attitude, a positive attitude to the team,” Noah said Wednesday. “He’s just a good guy to have around, somebody who has seen it all. Its good to have a new voice in the locker room.”

Click below for more coverage of Weds practice.

Joakim Noah talks to the media after Tuesdays practice.

Joakim Noah talks to the media after Tuesdays practice.

The Chicago Bulls have definitely improved offensively so far this season.

With the addition of Pau Gasol, and departure of the smaller/less effective Carlos Boozer, the team has upped their points per game average from 93.7 to 102.6. Strangely enough, it has been the defense that has struggled at times.

The Bulls (12-8) are allowing an uncharacteristically high 100.5 points per game and have struggled to stay healthy in the first chunk of the season. Joakim Noah is not worried just yet, however.

“We are 20 games in now, and I still believe we can get a lot better.” Noah said on Tuesday. “Guys are working hard and I just believe that we will be a lot better.”

The Bulls center sat out Tuesday’s practice with a knee injury and is not expected to play in Wednesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets. The Bulls have been hampered by injuries in the first few months of the season and have struggled to “gel” on the court.

Luckily for the Bulls, the Brooklyn Nets also have some big man injuries of their own. Brook Lopez is out at least a week with a strained lower back. Lopez is averaging 16.1 points per game along with 6.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.

While Noah will most likely miss Tuesday’s game, Derrick Rose will play and hopes to break out of his own recent struggles.

Rose scored only 9 points on 2-11 shooting in Saturday night’s loss to the Golden State Warriors, and has become reliant on his jumper rather than attacking the rim since his return from injury. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is hoping Rose can return to elite status again soon.

“He has to attack,” Thibodeau said on Tuesday. “That’s the bottom line. Some teams are going under [picks] and some teams will adjust to a blitz. All I know is when he’s pushing the ball up the floor and attacking, that’s who he is. He can’t defer. He can’t pace himself. He’s got to go. That’s the big thing. He’s got to go.”

The Nets will enter Tuesday’s matchup with an 8-11 record and will be missing two of their top scorers in Lopez and guard Joe Johnson (Illness). The Brooklyn Nets could be just what the doctor ordered for a team looking to get back on track.

Click below for audio from Tuesdays practice

Pau Gasol talks to the media after the loss

Pau Gasol talks to the media after the loss

The highest scoring team in the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks, were the spoilers for the Bulls homecoming after a 4 – 3 circus trip.

The Mavs (13-5) and Bulls (11-6) were evenly matched as they played like playoff bound teams from their respective conferences.

The first quarter flew by with each team shooting 20+ shots and over 40% from downtown and when the dust settle the Bulls had a 26 – 25 lead going into the 2nd quarter.

The ex-Wisconsin star came into the game only shooting 32.7% from three but looked like Ray Allen tonight, going 6 – 6. Harris’s performance helped the Mavs take a 59 – 47 lead going into half time.

The most entertaining matchup of the evening was watching rookie Nikola Mirotic guard his childhood hero Dirk Nowitzki. Mirotic was compared to Dirk coming out of the draft and was impressive in the loss, scoring 15 while adding 4 rebounds and 3 assist. While Dirk was held in check all night, going 8 for 22 and scoring 22 points.

Monta Ellis is a shooter. An “ I don’t care if I am open or if we have 22 seconds left on the shot clock” shooter who was feeling it against the Bulls. Ellis finished with 38, on 16 – 35 shots.

The Bulls were able to cut the deficit to 6 going into the 4th thanks to a 9 – 0 run to start the 3rd quarter. The Bulls also have their best defensive quarter, only giving up 21 points and scoring 8 points off of 5 Dallas turnovers.

Derrick Rose after 132-129 loss to Dallas

Derrick Rose after 132-129 loss to Dallas

The Bulls depth kept them in the game even without the services of Taj Gibson or Doug McDermott. Hinrich (27), Mirotic (26) and Brooks (15) minutes were able to give Rose, Noah and Butler rest for the fourth quarter.

The 4th got exciting down the stretch as the Bulls took a 4 point lead with just over 3 minutes left but were not able to close out the Mavs in regulation. With a 3 point lead, Hinrich fouled Monta Ellis with 1.2 seconds left, sending the 79% FT shooter to the line for 3 attempts. Ellis hit all three FT to tie the game at ­­­­­­­108.

Rose was unable to make his 3 point attempt as time expired.

Rose 0 – 1 at the buzzer.

Dallas controlled the tempo for the first OT as they built a 3 point lead with 7.2 seconds left at 121 – 118. Rose found himself with the ball after a broken play and heaved up a floater from the top of the key and banked it in as time expired.

Rose 1 – 2 at the buzzer.

The Bulls were never able to get any momentum in either of the overtime periods and it cost them. Outscored 11 – 8 in the 2nd OT, the Bulls and Rose’s final shot came up short in the end.

Rose 1 – 3 at the buzzer.

Dallas 132, Bulls 129

Rose and Thibs talk about the Mavericks Bulls game and the status of the team

@WesEvans24

 

Gibson talking to the media about the slow start to the Celtics game

Gibson talking to the media about the slow start to the Celtics game

This was a tired Bulls team after their 118 – 115 victory over the 76ers last night in Philly, as every starter played over 31 minutes. A rested player would have been a nice reinforcement for the Bulls but Derrick Rose sat for the 2nd straight game with two sprained ankles. The Celtics also had there star point guard sitting, as Rajon Rondo didn’t suit up due to his hand injury.

The Bulls got blitzed in the first 4 minutes on the 2nd night of a back-back by the Boston Celtics, as the Celtics took a quick 10 – 2 lead before a Tom Thibodeau timeout. The Bulls were able to rally as they took a 25 – 20 lead after the 1st quarter. Mike Dunleavy continued his hot shooting as he went 3 for 5 from beyond the arch and led all scorers with 9 points.

Then the wheels came off.

The Bulls only managed 16 points in the 2nd quarter as the entire team went cold. Shooting 33% and turning the ball over 4 times, the Bulls showed no life on both ends of the court.

In turn, the Celtics found their groove as they shot 56% from the field and out rebounded the Bulls 14 – 7. Emotions were running high as the usually calm Pau Gasol emphatically screamed the F-word due to a no call by the refs but the refs let it slide.

Thibs

Thibs frustrated with the lack of rebounding by the Bulls

Exploding for 36 points in the second quarter, the Celtics took a commanding 56 – 41 lead into halftime.

The 3rd quarter the Bulls were able to keep pace with the red hot Celtics who shot 60% from the field which kept the Bulls from making any kind of run. Still down by double digits, Thibs kept his starters in with Butler and Gasol playing the whole quarter and Dunleavy playing just under 10 minutes. Emotions got the best of Aaron Brooks, as he was called for a technical at the end of the 3rd quarter because he thought he was fouled going to the hoop as time expired.

Entering the 4th quarter, the Bulls had two options being down 16… Fold up and call it a night or continue playing like it was game 7 of the conference final.

If you know anything about the Bulls, you know that coach Thibs chose the latter.

Brooks led the 4th quarter charge, scoring 19 points and pulling the Bulls within 2 points with only 22 seconds left. The Celtics converted their free throw attempts to seal the deal which left the United Center faithful irritable as they filed out of the building.

It was a valiant effort by a tired team but the Bulls did not have enough in the tank to complete the improbable comeback.

All eyes will now turn to Rose and the status of his ankles.

The Bulls get a day off as they await the arrival of the 2 – 3 Pistons, who are led by Greg Monroe and Josh Smith on Monday.

Tom Thibodeau, Aaron Brooks and Taj Gibson talk about the Celtics vs Bulls game

@WesEvans24

Derrick RoseIt’s hard to describe the feelings I have when talking about this upcoming Bulls season.

I would compare them to a first date… with a girl you have known for a while but have never had the stones to ask out. You two have flirted off and on for years, but have never given a real relationship a try. When she was single, you had a girlfriend and vice versa. A dating opportunity has never presented itself… until now.

It is time.

Time to see what you are made of and if this relationship could really work. Your friends have been bugging you to ask her out because you guys “are made for each other.” The anxious excitement of a genuine relationship, with a person you WANT to be with, is the same way I feel about this 2014-15 Bulls season.

I WANT this season to be exactly what everyone is predicting.

Since the Bulls drafted Derrick Rose with the 1st overall pick in the 2008, the thought of winning an NBA title was more of a fantasy then a reality. The fantasy being, a young Rose without a supporting cast or respectable head coach, beating LeBron James and the Cavaliers/Heat to get to the NBA Finals.Tom Thib

The respectable coach, Tom Thibodeau, was paired up with Rose in 2010 and since that time they have accrued 1 conference finals appearance and an MVP trophy. Thibodeau has a .657 (205-107) winning percentages in 4 season as head coach and has won the Coach of the Year award once in 2011.

Thibodeau has been criticized regarding his minute distribution for his all-stars, but that shouldn’t be an issue this season with Rose and Noah coming off knee injuries. I would expect Rose to be in the low 30’s for most of the season, with Noah’s minutes being more sporadic based on the status of his knee. It will take some time of Thibs to conjure up a rotation, but expect a more evenly distributed minute chart in 2014-15.

Excluding Jimmy Butler.

With the 2 injury plagued season for Rose in the rearview, the anticipation for this upcoming season is second to none, with the additions of Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott. Arguably the deepest team under Tom Thibodeau, this Bulls team will rely on team defense and ball movement on the offensive end of the floor.

The Bulls still have not acquired that 2nd scorer fans have been waiting for, but expect a team centric approach to scoring with flashes of MVP Rose sprinkled into the mix. Players like Dunleavy, Mirotic and McDermott will be expected to hit their open shots when called upon, due to the attention Rose will receive attacking the basket.

Mirotic & GasolPau Gasol will add a legitimate low post threat with exceptional passing skills that will complement Thibodeau’s offense. Taj Gibson will bring his workman like attitude in order to defend like the Bulls are used to seeing. Gibson has spent his summer expanding his offensive game, but will still be the defensive replacement for Gasol when the Bulls need a stop. Fans should expect to see the same “try hard” Bulls they have fallen in love with, but with more fire power on the offensive side of the court.

The possibility of something great coming out of a first date keeps single people on the market. That same possibility, will keep me intrigued for this Bulls team, barring any injuries, this year could be the “one”.

Record: 55 – 27 (2nd in the Central)

@WesEvans24