Tag:Luol Deng
Posted on: April 8, 2011 10:24 pm

Bulls came, Bulls saw, Bulls clinched

Bulls clinch top seed in East with win over Cavaliers
Posted by Matt Moore

If it has seemed like Chicago fans count their chickens before they hatch, it's likely due in part to their belief in the sports equivalent of manifest destiny. After all, their franchise's championship years were forged by the fire of Jordan, which relied most heavily on self-assurance. "I win because I am." Derrick Rose has helped push that mindset back into function. He has been a force of nature, and has led the Bulls as a team and as a fanbase that they can and will win the championship simply because they will it to be so.

And now they've willed themselves to the No. 1 seed in the East. 

The Bulls clinched the top spot in the East with a 93-82 win against the Cavaliers, a fitting illustration of where we've gone to in a year, as the team that won the top spot in last year's playoffs lost to clinch this year's beast in the East. The Bulls are now assured homecourt advantage, in a rocking United Center, throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. They are just a game back of San Antonio for homecourt advantage throughout the Finals. They hold a 3.5 game lead on the Lakers.

What does homecourt mean for Chicago? The Bulls lead the league in attendance per game this season. They have a big-market, high energy crowd in a building with history (and statues). Homecourt advantage means something entirely different for them than it does L.A., which suffers with traffic, distractions, and its fans being priced out. The United Center won't get as loud as Oklahoma City in the playoffs, but it'll be close. It's a hostile environment against a team that feeds on emotion and drive. For the Eastern powers to allow this was a severe mistake. 

Still, the Bulls now have the target on their back. They now have to be considered favorites against the other East powers. They reached this mark by playing the underdog, but now they're the favorite. How they react to that will be of vital importance. This team as constructed has never seen a postseason together. How will they react as the favorites? And with a first-round series against the Pacers which likely won't really test them in any meaningful way, how will they respond in the second round when the intensity increases? Say what you want about the Magic (assuming they topple the Hawks), but they do know how to play high-octane playoff basketball. 

But as always, it returns to Rose. As high energy as the United Center will be, Rose's calm, cool demeanor will set the tone and provide a rock for the team to rely on. They have experienced players like Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, and Kyle Korver who have seen the playoffs. 

They have the star. They have the personnel. They have the coach. 

And now they have homecourt advantage. 
Beware the Bulls. 
Posted on: April 8, 2011 10:10 am

Around the Web: Bulls-Celtics reaction

Posted by Matt Moore

A look at the reactions to the Bulls' win over the Celtics Thursday night...
But there is a reason the Celtics shot terribly. For one, Kurt Thomas, Joakim Noah, and even Omer "The Turkish Delight" Asik were beasts inside, and Luol Deng had a Pippen-esque defensive performance tonight. More than anything though it was just an unrelenting energy from Chicago. They played like we've come to expect the Celtics to play. They were active defensively, and unrelenting. They didn't take possessions off, and even when they screwed up a rotation or allowed penetration, they hustled like a man possessed to get back to rights. Even Kyle Korver..I'm not kidding.

That meant that the Celtics had no time for hand wringing on offense. That meant that if the Celtics had an open shot, they either took it without thinking, or it was taken away. That meant more often than not the Celtics put up a shot they didn't want to. It meant the Celtics got a taste of what its like to play a team that has gelled cohesively around the idea that they will win games with their defense and just bought into being the best they can on that end. Basically it meant the Celtics got a taste of what it has been like to play the Celtics for most of the past 4 seasons.
via CelticsBlog - For Boston Celtics Fans.

Energy is the most discussed element in regular season games between playoff contenders. The losing team will always cite a lack of energy, leading towards a "we play for the playoffs" angle in a "we just didn't have it tonight" manner, while the winning team will cite "being locked in." The start of this game very much looked like both teams were locked in. The Bulls were as relentless as described above, and that's their strongest defensive feature. They don't overreact to problems and they rarely let issues compound one another. Consistency has the value of gold in the NBA. And the Bulls have mountains of it. 
Listing other contributors starts with Luol Deng, overcoming early foul trouble to outscore his long-time rival Paul Pierce (seriously!) 23-15, Keith Bogans had two 3-pointers in his initial stint to help the hot start, Carlos Boozer had a brief spurt of dominance in the 2nd half against the C's backup bigs...but this offense was nearly all Derrick Rose tonight. He finished with 30 points on 16 shots, insanely efficient, and he still could (scarily) have been even better considering some of the 3-pointers he attempted. 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and the halftime highlight package from Mike Fratello focused on him setting a screen.

And yet, even considering all his brilliance (and placed alongside Rondo's opposite-of-brilliance, made to look even that much better), Rose still saw the Celtics hanging in close for much of the 3rd quarter. It was a game that felt better watching that the score indicated. But the Bulls have more than one star, and it was the defense that put the game out of reach. The Celtics couldn't run at all, matched their best playmakers (Pierce and the KG fadeaway) well, and looked completely stifled at points while they stared at a Davis 20 footer.
via Bulls take down Celtics with usual formula: Rose lights up, Defense shuts down - Blog a Bull.

Deng's contributions, not only Thursday night, but overall, lead you to understand how pivotal he is to the Bulls' success. The Bulls set the tone of this game early, going to Deng twice against Pierce while Rose remained off-ball. When the Celtics adjusted and started sending help, the Bulls switched gears and moved Rose into the focal point of the offense. But the start was enough to keep Deng involved which helped get his jumper wet later on. Deng's mid-range game is the equivalent of Lamar Odom's cuts to the basket. When he's making those types of plays, you throw up your hands and wonder what you can do against them. 

The reason the game felt better watching than the score indicated? Snail's pace. The game was plugged at an 85-possession pace. That's compared to the league-average 94-possessions pace.  Games at that pace make every make that much more effective and every miss that much more painful. And Glen Davis gave Celtics fans a lot of pain Thursday night. 
Can you imagine Rose behaving like Kobe or making statements like LeBron? Of course you can’t, because he hasn’t, and he wouldn’t (as far as we can tell three seasons into his career). Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to single out those two guys to bash them. Superstars have little patience for failure and tend to blast their coaches and teammates from time to time. Michael Jordan did it. He used to complain bitterly about Phil Jackson’s use of the triangle offense. He punched out both Will Perdue and Steve Kerr at practice. He called guys out to the press.

No, my point isn’t to punish LeBron, Kobe or MJ for how they express their competitive urges. I’m just trying to point out that Rose isn’t like anything we’ve ever seen. People have likened him to Allen Iverson, of all people, a man who refused to play on anybody’s terms but his own. Which is why that comparison is flawed to the point of senseless irresponsibility. While people are constructing statistical arguments that show Rose is a sort of Iverson 2.0, they should probably spend a little time watching him play, and following how he conducts himself.
via Statement Made: Bulls 97, Celtics 81 » By The Horns

You'll want to remember this later. Every star NBA player has this day. When everything is going right, and everyone loves him, and why can't others try and be a little more like him? Then eventually, things change, the media machine evolves, circumstances change, and the narrative shifts. Rose will have his own time of criticism not just from the media but from the fans. Or he'll become Michael Jordan. One or the other. Bulls fans will all say "No, you don't understand, Rose is different."  Because that's what everyone says at this special moment in time. That doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy it. We should. Just keep it in your back pocket to look back on later. 
So Rondo requested a rare post-game meeting with Rivers likely to discuss matters. Rondo asked for the meeting and talked for a few minutes with Rivers in his office, perhaps to clear the air about play calling and Rondo's up-and-down performances.

After compiling 46 assists in the past four games, Rondo collected just six last night on 3-for-10 shooting. His counterpart, Derrick Rose, scorched the Celtics for 30 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals.

Rondo was visibly disappointed after the game.

"Think we need to play with a better sense of urgency," he said before his meeting with Rivers. “It better be a wakeup call, if not, we won’t make it far. We’re a completely different team (than last year). It’s not the same team. We’re not going to be able to turn it on like we did year. I don’t know what we’re waiting on but these types of games we have to find a way to win. It’s a roller-caster and right now we went back down today."
via Rondo, Rivers meet after Celtics loss -Celtics blog - Boston Globe basketball news.

It was bizarre to see Rondo steering through the lanes, then unable to find anyone for the kickout or dump-off and missing layups. In the continuing "taste of their own medicine" theme, Rondo was probably the one who found out what it's like on the other sideline the most. Watching a brilliant young point guard school him time and time again. And there's no real way to spin it. Rondo just got beat. It was a team effort, the help defense should have been better, and Ray Allen and Paul Pierce could have kicked it up a notch trying to get free. But this one falls on Rondo, not for lack of effort, but because them's the breaks of the game. We haven't seen the Rondo of early season for months. We're assuming we'll see him in the playoffs. Assuming.
"This meant a lot because you're going against a team you could see in the playoffs," Rose said. "You don't want those teams to have confidence. We were aggressive. There were some plays guys were about to fight. That's the way it's going to be. We're a tough team. We grind wins out."

About the only downer came when Joakim Noah grabbed just six rebounds in just 23 minutes and iced his swollen right ankle afterward. He didn't play the final 15:19. That meant extended minutes for Thomas, who got yanked down by Glen Davis early in the fourth and hovered over the fallen Celtic in a WWE moment.
via Chicago Bulls: Chicago Bulls romp over Boston Celtics 97-81 in playoff atmosphere - chicagotribune.com.

Deng also got into KG's ear after a box-out. He was chirping in Garnett's face, and Garnett just walked away. Thomas stood over Davis and the Celtics didn't retaliate. They helped Davis up and separated the two, but didn't shove or become aggressive. 

Whoever these Celtics are, they're nothing like what we've seen. 

Posted on: April 7, 2011 5:38 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 4:21 pm

Road to the Finals: Chicago Bulls

We continue our Road to the Finals series with the Chicago Bulls as they get set to face the Boston Celtics Thursday night.
Posted by Matt Moore

No one likes to admit they were wrong. In the long list of people who are willing to admit they're wrong, sports writers are just above politicians and below artists. It's a product of the kind of currency that operates among sports editors and a result of the kind of comments you'll see litter most posts about sports across the internet. So this isn't exactly easy. 

I was wrong

Way wrong. 

Monumentally stupid would be another way to put it, but we're going to roll with just wrong. Back in July, before we'd seen a lick of basketball, we ran our offseason grades. In appraising the Bulls, I looked at Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans and didn't see it. I initially gave them a C+, then considering their total positioning of their current roster, upgraded them to a B-. Sure, they'd be better than the 8th seed they were in 2010. But were they really going to be that much better? Were they really going to compete for a title? Were they really going to be great?

Yes. Yes they were. 

The Bulls are a great team. And they enter the playoffs at their absolute zenith. They are led by the all-but-elected MVP Derrick Rose, who we'll get to. Their coach is the near-lock Coach of the Year. We'll get to him, too. They defend, can run, can play in the half-court, they rebound, and they have that rare ability to find the way to win. Their being at the top of the Eastern Conference should not be a surprise if you've been watching this season. They've been great. The playoffs will give them the chance to prove it. 

For Chicago, everything starts with the defense. Everything. Tom Thibodeau has crafted the Bulls in his own image, the same image that the Celtics have taken on over the course of his tenure there. The principles are simple. Communicate, demonstrate, suffocate. You watch the Bulls defend the pick and roll, and it's no wonder that they're the second best pick and roll defense team in the league according to Synergy Sports. They lead the league in field goal percentage allowed in the pick and roll, thanks to their system. When the ball handler initiates the set, there will be three players geared towards it for the Bulls. The ball-handler's defender, who fights through the screen, the roll-man's defender, who peels back, playing between the roll man and the ball-handler, and a third help-defender, either from the corner or wing.  The roll-defender will call out which way the ball handler is coming off, while the other players indicate if they need further help from the off-ball defenders. Communicate. If the ball-handler goes wide around the pick, the roll-man or weak-side help shows hard, cutting off the lane to discourage the drive. Demonstrate. And if the ball-handler stops his dribble to consider a shot, pass, or if he passes the roll-man, whose man inevitably is recovering fast on him, help defense immediately closes, chokes off passing lanes, attacks the ball, and aims for the turnover. Suffocate. 

More impressive for the Bulls than their defense when they know what the opponent is going to do is how they react when they don't. Get loose on the baseline off an excellent pass, past your man, and you'll find Joakim Noah stepping into the take the charge from the weak-side, his hands straight up to close off the passing lane for the dump-off to his man he just left. Stutter-step inside, and you'll find wave after wave of swiping hands, disrupting the dribble just enough to either force the turnover, a back-out, or rush the shot. No matter what you do, the Bulls have an answer. And if you somehow manage to create a driving lane, fill it, and then kick out to the open shooter whose man has come in and that pass does find its mark? They run off the three ball as well as any team in the league. You can beat them. You just have to be consistently on-target in every phase of execution. 

Road To The Finals
And that kind of coherency is the result of the biggest acquisition I overlooked. Tom Thibodeau. It's one thing to design a near-perfect system, another to translate it into terms your players recognize and respond to, and another entirely to motivate them to execute that plan night after night after night. The Bulls have consistently come out with the same effort and intensity, and if they don't, they hear about it. Thibodeau's a screamer, the hoarse sound of his voice like Tom Waits through a megaphone, but his team has responded. Professionals usually don't this way. Especially not with veterans like Carlos Boozer on the team. But they have. They want to play for Thibodeau, to execute what he preaches, and they've found the success therein.

A lot has been made of the Bulls' success despite the massive injuries they've suffered through, but in reality, you have to wonder if those games without Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah actually helped the Bulls. Down a man, it meant there could be no deflection of responsibility by the Bulls' front line, no question of where the buck stopped. Each player had to step up. Noah had to step up for Boozer's absence, Boozer for Noah's, the bench for both. Having to answer to your team is a lost element in most NBA environments, but the Bulls have bred one. It's that attitude that may be the biggest advantage they have in the playoffs. 

So how do the Bulls get to the Finals? If they think it will be like the regular season, they're mistaken. But there are playoff veterans on these teams. Luol Deng was around when the Bulls were Eastern Conference contenders in the mid-00's. Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver have seen the Western Conference Finals. Thibodeau has seen the best and worst the Finals can provide. They're not lacking in experience. How they adjust to matchups will be a considerable challenge for Thibodeau, who for the most part has abandoned control of the offense to Rose, and who has seen what can happen if a team has the perimeter abilities to best his help defense. 

That's right, the Magic. 

The Magic are overlooked as contenders on the whole. Their biggest strength, three-point shooting, isn't what it used to be. Dwight Howard is a beast, but one you can live with most nights. Their defense is exceptionally strong, but suffers when it faces a superior point guard. Their ability to get hot, however, is going to be a concern if things play out as expected and the Bulls run into them in the second round. Thibodeau is 1-1 against the Magic. His loss came against them when he was without Kevin Garnett. He will be without Garnett this time. Carlos Boozer is a fine post player, but far from a defensive stalwart, and nothing like KG. The challenge will be managing to challenge the Magic on the pick and roll if the kickout to the Magic's shooter start working. Start dropping 3-pointers like their hot, and the brilliant Thibodeau defense is held largely neutralized. It can't keep defenders on the perimeter without sacrificing help on the driving lanes, and it can't focus on the driving lanes without surrendering long, uncontested 3-pointers. The Magic will likely unravel due to their subpar talent. But if there's a matchup issue in the playoff, that's the one. 

Which is not to see the rest would be easy. Sure, the Pacers are too young, too inexperienced and too composite to form a stiff challenge, even if Roy Hibbert can do some damage. But in general, there's little chance of the Pacers making a significant push, barring an unforeseen light-year distance jump by Darren Collison or Danny Granger

So already, we've got the Bulls penciled in for the Conference Finals. That's how far they've come. Once there, that's the colossal games, the big ones, the legendary ones, a preview of which will be played Thursday night against the Celtics. If you'd asked anyone who the Bulls would rather see in the Conference Finals, the Heat or the Celtics, the answer would have been the Celtics back in preseason. That's not a knock on the defending East champs, that's because on the surface, the Heat should have the versatility at position by the Big 3 and the kind of size and muscle combined with ability to overwhelm the Bulls defensively, and the defense to hold them in check. Hasn't been the case. The big difference in a series against the Heat is Luol Deng. Deng's defensive abilities have long been underrated, but under Thibodeau, they've reached a new level. His versatility helps him hang with both James' size and speed, and if need be, he can switch to Wade and use his length to force long contested jumpers. It sounds strange to say, but the Heat are largely overmatched by the Bulls. 

The Celtics are a different ballgame altogether. The two teams have met three times this season, with each team missing a key starter at one point or another in all three. Thursday marks the first time we've seen them at full strength, and the last until a possible Eastern Conference Finals matchup. The Celtics know about Thibs' defense, and Thibs knows about the Celtics. He has their scouting report, knows their tendencies, knows what the weaknesses are. But the Celtics are stronger offensively with the same defensive prowess and better personnel. This is, quite simply, the biggest clash of powerhouses until the Finals, and while neither team will pull out all the stops, it will be a bloodbath.

The swing vote in all this for the Bulls is one man: Rose. 

The Bulls' offense is largely a product of innovation. Thibodeau has a playbook, a set of elements to run, and works with the Bulls to accent their strengths. But the Bulls are not a top offensive team. They're still finding their way, don't hit a lot of shots, despite adding shooters in Keith Bogans and Kyle Korver. Carlos Boozer is doing his Carlos Boozer thing, but he won't be mistaken for Amar'e Stoudemire (though his defense is clearly better than STAT's, which says a lot about Stoudemire's). Joakim Noah has an okay jumper and a few moves. Deng's 3-point shooting has been a boon as has his mid-range game this season, but overall, the Bulls are just not an offensive powerhouse. 

Until Rose kicks it into gear. Rose really is a one-man dervish. The knock on him at the beginning of the season was he couldn't create contact, didn't get to the line enough. If he fixed that, and now regularly finishes after contact. His first-step on the drive is all speed. His second is all explosion. The rest is a highlight reel. He gets from perimeter to bucket faster and with more power than any player in the league, and that's including LeBron James. He can single-handedly change games for the Bulls. And he's going to need to. The team will probably struggle at times in the playoffs, maybe in surprising ways. They will go only as far as Rose can take them. It's an awfully lot on his shoulders at such a young age, but then, this is how sports legends are made. 

The Bulls look every bit ready to challenge the Eastern Conference at every turn. They are committed, they are well-practiced, and they are effective. They have written the perfect story of a regular season for such a new team. Now we'll have to see what they do for an ending. 
Posted on: March 22, 2011 10:39 pm

Behind Rose's ridiculous night, Bulls stomp ATL

Posted by Royce Young

Derrick Rose punctuated a dominant first half for the Bulls, dropping a 3 to put the Bulls up 29 over the Hawks heading into the break. That trey gave him 20 points for the half on 8-13 shooting including 4-4 from deep.

The chants rained down as the Bulls trotted to the locker room. M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!

Except there was one thing kind of weird about that. The game wasn't in Chicago. It was in Atlanta.

Two things that said: 1) Hawks fans really stink and 2) the Derrick Rose hype is reaches far and wide. His game Tuesday night certainly warranted it. He went for 30 points on 11-20 shooting (6-8 from 3), dished out 10 assists and grabbed four rebounds. All in just three quarters as the Bulls completely steamrolled the slipping Hawks 114-81.

At full strength, the Bulls are starting to make the other Eastern powers squirm. The defense is good, that's a given. But with Rose shooting like that, Luol Deng scoring like that and the Chicago bench contributing like that, this Bulls team is scary. A group that defends, rebounds, shares and then has a superstar keying it all is a group to be feared greatly. Remember, the Hawks are pretty good. But the Bulls made them look like a 16-seed going against Ohio State.

The game was over at the half as Chicago shot 74 percent the first 24 minutes and finished shooting better than 55 percent for the game. The Bulls dished out 30 assists, killed Atlanta on the glass, hit 10-18 from 3 and took 15 more shots than the Hawks. Basically, what I'm trying to tell is that the Bulls murdered the Hawks Tuesday.

It was quite the showcase for Rose who has risen to the undisputed top on most everyone's MVP list. He pulled out every trick and tool he had. The runner. The jump-stop floater. The mid-range jumper. The 3-pointer. The blinding driving layup. All of it was on display as he wowed everyone watching with his ridiculous ability. It was the type of game that had people saying, "This is why Derrick Rose is the MVP." Nevermind it was against the Hawks who had no interest in trying to stop anything though.

Here's the thing with Rose's MVP candidacy though: It's getting to the point where if you like someone else for the award or you don't think Rose is deserving, all you are is being intentionally contrarian. Because every Bulls highlight, every time Chicago is mentioned, everyone is touting Rose as the leading MVP. He as all the needed hype and so when it comes time to cast ballots, people will almost feel obligated to go with Rose lest they be called out for being crazy.

That's not to say Rose isn't deserving, because he certainly is. He's been flat out awesome for the Bulls. But for whatever reason, every little thing Rose does people fawn over. His performance Tuesday was incredible, but it's not the best game this season.

I like how Kevin Durant put it. He said last season was his chance to win it because he was the new face to the party. This year, it's Rose. People like the new guy. It's true. We're all excited to have this new MVP in the mix, leading one of the best basketball franchises out there to the promised land. It all makes sense.

New or not though, games like Tuesday's beatdown against the Hawks make Rose pretty hard to deny. Just watching him completely dominate and pretty much humiliate a decent defensive team was almost jarring. Rose is on another level right now. There's a reason he has the hype train driving hard behind him and opposing crowds chanting MVP -- he's earned it.
Posted on: March 16, 2011 1:30 pm

On the power of positive thinking and the Bulls

The Bulls have the top spot in the East, and are looking to win now. Not later, now. Their biggest weapon? They have no reason to doubt themselves. 
Posted by Matt Moore

With Tuesday night's win over the Wizards and the Celtics' idle before Wednesday night's game vs. the Pacers, the Bulls took sole possession of the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference by a half game. That they have found themselves there this late in the season in a ridiculously top-heavy conference, despite both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer missing significant time to injury is a testament to the coaching work of Tom Thibodeau, the roster construction of John Paxson and Gar Forman, and the awe-inspiring growth of Derrick Rose. To reach a 48-18 mark shows that the Bulls are not just contenders for homecourt advantage in the first round, nor for an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, but a legitimate title contender. 

And they know it. 

Take for example, Rose's comments to Sporting News in a lengthy feature: 
“We can win a championship,” Rose says.“We are not playing to get into the second round or anything. We are playing for a championship. I can’t imagine having a goal that was anything less than that.”
via The evolution of Derrick Rose: How he went from big-name player to bona fide superstar - NBA - Sporting News.

Or the comments made by Tom Thibodeau on The Dan Patrick Show
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was interviewed on Comcast SportsNet's "The Dan Patrick Show" Wednesday morning and while he backed away from NBA Coach of the Year talk, he did proclaim--at least initially--the Bulls to be the best team in the Eastern Conference.

When asked by Patrick, the show's host, Thibodeau calmly replied, "I believe we're there now."

However, it seemed that the first-year Bulls head coach was merely referring to the team's record, as Tuesday night's home win over Washington--the team's seventh consecutive victory and 12th straight at the United Center--gave the Bulls sole possession of first place in the East.

"I don't know if we're the best team. Our record says right now we are," Thibodeau later said. "There's a lot of work to be done and we're not complete."
via Thibs dismisses Coach of Year talk, touts Rose.

What really makes a team dangerous when they reach this level is their own belief in themselves. There's a certain gap that exists between teams that have reached the battleground and lost and those who are entering it for the first time. The Bulls have no prior experience in failure. The first-round flameout teams of the past two years might as well have served as practice runs for Rose to get his feet wet in the postseason. Those teams were wholly different in star power, composition, coaching, effiiciency, and effectiveness. The result is that the Bulls enter the postseason with no expectation of anything but success. Despite the phenomenal challenge they face this spring against the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, the Bulls have no reason to believe they can't win. This goes beyond the cliche'd idea of "Why not us?" and extends instead to a surge of self-believe that is strong enough to carry them to the title itself. 

Some teams have to work past their own failures, Jordan's Bulls, for example. But others are simply born into belief and that belief is paramount to matchups, performance, or even chemistry. The Orlando Magic in 2009 rode that same self belief to the Finals, falling only when faced against a substantially superior opponent (and partially thanks to the absence of Kevin Garnett, but let's not ruin a good story). The reality is that Rose pushed the Celtics to seven games two years ago with a worse team, and the Bulls' coach has knocked off LeBron's Cavaliers and Howard's Magic.  This isn't some far-fetched idea, it's reality. 

As far as the top seed in the East and homecourt advantage in the playoffs, things are pretty favorable for Chicago. Of their remaining 16 games, only six are against playoff teams. Only two are against top-four teams in either conference. Boston's schedule, while not extremely difficult, does feature a harder course, especially for a team still trying to integrate two new major rotation players and get the O'Neals back in working order. Miami may have an even shot at it, but they've proven no ability to close anything this season. 

Homecourt for Boston means a huge advantage. A raucous crowd that knows what playoff games mean, the mental edge of having that familiarity in surroundings, and the ability to enter as the favorites. They're in line to not only make a strong statement in their first year of contention, but to knock on the gates of greatness itself. Now it comes down to whether that belief is enough to overcome the positional disadvantages they face. 

Carlos Boozer's going to be a problem. He'll get his buckets, but he's just as likely to get swallowed up by an effecitve power forward defensively, and to be marginalized on the glass. He's a defensive disaster at times, a minor component at best. Luol Deng is versatile, athletic, and can be a difference-maker. He's akin to the Lakers' Lamar Odom in many ways, where if he's plugged-in, the Bulls are at another level. But when he's floating and drifting, he's nothing but a contested mid-range jumpshot taker who occasionally gets lost on backscreens. Kurt Thomas is no spring chicken, Joakim Noah is offensively limited, and the Bulls are relying on Keith Bogans for perimeter shooting. 

But the way the Bulls counteract all those issues is simple. Their whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The reason for that's pretty simple. He can be found running his voice sore on the sideline night after night, and pushing Rose to be the megastar Chicago needs him to be. 
Posted on: January 19, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2011 6:24 pm

Report: Melo Carousel twirls again towards Bulls

Carmelo Anthony's representatives reportedly pursuing move to Chicago with Nets trade stalling. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Make.  It. Stop. 

Okay, now that our obligatory request to end the Carmelo Anthony debacle that even has us weary is through, we can move on. Yahoo! Sports today weaves the tangled web of a swing back towards Chicago in the Anthony talks. Yes, again. 

Nevertheless, William Wesley – Worldwide Wes – is expected to travel to Chicago for Bulls games on Thursday and Saturday against the Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers, a source said. Wesley unsuccessfully pushed LeBron Jamesnotes to sign with the Bulls as a free agent, and now has an interest in Anthony ending up there. Wesley represents Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau for CAA.
via Anthony's agents courting Bulls - NBA - Yahoo! Sports.

I'm going to go ahead and go out on a limb and predict this isn't going to work out well for Melo's men.  The Bulls aren't giving up Joakim Noah. They're not. There was discussion of it earlier this season, and the Bulls responded by locking up Noah with a big extension.  The Bulls have looked every bit like a team on the rise towards true contention, so blowing that nucleus up in order to bring in a poor defender with a high usage rate who wouldn't work well in their system doesn't seem like the kind of thing Chicago's interested in doing, no matter how tempting getting another star in Chicago may be. 

As for their offense, the biggest reason to push for this trade, it's not unfixable. Were the Bulls to ever be healthy again, they have pieces in place to compete offensively, and that's without any significant upgrades through free agency or picks in the years to come, both options which would be cheaper and provide more flexibility than Anthony would.  The offense isn't great for the Bulls, but their defense is so good, they're still in a position to compete. But the biggest reason not to do this trade rests with Rose. 

Derrick Rose is a superstar. Not a star.  A superstar. Hes' the next great Chicago athlete, and he'll have this team in contention every year he's healthy. What's more, he's from Chicago, and has given every indication that he has zero interest in every changing teams. Melo, on the other hand, is leaving a playoff team, again, a playoff team in search of greener endorsement pastures. Why would the Bulls want to take the spotlight away from Rose, which would happen should Melo relocate to the lake shore, in order to push it to someone who may just bolt again at the first sign of trouble?

The Bulls have every reason to be aggressive in pursuing upgrades to make them the best team they can be. There's no reason to sit back and hope the window stays open. But Melo's agents are pursuing an agenda that only helps Melo. And given that Chicago's management, after years of questionable decisions, has managed to start making the right ones, it's hard to see a reversal towards short-sighted greed in advance of this trade opportunity. 

Of course, with the Nets backing out, that could change this dramatically should Denver's price go down. And round and round the wheel keeps turning. 
Posted on: December 4, 2010 12:09 am

Bulls show they're not quite 'elite'

Bulls, hammered by Celtics in second half, may have to realize they're not quite elite yet. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Instead of following up with caveats, let's start off with reasons why tonight's blowout of the Celtics over the Bulls should not be overly concerning for Bulls fans:
  • This was Carlos Boozer's second game back from injury, his second game this season, his second game with the Bulls. So a 12-points-on-10-shots, 2 rebounds, 2 turnover night from him isn't the end of the world, and a better performance from him would have gone a long way to closing the gap. 
  • It's still really early.
  • This was on the road against a rabid Friday night crowd in Boston who wanted this win against a team that very much seems like a rival to them. 
  • Seriously. Really early, still. 
With that out of the way and most Bulls fans probably on their way, we can continue. It wasn't necessarily the fact that Boston handled the Bulls so well, it was that it was hard to see where the Bulls could possibly find matchup advantages should these two teams resume their rivalry in the playoffs this spring. It was also hard to see what this team's blueprint is for reaching "elite" status. Because as currently constructed, even at their peak, they're simply not. 

This isn't to say they're not very good. They are. They could find themselves as high as the third seed in the East should things go their way. But the opening tip was a pretty big omen of how this one was going to go. The Celtics pushed the ball to Kevin Garnett, he worked over Carlos Boozer in the post, and drained a hook over him. From there, it was off to the races. 

Thing is, this game actually was close for the first half. Here's the first half game flow courtesy of GameTracker

Pretty close, right? Here's the second half:

So close... and then, not so much.  The second half was an absolute blitzkrieg from Boston, who responded with abject fury once they got rolling. The bench for Boston wasn't much, but they didn't need to be with the starters all landing in double digits. Rajon Rondo had another absolutely ridiculous night with 19 assists and Kevin Garnett dominated both Boozer and Taj Gibson

The Bulls were relying on their frontcourt to be more versatile this year. After all, the Bulls opted to push for Boozer instead of Amar'e Stoudemire (who dropped 34 on the Hornets tonight). The Bulls will likely play to a draw with Rondo, and lost at the small guard position with Ray Allen dropping in his threes. They'll have a hard time at the small forward position with Luol Deng being reliant on whether his jumper is wet, but they absolutely must have production from Boozer and Noah. As good as Joakim Noah is, he gets absolutely swalled up by Boston's revamped frontcourt with Shaquille O'Neal, and then having Garnett (who was injured for their 2009 playoff series when Noah shined) switch to him when the big fella is out. With Boozer and Noah both ineffective, the Celtics racked up 56 points in the paint to the Bulls' 40. 

The Bulls are a better team than they were last year at this time. Their performance on the Circus Road Trip shows that. And Derrick Rose is a phenomenal talent when it comes to getting to the rim for floaters and drive-and-kick assists. But the Bulls were hopeful of being an Eastern Conference contender coming into this season. From how they've done against playoff teams in the East this year (a combined 0-4 against Boston, Orlando, and New York), they seem to be miles away, with little room to target improvements. 

The Bulls very much are still a work in progress. 
Posted on: November 8, 2010 10:41 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:36 pm

At the Buzzer: Bulls, Nuggets go to the wire

The Chicago Bulls defeated the Denver Nuggets, 94-92, in Chicago on Monday night. Posted by Ben Golliver derrick-rose It was a bit of a grinder in Chicago on Monday night, as the Denver Nuggets limped into the United Center without power forward Kenyon Martin for a date with the Bulls, who were short-handed themselves thanks to the absence of power forward Carlos Boozer. Chicago prevailed thanks to a balanced attack, which saw all five Bulls starters tally double-figures. Despite the balance, none of the Bulls main weapons was particularly efficient, with forward Luol Deng shooting 6-18, guard Derrick Rose shooting 7-21 and big man Joakin Noah shooting 4-11. The Nuggets received a big night from all star forward Carmelo Anthony, who put up 32 points, eight rebounds, one assist, four steals and two blocks, but it was basically a one-man show. Denver looked out of sync to close the game and struggled to hang out to the ball all night, committing 18 turnovers. Chicago got the late-game breaks, starting with a sensational steal by Bulls guard Keith Bogans which led to a runout, as Bogans found Deng with an over-the-shoulder pass that Deng flushed to put Chicago up 88-84 with two minutes to go. Rose, who struggled with his shot throughout the game, hit a big pull-up with a little more than a minute remaining and came up with a few possession-saving defensive plays down the stretch.  In the game's closing seconds, Chicago made an interesting strategic move, electing to foul Anthony even though they held a 3-point lead. Melo hit both free throws, but Bulls forward Kyle Korver held serve, making both of his on the ensuing Bulls possession. On Denver's final possession, guard Arron Afflalo missed a corner 3-point attempt long off a neatly-designed inbounds play. That was the ballgame.    Protecting home court against a Western Conference playoff team, as they did last week against the Portland Trail Blazers, makes tonight's win a big one for Chicago, who still look like the odds-on favorites to win the Central Division despite some inconsistent early season play.  With the win, the Bulls improves to 3-3 on the year. With the loss, the Nuggets fall to 4-3.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com