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2009.10 Chicago Bulls | 82 games | December

This year, all Bulls home games will tip off at 7:00 p.m.
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Game 30: Bulls dominate Pistons behind Noah, Rose and Tyrus

Bulls 98, Pistons 87 | 12.31.09: C’mon. Tell me Joakim Noah’s not an All-Star. C’mon, step up.

Noah did on New Year’s Eve in Auburn Hills with 15 points and a career high equaling 21 rebounds, his fourth game of at least 20 rebounds this season. So did Tyrus Thomas, off the bench with 19 points as the Bulls won their third straight, 98-87 over the Detroit Pistons, which happened to coincide with Thomas being back three games from a broken arm. And there also was Derrick Rose with 22 points as the Bulls continued in their best stretch of the season.

“Joakim did a fantastic job on the glass,” said coach Vinny Del Negro. “I’m pleased with the effort. Got nice production off the bench, John Salmons with 17 points) and Tyrus. I liked the way Derrick kept attacking. A lot of positives.”

It’s a positive atmosphere around the Bulls all of a sudden in the midst of the ongoing furor over the fate of Del Negro. It doesn’t seem to be affecting the team as with Thomas back, Rose healthy and Kirk Hinrich in the starting lineup the Bulls have more balance, depth and even fire power...

Continue reading Sam Smith's game recap | Box Score | NBA.com recap
Blogs.Bulls.com: Bulls and Vinny prepare for 2010 and Ben Gordon

Game 29: Bulls with Vinny still coach dominate Pacers

Bulls vs. Pacers | 12.29.09: We interrupt this discussion of Vinny Del Negro’s coaching future with the Bulls to report that, hey, the Bulls might actually have something going here.

“Derrick Rose is a very, very strong point guard,” admired Indiana Pacers fellow embattled coach Jim O’Brien after Rose led the Bulls to a 104-95 win with 28 points, 11 in the fourth quarter. “Super quick and he’s really become a very good shooter. He’s a terrific player. (Joakim) Noah and (Tyrus) Thomas, in particular, and (Taj) Gibson are so quick off their feet and quick to the rim. If you let them get their athletic step they’re going go get a piece of the ball and follows. The strength of the Bulls is they have tremendous athletes and they utilize them well.”

How about our little, troubled Bulls? Athletic? Admired? Yes, they’re now 12-17, which is not so great and one game behind where they were a year ago. But suddenly they have an actual roster and rotation with Rose putting up big numbers, up to 17.9 per game, Thomas with 15 rebounds and three blocks, John Salmons and Brad Miller sharp off the bench combining for 11 for 17 shooting and 33 points and the Bulls posting season highs in shooting, scoring and making 22 of 24 free throws. They’re starting to score, averaging 100 points in the two wins, and even blowing all of a 19-point second quarter lead only to go back up by 17 midway through the fourth quarter...

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Blogs.Bulls.com: GM Forman: Management disappointed, but still optimistic
Also: Del Negro still the Bulls coach despite reports

Game 28: Bulls swat Hornets in big return of Tyrus Thomas

Bulls 96, Hornets 85 | 12.26.09: Can Tyrus Thomas save the Bulls? Can Thomas save Vinny Del Negro? Can Thomas save the season? Can Thomas turn the Bulls into serious playoff contenders this season and get consideration for league MVP? Can Thomas be traded?

Yes, Bulls fan can smile again, maybe only briefly, as the much anticipated return of Tyrus Thomas from a fractured arm turned out to be worth waiting for.

Thomas had 21 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, a steal and numerous changed shots in inspiring the Bulls to a 96-85 victory over the New Orleans Hornets, just the second time all season the Bulls have won a game by double digits.

“You saw what his athleticism does for us,” said Bulls coach, Beleaguered Vinny Del Negro (yes, it’s said so often that “Beleaguered” is now officially part of his name). “He was very productive. I liked his activity. It was tough to take him out because he was so productive.”

It was the new look, new lineup, newly energized Bulls in the wacky Eastern Conference whose win thrust (favorite Del Negro word) them to a tie for eighth in the conference at 11-17, just a game and a half behind Toronto for sixth...

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Sam Smith: The Bulls' time is now... or never

Game 27: Bulls shake 35-point doldrums but lose to Knicks

Knicks 88, Bulls 81 | 12.22.09: The Bulls lost still another, this time in New York, 88-81 to the Knicks, in a game in which the Bulls had the ball and a chance for a three to tie with 30 seconds left. So they recovered, at least somewhat, from the shock of a staggering 35-point lost lead against the Sacramento Kings which left the Bulls in perhaps their worst shape in a disappointing season, as a national joke and object of ridicule.

There’s nowhere worse to be, and with a desolate, dispirited first half in which the Bulls trailed 54-31, coach Vinny Del Negro seemingly declared his independence from it all. Conservative and cautious, always seemingly fearful of upsetting the veterans, Del Negro, instead, began the second half by benching both John Salmons and Brad Miller to go with a faster, more energetic team.

The result was an awakening that carried the Bulls back into the game behind Derrick Rose’s 16 third quarter points and the Bulls within 80-79 with 1:41 remaining...

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Game 26: Bulls blow 35-point lead and lose to Kings

Kings 102, Bulls 98 | 12.21.09: That was historic stuff at the United Center, the kind of stuff only long suffering Chicago fans can understand. Like the ’69 or ’05 Cubs. Like No. 1 DePaul in the NCAAs. Don’t get anyone started on the Bears. The Black Sox? No, the Bulls didn’t throw a 102-98 loss to the Sacramento Kings, though you could make that case after the Bulls had a 35-point lead with 8:50 left in the third quarter.

Perhaps never in the history of the NBA has there been a worse loss. There was a bigger collapse, Nov. 27, 1996 when the Utah Jazz came back from down 36 to beat the Denver Nuggets. But that game was in Utah.

This was at home in front of a big crowd against a sub-.500 team the Bulls already had beaten on the road. This was truly astonishing. Just about every good play made on TV in every sport is called “unbelievable” by the broadcasters. No, this one was unbelievable. And, worse, it probably, finally, establishes the point where the Bulls will have a chance to make the playoffs or collapse and fall toward the bottom of the league...

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Blogs.Bulls.com: Tyreke Evans following Derrick Rose’s lead
Bulls open strong against Kings as Tyrus cheers

Game 25: Bulls pay back Hawks with overtime win

Bulls 101, Hawks 98 (OT) | 12.19.09: No question. No doubt. That 101-98 Bulls overtime victory over the Atlanta Hawks was the best win of the season. Better than over an aging Spurs team on a back to back to open the season, better than even that road victory over the Cavaliers trying to figure out what to do with Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. I know. I know. There haven’t been many other victories this season at all for the Bulls.

“You do have to remember it was these same guys in this same locker room feeling terrible about ourselves,” said Joakim Noah, becoming something of a team spokesman and leader not just with his inspired, hustling play but his willingness to speak for the team now in good times and bad.

No one among this Bulls group, or, really anyone in the last decade, has stepped up to try to become that leader. Hey, it would be nice if he could make a 20 footer. But Noah, with seven points, 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks, made one of the key, albeit subtle plays of the game.

Coming out of a timeout trailing by one with 19.8 seconds left in the first overtime (sorry if I fall into Celtics playoff memories), the Hawks lined up Joe Johnson, who had 40 points. Johnson was terrific all game, perhaps even a bit too much as the Hawks after leading by nine with 4:12 left in regulation got to standing around a bit and watching Johnson.

It was a great show, and now that the Bulls have played the top potential free agents for the Summer of 2010, I’d still go LeBron, Wade one and two. But I move Johnson to three ahead of Chris Bosh...

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Blogs.Bulls.com: Crawford makes the most of his opportunity in Atlanta

Game 24: Bulls hold on against Knicks' three jamboree

Bulls 98, Knicks 89 | 12.17.09: There was some good news for the beleaguered Bulls. Yes, there was a 98-89 win over the New York Knicks after trailing by 17 points in the first quarter.

But if any of the big free agents for the summer of 2010 were watching the two biggest market teams with plans to recruit an All-Star next summer, the Bulls looked like a much better choice.

"Our guys gutted it out in the second half," said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. "We got good performances from a few guys. Taj (Gibson) was solid with a double double. Kirk (Hinrich) with his thrust and defense was a big positive for us. John Salmons made some shots and Luol (Deng with game highs of 24 points and 13 rebounds) was solid for us. We held them to 36 percent shooting and we shared the ball well tonight. Overall our defense was the reason along with our rebounding that we won."

I’d say a bit more the Knicks’ stupidity as they jacked up an astounding 47 three pointers, an alltime NBA record 29 in the first half when they missed 14 straight in one stretch. That’s right. They all felt good leaving their hands...

Continue reading Sam Smith's game recap | Box Score | NBA.com recap

Game 23: Bulls feel better about this loss to Lakers

Lakers 96, Bulls 87 | 12.15.09: You have to hope what happened in a hustling, determined Bulls effort, in the end a 96-87 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant’s 42 points, doesn’t become a habit. Not the playing hard and competing, finally. The being satisfied with it.

“We’ve just got to learn from this one and get better, improve,” said Joakim Noah, who was a hustling force with 11 points and 20 rebounds, 14 on the offensive boards, the most for a Bulls player in 12 years. “You’re getting blown out by 30 points how can you say we're improving? Tonight we can look at ourselves and say we gave everything we had (and) put ourselves in position where we had a chance. We can’t get down just missing open shots and some layups. If we bring that energy we should be happy with ourselves."

Not too happy as it was another loss, the 11th in 13 games to fall to 8-15, three games poorer than last season this time when the Bulls were playing Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes.

It was a lost opportunity, in some sense, as the Bulls got 96 shots to 79 for the Lakers, outrebounded them 51-37, had 14 blocks to five for the Lakers and had more points in the paint, fast break points and second chance points.

The biggest statistic is they scored more than us,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro...

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Blogs.Bulls.com: Kobe Bryant to Derrick Rose: Just do it
Phil Jackson meets the media in his return to Chicago
Also: Tyrus Thomas could be back practicing soon

Audio—Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro on the team’s strategy against the Lakers, Kobe Bryant and his work ethic, and the coaching job Phil Jackson has done (12.15.09):

Audio—Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson on coming back to the Windy City, his former players and Bulls guard Derrick Rose (12.15.09):

Game 22: Bulls fall as Celtics win 10th straight

Celtics 106, Bulls 80 | 12.12.09: Well, at least they paid back Rajon Rondo. I know, I know. Who really cares now.

This is the scary part about Saturday’s Bulls’ 106-80 loss to the Boston Celtics, the Bulls 10th in the last 12 games to fall to 8-14. The Bulls seem OK to not lose not so badly.

“I thought we started the game really well,” said Joakim Noah, who was just one of eight shooting but had 13 rebounds and his usual frenetic effort. “We were making some shots and then they really picked up their intensity and they caused us some problems. We've just got to stick together as a group and deal with the adversity. As good as Boston is right now, the way they run their offense, the way they play defense, that's a completely different team than they were a year ago (in the seven-game playoff series).

“I thought we played hard tonight,” said Noah. “I'm not trying to make excuses, but we've played a lot of games over the past few days (fourth in five night, though with three home). Obviously they are better than us, but I thought we competed.”

Continue reading Sam Smith's game recap | Box Score | NBA.com recap
Blogs.Bulls.com: Boston’s Rivers gives Del Negro a vote of confidence

Game 21: Bulls win, Bulls win, the Buuuuuuullss win!

Bulls 96, Warriors 91 (OT) | 12.11.09: Could our long local nightmare finally be over? Perhaps not with the Celtics and Lakers next in the United Center. But the Bulls finally won the game they had to win, 96-91 over the Golden State Warriors in overtime, the team’s second win in the last 11 games.

“We needed a win,” said Luol Deng, who prospered through 52 minutes, getting 21 points, six rebounds, six assists and two blocks in a terrific effort that included the two big scores in overtime. "You start losing your confidence, stop believing in yourself and you just want to put an end to that as soon as you can. Even if it's overtime, we got a win. The way we've been playing you feel like you're letting your teammates down, coaches down, your fans, and we don't like that feeling."

Nobody liked that feeling, likely least of all coach Vinny Del Negro, who was been buffeted and strafed with questions about his job situation, the coaching version of the Genghis Khan “death by a thousand cuts” torture.

It must feel that way for the patient Del Negro, who is now cruelly asked every day how he feels about his job security...

Continue reading Sam Smith's game recap | Box Score | NBA.com recap
Also: Controlling the tempo key versus Warriors

Game 20: Bulls blown out again in echos of Tim Floyd Era

Hawks 118, Bulls 83 | 12.09.09: I admit I wasn’t watching the Bulls game with the Atlanta Hawks that carefully when the Bulls were down 36 points in the fourth quarter with Jason Collins and Randolph Morris shooting uncontested jump shots. But I thought I saw someone hand a pink piece of paper to Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. I know, that’s what you want.

Let’s fire the coach. Lovie Smith and Lou Piniella, too, while you’re at it, and didn’t the Blackhawks already fire a coach? It’s a Chicago passion. Isn’t there a backup quarterback to put in the game?

Things don’t look good for Del Negro or the Bulls after still another rout, a 118-83 loss to the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday on national TV, no less, that wasn’t as close as the final score suggests. I know. I’ve used that bad line too many times in the last few weeks, and it’s as tired as the Bulls play.

“This game is all mental,” said Derrick Rose, who led the Bulls with 19 points and seven assists but had his own mental lapse in the third quarter with three turnovers in 74 seconds which helped turn the game into a rout for the Hawks. “Either you want it or you don’t. The score tonight speaks for itself. We have to find ways to win. A loss like this really hurts. We’ve been blown out in several games this season, and it’s really frustrating.”

Continue reading Sam Smith's game recap | Box Score | NBA.com recap

Game 19: Bulls lose to 1-19 New Jersey Nets

Nets 103, Bulls 101 | 12.08.09: You hate it when it comes to this, but it sounds like the Vinny Del Negro coach watch began after the Bulls lost 103-101 to the New Jersey Nets, who came into the United Center 1-19. It was the Bulls eighth loss in their last nine games, dropping them to 7-12 on the season and falling into the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I don't worry about that,” Del Negro said after the game in responding to a question about whether he was worried about his job in the wake of consecutive bad home losses. “I just go to work everyday and do my best to develop these guys. Those are questions for Gar Forman) and Pax (John Paxson) and Jerry (Reinsdorf). We're fighting with what we have. Those decisions are not up to me.”

So what else could he say?

It was a painful loss, though the unfortunate part is it was one of the best games, at least down the stretch, the Bulls have played in weeks, at least a sign the team has not quit. The Bulls came back from 10 behind early in the fourth quarter and went ahead with 19.5 seconds left on a Derrick Rose runner as Rose capped off a terrific 11-point quarter and finished the game with 27 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds for his most impressive game of the season...

Continue reading Sam Smith's game recap | Box Score | NBA.com recap
Also: Miller joins starting five as Gibson heads to the bench

Game 18: Raptors demolish the staggering Bulls

Raptors 110, Bulls 78 | 12.05.09: The last time I remember the Bulls losing like this at home--110-78 to Toronto in a game that wasn’t that close--was also on a Saturday night, just about two years ago when the Houston Rockets dominated an indifferent Bulls team. Two days later coach Scott Skiles was fired.

I don’t expect Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro to be fired, especially with two of the team’s top six players and two of their three most effective defenders, Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich, still out with injuries. And that with top guard Derrick Rose just getting over an ankle injury that slowed him the first month of the season.

Still, in the age of Obama, what the Bulls need is some change, if not in personnel, certainly attitude and commitment.

“It doesn’t feel good,” Del Negro said after arguably the Bulls’ worst game in two years. “I love the challenge. I love the competition. It makes me sick to perform like that. But are you going to give up or go and fight? I’m a fighter. I’m going to battle and do whatever I can to help and the guys have to do the same.”

And I don’t expect a trade anytime soon...

Continue reading Sam Smith's game recap | Box Score | NBA.com recap
Also: Tyrus Thomas unfazed by trade talk

Game 17: LeBron James mocks Bulls in Cavs victory

Cavaliers 101, Bulls 87 | 12.04.09: LeBron James made a big fuss recently with his suggestion of a homage to Michael Jordan by asking that the league have all teams permanently retire Jordan’s No. 23.

But in the Cavs 101-87 victory over the Bulls, James insulted what Jordan stood for as a competitor and basketball player and demonstrated why James, at least, doesn’t even deserve to wear Jordan’s number.

With the Cavs leading by 19 points with six minutes left in the game and the Bulls having long given up and not playing any of their top players in the fourth quarter, James began strutting around, shimmying and dancing on the sideline after he was fouled on a drive.

It was pretty classless behavior acting like a clown and rubbing it in with guys still trying to play.

James may have the all around talent of someone like Oscar Robertson, but hardly the class and dignity. Legends of the game like Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird would be horrified by such demeaning and selfish behavior. You never saw anything like that from them. They understood the game transcended everything, that it was the game that enabled you to have everything you did. It’s a sad testament about the game today to see it celebrated in the image of someone like James given his insulting behavior...

Continue reading Sam Smith's game recap | Box Score | NBA.com recap

Bulls guard Lindsey Hunter on turning 39 years old, his NBA future and living in Chicago:

Game 16: Bulls win in Ben Gordon's limping return

Bulls 92, Pistons 85 | 12.02.09: Ben Gordon returned to the United Center for the first time in an opponents’ uniform and was greeted with a cacophony of boos as the Bulls led all the way and beat the Detroit Pistons 92-85.

But perhaps more significantly, Derrick Rose, the Derrick Rose we all knew from his fabulous Rookie of the Year season, returned to the United Center as well in the Bulls' (7-9) first home game in more than two weeks and played some sweet string music of his own.

“I like it when he’s attacking like that,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. “I think he feels more comfortable with the ankle injury and is comfortable pushing off.”

So comfortable, apparently, that Rose dunked twice in a game for the first time all season, sky walking, hammering dunks on lobs from Brad Miller...

Continue reading Sam Smith's game recap | Box Score | NBA.com recap
Sam Smith: The NBA's Mariano Rivera returns to Chicago
Gordon still unsure he’ll play in return to Chicago
Pre-game: Gordon makes his decision last minute; Villanueva out for Detroit

Former Bull and current Pistons assistant Darrell Walker talks about Ben Gordon's arrival in Detroit, winning a title in Chicago and Michael Jordan as a teammate:

More game coverage: February | January | December | October and November
Blogs.Bulls.com | BullsConnect