2009.10 Chicago Bulls | 82 games | February
Game 59: Bulls pace themselves a bit much in losing to Pacers
Pacers 100, Bulls 90 | 02.27.10: I remember one time asking the late Cotton Fitzsimmons, the garrulous and popular longtime coach of the Suns, Hawks, Spurs and Kings, what he’d do when one of his teams had one of those nights like the Bulls did in losing 100-90 to the Indiana Pacers.
When from the opening tip they had virtually no chance of winning the game as they lacked the energy, enthusiasm or ambition to compete after finishing a grueling stretch of games, for the Bulls eight in 12 days and the sixth back to back in February.
“Just go into the locker room and flush the toilets,” drawled Fitzsimmons. “Tell ‘em to get rid of it and get on to the next meal.”
Perhaps the imagery isn’t delightful, but the message is clear. Gather yourselves because there’s a long way to go.
For the Bulls, Saturday was one to forget quickly with nine straight games coming against teams with winning records and a tough fight to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference with the Bulls now 31-28. It leaves them in sixth only a game behind fifth place Toronto, but also only two games ahead of ninth place Charlotte...
Dr. Steve Julius, Bulls team psychologist, talks about the mindsets of John Paxson, Gar Forman and Vinny Del Negro (02.27.10):
Game 58: Bulls keep it going with ice and icy resolve
Bulls 115, Trail Blazers 111 (OT) | 02.26.10: Another game. Another six buckets of ice.
The mood was light in the Bulls locker room after the game, something of a mixture of satisfaction for the impressive 115-111 overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers and relief that at least most were still walking.
Luol Deng, who had 23 points, including a team high seven in the overtime, laughed about Derrick’s Rose’s attempted winning layup at the buzzer that rolled tantalizingly around the rim and off.
“I thought it was definitely in,” said Rose, who led the Bulls with 33 points, 23 in the second half. “Right after I saw it hit the backboard I said, ‘That’s game.’ Then I saw it come out and I’m like ‘Man, we’ve got to go to overtime.’ That’s something I didn’t want to do with this team, but we pulled it out.”
Deng laughed at the recollection.
“I was thinking,“ Deng said with a laugh, “‘Yeah, thanks Derrick, overtime. I needed that.’”
Deng, actually, has a terrific ironic sense of humor, though he prefers a serious tone in his interviews. His knee is so sore and swollen from banging it earlier in the week he didn’t think he’d play before the game. He later could not bend his knee to step into his slacks. So he straightened his leg and pulled the slacks up.
Deng ended up playing 45 minutes, including the entire overtime...
Sam Smith of Bulls.com on Joakim Noah's injury and his memories of Norm Van Lier and Johnny "Red" Kerr (02.26.10):
Game 57: Bulls begin countdown with win over Pacers
Bulls 120, Pacers 110 | 02.24.10: Make that magic number 11. Any combination of 11 Bulls wins or Bobcats losses, or 10 Bucks losses or nine Heat losses, or nine Raptors wins, or...
OK, OK, it’s too soon. But it’s coming. The trading deadline has passed and now it’s all about the playoffs.
And the Bulls made another step toward that ultimate goal for this season with a riotous, wide open 120-110 win over the Indiana Pacers that gave the Bulls a 30-27 record. It moved them to sixth in the Eastern Conference, a game and a half behind Toronto in fifth and two and a half games ahead of ninth place Charlotte.
Last season, the Pistons made the final East playoff spot with 39 wins, and you figure it may take 41 this season with the Raptors, Bulls, Heat, Bucks and Bobcats in a tight race for the last four spots and Charlotte in ninth at just two under .500.
“It’s a win, wasn’t pretty but we got it done,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro offered about the Bulls blowing all of a 23-point first quarter lead, and then opening up after halftime with a 20-10 run and leading by double digits the rest of the way...
Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald talks about moving Tyrus Thomas, what seed the Bulls should get and whether they can win a round in the playoffs (02.24.10):
Game 56: Bulls victimized by their own gridlock in Washington
Wizards 101, Bulls 95 | 02.22.10: Free Joakim Noah! Free Joakim Noah!
"I want to play," the Bulls' plantar fasciitis gripped center was saying quietly in the team's locker room after the team was blowing a 10-point third quarter lead and losing 101-95 to what passes for the Washington Wizards these days. "I want to play. What can say? I'm not going to go in the media and say, 'I want more playing time. I'm not happy with the situation.' It is what it is. They told me this was going to happen. They want to ease me into it.
"I don't think my foot is going to be 100 percent for the rest of the season," Noah conceded. "It's frustrating because I want to be out there and I want to help. But I have to be healthy. I've got to play though it. I don't really know what to do."
There's no question the Bulls can use Noah as Brad Miller is wearing down and had four points on one of six shooting, the Wizards outrebounded the Bulls 43-36 and no one could defend Andray Blatche, the Wizards' version of Tyrus Thomas who has been unleashed since the Washington trades. He is averaging 25 points since and led the Wizards with 25 points and 11 rebounds...
Bulls EVP of Basketball Operations John Paxson talks about the deadline deals, where it sets the Bulls up for this year and beyond, and what they are looking for this summer (02.22.10):
Game 55: Bulls continue winning ways over 76ers
Bulls 122, 76ers 90 | 02.20.10: Who are those guys wearing the Bulls uniforms? Forget LeBron and Wade. The Bulls have Hakim the Dream and Flip to my Lou. This is starting to get scary.
But in blowing out the Philadelphia 76ers 122-90, the Bulls won their fourth straight game in the last five nights, reached three games over .500 at 29-26 for the first time in almost three years and moved to sixth in the Eastern Conference with their 15th win on the last 21.
It also was perhaps as perfect a game as any Bulls team ever has played with a franchise low four turnovers, a 21-0 first half run to effectively end the game, seven players in double figures led by rookie Taj Gibson with 20 points and 13 rebounds, the fourth different scoring leader in the last five games, a dozen dunks and 27 fast break points.
"They were stopping us and getting out and running, playing great team basketball," marveled Allen Iverson, who had a quiet 13 points. "They were finding the open man and just making the right plays. They didn't turn the ball over. They did everything right."
Iverson may not be able to play like it anymore, but he knows great basketball when he sees it. And it was such a good performance that the Bulls got standing ovations from a sellout crowd after the second and third quarters.
Game 54: Bulls keep on winnin' with third straight, 14 of 20
Bulls 100, Timberwolves 94 | 02.19.10: Ho hum, another Bulls win. This time 100-94 over the Minnesota Timberwolves with five players in double figures and two others with eight and led by the not traded Kirk Hinrich with 20 points, including a three to tie Ben Gordon's alltime franchise record for three pointers made.
So make it 18 of their last 27, 14 of their last 20 and five of their last six. Eight wins in their last 10 on the road, overall nine of their last 13 away from the United Center. Five of their last seven wins in the second of back to backs, which the Bulls will see again with Saturday's home game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Could this be getting too easy?
"Our defense second half carried us," said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro as the Bulls matched a season best (last at 6-4) of two games over .500 at 26-24. "We're scoring enough points. We spread the game, put the ball in Derrick's (Rose) hands at key times and we fed off his penetration. We played defense and rebounded, got opportunities on the break and got some easy baskets to take the pressure off."
Not with this Bulls team, the pre-2010 free agency version which has to struggle and grind and wait for Rose to make key plays to stop runs. It really has become the difference as Rose is taking something from the Jordan model of not doing too much early if it's not needed but stepping in and up, as the clichés go, to keep opponents from running away...
Newly acquired Ronald "Flip" Murray on joining the Bulls (02.19.10):
Newly acquired Hakim Warrick on joining the Bulls (02.19.10):
Game 53: Bulls look good against the Knicks and in free agency
Bulls 115, Knicks 109 | 02.17.10: NBA free agency for the summer of 2010 may have changed dramatically with the series of apparent and imminent trades, and the Bulls were right in the middle among those who could be major beneficiaries. With the Bulls expected deal of John Salmons, rumored to be to the Milwaukee Bucks for a pair of players mentioned in various national and reports out of Milwaukee from among Kurt Thomas, Francisco Elson, Hakim Warrick and Joe Alexander, the Bulls will gain enough salary cap room for this summer to offer one maximum contract to a free agent.
But the big deal with the biggest ramifications was the Cavs' acquisition of Washington's Antawn Jamison. The Cavs were in talks with the Suns regarding Amar'e Stoudemire. But LeBron James was said to prefer Jamison, and the Cavs were able to accommodate him in a three-way deal with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the Clippers Al Thornton and a No. 1 pick to Washington, now also a potential free agent player, Sebastian Telfair to the Cavs and Drew Gooden to the Clippers. It is much anticipated Ilguaskas will be released and choose to return to the Cavs. Though Ilgauskas is said to be upset about the deal and could choose to go a different contender.
Still, the significance was that the Cavs look like the heavy favorites to get to the Finals and perhaps win the NBA championship (they already defeated the Lakers twice without Jamison). It would suggest with the Cavs making the move James preferred and Jamison under contract for two more seasons after this that James is virtually certain to remain with the Cavs. James was generally not thought as a strong possibility for the Bulls. But it would be devastating for the slim hopes of the Knicks, whom the Bulls came back from 15 behind Wednesday to finish the back to back wins with a 115-109 victory to move above .500 on the season.
Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 27 points and six assists with Luol Deng with 23 points and seven rebounds, Brad Miller with 21 points and 10 rebounds and Taj Gibson back home with a rugged 14 points and career high 16 rebounds, 11 on the offensive boards...
Game 52: Bulls blow out Knicks amidst trade winds
Bulls 118, Knicks 85 | 02.16.10: The Bulls played like a team that wanted to stay together in an overwhelming 118-85 victory over the New York Knicks, who played like a team that wants to be with anyone but one another. And they may soon be.
The latest rumor had the Bulls and Knicks supposedly the leading contenders to break up their teams to acquire Tracy McGrady. And as the Knicks look broken, it should be them. Because it certainly doesn't seem like the Bulls are going to be getting McGrady with what is said around the NBA to be somewhat ridiculous demands by the Rockets. Hey, I suppose if someone will fall for it, why not try.
The reported rumor on ESPN is that the Knicks are willing to give up No. 1 draft pick Jordan Hill, their 2012 No. 1 pick, the right to exchange No. 1's in 2011 (the Knicks 2010 pick goes to Utah), Jared Jeffries and a major expiring contract, that being Larry Hughes. That would make it three No. 1's and an expiring contract and their only defensive player for a player who likely cannot play this season.
From the Knicks' standpoint, dealing Jeffries gets them far enough under the salary cap to offer contracts for two max free agents. Their theory has been they get one guy and tell him he can bring a friend. Though neither would get the max they can get from their teams by leaving as free agents and New York is one of the highest tax states in the country. There's basically no chance the Knicks even with two "slots" would get anyone significant, most believe. But if you go this far, I guess you have to go all the way...
John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times talks about the upcoming trade deadline and what's on the table for the Bulls (02.16.10):
Game 51: Bulls and Rose both go down against Orlando
Magic 107, Bulls 87 | 02.10.10: The Bulls final game before the All-Star break ended with just over nine minutes left in the first quarter with the Orlando Magic leading 9-3 on the way to a 107-87 victory.
The Bulls are holding their breath their season didn't end at that moment. Because Derrick Rose seemed to be gasping for air.
Just like more than 21,000 in the United Center, and Rose's teammates, who basically seemed about as stunned and disheartened as the fans about a horrible, thumping fall Rose took after driving into Magic center Dwight Howard.
The Bulls basically reacted to Rose's fall and departure from the game by playing like they were hurt themselves. Perhaps in sympathy for Rose they also laid down.
The Magic surged to a 41-17 first quarter lead, and then the only concern was the health of Rose, who was scheduled to be leaving Thursday to be the Bulls' first All-Star in 12 years.
"X-rays so far were negative," Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi said after the game in the Bulls locker room. "I won't say we completely ruled out a fracture, but it looks unlikely at this point. If there's not a great deal of inflammation, I think we can be optimistic. If there are some things going on we'll have to deal with that."
Rose was limping pretty badly as he left the United Center...
Sam Smith of Bulls.com talks about Derrick Rose's injury, going to his first All-Star game and the upcoming trade deadline (02.10.10):
Game 50: Bulls return to .500 with super win over Indiana
Bulls 109, Pacers 101 | 02.09.10: I loved this game, that being a 109-101 Bulls win over the Indiana Pacers. Oh, it was nice for the Bulls they won to even the season record at 25-25 with one more game before the All-Star break, in the United Center against Orlando. So it was hardly a critical win as it was over a 16-34 Indiana team that still was leading by seven points with about eight minutes remaining.
So, yes, it was the Bulls who came back and won the crucial stretch in the game. But it was how an undermanned and limping-into-the-break Bulls team did so with intelligent, controlled and opportunistic play that obscured their weaknesses. They weren't so much better, but smarter, more committed and tougher. It could be a big step toward the stretch run of the season.
"Guys just made simple plays and it seemed like things started going our way," said Kirk Hinrch, who had 17 points and hit a trio of three pointers. "It was balanced scoring tonight (five players in double figures) and I think that's a result of how we moved the ball. Everybody did a good job. Once we get stops, you get to play with a little thrust and we made good basketball plays."
I'm not going to be concerned about Hinrich's use of coach Vinny Del Negro's favorite adjective, thrust, unless, of course, Hinrich says he wants me to call him Kurt. But I digress...
Bulls Assistant Coach/Player Development Dave Severns discusses working on Derrick Rose's jumper, Joakim Noah's progress and how good James Johnson's potential (02.09.10):
Game 49: Bulls turn the Heat up on Wade and Miami
Bulls 95, Heat 91 | 02.06.10: The Bulls got themselves one of those sigh of relief wins, breaking a three-game losing streak in their fourth game in five nights to defeat the Miami Heat 95-91 behind 25 points from Luol Deng and 24 points from Derrick Rose.
"It was a big win for us," agreed Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. "We will be in a fight with Miami all year. There are a lot of teams bunched together for the playoffs and we were able to take care of business without Joakim (Noah, out with plantar fasciitis) and Tyrus (Thomas, suspended for conduct detrimental to the team). Brad (Miller) played a ton of minutes. Everyone played hard and we made plays when we had to in the fourth quarter. Guys produced. It was a good effort."
And especially because of the message it may have sent to Wade, perhaps the principal free agent the Bulls are hoping to attract this summer.
That the Bulls have a star in Rose who can occupy the defense, which no one among the Heat could as the Bulls successfully trapped, double teamed and boxed in Wade, holding him to 20 points and eight assists. That even without two of their big rebounders and defensive players in Noah and Thomas, the Bulls could still squeeze out a win and at 24-25 are now a game ahead of the eighth place and sliding Heat in the East standings.
And after the game Wade, the Chicago native, made one thing perfectly clear. His destination this summer would depend on his team's ability to succeed...
The Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson discusses the suspension of Tyrus Thomas and the latest trade rumors as the Feb. 18 deadline nears (02.06.10):
Game 48: Bulls continue on losing arc without Noah
Hawks 91, Bulls 81 | 02.05.10: You watch a game like the Atlanta Hawks' 91-81 win over the Bulls and you wonder what the Bulls would be like if they had Josh Smith, the rangy, 6-9 athletic power forward who doesn't have much of a shot, but dominated the game with a triple-double with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.
"Josh Smith has probably been our MVP," said Hawks coach Mike Woodson. "I just wish he would've made that All-Star team because he has played like an All-Star this year for us. Everything that we have done from a team standpoint in terms of winning and losing… he has a great deal to do with that with the way he's played on both ends of the floor."
Yes, Smith is a marvel. Woodson may flinch when Smith tries to make a jump shot. But with Smith's uncanny jumping ability, he won the game for the Hawks in the fourth quarter, in which the Bulls led entering 70-64.
Smith had six points and eight rebounds in the fourth quarter, four on the offensive boards, the final one just about clinching the game and his triple double when he gathered in a Joe Johnson miss with 2:14 left and hit Mike Bibby in the corner for a three pointer and 86-78 lead.
It sure is a luxury to have an athlete who can change shots like Smith, pogo stick off the floor for rebounds and is so long.
Now, where would you get a player like that? Oh, right. On the Bulls bench, where Tyrus Thomas mostly was playing 16 minutes and getting four points and four rebounds...
Lindsey Hunter talks about Derrick Rose becoming a star, whether Vinny Del Negro would attract free agents and the Bulls' historic five-game winning streak on the road (02.05.10):
Game 47: Bulls have little spirit and lose to 76ers in overtime
76ers 106, Bulls 103 (OT) | 02.03.10: The Bulls went back, officially, to being a losing team after a 106-103 overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers left the Bulls 23-24 on the season.
Unofficially, the Bulls just as quickly became a team in trouble with their energy depleted with the continuing foot problems of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose, despite going for 30 points and nine assists, being asked to do way too much.
"We got in a little bit of a hole and had an opportunity on the first half to get a better lead," said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. "We weren't able to do that. In the third quarter, we got a little stagnant offensively until the beginning of the fourth quarter. But you have to give Philadelphia credit. They made some shots at the end of the shot clock. They had a few more plays than we did and we weren't sharp enough offensively attacking the high screen and role. We just didn't make enough plays, bottom line."
The Bulls haven't quite hit bottom. But after that wonderful five-game road winning streak out west, losses to the Clippers at home and the dysfunctional 76ers in Philadelphia not only wasted a chance for the Bulls to make a serious run in the Eastern Conference but again raised serious questions of where the season is headed...
Game 46: Bulls find you can go home, but it ends unhappily
Clippers 90, Bulls 82 | 02.02.10: The Bulls in their first home game in more than two weeks were badly outplayed by the Los Angeles Clippers in losing 90-82. The Clippers made 11 steals and got seven blocks and shot 54 percent through the first three quarters to lead by 15. The Clippers made Derrick Rose look bad with aggressive trapping and Rose shot seven of 20. Luol Deng led with 18 points, but just two after the first quarter.
The Bulls were slow, routinely outhustled, outshot and careless with the ball and fell back to 23-23. Yes, and that was the good news.
The bad news was that Joakim Noah, the relentless spirit of the team, had perhaps his poorest game of the season with eight points, six rebounds and four turnovers, and despite sitting out practice and doing nothing the last three days his foot problems seem as bad as ever.
"It bothers me," Noah conceded after the game. "I'll see how it feels tomorrow (for the 76ers in Philadelphia). It's frustrating to go day to day not being able to practice. It sucks not being able to jump the way you want to jump, run the floor the way you want to run the floor.
"A lot of my game is based on energy," Noah acknowledged. "I've got to find a way to fight through this. I wake up in the morning and see how my foot feels and try to get through my warm up. It's frustrating."
It was frustrating for the Bulls and their fans to have the team return home riding the high of the stunning five-game winning streak against top Western Conference teams, and then produce a sluggish, lackluster effort...
Continue reading Sam Smith's game recap | Box Score | NBA.com recap
Blogs.Bulls.com: Bulls hope to even season series against Clippers
Also: Rose out of All-Star weekend's rookie/sophomore game
Golden State's Morrow replaces Rose in Rookie Challenge