Preseason game 8 | Bulls finishing flash flusters Nuggets for 8-0 preseason

Bulls 94, Nuggets 89 | 10.25.2013 | Chicago finishes preseason 8-0

Sam Smith: Time to start over now, Derrick Rose was saying after the Bulls Friday completed an 8-0 preseason with a 94-89 come from behind victory over the Denver Nuggets.

“If anything, we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, which was to go out there and try to win every game,” said Rose, who added 15 points and eight assists to finish the preseason leading the team at 20.7 points per game. “And that’s what we did. The season is coming up. We know we have important games coming up. We’re just trying to get prepared for that.”

And though there was some nit picking and moaning about perhaps some players were playing too much and others playing too little, namely Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich, who remained out Friday with injuries, and that maybe there was no need to win all those games, it’s perhaps the strongest and most confident Bulls team heading into a season since the late 1990’s just because of how they played.

Friday it was a little different as the starters came out uncharacteristically languorous and stumbled into a 48-29 deficit late in the second quarter.

“You can’t come out like we did tonight,” warned Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “Not have the energy, intensity, or the edge, just going through the motions, not thinking. They started big and we did not think about what we have to do to take advantage, how are we going to attack and match up with them. The movement and the pace was not good. And defense was non-existent.”

But the Bulls with defense began to show some life late in the second quarter as Rose stole the ball twice leading to scores and Jimmy Butler had a block. And then the Bulls opened the second half bullish, pressuring in the backcourt, denying entry passes, being the aggressor they and their coach know they are.

Continue reading Sam Smith's postgame analysis...

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room: Taj Gibson | Photo gallery Nate the sort of great returns to Chicago

Audio—Nuggets guard Nate Robinson on being back in Chicago, keeping up with his former Bulls teammates, and his role with Denver (10.25.2013):

Audio—Nuggets coach Brian Shaw on Nate Robinson, a conversation last season he had with Derrick Rose, and getting support from Phil Jackson (10.25.2013):

Audio—Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau provides a pregame update on Kirk Hinrich and Joakim Noah, as well as talking about his team's progress during the preseason (10.25.2013):

Preseason game 7 | Bulls outlast Thunder in Wichita

Bulls 104, Thunder 95 | 10.23.2013 | 7-0 in the preseason

Sam Smith: The Bulls preseason, really, their whole season, was to be the story of Derrick Rose’s return from knee surgery and his subsequent play.

That, remarkably, has become something of an ancillary concern with the Bulls 104-95 victory Wednesday over the Thunder in Wichita, Kansas and another superlative Rose game. Rose scored 26 points including 13 in the fourth quarter with a trio of three pointers, all in the last four minutes after the Thunder had taken the lead for the first time since early in the game. Rose is now averaging almost 22 points in about 26 minutes per game.

“Derrick showed good patience, I thought,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “His shot wasn’t dropping early. He worked the game and made things happen down the stretch.”

So we know Rose is good.

What about the rest of the team?

Carlos Boozer had his most aggressive game of the preseason with 20 points and 14 rebounds and Luol Deng matched him with 20 points. Jimmy Butler returned to starting shooting guard after missing three games with a knee bruise and had 12 points on four of six shooting.

“We’re going to be good,” said Deng. “The question is how good can we be.”

Continue reading Sam Smith's postgame analysis...

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | 2013-14 photos

Preseason game 6 | Bulls buck the preseason odds and remain undefeated

Bulls 105, Bucks 84 | 10.21.2013 | 6-0 in the preseason

Sam Smith: OK, the Bulls are ready. Anyone else? Still another week until the regular season begins and two more exhibition games? Geez.

The Bulls Monday made quick and painless work of the Milwaukee Bucks, leading by 16 points less than six minutes into the game, by 23 at halftime and by fewer than 10 points for all of 5.2 seconds late, only in the first quarter.

“We came out on fire, started off well and kept it going,” said Derrick Rose, who had 24 points in about 27 minutes. “We’re just trying to push ourselves.”

Probably enough for now as the Bulls are making it look a bit too easy with the most dominating play around the league in the preseason in going to 6-0 with a 105-84 win over Milwaukee. The Bulls close the pretend games Wednesday in Wichita, Kan. against the Oklahoma City Thunder and at the United Center Friday against the Denver Nuggets with the preseason championship well within reach.

The only rings, however, the Bulls would be collecting would be on their doorbells to get ready for practice before the Oct. 29 opener in Miami.

But as coach Tom Thibodeau has decided, winning is better than losing, and the Bulls can at least claim good habits.

Continue reading Sam Smith's postgame analysis...

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room: Mike Dunleavy | Photo gallery Regardless of injuries, Thibodeau seeks consistency

Bulls huddle up during a break in the action

Preseason game 5 | Rose leaves Pacers back in the starting blocks

Bulls 103, Pacers 98 | 10.18.2013 | 5-0 in the preseason

Sam Smith: I’ve been hearing the Bulls talk about this new offense this season, about motion and read and react and subtle alternations of their schemes.

Pssst, c’mere. I’ll tell you a little secret.

The offense is named Derrick Rose.

“I’m not holding back,” said Rose, who was brilliant in the Bulls’ second half 103-98 comeback win over the Indiana Pacers with 32 points and nine assists in 31 minutes, including 10 of the Bulls last 13 points in the last four minutes. “Whatever shot you give me, I’m taking.”

And Rose just took it to the Pacers in what had to produce nightmares for a hopeful Indiana team that fell to 0-5 in the preseason while the Bulls moved to 5-0. After all, it’s the Pacers who took the Heat to a seventh game in the conference finals last season. So here they are on the verge, and here comes Rose again.

“Same old Derrick Rose I remember before the injury,” said Pacers coach Frank Vogel, whose Pacers were 3-9 against Rose and the Bulls from 2010-2012 and 3-1 last season with Rose out. “He is special. They are dramatically different with Derrick out there. He has the ball in his hand every possession and he is special. You will never find me shy of respect for Derrick Rose.”

Dreaming about him, perhaps, but not likely in a very inviting way.

Continue reading Sam Smith's postgame analysis...

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room: Taj Gibson | Photo gallery
Sam Smith: Noah says it’s just a little tweak in the road No place like home for the Bulls
Sore groin to sideline Noah
Sam Smith: Snell coming out of his shell

Preseason game 4 | Rose cooks at home in return to United Center

Bulls 96, Pistons 81 | 10.16.2013 | 4-0 in the preseason

Sam Smith: With Derrick Rose now after four Bulls preseason games, it’s perhaps just about looking for flaws. And, amazingly enough, there don’t seem to be any.

“As long as I’m playing the way I’m playing and we’re winning games, I could care less about getting back to my regular self,” Rose said Wednesday after the Bulls’ easy 96-81 victory over the Detroit Pistons. “Even though I’m already there.”

Difficult to argue as Rose played his first game in the United Center since his devastating April 2012 knee injury—for a Chicago audience that has heard all the positive talk but wanted to see for itself—and with 22 points in 22 minutes that included nine of 10 at the free throw line and an assortment of flying, acrobatic drives and dunks, the MVP chants were back.

Now, it’s time to get on with the season.

“This is the first time I’m playing on a team with guys so focused and keyed into what we need to do to win,” said Rose, who patiently chatted up several waves of reporters in front of his locker for almost a half hour in a playoff like media session. “Everyone is professional and I’m fortunate to be on a team like this. We have a huge opportunity. We can really contend for a title. We have to take every practice and every shootaround seriously so we can get there.”

Continue reading Sam Smith's postgame analysis...

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room: Derrick Rose | Photo gallery
Sam Smith: Home crowd enjoys another Rose first
Update from Pistons shootaround: Billups may step into a greater role for Detroit
Sam Smith: Rose not sore, or even sore at anyone

Preseason game 3 | Rose sits as Bulls defeat Wizards in Brazil

Bulls 83, Wizards 81 in Rio de Janeiro | 10.12.2013 | Chicago 3-0 in the preseason

AP: Derrick Rose missed the first NBA game played in South America on Saturday, sitting out the Chicago Bulls' 83-81 victory over the Washington Wizards with soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.

The NBA star's absence disappointed a sellout crowd of 13,635 at the HSBC Arena in Rio - the gymnastics venue at the 2016 Olympics - where the top ticket price for the preseason game was 2,000 Brazilian reals ($915).

Taj Gibson led the Bulls with 18 points and Luol Deng added 14.

Rose had played two preseason games without any sign of problems, but Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said the knee flared up in practice Friday and Rose ended his work about halfway through the session.

"We wanted to see where he was today, but he wasn't as well as we would have liked," Thibodeau said. "He still had the soreness. So we anticipated giving him time off. We view our training camp as the entire month. So if he needs a day, or a couple of days we'll do that."

Additional coverage:
Bulls in Brazil | Box score | BullsTV recap

Preseason game 2 | Bulls continue perfect preseason start

Bulls 106, Grizzlies 87 in St. Louis | 10.7.2013 | Chicago 2-0 in the preseason

Sam Smith: Derrick Rose still is healthy.

But the Bulls Monday in running away from the Memphis Grizzlies 106-87 for a second consecutive preseason victory are feeling good and pretty much are making this Rose Watch theme moot.

“The first half I was kind of jittery,” said Rose, who played an uneventful 23 minutes with once again 13 points and four of five first half missed free throws for the jittery part. “The second half I came out aggressive, getting to the hole, getting the butterflies out. I played comfortable. Just trying to shake the rust off, just trying to come together as a team and get some chemistry.”

It’s not exactly necessary this soon in preseason. But for the most part, the Bulls are looking close to regular season form even playing without Joakim Noah, who remained out with a minor groin strain.

The story of the preseason, if not the entire season, was the return of Rose from serious knee surgery almost 18 months ago. But Rose is quickly making it a non-story the way he’s accelerating down court and going to the basket without hesitation.

“We’re seeing the explosion to the basket, the bursts of speed, attacking,” agreed Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “I think he’s finding his rhythm.”

And everyone else is dancing. Continue reading...

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap

Taj Gibson puts up a jumper against Indiana
"While the return of Derrick Rose is considered—and is—the principal reason why the Bulls have a chance to be serious contenders this season, if Taj Gibson can produce on the boards and perimeter even close to the way he did Saturday it could be the X-factor for the Bulls," writes Sam Smith. (Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images)

Gibson is hearing the roars once again

Sam Smith: Saturday’s preseason opener, of course, was dedicated to the return of Derrick Rose, the chance, finally, for some empirical evidence that he is or can be the player he was before his serious knee injury.

Rose, who reported no after effects Sunday from his first NBA game action in 18 months, was very good, quick, elusive and explosive, and not particularly far from the player we last saw.

But in relative terms, perhaps the best player on the floor was Taj Gibson, the enigmatic power forward who led the Bulls with 18 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, and whose play and presence in the fourth quarter enabled a Bulls lineup with two rookies, Mike Dunleavy and Marquis Teague to hold off a Pacers team still using most of its starters.

“I thought the group that finished the game did a good job,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau after Saturday's game. “Marcus, Tony, Mike Dunleavy, Erik Murphy and Taj.

“Taj was terrific,” added Thibodeau. “I think he feels pretty good about where he is.” Continue reading...

Preseason game 1 | Bulls defeat Pacers in Rose’s return

Bulls 82, Pacers 76 | 10.5.2013 | Chicago 1-0 in the preseason

Sam Smith: Now do you believe him?

Now that you’ve seen Derrick Rose challenge 7-2 Roy Hibbert at the rim, get knocked down and bounce up to shoot his free throws in Saturday’s 82-76 Bulls win over the Indiana Pacers.

Now that you’ve seen him crossover George Hill, leaving Hill reaching and the entire Pacers’ defense coming at Rose and Rose pounded at the rim.

Now that you’ve seen him go full court and dunk, though two handed? Nothing fancy yet, Rose said.

And now that you’ve seen him run the wing with Kirk Hinrich and finish, double pump on a drive and put in the layup and a finger roll, score 13 points in just over 20 minutes and complain to Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau he didn’t want to leave the game.

Now will you believe Derrick Rose when he says he’s back? And maybe even, as incredulous as it may seem, as good or better than he was some 18 months ago before he suffered the ugliest of basketball injuries, a torn anterior cruciate ligament?

“He got mad at me,” Thibodeau said about removing Rose from the game for good with 7:07 remaining in the third quarter and the Bulls ahead 50-49. “That’s when I knew we were good. Now I know things are normal.

“Like we’ve been seeing in practice,” said Thibodeau. “Hit the floor, aggressive. That’s the way he played before the injury and he’s back playing like that. For him, that’s his game, the speed, the quickness, but the power to go along with it. That’s what makes him so special and unique. There’s no one like him.”

Continue reading Sam Smith's postgame analysis...

Audio—Rose on his return following Chicago's preseason victory over Indiana (10.5.2013):

Additional coverage:
Box score | BullsTV recap | Inside the Locker Room: Derrick Rose | Luol Deng

Sam Smith: The really big Rose moment is just about here

No nerves on Rose’s part as he returns vs. Pacers With the long-awaited return of Derrick Rose finally here, one might expect the star point guard to have a case of the butterflies.

But Rose reported no such emotions as he prepared for the team’s morning shootaround at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Saturday.

“I’m good,” said Rose, whose Bulls will face the Pacers at 6 p.m. CT on WGN-TV and NBA TV. “The only time you should get nervous is when you’re not prepared. For me, I’ve been preparing for this moment for a long time. It’s been on my mind for a long time and it’s going to feel good being out there on the court feeling comfortable.”

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he plans to play Rose in two or three six to eight minute spurts.

“We’ll see where he is,” said Thibodeau of Rose. “A game is different. If he needs rest, we’re going to give him rest. If he’s OK, we’ll play him a little bit more.”

Rose finally ready for debut in Indiana

Sam Smith: In the pantheon of greatly anticipated exhibition games, oxymoron that it is, Saturday’s in the Indianapolis basketball temple ranks among the most significant, a great welcome back for one of the NBA’s basketball gods.

Or at least most everyone still hopes.

“I’m just playing the same way I normally do,” Derrick Rose promised after Bulls practice Friday, displaying the sort of self assurance we were accustomed to watching in him when he’d attempt a game winning shot. “There’s no point holding back. I think we go as I go, and me being aggressive gets people open. And that’s how I’m going to play.”


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