Chicago Sun-Times

February 2011 Archives

Noah one step closer to return

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NEW ORLEANS -- Joakim Noah cleared another hurdle in his recovery from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. The 6-11 center has begun participating in half-court contact drills during practice and remains on schedule to return to the active roster immediately following the All-Star break.

"He hasn't been cleared yet to do the (full-court) scrimmaging part, which will be the next step for him," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "What (trainer) Fred (Tedeschi) has laid out is a plan for progression. (Noah) is cleared for contact and the next phase will be total contact."

That final phase could come as early as Monday when the Bulls return to the Berto Center for their first practice following the nearly two-week road trip that wraps up tonight against the New Orleans Hornets.

When he's cleared for total contact, Noah could conceivably play in a game immediately, but the Bulls have decided that he won't see game action until Feb. 23 when they play at Toronto. Coincidentally, Toronto was the last place he played on Dec. 15 before having surgery the next day.

"I'm very excited," Noah said. "I'm working out, I've got some tape on my hand instead of a little cast, I can shoot a little bit and I'll get back on the court as soon as I can.

"It's been good just getting use to the contact again. Obviously, I'm still not where I want to be, but I'm working hard at it every day."

Former DePaul star Corbin now Jazz man

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Because former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was such a fixture on the bench for the last 23 years, his successor was sort of an afterthought in most of the media coverage of Sloan's unexpected resignation on Thursday.

But Sloan's exit has resulted in former DePaul star Tyrone Corbin finally getting a chance to be a head coach in the NBA. Corbin was elevated from assistant coach to acting head coach as soon as Sloan leaving became official.

"Ty, I was fortunate enough to coach him," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who was an assistant with the Minnesota Timberwolves when Corbin played there. "He's a great guy, a great teacher, a great communicator and I think the fact that he played in (Utah's) system and worked under Jerry, it's gonna be a great asset for him."

Said Bulls forward Carlos Boozer, who spent six seasons with the Jazz: "I texted (Corbin Thursday) and wished him luck. I called coach Sloan and wished him the best of luck as well and told him it was an honor playing for him and congratulated him on a heck of a career and I told him good luck finding happiness in retirement."

Bulls react to Sloan resignation

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After playing the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, the Bulls were stunned Thursday to learn that long-time Jazz coach Jerry Sloan had suddenly resigned.

"I was shocked and sad a little bit," said forward Carlos Boozer, who played six seasons for Sloan. "The NBA, we lost a great one when he retired."

There have been media reports that a conflict with former Illinois star Deron Williams during the game against the Bulls was behind Sloan's sudden departure, but Boozer had his doubts.

"I can't speculate because I'm not in that locker room anymore," Boozer said. "But I'll tell you this: from all my time being there, no one could push Jerry out of coaching. He was in a position where he could leave whenever he wanted to leave.

"I don't believe that Deron pushed him out. I don't believe that management pushed him out. That's what I believe, but I'm not there."

Boozer fondly remembered by Sloan, Williams

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Carlos Boozer probably will receive a rude welcome when he returns to Energy Solutions Arena tonight when the Bulls play the Utah Jazz. But his former coach and teammates have nothing but positive words for Boozer.

"I thought he was a terrific player; I always did," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "When he came here, he was a very good passer, he could put the ball on the floor, he sees what's going on in the game and when he gets around the basket he rebounds the ball. He's got terrific hands."

The always-frank Sloan said a lot of the negative feeling stem from Boozer missing 138 games in six seasons for a variety of injuries.

"The only thing that happened is people were on his butt because he didn't play," Sloan said. "I never had a problem at all. He was a terrific guy to coach and he was just a heck of a player.

"My relationship with him was fine. We weren't dinner buddies or anything like that, but we appreciated what he did and what he brought to his team every night. When you lose a player with those kind of abilities, it's not easy to replace."

Jazz point guard Deron Williams, the former Illinois star, believes Boozer eventually will be remembered in a positive vein.

"He did a lot for this organization, won a lot of games, was a great player, two All-Star games and had a lot of accolades while he was here," Williams said. "I think he should be remembered in a good way."

Korver left out of three-point shootout

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Kyle Korver set an NBA record for three-point percentage last season with a success rate of .536, but apparently that wasn't enough juice to get the Bulls' sharpshooter into this year's three-point shootout during All-Star Weekend.

Korver wasn't among the field of six announced Tuesday. Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma Thunder, Daniel Gibson of the Cleveland Cavaliers, James Jones of the Miami Heat, Dorell Wright of the Golden State Warriors and defending champion Paul Piece of the Celtics will be the participants.

Korver, who is shooting 41.2 percent from long distance this season, was disappointed but didn't make a big deal of it.

"I would love to go to All-Star Weekend and participate, for sure," he said. "L.A. would be a good place to be for the All-Star break. But I'll go and enjoy it somewhere else."

Portland's Batum: No 'D' in D-Rose

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has talked all season about how point guard Derrick Rose has improved on the defensive end, but Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum apparently doesn't agree.

After the Blazers beat the Bulls, 109-103, Monday night, Batum was critical of Rose's defense against Portland point guard Andre Miller, who had 27 points and 11 assists, when speaking with Portland writers.

"We know that Derrick Rose is a good offensive player," Batum was quoted as saying in the Oregonian. "But you have to play defense, too. He can't guard Dre. You gotta play defense. He can't play defense, so that's why we put Dre inside and try to attack him. He did a great job."

Rose was asked about that comment following the Bulls' practice session on Tuesday and laughed it off.

"Ah, man, he threw me under the bus, didn't he?" Rose said with a smile. "No, everybody has their opinion. I know that I can play defense. It is what it is."

When asked if the comment upset him, Rose said: "No, not at all. That's his opinion. Everybody has their opinion."

The story, though, took a strange turn Tuesday afternoon when Batum backed off his comment, essentially saying he was misquoted even though multiple reporters quoted him.

Batum, who is from France, wrote about the issue in a blog posting on a French website. OregonLive.com translated the blog:

"I would like to start this blog by saying that I never said, 'Derrick Rose can't play defense.'

What I said was Derrick Rose is a better offensive player than he is on defense. And, in a game like that, if we can get him to play defense, that can get him in trouble and be better for us, especially if we can get him in foul trouble. This is why Andre Miller attacked on offense so much, because Rose couldn't foul him, and he couldn't foul him because they needed him on the court. Players like him [Rose], the Kobe and LeBron type, They aren't going to foul or take risks, except for at the end of the game, because they are too important to their team. And Derrick Rose, He got a quick foul at the start of the game on Andre Miller and that calmed him down quickly. So, he couldn't put defensive pressure on Andre all the time because he didn't want to be whistled for any more fouls. And us, that's what we wanted, because if you take Derrick Rose out of the game, it's obviously a better situation for us.

"So, that's what I actually said. Derrick Rose, he's a better offensive player than defensive player. And, Andre Miller was right to play aggressively against him and try to draw fouls. And, because Rose didn't want to commit any fouls, is what contributed to Andre Miller's big night statistically.

"But, I never said he can't play defense, because if he wanted to defend, he could take the court away from you. And also ... me. I played at the Hoop Summit against him, and when we played against the USA this summer... I can tell you he does indeed know how to defend. Trust me, I've seen him at work on the defensive end."

Of course, only Batum knows for sure what he really meant to say, but there was no apparent ambiguity in his postgame comment.

Bulls-Trail Blazers postgame bonus

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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Not surprisingly, the Bulls were focused on their defensive effort - or lack of any - following a 109-103 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night.

Besides letting LaMarcus Aldridge roam free for a career-high 42 points, the Bulls let the Blazers shoot 51.5 percent from the field for the game.

Here are some additional thoughts about the game from Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and point guard Derrick Rose.

Thibodeau on the defense: "Every aspect of the defense was missing. This is two games in a row where we put ourselves in a bad position because we weren't guarding. Aldridge basically got whatever he wanted. We weren't able to take anything away from them, so it was an easy game for them offensively.

"You're playing with fire, you're trying to outscore them and that's not our game. We can't win like that. We can't win on the road like that. We have to get back to playing defense. There's not one aspect of our defense we're doing well right now."

Thibodeau of offense being good enough: "I said this the other night: When you're shooting 47 percent or 49 percent and you're scoring 100 points, that should be more than enough to win with. Until we correct the defense, we're not gonna win. The approach of going into these games trying to outscore teams is a recipe for losing. We have to change that."

Rose on the defense: "When the defense isn't straight it's usually lack of effort or miscommunication. We just have to get that together, stay aggressive on both ends, but our defense has to be better. That's for sure.

"I think our offense is there, but defensively, we're terrible right now."

Rose on the approach to defense: "What did they have, 109? That's terrible. It seemed like we're just going point-for-point with them, especially in the beginning of the game. That's where it started and it continued throughout the game. It's hurting us right now. Lack of communication and not bringing the intensity to the defensive side is killing us."

Rose on Aldridge scoring on numerous lobs and his defense against Andre Miller: "That's what we have to stop. I did a terrible job with Miller, getting him to the line, jumping in the air, stupid fouls. But if anything I think we can learn from this. Use this to try and go get the win in the game coming up."

Fired-up Thibs: Rose had a bad game

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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Normally, Tom Thibodeau is even-keeled and matter-of-fact in his interview sessions, but the Bulls coach was obviously fired up this morning at the suggestion in some media outlets that the Golden State Warriors may have discovered the secret to containing Derrick Rose Saturday night.

Faced with constant trapping in the pick-and-roll with Carlos Boozer, Rose had one of his worst games of the season, finishing with 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine turnovers in the Bulls' 101-90 loss.

But Thibodeau said the Golden State defense was not the reason for Rose's struggles.

"When you study what happened, most of his turnovers came in transition and isolation plays," Thibodeau said. "The double team or the trap, he's seen that all year. In the third quarter, when we're up 12, no one's talking about what are they doing to Derrick. Most of his mishandles were in transition when you study the tape.

"In the fourth quarter, that's when we struggled. When Derrick went out of the game, we had a hard time and that's when they got their cushion. And I liked a lot of the shots we got off the pick-and-roll - that's how we got the 12-point lead in the third quarter, the plays that Derrick and Carlos made in the pick-and-roll.

"Derrick's not gonna play great in 82 games. That's the reality of it. He wasn't at his best, but the guy still scored and he had 10 assists."

Thibodeau is correct in his assessment. The Warriors didn't do anything revolutionary in defending the pick-and-roll, but Rose made it sound that way in his post-game interview in trying to find a reason for his poor performance.

Bulls -Warriors postgame reaction

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After the Bulls had their six-game winning streak snapped with a 101-90 loss to the Golden State Warriors Saturday night at Oracle Arena - their worst loss since a 12-point loss at Boston on Dec. 3 - there really wasn't much to say in the locker room post game.

Coach Tom Thibodeau on if the light schedule (two games in seven days) was a factor in the team appearing out of sorts:

"The challenge is to be ready to play no matter what the circumstances are. Sometimes it's back-to-back and sometimes you're off for three days and then you play. The challenge is to make sure you have that edge right from the start no matter what you're faced with.

"I thought we eased into the game and I thought it was an offensive game to start and when you do that against a team like this you're asking for trouble."

Derrick Rose had his worst game in quite a while with 14 points, 10 assists and nine turnovers for nearly a dubious triple-double.

"We were just out of sync," Rose said. "They doubled kind of weird. They had two people on one side making sure that when I came off the pick two people were on me. If I made the slip pass, someone was sticking Carlos [Boozer].

"It was just tough, a tough night, but we'll get used to it. I know coach is gonna go over it the next time we have shootaround of practice."

Thibodeau, though, didn't agree that the Warriors' traps were the issue.

"I don't know if the traps were successful," the coach said. "Our turnovers came from over dribbling and dribbling into a crowd. They were collapsing on dribble penetration. When we made the simple plays and just hit the open man, that's how we scored effectively. We scored the ball for the first three quarters and then we struggled to score."

Warriors will test Bulls' discipline

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Although the Golden State Warriors have a losing record, they present a challenge to opposing teams - particularly at home - because of their fast-paced style.

"They play great, they score a lot of points, they have a lot of guys that are very good one-on-one guys - Monta [Ellis] has been one of the leader scorers in the league probably since he got to the NBA - and they're well coached," Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer said. "They have that Don Nelson system. I know Keith Smart is the head coach, but they have that same type of system.

"It's gonna be a high-octane game. It's one of those games that as NBA guys you look forward to playing. It's more like street ball, what we all grew up playing. It'll be fun."

The key for the Bulls will be playing their game and not getting into a track meet with the Warriors.

"As a team, they're shooting almost 40 [percent] from three, they have a dynamic backcourt in Ellis and [Stephen] Curry and they can all score the ball," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "You've got your hands full when you're playing them. They're a big-time scoring team and they're a passing lane steal team. We know how important it'll be to establish a defensive mindset right at the start of the game."

Bulls react to All-Star snub

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SAN FRANCISCO -- At 34-14, the Bulls are one of the biggest surprises in the NBA so far this season, but they believe the fact that they only placed one player on the Eastern Conference All-Star team is a testament that some doubt they are as good as their record.

"It's weird to me that we only have one, but then again all I can do is kind of put it past me," said forward Luol Deng, who was believed to have the best shot at joining Derrick Rose on the team.

"I really think I am a step ahead of where I was last year. My main thing is to keep going forward. I am disappointed, but there's nothing I can do about it."

Although power forward Carlos Boozer has All-Star caliber numbers (19.8 points and 10.2 rebounds), his case was hampered by the fact he's missed 18 games because of injury.

"I'm not disappointed," he said. "I didn't think I was gonna make it because I didn't play enough games. I really wish Luol had made it. I feel he was very deserving. He's played every game this season, he's having a monster season for us and I was hoping he'd make his first All-Star game.

"I'm gonna go down to the beach in Miami and see my kids, get a little tan and come back crispier."

While Boozer understands why he wasn't selected, he feels the Bulls definitely deserved a second player. They are the only one of the top four teams in the East without multiple All-Stars.

"That's surprising," he said. "I feel like Luol was deserving. He's having a monster year. Obviously, D-Rose starting is a given, but you would think Luol would be in there considering our record and how well we played in the East.

"I'm sure it's gonna motivate the hell out of him. He's already motivated, but it's gonna motivate him even more. We have a lot to prove. We're a team that's still trying to find our respect from everybody else."

Bulls snubbed in All-Star reserves

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The Bulls are tied for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, but success on the court didn't help translate into an All-Star nod for either Luol Deng or Carlos Boozer when the reverses were announced tonight.

The Boston Celtics were awarded four of the seven spots, with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen earning selected. Al Horford and Joe Johnson of the Atlanta Hawks and Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat were the other three reserves.

The reserves were determined by a vote of conference coaches.

The Celtics, who have the best record in the conference, have the most players on the team with four. The Miami Heat, who are tied with the Bulls, had three players, including two starters. The Hawks, who are tied for fourth, have two players.

Boozer, who is averaging 19.8 points and 10.2 rebounds, might have made it if he hadn't missed 18 games because of injury. Deng has been a key to the Bulls' success, but he hasn't created enough national buzz to get serious consideration. He wasn't even listed among the four players listed for a poll on the TNT broadcast announcing the reverses about who was the biggest snub.

Boozer feels he's deserving of All-Star nod

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LOS ANGELES -- Derrick Rose was voted in as a starter for the All-Star Game and will be back here in a little more than two weeks at Staples Center for the NBA's midseason classic.

Carlos Boozer is hoping to join Rose.

"I'd love to be able to represent the Bulls in that game with D-Rose," Boozer said. "It would be a huge honor if it's something I'm able to do. If not, I'll go home and see my kids in Miami."

Boozer is averaging 19.8 points and 10.2 rebounds, which are All-Star caliber numbers. But he's missed 18 games and that may keep him off the team when the reserves are announced tonight.

"I know I missed some games with my broken hand," he said. "I feel like I am deserving of an All-Star appearance. But if not, I'm not gonna be disappointed. There are a lot of guys deserving of an All-Star appearance. There are so many good players in the NBA some guys that want to be there that won't be there. If I am there, I'll be extremely happy."

Bulls escape snow, ready to begin trip

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LOS ANGELES -- The Bulls had little difficulty getting out of Chicago on Tuesday before the big snow storm worsened, but they were late getting to shootaround at UCLA this morning because of traffic.

But no one was in a bad mood, probably because it was bright and sunny with temperatures in the 60s and they weren't experiencing the miserable conditions at home.

"My mom and my girlfriend have been sending me pictures of the snow there," Derrick Rose said. "It's terrible there, so I'm happy I'm here."

The Bulls will kick off the five-game road trip tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.

The Clippers, who got off to a 1-13 start, are a bigger challenge than most people realize. They've gone 18-15 since that slow start and bring a nine-game home winning streak into the game.

"I take my hat off to them," Rose said of the Clippers. "They're playing decent basketball right now. They've beaten some of the best teams and they're dangerous, especially at home."

Thibodeau wins NBA award

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Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was named the Eastern Conference coach of the month on Tuesday.

Thibodeau led the Bulls to a 12-4 record in January, including a 90-79 win over the East-leading Boston Celtics on Jan. 8. The Bulls have gone 11-0 against Central Division opponents, and are the only team in the NBA without a division loss. Their 44.5 rebounds per game rank second in the NBA, and its 92.0 points allowed per game rank third.

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