Chicago Sun-Times

December 2011 Archives

LOS ANGELES --- Derrick Rose downplayed his individual matchup with Chris Paul before the game but admitted afterwards that he thrived off the competition during one of the best individual performance of his career.

Rose had 29 points, 16 assists and eight rebounds as the Bulls ended their season-opening four-game road trip with a 114-101 win over the Clippers on Friday night. The victory gives them three wins in four games heading into Saturday's home opener against the Memphis Grizzlies at the United Center.

"When you're playing you can definitely feel it," Rose said. "You're just trying to win, whatever it takes to win, both teams were making great shots, great hustle plays. Thank God we won the game."

"It's going to be Lob City." That's how Blake Griffin reacted to news that the Clippers had acquired Chris Paul, for reasons that became obvious to the Bulls seconds into the game, when Griffin blew past Joakim Noah, who slipped, for the first of what became a parade of dunks by Griffin and co-pilot DeAndre Jordan.

In the end, however, it was substance over style, Chicago tough over L.A. glamour as Rose turned in one of the epic performance to ruin the Clippers home opener.

"He did it all tonight and Chris Paul is as tough of a matchup as you can get," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "It was like two heavyweights going at it."

Paul finished with 15 points, 14 assists and four rebounds. Blake Griffin had a game-high 34 points and 13 rebounds for Los Angeles.

"Derrick is just a handful and we all know that," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "I don't think we ganged up on him enough. He got too many free throws. He hit some tough shots in the fourth quarter --- stepping behind, hitting some threes. When he does that it puts a lot more pressure on you."

Caron Butler added 16, Mo Williams 13 and DeAndre Jordan 12 for the Clippers.

Luol Deng and Joakim Noah had 19 apiece for the Bulls while Rip Hamilton had 16 and Carlos Boozer 10. Noah also had eight rebounds and was 9 of 10 from the free-throw line.

"You see what Derrick did tonight, it was probably one of the best performances I've ever been a part of," Noah said. "The way he competed tonight was pretty inspiring."

"Competing" was the right word. Rose was doing just that on both ends of the floor.

Rose scored 11 in the first, zero in the second, six in the third and 12 in the fourth as the Bulls pulled away. He also made 10 of 11 free throws.

"We're hopeful he does that every night," Thibodeau said. "The last two games he has been very aggressive and our team has played with a lot more force offensively. We have to have force defensively to get to where we want to be."

Rose started this road trip struggling to find his offensive game and ended with what even he admitted might be his best all-around performance, especially when you consider the defensive job he did on Paul.

"Me attacking first opens up everybody else on the court," he said. "The first game I was basically out on the perimeter just passing the ball and settling for jump shots. The Golden State game was like that, too. Since then, I've been pushing the ball, trying to get to the line, I'm a pretty good free-throw shooter and just have to take my time when I'm up there."

The Kings were impressed with the Bulls. They were also appalled that they had allowed 33 fast-break points and thought the could've won the game.

"I'm going to start off by saying the Bulls won 62 games last year," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "They had the best regular-season team in basketball and they've improved their team. They're a very, very good team. They don't beat themselves and they're great defensively. They play together offensively and I was very impressed by them.

"Having said that, I'm not happy at all tonight. We could have and should have won that game and it's not an excuse for our team to be so young. There are reasons. There are things we have to work on. It's pathetic the way get got back on defense. If we had just done that and made our free throws, we would've won the game."

The Kings were 20 of 34 from the line.

"The Bulls are a great team," Marcus Thornton said. "They found a way to execute and we tried to chip away --- that's what a great team does."

Said Chuck Hayes: "Chicago showed everybody why they're a contending team. They never panicked. They ran their stuff and they knew exactly what they wanted to do. You've got to give them credit but it's frustrating because it's little things like getting back on transition. You have to win at home because it's hard to win on the road in this league."

SACRAMENTO --- Derrick Rose stepped to the free throw line less than three minutes into Thursday night's game against the Kings. When he was scoring himself with pull-up jumpers or by driving into the lane, the defending MVP was creating easier shots for his teammates and the Bulls' offense looked as good as it has this season.

"He was in an attack mode right from the start of th game and thats usually who he is," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I thought he set the tone at both ends. He had that one tough call go against him. Really, there were two tough ones that went against him."

Rose said it would be an easy adjustment and he was right. After the offense stalled early in the first two games, the Bulls point guard vowed to be more aggressive early and he was against the Kings in Power Balance Pavilion on Thursday night. The result? For the first time this young season, the Bulls' offense looked like the Bulls' offense of old in a 108-98 victory over the Kings.

Rose knew something had to change when the offense looked lifeless for the second straight game in Monday night's loss at Golden State. By the time the Bulls practiced Wednesday, coach Tom Thibodeau had told Rose what he already knew: It was time to forget about getting everybody else involved and be aggressive like he was during last year's MVP season.

"We were running, playing in a groove, guys were really shooting the ball," Rose said. "My assists are going to be very high this year. We just have ot keep winning. That's the biggest thing right now."

Rose wasted little time establishing himself Thursday night. After taking just four shots in the first quarter of the first two games, he took seven shots in the first quarter against the Kings, making three. He attempted as many free throws (4) in the first half than he had in the first two games.

"Derrick is the MVP," Luol Deng said. "He's that good. He should go whenever it's the time to. It's still early in the season. We're figuring out a lot of stuff and are still able to go out their and compete. He'll be fine. I'm not worried about that at all."

The Bulls scored 15 unanswered points in the first quarter and could've put the young Kings away if not for more sloppy defense, turnovers (18 for 23 Kings points) and foul trouble by several key players, including Rose, who also had several uncharactetistic turnovers late.

Rose picked up his fifth foul midway through the fourth and was replaced by C.J. Watson, who had eight points and nine assists.

"I don't know what it is, man," Rose said. "Last year, the last couple years, I could go a whole game with one foul. Since the preseason I've been getting fouls. It's just something i have to get through and not worry about."

Thibodeau thinks Rose being a good guy might be working against him.

"He's got to drive with more force, I guess," Thibs said. "Sometimes I think him being such a nice guy goes against him, too. He's driving the ball and it has been four free throws, six free throws, and he's attacking the basket. He's getting hit sometimes. We have to have him continue to do it and generate the force and force them to make the call. Right now, he's not getting the call."

Thibodeau even got a technical in the game --- after the refs blew a whistle on the Kings.

"That's a good point," he said when asked if he had ever received a technical after getting a call. "I probably shouldn't have said anything but I didn't like the way the whistle was going."

Carlos Boozer was the of the primary beneficiaries of Rose's more aggressive approach. The forward finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Rip Hamilton added 16 as the Bulls has five players in double figures. Rose finished with 19 points and eight assists.

"I'm getting better every game, man," Hamilton said. "I'm still a long ways away. It's still early in the season. I just try to get a little better every day."

When to make sure he's getting his shots and when to set up others will always be a balancing act for Rose. What he has to remember is he can do both. The best way for him to set up his teammates is by doing what he does better than any point guard in the league --- attack the basket and either score himself or find the open man.

"Derrick is Derrick," Hamilton said. "He can dominate the game in so many different ways. As a point guard he still has to get a feel for everybody on the floor and knowing when to attack and when to initiate the offense and things like that. That's tough. That's not easy. That's not like any other position on the floor where you can be aggressive all the time. He is the point guard. But he makes smart decisions so he can still get to the basket and score and still make the passes."

SACRAMENTO --- As important as anything Derrick Rose does offensively is the Bulls re-establishing themselves as one of the league's premier defensive teams.

Coordination, communication, everything was lacking in Monday night's loss to the Warriors.

When coach Tom Thibodeau's team failed to do that against the Warriors, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry gained confidence and helped build a lead the Bulls could not overcome.

"We just need to keep grinding, keep a positive attitude and understand teams are very good in the NBA," center Joakim Noah said. "It's not because we're the Chicago Bulls that we're going to win games. We have to go out there and get better. Losing the way we did to Golden State, the effort we put out there wasn't very good. It's on us to bounce back. We'll do that."


The Bulls aren't going to sneak up on anybody after last year's run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Luol Deng has noticed a difference.

"It's totally a different mindset," he said. "I can't think of a game this year or last year where we went into the game thinking we were the underdog. Teams come after us. It's totally a different mindset from a couple years ago. We used to chase teams. Now there are still teams we chase but teams are chasing us."

Noah said it's about playing hard regardless of who you're playing.

"Underdog or not, it doesn't matter," he said. "We just have to go out there and compete. We can compete harder."


Deng soaks his feet in ice and has more ice wrapped around his knees. He was even icing his shoulder after the Warriors game. After ranking among the league leaders in minutes last season, the veteran has learned how to take care of his body, which is especially important during this lockout-shortened season.

"I learned a lot last year," Deng said. "I played in a lot of games and played a lot of minutes and did a good job of taking care of my body and making sure I'm getting my rest. It's going to be the same thing this year. All the guys are aware of it. The coaches, trainers are making sure we're staying on top of it."


Training camp continues for Rip Hamilton, according to Thibodeau.

"Each day he's getting better, getting more comfortable," Thibodeau said. "He missed a big part of training camp. In some ways, this is his training camp. He's got to get up to speed quickly."

Joakim Noah worked on becoming more of a scoring threat during the offseason and was aggressive early against the Lakers when he scored six quick points. He has only scored seven since.

"Some good, some not so good," coach Tom Thibodeau said when asked to evaluate his center's play in the first two games. "He's like our entire team. He was active in the last game. I want him to be who he is. He's playing very good defense, his offense has really come around his rebounding was better in the last game. Offensively, I want him to run the floor more. He can outrun people. He's a guy who can get us some easy buckets. We want to take advantage of that."

Noah isn't as concerned with his own performance as he is with that of the team's. After a epic rally against the Lakers, the Bulls started slow and fell to the Warriors.

"We just need to keep grinding, keep a positive attitude and understand teams are very good in the NBA," Noah said. "It's not because we're the Chicago Bulls that we're going to win games. We have to go out there and get better. Losing the way we did to Golden State, the effort we put out there wasn't very good. It's on us to bounce back. I think we'll do that."

The Bulls may get more consistently intense opposition this season after advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals last year.

"It doesn't matter," Noah said. "We just have to go out there and compete. We can compete harder."

The Bulls had 20 turnovers in Monday night's loss that the Warriors turned into 20 points. After watching the film, coach Tom Thibodeau said the Warriors defense was as responsible as his team's miscues.

"You have to give Golden State credit," he said. "That's who they are. They are a steal-strip type team. If you're not strong with the ball they create turnovers. They're active, they're quick, you have to anticipate what they're doing and hit the first man in front of you and be strong with the ball. Those are things we have to correct."

Thibodeau emphasized cutting down on turnovers during Wednesday practice at the Warriors facility in downtown Oakland.

'We want to run," he said. "We have to get easier baskets. A couple things. Part of it is our defense, rebounding and getting the ball out to run. The other part of it is we've got to take care of the ball. In the first quarter, we were so careless with the ball we put them in the open floor and they got the easy baskets. For us, we've got to take care of the ball, run, get easy baskets and if they get three defenders back flow into the secondary action and then run your plays. But we've got to do a much better job of taking care of the ball."

OAKLAND --- Derrick Rose has spent the first quarter of the Bulls first two games trying to get his teammates involved. No more. The message has been delivered. Tom Thibodeau only needs one word to describe what he wants Rose to do to opposing defenses in an effort to jolt his team out of its offensive doldrums --- Attack.

The Bulls' coach is unleashing his MVP.

"We're a lot better when he's aggressive," Thibodeau said after practice Wednesday at the Golden State Warriors' facility. "It puts enormous pressure on our opponent's defense. When he's attacking we're getting easy baskets, we're getting to the line, he's getting people into foul trouble. It helps us in so many different ways. When we talk about him attacking we want him attacking on both ends. We want him attacking on defense also. That's when he's at his best. Right now, he's trying to get others involved early, which is good, but when they put two on the ball that's good for us. That's easy offense."

Rose isn't going to fight it. He had already diagnosed the problem after Monday night's 99-91 loss to the Warriors. He has only attempted four shots in the first quarters of the first two games. He has only been to the free-throw line twice.

"As long as we win," Rose said when asked if he minds being a score-first point guard. "My teammates realize that. The shots I take. I don't take that many bad shots. They know for us to win I have to attack. Coach already told them. Everybody on the team is cool with it and comfortable with it. That's all I have to do."

The Bulls watched film of games from last season and Rose was all over the place, driving to the basket, collapsing the defense, kicking the ball out to wide-open teammates and leading the break. They looked at film of the first two games this season against the Lakers and Warriors and Rose was trying to get his teammates involved or settling for long jumpers.

More shots by Rose means fewer for Carlos Boozer, but the Bulls' forward was emphatic about he and his teammates being at their best when Rose is a blur on the way to the basket.

"He's a natural born scorer," Boozer said. "We know that. One thing he's trying to learn as he continues to grow as a player is how to use his teammates. Honestly, he's been doing a great job of trying to figure it out but at the same time his first instinct is to score. We're a better team when he attacks and makes plays off what he sees. I'd rather him stay aggressive.

"Let's be honest, what person, what team have you seen that has been able to stop it? Nobody. We're a better team when we're attacking and playing fast and playing off his instincts because teams are at a disadvantage because he's going to make a play or a shot or set something up or one of us. Him staying aggressive makes us a better team."

Thibodeau wants the entire team to play more aggressively in an effort to get more layups, second shots and free throws. Too often players have been settling for long jumpers. He remembers what it was like to try to defend Rose and an aggressive Bulls' team when he was an assistant with the Celtics and wishes that experience on others.

"I know what it's like when you're sitting on the opposing bench and he's attacking," Thibodeau said. "That's something you don't want to see. His shooting has improved greatly from his first year but if you're sitting on the opposing bench that's what you'd rather have. You don't want him attacking and getting into the paint and breaking you down.

"There's nobody faster in the league from end line to end line so we've got to take advantage of that."

Knowing when to take over a game and when to involve teammates is a balancing act. Rose is still learning. Having only a two-week training camp and two exhibition games has also limited the time he has been able to spend with his teammates on the floor, but he doesn't have to worry about that balance now that the decision has been made for him.

"I'll do it the same way I did last year where they follow after me," Rose said. "The first two games in the first quarter we were kind of sluggish. We didn't start off well. The only thing I can think of between last year and this year is this year I shot less shots in the first quarter. Last year, it was at least 8 or nine shots in the first quarter just to get a groove going. That's the difference."

Rose seemed delighted by the idea of being told to score more.

"That can easily be fixed," he said with a grin. "Me shooting the ball, me attacking, trust me, I'm all right."

OAKLAND --- It was only the second night of the season, but it was one of those nights for Derrick Rose and the Bulls --- or at least they hope that's all it was.

"I don't know what it was," said Rose, who made just 4-of-17 shots and finished with 13 points. "We just don't want one of these nights again anytime soon. Just learn from it, and try to keep it moving, but remember it."

The Bulls offense struggled for the second time in two games in a 99-91 loss to the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. No surprise there. The abbreviated preseason makes it more difficult to get players assimilated into the offense, especially teams that added a player or players, as the Bulls did with Rip Hamilton.

What was surprising is the Bulls' defense got misplaced somewhere between Los Angeles and the Bay Area. The smothering team defense the Bulls employed while rallying late against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Sunday was nowhere to be seen against a team most believe will finish behind the Lakers in the Western Conference.

The Warriors outscored the Bulls 42-32 in the paint.

"Our defense was bad," said Luol Deng, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds. "They're a very good pick-and-roll team and we kind of struggled all game keeping them out of the paint. From the start of the game our defense wasn't there. With a team like that, after the first quarter they got confidence and played with the lead the whole game."

Combine the uninspired offense with a poor defensive effort --- Curry and Monta Ellis combined for 47 points,17 assists and nine rebounds --- and throw in 20 turnovers that resulted in 22 Golden State points and it's easier to understand how the Bulls fell too far behind to stage another late-game rally.

"They're hard to guard normally," Bulls coach Tom Thiboudeau said. "Then you put them in the open floor and they're coming at you with a live ball and we're not back challenging shots and protecting the basket. if you give a team like that easy baskets they're confidence goes way up and they're impossible to stop after that. We can't play like that. We have to play defense. We have to rebound. We have to take care of the ball."

After trying to defend Ellis, the Warriors have some insight into the difficulty other teams have keeping up with Rose. Curry, meanwhile, played against the Clippers in the season opener despite having a sprained ankle and scored just four points on 2-of-12 shooting. Curry re-injured the ankle late in the game. Ellis has been dealing with issues of his own. Not only has he been named in a sexual harassment suit filed by a former team employee, but he learned Sunday that his grandmother had passed away in Mississippi.

The Warriors made 12 straight shots during one stretch. Not only were they hitting outside jumpers, but they were beating the Bulls to spots all over the floor and pouring in points in the paint. The Bulls had the league's top defense last season but they couldn't stay in front of Curry and Ellis. They struggled to find an answer to the athletic Lee. On several occasions, the Bulls were late getting back on defense, allowing the Warriors crowd-pleasing fastbreak opportunities.

Rose looked lost at times offensively.

"What we tried to do was give him different looks," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said of defending Rose. "He still found guys. He still made plays but I thought my guys did an outstanding job of making multiple effort plays. After being beaten they got back into the picture and they chased down loose rebounds. He's a tough assignment, but as a coach you cannot give a player of his caliber the same look every time."

OAKLAND, Calif. --- What does the MVP do for an encore? How about making the winning shot --- and a beauty at that --- against the Lakers on Christmas Day.

"It has been that way all last year and he picked up right where he left off," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said of Derrick Rose's game-winner at the Staples Center. "It's one big shot after the next that he has the courage to take. At the end, he showed great resolve. He led us. We found a way to win."

Much was made of Rose urging his teammates on down the stretch of Sunday's season-opening win, but it wasn't his vocal leadership that impressed Thibodeau.

"Sometimes that's overstated," Thibodeau said. "The way he leads us is by his actions. He comes in very day, he's there early he stays late, he studies, he practices hard, he gives you everything he has, he never quits on a play. To me, that's better leadership. Sometimes guys say all the right things and never do any of them. Derrick does all the right things and isn't afraid to speak up. It's the way he carries himself, the way he's always ready, always alert, always into it. When things were going against us he was pulling everybody together. That's the leadership I'm looking for and that's what he's shown. That's the best leadership you can have."

OAKLAND, Calif. --- Derrick Rose was the defending MVP and signed a lucrative new contract. Carlos Boozer became a lightning rod last season and reported to the Bulls' abbreviated training camp 20 pounds lighter. Then Rip Hamilton was acquired and the focus shifted to what the Bulls were missing last season.

But there was the overlooked Luol Deng making game-turning plays on both ends of the court during crunch time against the Lakers in the season opener.

"For the people that know the game of basketball he does not get overlooked," said former longtime NBA TV analyst and current Warriors coach Mark Jackson. "He gives them a post presence at times, also stretches the floor defensively with his ability to knock down the long ball and he takes a challenge on the defensive end. I thought he did an outstanding job [Sunday night]. He's long, active and was disrupting what Kobe [Bryant] was trying to do. Everybody understands basketball understands the importance of Luol Deng for the Chicago Bulls."

The second most valuable player for the Bulls last season is also the players who has been with the team the longest. It was Deng's emergence as a steady scoring threat that had almost as much to do with the team's success as Rose elevating his game to MVP level in just his third season.

But it's not just what Deng does offensively. As he proved against the Lakers with a late steal and by blocking Bryant's potential game-winner in the final seconds, he also excels on defense. Thibodeau believes he not only can be an all-league defender this season but deserved the honor last season.

"He's so consistent," Thibodeau said. "You can count on him to do whatever is necessary. He had the big three-point play. He came up with a big steal, the blocked shot at the end. He never gets too excited. He stays the same. He's never too up or too down. He keeps working the game, makes tough plays for you. He just gives your team a lot of toughness. That's what he does."

He also made two key free throws during the Bulls frantic rally.

"The game just happened," Deng said of the season opener. "Just playing hard the whole game, sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn't. As a whole team, we felt like we didn't play well but we were still able to win the game. With about three minutes to go we really felt like our defense was solid and let's just keep playing until the end. I remember right before we walked out onto the floor we talked about that. Play hard until the end and you never know what's going to happen and the game really turned around."

Rose has received a lot of credit for motivating his teammates down the stretch against the Lakers. But he never has to prod Deng, who said he learned years ago that learning to play hard the entire game is the key between good teams and everybody else. He a lot of teams quit playing hard midway through the season.

"We know the kind of team we are," Deng said. "If teams are going to come out and play ugly basketball and not shoot well, we can play that game. If they're going to come out and shoot the ball well and play well we can play that game. That's what makes us unique. We play hard. Those kind of games, when games look a little rough if you're watching, most of the time those are going to favor us because we have a lot of guys that play that way. It's fine with us."

LOS ANGELES --- It was not a rousing debut for Rip Hamilton.

The Bulls newly acquired two guard drew the defensive assignment on Kobe Bryant, which is something he has done since he and Bryant were both playing high school basketball against each other in Pennsylvania. This time, Hamilton picked up two early fouls and spent much of the first half on the bench.

Hamilton finished with six points in 23 minutes, six seconds.

"The two early fouls really hurt him," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He got a tough whistle but sometimes that's part of the game, too, and you have to deal with that. I don't think it affected him in a negative way. He has been through it. He knows. He tried to help in any way he could. Even when he's not scoring he's helping us because he moves without the ball so he can create easy offense for us. The game was a rather physical game and I don't think he got the benefit of the whistle but sometimes that's the way it is. Ronnie [Brewer] came in and did a great job."

Rose is confident Hamilton will bounce back.

"He got in foul trouble," he said. "It put him out of sync. Next game, he could have 30 or 40 points. We're not worried."

Here's what TNT analysts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley had to say about the Bulls today.

Smith on the Bulls being a defensive powerhouse in the Eastern Conference: "Chicago is probably the favorite because they have everyone back and they added (guard) Rip Hamilton. Defensively they can stop you. You take that into account and the best defensive team in basketball might be the Chicago Bulls. This is a team -that in 66 games- can really separate themselves in the Eastern Conference better than anyone else."

Barkley on the Eastern Conference: "The Heat and the Bulls are head and shoulders above everyone else. They are far-and-away the best two teams in the East."

Ask Mike Brown how he plans to defend Derrick Rose and he sounds a lot like Tom Thibodeau talking about he the Bulls plan to defend Kobe Bryant.

"It's going to be tough to stay in front of him but it won't be one guy doing it," the first-year Lakers coach said. "It will be a team effort. In our system, five guys guard the basketball, not this guy guards that guy. Obviously, you have responsibility when you're matched up with a man but whoever is matched up with Derrick Rose is going to need help because he's a great player."

Brown is impressed with the Bulls and thinks they will make a deep playoff run for the second straight season.

"Luol Deng has shown the capability of carrying these guys," Brown said. "You talk about Carlos Boozer. A guy nobody speaks about is Taj Gibson. You have to mention Rip Hamilton. Watching him in the preseason he looks like he has a renewed energy on both ends of the floor. This is a deep team. They are very, very well coached. Don't look for their season to end anytime soon."

Brown knows Hamilton from his years of coaching the Cavaliers and believes he helps the Bulls.

"He adds another threat on both ends of the floor," Brown said. "He wasn't really known as a defender but when he wants --- back in the day with Larry Brown especially --- he can get after it defensively. They put him on LeBron at times and nobody is going to stop LeBron but he gave LeBron fits and he gave us fits because he was smart enough and quick enough and long enough to get up and pressure LeBron as he brought the ball up the floor once in a while.

"Offensively, he's got to be one of the best --- if not the best --- guys at coming off of pin downs. He gives them another dimension because he's in their lineup and they got a guy like that coming off the bench in Kyle Korver. He brings a lot to the team as well as a championship mentality."

Coach Tom Thibodeau hopes to run more this season and was pleased with his team's execution on the fast break in the exhibition finale against the Pacers except for a few missed layups.

Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton give the Bulls one of the fastest backcourts in the league. Center Joakim Noah is as athletic as any center in the league, which should give the Bulls an edge when they do run.

"Some teams will have three guys back so you have to flow into your secondary action," Thibodeau said. "We have to make sure we take care of that. We have to have Joakim run the floor the entire game. Same with Carlos [Boozer]. Our bigs have to get down the floor. You need more than just one guy running all the time. The bigs have to do a better job of running the floor.
"We have to get everybody committed to running. Not just one guy. Our whole team has to run."

LOS ANGELES --- Just who will guard Kobe Bryant when the Lakers host the Bulls today at Staples Center was a closely guarded secret until coach Tom Thibodeau showed his hand Saturday.

How will guard Kobe? It might be easier to say who won't.

"A guy like Kobe, Rip [Hamilton] will get a shot at him, Ronnie [Brewer] will get a shot at him, Loul [Deng] is going to get a shot at him and our team is going to have to provide the support that's necessary. You can't guard guys like that one-on-one. You have to get the appropriate help. You have to get back, get set.

"What makes Kobe so hard to guard is even when he's not shooting well he can score so many different ways. The way he moves without the ball, the way he posts up, the way he cuts, he crashes for offensive rebounds, great shot fake off the dribble. He gets in the air, he gets to the line. He puts constant pressure on your defense. Our team is going to have to handle it. You can't overcommit to him because he's such a great passer. You have to get the appropriate help. You have to get it back out. You have to have the effort and mentality. We've got to make sure our defense is tight."

LOS ANGELES --- The schedule will be fast and furious starting today.

The Bulls will fly to the Bay Area on Christmas night and play the Golden State Warriors on Monday night. Then it's onto Sacramento and back to the Staples Center for a matchup with the resurgent Clippers on Dec. 30.

The schedule grows even more intense in January as 20 game are scheduled. The quick turnarounds mean coach Tom Thibodeau and his assistants must compile information into game plans at a much faster rate. The condensed schedule also puts more pressure on the team's advance scouts to accumulate the information coaches need to assimilate game plans quickly.

"Preparation started in the summer," Thibodeau said. "We anticipated this and what it would be like. We did a lot of prescouting in the offseason. We have it mapped out how we want to approach it. The big thing is the games will be coming quickly and we have to be ready for that."

The Bulls hired Todd Quinter, who has been with the Phoenix Suns since 1986 before resigning last season, as an advance scout. Thibodeau has moved other scouts around in anticipation of the schedule ahead.

"How you prepare for each game is not going to change," Thibodeau said. "For us, we have to formulate the game plan to give to the players so it's clear and concise so they have great clarity in terms of how we want it executed. Our players have done a good job understanding what we're trying to get accomplished out there. Our veteran leadership is outstanding. It's not only from the coaches but the veterans are also leading."

Thibodeau said there's a lot more information available today than there was a decade ago. There's video, reports from live scouts and statistical analysis to consider, just like there was last season. The only difference is the same amount of work must be done in a compressed timeframe.

"All the coaches are assigned different teams to do the prescouts," Thibodeau said. "Everyone will be watching our opponents previous games also. It will be a compilation of things."

After tearing a ligament in his right wrist, Kobe Bryant is listed as day-to-day and his status for Sunday's game against the Bulls is unknown.

"We're not worried about it," Derrick Rose said. "We're going to [approach] the game as if he's going to play and take it that way."

The Lakers will already be without center Andrew Bynum, who is serving a five-game suspension for a hit he made on J.J. Barea in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals last spring.

"They have great depth on their team," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "[Pau] Gasol is one of the premier bigs in the league. He plays both spots. He's got a really tough skill set to match up with. They still have a lot of weapons.

Bryant didn't play in the Lakers final exhibition game Wednesday but Thibodeau expects him to be ready for the Bulls.

"He's always played through things, that's why I'm anticipating him playing," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "His career speaks for itself."

Bulls mania in high gear

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The Bulls haven't even played their first game yet and already Bulls mania is gripping Chicago.

Tuesday night's exhibition finale on ComCast SportsNet was the highest-rated preseason game Chicago regional sports network television history. Wednesday, thousands of fans attended the team's annual "Paint the Town" event at Northbrook Court hoping to get an autograph or a word with their favorite player.

Derrick Rose drew the biggest crowd as fans chanted "MVP, MVP."

"It was breathtaking when you walked in there," Rose said. "It really touched guys. It was my first time being around something like that when I wasn't overseas. It was unbelievable."

Rose said it's nice to see Chicago embracing the team like it did during Michael Jordan's career.

"In high school I remember being in the family room with family members and the Bulls were on and we weren't watching the game," Rose said. "Now, it feels great when people come up to me and tell me their spouses and relatives watch the Bulls because you're all playing great. It feels good. Just for Chicago to have something to brag about, that's what this is all about, just feeling good in my home town. I know the players feel good from people treating them like real stars and appreciating them. We can't ask for anything more."

It was during the Wednesday press conference at the Berto Center announcing his five-year, $94 million contract extension that Derrick Rose, the MVP from Englewood, turned to his mother, who was sitting with his three brothers nearby.

"I can finally say this now, Mom," he said. "We finally made it."

Derrick Rose has made it, all right, and so have the Bulls, who were thrilled to lock up their home-grown franchise player to a maximum length extension. It can never be easy to commit to paying one player that much money. In this case, however, there seems to be little risk. Rose's intangibles coupled with his rare talent made this an easy contract for both sides to sign.

Rose went from Rookie of the Year to All-Star to NBA MVP. At 23, he's one of the league's best players and nobody, including Rose, knows how good he can be yet.

"I don't think you can put a ceiling on what Derrick can become with his work ethic, drive and determination," general manager Gar Forman said. "It's scary to think. He'll get better and better throughout his career."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said his only regret was that he couldn't sign his star point guard to an even longer deal.

"What we've seen up to now, he embodies all the characteristics you look for in a championship player and it's a lot more than the talent," Thibs said. "The talent is the obvious part. Then when you look at his will to win, his basketball IQ, his unselfishness, his humility, those are the things you can build a championship-caliber team around. The way he works each and every day sets the tone for our team. He's a guy we're going to build our team around. His poise and confidence comes from his preparation. This guy puts in everything he has every single day. He does it year round. When you do that you'll continually improve. Obviously, we're excited to have him. I wish it was a 10-year contract."

It's an amazing story. Rose rose from one of the Chicago's most dangerous neighborhoods to star for a franchise that has been searching for Michael Jordan's replacement since 1998. Now, for the first time since the Jordan years, another NBA Championship feels within reach.

Rose emphasized once again Wednesday that earning the organization's seventh NBA title is his primary goal. He also said the addition of Rip Hamilton and experience gained from last year's playoff run makes this the best Bulls team he has played on.

"Management did a great job of bringing in guys that just want to win," Rose said. "They don't care about their stats or anything. They just want to win games. With Thibs and the coaching staff, they have been doing a great job of pushing us in practice and make sure we're going hard. We've only got one thing in mind, and that's to win a championship."

Throughout the press conference, Rose kept returning to where he's from. He said he would like to use some of his newfound riches to improve the neighborhood where he grew up. He also said he would like to bring indoor basketball courts and after-school programs to Englewood.

"I never would've thought in a million years that I would sign a contract like this, especially coming from the area I'm from," he said. "No one from Englewood, period, has ever been in my position. Sometimes when you think 'why me', for me to be 23 years old, and I know I'm truly blessed and don't take anything for granted. I appreciate everyone around me, all my fans and my family."

Rose promises the money won't change who he is as a person or a player.

"If anything, it would've changed me by now. Now, with the salary I've got, I'm able to get whatever I want. I don't spend that much. I'm humble. I take care of others. It has a lot to do with my mom, just making sure I'm talking to her all the time, talking to my brothers all the time, they're always talking to me, telling me to stay level-headed and make sure I provide for other people."

The new contract doesn't begin until next season. Rose said he's not even sure how much his current contract is paying him.

"I don't even know how much I make right now to tell you the truth," he said. "I just know I get paid. I watch my accounts. They're growing and I'm happy."

Derrick Rose agreed to a new five-year, $94 million contract on the same night he took the floor with the new wing man the Bulls hope can help him get the only thing he hasn't earned in his first three years in the league --- a NBA Championship.

"Tonight at times the game felt easy," Rose said.

Rose and Rip Hamilton were as advertised in Tuesday night's exhibition finale against the Indiana Pacers at the United Center. There are still kinks to work out, of course. Their timing wasn't always where it needs to be, but the way they get up and down the floor, they'll have plenty of chance to perfect that. There are still nuances of each other's games to be learned, spots on the floor where they want the ball most

If the 93-85 win was any indication, however, the Bulls have acquired an ideal complement for their MVP point guard.

"It was fun, it was exciting," said Hamilton, who had 13 points, four rebounds and six assists in nearly 30 minutes. "It was probably the first time I ever played with someone faster than me. Trying to keep up with him every time he pushed the ball on the break was fun. It was exciting because you get so many easy baskets running with him."

It was the team's first game at the United Center for the first time since losing the deciding Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat last season. The biggest difference between then and now put on his patented transparent face mask and a white head band before taking the court with his new teammates.

It didn't take long for Hamilton to make an impression. Rose missed an outside jumper, somehow got his own rebound and drove the baseline before kicking it to the team's new addition for a 18-foot jumper with 10:34 left in the first period.

What followed was the kind of eight-minute stretch that made general manager Gar Forman covet the veteran shooting guard before signing him during free agency.

"He's very smooth," said Carlos Boozer, who had a team-high 24 points and seven rebounds. "It was like there was no transition. He knows the plays, knows where to move the ball and make the extra pass."

Hamilton opened the second half with a 3-pointer before scoring on a post-up move. His behind-the-back pass to Taj Gibson for a dunk midway through the fourth quarter was the highlight of the night. Defensively, he fit right in.

Hamilton plays the type of complimentary game that should make the Bulls a tougher matchup for the Heat down the road.

"The whole team played unselfishly," coach Tom Thibodeau said after the Bulls dished out 30 assists. "They made the extra pass, we got easy baskets, we got the ball up the floor quickly, we played inside out. Offensively, I thought it was excellent."

Meanwhile, Rose's new contract is expected to be announced at a press conference today. Rose said the money won't change him.

"I just know if I keep working hard and treating people the right way good things will happen to me," he said.

Carlos Boozer was scoring inside and outside, grabbing rebounds, scoring on second-chance shots and feeding teammates for easy baskets in the kind of performance that can make fans begin to forget his often ineffective play during the postseason.

The forward got a measure of redemption after a mediocre exhibition opener by scoring a team-high 24 points to go with seven rebounds and three assists on Tuesday night against the Pacers.

"This is the way he has been practicing in training camp," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's done a great job of running the floor. He's in great shape so I'm not surprised by his play."

Derrick Rose said Boozer's struggles in the first exhibition game could've been the result of the longer-than-normal offseason.

"We haven't played basketball in a very long time," Rose said. "I don't think he's played since the MIami series. He's just been working out. It's the same for me. I don't play pickup. I've just been working out so getting into the rhythm of the game is difficult.

Trying to make the extra pass contributed to Carlos Boozer's three turnovers in the opener. Thibodeau said opponents can't overlook the veteran forward's playmaking ability, which was on display in the first half of Tuesday night's game.

"He's a big part of our team at both ends of the floor," Thibodeau said of Boozer. "It's not only his scoring --- and again, he's very unselfish. One of the things that often gets overlooked is his playmaking ability. He's a great passer and he's got a lot of versatility. He makes the pick and roll very effective because he can step away from the basket and down shots, he can put it on the floor, he can post. I want him to run the floor more and get deeper post ups. One of the things we've talked about is post depth. Hopefully, we can work on that."

Rip Hamilton will make his first start for the Bulls tonight when the Pacers visit the United Center on Tuesday night in the final exhibition game.

If all goes well, it will be the first of many.

"We're going to see how everything goes," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We're still trying to figure out what's best for the team. As of now that's what we're planning on. We'll just see how it goes."

Ronnie Brewer, who started opposite Derrick Rose in the exhibition opener, will play with the second team.

Thibodeau said he would like to get his starters more minutes tonight but may go easy on Hamilton.

"We'll see once he gets out there what he can handle," Thibodeau said. "I've got an idea of what I'd like him to do but you never know until it unfolds."

When asked if he would be nervous before playing his first home game at the United Center, Hamilton said he has been nervous before every game his entire career. Tuesday night will be no different.

Hamilton got a taste of what kind of reception he can expect from Bulls fans when the team hosted an event for season-ticket holders Monday night.

"At the autograph session last night, a lot of fans said, 'I used to hate you, but now I love you,'" Hamilton said, laughing. "It's a love-hate type of thing but I'm glad to be on this side of it."

Fans reluctant to cheer for a once-bitter rival may change their mind once they see what the key member of the Piston's 2004 NBA Championship team can bring to the Bulls.

"It gives us a catch-and-shoot game, size at his position and experience," Thibodeau said. "He knows how to read defenses. He has seen just about every defense there is and he knows where the holes are. Hopefully, we can take advantage of that."

Hamilton said the best part of playing with the Bulls is that they play as unselfishly as the Pistons teams he played on when they were at their best.

"That's the easiest part of the game," Hamilton said. "On this team there are no ball hogs, there are guys always trying to make plays for each other, trying to help each other out, and when you have that it makes the game so much easier. Regular season, you'll get different plays off individual talent but once the playoffs start you really need your teammates to help you get through."

Coach Tom Thibodeau said he may play his starters more in tonight's exhibition finale against the Indiana Pacers at the United Center.

He also wants to see fewer turnovers, better concentration to start the game and improved defensive rebounding.

"Fundamentally, we have to be better," he said. "We had a lot of one-handed passes, one-handed catches. Some of the rebounding we were doing was one handed and that tends to happen when you're fatigued. We've got to get past that."

His players, meanwhile, were glad to take the home floor after Monday's first official practice at the United Center this season.

The Bulls haven't played at the UC since being eliminated by the Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals last year.

"This is the best part of Chicago for me, being able to play in this building," center Joakim Noah said. "It's exciting every time. You can be tired as hell --- there are going to be a lot of games in a row --- but for some reason, you're numb to all that when you play in this building."

Coach Tom Thibodeau had yet to decide whether Rip Hamilton would make his United Center debut tonight in the exhibition finale against the Indiana Pacers or in the homer opener on New Year's Day against the Memphis Grizzlies.

"We'll see," Thibodeau said. "I just want to make sure he's ready to go. He's moving along well. He's in pretty good shape. I just want to make sure."

The veteran free-agent guard has participated in five practices since being signed to a two-year deal with a club option last week.

"His experience is going to pay off," Luol Deng said. "The great thing is every practice he's early, he's been practicing really hard and talking to the young guys. You can just tell he's not here just to join us. He's here because he knows he can help us. It's exciting to see that."

Whether or not he plays Tuesday night, Hamilton seems to have already earned the respect of his teammates.

"He's going to be great for us," center Joakim Noah said. "He's somebody who can really score the ball. He's played in a lot of big ball games. He's a warrior."

(What follows is a press release from the Bulls)



WHAT: The Chicago Bulls will host the "Sixth Man Jam" event for all season ticket holders on Monday, December 19 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. This event is not open to the general public.

The entire 2011-12 Chicago Bulls team including Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton, Ronnie Brewer and the rest of the players, along with John Paxson, Gar Forman, Tom Thibodeau, Bob Love, Stacey King, Bill Wennington, Sidney Green and Randy Brown will be on hand for the event.

The Bulls personalities will be available in the arena concourses (100, 200 and 300 levels) to sign autographs and mingle with the season ticket holders. The autograph signing portion of the event will last until approximately 7:00 p.m.

Fans will also have the opportunity to shoot baskets on the floor, take pictures at center court and on the two team benches, and take photos with the Bulls' six NBA Championship trophies.

Benny the Bull and the Luvabulls will also be on hand, and the event will feature a wide variety of concourse and in-arena entertainment such as bands, magicians and face painters.

Perhaps the greatest testament to the Bulls depth came early in the first quarter of the Bulls exhibition victory over the Pacers on Friday night in Indianapolis. C.J. Watson replaced Derrick Rose when Rose uncharacteristically picked up two quick fouls and the Bulls didn't miss beat as Watson had 15 points, four rebounds and an assist in 18 minutes, 35 seconds.

For Watson, it was a rare opportunity to showcase what he can do when allowed to step out of Rose's shadow.

"It gets frustrating," he admitted. "I want to play but I'm playing behind one of the best point guards in the game and we're winning. If we were losing it would be a different story. I just want to go out there and play. I know each and every day I'm getting better going against him in practice and hopefully I'm making him better, too. That's all we can hope for."

It's one thing to have depth, as the Bulls clearly do. It's another to have reserves willing to accept their roles. It has all come together with the Bulls, who have an unselfish roster more concerned with winning than who scores and plays the most minutes.

That depth coupled with their attitude could be a big advantage while playing a condensed schedule in a conference where several playoff contenders seem to lack depth.

"All our guys are pretty comfortable now playing with both groups," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "That's the luxury we have with the versatility of our players. When you have experienced guys, they know what they're looking for, they know how to play with each other. We have a lot of guys comfortable playing with the first unit and a number of guys from the first unit who can play with the second."

Watson led his Las Vegas high school team to two Nevada state championships before committing to Tennessee, where he played right away as a freshman. He had established himself as one of the SEC's better point guards when Bruce Pearl was named head coach before his senior season. Watson was reluctant about Pearl at first but soon flourished while playing Pearl's faster-paced style.

"My senior year at Tennessee and he really let me play the way I wanted to play in an up-tempo system," he said. "He set me free and let me do my thing. It was really a blessing."

Here's something else you probably don't know about Watson's college career: He once knocked out Joakim Noah's tooth in a game against Florida.

"You should remind him about that," Watson said. "He doesn't want to mess with me."

Watson was undrafted but was the D-League's third-leading scorer in 2007-08 when he signed with the Golden State Warriors. The Bulls acquired him in a trade before last season, when he averaged 4.9 points and 2.3 assists per game.

"C.J. is always C.J.," Rose said. "He's an attack first point guard. He wants to get the feel for the game and then he's a scorer. He knows how to get to the line. He pushes the ball. He's in great shape right now. He's one of the reasons we came back in the [Pacers] game."

Having so much depth often results in bruised egos and hurt feelings, but that hasn't been the case with the Bulls, and newcomer Rip Hamilton doesn't expect it to be.

"When you love each other and love your teammates, you don't think about anything else but winning," Hamilton said. "You cheer for your guys. You're only as good as your teammate."

Even though the Bulls were on the road, Carlos Boozer heard hecklers at Conseco Fieldhouse during the first exhibition game.

"They have good fans here," Boozer said afterwards. "Some are funny. Some of them are not so funny."

Derrick Rose said anyone disappointed in Boozer's performance in the exhibition opener should remain patient. Boozer has seven points and six rebounds in the win.

"They're reading too much into it," Rose said. "If they looked at me, I had a terrible game. You know how Chicago people are. They just expect the best out of everyone and try to push everyone but Booze is fine. He's in here working, rebounding the ball, going hard. He lost a lot of weight. He's definitely making a push for it."

Rip Hamilton practiced with his new teammates for the third time Sunday but whether he will make his debut in the exhibition finale against the Pacers on Tuesday is unknown.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said he would likely make his decision Monday.

"Each day he gets more and more comfortable," Thibodeau said. "He approaches it well. He comes into work. He gets here early. He's studying hard. He's doing fine so far. Probably [Monday], we'll get another practice under his belt. He looked pretty comfortable today in the scrimmage. That will be the next step for him."

Hamilton said the challenge isn't just learning new terminology but also his new teammates.

"I'm learning more and more about them individually and their games," Hamilton said. "It's different when you're playing against them and you're scouting them and trying to take things away. Once they're your teammates you have to figure out what's good for them and what's not good for them."

Bogans, Pargo waived

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The Bulls waived guard Keith Bogans and Jannero Pargo Friday.

Bogans started all 82 games for the Bulls last season and averaged 4.4 points but became expendable with Hamilton's signing. Pargo, from Robeson High by way of Arkansas, signed last March and did not appear in a game last season, although he played in 63 games and averaged 5.5 points in 2009-10.

"We have a great appreciation for what he did," Thibodeau said of Bogans. "He had an unbelievable year for us last year. He filled his role great. He played great defense each and every night, knocked down open 3s, was the consummate professional and we wish him well."

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. --- Rip Hamilton can wear his head band when he plays, although whether the recently acquired shooting guard will appear in the preseason remains to be seen.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said he was not comfortable with putting Hamilton in the game after only having participated in one practice and one shootaround with the team.

"[Thursday] was my first day of practice getting in tune with everybody, the guys on the team, learning a new system, offensively and defensively, so it's a lot," Hamilton said. "I just want to be fully prepared. [Thibodeau] thought so, too, that I should be fully prepared before I go on the floor."

Hamilton said he didn't know if he would be fully prepared in time for Tuesday's exhibition finale against the Pacers at the United Center.

"He'll get up to speed pretty quickly," Thibodeau said. "[Friday}, even with just one day of practice, he seemed a lot more comfortable. I'm confident he'll move along."

Meanwhile, general manager Gar Forman said Hamilton will be allowed to wear his signature headband when he does take the floor. It has been a long-standing organizational policy that players not wear headbands but an exception will be made for Hamilton, who also wears a plastic mask after twice breaking his nose.

"He needs it to hold on his mask," Forman said. "The sweat drips down. It's an exception to [the policy]."

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. --- There will be no easing into the season after the lockout-extended offseason, not given what's at stake for the Bulls, not with Derrick Rose around.

The Bulls point guard made it clear that Friday night's exhibition opener was far from meaningless even if it won't count in the standings.

"This is a regular game to us," Rose said. "We're not going to approach it lackadaisical. We know it's time to get better. We can use this time to go out there and add chemistry. We added Rip, we got [rookie] Jimmy [Butler], the starting five hasn't played together against anybody in a long time. We can use this time to our advantage."

The reigning MVP always wants to be on the floor, always wants to go full tilt, which could present a problem as this truncated season unfolds. With so many games packed into the schedule, it may be beneficial for Rose to spend more time on the bench so he can remain fresh enough to not only be effective night after night but to take over in the final minutes of games.

Given coach Tom Thibodeau's attention to detail, it's easy to assume he used a slide rule to create a formula to distribute Rose's minutes, but he said he hasn't thought about it much.

"What he's shown is that he can handle big minutes," Thibodeau said. "When you study the league most of the players that are like him play a lot of minutes. You can go back through the years and you can see that's true. If he can handle the minutes he's going to get them. We're fortunate here, we have great depth, we're not afraid to use the guys on our bench, either."

Rose ranked ninth in the league in minutes played last season with 3,026. Golden State's Monta Ellis was first with 3,227. Luol Deng was third with 3,208.

"It's really not up to me, to tell you the truth," Rose said when asked if he will have to play less this year to stay fresh. "It's up to Thibs and the coaching staff. Whatever they want me to do I'm willing to go out there and do. If they want me to play a lot, I'll play a lot. If they want me to sit down more I'll sit down more. It depends on how the game is going. If we're really getting after a team pretty good he's going to set me down or if it's a tough game, more than likely, I know I'll be in the game."

The addition of Rip Hamilton could also impact Rose's minutes, as could the effectiveness of the "Bench Mob" and numerous other factors.

"As a player, it kind of hurts because you want to play but you have to do what's best for the team," Rose said when asked if it would bother him to sit more. "If he sits me out its for a good reason to get me rest but if I'm playing I have to make sure I'm in condition to go out there."

Because Tom Thibodeau spoke with reporters before Friday's shoot-around at Canseco Fieldhouse, he still wasn't sure whether new acquisition Rip Hamilton would play in the exhibition opener against the Pacers on Friday night.

"We'll see after the shootaround," he said. "We have to sit down. He had a good practice yesterday. We'll see how he feels and make a decision prior to the game."

Ronnie Brewer may be having the best training camp of any player not named Derrick Rose. Thibodeau said once the regular season begins he will be comfortable with either Brewer starting and Hamilton coming off the bench or vice versa.

"Ronnie has played terrific," Thibodeau said of Brewer. "He played great for us at the end of last year, so he's a critical part of our team. Who starts, who comes off the bench, I'm not quite sure yet, we'll see how that goes. We're going to do what's best for the team."

Thibodeau did say say Brewer would start opposite Rose against the Pacers.

"I also want to see Ronnie with the second unit some," he said. "That group played extremely well. We want to look at some different combinations."

Thibodeau said he expects to play his starters for the first 10 minutes of the game. Then he wants to get rookie Jimmy Butler and other bench players involved.

"I want to play Jimmy some," he said. "I want to see him in action. They won't play a normal rotation. But they will play a good amount of minutes. We have to be ready for the 25th."

Meanwhile, don't expect Rose to be cruising even if the outcome of tonight's game is meaningless.

"This is a regular game to us," he said. "We're not going to approach it lackadaisical. We know it's time to get better. We can use this time to go out there and add chemistry. We added Rip, we got Jimmy, the starting five hadn't played together against anybody in a long time. We can use this time to our advantage."

Rip Hamilton admitted he felt lost during his first practice with the Bulls on Thursday but is convinced he will be a great fit once he learns coach Tom Thibodeau's system.

"It's going to be an adjustment," Hamilton said. "A lot of the plays are the same but there are different calls and things like that. One of the biggest things is adjusting to the guys on the floor, understanding their likes and dislikes and things like that. Hopefully, I can learn fast."

Thibodeau said he wouldn't make a decision on whether Hamilton will play in Friday night's exhibition opener against the Pacers in Indianapolis until after Friday's shoot-around at Conseco Fieldhouse. Thibs was impressed by how fit Hamilton appeared in practice and how quickly he was learning his schemes, however.

"He fits in with our team because of the fact that he's unselfish and he requires you to put two on the ball," Thibodeau said. "Most teams are going to trap him on the catch-and-shoot plays and he'll hit the open man. So it gives us something else we can go to. I like his size at that position, that can help us, and his experience goes a long way."

Hamilton said he'll play whatever role Thibs thinks best for a chance to play with Derrick Rose.

"I'm excited, very, very excited," he said. "There are not too many opportunities to play with the MVP of the league. The kid is very special. The kid can do any and everything. He showed that last year. I just want to help. I just want to be there when he needs me and be able to ride with him."

C.J. Watson will wear No. 7 so Hamilton can wear his No. 32, although that wasn't the biggest question regarding how the newest Bull dresses on the court. The Bulls wouldn't let Ben Wallace wear a headband when he came to Chicago from Detroit. Hamilton not only wears a headband but also a mask after twice breaking his nose.

"To be honest with you, that hasn't even come up yet," general manager Gar Forman said when asked if Hamilton would be allowed to wear his signature headband. "That's a good question that I don't have an answer for right now.

"We haven't allowed headbands. I don't know if with the mask that's required and where he is with the mask. That's something we'll look into."

You can hear the shouting, the ball bouncing on the floor and the familiar sound of sneakers squeaking against hardwood, but shades are pulled tightly over windows looking out on the court at the Berto Center during training camp practices, which means Friday night's exhibition opener against the Pacers in Indianapolis will be everybody's first glimpse at the Bulls this season.

"Any time they throw the ball up it's an opportunity to compete and we want to establish who we are," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "So the minutes will be a little bit different but I want our guys to go hard."

With only two exhibition games during a compressed preseason schedule that is the product of the NBA lockout, expect starters to see more time than usual.

"You have to get to your rotation," Thibodeau said. "You don't have the luxury of eight preseason games. Normally, under those circumstances, you can give guys a game off maybe on a back to back. We're fortunate where the games aren't back to back. And again, we approach all our preseason games with the idea that we're preparing for that first game. So, we're taking it day by day. We want to move forward, practice hard and then the first game will be an opportunity for us to compete against somebody else. We want to establish who we are."

Friday night's game, and the Bulls only home exhibition against the same Pacers on Tuesday night at the United Center, will give Thibodeau a chance to get all his perrsonnel groups on the floor.

"The first one gives you a baseline and an idea of the things you have to clean up and work on," Thibodeau said. "The second one you're going to be more into your rotation in that game. But, like I said, it's the first opportunity for us to compete as a team."

That's said, there's a long list of things he'll be looking for his team to accomplish against the Pacers.

"It's always the same whether it's practice or a game. You're establishing your defense, your rebounding, you're taking care of the ball, you eliminate all the ways in which you beat yourself first. You want to establish the inside-out attack and you want to share the ball.

Tickets on sale Friday

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Tickets for Bulls games at the United Center go on sale Friday, December 16, at 10 a.m. at or by calling 1-800-4NBA-TIX. Tickets can also be purchased at the United Center and Ticketmaster.

Season tickets and group tickets are available by calling 312-455-4000.

Bulls' general manager Gar Forman won't have any trouble selling his acquisition of Rip Hamilton in the Bulls' locker room. Players have been raving about the veteran two-guard who signed a three-year, $15 million dollar contract with the team on Wednesday night.

"We thought we played hard all year last year and we've got guys that work really hard." Luol Deng said. "So going into the season I was pretty confident with how hard we were going to play. I'm not really worried about that. You add a player like Rip, he knows how to play and is going to help out a lot. He's definitely going to make us better as soon as he comes and we're looking forward to it."

Deng knows Hamilton well. His brother played with Hamilton on Connecticut's 1999 national championship team. Others Bulls who don't know Hamilton personally are familiar with his game.

"Especially in New York, just watching UConn a whole bunch, especially when they won the national championship. I've been watching his whole career," said Taj Gibson, who grew up in Brooklyn. "To have a veteran like that on our team is going to be great. I'm looking forward to the camaraderie. I know we're going to work him in like a brother already. I'm just looking forward to getting him on the court and hopefully we'll gel soon enough."

Hamilton's impact will not only be felt on the offensive end, where his ability to shoot from outside and create off the dribble should help ease the load on Derrick Rose, but also on defense.

"With the way we play we really help out each other a lot on defense," Deng said. "Rip is really experienced. He's going to help us out a lot. Offensively, he's going to be another option. But just his whole game. It's not just going to be scoring. Especially at this time in his career, he's going to want to help especially all of us. We experienced a lot last year with how far we went and he's a guy who went to the Finals and has been in the Conference Finals. So he's seen all of that. He's going to help out in that aspect the most."

Especially during their 2004 NBA title run, the Pistons used a lot of the same defensive principles as the Bulls, which should ease Hamilton's transition.

"Every time you just think of teams that win, teams that are winning championships, they all have great defense," Deng said. "That's something that a lot of people are asking about. Rip is familiar with that. He has been on a team that won it all and that played defense and he was part of it. So, it's not going to be something new to him."

Nobody, from coach Tom Thibodeau to guard Derrick Rose to Deng are concerned about Hamilton struggling to fit in with the team. Thibideau even refused to eliminate the possibility of Hamilton playing in the exhibition opener at Indiana on Friday night.

"I really don't think long," Deng said. "The way we play with Derrick play-making for everyone and just everyone moving, it's going to be really easy for him. The sets we have are going to be similar to the sets we use with Kyle [Korver] that he's been seeing his whole career. You can sense that everyone is excited for him to be here and from what I hear, I haven't spoke to him yet, I'm sure he's really happy to be here. It's just a matter of time to get our rhythm and timing together."

(This entry was written by Seth Gruen)

When Rip Hamilton joins the Bulls Thursday, it won't be a totally unfamiliar situation.

Hamilton knew forward Luol Deng even before he entered the NBA having played with Deng's brother, Ajou on the 1999 Connecticut team that won the National Championship.

Deng was in high school when he first met Hamilton.

"Rip is a terrific player," Deng said. "He's going to help us out a lot. Has a lot of experience and he's a great teammate. I've known Rip for a long time and I'm really excited he's going to be with us."

Hamilton is expected to be used similar to the way Kyle Korver was last season. A player who moves well without the ball, Hamilton will be an excellent compliment to Derrick Rose's play-making ability.

He was part of the Pistons team that won the 2004 NBA Championship.

"With him, I'm going to have a lot more assists this year," Rose said. "With him shooting the ball the way he does and the way he is in condition, he'll be able to keep up.

"Chicago has been asking for a two I guess, a legit two, him winning a championship and his skills speak for itself."

Coach Tom Thibodeau was still coy when asked about specifically integrating Hamilton into the rotation after Wednesday night's practice--some two hours before an official announcement.

But speaking in general about free agents joining the Bulls, Thibodeau said a player has to be evaluated before any personnel decisions were made.

"You can't answer that until you see him," he said. "But it's similar to signing somebody now to make a trade. The difference is you're coming off the offseason. You don't know where guys are conditioning-wise."

The Bulls announced Wednesday night they have signed free-agent guard Rip Hamilton.

Terms of the deal were not announced but an NBA source confirmed it was a three-year deal worth $15 million. The Bulls own the option on the third year.
"We are excited to welcome a player, and person, with the credentials of Richard Hamilton to our organization," General Manager Gar Forman said in a statement released by the team. "Rip has been a winner at every level. His resume speaks for itself, and we are confident that he will be an excellent fit with our team, both on and off the floor."
The 6-foot-7 Hamilton played the past nine years with the Detroit Pistons. He has averaged 17.7 ppg, 3.5 apg and 3.2 rpg in 33.0 mpg in 843 regular season contests (710 starts). His career shooting averages are .450 from the field, .347 from behind the arc and .852 from the line.

He played in 55 games (39 starts) for the Pistons last year and averaged 14.1 ppg, 3.1 apg and 2.3 rpg in 27.2 mpg. He also shot .429 from the field, .382 from downtown and .849 from the free throw line. 

Bulls defense shaping up

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Everybody wants to talk about how Derrick Rose has improved his game, whether Carlos Boozer can be a more consistent scorer and how Rip Hamilton will fit in when and if he's signed. Few ask about what became the Bulls trademark --- defense --- last season.

Coach Tom Thibodeau elaborated Wednesday.

"It's not any one particular guys," he said when asked if the loss of veteran center Kurt Thomas means the Bulls will have to tweak things defensively. "It's the entire team. Everyone has to understand what their job is and then they have to do it. We do everything collectively. Every aspect of our defense is done as a team. So it's not any one particular guy that's responsible for anything--it's the entire team."

If that's the case, communication is critical. Thibs said he has been pleased with how players have communicated defensively thus far during training camp.

"It's great," he said. "Our big guys are always real good communicators. They're the eyes of the defense, they see it first and our smalls, they have the responsibility to get the calls and relay what's coming. So, our entire team has to talk and what talk does, it gives your defense a head start and if you know the plays, know the coverages and know the tendencies, it's a big advantage."

Thomas' departure also means a bigger role for Omer Asik, who proved to be a valuable defender as a rookie last season before breaking his leg in the playoffs. Asik has completely recovered from the injury and has been running pain-free.

"Defensively, that's what I liked about our second unit, when you look at Omer and Taj [Gibson] and Ronnie [Brewer] and C.J. [Watson] and Kyle [Korver] is a very good team defender, that group played exceptionally well together," Thibs said. "When you throw Luol [Deng] out there, it gives you another primary defender. And Omer anchored our second unit. His shot blocking, his rebounding and his screening often times gets overlooked. He has got to continue to develop his post game and there's a lot of opportunity, particularly with the second unit, when Kyle comes off screens teams often times put two on Kyle. They don't want to give him a catch and shoot opportunity and to me those are your best opportunities to get post depth. We've just got to get him stepping to the ball and stepping to the rim quicker and finishing quicker inside."

Thibs kept the second team together last season and would like to do the same again, although he reserves the right to change his mind.

"Once we get everybody, we'll see what's best for the team," he said. "I liked the way it worked last year. I thought our second [team] played with a lot of confidence. I thought they got better throughout the year. They had great chemistry. But we'll get a look at different combinations and then we'll determine what's best for the team."

Rip Hamilton has officially cleared waivers, an NBA source has confirmed, and is officially a free agent.

That said, the former Pistons standout is not expected at the Berto Center on Wednesday. He is expected to sign a two-year, $10 million deal with the Bulls perhaps as early as Thursday, although he tweeted Tuesday that he will choose between three teams.

"I haven't heard of any," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said after the first of two practices at the Berto Center on Wednesday when asked if there had been any new additions. "I haven't seen my GM."

Later, when general manager Gar Forman was asked if there was any pending news, he shook his head --- "no."

When asked how Hamilton could help the Bulls assuming the signing occurs, Thibodeau said: "Until he gets here, we're not even going to talk about it."

Hamilton joining the team doesn't change the fact that Ronnie Brewer has been having a great camp, according to center Joakim Noah.

"As players we can't really control what they're doing upstairs," Noah said. "If he comes he would be a great addition to our team and he's obviously a heck of a player. But Ronnie has been having a great camp right now and guys have been playing really well. So we're just focused on what we're doing right now."

(This entry was written by Seth Gruen)

The Bulls have an undeniable need to add a shooting guard, but whether that addition will be Rip Hamilton came into question Tuesday night.

Hamilton is expected to clear waivers on Wednesday but cast some doubt as to whether he'll sign with the Bulls when he officially becomes a free agent.

Hamilton tweeted from his account @ripcityhamilton: "Got my list narrowed down to 3 teams. 17 hours until I clear waivers. Can't wait Yesssssirr. [sic]"

Still, he'd be a welcome addition to the Bulls.

"Good friend of mine," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "Always been a great competitor, player his whole career. I think if he did come it would be a great addition."

(This entry was written by Seth Gruen)

Fortunately for Bulls general manager Gar Forman, the rumors surrounding the team's acquisition of a shooting guard have provided a smoke screen for an exponentially more important front office task.
With Derrick Rose set to become a restricted free agent after this season, the Bulls are active in trying to extend the NBA's reigning MVP to a contract extension.
After the second of two practices Tuesday, Rose said he had not heard any news from his agent, B.J. Armstrong regarding a potential extension.
But he did get unwavering support from head coach Tom Thibodeau.
"This guy has earned everything he has gotten," Thibodeau said. "He's a great ambassador for our organization, this city, the league. You can't ask for anything more. He represents everything that is good about this game. So, he's earned it."
Every season since his rookie year, Rose has added a new dimension to his game. Last year, it was his three-point shooting which he improved by nearly seven percentage points during the 2010-11 season. This offseason, Rose worked on developing a post game.
 "That's something that I've really been working on," Rose said. "I know it will get me to the line. I know it will open up everything else for my teammates and then make the game easier."

Rip Hamilton could sign with the Bulls as soon as today.

Now that the Pistons have officially bought out the veteran guard's contract he just has to clear waivers, which he's expected to do. Then he's free to sign a two-year contract with the Bulls for the midlevel exception of $5 million per year.

Until he becomes a member of the team, coach Tom Thibodeau won't comment, although he did answer a question about Hamilton the player.

"He has been a talented player in the league for a long time," he said. "He's been around. He's got great experience. I know when we played against him he was hard to guard."

Forward Carlos Boozer is a friend of Hamilton's and said he would fit in well with the players already on the team.

"Good friend of mine," Boozer said. "Always been a great competitor, player his whole career. If he did come it would be a great addition."

Boozer also calls Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard a close friend. Howard has asked to be traded. He said he would only sign a long-term contract with the Magic, Nets, Mavericks or Lakers.

"I just wish him the best of luck," Boozer said of Howard. "I don't know what's going to happen. It's not my concern. My concern is about the Bulls. On a personal level I feel for him a bit [and] I hope he gets what he's looking for."

Boozer said he has not spoken with Howard lately.

"No I'm not," Boozer said when asked if he was offended that Howard didn't have the Bulls on his list. "Not offended at all."

Double days end Wednesday

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The Bulls wrapped up their first double session Tuesday night. The morning practice featured a spirited scrimmage. The evening session was more cerebral.

The team will hold two-a-days for a second and last time Wednesday.

"We did two last year," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "In the morning session, it's pretty intense. The evening session is more cleaning things up, making corrections, watching some film and it's more of a mental practice than it is a physical practice. But, again, you're trying to build your habits and you want to show that you're capable of concentrating over a long period of time. So we're not going to do anything heavy tonight."

The evening practice included film study. Thibodeau had his team watch film of things they did well and not so well last year.

"Trying to make those corrections, learn from it," Thibodeau said. "Then when you're studying teams, right now it's more the things that occurred during the game that you know you're going to see again that you want to be ready for. The more we study, the better we'll be. Of course, it's the same thing --- it's about building the right habits and these are things we'll be doing all season long. Starting now helps you build those habits."

The following entry was written by Seth Gruen

Bulls rookie Jimmy Butler understands the transition from the college to professional basketball is a challenging one.

That's why on the court he's epitomized the work-ethic that so many have praised--arriving hours before practice begins and staying late, according to Bulls forward Carlos Boozer.

Off the court, Butler will have the opportunity to pay homage to his namesake--carrying bags, getting doughnuts and serving his teammates as all NBA rookies are expected.

"Don't worry we've got some stuff up our sleeves," Boozer said. "We've got some pink backpacks he might need to rock around with so we'll see what we can do for him to make his rookie year memorable."

The Marquette product isn't necessarily anxious to go on the road where the majority of rookie hazing occurs, but he'll be certain to maintain a good attitude.

"I hear you've got to do it," Butler said. "Might as well man up and not fight it. They say you fight it, it gets worse. As much as I don't want to do it, I'm looking forward to it."

  The biggest concern related to the Bulls expected signing of Rip Hamilton isn't his age or ability to defend Dwyane Wade in the playoffs. It's how he will mesh with his new teammates.
        The Bulls won a regular-season best 62 games last season not because they were the league's most talented team. They were, however, perhaps the most unselfish. This wasn't a group of players motivated by minutes or statistics but by winning. It will take more of that same attitude to overcome the star-studded Miami Heat in the playoffs this season.
        General manager Gar Forman likes the character and chemistry his team developed last season, which is why he put careful thought into signing Hamilton.
        "To us it's one of the key elements when we evaluate players," Forman said. "Whether it's the draft or free agency or trades we've spent a lot of years doing a lot of background and intel on a number of players in any of those three scenarios. We've built up our talent base to a point where we feel we have pretty good knowledge of who a guy is and how he'll fit in based on some of the background work that we've done. It's one piece of the puzzle when you're evaluating somebody but to us it's a very important piece."
        Hamilton led UConn to a national championship in college. He was a critical member of a Pistons team that relied more on chemistry than talent en route to an NBA title in 2004. But when he arrives in Chicago, which could be as soon as Wednesday, he must understand that Derrick Rose is the unquestioned leader of this team, and that he be mostly a complimentary player, a third-or-even fourth option behind Rose, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer.
        Deng has known Hamilton since college and raves about him as a person. So does Rose. Ronnie Brewer will likely have a reduced role because of Hamilton's arrival, which concerns him not in the least, which is another example of the unselfish environment that Hamilton will be entering.
        "The thing that means the most to me is winning," Brewer said. "It's not about who starts and plays in the game. It's about winning. If you can go out there and do your part and that allows you to win games, that's what everybody plays for, that's what in my opinion you should play for."
        The Bulls have something special brewing, and it's only partially due to talent. Hamilton's has the ability to give the Bulls another scorer. He can create off the dribble, keep defenses from collapsing on Rose and give the Bulls' backcourt some much-needed size. But first he has to fit in both on the court and in the locker room.

Bulls general manager Gar Forman said he plans to sign Derrick Rose to a contract extension that will keep him with Bulls for the foreseeable future.

"Derrick is the centerpiece of what we're trying to put together here," he said. "Obviously, we want Derrick to be a Chicago Bull for a long, long time. To us, it's obviously very important that we put the right pieces around Derrick and he's able to have success, that we have success, and that he remains a Chicago Bull. We're talking to his representatives now and hopefully we'll be able to get something done in a pretty short amount of time."

As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, the "Derrick Rose Rule," as it is being called, rewards players who have been voted to two All-Star games, made two All-NBA teams or have won an MVP Award by enabling them to make 30 percent of their team's salary cap --- up from 25 percent --- after completing their rookie contract.

Rose can expect to sign a five-year extension for $100 million.

"If it was up to me I would sign quick but I'm not worried about that right now," Rose said. "When the time comes I know I'll sign."

Injuries played a role in Carlos Boozer's disappointing 2010-11 season. Bulls general manager Gar Forman believes the forward will have more success this year.

"He came into camp 20-plus pounds lighter," Forman said. "He looks like he's in terrific shape. We're only two days in but he's looked very good in the first two days of practice. It's always a difficult adjustment when you come via free agency from one team to another team. Historically, if you look at major free agents that have changed teams, they have shown improvement from year one to year two, where there's more of a familiarity with the system, the city and the organization --- and in Carlos' case, he changed conferences.
"He will be more comfortable with what we're doing and I would expect Carlos to have a really good year."

The Bulls hosted media day at their practice facility Sunday, and while at such events the attention is usually focused on the players, coaches and front-office staff in attendance, there were two distinct elephants in the room. The first was Hamilton, who still is reportedly Chicago bound once his contract is officially bought out by the Detroit Pistons.

The other was none other than the Miami Heat, who eliminated the Bulls from the Eastern Conference Finals last season and remain the team to beat in the East.

"Our goal is to win a championship," Derrick Rose said. "We have a decent shot with the guys we've got coming back. We don't know what else is going on but I know the front office is doing a great job getting whoever from wherever. I have a lot of belief in my teammates and I know they have a lot of confidence in me and faith in me as a player. That's all we need."

Gar Forman said his intention all along has been to put the same nucleus on the floor as last season. The Bulls general manager likes the makeup, character and chemistry players developed and believes this group has earned the right to grow and mature.

But that doesn't mean he's not looking to add a piece or two to a roster that currently stands at 11.

"We're still exploring ways we can improve this basketball team moving forward," he said. "We still have some roster spots and a little bit of flexibility and we're exploring options as far as making additions to this team and hopefully something will happen in regards to that in the next few days."

Foreman refused to talk specifically about Hamilton since he is still technically a member of the Pistons until he clears waivers. He would also need to pass a physical before coming to Chicago.

"We've been in contact with a number of players and we've really tried to explore a number of different options to improve this basketball team," Forman said. "If we identify the right player or players that we feel give us a chance to get better we'll certainly make a move. That said, our feeling has always been we're not going to make a move just to make a move. If we don't feel it's a plus for this team, we'll bring this team back as is and feel really good about our group of guys and give them a chance to continue to grow."

Forman wouldn't discuss Hamilton but several players said they would welcome the veteran who was a key piece of the Pistons 2004 title team. These Bulls are so focused on winning that even Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, whose minutes could be dramatically impacted by Hamilton's arrival, are all for the signing if it helps the Bulls leapfrog the Heat.

"I've known Rip since I was 14 years old," Luol Deng said. "Rip played college basketball with my brother. I used to go up to UConn to workout with those guys. The one thing I could say about Rip is all his teammates like him. If Rip was to come here he would be a great guy in the locker room, a great teammate. I know that from the guys in Detroit. They love playing with him.

"He's a guy that won a championship. He's been there. He knows what it takes. If he joins us I'm sure he'll make us better."

Forman said the Heat's signing of swingman Shane Battier doesn't increase his urgency to sign a player to keep pace. While the Bulls would certainly be interested in Dwight Howard now that the All-Star center has told the Orlando Magic he wants to be traded, Forman would not talk specifically about that possibility, either.

"It's our job to be in touch with all 29 teams around the league, and we have been in the last week, and to keep the pulse of what's going on in the market and keep a pulse of what's going on in any trade possibilities," he said. "But I wouldn't mention individual names or share our business or who we're talking to as far as players are concerned. We're having conversations throughout the league."

Rose has consistently maintained that he's confident in his team as currently constructed. He blames himself for the loss to the Heat. But he continues to speak highly of Hamilton, who is the type of player who could help the Bulls achieve their ultimate goal.

"He's always in perfect shape and running around, especially for his age, and he has the experience where he was a winner, even in college, probably in high school," Rose said. "I know he'll help us if we get him."

We still don't know for sure if Rip Hamilton is joining the Bulls, although all signs point in that direction, but we do know Kurt Thomas will not be back. The veteran center who started 37 games for the Bulls signed a free agent contract with the Portland Trial Blazers on Sunday.

"Obviously, we wanted Kurt Thomas back, and we offered Kurt Thomas a contract," general manager Gar Forman said. "He was a big part of what we did a year ago. But Kurt Thomas had to evaluate the situation from his perspective and obviously he must have felt that Portland presented a better opportunity for him."

Thomas averaged 4.1 points and 5.8 rebounds in 22.7 minutes per game last season and played a key role when Joakim Noah was sidelined for an extended period. The 16-year veteran also served as a mentor for Noah and rookie center Omer Asik.

"You can't say enough about him," Thibodeau said. "The guy's been around forever. He's a great pro. He's a great leader. He stays ready whenever he's called upon. He can sit there for two months, not play and you call upon him, and he's ready to go. I thought he was great in our locker room. But he'll be a big a plus for that team."

Expect Forman to add front-line depth at either power forward or center to compensate.

"We'll have to have some depth behind them even if it's just from a practice standpoint," Forman said. "It's hard to go through a season with just four bigs. That's still something we're taking a look at, whether we add another four or a five. Again, if we don't find the right guy we'll be patient with it and try to keep some flexibility with that position. If we don't address it right away we may address it down the road."

Tom Thibodeau doesn't want to talk about Rip Hamilton joining the team even if it's looking more and more like the Bulls signing the former Piston is a mere formality.

"I'm not worried about the guys who aren't here," the Bulls coach said. "I'm just worried about our guys. Like I said yesterday, I'm more than happy with the group we have here."

The Pistons plan to buy out Hamilton's contract and there is mutual interest between the veteran two-guard and the Bulls, according to numerous published and Internet reports. The Bulls are offering a $5 million midlevel exception.

Thibodeau did say incorporating a new player into the mix after a few days of training camp isn't a big deal.

"A lot of that stuff you can do with film sessions, bringing them in early and staying late," he said. "You can get them up to speed pretty quickly. It would be similar if you were making a trade. The guys here, they do pick up things quickly."

The Bulls had only 11 players in camp for the second straight day, which wasn't all bad.

"In some ways it's good," Thibodeau said. "You're not getting as much rest but there's an advantage to that also. There are groups on the floor at all times. Sometimes in training camp you would have 17 guys and there's a lot of standing around. In some ways this is better."

Rookie Jimmy Butler was the last player on the floor when the 2 1/2-hour practice ended.

"He's a hungry kid," Joakim Noah said. "Very attentive. His defensive principles are very good for a rookie. When I was a rookie I was completely lost out there. I had no idea what was going on. Everything was so new to me. He picks things up really, really fast. It's such as big learning curve."

The Chris Paul trade saga has been the dominant sports story nationally for the past couple days. At the Berto Center?

Not so much.

"It's all part of what goes on in the league," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don't. All I know is, for us, we have to play against him whether he's in New Orleans or someplace else. He's a great player. That's about it. I really haven't thought about it that much."

Center Joakim Noah spoke at length about ex-Gator classmate Tim Tebow. When asked about the Paul situation, however, he said: "As long as it doesn't affect the Bulls, I don't care."

Joakim Noah talks Tim Tebow

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Joakim Noah knows who he will be rooting for when the Denver Broncos and quarterback Tim Tebow host the Bears on Sunday.

"You've got o show Timothy a little love here," Noah said of his fellow ex-Florida Gator. "For all the haters out there, you've got to know the guy is kicking ass, making me very proud to be a Gator boy."

Noah said he and Tebow had a class together when they were both students at Florida.

"The guy is the real deal," he said. "He's very humble guy, and somebody whose teammates love him. They battle for him. He might not throw the ball great, and that's all anybody wants to talk about, but you know what? At the same time, people really underestimate the fact that his guys really go to bat for him. It was the same way at Florida. I can see it's the same way in Denver."

Noah said he's not surprised that Tebow has become a lightning rod the likes of which the NFL has perhaps never before seen.

"It's a beautiful story," he said. "He is who he is. There is no lie about who he is. He's comfortable.

"Me, personally, I have completely different beliefs than him, but at the same time I respect the fact that he speaks his truth. He's a warrior, a winner. At the end of the day, his teammates respect that. I love that. He might not be the best or a guy with that much hoopla around him, but if he wasn't a real person maybe his teammate wouldn't respect him that much."

Noah calls Tebow "Timothy" and said he sometimes salutes his former Florida alum.

The Bulls can't look back. Owning the best regular-season record and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals means little now, or at least that was one of the messages coach Tom Thibodeau delivered to players before the first training camp practice on Friday night.

How do I know? First Thibodeau told the media that during his post-practice press conference. A few minutes later, Carlos Boozer repeated it.

"Last year was last year," Thibodeau said. "This is now. The important thing for us is not to look back, to be focused on training camp, going step by step. We have to be careful not to skip steps. We have to become a great practice team first and get ready for that first night."

A few minutes later, when Boozer repeated the same mantra, Thibodeau's lips didn't move.

"You can't skip steps, "Boozer said. "To be a good team you have to go through everything we went through last year. Last year is over. This is a new year. We're starting 0-0. Every team is. You build yourself up. This is the first day of training camp. We're going to get better every day. As long as we come and do our work everyday --- and our team will --- we'll get better every day."

Players repeating the message delivered by a coach occurs in every sport. Here's my question: As much as I respect the philosophy behind the can't-skip-steps approach, how can the Bulls not do just that? A two-month preparation period has been reduced to a couple weeks. Like it or not, teams are going to have to skip steps, whether they want to admit it or not.

Backup center Omer Asik, who broke his fibula in Game 3 against the Heat last season, practiced and was pain-free.

"Everyone health-wise, looked pretty good," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "That was an encouraging sign."

Thomas missed

Brian Scalabrine and John Lucas III also participated in practice. Veteran center Kurt Thomas, a free agent, was absent.

"Obviously we'd love to have Kurt back but he's not here," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "[Management is] doing everything they can to put the best group they can on the floor.

The Bulls signed rookie first-round draft pick Jimmy Butler to a four-year contract in time for him to participate in the first practice. Terms were not disclosed.

Butler averaged 12 points per game last season for Marquette while also being a stand-out defender.

Tom Thibodeau was pleased --- but not delighted --- with what he saw from his team during the first practice of the 2011-12 season.

"It was the first day, so there was some good, some bad and obviously a lot to clean up," he said. "We have a baseline now. Overall, the energy was very good and the conditioning was better than I thought. We still have a long way to go with the conditioning but it was better than I thought. It's a start."

The Bulls practiced for three hours, which included a scrimmage, as one of Thibodeau's primary goals was to gauge how good of shape his players were in. He will continue that evaluation in coming days and adjust his training camp schedule accordingly. He also wanted players to start getting used to the more physical aspects of the game.

"The first thing is to see where we are conditioning wise and we'll determine our pace based on how we respond," he said. "There's a certain amount we can do on the floor. We'll watch tape, we'll have meetings but we have to be ready to play. Our focus is on having a great camp and being ready to start the season."

Derrick Rose was so excited about the first practice that he got to his Deerfield-area home three hours before it started to make sure everything was in order.

"We scrimmaged a little bit," he said. "He's just trying to get us playing and active on the floor. We were really moving the ball, playing hard. You could tell who was really working out and not getting out of shape because of the lockout."

Keith Bogans was at the Berto Center but not allowed to participate in the team's first practice on Friday.

"Keith Bogans is under contract with the Bulls and we have a December 19th option on that contract," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said in a statement. "At this time, we are exploring several options in finalizing our roster. We have always respected Keith's professionalism and we hope to have more clarity on this situation soon."

The Bulls must pay $1.7 million to pick up the option on Bogans' contract. But with players such as Jamal Crawford, Rip Hamilton and Vince Carter on the market, Forman prefers to wait to see which other players are available before making a commitment to Bogans, who started 82 games last season and averaged 4.4 points per game.

An injury to Bogans could complicate the process.

"We have the options with Keith," Thibodeau said. "We just have to be patient and see how it plays out. It's an unusual set of circumstances right now. We just have to be patient."

While it appears Bogans has played his final game with the Bulls, Thibodeau continued to heap praise on Rose's defensive-minded backcourt mate from last season.

"He did a great job for us," Thibodeau said. "He did his job every night. He played great defense, hit spot-up shots. He's been the consummate professional."

Several outlets are reporting that the Bulls and Hawks continue to discuss a potential sign-and-trade deal that would send Jamal Crawford back to Chicago.

Crawford spent the first four years of his career with the Bulls after being acquired in a draft-day trade in 2000. The 13-year veteran averaged 14.2 points for the Hawks last season and but has averaged has averaged 17.9 points since 2003-04 even if he is a defensive liability.

While Crawford can be a defensively liability, he may be the best-case scenario for the Bulls in terms of acquiring a proven scorer who can create shots off the dribble and prevent teams from collapsing on Derrick Rose. Jason Richardson is another possibility, although ball-handling has never been his strength.

The Detroit Pistons have waived guard Rip Hamilton, according to several Internet reports, raising the possibility that he could end up in Chicago.

The veteran was a hero of the Pistons 2004 NBA title run but has most recently become a symbol of a franchise in decline. A career 17.7 scorer, he averaged 14.1 points last season, which was his lowest total since his rookie year with the Wizards. The scoring slump was mostly the result of reduced minutes, however, as Hamilton scored at virtually the same rate as he has during his career.

At 6-foot-7, he would give the Bulls some length in the backcourt. While he may be an average defender at this point of his career, Hamilton does have experience defending Dwayne Wade in both the regular season and the playoffs.

The bigger concern for a Bulls team may be that he openly feuded with the Pistons last two coaches. While that may have been largely the result of his frustration with the losing culture that has permeated the franchise in recent years, the Bulls are a close-knit group that benefitted from chemstry last season.

A productive role with a team with championship aspirations may be what Hamilton needs. This could be a nice fit for both Hamilton and the Bulls.

Not only did Caron Butler chose the Clippers over the Bulls in free agency, but the three-year, $24 million dollar deal he signed with Los Angeles may make it more difficult for the Bulls to sign an alternative.

Jason Richardson remains an attractive option for the Bulls even if he does not excel at creating his own shot off the dribble. The veteran is a solid outside shooter and a dynamic finisher around the basket but ball-handling has never been a strength. The ideal candidate for the Bulls would be someone who can create his own shot and allow Rose to play off the ball more.

The Bulls are offering a midlevel exception worth $5 million per year, which is significantly less than Butler received. If the Butler deal ends up setting the market, the Bulls may need to look for a cheaper alternative than Richardson, who will likely command similar money.

Butler signs with Clippers

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The Bulls can cross Caron Butler off their wish list after the forward signed a three-year deal worth $24 million with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Butler met with the Bulls on Monday morning and tweeted that the meeting went "great." Butler, who was averaging 15 points per game with the Dallas Mavericks last season before injuring his knee, visited several other teams, as well.

Butler said he signed with the Clippers because they offered the best "fit."

The Bulls will hold their first official practice of training camp on Friday at 4 p.m. at the Berto Center. There will be two practices on Saturday and one Sunday.

Kyle Korver knows the Bulls are in the market for a shooting guard. He also knows that acquiring another player at his position could radically change his role.

"That's the position I'm playing," Korver said Thursday at the Berto Center. "I listen to it. It motivates you. You try to be better. We'll see what happens. We'll see who they bring in. Whoever they do bring in, I'll be all for. It's about winning a championship."

Korver spent his offseason trying to improve the weaker areas of his own game with hopes that his role will grow beyond being a 3-point shooter off the bench when training camp opens today.

"Becoming a better defender is something I worked on a lot," he said. "Side to side movements. A lot of times in the playoffs, they put more size on Derrick [Rose] and a point guard on me so I worked on my post-up game because I want to be able to take that guy down low. It's something I did earlier in my career. The last few years, the teams I have been on, it wasn't something we looked at so I didn't work on it much the last few years."

Korver is a catch-and-shoot player who frequently gets the ball off screens. Therefore, he hopes to have added wrinkles to that part of his game, as well.

"I felt like last year I was either shooting the ball or passing the ball really quickly," he said. "I kind of got in the mindset of I have to make the decision right away. I worked on coming off and taking my time and seeing that there are different options and plays I can make. I'm not trying to be a three-or four-dribble guy but a one- or two-dribble guy in creating space and step-backs and things like that."

As Korver noted, it has been a long time since any of the of Bulls have played competitive basketball, which is the only way to know whether all his offseason work will bear fruit.

"It's one thing to do it in a gym by yourself with one other guy," he said. "It has been a long time since we played five-on-five basketball. It will be exciting to see how that carries over to the season."

Carlos Boozer looks thinner, especially his face, which may turn out to be the first positive sign that the forward is ready to become the player the Bulls hoped he would be when he was acquired before last season.

"First I was resting the toe," Boozer said when asked how he spent his lockout-lengthened offseason. "Getting the toe healthy was a big deal. During that time I was just spending time with the family. After my toe felt much better I started cranking up my workouts, my basketball. I was watching tape, trying to improve on the things I didn't do so well last year that I need to get better at."

When asked what he saw on tape and what he wants to improve on, Boozer refused to go into too much detail.

"I was able to look at some of the things I didn't do well and go in the gym and work on it and get ready for next year," he said. "I'll leave it broad like that. This year, I just want to play better D, be more efficient offensively, be a better leader, a better teammate and do whatever it takes for our team to win. Our motto is, 'whatever it takes.'"

No Bulls player was criticized more last season than Boozer. It started with him claiming he broke his hand while tripping over a gym bag while trying to answer the door at his home. That cost him the first 15 games of the season. He later missed eight games with a sprained left ankle. In the playoffs, it was turf toe that limited his effectiveness and prevented him from elevating like he normally does. The result was a dramatic dropoff in production. He averaged 12.6 points last postseason with a .433 shooting percentage compared to career playoff averages of 20.3 and .503.

His defense --- or lack thereof --- was a source of more criticism.

"At the end of the day, some people take criticism the wrong way," he said. "I take it as motivation. Criticism motivates you. That's how I've been my entire career. I'm very motivated to say the least."

You rarely hear Jimmy Butler's name in discussion about ways the Bulls can improve at off-guard. Not much is expected from the 30th overall draft pick, granted, and it's unlikely the former Marquette standout will make a significant impact this season, but give him this: He's got the right attitude.

And he's honest.

"I have no idea what I'm getting myself into," Butler said.

You can't blame a rookie for feeling overwhelmed after the lockout-extended offseason prevented him from participating in rookie leagues and meeting his new teammates. He's playing catch-up this week. He spent part of Tuesday getting to know Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans while working out at the Berto Center.

"I was here working out a little bit before the lockout started," Butler said. "They told me to stay in shape and be ready and pay attention to a lot of different things and mostly work out and do what I've been doing. Get better, obviously. I know that. They gave me some things to work on but at the same time [they said] stick with the things that got me to this point."

Butler is a guard/forward who had a well-earned reputation as a pesky defender at Marquette. He could eventually be an option to cover LeBron James in the playoffs but that lofty goal is far from his mind as he prepares for training camp to open on Friday.

"My expectations are to play hard and win," he said. "I'm not a big self guy, never have been, never will be. At the end of the day, the team is the only thing that matters."

If the NBA's lockout-shortened, 66-game schedule looks daunting to NBA veterans, imagine what it must look like to rookies. Butler said that while his youth might help him recover after games, he's still working hard to prepare himself for the gauntlet to come.

"It is and sometimes it isn't," he said when asked if his youth was an advantage. "I'm young, so I guess I think I can do all this and all that but at the same time they have been through this and they know what it takes as far as getting in the cold tub and getting in the hot tub and do this and do that. I don't know anything about that. I know they are going to help me but in college you play two games a week --- tops. I can skip out on a cold tub here and there. I don't think I can do that at this level anymore."

Joakim Noah returned to Berto Center on Monday feeling feeling healthy in mind and body and with a newfound perspective on the game thanks to the NBA lockout, but that doesn't mean the Bulls center doesn't still feel the sting of last year's loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

"I know I wasn't happy with the way it ended at all," Noah said. "It took me a while to get back from that. I think that's a normal reaction. "I even watched a couple of the games in the summer time. It was pretty depressing stuff.

"At the same time, you realize that the games were really close and it really comes down to one or two possessions. We're a young team. We have to use that to our advantage and learn from our mistakes because we can play better than we did last year. A lot of people say we maximized [our talent] but I don't think so. We can do better."

Noah said missing games during the lockout gave him a new perspective.

"You realize how much you miss playing with your teammates and how privileged we are to be playing in these unbelievable arenas and playing at the highest level," Noah said. "It's pretty cool."

Noah worked out with the French National team, his former coach at Florida Billy Donovan and with Derrick Rose in California for 10 days his offseason. He said he has fully recovered from what he called a "serious" ankle injury that slowed him late last season.

"I've just been working on everything, just trying to get stronger, working on my hook shots, around the rim; my jumpshots," Noah said. "I'm feeling pretty polished."

The Bulls met with free-agent Caron Butler on Monday morning, according to multiple reports. The Dallas Mavericks free-agent forward, who is recovering after rupturing the patellar tendon in his right knee last season, is also expected to visit the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons in coming days.

"There's no secret that he's a hell of a player," Bulls center Joakim Noah said of Butler. "I don't know how he is health-wise, but there's no question he's definitely a great player."

NBA executive and coaches were allowed to begin talking to players on Monday, although no oral or written agreements can be made until Friday because, at least technically, the lockout remains in effect. Coaches are also not allowed to supervise on-court activities until training camps open Friday, although players are free to work out on own, as Bulls players Luol Deng, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer did Monday. Center Joakim Noah was also expected at the Berto Center on Monday afternoon.

There's no denying the Bulls need for a starting shooting guard after Keith Bogans averaged only 4.4 per game last season, leaving Derrick Rose to carry the offensive load, which likely contributed to him wearing down in the Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Miami Heat. The Bulls have nine players who logged significant minutes last season under contract, which means they will be limited to a $5 million midlevel exception to upgrade two-guard position if they want to avoid the luxury tax. Expect them to target a veteran scorer willing to take less to play for a contender.

Butler averaged 16.6 points, 2.9 assists and 5.9 rebounds in his 11th NBA season. He also worked extremely hard in an attempt to recover from his injury in time to join his teammates for the playoffs. While he did not appear in the playoffs, his team-first mentality might fit nicely with the Bulls tightly knit group.

Another possibility for the Bulls could involve Vince Carter, who may be released by the Phoenix Suns in a move that could save the franchise $14 million in 2012, according to multiple published and Internet reports. In 72 games last season, the 13-year veteran averaged 14 points, 3.8 rebounds and two assists per game.

Jason Richardson of the Orlando Magic, Shane Battier of the Memphis Grizzlies and the Washington Wizards' Josh Howard are also possibilities.

The Chicago Bulls and ESPN 1000 (WMVP-AM) have agreed to a five-year extension of its radio broadcast agreement that will extend through the 2016-17 season.

ESPN 1000 has been the Chicago Bulls flagship station since 1996.

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