Chicago Sun-Times

January 2012 Archives

WASHINGTON D.C. --- The best way to erase a bad memory is to create new ones, which was what Derrick Rose was determined to do against the Wizards on Monday night in an attempt to forget about missing two free throws with 22.7 seconds left that would've given the Bulls a late lead in Sunday's loss to the Heat.

"Tonight, I'm going to try to go crazy," he said before the game.

He was crazy, all right, as in crazy good. The Bulls point guard had the crowd of 18,357 at the Verizon Center oohing and ahhing with his high-flying act through the paint as the Bulls cruised to a 98-88 victory over the Wizards. Rose piled 35 points and five assists atop his late-game failure against the Heat. It was his third straight game with 30 points or more.

He also made 14 of 15 free throws, including four of four in the fourth quarter.

"I was just playing my game," Rose said. "That's me being aggressive. [Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau] always says play my game and everyone will follow."

Rose went right to work, making six of eight shots in the first quarter. He ended a first half in which the Bulls led 51-40 by nailing an 18 footer and then blocking John Wall's shot as the buzzer sounded. Rose added 15 points in the third quarter, including a 3-pointer with 2:56 left to give the Bulls a 22-point lead.

If Rose is the fastest player in the league from baseline to baseline as Thibodeau claims, Washington's John Wall may be second. Thibodeau called Wall "one of the best young players in the league" but the second-year guard could not compete with Rose's shot-making ability on this night. He scored six of his 20 points in the second half.

"He set the tone," Thibodeau said of Rose. "He's feeling a lot better. When he comes out like that it's his will. He imposes his will on everybody."

He went hard to the basket in the second quarter only to have his shot blocked by JaVale McGee. Rose couldn't believe no foul was called and complained to official Eli Roe while running up the court, drawing his first technical of the season. It has been building. Rose has appeared frustrated with officials several times this season.

"I had to get that one," Rose said. "I didn't mean to get it the way I got it but I felt I had to say something."

Thibodeau told players he was more worried about this game than he was about Sunday's showdown with the Heat. His players responded.

Kyle Korver nailed five 3-pointers and finished with 17. Carlos Boozer added 18.

"You're only going to let Derrick attack the basket so many times before you make a change and the defense beings to collapse," Korver said when asked to explain his long-range success.

The Wizards clawed back to within eight late in the fourth with a trapping defense the Bulls countered by getting the ball to center Joakim Noah in the middle of the floor. Noah finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds for his fifth straight double-double. He also had seven assists.

After the game, he was regretfully asked if he fantasized about being a point guard.

"I usually think of women when I fanaticize," he said, before adding: "I don't fantasize about being a point guard."

The Heat aren't the Bulls only rival. Rose said he couldn't wait to play the Pacers again after Indiana players celebrated at the United Center after defeating the Bulls 95-90 on Wednesday. Pacers coach Frank Vogel fired back Monday during an interview on ESPN Radio.

"I don't know if we really celebrated any more than a lot of teams celebrated when they get a road win," Vogel said. "I know they've got a couple guys on their team who celebrate on every play. I just think it's the thrill of victory.

"If they want to add some spice to the rivalry we welcome that. Rivalries are fun. Winning is fun. It's all good."

Bulls players late said they could hear the Pacers celebrating from their locker room.

"There is a little dispute about how much we really celebrated," Vogel said. "We were excited. We're excited every time we get a win. In particular any road win and against a team that we struggled to close out some games against last year in the playoffs but also a team that had won 25 out of 26 home regular season games.

"So to go in there on the second night of a back to back after coming off the West Coast, it was a huge win for us."

The Bulls next face the Pacers on March 5 in the United Center.

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Derrick Rose didn't just let himself and his teammates down. He let the entire city of Chicago down when he missed two free throws with 22.7 left that could've given the Bulls the lead in an eventual loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday, or at least that's how he sees it.

"I'm just hurt not for me but for the city of Chicago," Rose said. "Knowing how big that game was not only to me and the organization but to our fans. That's a rivalry. You have your best player, and he has the opportunity to take the lead and I didn't come through. The only thing I can do is hope the fans stick with me and stay with me. I promise I won't let them down again."

Twenty-four yours later, Rose was still trying to get his mind around his failure. People, including his brothers, who were in Miami, have tried to encourage him. He vows to make up for it next time.

"That's something I live for," he said. "I think of my legacy. I want people to think of me as a clutch player, someone that always came through a majority of the time when they were on the court. Yesterday, it hurt a little bit but it will help me in the long run."

Rose said his sprained left big toe is no longer bothering him and that getting rest is now his biggest priority, along with keeping his hometown happy.

"I like to see my city happy, especially if I'm one of the reasons why," he said. "I know what we went through when [Michael Jordan] left. We went through a lot of years where people didn't really watch the Bulls. For them to start watching the Bulls, and for the organization to get our fans back means a lot to me. When you see people and they have Bulls hats on and Bulls apparel on it means a lot to me."

The availablility of Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton were game-time decisions. That was expected. C.J. Watson being absent against the Heat was a surprise.

Watson injured his right wrist in Friday night's win over the Bucks at the United Center and did not play in the Bulls 97-93 loss to the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena. The backup point guard's availability for Monday night's game against the Wizards will be a game-time decision.

"He's a lot better [Sunday]," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We'll see how he is [Monday]."

Deng tore a ligament in his left wrist in a win over the Bobcats on Jan. 21 and hasn't played since. Deng has elected to have undergo surgery and will try to play through an injury that will test his pain threshold. Thibodeau said he is doing more during practices and feeling better.

"He's very close right now," Thiboudeau said. "He's day to day. You want to make sure he feels good about playing. He's doing a lot more without contact. You want him to be comfortable. He's getting closer. As long as he's moving in the right direction, then we're pleased with that."

Hamilton is still suffering from a lingering groin injury and he bruised his thigh in Wednesday night's win over the Pacers. While he didn't play against the Bucks he felt good enough during warmups to start. He ended up scoring 11 points with two assists and five rebounds in 36:25.

"We had to prepare for Hamilton," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It took a decent part of our walkthrough because he's new and different."

Hamilton said he was unsure if he would be able to play against the Wizards on Monday night.

"In the first quarter I felt pretty good," he said. "As the game went on, I felt like I was playing on one leg. It was tough. It was hard. But it was kind of like a playoff atmosphere. You try to will yourself through the game. I'm just disappointed we didn't get the win."

Hamilton said he's is frustrated with his inability to remain healthy this season.

"At times your mind tells you one thing and your body is telling you something else," he said.

MIAMI --- Players and reporters were asking the same question after the Heat defeated the Bulls 97-93 on Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena: What happened on the play that ended with an inadvertent whistle.

"I'm just going to leave it alone," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said when asked for his opinion of the play. "I'm not going to say anything. All you have to do is look at the tape."

The ball went out of bounds on the baseline with 16.8 seconds left and the Bulls trailing by one. It appeared Dwayne Wade was out of bounds when he tried to save it but replays were inconclusive. Players were standing around, waiting for the call before officials ruled there had been an inadvertent whistle and sent Taj Gibson and LeBron James to the circle for a jump ball.

"We thought we had the ball, but they said it was an inadvertent whistle," Gibson said. "I thought Dwayne was going to jump it up, but they said anyone can jump. It's one of those plays. I thought we had possession. Either way, he was out of bounds. We'll look at the film later but it was a tough play. It was tough because we gave ourselves a chance to win it late."

James tipped the ball to Mario Chalmers, who was immediately fouled by Ronnie Brewer. Chalmers made one of two free throws to put the Heat up by two.

"It was a tough call for both teams, it really was," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's why you have to play everything out to the end of the possession."

Several times during the game it sounded as if a fan was blowing a whistle.

"I thought it was a whistle in the crowd," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "That was a bad sequence. Things like that happen in basketball game but it's unfortunate it happened in such an important moment in the game. Dwayne Wade is clearly out of bounds on the play at the end. For them to get the possession back in that situation is tough. It happens. We had our opportunities. No excuses."

MIAMI ---Derrick Rose made jump shots with Miami Heat players draped all over him. He made runners and scoop shots. He shot right-handed and left-handed. He was double-and-even-triple teamed and he was still able to finish at the rim. He made all 12 of his free throws when he stepped to the line with a chance to give him team its first lead over the Heat with 22.7 seconds left.

He'll may never forgive himself for missing them both as the Heat handed the Bulls a deflating 97-93 defeat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Sunday.

"Me missing those free throws. Both? Come on," he said in the locker room afterwards, still unable to fathom what had happened more than 20 minutes before. "The only thing I can think of is God does things for a reason. He's telling me to work on my free throws more. I can do that. I know it's going to make me a stronger player."

Chances are, Rose is in a gym as you read this shooting free throws, even if he was perfect in 29 fourth-quarter attempts this season before Sunday. He was more than disappointed after scoring 34 points to help his team rally from behind again and again only to miss out on an opportunity to steal a win at the end. He was shattered beyond belief.

As if missing the free throws wasn't bad enough, he also left a potential game-tying 14-foot-runner short with 3.7 seconds left.

"Derrick has always been his biggest critic," center Joakim Noah said. "He takes losses very hard. He wouldn't be the competitor he is if he wasn't like that. He knows we have his back. We love him. We wouldn't be in the position we're in today if not for a guy like that. He knows that. At the end of the day we have each other's back but we all feel down right now. It's not just him. We all could've done better."

The first installment of what may be the NBA's best rivalry came down to the frantic final seconds and two strange plays. There was an inadvertent whistle that led the Heat regaining possession while leading by two with 16.8 seconds left. There was another scramble for a lose ball that Rose picked up before calling a timeout with 9.9 seconds left. After Rose missed two free throws so did LeBron James, who led the Heat with 35 points.

"This is so unreal right now," Rose said. "I had a chance to change the game and this time it didn't work out. I know my will to win is still very strong. I guarantee next time the shots are going down."

Nobody besides Rose was able to score consistently as Richard Hamilton and Joakim Noah had 11 each while Carlos Boozer and Ronnie Brewer each added 10. Noah also had 11 rebounds while Boozer had nine.

"The great thing about him is he takes pride in every possession, he takes pride in every game," Hamilton said of Rose. "He's not the type of guys who at the end of the game loses and says so be it. You love that from a player, especially a young player. A lot of guys don't have that. For him to have that is an exciting thing."

Luol Deng (wrist) will not play against the Heat today and neither will C.J. Watson, who also injured his wrist.

Rip Hamilton (thigh) will warm up before the game and his availability will be a game-time decision.

"They are much improved," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Bulls. "Their offensive pie chart looks a lot different than it did last year. [Rip] Hamilton adds a different dimension and dynamic for them with his catch-and-shoot play. He is such a veteran, crafty player that it forces you to have a team concept around him, very similar to Ray Allen. They seem to be trying to post up [Carlos] Boozer a little bit more this season than last. We've prepared for all these types of styles. We believe it will come down to winning in the trenches, rather than the schematics."

Injuries to both Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton have left questions regarding who Ronnie Brewer will be guarding on Sunday.

When the Bulls lost the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last season there was an epidemic of offensive ineptitude throughout the lineup.

Though the Bulls have seemed to have found an antidote in Rip Hamilton, they may be without their starting shooting guard Sunday when they play the Heat for the first time since last year's playoffs.

Hamilton sat out of Friday's win over Milwaukee with a thigh bruise and is considered day-to-day. He was limited to some shooting at Saturday's practice.

"We want all our pieces healthy, obviously, center Joakim Noah said. "But we feel like we have enough to win. We're just going to go out there and compete as hard as possible."

Forward Luol Deng also remains day-to-day after he tore a ligament in his left, non-shooting wrist. Deng has sat out the past three games, but did as much physical activity Saturday as he has since the injury. Deng still has not participated in contact activities.

"He's feeling better," Thibodeau said. "Again, he's still not practicing yet so he's doing a lot of individual work and a lot of therapy. So he's getting closer.

"Each day he's adding different layers to what he's doing."

Bulls waive Mike James

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The Bulls waived point guard Mike James Saturday after the 36-year old veteran appeared in four games, averaging 4.0 points and 3.7 assists for the Bulls.


If you're Derrick Rose, there are times to get your teammates involved and times to be a scorer first. With Bucks center Andrew Bogut out with a broken ankle, and the Bulls without primary scorers Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton because of injuries, Friday night's game at the United Center called for the latter.

Rose has said his sprained left big toe will affect his game for the rest of the season and at times since his return that has been evident. But his ability to change directions, elevate and take opponents off the dribble was as devastating as he scored 34 points in a 107-100 win that served as the team's last home game before it heads off on a nine-game road trip.

"He was very, very aggressive," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "That set the tone for us. He's feeling a lot better. He was in attack mode. That got us going."

Rose attacked the basket on the Bulls' first possession of the game. He wasn't discouraged when it rolled off the rim. His first field goal was a dunk. From that point on, Rose was taking Brandon Jennings off the dribble and beating the collapsing Bucks defense to the rim time and again. He scored 16 in the first half to help the Bulls to a 51-50 lead and started the third quarter by dribbling past three defenders and nailing a high-arcing one-hander over 6-foot-10 center Drew Gooden.

He ended the third quarter with eight straight points, including a step-back 18-footer to give the Bulls an 11-point advantage and Rose 30 points heading into the fourth. After the Bucks pulled to within six with 3:07 left, Rose momentarily lost his dribble before retrieving the ball and draining a baseline one-hander to give the Bulls some wiggle room.

"My whole mind set was attacking, Rose said. "I talked to Thibs during shootaround and he showed me film of me attacking and that's what I tried to do."

Carlos Boozer had his sixth double-double with 20 point and 13 rebounds. Joakim Noah had 15 points and 16 rebounds --- including eight offensive --- and has now had 10 or more rebounds in nine of the past 10 games as the Bulls out-rebounded the Bucks 50-43 and had 14 more points in the paint.

"He's been going on an upward trend for the last six or seven games now," Thibodeau said of Noah. "His energy is really good. His conditioning and timing are coming around."

Brandon Jennings had 19 of his game-high 25 points in the first half before Rose clamped down defensively in the second.

"Brandon Jennings hit a couple shots and Pooh got mad," Noah explained.

Hamilton bruised his thigh in Wednesday night's loss to the Pacers and was initially in the starting lineup before being scratched before tipoff. With Deng also out with a torn ligament in his left wrist, the Bulls were missing two of their top four scorers, forcing Rose to think offense first for one of the few times this season.

Hamilton and Deng could return in time for Sunday's highly-anticipated regular-season matchup with the Heat team that eliminated the Bulls from the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Expect both to be game-time decisions.

Rose insisted the Miami game is the next game on the schedule and nothing more. Noah disagreed.

"It's definitely not another game," he said. "That's all I've got to say."

If you think the condensed schedule has been tough on the players imagine what the Bulls' training staff is going through. Athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi and his staff will have to treat themselves for cramps and dehydration if they are forced to keep up this pace much longer.

On a night when Taj Gibson returned to the floor late in the first quarter after missing three games with a high-ankle sprain, Rip Hamilton re-appeared on the injured list with a bruised thigh sustained in Wednesday night's loss to the Pacers.

Hamilton was unable to finish Friday morning's shootaround and was considered a game-time decision, as was Gibson. Hamilton was initially listed as the starter at shooting guard but was replaced by Kyle Korver right before tipoff and did not play in the game.

"Taj is moving great," coach Tom Thibodeau said of Gibson. "Each day he's getting better."

Meanwhile, Luol Deng appeared ready to return as soon as Sunday against the Miami Heat despite a torn ligament in his left wrist. Deng has been effective defending Dwayne Wade in the past. After missing six straight games with an ankle injury, Wade was in the starting lineup for Friday night's game against the Knicks.

"Each day he's getting better," Thibodeau said of Deng. "He still has to take contact on it but he's moving in the right direction."

Thibodeau isn't worried about Deng being ready to play when he does return.

"The guy's in great shape, stays in great shape," he said. "The advantage that he has over most is he stays in great shape year round. A lot of guys take time off in the summer from conditioning, he doesn't, the fact that he's in such great shape, unfortunately he's taken on an injury, the fact that he's in great shape helps him."

Luol Deng may be hurt, but his teammates are still looking to him for support--particularly rookie swingman Jimmy Butler.

With Deng officially day-to-day, Butler saw his first action in the rotation when he played just over six minutes in Wednesday's 95-90 home loss to the Pacers.

Luol Deng, still nursing a torn ligament in his left wrist, is highly unlikely to play Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks, but forward Taj Gibson should play after participating in Friday morning's shoot around.

Tom Thibodeau was solely focused on looking toward Friday night's home game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

In typical fashion, he wouldn't look ahead to the Bulls game in Miami on Sunday and particularly didn't want to look back to Wednesday night's home loss to Indiana, decided by a missed three-pointer from rarely-used forward Brian Scalabrine.

Defeating inferior teams despite a rash of injuries is something the Bulls have proven they can do while racking up the league's best record. Defeating one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference without two of their best players is a different matter, as the Pacers proved by snapping the Bulls seven-game home winning streak with a 95-90 win on Wednesday night.

The Bulls were without Luol Deng and Taj Gibson but still had a chance to win against a Pacers team that pushed the Bulls during their first-round playoff series last season and rank among the league leaders in rebounding and opponents field goal percentage. But it was the Pacers who made the plays down the stretch to hold off the Bulls.

Even though Ronnie Brewer played one of the best games of his career, this team misses Deng, who doesn't get enough credit for what he does for the Bulls and probably won't as long as Derrick Rose is around. They missed Gibson's defense and rebounding against an Indiana team that out-rebounded the Bulls 44-41 and outscored them 50-40 in the paint.

"Getting ready to play is a big part of this league," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who didn't think his team prepared well enough. "You've got to be ready to play every night. As soon as you start feeling good about yourself, you're going to get knocked on your ass. That's the way it is."

The Bulls blew a 10-point halftime lead and trailed by as many as seven in the fourth quarter before pulling to within 90-88 on two Ronnie Brewer free throws with 1:33 left. Rose had the ball in his hands and a chance to tie with 35 seconds left but was double-teamed and passed to a wide-open Brian Scalabrine for a 3-point attempt.

Scalabrine's baseline potential game-winner was short and flat, however, and the Pacers claimed their first win at the United Center in eight tries.

"I didn't have a shot," Rose said. "I thought I made the right play."

The top of the United Center may have blown off if fan-favorite Scalabrine made what for him was rare chance at a game-winning 3.

"Sorry to miss the 3 tonight, but I was imitating how @KingJames played during The Finals," Scalabrine tweeted afterward, referring to LeBron James.

Rose and Brewer gave the Bulls a chance at the end. While Rose looked timid at times after missing three straight games with a sprained toe in Monday night's win over the Nets, he was back in attack mode against the Pacers. Rose had his way regardless of whether Darren Collison or George Hill was guarding him.

He scored 12 straight late in the second quarter and finished with 24 points and three assists.

Brewer started at small forward for Deng and played his best game of the season. He finished with a season-high 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists and three steals. Rip Hamilton added 17, Boozer 11 and Joakim Noah had 10 points and 13 rebounds. The Bench Mob, meanwhile, managed only eight points on a night the starters needed all the help they could get.

The game was chippy at times, and the way the Pacers celebrated afterwards didn't go unnoticed by the Bulls.

"I'll never forget how they celebrated after the game," Rose said. "I can't wait to play them again."

The Bulls are the NBA's third most valuable franchise, according to Forbes.com.

The website values the Bulls at $511 million, which isn't bad considering Jerry Reinsdorf bought the team for $16 million in 1985.

The Knicks were ranked first and worth a $655 million. The Lakers were third at $643 million. The Milwaukee Bucks were 30th at $258 million.

Taj Gibson (sprained left ankle) missed his third straight game but has been running in practice and hopes to return Friday against the Bucks or possibly Sunday when the Heat host the Bulls in Miami.
Gibson sprained his ankle in the second quarter of a blowout win in Cleveland Friday after coming down on Antawn Jamison's foot.
John Lucas III said he has recovered fully from a groin injury and is available to play.

When shooting guard Rip Hamilton was missing games because of a groin injury Ronnie Brewer started in his place. Now that small forward Luol Deng is sidelined with a torn ligament in his left wrist, it's Brewer who once again gets the starting nod.

"I've been able to learn the plays at both positions," Brewer said. "It's not going to be any easy playing the three versus the two. There are high-caliber players that you're going to face every night so you have got to come up and be ready for the test."

Brewer matched up against the Packers Danny Granger on Wednesday night. The six-year veteran entered the game averaging 16.1 points per game.

"What Ronnie has shown is that whether he's starting for Rip or starting for Luol and he's started a number of games in this league, is he can handle starting," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He handles coming off the bench. I thought last year him coming off the bench was a great asset. I value greatly what a guy like that can bring coming off the bench. In some ways I do miss what he brings off the bench but I also like what he does as a starter. It's a tribute to him and his versatility."

Brewer worked hard to extend his range during the offseason and entered Wednesday night's game shooting 50-percent from behind the arc.

"I'm going to have to try and do what I've been doing since I've been with the Bulls and that's hustle on both ends of the court, run the floor, be a tough defender," he said. "Tonight we have a tough matchup trying to guard Granger. These upcoming games you have a lot of tough guys that we're going to face. I'm just going to come in here and try to do my part and be an energy spark for this team."

Bulls backup power forward Taj Gibson is unlikely to play Wednesday when the Bulls host the Indiana Pacers at the United Center. Gibson sprained his ankle in the second quarter of a blowout win in Cleveland Friday after coming down on Antawn Jamison's foot and has missed two games due to the injury.

Tom Thibodeau always preaches that his players are prepared and Ronnie Brewer has illustrated what that really means.

Rivarly brewing with Pacers

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After a hard-fought, five-game series in the first round of last season's playoffs with the Indian Pacers, it seems as if a rivalry is beginning to the develop between the two divisional foes.


Luol Deng has a torn ligament in his left wrist and although he will not undergo surgery, at least right away, the versatile forward will be out for an extended period and his absence could make it more difficult for the Bulls to realize their goal of winning an NBA Championship this season.

That said, the player coach Tom Thibodeau calls the "glue" that holds his team together wants everybody to know he and the Bulls will be OK.

"I know it's a bad injury and it sounds terrible but really I think it will be fine," Deng said after Tuesday's practice at the Berto Center. "We've got a good team, a lot of guys who can play, and I think I'll be fine. I know how it feels. Everybody will talk about it but it will be fine."

Deng suffered a similar injury to his right wrist during his rookie season in 2005 and missed the rest of the season and playoffs after undergoing surgery in March. After consulting with the doctor that treated him then, along with other medical professionals, he is hoping the new injury will heal on its own and he can return to the court sooner rather than later.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said Deng dribbled and shot using his left hand during Tuesday's practice.

"This time around I'm familiar with it," he said. "It's on my left which is not like having it on my right (or shooting hand). I know how it feels pain-wise and am just trying to get it down to a certain level where I can play again. I'm really confident in the fact that I'll be out there. Hopefully soon, but I'll be out there."

Thibodeau said the injury is week-to-week. Deng said the pain has lessened since he sustained it in the fourth quarter of Saturday night's win over the Bobcats. Although he's not sure exactly how he was injured, he said he knew right away it was serious. He left the game to get an x-ray and have the wrist taped only to return to the game.

He said x-rays were inconclusive but an MRI later uncovered the ligament tear.

"I really feel like we have a very good chance of doing something special and I feel like without the surgery I'll be fine," he said. "I know what I can do with it and what I can't do. I really think I'm going to be really effective out there. There will be days when it's sore. We'll try to control how sore it gets. Everybody's body responds differently to it. But I'm very confident I'll be able to handle it."

Several NBA players have played through similar injuries in recent years, most notably Lakers star Kobe bryant, who tore a ligament in his wrist prior to this season and currently leads the league in scoring with 30.5 points per game.

"I really don't know what Kobe's is," Deng said when asked if he was comforted by Bryant's success. "I'm sure it's different ligaments or whatever. Whatever treatment he is getting, Kobe is Kobe, maybe he handles pain better than I do. Everybody is different. I'm really going by how I feel about it and I really feel like it's going to be fine. I'm definitely going to miss a few games here. I don't know how many. I'm very confident the guys will be fine. As soon as I can be out there I'll be out there."


On a day when Derrick Rose returned to the court after admitting he will never fully recover from his sprained left big toe this season, the Bulls learned their second-best player, Luol Deng, could be out for an extended period. The extent of Deng's wrist injury is something the player and the team want to keep strictly confidential, at least for now.

Meanwhile, on the court, little changed as the injury-depleted Bulls posted yet another routine victory. Deng's loss is a huge one for the Bulls and yet his absence went largely unnoticed as Rose, Rip Hamilton and Joakim Noah led the Bulls to a 110-95 win over the Nets at the United Center. It was their fourth straight win and ninth in 10 games.

Rose made his first appearance since posting a double-double against the Raptors on Jan. 14 and finished with 22 points and eight assists while wearing an insert to protect his toe.

"To miss as much time as he did and two come out and play like he did says a lot about him," coach Tom Thibodeau said of Rose. "His timing wasn't there but it will get up to speed quickly."

Rose relishes playing against the league's elite point guards and ex-Illini star Deron Williams qualifies. The matchup between two players competing for a spot on the 2012 Olympic roster was mano a mano at times in the second half. Williams had 16 points and 10 assists.

"With this injury I'd say being explosive, taking off but it really didn't bother me today," Rose said when asked how the injury impacts his game.

Hamilton did whatever was needed and finishing with 22 points and 10 assists to help the Bulls dominate in virtually all phases.

The Bulls didn't get a 20-point effort from a starting point guard last season. Hamilton has now scored 20 or more in back-to-back games.

"With me, it's not all about scoring," Hamilton said. "There are so many great players on this team that my job is to make everybody's job easier whether it's scoring or passing."

Noah returned from a twisted ankle to turn in one of his best performances of the season. Noah was a late scratch on Saturday night after twisting his ankle in Cleveland the night before but had 16 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.

Boozer had 14 points and nine rebounds and Ronnie Brewer, who started for Deng at small forward, had 11 points and five boards.

"I didn't know that until he came to the team," Rose said when asked if he knew Hamilton was such an accomplished passer. "He a better passer than I am."

The Bulls have remained formidable despite a slew of injuries in part because of their willingness to make the extra pass. Their unselfishness was on display early while building a 16-point lead at the half. Brian Scalabrine and C.J. Watson set Omer Asik up for back-to-back buckets in the second quarter, for example. Hamilton set up Noah for consecutive bunnies as the Bulls extended their lead to 21 in the third. In the fourth, it was Scalabrine again setting up Watson for a 3-pointer to beat the Nets' zone and maintain a 20-point lead.

The Bulls had a season-high 33 assists in the game.

Luol Deng's injured left wrist remains largely a mystery, which appears to be how he wants it.

"Lu is an old-school guy," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He came in and said, 'My wrist is injured. I think i'll be fine. I've got a couple more doctors we want to talk to and we'll go from there.' He said he's able to move it and it was feeling better today and that it's day to day. I'm good with that."

Deng's wrist was heavily bandaged when he entered the United Center after being ruled out of Monday night's game earlier in the day. The usually accommodating Deng did not make himself available to reporters before the game. Thibodeau said he was not aware of the results of Monday's MRI and that Deng would consult with specialists before a diagnosis was made.

"I don't think he'll need surgery," Thibodeau said. "Again, there's more doctors that he wants to talk to."

Losing Deng for an extended period would be a blow to a team that has suffered more than its fair share of injuries lately. Deng's versatility both offensively and defensively makes him invaluable. Ronnie Brewer got the start at small forward against the Nets on Monday night. Kyle Korver, Brian Scalabrine, Rip Hamilton and rookie Jimmy Butler could also log minutes if Deng is out for an extended period.

"You can't say enough about what he brings to our team in all areas," Thibodeau said. "It starts with his leadership and toughness. The fact that he's our best defender, guards multiple positions, plays to win, does whatever you ask him to do, sets a great example in practice every day. You can't really say enough about him. He's having an All-Star type of year."

(This was written by Seth Gruen)

In the unlikely event that all five of the Bulls' injured players are unable to play against the Nets, coach Tom Thibodeau will be left with only nine players.

If Joakim Noah, who is expected to play, ends up scratching, the Bulls will have only three post players including the scarcely-used Brian Scalabrine.

It could make for some interesting personnel groupings, which is why recently-signed veteran guard Mike James has prepared to play multiple positions. James primarily plays point guard.

"I'm really going to start focusing on learning the offense from not just the one position but also the two position," James said. "So wherever he calls me in whether I'm playing off the ball or on the ball, preparation is always key."

Derrick Rose sat out his third straight game and fourth in five with a sprained big left toe. The Bulls are 3-1 without Rose this season.

"All the swelling is gone," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "When he says he can go he'll go."

John Lucas III suffered a strained groin in Friday night's win and was also ruled out of Saturday night's game. Lucas said his groin was sore but he expects to be available when the Bulls host New Jersey on Monday night. Veteran point guard Mike James, who was signed after Watson and Rose were injured, backed up Watson on Saturday.

"He'll be fine," Thibodeau said of James. "He'll do well. He's experienced, a very good pick-and-roll player, a fierce competitor. He's been around. He'll be fine."

Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah both missed Saturday night's game with an ankle sprains

While Gibson's absence was expected Noah's was not. Noah was listed as a starter before the game but was a late scratch. Noah sprained his ankle late in the first half of Friday night's historic rout of the Cavaliers but returned to the game and said he was fine afterwards. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Noah was fine before the game and he did not appear to be limping.

Gibson, meanwhile, wants to try to return within a week and even said if it were up to him he would rush back even though teammates Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton re-aggravated existing injuries by trying to return to the court too soon.

These Bulls just don't learn.

"I'm not a guy who likes to sit," Gibson said. "I try to play through things."

Gibson sprained his ankle in the second quarter of Friday night's blowout win over the Cavaliers in Cleveland when he came down on Antawn Jamison's foot.

"It's real sore," Gibson said. "It's real painful. I just have to take it slow. I'm just lucky nothing was broken and nothing was torn. That's the bright side."

Gibson was playing some of the best basketball of his career. Not only has he been a lock-down defender but has developed a better jumper and is the team's best finisher among big men.

"It's disappointing," Gibson said. "You want to be there for your team. We're off to a good start. We've got a good thing going. We've got a little setback right now but it's better to be healthy later on in the season."

Expect Brian Scalabrine to get more meaningful minutes while Gibson heals. Luol Deng also played power forward against the Bobcats unorthodox lineup on Saturday night at the United Center.

"Lu has shown he can play two, three and four," Thibodeau said, referring to shooting guard, small forward and power forward. "He can guard all five positions. That's one of the great strengths we have. We also have the ability to stay big. Scalabrine can defend multiple positions. He can guard threes, fours and fives. We have a lot of flexibility."

CLEVELAND --- The Bulls were playing and Derrick Rose wasn't the best point guard on the court. He wasn't even on the court while sidelined by his sprained left big toe for the third straight game, denying the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena an intriguing matchup between the reigning MVP and rookie sensation and No. 1 overall draft pick Kyrie Irving.

If he continues to sit out games because of injury, Adidas may want to consider making a Derrick Rose signature walking boot.

Not that it mattered as the Bulls (14-3) dominated a Cavaliers team (6-8) coach Tom Thibodeau considers a candidate for the league's most improved 114-75 on Friday night in a game that offered little more than for Cavs fan than Irving putting some of the talents on display that could make showdowns with Rose memorable for years to come.

It was the worst home loss in Cavaliers' history, by the way.

Irving scored 11 of his 13 points --- including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc --- in the first quarter and also had three assists.

"He's better than I thought he would be," Bulls forward Loul Deng said of Irving.

The Bulls looked like a championship contender even without Rose as they dominated in virtually all phases. Luol Deng had 21 points and eight rebounds while Carlos Boozer added 19 points and 14 rebounds. Watson and Lucas III combined for 24 points and four assists and the entire team played such suffocating defense that human victory cigar Brian Scalabrine checked in with 9:44 left.

The Bulls held the Cavs to 30.3 percent shooting, out-rebounded them 54-38 and had 50 points in the paint to Cleveland's 28.

"There's no reason for him to play hurt right now because we know in the long run we need Pooh to be 100 percent," said Joakim Noah, who had eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.

Taj Gibson and Lucas III left the game with ankle and groin injuries and their status for tonight's game is not known.

Rose's availability for tonight's game against the Charlotte Bobcats also appears doubtful, if the Bobcats made it to Chicago, that is. They were parked on the tarmac en route to Chicago on Friday evening before the storm delayed their flight. Even the Bulls battled the elements in Cleveland as the bus taking players to their hotel got stuck in snow at the airport Thursday.

A second bus was filled with Comcast employees and other staffers also on the charter. Players switched busses with the Comcast folks and continued to the hotel while passengers in the second bus waited 80 minutes before being dug out.

Irving, who, like Rose, played only one collegiate season before being the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, entered Friday night's game averaging 17.7 point per game. Making those numbers more surprising is he only played 11 games at Duke because of a --- wait for it --- toe injury.

"You can tell he's fearless," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I love his demeanor on the floor. When you watch you see a guy who has a lot of confidence."

The Bulls' confidence without Rose is growing as well. They are now 3-1 without their leader and best player, largely because of his backups. Thibodeau has so much confidence in Watson that he allows him to call his own plays when he's on the floor.

"It doesn't surprise us by any means," Watson said of the team's success sans Rose. "We're just going out there and playing basketball. We're not changing anything. We're just missing one player and hopefully he's back soon."

CLEVELAND --- Derrick Rose was ruled out of Friday night's game against the Cavaliers before he even warmed up.

Rose wanted to play against rookie point guard Kyrie Irving tonigh but after missing two straight games he was still wearing a walking boot.

"I definitely want to be out there [Friday]. Especially [Friday]," he said. "But you have to make the smartest decision not only for me but for my teammates."

Rose said his sprained left big toe feels much like the turf toe he sustained during his second NBA season, although coach Tom Thibodeau said because the sprain occurred to the top of his toe it's officially deemed a sprain.

"It's exactly what it is," Rose said when asked if it compared to his previous injury. "I wasn't able to bend my toe in like three years. When that happened it bent it and it aggravated it and I played on it sooner than I was suppose to play on it and it was real bad."

Rose said he feels "a little regret" about playing last weekend, which only re-aggravated the injury he initially suffered against the Timberwolves on Jan. 10. He also said while the swelling is down the injury remains painful.

Irving, who, like Rose, played only one collegiate season before being the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, is averaging 17.7 point per game. What makes those numbers more surprising is that he only played 11 games at Duke because of an injury.

"He's a great player," Rose said. "He's at a young age but you can tell he knows a lot about the game. He's a skilled player. [Cavaliers coach] Byron [Scott] has done a great job of letting him play through his mistakes and I know he won't do nothing but get better."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is also highly complimentary of Irving, who, like Rose, only played one collegiate season before being picked No. 1 overall in the draft.

Funny Kyle Korver is hosting a coat drive before Saturday night's game against the Charlotte Bobcats at the United Center. The guard left his coat in Chicago before leaving for Cleveland, where temperatures were in the low 20s.

"I was rushing out to door to get to practice and I forgot a coat," Korver said. "Yesterday and today here I only had a hoodie on. I didn't have a coat. You think about actually going through a Chicago winter without a coach or even if you get one a lot of the kids get coats worn by three or four brothers and sisters or it's old or doesn't fit them well. We're not asking for your old coats left over in your closet that no one is wearing. We're trying to get new coats, good coats. The kids get to pick out their coat that no one else has worn that fits them right. It's a really cool thing."

Korver and the Bulls are teaming up with Operation Warm to provide new winter coats for children from Mercy Home for Boys & Girls and Victor Herbert Elementary School.
 
Fans are encouraged to drop off new children's winter coats at any of the United Center admission gates. Gates open at 5:30 p.m.
 
The first 250 fans who attend the game and donate a new children's coat or donate $15 or more will receive a ticket which will allow them to get an autograph from Korver after the game.

"There's a couple things as a kid you have to pick out, you want to pick out your backpack, your shoes ,and your coat. It's a big thing for a kid."


CLEVELAND --- Derrick Rose wants to play against the Cavaliers and rookie point guard Kyrie Irving tonight. Rose always wants to play. But after missing two straight games and still wearing a walking boot, the Bulls' star sounded resigned to the fact that it may be a few more days before he returns to the court.

"It's a game-time decision," Rose said at Friday morning's shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena. "I definitely want to be out there today. Especially today. But you have to make the smartest decision not only for me but for my teammates."

Rose said his sprained left big toe feels much like the turf toe he sustained during his second NBA season.

"It's exactly what it is," Rose said when asked if it compared to his previous injury. "I wasn't able to bend my toe in like three years. When that happened it bent it and it aggravated it and I played on it sooner than I was suppose to play on it and it was real bad."

Rose said he feels "a little regret" about playing last weekend, which only re-aggravated the injury he initially suffered against the Timberwolves on Jan. 10. He also said while the swelling is down the injury remains painful.

If he's feeling able, he'll warm up tonight before deciding whether he'll play. While he claims the decision remains his, he sounded resigned to the fact that he may have to let his toe fully heal, which is especially difficult because tonight's game offers an opportunity to compete against the resurgent Cavaliers and rookie sensation Irving, who is averaging 17.7 point per game.

"I would love to play tonight, love to play," Rose said before complimenting Irving. "He's a great player. He's at a young age but you can tell he knows a lot about the game. He's a skilled player. [Cavaliers coach] Byron [Scott] has done a great job of letting him play through his mistakes and I know he won't do nothing but get better."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is also highly complimentary of Irving, who, like Rose, only played one collegiate season before being picked No. 1 overall in the draft.

"The thing that's probably stood out more than anything is the way he's shooting the ball and the poise in which he's playing," Thibodeau said of the former Duke standout. "He's stopping behind a screen, shooting the ball, pulling up for the threes, shooting 38 [percent beyond the three-point arc] is very impressive. He plays very, very hard. He has shown poise for a rookie."

Thibodeau calls the Cavaliers, who won fewer games (19) than the Bulls lost last season (20), one of the surprises in the Eastern Conference.

"You can make a case that they're the most improved team in the league," Thibodeau said. "They're 6-7 with a very tough early-season schedule. A lot of road games. They play extremely hard."

The Bulls held just their second practice since Christmas day on Thursday, which gives you an even better idea of just how hectic their schedule has been.

It wasn't coach Tom Thibodeau's typical three-hour grinder, either, but half that.

"The hardest thing is you can't go to long," Thibs said. "There's a lot of things you want to work on that need to be worked on but you don't have the time. So you have to prioritize the things that you want to get done, the things that may need the most work and start there. Tomorrow we'll maybe address one of the other areas but it's constant. Some things you can address in the film sessions, some things in the shootaround and then some things are best addressed right through regular practice. We did a little bit of everything today and touched on some things that we really need to clean up. But I think that offensively the first thing that goes is your timing and spacing and the only way you can correct that is through repetition and you really need to be out on the floor to do that. "

Thibs said it's easier to go so long between practices when your team has a work ethic.

"I've always said this: We're fortunate to have the right guys" he said. "Their attitude and approach is great. They come in each and every day, they give you everything they have, their concentration level has been very, very good and they've prepared themselves well for this season. Without us having contact with them they did a great job of conditioning in the offseason and then in the fall and into the winter because we weren't playing until mid-December. It's a credit to them."

Derrick Rose did not practice with the team on Thursday and his status for Friday night's game against the Cavaliers remains in doubt.

Rose is expected to test his sprained left big toe during Friday morning's shootaround. Expect his availability to be a game-time decision.
"Once he's good, he's good," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's day-to-day. Our doctors have said that basically it's a sprain and it's a pain tolerance thing. So once the swelling goes down and he can tolerate the pain, he can play."

Thibodeau said the swelling has been going down, which is a good sign. Meanwhile, C.J Watson continues to shine as Rose's replacement. Watson had 23 points, five assists and no turnovers in Tuesday night's win over the Suns despite being at only "60 percent" while recovering from a dislocated elbow.

"He knows I've got his back," Watson said. "I'm sure he'll be back, hopefully Friday."

Thibodeau said guard Rip Hamilton practiced fully after returning from an injured groin against the Suns.

"We didn't know how he would be," Thibodeau said of Hamilton. "You never know until you can see how the game unfolds. But he was great and throughout his career that has been one of his strengths. His endurance is phenomenal and he looked like he had not skipped a beat."


One of Joakim Noah's biggest supporters admits the Bulls' center isn't playing as well as he has in the past.

"His energy level is not the same," Charles Barkley said during Monday's NBA coverage on TNT. "I have loved how hard he has worked but he has not played up to his capabilities this year. Even though Chicago has a great record he has not played like he has played the last couple of years."

Noah's scoring, rebound and minutes are down as he has found himself on the bench late in games while backup Omer Asik is on the floor.
 
"He's a guy that rebounds, runs and blocks shots," analyst Kenny Smith said. "When you don't do that and you are Joakim Noah, you are really not that productive on the floor. He has to get back to rebounds, runs and blocking shots."

Here's Barkley on his MVP choice in a 15-game season. "If I had to pick an MVP right now, I would say it was Kevin Durant because I reward winning. But the best player on the planet right now is LBJ (LeBron James), the president as I call him."
 
Shaquille O'Neal on his MVP choice in a 15-game season: "LBJ (LeBron James), followed by Kobe (Bryant) followed by D.Wade (Dwyane Wade)."

Barkley did say he believes the Bulls and Heat are the best teams in the East.

"Chicago and Miami are so far ahead of every team in the Eastern Conference...it's not even close."


Before the game, C.J. Watson said he probably wouldn't play until late in the week. Less than an hour later, he was in the starting lineup. By game's end, he had scored 17 points.

"I can move it pretty good," he said. "I can shoot all right. The pain will hopefully go away throughout the season. I just wanted to get out there and play and help my team."

Watson wore and padded sleeve on the elbow and twice crashed to the floor on it but remained in the game.

"You can't say enough about what he has done to get back this quickly," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "That was a positive sign for us."

MEMPHIS, Tenn. --- Derrick Rose wants to play against the Phoenix Suns at the United Center on Tuesday night even if it might be wise to lets his sprained left big toe heal completely.

Either way, it's his decision. Coach Tom Thibodeau and the training staff may want to keep him on the bench but he said whether or not he plays is his call.

"It's up to me if I want to go out there and play," Rose said. "It's my decision."

Every home game is a homecoming for the Chicago native, but playing in Memphis has extra significance because he played collegiately here for one season. Two years ago, Rose had to sit out a game here because of a wrist injury. He was fuming on the bench Monday while missing his second game this season.

"It's always fun to be here but I'm kind of mad that I didn't get the opportunity to go out there and play," Rose said. "There's always next year."

Rose said the issue is not only pain tolerance but also mobility. The sprained big toe impairs his ability to push off and change direction. When asked it would make sense to miss a game or two to let the toe fully heal, he was noncommittal.

"You know the way I am," Rose said. "I've got that old school mentality where I don't want to miss a game. It hurts missing games."

He went through his normal pregame routine before he decided his toe was too painful to play. He will likely go through the same routine Tuesday night.

"I'm very surprised," Rose said of the flare up. "It's kind of irritating. You want it to go away but it always finds its way back."

MEMPHIS, Tenn. --- The Bulls can lack energy and still win games, as they proved in Saturday night's win over Toronto. When they lack energy and Derrick Rose, it's another story.

Throw in some of the worst defense since coach Tom Thibodeau came to Chicago and they had no chance in 102-86 loss to the Grizzlies in a nationally televised Martin Luther King Day matinee.

Struggling without Rose, who re-aggravated his sprained left big toe and sat out his second game this season, is understandable. But the Bulls entered Monday's game as the league's top defensive team and best rebounding unit. They did neither when it mattered and had 13 first half turnovers against a Grizzlies team they defeated by 40 points in their home opener on New Year's Day.

"I don't think we did a god job mentally," forward Luol Deng said. "We should've been ready for them. We should've known anytime you beat a team like that in the NBA the next time they can't wait to see you. We should've been more prepared. In the second half we did a better job of fighting harder but we should've fought like that the entire game."

C.J. Watson returned for the first time since spraining his elbow in the home opener and gave the team life late in the third quarter. For the second straight game, Taj Gibson came off the bench to provide same. With Watson and Gibson leading the way, the Bulls cut a Memphis lead that had ballooned to as much as 27 to nine midway through the fourth quarter.

The Grizzlies responded with nine straight points to end the Bulls' comeback bid.

"When you allow easy shots early on it allows them to get confidence," Thibodeau said. "Once a player has confidence in this league it's much harder to slow them down. They made some tough shots later in the game but that was after they had gotten a ton of easy shots. They played well. Give them credit."

The first half was like a dunk contest and Memphis was the only participant. The Grizzlies made 14 of their first 18 shots and never looked back. They shot 77.8 percent in the first quarter, 69 percent in the first half and 54 percent for the game. They had 16 dunks or layins in the first half alone.

Luol Deng led the Bulls with 20 points. Watson had 17 and Gibson 16 and four rebounds. Rudy Gay led the Grizzlies with 24 while Mike Conley had 20. Marc Gasol had 19 points and 10 rebounds

"Anytime you're missing D-Rose it's tough but I thought C.J. played great coming in in his first game back," forward Carlos Boozer said. "He gave us a huge lift."

Boozer and Joakim Noah were on the bench when the Bulls made their rally. It was the third time in four games that two starters have not been on the floor during the fourth quarter. In this case, however, it was more a product of Thibodeau pressing to try to get back in the game. Gibson sets the trap and therefore remained in the game.

Boozer was the only Bulls player who was ready to go when the ball went up. He scored 10 points in the first quarter and finished with 13.

"We've got to be ready," Thibodeau said. "I have to do a better job of getting them ready."

Derrick Rose was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 24.0 points and 9.3 assists. Rose, who missed one game because of a toe injury, posted two point-assist double-doubles, including a 31-point, 11-assist effort against Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 10.

Derrick Rose was named one of 20 finalists for the 2012 London Olympics.

Joining Rose as finalists for the 2012 USA team were: LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland

Trail Blazers); Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks); Chauncey Billups (Los Angeles

Clippers); Chris Bosh (Miami Heat); Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers); Tyson

Chandler (New York Knicks); Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder); Rudy Gay

(Memphis Grizzlies); Eric Gordon (New Orleans Hornets); Blake Griffin (Los

Angeles Clippers); Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic); Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia

76ers); LeBron James (Miami Heat); Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves); Lamar

Odom (Dallas Mavericks); Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers); Dwyane Wade

(Miami Heat); Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder); and Deron Williams

(New Jersey Nets). Griffin was also officially added to the USA Basketball

National Team roster.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. --- Derrick Rose re-aggravated his sprained left big toe and will not play against the Grizzlies today.

John Lucas III will start at point guard. C.J. Watson will also play his first game since injuring his elbow in the home opener against this same Memphis team.

"I'm very surprised," Rose said. "It's kind of irritating. You want it to go away but it always finds its way back."

Rose tried to make his injured toe sound like a nonstory before Saturday night's win over Toronto. That it will cause him to miss a game in Memphis, where he played collegiately for one season, is even more bothersome.

"I'm only going to be here one time," Rose said. "For me to be hurt almost every time I come here is messed up."

Rose said the issue is not only pain tolerance but also mobility. The sprained big toe impairs his ability to push off and change direction. When asked it would make sense to miss a game or two to let the toe fully heal, he was noncommittal.

"You know the way I am," Rose said. "I've got that old school mentality where I don't want to miss a game. It hurts missing games."

Rip Hamilton (groin) has been ruled out of today's game. While coach Tom Thibodeau said C.J. Watson could possibly play today, Watson said he isn't likely to play until later in the week.

When you design a schedule that calls for a team to play five games in six nights and nine in 12 you should expect what a sold-out United Center crowd received on Saturday night.

The league likes to call its product fantastic. On this night, however, it was just fatigued.

Give the Bulls credit for snapping out of it with the game on the line. Give coach Tom Thibodeau credit for getting his team to give him everything it had even when it had little to give, because the the Bulls came alive to start the fourth quarter and scored seven straight points while pulling away for a 77-64 victory.

These Bulls proved they can win in their sleep.

"We're not concerned with aesthetics," coach Tom Thibodeau growled. "We just want the wins."

The Bench Mob has been one of the primary reasons why the Bulls entered the game with the league's top record. The Bulls led by 10 early but Toronto kept whittling the advantage down before knotting the score at 37 at the break. The Raptors' bench outscored the Bulls reserves 25-4 during a lackluster first half that sucked the life from the crowd.

It was that same Bulls bench that proved critical in the Bulls earning their 12th win in 14 games and their fifth straight as John Lucas III and Taj Gibson provided much needed energy in the fourth.

"Taj and Luke work hard every day," Derrick Rose said. "We're not surprised. Everybody else is but the team knows what they do every day."

Rose penetrated and dished to Taj for a dunk to put the Bulls up by nine. Gibson got the defensive rebound and then on the Bulls' next possession Rose found Gibson again for lay-in as the shot-clock buzzer sounded. Gibson would add another dunk while scoring nine points to go along with five rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal in the fourth quarter.

Gibson credited Thibodeau for pushing the right buttons after his rough start. When Thibs said, "Taj, you're better than that," Gibson took it to heart.

"Thibs really turned into the mean guy that not a lot of people know about," Gibson said. "He told us to go after it. We're better than that. Guys really stepped up late."

"Thibs always tries to get the best out of us although he has never run up and down that floor," Joakim Noah said teasingly. When told Thibodeau played Division III basketball, Noah said: "Exactly." When asked if Thibodeau was harsher than normal, Noah said, grinning: "Thibs is always the same. He doesn't change. He's pretty consistent."

At their best, the Bulls are a team that attacks the rim offensively. At their worst, they settle for jumpers, which was the case during the first three quarters against the Raptors. Even when those jumpers weren't falling, the Bulls kept firing. They were 1 of 9 from three-point land before Rose buried one to put his team up by five late in the third.

Rose led the Bulls with 18 points and 11 assists while Carlos Boozer added 17 points and 13 rebounds and Loul Deng 14 points. Noah had four points and 12 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan and Leandro Barbosa had 15 apiece for Toronto.

Playing in the backcourt with Rose for the first time all season, Lucas III scored 10 points, including two three-pointers, in the fourth.

"That's the one thing about our team, you never know who is going to provide the spark," Gibson said. "There's always somebody off our bench that comes in and plays lights out. Who knows who's going to step up next game?"

C.J. Watson has been hoping to recover from his elbow injury in time play in Monday's game in Memphis. While that remains his goal, coach Tom Thibodeau said he wants his backup point guard to test it in practice before taking the floor in a game.

"Let me qualify that: I will consider a shoot-around a practice," Thibodeau said.

Since the Bulls won't shootaround before Monday's noon start against the Grizzlies, and aren't likely to have a shootaround before hosting the Suns on Tuesday night because they will be playing on back-to-back nights, Watson's return may be pushed back to Friday's game in Cleveland.

Rip Hamilton (groin) could return for Friday's game against the Cavaliers as well.

"He's still day to day," Thibodeau said of Hamilton. "We just want to be real smart with him. We don't want it to re-occur. We want to be sure he's healthy."

Whatever the Bulls need, Luol Deng seems to provide.

The veteran forward had 21 points and 16 rebounds in Friday night's win over the Celtics. It was his third straight double-double. He had 14 points and two rebounds in Saturday night's win over Toronto.

"What can you say about Luol?" Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau asked. "Every night that guy is on the boards, plays great defense, hits every big basket for you. You can't say enough about him."

Deng also guarded Paul Pierce in Boston, holding him to 13 points on 3-of-12 shooting.

"I really have a lot of respect for Paul," Deng said. "I've watched him a lot. When I'm working on my game I watch a lot of stuff he does. Whenever I play Paul I just try to make it hard for him. The thing that always gets me is his pump fake. We were talking about it. Every game I've played him in my career he has got me on a pump fake. He still gets me every time. He's just a great player."

For Derrick Rose, his sprained left toe is yesterday's news.

"I'm not even trying think about it," Rose said. "I'm playing. To me that was a thing of the past and I'm just trying to get over it."

Rose reported no additional soreness after he had 25 points, seven assists and four rebounds in Friday night's win in Boston. He's still wearing a walking boot because it's more comfortable than a shoe and he's still wearing an insole. Other than that, he said he's not even thinking about his toe anymore.

"If anything, they're just worried about me going out there and re-injuring it because I came back kind of soon," Rose said of the training staff. "I was fine and I wanted to play [Friday] so it was up to me."

BOSTON --- Derrick Rose, sprained toe and all, wasn't going to let this one slip away.

Rose declared himself healthy enough to play after warming up before the game and helped the Bulls jump out to a 20-point lead against the comatose Celtics. When the Celtics came to life in the second half and cut that lead to one early in the fourth quarter, it was Rose who made sure his team escaped with a 88-79 win at TP Garden on Friday night.

"The great players find a way," Rose said. "I want to be great. This is something I have to fight through. It's not stopping me."

Rose was far from 100 percent, but wore an insole to prevent his toe from bending and immediately made his presence felt when he penetrated for a layup to score the first two points of the game. Rose went on to score 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter. He also had seven assists and four rebounds.

"You almost expect that from him," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He let the game come to him. He didn't try to do too much. In the second half, when it was time to make something happen, he made big play after big play. We've grown accustomed to that."

The game appeared to be over when the Bulls led 52-33 at halftime but the Celtics went on a 25-6 run to pull to within one on Mickael Pietrus's three-pointer with 10 minutes left. That's when Rose took over. He made a three-pointer and a three-point play. He went around two Boston defenders while switching hands for a layup before making two free throws to put the Bulls up by five.

He drove toward past three Celtic defenders and elevated. With his back to the rim, he found a way to put the ball in the net and end the Celtics comeback hopes with 2:14 left.

"We never want to be in a situation like that," Rose said. "When we get the lead on someone we definitely want to put them away. I guess we haven't learned that yet."

Rose sprained his toe in Tuesday night's win in Minnesota and missed Wednesday night's game against the Wizards. He admitted he initially feared the injury was more severe.

"When he's out there the game is so much easier for me and so much easier for everyone on the court," Deng said of Rose. "He draws so much attention. I keep saying, he's going to keep getting better. He's a great player right now but with Thibs, and spending time with the coaches, he's learning even more and making unbelievable plays out there."

Deng had 21 points and 16 rebounds for his third straight double-double while Carlos Boozer and Ronnie Brewer each had 12. Noah had 10 points and 12 rebounds as the Bulls dominated the boards 46-34 and had 10 more second-chance points. Ray Allen led the Celtics with 16.

"Lu is definitely going to the All-Star game this year," Rose said. "If he doesn't they'll be cheating."

Rose put on his walking boot again after the game but is expected to play against Toronto on Saturday night at the United Center. Earlier in the day, he was asked if the injury would affect his ability to beat defenders off the dribble.

"I'll probably lose a step but this is just preparing me for when I get old," he said.

BOSTON --- Tom Thibodeau said he's not considering changing his starting lineup despite having Taj Gibson and Omer Asik on the floor instead of starters Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah during the fourth quarters of wins over Minnesota and Washington.

"We're going to do what's best for our team, for winning," Thibodeau said. "Most times [Boozer and Noah] are going to be out there. In certain situations, when teams are small, when they have shooting on the floor, sometimes you have to change. Most of the time they're going to be out there."

While Boozer's and Noah's production may be down, Thibodeau said having options on the bench is a luxury during this of all seasons.

"It's one of our strengths: Quality bigs up front, and where we are in our schedule right now it's hard to play big guys extended minutes," he said. "The fact that we have great depth allows us to rotate all four of those guys. They've all done a good job for us."

When asked specifically about Noah, whose point-and-rebound production have been down this season, he said: "Noah is fine. Noah is fine. His rebounding is fine. He's been plagued with some foul trouble. He'll be fine."

BOSTON --- Derrick Rose tested his sprained left toe before Friday night's game against the Celtics and declared himself fit to play.

Rose is far from 100 percent, however, but with an insole in his shoe to prevent his toe from bending and with some adjustments to his game he hope to take the court. The ultimate decision, of course, is coach Tom Thibodeau's.

"The great players find a way," he said. "I want to be great. This is something I have to fight through. It's not stopping me."

Rose sprained his toe in Tuesday night's win in Minnesota and was confident he would play on Wednesday night against the Wizards. But when he woke up Wednesday morning the pain and inflammation were so severe he couldn't walk and was fitted for a walking boot.

"I was very surprised when I woke up the next morning and couldn't walk," he said. "It was something that scared me. I got x-rays on it and all the x-rays were negative so it wasn't a fracture. It's just like a jam or I hyperextended my toe, so I'm all right."

Rose said he has dealt with turf toe on and off since his second year in the league but never anything this severe. It was obvious he was less than 100 percent during pregame warmups.

"That's why I have my teammates, too," he said. "Me just being out there I think I can control the game a little bit with me having the ball in my hand the majority of the time. This will be new. I'll probably lose a step but this is just preparing me for when I get old."

Rose took an Advil after initially injuring the toe against the Timberwolves. When asked if he would take another, he said: "Something a little stronger."

BOSTON --- Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau said he's "hopeful" his starting point guard and reigning MVP Derrick Rose will play Friday night against the struggling Boston Celtics at TD Garden.

Rose participated in some drills during Friday morning's shootaround but was still wearing a walking boot after spraining his left big toe in Tuesday night's win over the Timberwolves. Rose sat out Wednesday night's victory over the Wizards but hoped to play against Boston.

"He's feeling a lot better," Thibodeau said. "He'll warm up tonight. We'll see if he can go."

Thibodeau said he wants to make sure Rose doesn't have discomfort resulting from Friday mornings shootaround before deciding whether he will play against a Celtics team that is 4-5 and has yet to defeat a .500 team or better. If Rose does play, he would start and would not have his minutes limited, Thibodeau said.

"We're not going to risk further injury to him," he said. "If he's at risk we're not going to play him. Derrick has always responded well to treatment. He was feeling better yesterday and he's feeling a lot better today."

If Rose does not play, John Lucas III would likely make his second straight start. Lucas III had 25 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in 45 minutes during Wednesday's win over Washington at the United Center. Veteran Mike James was also signed for depth. James practiced at the Berto Center on Thursday to familiarize himself with the playbook after joining the team Wednesday night.

It's also possible backup point guard C.J. Watson could return as soon as tonight. Watson sprained his left elbow diving for a loose ball in a win over the Clippers on Dec. 30. Watson's availability could also factor into Thibodeau's decision to play Rose.

Guard Rip Hamilton (groin) is not expected to play against Boston.

"C.J. is very, very close," Thibodeau said. "Rip did more shooting today and is close but C.J. is closer than Rip."

Because Lucas III had such a big game while replacing Rose, and Watson scored a game-high 33 when he replaced Rose in the starting lineup last season, Thibodeau was jokingly asked if he is the real reason behind the success of Chicago point guards. Thibodeau chuckled at the idea of Rose being a "system" player.

"C.J. is terrific and probably more deserving of more minutes," Thibodeau said. "He's got a tough job because he's backing up Derrick. But he handles it great and whenever C.J. has had extended minutes he has played very, very well for us.

"John handles his role perfectly. He's a high-energy guy who works hard every day and is always prepared. In many ways, he's similar to [Brian Scalabrine]. He could be practicing for two months and not play at all and you could throw him in and he knows exactly what he has to do and he's ready. It's a testament to his professionalism. With both C.J. and John, they are both very good shooters. It allows them to fit in very easily."

If Rose does play, it would make for another potentially memorable matchup with Boston's Rajon Rondo. The Celtics might be struggling, but Rondo has been playing as well as ever. Coach Doc Rivers has been concerned about his team's lack of chemistry and he ran them hard in practice earlier this week because he thought they were out of shape.

Thus far, their four wins have come against bottom dwellers Detroit, Washington (twice) and New Jersey.

"They're fine," Thibodeau said. "Tough schedule early, [Paul] Pierce being hurt, the core of the team is intact. Rondo is a superstar now. They have four star players, and they have a great coach. The adjustments are more with the new guys on the bench. As Pierce gets healthy, with the experience of their team, they will be fine."

With Derrick Rose and C.J. Watson sideline with injuries, Tom Thibodeau was asked who would start at point guard before Wednesday night's game.

"Lucas," he growled, referring to third-string point guard John Lucas III. When he was asked who would be backing up Lucas III, Thibodeau replied: "Lucas."

It was an honest answer. It also served as a rare moment of levity before the strangest night of what has already become a frequently bizarre season. Lucas III, making his first NBA start, didn't play all 48 minutes but was on the floor for 45 minutes and scored a game-high 25 points to go along with eight assists and eight rebounds in the Bulls 78-64 win over the Wizards at the United Center.

"He didn't leave any bullets in the gun, that's for sure," Thibodeau said afterward, shaking his head. "I give him a lot of credit."

Lucas III launched 28 shots. To put that in perspective, consider that Rose, who was out with a sprained left toe, has averaged 16 shots per game this season and Michael Jordan averaged 22.9 during his career. For a third-string point guard, Lucas III isn't bashful. Give him that. Lucas surpassed Jordan's career average midway through the fourth quarter.

"Coach Thibs was getting mad at me when I wasn't taking shots when I was open because I did feel like I was shooting too much," Lucas III said. "He said if you don't take those shots it won't open up for everybody else. Once I realized what he was talking about, that's when Kyle [Korver] started coming off screens and taking shots and taking shots. It opened up something else."

The evening started with the worst-case scenario: Rose in a walking boot. The reigning MVP sprained his toe in Tuesday night's win against Minnesota while still managing to score 31 points and dish 11 assists. Rose was determined to play against the Wizards but while x-rays were negative the pain was too intense.

Thibodeau said Rose is "day to day" with a sprained toe and not turf toe as Rose himself described the injury. In fact, Thibodeau said the injury is unlike the turf toe that forward Carlos Boozer suffered late last season. Thibodeau is hopeful Rose will return for Friday night's game in Boston. Don't count on it. He has been calling C.J. Watson "day to day" for almost two weeks.

"He's been huge playing through injuries," guard Ronnie Brewer said of Rose, who only missed one game last season. "He's a tough guy. If he's out you know it's bothering him a little bit."

Korver scored 14 points while Luol Deng added 12 points and 15 rebounds as the Bulls completed the back-to-back-to-back portion of their schedule with three straight wins. Omer Asik had eight points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots.

The Bulls out-rebounded the Wizards 62-46, including six straight offensive rebounds in the final minutes to seal the game.

"I really felt like our bigs were huge tonight," Deng said. "The way we rebounded the ball gave us a lot of second chances."

Lucas started cramping up in the third quarter. Who could blame him? The journeyman hasn't played more than 22 minutes since he was with the Rockets and played 31 in the 2007 season finale against Utah.

"It's very unusual for a backup point guard to get 28 shot attempts," Washington coach Flip Saunders said. "However, he is an offensively minded guard and tonight he made some tough shots."

Joakim Noah injured his left thumb in the second quarter of Wednesday night's game and retreated to the locker room for treatment. Although he returned to the game with the thumb taped, he spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench in what is becoming a trend. Carlos Boozer joined him on the pine in the fourth.

Noah missed 30 games last season with a hand injury. X-rays on Noah's thumb after the game were negative.

"It doesn't feel great but I think I will be all right," he said.

John Lucas made the first start of his NBA career on Wednesday night. He hasn't played more than 22 minutes since he and Thibodeau were with the Rockets and he played 31 minutes in the 2007 season finale against Utah.

"John filled this role in Houston for us so I knew he could do it," Thibodeau said. "He works extremely well. He prepares himself well. I was confident when he got the opportunity that he would handle it well. He knows he still has to work at it. He's doing a really good job running the team. When it comes back to him and he's open he's knocking down shots. You can never have enough shooting. That's one of his strengths."

Lucas was averaging 6.3 points and 1.6 assists per game since being elevated to Rose's backup when Watson got hurt.
"I'm coming in and playing a game I love to play," he said. "There's no pressure on me. I'm just playing the game like I've been playing it my whole entire life."

The Bulls have confirmed the signing of veteran point guard Mike James, who was averaging 15.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in three games with the Erie Bayhawks of the D-League.

"He's an experienced guy, tough, hard-nosed, can shoot the ball, can run a pick and roll," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He'll fit in well."

The eight-year NBA veteran appeared in four games with the Wizards in 2009-10. He has played in 528 regular season games while averaging 10.5 points, 3.6 assists in 25.2 minutes.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was an assistant with the Rockets when James played in Houston in 2007.

"Defensively, he's been through the system before so he'll pick that up very quickly," Thibodeau said. "Offensively, he's always been a excellent pick-and-role player. We'll gear his package more toward pick and rolls."

Backup point guard C.J. Watson was shooting and doing ball-handling drills before the game. Watson sprained his left elbow Dec. 30 and hopes to return Monday in Memphis.

"Maybe a little bit," Watson said when asked if he would speed up his timetable if Rose misses more games. "We'll see how he feels. I don't know how long he'll be out but Monday is the date for now."

Rip Hamilton (groin) also did not play.

"He's coming along great, as is C.J.," Thibodeau said of Hamilton. "They're both very close."


Derrick Rose entered the United Center before Wednesday night's game in a walking boot and is not expected to play against the Wizards tonight, the Sun-Times has confirmed.

Rose injured his toe in Tuesday night's win at Minnesota. He left the game, had his toe re-taped and returned to help the Bulls hold off the Timberwolves.

The Bulls have signed veteran point guard Mike James from the D-League, according to multiple reports. With C.J. Watson still recovering from an elbow injury, John Lucas III is the only true point guard on the roster. It's possible Miller could arrive in time to be in uniform tonight.

Rose said after Tuesday night's game that he has dealt with "turf toe" on and off during his career and did not want to sit out any games. Evidently, the injury did not respond to treatment overnight.

ATLANTA --- The range of expressions on Tom Thibodeau's face began with indignation and ended with resignation as the 3-point shots rained down on the Bulls on Saturday night at Phillips Arena.

The Bulls coach is known for his defensive-minded approach but it's impossible to stop a team that's accuracy improves the farther they get from the basket.

"This is the NBA," Thibodeau said. "You have to come every night. You have to bring great intensity. If you let down just a little bit this is what happens."

The Bulls rallied from 19 down in the third quarter to defeat these Hawks at the United Center last Tuesday but there was no coming back from this. Atlanta was playing for the third consecutive night and their two previous games included a total of four overtime periods, but it was by far the fresher team and led by as many as 29 in a 109-94 laugher.

"The way we played tonight was embarrassing," Joakim Noah said.

The first half was all Hawks. They made seven of their first eight from beyond 15 feet and led by 15 after the first quarter. The Bulls whittled it down to four before Atlanta closed the half on an 18-4 run fueled by four 3-pointers to lead 63-45 at the break.

The Bulls had only allowed one opponent to score 100 points this season but were never able to establish their defense in this one.

"Our defense was really bad," Luol Deng said. "We gave them the lead again. They had a lot of energy playing at home. Normally, we rely on our defense but they shot the ball well in the first half. Give them credit. But our defense has to be better."

The Hawks were shooting only 43 percent from the floor on the season but made made eight of nine 3-pointers in the first half and shot 62 percent from the floor. Carlos Boozer began the second half with a turnover, the Hawks continued their hot shooting and it soon became apparent that not even Derrick Rose could bring the Bulls back in this one.

The Hawks sent defenders at Rose and also trapped him. He sat out the entire fourth quarter and finished with eight points and six assists. It's precisely the type of defense he an expect in the playoffs, the kind of defense Miami used effectively against him in the Eastern Conference Finals last season.

"I'll take the blame. Me," Rose said. "I didn't push the ball, I wasn't aggressive. I couldn't be because they were trapping me. But it's no problem for me to take the blame."

There was plenty of blame to go around, which can be expected when little-used point guard John Lucas III has a team-high 16 points. Kyle Korver had 13 points and five assists, rookie Jimmy Butler scored 12 and Taj Gibson 11 as no starter played more than 30 minutes.

Josh Smith had 25 points and six blocked shots for Atlanta. Vladimir Radmanovic was five of five from beyond the 3-point stripe.

"It's a wake-up call," Noah said. "We don't have anything figured out. It's on us. The reality is we have to do better. We can't start the game like that and have our bench bail us out every time."

The loss would be more troubling if the Bulls hadn't won six straight including Friday night's impressive win over Dwight Howard and the Magic.

"We're never going to have any excuses," Deng said. "We didn't show up and they played well."


ATLANTA --- His look told the story. When Rip Hamilton was asked whether he would play against the Hawks on Saturday night his expression communicated an emphatic no.

"It takes time, man," Hamilton said of his sore groin. "I probably should've have played [against Detroit] but you couldn't keep me off that floor."

Hamilton injured his groin in a Dec. 30 win over the Clippers and came back too soon to play against his former teammates in Detroit and re-aggravated it. At this point, it could be several days before Hamilton is ready to return, although coach Tom Thibodeau maintains he's day to day.

"The thing that's difficult right now is he's not practicing so you don't really know what he can do and what he can't do," Thibodeau said. "We just want to be smart."

Hamilton was in uniform on the bench against the Magic and Hawks even though he didn't play. NBA rules require players to wear either a uniform or a jacket on the bench. Because Hamilton didn't bring a jacket on the three-city trip, he has been wearing his uniform so as not to violate rules.

Ronnie Brewer made his second straight start for the Bulls. At Thibodeau's request, Brewer worked on extending his range beyond the 3-point line during the offseason and has made three of four 3-pointers this season. He's averaging 7.6 points and 1.8 rebounds in 20.5 minutes thus far this season.

"He's a better shooter than people give him credit for," Thibodeau said. "We see it every day. We see how hard he works at it. He's gained a lot of confidence. He has always been a very good mid-range shooter and now he has extended that out. He's put a lot of work into it. He's shooting it well right now."

C.J. Watson is no longer wearing a sling on his sprained left elbow, although he was wearing a sleeve to protect it before the game. The backup point guard injured his elbow in the home opener against Memphis. He said he hopes to return to the court next week.

ROSE NO MJ

Rose was asked if he feels as if he's playing in the shadow of Michael Jordan.

"I try not to think about it," he said. "If you get caught up in that that's when things go wrong. We're two different types of players. His resume speaks for itself. This is only my fourth year in the league. We can't compare each other. He won championship. I haven't even made it to the finals yet. There's no comparison at all. That's somebody I look up to as a player. He's the greatest player. That's the way I look at things."

ORLANDO, Fla. --- Derrick Rose said he wasn't going to change his game because of his sore left elbow or because Dwight Howard is not only the most imposing defender in the league but also delivered two hard fouls on Rose in the past.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he didn't want Rose changing, either, but Rose did adapt his game a smige, and he and his team were the better for it during their sixth straight win, a resounding 97-83 victory over the Magic on Friday night at the Amway Center.

"Quite simply, we're not on that level right now," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "That's OK. I'm not saying that crying or complaining. That's just how it is. You've got to face reality we've got to put in the work to reach that level."

Rose's didn't go hard to the rim to score his first two points of the game. Instead, he penetrated and shot a high arcing floater over the 6-foot-11 Howard. He used the same shot to knot the score at 19 in the second quarter. It was no coincidence. He would use that same approach several more times, which was the latest example of Rose's increased maturity.

He finished at the rim twice in the second half when Howard was not an impediment before crashing into Glen "Big Baby" Davis and drawing a foul.

"A lot of floaters tonight, a lot of floaters," said Rose, who finished with 21 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. "I got fouled a few times but they didn't call it. I'm used to throwing floaters up and tonight some of them fell."

There was no reason for him to beat his head --- or elbow --- against a brick wall --- or in this case Howard's chiseled frame. The best players adapt their games to different situations. This situation clearly called for a slightly different. With backup point guard C.J. Watson still nursing his own sprained elbow, and Rip Hamilton on the bench with a sore groin, the Bulls couldn't afford to lose Rose, who bruised his elbow after crashing to the floor late in Wednesday's win over the Pistons.

Rose was determined to play. The training staff used ice, electric stimulation and a sleeve to keep the swelling down. His elbow was wrapped and he wore a less cumbersome sleeve over it during the game.

"I don't want him to change who he is," Thibodeau said. "He's an attacking guy. He gets hit. He gets up and he'll go again and again and again. That's who Derrick is. That's what makes him so special."

The Bulls used a 15-2 run in the second quarter to lead by 10 at the break. They extended their advantage to 17 when Rose dunked Luol Deng's alley oop midway through the third. The Magic rallied when the Bulls went cold in the fourth, pulling to within three on a Howard hook shot before the Bulls ended the game with a 15-3 run.

"We're used to being in those situations," Rose said. "The guys that were in were used to the play calls and play sets and who was getting the ball at certain times. Everybody knows their role toward the end of the game."

Luol Deng bounced back from his two-point performance against Detroit with 21 points and five assists. Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver hit big shots down the stretch and finished with 20 and 18, respectively. Boozer also had 13 rebounds while Joakim Noah had 10 while defending Howard, who had a game-high 28 points and 15 rebounds.

"It was all right," Rose said of his elbow afterwards. "Other than the play where I went to the hole and Big Baby fouled me, other than that I was fine."

Change can be good. In this case, Rose adapting his game, even if in a small way, was the smart thing to do.

ORLANDO, Fla. --- Rip Hamilton and the Bulls are paying the price for the veteran guard's determination to play against his former Pistons teammates Wednesday night. Hamilton re-aggravated his groin injury and sat out Friday night's game against the Magic.

"When I went back to Detroit there was no way I was going to sit out that game," Hamilton said. "The adrenaline alone was like, 'You're good. It's OK.' I don't care who would tell me how hurt I was. I was playing regardless.

"It pulled during the game. I wrapped it up during the game and stuff like that. Yesterday it was bothering me."

Coach Tom Thibodeau wanted to make it clear that the decision to play Hamilton against his former teammates was made because he thought Hamilton was healthy not because Hamilton wanted to play in the city where he starred for nine seasons and won an NBA title in 2004.

"He was feeling better so we thought he was better," Thibodeau said. "That's why he played."

While Derrick Rose acknowledged that he wouldn't fully disclose how much his bruised left elbow was bothering him, he did let it slip that Hamilton wouldn't play against the Magic after the team's shootaround, even tough Thibodeau said Hamilton's availability would be a game-time decision.

"It's going to hurt us when you lose a player like that but we're ready for anything," Rose said. "We've got other guys on the team ready to step in and play. We'll definitely miss him."

Hamilton injured his left groin against the Clippers on Dec. 30 and missed two games before returning and registering 14 points and five assists against Detroit.

Derrick Rose reiterated that he won't try to Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard into coming to the Bulls even though the two are friends.

Howard will be a free agent after the season and has made it known that he would prefer to be traded to the Dallas Mavericks, New Jersey Nets or Los Angeles Lakers.

The Bulls could become a logical trading partner for the Magic if for no other reason than Orlando is Gator country and Joakim Noah would be extremely popular here.

They have other players who may intrigued the Magic, but not the kind of franchise cornerstone they seek.

"I haven't talked to him ever since the summer," Rose said. "I know it's been crazy for him just seeing what's been going on. I can only imagine what he's going through."

Howard and Rose both have merchandizing deals with Adidas. It has been speculated that Howard doesn't want to come to Chicago because two of the company's biggest stars would have to share the same market.


ORLANDO, Fla. --- Derrick Rose's bruised left elbow is OK, and even if it wasn't, he wouldn't admit it.

"It's fine," Rose said after Thursday's shootaround at the Amway Center. Then, smiling, he added: "If it was messed up I still wouldn't tell you. It's good."

Rose injured his elbow when he went crashing to the floor late in Wednesday night's win in Detroit. Trainers have been using ice, electronic stimulation and a sleeve to reduce swelling. Rose participated fully in the shootaround and is determined to play when the 5-2 Magic host the 6-1 Bulls on ESPN tonight.

"It's coming a long," Rose said. "Hopefully, tonight I'll get treatment on it and it will be fine. "

While Rose acknowledged he wouldn't fully disclose the nature of his injury, he did let it slip that Rip Hamilton won't play tonight, even tough coach Tom Thibodeau said Hamilton's availability will be a game-time decision.

Hamilton injured his left groin against the Clippers on Dec. 30 and missed two games before returning to compete against his former Pistons teammates on Wednesday night. He re-injured his groin in that game.

"It's going to hurt us when you lose a player like that but we're ready for anything," Rose said when asked about Hamilton. "We've got other guys on the team ready to step in and play. We'll definitely miss him tonight."

Hamilton said there was going to allow himself to be sidelined in Detroit, where he played for nine seasons and won an NBA title in 2004.

"When I went back to Detroit there was no way I was going to sit out that game," Hamilton said. "The adrenaline alone was like, 'You're good. It's OK.' I don't care who would tell me how hurt I was. I was playing regardless.

"It pulled during the game. I wrapped it up during the game and stuff like that. Yesterday it was bothering me."

C.J. Watson is accompanying the team on the trip but is also not ready to return after spraining his left elbow in the home opener against Memphis. John Lucas III took over as the backup point guard against the Pistons and had six points on two 3-point attempts and one assist in eight minutes, 18 seconds. Ronnie Brewer could also play the point in a pinch.

ORLANDO, Fla. --- With the Bulls in town, it was only natural that soon-to-be free-agent Dwight Howard was asked about the possibility of landing in Chicago. While the All-Star center has made it known that he only wants to be traded to the New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks or Los Angeles Lakers, Magic general manager Otis Smith is talking to teams not on Howard's wish list with hopes that another team is willing to make a trade for Howard while gambling that they can sign him long term. The Bulls are monitoring the situation.

If the Magic don't trade Howard, he could leave as a free agent after the season. The NBA trade deadline is March 15.

"We're not talking trades," Howard said Thursday when asked about his interest in the Bulls.

Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer will have their hands full with Howard, who is averaging 19 points and 16 rebounds, but are coming off perhaps their best game together. They combined for 32 points and 18 rebounds in Wednesday's win in Detroit.

"They played really hard," Thibodeau said. "I thought Jo was great in the fourth quarter making great decisions. He got the ball in the middle of the floor and he found Carlos open. He made the right play. That's one of his strengths. When he keeps it simple like that he's really tough. He's got a great skill set. He's a little different for a big."

Van Gundy said the key for the Magic is to keep Noah and backup center Omer Asik on the move.

"They can be very aggressive defensively with their bigs and because they have so many foul trouble isn't really an issue," he said. "They're 10 deep with good players. That's one of the reasons they had the best record in the league a year ago. They'll certainly be among those teams right up there this year. They have great players, great size and great depth."

ORLANDO, Fla. --- Derrick Rose remains sore but has more mobility in his left elbow than he did after injuring it in Wednesday night's game in Detroit, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy is preparing as if the Bulls' All-Star point guard will play when his 5-2 Magic host the 6-1 Bulls on Friday night.

"He's an exceptional player and from what you can tell from the outside and from three days when we were with him at the All-Star Game I think he has an exceptional attitude also," Van Gundy said. "He's a different breed. He's all about winning and the team and trying to do what he can to get better. He's the real deal as a player and a person and a teammate. They're very, very lucky to have him."

Rose drove hard to the basket, was fouled by Detroit's Damien Wilkins and came down hard on his left elbow late in the Bulls 99-83 victory over the Pistons on Wednesday. X-rays were negative but he was in obvious pain while carefully trying to dress himself in the locker room after the game.

The Bulls did not practice Thursday and Rose and coach Tom Thibodeau were unavailable for comment.

Van Gundy, however, said Rose's improved 3-point shooting could make him a better all-around player than he was when he was named MVP last season.

"There's no question he's shooting the ball from distance better," Van Gundy said. "He'll continue to get better because he just seems to me to be the kind of guy who is still trying to get better. He doesn't seem to be the kind of guy who thinks he has all the answers and is all wrapped up in his greatness. He seems like a guy who's trying to get better all the time so why wouldn't he get better? He's willing to work and he's got the right attitude. He's a hell of a player."

Rip Hamilton can only hope the most memorable event during his homecoming wasn't an injury to Derrick Rose. Just when it seemed his return to the city he called home for nine seasons would be uneventful Rose drove hard to the basket, was fouled by Damien Wilkins and came down hard on his left elbow late in the Bulls 99-83 victory over the Pistons on Wednesday.

X-rays were negative but Rose had his elbow wrapped in ice and he was in obvious pain while dressing himself in the locker room after the game. A team spokesperson said Rose wasn't injured and therefore there would be no injury update.

"It's just like any other time when you fall," Rose said. "It's definitely going to be sore."

When asked if he would be able to play against Dwight Howard and the Magic on Friday, Rose said: "It's way to early [to know]. I'll be fine."

The Bulls are already down one point guard with C.J. Watson sidelined with a sprained left elbow of his own. Fortunately, they got Hamilton back before the game.

The veteran guard, who spent nine years with the Pistons before signing with the Bulls before the season, was applauded when he was introduced at The Palace of Auburn Hills, but only 9,125 witnessed his return, which had more to do with the state of his former franchise than his legacy as a key member of the 2004 NBA Championship team.

"I couldn't wait for the ball to be thrown up," Hamilton said. "There was a lot of emotion early in the game being on the visitors' side. I'm not accustomed to it in this building. I was just like, 'Man, don't start crying or anything crazy like that."

The Bulls thrilling comeback from a 19-point victory against the Hawks at the United Center on Tuesday night was a stunning turn of events. Their fifth-straight victory was more of a foregone conclusion.

Hamilton, who missed two games with an injured groin, drew a foul on a driving layup and made the free throw to complete the three-point play to give the Bulls an early 9-2 lead they would never relinquish. He later buried a 22-footer to give the Bulls a 57-37 lead with 10:11 left in the third quarter.

"I thought he handled the whole situation very well," coach Tom Thibodeau said of Hamilton. "He got himself ready to play and was focused. To start the game he came out and play made. He didn't try to do too much. That speaks of his experience."

The 42 points the Bulls scored through the first three quarters of Tuesday night's win over the Hawks was the lowest three-quarter total by a winning team during the shot-clock era. Thibodeau was more pleased with what his team did offensively against the Pistons as Carlos Boozer had 19 points and seven rebounds. Rose added 17 points and 10 assists while Noah had 13 points and 11 rebounds.

"A lot better," Thibodeau said. "The ball moved. Extra passes. Our spacing was a lot better. We ran the floor harder as a group. I liked the offense a lot."

The Bulls were as happy to get the win as Hamilton was to put his homecoming behind him, although there were so many empty seats that it didn't feel like the arena he remembered.

"It looked unbelievable," Hamilton said. "When I was here with Chauncey [Billups} and Rasheed [Wallace] we had seven years of straight sellouts. It was always great, always awesome, to come in here and see it half empty is tough, but a lot of things have changed. The economy is messed up."

The 42 points the Bulls scored through the first three quarters of Tuesday night's win over the Hawks was the lowest three-quarter total by a winning team during the shot-clock era. The previous record was 44 by Cleveland against Boston in 2007.

"There's a lot of things we have to clean up," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Like I mentioned before, you learn from each game and it tells you what you need to work on. We have to strive for improvement each and every day. Right now, you don't have a lot of practice time, so you have to get it done in the ballroom, you have to get it done in your practice sessions and we've got to come out with more energy."

The Bulls often have walk-thrus in hotel ballrooms instead of practices.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. --- Ben Wallace didn't have the greatest experience in Chicago but that didn't prevent him from encouraging teammate Rip Hamilton to join his former team.

The one-time Bulls and longtime Pistons center spoke favorably about the Bulls before Hamilton signed a free-agent contract before the season.

"When I was there they took good care of me and I was pretty sure they would do the same for him," Wallace said. "I told him, that would be a nice spot for him and a nice fit. They have a point guard in Derrick Rose that demands a lot of attention and allow him to run around and do what he do."

Wallace said he doesn't consider his season and a half in Chicago the disaster many Bulls fans do.

"I had fun there," he said. "I enjoyed being there. I enjoyed the team we had. The first year I was there we had a lot of success as far as basketball-wise. The second year, a couple guys got hurt, injuries hit us and things kind of fell apart, but I enjoyed my time there."

The 15-year veteran also seems to be glad he's back in Detroit, where he's backing up Greg Monroe.

"This is where I made my mark at as far as basketball and people getting to know me and recognize what I bring to the table was here," he said. "I can relax a little more here knowing that I'm not the player that I once was but the fans appreciate what I did for the team and for the organization."

When told Hamilton gets to wear his headband with the Bulls when he wasn't, Wallace replied: "Good for Rip."

C.J. Watson saw the slow-motion footage of himself diving for the loose ball against the Grizzlies on Sunday night. He saw his left elbow bend a way it shouldn't bend and had the same reaction as many viewers.

"I watched it a couple times and it hurt me to just look at it and it happened to me," he said. "It was pretty bad."

Watson was still wearing a sling before Wednesday night's game against the Pistons. While coach Tom Thibodeau considers his backup point guard day-to-day, Watson said he could be out as long as a week and a half with what he described as "a sprain and a tear in my ligament."

He would know. He suffered a similar injury to his right elbow when he dove over the bench and fell on on the concrete floor while playing for the Golden State Warriors in 2009. In both cases, he was trying to secure a loose ball. Against Memphis, it was in the fourth quarter of a game the Bulls would win 104-64.

"Especially when you're up by 40," Watson said when suggested this his pursuit of loose balls has been hazardous to his health. "I'm going to start chilling out."

He acknowledged the previous injury affected his passing, shooting and dribbling. He's hoping that because this is his non-shooting arm, it will take him less time to resume being the player he was before the injury.

"I know how it feels and how it's going to heal," he said. "I didn't miss much time with [that] elbow so hopefully I won't with this one either."

Thibodeau encouraged Watson to accompany the team on the three-game road trip rather than stay behind to recuperate in Chicago.

"He's such a big part of the team," Thibodeau said of Watson I like having him around and I think it's important for him mentally to be on top of everything we're doing."


As Bulls players celebrated with fans at the United Center after their miraculous comeback, Atlanta Hawks players walked off the court, stunned by the unlikely events that just unfolded.

The Bulls fabulous fourth quarter made up for a wretched first three as Derrick Rose scored 17 fourth-quarter points to lead his team back from a 19-point deficit to an improbable 76-74 victory that left a sellout United Center crowd that snoozed through the first three quarters breathless in the end.

"Sometimes things happen," Rose said. "I have to take over sometimes. Thank God my shots were falling."

Rose made just 3 of 11 shots through three quarters but would either score or assist on the Bulls next 21 points. He took the ball to the hoop. He got himself to the line. He nailed 3-pointers. He drove hard to the hoop and found Luol Deng for a wide-open 3 that tied the game with 6:20 left as the Bulls scored 34 points in the fourth quarter after totalling 42 points in the first three.

"Derrick was sensational down the stretch," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He made big play after big play."

Luol Deng scored seven straight points and Rose added a clutch, high-arcing, one-hander over 6-foot-9 Josh Smith with 9.9 seconds left to give the Bulls a one-point lead. The Hawks missed three of four free throws down the stretch, but the one Al Horford did make knotted the score again, setting up a Joakim Noah's backdoor pass to Deng for the lay-in with 3.3 seconds remaining.

"I know Derrick really wanted the ball in that situation but both defenders were focused on him and I just threw the ball to Lu and he laid it up," Noah said.

The inbounds play was designed to get the ball to Rose, but Noah, who came in cold after sitting out much of the second half, made a perfect read to set up the game-winner.

"Obviously, we were trying to get it to Derrick," Thibodeau said. "They did a good job of taking the first and second options away. Derrick set a great screen, Joakim made a great pass and Deng made a great cut."

Rose finished with 30 points and seven assists while Deng contributed 21 points and eight rebounds. Omer Asik came off the bench to provide valuable defense and rebounding.

If you hadn't looked at a schedule, you would've sworn the Bulls were the team that was playing back-to-back games. If you had not seen these same two teams meet in the playoffs you would've bet the Hawks had advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals and the Bulls had been eliminated after watching the first three quarters.

Expect to see some wacky things season. This game one was a prime example. This was about as tough of a back-to-back as it gets for the Hawks, who handed the Miami Heat their first loss on Monday night and didn't arrive in Chicago until 3 a.m.

They had more energy, confidence and intensity early, especially on the defensive end. The Bulls shot 2-for-21 in the second quarter, went more than five minutes without scoring a point and finished the quarter with 11 total points. Their 26 points in the first half were only three more than their all-time low, set against the Heat in 1999.

"In the first half we were backwards," Thibodeau said. "We were shooting when we should have been passing and passing when we should have been shooting."

It was so bad, in fact, that despite a pulsating victory that left the arena buzzing, Rose felt obligated to apologize afterwards.

"We know we're 10 times better than what we showed out there," Rose said. "I felt bad for our fans to see us play like that."

For the second straight game, Ronnie Brewer will start for Rip Hamilton when the Bulls host the Hawks on Tuesday night.

Hamilton tested his injured groin during pregame warmups. Although he won't start, he will dress for the game, according to a team spokesperson.

The Bulls visit the Pistons on Wednesday, which would be Hamilton's first game at The Palace of Auburn Hills since signing with the Bulls. However, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Hamilton's availability for his homecoming in a city where he played nine season and won an NBA Championship was not a factor.

"I really haven't even thought about that and I don't want him thinking about that," Thibodeau said. "I want him thinking about tonight's game and then when we get [to Detroit] he can think about that. He's a great veteran. He's been limited in practice the last few days but he does whatever he can. He's right there, studying, he does his job, gets there early with his rehab, stays late."

Hamilton injured his groin in the third quarter of Friday night's win over the Clippers at Staples Center.

Brewer has made 13 of 17 shots from the floor this season.

"Ronnie has got great versatility," Thibodeau said. "He's started a bunch of games in the league. He can play extended minutes, short minutes, bring him off the bench. Whatever you ask him to do he does. He's a great pro."

Talk about tough back-to-back games. The Atlanta Hawks handed the Miami Heat their first loss of the season last night and play the Bulls in Chicago on Tuesday night. That means Atlanta will be playing the two Eastern Conference Finalists from last season on consecutive nights.
 
"In my opinion, anybody can win a game or lose a game," Ronnie Brewer said when if beating Miami will give the Hawks confidence tonight. "I didn't see anybody going 66-0 this year so when you see a team lose, you don't be like that's the team to beat because they beat a team that has a lot of talent like the Miami Heat. You have to take every team seriously. I think Thibs prepares us for that night in, night out and we just have to be ready for that so they are definitely on our radar."

Joe Johnson scored 21 points for the Hawks, who used a 15-3 run to start the fourth quarter to separate from the Heat. Al Horford and Tracy McGrady had 16 apiece.

Brewer will likely defend the aging-but-still-effective-in-stretches McGrady tonight.

"He's been a playmaker his whole entire career, a prolific scorer," Brewer said of McGrady. "He may not be able to drop 30 like he used to but he can definitely still put the ball in the basket. So we've got to give him a lot of attention."

Seth Gruen contributed to this report.

Rip Hamilton's availability for tonight's game against the Hawks at the United Center remains a game-time decision.

"Rip just did some shooting today," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We'll see tonight if he feels better and then we'll make the decision then."

Hamilton injured his groin in the third quarter of Friday night's win over the Clippers at Staples Center and was in street clothes for Sunday night's home opener against the Grizzlies. The Bulls play the Pistons in Detroit on Wednesday, which would mark Hamilton's return to the city where he won a NBA Championship.

Ronnie Brewer started for Hamilton in a 104-64 demolition of the Grizzlies and finishes with 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds. After suffering from a hamstring injury before training camp last year, and watching Keith Bogans assume the starting role, Brewer is healthy and playing well.

"It's a huge confidence shift," Brewer said of not battling an injury in training camp this season. "Last year I came in here with a lot of high hopes, with an opportunity to try and win the starting job and tweaked it right before working out here and had to work my way into shape learning plays and it's a different speed. Playing with D-Rose, the level of defense that Thibs preaches, it kind of takes a little getting used to. This year was a little different. I came in in a lot better shape, healthy, working on my shot and I've just been playing with a lot of confidence so far."

Seth Gruen contributed to this report.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Bulls backup point guard C.J. Watson will not require surgery to repair the sprained left elbow he suffered in the fourth quarter of Sunday night's blowout win over the Grizzlies.

Watson, who has been wearing a sling to stabilize the elbow, is considered day to day, but Thibodeau said he expects him back "shortly," although whether or not he'll leave with the team Wednesday for a three-game trip to Detroit, Orlando and Atlanta remains to be seen. Watson may remain in Chicago and re-join the team in a few days.

"It's basically once we can get the swelling out and the pain subsides, then he'll be ready to go," Thibodeau said.

Meanwhile, John Lucas III will assume the backup point guard duties.

"I have a lot of confidence in John," Thibodeau said. "He's already demonstrated that he could do it. He did it for the Rockets when I was there, played well through stretches. So, he stays ready, he prepares himself well, smart player. So I expect him to do well.
 
"John whenever he's been called upon has done well. CJ was playing at an extremely high level. CJ's size, of course, allows him to play multiple positions. CJ gives you a lot of versatility."

Ronnie Brewer can also play the point in the a pinch.

"He did that quite a bit at the end of last year where we used Ronnie to handle the ball and brought Derrick [Rose] off screens and Ronnie has done it some in practice too so that's another option that we have."

--- Seth Gruen contributed to this report


 

Rip Hamilton is still day to day with a groin injury. Not much more is known about C.J. Watson's sprained left elbow, either.

Watson sprained his elbow diving for a loose ball in Sunday night's rout of the Grizzlies. The injury looked serious when viewed in slow motion but after medical personnel evaluated it they diagnosed a sprain. Watson was to undergo a MRI today. Results of that test were not available when coach Tom Thibodeau addressed the media after practice at the Berto Center on Monday afternoon.

Thibodeau said he didn't think Watson would be able to play against the Hawks on Tuesday night at the United Center.

"The swellings is not too bad but he's visiting the doctor right now," Thibodeau said. "It will be day to day basically. It's his left elbow so we'll go from there."

John Lucas III will moved up to the backup point guard if Watson is unable to play. Ronnie Brewer could also play some point guard depending on the game situation.

"He's been around for a while," Thibodeau said of Lucas. "He played two years in Houston and he's played overseas. So we have a lot of confidence in him. He can shoot the ball, he can run the team. So, that's the way it is. If one guy gets hurt the next man has to step up."

Hamilton said he injured his groin late in the third quarter against the Clippers and was a late scratch for Sunday night's home opener. He received treatment Monday and although he didn't practice, he put up a lot of shots after practice.

"It's a little better today than it was yesterday or the day before," Hamilton said. "That's a good sign."

When it was jokingly suggested that the Bulls struggled without him in their 104-64 win over the Grizzlies, Hamilton said: "It made me feel a lot better internally because you want to be out there with your teammates," he said. "For them to show up the way they did last night was an awesome feeling."

Thibodeau and Hamilton said they were unsure whether Hamilton would be able to play against the Hawks on Tuesday night at the United Center.

"That will be game time," Thibodeau said. "We'll see how it is in the shoot around and right before the game."

The Bulls played their first meaningful game at the United Center since losing Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat last season and looked like a team destined to make another deep playoff run while dominating the Memphis Grizzlies 104-64 on Sunday night in their home opener.

Derrick Rose worried this was a trap game. The Bulls were returning from a successful West Coast road trip and the Grizzlies had played one fewer game, but Rose and his mates had their way from the onset to the delight of a sellout crowd that celebrated the team's many achievements from last season, which served as a reminder of how high expectations are for the new year.

"There's no better feeling," Joakim Noah said of playing in front of the home crowd. "I woke up this morning feeling terrible. I was sick. I got into the building and I forgot all that. It's great to play in Chicago in front of Bulls fans."

The Bulls jumped out to an early lead and soon Memphis became a speck on the horizon. They led by as many as 14 in the first and 26 in the second before the lead ballooned to 46 in the third. They played by far their best defense of the season while holding the Grizzlies to 31-percent shooting. They also outrebounded Memphis 55-40, had 33 fast-break points and outscored them in the paint 48-26.

The Grizzlies upset the San Antonio Spurs in the first-round of the playoffs last season and along with Oklahoma City are considered one of the up-and-coming teams in the Western Conference. Memphis was without point guard Mike Conley, who is recovering from a sprained ankle. Leading scorer and second-leading rebounder Zach Randolph suffered a knee contusion late in the first quarter and did not return.

Even if the Grizzlies were without two starters for the majority of the game, this was impressive stuff, and it wasn't as if the Bulls weren't shorthanded in the backcourt with Rip Hamilton being a late scratch with a groin injury and C.J. Watson leaving the game with a sprained left elbow in the fourth quarter.

Carlos Boozer became a pariah during last season's playoff run but dominated for much of the game and finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. During one second-quarter stretch, Boozer scored 11 of his team's 13 points to help stake the Bulls to a 54-28 lead at the break. Rose left the game with 16 points and six assists with 4:39 left in the third quarter and did not return.

"Carlos was great tonight, really good," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He ran the floor, played defense, rebounded the ball, scored. He played really, really well."

Ronnie Brewer finished with 17 points and five assists for the Bulls. Luol Deng added 11 points and seven rebounds.

"Everybody felt we let one go against Golden State," Brewer said. "We didn't want to come off that trip and let down in the first game at home. We wanted to come out with a lot of intensity and that's what we did."

All in all, a nice start for a team that hopes to improve on its 36-5 home record from last season.

"They got a little bit bored out their watching the game," Rose said of the sellout crowd, which cheered wildy for Brain Scalabrine in the final minutes "Hopefully, they loved it. We played against a great team. They were missing a couple players but they're a great team and we played hard."

The Bulls impressive blowout victory over Memphis could prove costly as backup point guard C.J. Watson sprained his left elbow early in the fourth quarter while scrambling for a loose ball with the Bulls leading by 40. X-rays were negative. Watson will undergo an MRI on Monday.

Joakim Noah said he thought Watson might miss some games. Derrick Rose, on the other hand, said Watson was joking around afterwards and appeared fine. Coach Tom Thibodeau said more would be known Monday.

"We'll check out the swelling is, check what the doctors say," Thibs said.

John Lucas III replaced Watson and saw his first action of the season. Lucas finished with eight points and two assists in 10 minutes, 16 seconds.

"You get to a point where you don't know when your number will be called so you have to be ready whether you're the No. 1 guard off the bench or the No. 13 guard off the bench," Lucas said.

Watson has been an often-spectacular backup for Derrick Rose this season because his game resembles that of the reigning MVP. His speed allows him to push the pace in much the same way Rose does. When Rose got into foul trouble against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night, Watson came off the bench to score eight points and dish out nine assists while helping lead the Bulls to victory.

The Bulls were already shorthanded in the backcourt as Rip Hamilton was a late scratch because of a groin injury. Ronnie Brewer started in his place. Hamilton is listed as day to day.

"We wanted to play it safe," Thibodeau said of Hamilton. "We want to make sure he's good. We decided at the last minute to sit him out."

Lucas played in only two games for a total of 10 minutes last year but played in 47 games with the Rockets in 2006-07 and averaged 3.3 points per game. General manager Gar Forman said he would would access the point guard market but is confident in Lucas and did not feel a pressing need to bring in a more experienced backup.

"When you have an injury the next guy has to step in," Thibodeau said. "That's why you have him."

The Bulls impressive blowout victory over Memphis was costly when backup point guard C.J. Watson injured his elbow early in the fourth quarter while scrambling for a loose ball with the Bulls up by 40. John Lucas III replaced Watson and saw his first action of the season.

Watson has been an often-spectacular backup for Derrick Rose this season because his game resembles that of the reigning MVP. His speed allows him to push the pace in much the same way Rose does. When Rose got into foul trouble against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night, Watson came off the bench to score eight points and dish out nine assists while helping lead the Bulls to victory.

The Bulls were already shorthanded in the backcourt as Rip Hamilton was a late scratch because of a groin injury. Ronnie Brewer started in his place. Hamilton is listed as day to day.

General manager Gar Forman may be looking for a backup point guard if Watson is out for an extended period because Lucas played in only a handful of games last season.

Ronnie Brewer will start for Rip Hamilton against the Grizzlies. Hamilton has a groin injury. He is day-to-day.

During the last two games of their recently completed four-game road trip, the Bulls were reminded that the benefits of Derrick Rose being in attack mode extend beyond the obvious.

Rose made 10 of 11 free throws in Friday night's win over the Clippers, for example, which was more attempts (10) and shots made (9) than he had in the first three games combined.

"I just want him attacking," Thibodeau said. "The more he attacks, the tougher we are. I always go back to when I was coaching against him, the one thing I never wanted to see him do was come at you with a head of steam, penetrate, get into the paint, break you down because it feeds all kinds of havoc. It creates easy shots, gets people in foul trouble, opens up offense rebounding. So there's so many good things that come out of it. I thought he was just as aggressive defensively and that's where he's making his biggest improvement right now."

Rose had a solid defensive game against the Clippers' Chris Paul. He was less effective against Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry in a loss to the Warriors.

"He showed a great resolve," Thibodeau said. "You have to have that when you're going against a great player like Chris Paul because when he comes down and makes a great play you have to have that determination the next time to do it all over again. I still think he can be a lot better. He's moving in the right direction but he's still not where we would like him to be."


CLEANING THE GLASS

Another trend that developed on the road that Thibodeau hopes continues during this brief two-game homestand is his team's rebounding advantage. The Bulls outrebounded their first four opponents 174-151. The Bulls are averaging 43.5 rebounds per game. The Grizzlies are averaging 44.3.

"They're dominant," Thibodeau said of Memphis. "They're an in-the-paint team, a great rebounding team, a great post-up team. We're going to have to give them a fight. We think we're a pretty good rebounding team, too."


ROAD COURT ADVANTAGE

Before the season started, Carlos Boozer said he thought opening the season with a four-game road trip would be beneficial because it would allow players to bond on the road. Now that the trip is over, Thibodeau agreed.

"It gave us a lot of time together and they're all tough opponents," he said. "But that's the way the schedule is. You can't look at it in totality. You just look at the game that's in front of you and concentrate on that one."


The Bulls will host the Memphis Grizzlies at the United Center tonight in their home opener.

Along with Oklahoma City, the Grizzlies are considered one of the up-and-coming teams in the Western Conference since upsetting the Spurs in the first round of last year's playoffs. With Rudy Gay back and healthy, and the team matching an offer from the Houston Rockets to keep Marc Gasol in Memphis, optimism abounds.

"They're a tough team, they're a physical team," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Gasol and Zach Randolph in the paint make it hard. Randolph's skill-set is very tough, Gasol probably one of the most underrated bigs, and, of course, Rudy Gay can score so many different ways. And then they got a bunch of other guys that are just really tough and can play. Tony Allen is really a terrific player. He's a hard-playing guy. He can hurt you with penetration, his cuts, his defense. Then O.J. Mayo comes in and he's a terrific catch and shoot guy. They've gotten great production from Jeremy Pargo filling in for Mike Conley. Josh Selby has played well. Dante Cunningham has come in, he's a skilled guy that can shoot the ball. So, they're a deep team and they're a tough team."

The Grizzlies are 1-2 thus far.

"It's going to be a slug match," Taj Gibson said. "A lot of banging, a lot of aggressiveness. Guys just need to come out and just play hard and play sound. Listen to the game plan and hopefully everything will be OK."

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