Chicago Sun-Times

February 2012 Archives

SAN ANTONIO --- The more you hear Tom Thibodeau talk about coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs the more it sounds like he wants to build the Bulls in their image.

"He's wearing more than one hat here so he has to weigh a lot of things into his decision making," Thibodeau said of the long-time Spurs coach. "When you look at what he's done for such a long period of time, to me they are the gold standard of the league because every year they find a way to be right at the top and they always have a chance."

Much of what Thibodeau has established since taking over the Bulls Popovich long-ago created with the Spurs while winning four NBA titles.

"It's the way their built," Thibodeau said. "They have everything covered. They are hard-playing, smart, tough, they can shoot, they're team oriented, they sacrifice for each other, they play for each other. They've had injuries. When one guy goes down another guy stands up. Pop has provided great leadership here for a long time."

As much as Thibodeau is considered a defensive coach, when he talks about offense he's usually preaching balance, which makes a team that much more difficult to defend.

The Spurs are typically among the league's most balanced teams.

"They always have the transition [game] you have to concern yourself with, then there's always off the dribble," Thibodeau said. "Of course, [Tony] Parker is as tough as they come with the pick and roll and transition. Then there's Manu Ginobili when he plays. He gives them that other guy with the pick and roll and catch and shoot and [Tim] Duncan is still good enough where they have every aspect covered. When you add in their three-point shooting and their execution, there's not one aspect of their offense that's weak.

"They have it all covered. They keep pressure on you at all times and they play unselfishly. They're going to make you pay for body position mistakes, you've got to take care of the ball, the paint, you have to react out and cover the line and [DeJuan] Blair is very active on the offensive boards so there is constant pressure on you and they're smart. They're not going to turn it over and beat themselves."

Rip Hamilton made his second straight start after missing most of the first half of the season with groin and thigh injuries. This was no game-time decision, either. Thibodeau gave his free-agent acquisition the green light to start in back-to-back games when he showed no ill affects after returning in a win over the Hornets on Tuesday night at the United Center.

Hamilton played 16-plus minutes against New Orleans and will continue to have his paying time carefully monitored.

"Because he's missed so much time we just want to make sure from a conditioning standpoint he can handle it and we'll continue to buildup as we go along," Thibodeau said.

Rip Hamilton returned to the starting lineup in Tuesday night's game against the Hornets at the United Center after playing only 11 games this season after trying to come back too soon from thigh and groin injuries.

Hamilton has not played more than five straight games for the Bulls this season.

"It's a long time to be off," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's only played in 11 games. Hopefully, he can pick up where he left off."

With Hamilton in the starting lineup, the projected Bulls starters from the preseason were together for the first time since Jan. 4.

"He's just one more guy you have to account for," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "He's won a championship and he's won big games. All you have to say is Rip and it's self explanatory."

Williams went on to say that while he is impressed with what the Bulls have done since Derrick Rose arrived, the atmosphere at the United Center doesn't compare to the Michael Jordan years.

"I don't think it's even close to that yet," said Williams. "They do a really good job here and they're on their way but I played against Jordan and [Scottie] Pippen and [Dennis] Rodman. That was a different beast. If you didn't watch yourself, when they called out Jordan's name you kind of got caught up in it. There's a little bit of that with Rose but it's not the same. You have to win a title first and make this a tough place to play from that standpoint. It's a tough place to play anyway but when you have a title it separates you. That's the difference."

Athletes are used to dealing with injuries but a concurrent crisis off the floor is something most are emotionally unprepared for.

Bulls release Mike James

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Tom Thibodeau announced at Bulls shoot around this morning that the team has released backup point guard Mike James.

Tom Thibodeau said that keeping Derrick Rose on the bench during the fourth quarter of Sunday's All-Star game was something the two had "predetermined" before the game, which was news to Rose.

"At times I wanted to get in there but Thibs just didn't put me out there," Rose said. "He was worried about my back. I didn't know and I didn't ask him."

It's obvious Rose wants to quit being asked questions about the bask spasms that sidelined him for five games. He insists he has completely recovered and said he didn't receive treatment for it during All-Star weekend.

"I don't have any pain --- nowhere," Rose said. "I feel good."

Rose also said that while he can dance he didn't think it was appropriate to dance during introductions like other players.

"That's just not me," he said. "There's a time and place for all that. At that time I didn't feel like dancing."

When asked if he was concerned about cameras capturing him smiling at the All-Star Game, Thibodeau said: "I am concerned about that. It kills the image."

With Rip Hamilton expected to return from a thigh bruise as soon as in Tuesday night's game with the Hornets, the Bulls are as healthy as they have been all season.

"He's encouraged by how he's feeling but we're not going to rush," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We're going to make sure he can get through some practices and not have any problems. The intensity of a practice is still not what a game is. As much as we want to get it as close as possible you can never quite get there. We want to be sure he can handle the contact and be good the next day and do it over a period of time also."

Hamilton has missed 23 games with leg injuries this season but he practiced with the team before the All-Star break and again Monday. Thibodeau said his availability for the Hornets would be a game-time decision.

Thibodeau wants to score more easy baskets in the second half and Hamilton helps in that area.

"It gives you another thing you can go to," Thibodeau said. "Of course, we have the pick-and-roll game and transition with Derrick [Rose]. He gives us a strong catch-and-shoot game. Most teams put two on him. He's an excellent playmaker. You need to have that balance."

The nature of Hamilton's game should allow him to fit in quickly, although Thibodeau will monitor his minutes carefully.

"You won't know that until he gets out there in terms of how many minutes he can handle and how he's feeling," Thibodeau said. "Again the big thing for us is taking it step by step. He did all the noncontact stuff and was good with that. Now he's doing the contact part and he's handled that well. The next step will be to put him in a game and see where he is."

Tom Thibodeau is not concerned about Kyle Korver's cold streak. The three-point specialist had made only one of his last 12 from long range heading into Wednesday night's game.

"He just has to keep doing what he's doing," Thibodeau said. "There are going to be some ups and downs. He's shown that he's a guy that's helping us even when he's not making his shots because no one is leaving him. He creates great space on the floor. We have a lot of confidence that the next one is going in. We're surprised when they don't go in."

Don't expect Korver to get any shots up over the break. Like most Bulls player, he said what he needs most is a break from the game.

"I will not touch a basketball," he said.

Tom Thibodeau said he won't allow coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars to negatively affect what he want's to accomplish as Bulls coach during the next week.

This is the first time Thibodeau and his staff have coached an All-Star team.

"That's always the priority," Thibodeau said of his responsibility to the Bulls. "The All-Star game is a great event. It's for the league, by the league, for the fans. It's an honor to be there but my priority is with the Bulls. I can manage to do both."

The Bulls starting backcourt has only started eight games this season, which Derrick Rose hopes changes when Rip Hamilton returns to the lineup after the All-Star break.

"He's a huge part of our team," Rose said of Hamilton. "I've been saying that. His experience when he's out there opens up the game for everyone. We're just patient. I'm just hoping he'll come back soon."

Hamilton has missed 22 games with groin and thigh injuries but has been participating in contact drills during recent practices and could return to the starting lineup when the Bulls host New Orleans on Feb. 28.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said he wouldn't rush Hamilton, however. He wants him to be completely healthy. Hamilton is also likely to see reduced minutes until he plays himself into game shape.

"He's doing a lot more," Thibodeau said. "He's taking on contact now, which is a good sign. We'll see where we are when we get back."


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In a story in Wednesday's editions comparing the current Bulls defensive-prowess to that of the Jordan-era Bulls, defensive statistics related to the Bulls under Thibodeau were miscalculated. The Bulls have allowed 90.3 points per game since Thibodeau arrived before last season while limiting opponents to a .428 field-goal percentage.

Derrick Rose said a report that he gave management his blessing to trade Carlos Boozer and perhaps another player to the Lakers for Pau Gasol is false.

"That's something I would never say to anyone, that I need someone to come to this team, trying to get rid of someone on this team," Rose said before Wednesday night's game against the Bucks. "That's all false. It's something I would never do."

Rose said he addressed the report briefly with Boozer but the power forward understood the report was false.

"I'm good with the teammates I have," Rose said. "I've been saying that. We've been winning games. We're not in position to trade anyone right now."

Rose said his back is feeling fine although he will continue to see a chiropractor this season and will also continue with the stretching program that he says has helped keep him loose.

"I'm good, he said. "I don't feel any pain in my back. My hamstring isn't tight. I'm loose. I feel good. Fatigue is another thing."

Rose admitted that he felt the effects of missing five games when he returned to score 23 points against the Hawks on Monday.

"Even missing a few days can mess up your conditioning," he said. "Not playing for a week, that can definitely throw off your game. I'm surprised I hit some of the shots I hit without doing anything with contact for that long."

As for not talking to reporters after Monday's game, Rose said he couldn't face more questions about his back.

"I wasn't frustrated I was just tired of talking about my back," Rose said. "I just needed a break. I'm sorry but I needed a break."

For the first time in weeks, Derrick Rose's availability for tonight's game is not a game-time decision. Coach Tom Thibodeau said his star point guard felt fine after scoring 23 points against the Hawks on Monday after missing five games because of back spasms,fully participated in Wednesday's shootaround at the Berto Center and will play against the Bucks tonight at the United Center.

"He's good," Thibodeau said. "Fine. He's a go."

Rose had left the court by the times the media was allowed onto the practice floor Wednesday. The MVP also did not speak to reporters after returning from injury against the Hawks on Monday.

Tonight marks the team's last game before breaking for the All-Star Game. Rose and Luol Deng will represent the Bulls during the All-Star festivities in Orlando, Fla., this weekend. Thibodeau and his staff will coach the Eastern Conference stars, although the coach said he's not looking past the Bucks.

"You don't want to go on the break early so you don't want to change any of the things you do," Thibodeau said. "You don't want to interrupt your routine at all. When tomorrow gets here we'll deal with all that stuff tomorrow. You have to be locked in today."

Andrew Bogut remains sidelined for the Bucks with a broken ankle. Drew Gooden is doubtful with a sprained wrist and a sore knee and Tobias Harris has a bruised shoulder.

"A big part of it is they have had a lot of injuries to deal with," Thibodeau said when asked about the Bulls dominance of the Bucks of late. "They're a team that plays very hard, they play both sides of the ball, they play together. You study all their games they're all real close. At the end they fall short. They have a number of good wins. They've beaten Miami twice this year. But every game, they're right there. They're a tough opponent.

"They built their team around their point guard and center. Unfortunately for them, Bogut has been hurt a lot the last two years. But when Bogut plays they're a heck of a team. Now they have some other guys who are playing at a really high level. [Ersan] IIyasova is rolling right now, Brandon Jennings is a load, Carlos Delfino can shoot, [Shaun] Livingston has really shown he's the type of guy who makes everyone around him better because of his overall skill set. He can post, he can shoot, he can pass, he can make plays off the dribble, he's got good size. [Mike] Dunleavy is another guy who can shoot. Those guys make your team better. They're a dangerous team."

C.J. Watson will not play tonight as a precautionary measure. Watson suffered from concussion-like symptoms after running face first into Kris Humphries in Saturday's loss to the Nets. He didn't play in Monday's game against the Hawks, either.

John Lucas III and/or veteran Mike James will replace Rose as Watson's backup, depending on the matchup.

"It's smart," Thibodeau said of the league's new concussion policy. "As the information comes forward, it's a good decision by the league to play it safe."

The United Center was kind to former Robeson High School star Jannero Pargo.

The absence of Derrick Rose hasn't only forced players like C.J. Watson into more prominent roles but has also put pressure on other players to assume Rose's typical offensive responsibilities.

C.J. Watson was ready to play in Monday's 90-79 win over the Hawks at the United Center, but was reminded shortly before the game of the NBA's new concussion policy.

The NBA instituted a more stringent concussion protocol this season which prevents players from playing the day after experiencing concussion symptoms.

The Bulls have announced that Derrick Rose is starting today against the Hawks at the United Center. Rose has missed the past five games with a back injury.

If Derrick Rose doesn't experience any pain in warmups, he will start today against the Hawks at the United Center. Rose participated in practice Sunday, took contact and was cleared by the training staff to play today, but Tom Thibodeau still gave Rose a game time classification.

Not like Rose to broker trade

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Chris Sheridan is reporting that Derrick Rose has told management he would be in favor of sending Carlos Boozer and another player to the Lakers for Pau Gasol.

Frankly, I don't buy it.

First of all, it's not something Rose would do. Derrick has said repeatedly that he won't recruit free agents, so why would he go to management to try to broker a trade? It's just not his style.

Plus, I talked to someone in the know who confirmed my suspicions and told me the report is straight out of left field.

Derrick Rose took a big step forward in his rehabilitation from a back injury during Sunday's practice at the Berto Center when he participated in the kind of physical practice coach Tom Thibodeau wants to see if he can endure before returning him to game action. If Rose feels no ill effects Monday morning, he could play as early as against the Hawks in the afternoon.

"He defended pick and rolls, he went one-on-one, he defended the post, played in the post, defended catch-and-shoot," Thibodeau said. "He did a lot today. We'll see how he is tomorrow. It was the next step for us."

Thibodeau said Rose was "explosive" while running the halfcourt offense. The Bulls didn't play full court during Sunday's workout, however, and Rose has said running has been especially difficult. That may be the next hurdle for Rose if Thibodeau isn't satisfied with what he witnessed Sunday.

"When he's ready to play he's ready to play," Thibodeau said when asked if he preferred Rose play in a game before the All-Star Game in Orlando on Feb. 26. "Whether it's [Monday] or later, I'm not going to base it on anything other than him being ready to play, not the opponent, not the All-Star Game, not anything. If he's cleared medically and is ready to play he'll play."

Not that Thibodeau doesn't have enough to worry about. The lowly Nets ran the Bulls out of the United Center on Saturday, which is enough to send a coach with less attention to detail than Thibodeau into full panic mode.

"Our spacing is breaking down, we're quick shooting the ball, we don't have floor balance which doesn't allow us to get our defense set so we're giving up easy baskets," he said. "We're not making the effort that's necessary with our smalls being back on the raise of the shot and our bigs sprinting back to get our smalls back out. In this league if you take short cuts you're going to pay for them and we have."

Avery Johnson isn't surprised the Bulls have remained one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference despite injuries to Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton.

"They haven't missed a beat," the Nets coach said. "It's primarily because of guys like [C.J.] Watson that can start. Watson could be a starter in th NBA. He shot the three really well. He's shooting 46 percent from three. Luol Deng, I hope our team understands he's a very good three-point shooter. He's not the old Luol Deng who first came in the league and was primarily a slasher. Kyle Korver can make threes. Again, we've got to do a good job with their big guys inside. They're deep. They run. The big key for us is we've gotten outscored in these first two games 63-39 or something in the first quarter. We can't put ourselves in a big hole in the first quarter."

Johnson said the Bulls' continuity is a big reason why they have been able to perform at a high level despite so many injuries.

"When you have continuity and you're coming off a season where you have a guy who is an MVP, have the best record in the NBA, make the Eastern Conference Finals and you basically come back with the same team you can afford, even if it's your best player, to miss some games if other guys are playing at an All-Star level. Luol Deng is an All-Star for a reason. [Carlos] Boozer knows what he's doing. [Joakim] Noah knows what he's doing. You've got guys like [Ronnie] Brewer and [Kyle] Korver who come in and play hard. You've got a lot of continuity with this basketball team."

Derrick Rose went through what looked like his normal pregame routine at the United Center but won't play against the Nets on Saturday.

"He's getting closer and closer," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's pretty close. He's responding well to everything, his treatment. He's increasing his workload but we just want to be patient."

Rose has missed five games with lower back spasms but could return as soon as Monday when the Bulls host the Atlanta Hawks. Rip Hamilton has also been increasing his work load, but since he has missed 11 games with a thigh injury and 21 overall it's more likely his first appearance will be pushed back to Wednesday's game against the Bucks or after the All-Star Game when he's had time to get into game shape.

"He's still a ways away," Thibodeau said of Hamilton.

Ideally, Thibodeau would prefer both players test their injuries in practice before playing in a game. The league's condensed schedule complicates that, however. The Bulls will likely practice on Sunday at the Berto Center, for example, but with a Monday afternoon game looming it will be more like a shootaround.

"It's hard because of the type of season we're in," Thibodeau said. "You're practices aren't full scale practices the way they normally would be where you have contact. It's hard to judge. You want to make sure they're ready to compete in a game. No matter what you're doing in practice you can never get to a game-like intensity. You strive to get as close to it as you can but you never get there.

"Both guys are doing well. We just have to be patient."

If Rose doesn't play Monday or Wednesday it may be harder for him to justify playing in the All-Star Game next weekend.

"If he's cleared he'll play if he can play," said Thibodeau, who will coach Rose and Luol Deng in the All-Star Game. "If it's better for him not to he won't. We'll wait to see where we are. That's a long way off."

Derrick Rose increased his activity level during a light practice at the Berto Center on Friday, according to coach Tom Thibodeau, who has yet to rule his star point guard out for Sunday afternoon's game against the Nets.

"We'll see how he feels," Thibodeau said of Rose. "This is the first time he's done more activity."

Rose, who has missed four straight games will back spasms, will have to clear two hurdles before he returns to the court.

"If he's feeling good he should play," Thibodeau said. "If he's not feeling good he shouldn't. He has to be cleared medically first. We want him to be pain free. Those are the two things we're looking at. Each day he has gotten better, he's done more. We're just going step by step."

Thibodeau said the Nets 8-23 record will have no impact on whether Rose plays. The Bulls host the 19-11 Hawks on Monday afternoon.

"That decision shouldn't be based on what may be perceived as an opponent's record," he said. "Lots of times when you look at a team their record may not be an indication of how good they are. They may have had injuries themselves. They might be playing well."

In other news, Rip Hamilton was running from halfcourt and practicing his pull-up jumpers and also simulating coming off screens and shooting after practice. Hamilton has missed 10 games with a thigh injury and 20 overall.

"He did a little more today, too," Thibodeau said of Hamilton. "He did some shooting. That was a good sign. He still has a long way to go but he's feeling a lot better."

TNT analysts love Bulls

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In case you missed it, here's what the TNT crew had to say about the Bulls during Thursday night's telecast of their 89-80 win over the Celtics at the United Center:

Kenny Smith: "[The Bulls] have the "it" factor. Everybody is playing at a championship level."

Charles Barkley: "Even when Derrick Rose is out [of the lineup], they are not going to get blown out because they have depth and they're the best defensive team in the league right now. They are playing championship defense."

Reggie Miller: "They are still winning games with their MVP [Derrick Rose] on the bench. That shows the depth and camaraderie of this team."

Barkley on why the Bulls are so good: "[The Bulls] play the best team defense and [Head] Coach Thibodeau holds his players accountable."

Celtics guard Rajon Rondo on playing the Bulls without Derrick Rose: "I try to stay aggressive offensively against [C.J.] Watson. He's one of the best backups [point guards] in the league. I have a lot of respect for him. It's not a night off."

Derrick Rose missed his fourth straight game with back spasms but looked as pain-free as he has in several weeks while warming up before Thursday night's game with the Celtics.

"We want him to be pain free," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's very close."

Rose shot free-throws earlier Thursday but was unable to run.

"I know that it's going to be sore a little bit but I know that I don't want to deal with it during the games where it gets tight and it gets irritated,"Rose said. "I'm going to come back when I'm ready."

Rose said he wasn't in any pain after shootaround and had two treatment sessions scheduled --- one at the Berto Center after shootaround and another when he arrived at the United Center.

He also reported that his back tends to spasm during activity only.

"If I'm just sitting around I don't really feel it like that but when I'm out there doing something that's when it usually bothers me," he said.

Rose has been seeing a back specialist for hour-long sessions that he vaguely described as a stretching routine.

He also said he's learning that some injuries he can play with while it's better to rest others.

"The back is totally different where with an ankle, you can kind of play through that," he said. "As a guard you're used to twisting your ankle. It's my second time in my life dealing with this and it's quite different.

During tonight's game against the Celtics at the United Center, it's likely that Tom Thibodeau will give his team a mandate above all others.

Derrick Rose unable to run

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Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau both claim that the Bulls' point guard is a game-time decision for tonight's game against the Celtics at the United Center but it appears he has more to overcome before he can get back on the court.

C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver have been the Bulls' best three-point shooters this season but neither was invited to participate in the three-point shooting contest during All-Star Weekend in Orlando, Fla., later this month.

Joe Johnson of Hawks, Kevin Love of the Timberwolves, Ryan Anderson of the Magic, Anthony Morrow of the Nets, along with Mario Chalmers and James Jones of the Heat round out the field. Jones won the competition last season.

Watson leads the Bulls with a .458 three-point shooting percentage while Korver's is .442.

The last Bull to win the Three-point shooting competition was Steve Kerr in 1997.

The Bulls reviewed film of Tuesday night's win over the Sacramento Kings, did some shooting and called it a practice on Wednesday at the Berto Center.

Derrick Rose did not practice with the team but was off site rehabilitating his injured back. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he remains "day to day." That said, it seems doubtful that he will play against the Celtics on Thursday night at the United Center.

"He's still not quite ready," Thibodeau said. "We'll see where he is. Each day he has gotten better. We're encouraged by that."

Thibodeau said he's fairly satisfied with where his team stands despite so many injuries and a schedule dominated by road games during the first half of the season.

"You factor in a lot of things," he said. "I like the way we're playing tough on the road. There are a lot of areas we can still improve on. We've done a pretty good job of putting ourselves in position to win. We just have to keep finding ways to win. Every teams goes through stretches when their schedules are tough or you may have some injuries but you just have to navigate through that."

Thibodeau also praised Luol Deng, who had one of his best games of his career against the Kings with 23 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.

"We like some of the stuff he's been doing lately and we wanted to go to it more and it's an option we have," Thibodeau said of running the offense through the forward, which he did at times against Sacramento. "He's a very unselfish player. If there are two players on him he always hits the open man. We wanted to do that. Jo [Noah] was playmaking, too. We like the versatility of Luol and Jo making plays."

Noah had 22 points three assists and 11 rebounds.

Anyone who has had back pain knows what Derrick Rose is going through.

"It's just tight where you can't move and when you move and get going the tightness turns to pain," Rose said of his injured back. "Of course, I can't move or walk and things like that. But right now it's getting better. Today, I shot earlier. I didn't move very much. Hopefully, tomorrow I'll be running and we'll see how it feels then."

Rose missed his third straight game Tuesday night with what the team describes as back spasms. He saw a specialist and a chiropractor on Monday after the team returned from a nine-game road trip. He also learned Monday that a MRI revealed no structural damage, which he admitted was a relief.

Rose said the sprained left big toe that sidelined him for five games earlier this season could have been played a role in his back injury.

"I was so worried about it at first," Rose said. "I didn't know where it came from. It's still something where my toe could be the [reason why] I have a pain in my back. Getting my toe right, so it doesn't have any pain in it, and hopefully my back won't have any pain in it."

Rose said the message he is getting from the organization has been clear: Take your time. He met with coach Tom Thibodeau before the game and Thibodeau told him he was most concerned about his health. Rose said the idea of taking an epidural injection to ease the pain was discussed and discarded.

Rose said the idea of taking an epidural injection to ease the pain was discussed and discarded.

"That came up but I'm scared of shots," Rose said. "There's no way I could've done that."

Rose said he expects to heal completely from the injury but didn't put a timetable on when he might return.

"I shouldn't have any problems in the long run," he said. "This back pain should be behind me in a couple days. I should be back out there in a couple days but I'm going to take my time and be smart and make sure I'm stretching."

The Bulls signed veteran point guard Mike James to a 10-day contract, the team announced.

James was with the Bulls earlier this season and averaged four points and three assists in three games.

James will be in uniform for Tuesday's game against the Kings.

First, Tom Thibodeau said "we'll see" when asked if Derrick Rose would play tonight. Then he said he probably won't play. By the time the Bulls coach was finishing up his session with media after the team's shootaround at the Berto Center on Tuesday morning, he said Rose was "out" tonight when the Kings visit the United Center.

Rose met with specialists Monday after missing back-to-back games with back pain that has been bothering him for two weeks. General manager Gar Forman said the MRI revealed no structural damage and that Rose remains day to day. Thibodeau reiterated that Tuesday.

A team spokesperson said Rose will speak with the media before tonight's game against the Kings.

"Each day he's feeling better but it's still not where we want it to be," Thibodeau said of Rose's sore back. "We're going to be patient."

There has been speculation that Rose is making the decision on whether he will or won't play by himself, which has been fueled by the MVP saying that it's his decision and he's the only one who knows how he feels.

While the second part of that statement is true enough, Thibodeau said Rose isn't making the decision alone.

"It's not just his decision," Thibodeau said. "There are a lot of people weighing in on it. We have a great medical staff, a great training staff. Their input is critical. His input is critical. We're certainly not going to do anything to jeopardize him being hurt."

Thibodeau, who has helped coach 15 teams to the playoffs in his 21 years in the league, said he's always concerned with the big picture.

"We want to play our best basketball at the end of the season and we want to be as healthy as possible. We never lose sight of that."

The Bulls have confirmed that an MRI taken of Derrick Rose's back show no structural damage.

Rose was seen by specialists Monday in an attempt to hasten his recovery from what the team is calling back spasms that have hampered the star point guard during the team's recently completed nine-game road trip. Rose has missed back-to-back games because of the injury.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and/or Rose are expected to update the media after a shootaround Tuesday morning. The Bulls host the Sacramento Kings at the United Center on Tuesday night. Rose's availability for that game is unknown.

BOSTON --- The Bulls finished the third longest road trip in team history at 6-3. Their brutal early season schedule is about to turn. The Bulls have played more road games then any other NBA team. They have also played 10 of the 18 back-to-back games on the schedule, including their only stretch of three straight games, and they have more wins than any other team.

What the Bulls face from here on out more resembles a normal NBA schedule. In other words, the Bulls have put themselves in a great position.

"In some ways I thought when the schedule came out and we were trying to analyze what everything meant, being on the road early was good for us in the sense that it allowed us to spend a lot of time together," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We didn't have the practice time we would've liked but in many ways it was good. It was 20 of the first 30 on the road and now we'll head back and we'll have the opportunity to practice more, less back to backs. You start off with the end in mind. You want to make sure you're playing your best basketball at the end of the season and you want to make sure you're as healthy as possible."

While the Bulls are looking forward to going home, they hardly consider the road trip a rousing success.

"We wish we wouldn't have lost any of them," Carlos Boozer said. "We could be undefeated. To have seven losses is tough because we think we could've won them all."

The Bulls starting backcourt of Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton have missed a combined 25 games this season because of injuries. Rose will meet with specialists in Chicago on Monday in an effort to return from a back injury that caused him to miss back-to-back games. Thibodeau said Hamilton is still at least a week away.

"Because we had gone down that road where we sat him down, we brought him back and he got hurt again, we sat him out, he came back and got hurt again we wanted to make sure this time he had all the rest to get completely healthy to bring him back. We don't want to keep going down that road where he plays a few games and then we sit him down again."

Hamilton has not been with the team for six games while dealing with a personal matter. Thibodeau said Hamilton could return from his injury before or after the upcoming All-Star break.

"We're going to see where he is," he said. "If it makes more sense if he's completely healthy to get a few games in we'll do that but if it makes more sense for him to get the extra rest we're gong to do that. We want him to be completely healthy."

BOSTON --- Derrick Rose isn't moving like the quickest and perhaps most dynamic player in the NBA. He was walking like an old man in the locker room before Sunday's game against the Celtics. The 23-year old said he feels old, too.

"Never," Rose said when asked if he had ever had this much discomfort for this long during his playing career. "That's what really killing me right now. Missing this many games, it's killing me not to be out there but as long as we're winning games I'm happy."

Rose will not play against the Celtics today because of a back injury that he said makes it difficult for him to walk when it's at its worst. It's the seventh game this season he has had to sit out because of injuries. Not only has his back forced him to miss back-to-back games but he said it has bothered him during the Bulls entire nine-game road trip.

He also said he had a similar injury to his lower back when he was a senior at Simeon.

"The first time I remember it happening was in high school," Rose said. "I didn't have it in college. My first couple years I didn't have it. All of a sudden it has happened now. Hopefully, tomorrow we'll meet with some people and try to figure something out."

Rose said he will meet with specialists in Chicago on Monday.

"You're always concerned," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "It's something he has had before. He had it when he was in high school. We're hopeful it will get cleared up quickly but we're not sure."

Rose has been selected to start for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game on Feb. 26. Both he and Thibodeau said it's too early to start thinking about whether it might be wise for him to rest and prepare himself for the second half of the season rather than go to Orlando.

"I haven't thought about it," Rose said. "It could be tomorrow and I wake up and it feels good. I remember in high school I didn't get any treatment or anything. I just knew I took a couple of days off and I was able to play downstate and I didn't feel it. Hopefully, it's the same thing."

BOSTON --- Derrick Rose almost always says he's going to play, but he didn't say that about Sunday's nationally televised game against the Celtics, which could mean he'll miss his second straight game because of a back injury.

Rose said his back remains stiff and sore after sitting out Friday night's rout in Charlotte. The Bulls had a light practice Saturday at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. He said he would know more Sunday morning.

"When I wake up I can usually tell so I'll probably know by the time I wake up," Rose said.

Rose had missed six games this year with toe and back injuries despite entering the season in the best shape of his career.

"This is the most I've ever been injured," he said. "It's frustrating knowing I worked so hard. I hate missing games, especially when we're playing against great teams. I hate missing any game."

Watson starts for Rose

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C.J. Watson started at point guard for the Bulls in place of Derrick Rose, who missed his sixth game of the season because of injuries.

Rose has been suffering from back spasms. Earlier Friday, he said his back was stiff but he expected to play against the Bobcats.

While speaking with the media before the game, coach Tom Thibodeau said he hadn't spoken to Rose or the team's trainer and therefore he didn't know Rose's status for the game. Rose was originally listed as a starter for the Bulls but later scratched.

Derrick Rose said his back is a little tight but he expects to play against the Bobcats tonight. Rip Hamilton (groin) will not be in uniform.

"He's got a personal issue he's dealing with, a family matter," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said of Hamilton. "He'll be back shortly and we'll see where he is health-wise. The big thing with him is we want him completely healthy. We're going to be patient."

Luol Deng had a pretty good idea he would be named to his first All-Star Game. The Bulls forward was coy when asked how he knew, but he admitted he knew.

"I had a feeling" Deng said. "I don't know why. I was still surprised to see that [I] made it. This year kind of felt different going into it. There have been a few years where I thought I might make it. This year, for some reason, I thought it was going to happen."

Coach Tom Thibodeau wasn't surprised, either.

"I thought it would happen," the Bulls coach said. "The one thing about Lu, if you really look at his career each year he has been in the league he has gotten better and better. That's a sign of how serious he is, how he approaches the game. He's obviously a very well-rounded player. There isn't anything he doesn't do well. Obviously, he's very significant for us in terms of us winning."

Deng is the Bulls second best player but is often overlooked because he does so many things well that no one thing stands out. Here's what I've learned covering the team this season: He's a guy you have to watch every night to truly appreciate how multifaceted his game really is and how much he contributes to the team.

"Coaches appreciate what I do and how I play," he said. "It just feels like in the past years maybe someone was having a better year and maybe I got left out. But I've always gotten a lot of compliments [from] coaches around the league who appreciate the way I play. To me, my coaches, my teammates and people who know the game, they see it. I'm not so much caught up in people who do not know the game who just want to see the flashiness."

Deng said Thibodeau and his coaching staff, along with Derrick Rose, has made it easier for him to excel. Staying healthy has been a plus, as well. Although he did tear a ligament in his left wrist earlier this season, causing him to miss several games, he has avoided the type of injuries that resulted in him missing extended periods earlier in his career.

He said sitting out the Bulls memorable first-rounds playoff series against the Celtics during the 2008-09 season was the most difficult time in his career.

"When I had the stress fracture and had to watch one of the best series --- Boston against us --- that I've never seen," Deng said when asked to describe his lowest point as a Bull. "Knowing that I'm on that team but I can't dress up and play and then sitting there and reading everything, the papers, the fans, saying I really wasn't hurt. To me, that was the lowest point and the craziest thing I ever had to go through. That's the first time I went through something like that. It helped me a lot in bouncing back and knowing how things worked. Before I felt I was loved by everyone. That's really the way I felt. Through my whole life I never experienced if you want to call it hate or whatever it was. Until that point, and sitting there for seven games, to me, was the toughest thing I've done my entire career. "

Thibodeau may be Deng's biggest fan. He may also end up coaching Deng in the All-Star game. Coaches of the team with the best record in each conference through games played through Feb. 15 will be named All-Star coaches. At 22-6, the Bulls currently own the best record in the Eastern Conference.

"For us he's invaluable," Thibodeau said. "There are so many intangibles he brings to our team --- unselfishness, hard work, caring about nothing but winning and how he can help. He's a great teammate, very coachable and there's nothing he doesn't do well. He plays great defense, he moves without the ball, he shares the ball, he can hit threes, he can put it on the floor, he slashes, he can post. It's his leadership, the way he approaches things every day, the example he sets, you can't say enough about him."

Luol Deng will be accompanying Derrick Rose to the All-Star Game in Orlando on Feb. 26.

The Bulls forward was named to his first All-Star game along with Eastern Conference reserves Paul Pierce of the Celtics, Chris Bosh of the Heat, Roy Hibbert of the Pacers, Andre Iguodala of the 76ers, Joe Johnson of the Hawks and former llini standout and current Nets point guard Deron Williams.

Deng, Hibbert and Iguodala will be playing in their first all-star game. Rose has been named a starter at point guard.

Coaches of the team with the best record in each conference through games played through Feb. 15 will be named All-Star coaches. At 22-6, the Bulls currently own the conference's best record. Therefore, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau could end up coaching Rose, Deng and the Eastern squad.

The Bulls became the first team in the NBA to win three consecutive games by 20 points or more this season when they ripped the New Orleans Hornets 90-67 on Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena.

And while it's easy to scoff at the competition -- the 11-14 Milwaukee Bucks (113-90), the 8-19 New Jersey Nets (108-87) and the 4-22 Hornets -- the totality of the Bulls' domination can't be ignored.

The Bulls were trailing for a combined 24 seconds over all three games -- Luc Mbah a Moute gave the Bucks a 2-0 lead in Milwaukee on Saturday before Derrick Rose settled the matter by scoring 13 points in the next 4:20. They led 30-16, 35-14 and 23-14 after the first quarter en route to halftime leads of 24, 25 and 13 points.

Or let's put it this way: they led by 10 points or more for more than 39 out of 48 minutes against the Bucks (39:29) and Hornets (39:23) and for nearly 44 minutes (43:54) against the Nets. That's the definition of cruising.

After getting treatment but doing little else on a day off, Derrick Rose said his back feels fine and he expects to play tonight against the New Orleans Hornets at the New Orleans Arena. But it will be a game-time decision.

''My back feels better. I should be ready to go tonight,'' Rose said prior to the Bulls' shootaround. ''Game-time decision. I'll see how it is when I go out there and I should be all right.''

Rose, who did not participate in the shootaround, said he enjoyed a relatively leisurely day off in New Orleans.

''It was great. I laid around the whole day,'' he said. ''I really don't get that much time to do that. But since I'm here, I don't know too many people here, so I had the whole day to myself.''

Rose's weak back cause for concern after Bulls romp

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The Bulls obliterated the undermanned New Jersey Nets 108-87 on Monday at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. in a second-consecutive virtually wire-to-wire blowout on the road.

They didn't even need Derrick Rose to do it. But therein lies the problem for the otherwise ever-improving Bulls: Rose played less than 11 minutes and sat out the second half because of back spasms.

Normally that's just a typical malady affecting Rose during an NBA season, but this isn't a normal season. Rose has been playing through tightness in his back since at least the last five games and ''probably even before that,'' Rose himself acknowledged after the game. And after having played 27 games in the first 44 days of the season, there's no telling what effect the rigors of the post-lockout schedule will have on Rose's ailing back.

''Just back spasms. Nothing to worry about,'' Rose said after the game.

Rose has been worked on by the training staff during recent games. But the situation appears to be getting worse. He missed part of the second quarter against the Bucks while getting treatment near the Bulls bench. This time he missed the entire second half.

''Tonight was pretty tough,'' he acknowledged. ''It was tight the whole game. It's just something where I've got to get a massage and stretched right away and hopefully it'll be gone.''

Rose has back spasms, sits second half vs. Bucks

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The Bulls are routing the New Jersey Nets in Newark, N.J. tonight, but the news isn't all good. Derrick Rose has back spasms and will not return.

Rose picked up two early fouls -- the second one an offensive foul and went out of the game with 9:14 left in the first quarter and the Bulls leading 9-2. Rose returned with 10:38 left in the second quarter and went back to the bench with 2:54 left in the first half.

Rose scored four points on 2-of-3 shooting, with no assists, no steals and two turnovers.

Ex-Bull Keith Bogans takes high road vs. former team

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Former Bulls guard Keith Bogans, who started for the Nets on Monday night, didn't want to rehash the awkward circumstances that led to him being waived by the Bulls after the lockout ended. But he couldn't help but acknowledge that he felt disrespected by the way the Bulls handled his departure.

''Who wouldn't?'' said Bogans, who started all 97 games for the Bulls last season but was cut when Richard Hamlton was signed. ''We're all men here first -- we're men before basketball players. I don't want to say the wrong thing, so I'm going to be quiet and just let it go.

''It was tough. It was a learning experience. I [decided] I'm going to turn it into a positive and work my ass off and that's what I dd. It was fun playing with them last year. But as far as [getting cut], I'm done with it.''

After practicing Sunday at the Berto Center, the Bulls cancelled their morning shoot around at the Prudential Center in Newark on Monday prior to tonight's game against the New Jersey Nets. Tom Thibodeau is either feeling pretty good about his team at this point, or he's just being cautious about overworking a team that has played 26 games in the first 42 days of the season.

Either way, the return of Luol Deng to the lineup has given the Bulls a big lift on many levels. Deng scored 21 points against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night after missing seven games with a torn ligament in his left wrist. But he means much more than that to a team that lacks a vocal leader.

''Lu's just kind of a safety net. He kind of does everything,'' said guard Kyle Korver. ''He's a great on-ball defender. He gets rebounds. We don't run a ton of plays for him, but he always ends up with the ball.

''He makes good decisions. He just kind of covers everything. The way he's able to play that many minutes and still play at a high level is a real tribute to him. He's playing at an All-Star level for sure.''

Rose toasts Bulls fans who took over Bradley Center

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The first chant of ''M-V-P'' came less than five minutes into the Bulls' game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.

It wasn't long after that the calls for Brian Scalarine started coming. Without a doubt, Derrick Rose and the Bulls were energized by the home crowd in their 113-90 blowout of the hapless Bucks.

Except the home crowd was at the Bradley Center. In Milwaukee.

''I thought the crowd tonight was amazing,'' said Bulls guard Kyle Korver, who scored 18 points and hit 4-of-8 three-point shots. ''It was like a college crowd. It was rowdy. And it was all for us.''

Luol Deng was Luol Deng.

Playing his first game since suffering a torn ligament in his left wrist two weeks and eight games ago, Deng was his typical model of consistency in the Bulls' 113-90 blowout of the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night at the Bradley Center.

Deng started and scored 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting with nine rebounds, three turnovers, one steal and one blocked shot in 41 minutes. No other Bull played more than 35 minutes.

''It feels fine. It feels great,'' said Deng, who was peppered with questions about his wrist after the game. ''Right now it's fine. If anything, I'll know [Sunday].''

Rose payback, Deng return spark Bulls rout of Bucks

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Derrick Rose tried to play it coy.

''I was just taking what they were giving me,'' Rose said after he blitzed the Milwaukee Bucks with an first-quarter barrage en route to 26 points and 13 assists in a 113-90 blowout Saturday before a sellout crowd at the Bradley Center dominated by Bulls fans.

But it looked like more than that -- more like payback against Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, who scored 16 points in the first quarter against Rose at the United Center last month, before Rose rallied the Bulls to a 107-100 victory.

''Derrick remembers things,'' said Bulls forward Kyle Korver. ''And the last time we played Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings really went at him in the first quarter. Derrick he looks for anything. I think he really wanted to attack.''

Tom Thibodeau's Super Bowl pick: 'Who's in it?'

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Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had a quizzical look on his face when asked who he had in the Super Bowl.

''Who's in it?'' he said, probably joking.

But while Thibodeau has little interest in the game itself, he does have a healthy respect for New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Thibodeau was an assistant coach with the Celtics for three seasons (2007-10) during Belichick's reign with the Patriots.

''He's a big basketball fan. He was at a number of games in Boston,'' Thibodeau said. ''I had the opportunity to meet him. I haven't had the opportunity to spend any time with him, but I'd like to.''

Luol Deng will be a game-time decision vs. Bucks

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Luol Deng is ''getting closer and closer'' and could play tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks, coach Tom Thibodeau said Saturday.

Deng has missed the past seven games after suffering a torn ligament in his left wrist in a victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Jan. 21. The Bulls are 4-3 without Deng. They are 15-3 with him. Deng is averaging 15.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game this season and is the team's top defensive forward.

''There's a possibility [Deng will play vs. the Bucks],'' Thibodeau said before the Bulls' shootaround at the Al McGuire Center on the campus of Marquette University. ''He's very close right now.''

Bulls notebook: Watson feeling better, playing better

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Backup point guard C.J. Watson is such a low-key guy, it's easy to forget he's among the Bulls' walking wounded. But Watson is playing through elbow and wrist injuries and making a bigger impact as he gets healthier.

Watson played a key role off the bench in the Bulls' 105-102 victory over the Knicks on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. Replacing Derrick Rose in the second quarter, Watson scored 10 points in a 4:55 stretch as the Bulls built a 42-35 lead before Rose returned.

Watson finished with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, with three steals and two turnovers.

''His timing's coming around,'' coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''Each game is better and better, so he's getting comfortable again. He's nicked up pretty good. But he's a tough guy.''

Rookie Butler stifles Carmelo, gives Bulls big boost

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The Bulls got a boost from an unlikely source in their 105-102 victory over the New York Knicks on Thursday night -- unlikely to us, anyway.

Luol Deng and Joakim Noah knew it all the time that Jimmy Butler could play. And the unheralded rookie from Marquette proved them right with a solid all-around effort in the fourth quarter of a tight game on what is generally considered the NBA's biggest stage -- Madison Square Garden.

Playing all but nine seconds of the fourth quarter -- by far his biggest his most significant minutes of the season -- Butler scored four points and put the clamps on Knicks all-star forward Carmelo Anthony to help the Bulls hold on for the victory.

Rejuvenated Rose rallies Bulls past Knicks -- barely

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Maybe it was just a coincidence that one night after Derrick Rose sat out the fourth quarter of a 16-point loss to the 76ers, the Bulls' fatigable but irrepressible point guard found a second-wind in the fourth quarter and carried his team to a nerve-wracking 105-102 victory over the New York Knicks on Thursday night.

Or maybe not. Maybe Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau -- whether it was by design or not -- made the prudent move when he ostensibly gave up a long shot at beating the Sixers to keep Rose fresher for the Knicks. That's the way it played out at Madison Square Garden as Rose recovered from a sluggish third quarter to play a spirited fourth quarter as the Bulls barely fended off Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and the stubborn Knicks.

Rose, who had made 2-of-7 shots from the field in the third quarter and missed both of his three-point attempts, scored 15 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter to will the Bulls to a lead they barely hung on to.

Rose also had three key defensive rebounds in the fourth quarter -- he had grabbed just two boards in the previous 11 quarters -- and added two assists to give him 13 for the game.

In a post-lockout season that even Thibodeau admits is ''a different sort of season,'' the Bulls might do well to rest Rose whenever they can. It sure seemed to make a difference against the Knicks.

''I guess [it helped]. Rest is always a good thing,'' Rose said. ''But knowing that we lost last night, I definitely wanted to come out here and play good tonight.''

Deng, Hamilton out for Bulls vs. Knicks tonight

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The Bulls will be without forward Luol Deng and guard Richard Hamilton for tonight's game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Hamilton has a thigh injury. Deng is recovering from a torn ligament in his left wrist.

''[Deng] just worked out at the hotel [today, so he's doing more and more each day],'' Thibodeau said. ''He's getting close.''

Bulls guard Derrick Rose was selected a starter for the NBA's All-Star Game, which will be played on Feb. 26 at Amway Center in Orlando. It's Rose's third consecutive All-Star selection in his four-year NBA career and second consecutive start.

''It means a lot. It's something I take to heart,'' said Rose, who is averaging 23.1 points and 7.7 assists per game this season.

Rose was the second-leading vote-getter (1,514,723) on the Eastern Conference team behind Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (1,600,390) and third overall behind the Lakers' Kobe Bryant (1,555,479).

''It means a lot, especially from our fans to vote for me,'' Rose said prior to the Bulls' game against the Knicks Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. ''I didn't [realize] that I had all those votes. It shows a lot. I don't take anything for granted. I'm appreciative of every one one of my fans that went on line and voted for me for granted. I appreciate them all. And I hope they continue to watch me.''

Is Derrick Rose feeling OK?

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The Bulls weren't accepting any excuses after their 98-82 shellacking at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. But Sixers coach Doug Collins was gracious enough to offer them a few -- the most interesting of which was the notion that Bulls point guard Derrick Rose was sick.

Rose scored 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting, with six assists, four turnovers, one steal and one rebound. He missed two free throws (1-for-3). And he had no personal fouls -- only the second time in the past two seasons he has not fouled in a Bulls loss.

''I think Derrick Rose is a little under the weather,'' Collins said after the game. ''I'm not sure. I think at the shootaround it was my understanding he might have gone home or something. And they're on a nine-game road trip. I think they play back-to-back tomorrow night [they do, against the Knicks].''

Short-handed Bulls flop vs. short-handed Sixers

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The Bulls missed Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton on Wednesday night. But they also missed Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Ronnie Brewer.

Those four starters sat out the fourth quarter of a 98-82 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers -- who were missing starting center Spencer Hawes -- after contributing to a disastrous third quarter in which the Sixers outscored the Bulls 26-11 to take a 75-55 lead into the fourth quarter.

''We played a messed-up game -- where we rubbed off on everybody else,'' said Rose, who scored 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting, with six assists and four turnovers. ''It was definitely the starters. They held us back pretty good and kept it on us. This is something we're not going to forget. I know I'm not.''

Hamilton, Deng out vs. Sixers; Korver starting

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Guard Richard Hamilton (sore left leg) and forward Luol Deng (left wrist) will not play against the 76ers tonight. Kyle Korver will start for Deng at small forward, with Ronnie Brewer in Hamilton's shooting guard spot.

''[Korver's] done a great job, as has Ronnie,'' coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game. ''I think they play well together and Kyle's really worked at his defense. The shooting part is the obvious. That's why he's here. But he's really come a long way. He's put a lot of work into it. He's playing a complete game.''

Thibodeau said earlier Wednesday that he will wait until Hamilton is completely healthy before playing him again. Hamilton has not played more than six consecutive games without missing time for an injury this season.

''I'm concerned about him with this thing becoming reoccurring,'' Thibodeau said. ''I want to make sure this time that he's completely healthy. I think a guy like that, you gotta be careful with, so that's what we're going to do.''

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