Chicago Sun-Times

March 2012 Archives

Bulls prepare to face Thunder without Rose

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Richard Hamilton could play for the first time since March 5, but Derrick Rose is expected to miss his 10th consecutive game with a groin injury when the Bulls face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday in a nationally televised game (Noon, Ch. 7) in Oklahoma City.

Hamilton, who has missed the last 14 games with a bruised shoulder, felt ready to play against the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, but was held out by coach Tom Thibodeau. And with back-to-back games against the Thunder on the road and the Houston Rockets on Monday at the United Center, it's possible Hamilton won't play against the Thunder, either.

Thibodeau acknowledged that Hamilton will have to ease his way back because of the nature of the injury -- and a nationally televised marquee game that gets the competitive juices flowing might not be the best place to test a sore shoulder for the first time in nearly four weeks. The Rockets at home might be a more prudent spot for Hamilton's return.

Bulls guards Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton are both game-time decisions for tonight's game against the Detroit Pistons at the United Center. But while Rose is expected to miss his ninth consecutive game with a groin injury, Hamilton might only need medical clearance to face his former team.

Hamilton has missed the last 13 games with a bruised shoulder, but has been practicing without incident the past three days, including full participation in the Bulls' shootaround Friday at the Berto Center.

''Medical clearance first. And when he's pain-free, he goes,'' Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Rose is not quite as far along. He is making progress in his rehabilitation, but has not yet been cleared for contact. Rose said he is anxious to return but won't rush it. He's missed 18 games this season because of injuries -- back spasms, turf toe and now the groin.

Few ''energy-and-effort'' guys are as mellow as Taj Gibson.

The Bulls' reserve forward played his role to perfection against the Atlanta Hawks, shutting down red-hot Hawks' forward Josh Smith and adding 19 points, six rebounds and a blocked shot in the Bulls' 98-77 victory. And when things got rough in the Bulls were pulling away, Gibson kept his cool.

With the Bulls leading 85-68 with 6:50 to play, Gibson was heading to the basket on a fast break after a turnover by Joe Johnson when Johnson grabbed him around the neck and knocked Gibson to the ground. It looked like an intentional and flagrant foul, but Johnson was called for neither penalty because it was ruled that he slipped on a wet spot on the court and grabbed Gibson to break his fall. That's his story and he's sticking to it.

''I can't even call it,'' Gibson said. ''I went hard. He rouled me a little hard. It's basketball -- just get up. I'm happy I made the foul shots [actually 1-of-2] and move on. One thing about that: You just have to let the referee decide and luckily nobody got hurt.''

Korver bloodied but not beaten

Kyle Korver had a tough night. He shot 1-for-6 from the field, though he did have three assists and took a shot to the face that drew blood in the first half. He said he didn't even know what hit him, but he ''got clobbered,'' with blood dripping from a cut on his forehead that required stitches and scrapes on his nose and lip.

Deng breaks three-point slump

Luol Deng hit his first five three-point attempts against the Hawks after making 4-of-26 in his previous six games.

''I just knocked 'em down,'' Deng said. ''It's the same shots. I just had good looks and they went down.''

Bulls undaunted by angst over one-game losing streak

The Bulls have set such a high standard under Tom Thibodeau that three consecutive subpar efforts without Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton caused some consternation among skittish fans and media, even though the Bulls (41-11) won two of the three games and still have the best record in the NBA.

''We know what we are,'' Korver said. ''It's a grind of a season -- so many games. There are going to be nights where you just don't have it. You try not to let that happen two games in a row. But for the most part we've done a pretty good job.

''Obviously the last week or so our energy level's been down. I thought [Wednesday] night was a step in the right direction as far as playing the type of basketball we want to play.''

Said Thibodeau: ''The important thing is what our team thinks. We have to strive for improvement every day, keeping in mind that we want to play our best in the end. We knew we were capable of playing better. There are going to be ups and downs and you have to be able to navigate through those things.

''The important thing is to stay together, keep working and when things aren't going our way, we can count on our defense and rebounding and ball movement. We tried to get some easier baskets [against the Hawks] and we did. I liked the way we persevered.''

Bulls keep streak alive with victory in Atlanta

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Coming off a 108-91 loss to the Denver Nuggets at the United Center, the Bulls' 98-77 rout of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena in Atlanta on Wednesday night kept alive their franchise-record streak of consecutive games without back-to-back losses.

The Bulls have now played 84 games without losing two in a row, a streak that dates to Feb. 9, 2011 -- after they lost at Golden State (101-90) and at Portland (109-103) on Feb. 5-7, 2011. The streak is tied for the third-longest in NBA history according to STATS LLC with the Indiana Pacers (Dec. 12, 1997-March 16, 1999).

The Bulls trail only the Boston Celtics (85 games) and the Utah Jazz (95) games. The streaks by the Jazz, Pacers and Bulls all encompassed lockout-shortened seasons.

''It speaks to our character ... how well we came back tonight,'' said Bulls forward Carlos Boozer, who scored 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting against the Hawks. ''We hate losing, period, but especially the way we lost [against the Nuggets], in our building. We felt like we all played horrible and we could give so much more to the team and you saw our effort tonight. [From] 1-to-13 everybody brought their 'A' game. Great intensity and great focus against a very good team.''

Energized Bulls back in the groove in rout of Hawks

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Bring on the Nuggets!

Two days after ''laying an egg'' and looking tired and out-of-sync in a blowout loss to Denver at the United Center, the rejuvenated Bulls looked more like the team with the best record in the NBA in a 98-77 rout of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena in Atlanta.

With Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton still out with injuries, the Bulls' second-unit provided the ''energy-and-effort'' coach Tom Thibodeau's team thrives on to take control of a close game in the second quarter.

Luol Deng, who hit his first five three-point attempts to break out of a 4-for-27 slump from long range, scored 10 of his game-high 22 points in a 5:20 span with the second unit in the first half. Third-string point guard John Lucas III hit two three-pointers and scored all 10 of his points in the second quarter. And Taj Gibson and Omer Asik helped the Bulls control the paint, with Gibson putting the clamps on red-hot Hawks forward Josh Smith and also scoring 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

''Overall, everyone played well,'' Thibodeau said. ''I loved the energy of the team. Their attitude was great in the shootaround [Wednesday]. The game didn't start perfectly for us [the Bulls trailed 13-5 in the first 4:43]. But we worked our way through the start. We just kept grinding away and it worked out for us.''

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is ''doing more'' and getting closer to returning for the Bulls. But he is expected to miss his eight consecutive game with a groin injury tonight when the Bulls play the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena.

''He's running on the court now, so that's good,'' Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''Doing more shooting, more moving. He's coming along.''

Rose, though, still has yet to go through any contact or participate in practice. It figures that he will not return until he does.

The Bulls (40-11), are 5-2 without Rose in his most recent absence and 12-5 overall without him this season. They play the Hawks at 6:30 tonight.

Bulls guard Richard Hamilton, who has missed the last 12 games with a sprained shoulder, went through a contact drill with teammate Brian Scalabrine on Wednesday prior to the Bulls' shootaround at Philips Arena in Atlanta and could play against the Hawks tonight.

It's more likely Hamilton will return Friday against the Detroit Pistons at the United Center. But his return appears imminent for the first time since he suffered the injury on March 5 against the Pacers.

''We'll see how it goes today,'' Hamilton said. ''Today was actually the first time I did a little bumpin'. That's what me and Scal were doing -- him chasing me and bumping and having a little contacts. It was good. Because that's the biggest thing with me getting hit, the contact. I'm happy with my progress.''

Derrick Rose's absence may grab a large share of the attention in the wake of the Bulls' 108-91 loss to the Nuggets, but as Kyle Korver felt like the Bulls scored enough to win.

It's no secret that the Bulls' primary objective on offense is to score in transition.

But in Monday's 108-91 loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Bulls found themselves getting sucked into too much of a run-and-gun style--one that Denver likes to employ. Throughout the game the two team's traded baskets which is out of character for a normally disciplined Bulls defense.

Derrick Rose improving but still not ready to play

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Bulls guard Derrick Rose, who is expected to miss his seventh consecutive game with a strained groin, said he is ''getting better every day,'' but could not predict when he would play again.

''It's day-by-day,'' Rose said Monday after the Bulls' shootaround at the Berto Center. ''It's getting better every day. I'm able to move a little bit more. I'm getting treatment twice a day. Hopefully I'll be out there soon.''

Rose has been getting massage treatment and running in a pool and on a treadmill, ''where it takes your body weight off.'' But he still is not running on the court or participating in practice.

The Bulls are 5-1 since Rose suffered the latest injury. The Bulls play the Denver Nuggets on Monday night at the United Center. They play at Atlanta on Wednesday night and face the Detroit Pistons on Friday at home.

''I'm trying to rush back as quickly as possible,'' Rose said. ''But this is my first time injuring my groin. It takes a little time. It's getting better. But they're playing great without me.''

Bulls center Joakim Noah publicly apologized to NBA referee Derrick Collins for disputing a foul call and throwing a ball at Collins, leading to two technical fouls and his ejection from Saturday night's 102-101 victory over the Toronto Raptors at the United Center.

''I just want to apologize to the referee for coming at him like that. I was wrong,'' Noah said after practice Sunday at the Berto Center. ''I was frustrated at the call. I overreacted. And I just hope he reads this and accepts my apology.''

Noah was upset when he was called for a foul against Andrea Bargnani with 1:28 left in the second quarter. After Collins gave Noah a technical foul for arguing the call, Noah threw the ball -- a purposeful chest pass --  across the lane in the direction of Collins. Referee Scott Foster immediately gave Noah a second technical foul and automatic ejection. A frustrated Noah directed foul language in the direction of all the officials as he left the court.

The ever-resourceful Bulls pulled off an escape act Saturday night that will be hard to top. Luol Deng's tip-in of a deflected C.J. Watson shot barely beat the buzzer to give the Bulls a 101-100 overtime victory over the lowly Toronto Raptors.

But while Deng's shot sent the sellout crowd at the United Center into a frenzy and the Bulls celebrated as if they had won the NCAA title, coach Tom Thibodeau was not about to let winning cure all.

Three days after the Bulls played down to the Raptors' level before rallying in the fourth quarter to win in Toronto, they were even more lackadaisical at the United Center. They shot 3-of-23 from three-point range. They were out rebounded 58-44. Joakim Noah was ejected late in the first half when he was called for two technical fouls for arguing a personal foul called against him. And that's just off the top of my head.

In his own measured way, Thibodeau made his unhappiness very clear. He was so upset it sounded as if he had forgotten his team won the game.

Derrick Rose, Richard Hamilton out vs. Raptors

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Point guard Derrick Rose (groin) and shooting guard Richard Hamilton (shoulder) will not play Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Rose will be missing his sixth consecutive game. Hamilton will be out for the 11th straight game. C.J. Watson will start for Rose. Ronnie Brewer will start for Hamilton.

Though technically ''day-to-day,'' neither Rose nor Hamilton is expected back soon.

Rose has been participating in shooting drills but is just now starting to run again. The next step is ''to be able to complete practice,'' Thibodeau said prior to the game against the Raptors. ''He's doing the shooting. Just step by sep. But we want to make sure he's completely healthy before we move forward.''

Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton both are making progress in their recovery from injuries. But don't expect them in the lineup too soon.

Rose, who has missed the last five games because of a groin injury, practiced on a limited basis Friday at the Berto Center, but it seemed more like the first step toward returning to the court than the last. He still is not running on the court, though he was draining open three-pointers in an "around-the-horn" shooting drill after practice.

''Derrick was better today. He did part of practice,'' Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''We just have to have him keep making progress and hopefully he'll be healthy soon.''

The size advantage the Bulls have had against the Heat was addressed when Miami signed forward/center Ronny Turiaf, according to multiple reports.

The 6-foot-10 Turiaf played in only four games for Washington this season because of a broken hand. He was traded to the Nuggets Monday and then released.

"He's a great defensive player and somebody who's also very underrated offensively," Joakim Noah said of Turiaf. "He can shoot a little bit, can finish well at the rim. Whoever picks him up is definitely going to get a great addition."

Luol Deng was in the locker room after the game with a huge bag of ice wrapped around his left wrist.

"The wrist is still here," Deng said. "It's up an down but I'm finding way to be effective out there."

Deng tore a ligament in his left wrist earlier this season. Watson has also been playing with twisted ankle.

"I like the mental toughness that Luol has shown," Thibodeau said. Same thing with C.J. They've shown us that they can play well, even when they're nicked up and I think that's the important mentality to have, is to know that whatever amount of hurting you have going on."

C.J. Watson missed all eight of his shots from the floor in Monday night's 85-59 wipeout of the Magic in Orlando but that doesn't mean he played a lousy game, according to Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.

"I don't necessarily judge him by his shots," Thibodeau said of Watson. "I measure him more on how he runs the team and how the team functioning and how he's playing defense. He can play well when he doesn't shoot well. That's what he did in that game."

The Bulls are 11-4 without MVP Derrick Rose heading after Wednesday night's come-from-behind win over the Raptors, which says a lot about their depth at point guard. John Lucas III sparked the Bulls fourth-quarter run ad finished with 13 points while Watson had 15.

"C.J. has played very well for us whenever he has started," Thibodeau said. "He's been solid. John has been terrific. The bench has been very good. Then our starters have done a good job."

The Bulls will need continued solid play from Watson, Lucas III and James because Rose may not return from a strained groin for several more days, if not longer.

The Bulls' MVP point guard is still walking gingerly at Air Canada Centre during Wednesday morning's shootaround. He has began working out in water and has done some shooting but little else. It was his fifth-straight missed game and 15th overall this season.

"He's doing more and more," Thibodeau said. "He's doing some shooting. He's in the pool. He's moving along."

ORLANDO, Fla. --- Stan Van Gundy wasn't overly relieved to know that Derrick Rose wouldn't play against the Magic on Monday night, which says a lot about how backups C.J. Watson and John Lucas III have played in his absence this season.

"They've just beaten Philly an Miami without Derrick Rose so we certainly can't expect anything other than a great opponent out there tonight. They've played really well without him. They really have. Their point guards have done a good job, Watson and Lucas. They've different. They're not the attackers [Rose] is but they can both shoot the hell out of the ball and make plays on pick and rolls.

"[Carlos] Boozer has been tremendous, so has Deng, they run more catch-and-shoot for Kyle Korver. They find their way around it and base their game on what they do on the defensive end anyway. Their defense, more than anything, is based around [Luol] Deng and their bigs, their front-line guys, so their defense doesn't really suffer at all."

With Rose out for a fourth straight game because of a groin injury, Watson started. He had 20 points in Saturday night's win over the 76ers at the United Center despite a twisted ankle that has robbed him of his quickness and mobility. Lucas scored 24 points in a win over Miami last week.

"If he wasn't capable of playing we wouldn't be playing him," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said of Watson. "He's nicked up. He's playing through it, which we certainly respect."

Expect Derrick Rose to miss tonight's game and the Magic in Orlando at the very least. The Bulls star said he's not sure when he'll be able to return from a groin injury.

"They haven't given me a time," Rose said. "With an injury like this, you don't know how long it's going to take. I thought I would be back sooner. I've missed some big games that I hate to miss, like the one tonight. I've got to worry about my health."

Rose said he strained his groin late in the first quarter of a win over the Knicks on March 12. Jeremy Lin blocked his fast-break layup attempt from behind on the play. Rose said he remained in the game after feeling the initial pull and may have made the injury worse.

"In the New York [game], when I went to the hole, I took off kind of wrong and Jeremy [Lin] beat my shot. I thought I was going to take off but I couldn't get up that high. I just felt the pull. I thought it was like a charley horse or something. When I went down I tried to stretch out but there was pain there. Usually, when you have a charley horse it's just tight. There was pain but I wanted to play through it. I played through it but I think it made it worse."

Rose said he hasn't been able to run or shoot since the injury.

"You don't want this to linger," he said. "I can't move right now. Every day it's definitely getting better but I haven't been able to run in a couple days."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau still considers Rose "day-to-day," although week to week may be a more accurate description of his status.

"It could be a few days," Thibodeau said. "It could be ... who knows? We just want him to make progress. When he's healthy he's healthy. We're not going to rush him back. We want him to be completely healthy. We think that's important."

Rose hasn't spoken to the media since critical comments about the officiating against the Knicks resulted in him being fined $25,000 by the league. Rose has been frustrated at times this season because he doesn't believe he's getting the calls he should when he attacks the rim.

When asked if he regretted his comments, Rose said, "I thought they were facts." Then, he added: "Losing 25 K definitely hurts. I don't care who you are, it hurts. I was just frustrated at the time. I couldn't hold myself back from saying what I said."

Rose said he's going to continue to attack and is hopeful that he'll get more calls in the future. He said because he has been so quiet for the first three-plus years of his career people are surprised when he does speak his mind.

"They still look at me like a little kid or, I don't know how you say it, like a demigod or something. I can't say anything."

Tom Thibodeau was critical of his team's preparation after Friday night's loss to Portland but said it was much improved Saturday.

"There's a lot of frustration," Thibodeau said, referring to the loss to the Blazers. "We didn't play well. You start there. We've got to get back to getting ready the right way and everybody doing their job. Right now, it's a lot of games in a short amout of time. There's not a lot of practice. You have to make your corrections in your walkthroughs, in your film sessions.

"Everyone on our team has good intentions. We're going about it the wrong way. Part of it is when things aren't going well we're trying to do much individually offensively, but that's also leading to frustration on defense. Our help isn't what it should be. Our on-the-ball technique isn't what it should be. We can't do that. We have to do things collectively both offensively and defensively. We can't get frustrated. There are going to be ups an downs and we have to work through things. For the most part we've done that and we need to get back to that."

Thibodeau was asked if his team settled for too many jump shots Friday.

"We're an inside-out team," Thibodeau said. "The ball has to get into the paint whether it's through the post or dribble penetration. In the fourth quarter we struggled to score. I don't mind the threes when it's inside out."

Tom Thibodeau was asked if there was a chance Derrick Rose will have recovered from an injured groin in time to play against the Magic in Orlando on Monday night.

"I don't know," the Bulls coach said. We'll see."

Thibodeau didn't sound optimistic. It's sounding more and more like Rose will at least sit out the upcoming road trip to Orlando and Toronto. The team will return home early Thursday morning with no games scheduled until the Raptors come to town on Saturday. That may be a more realistic return for Rose, who has been rehabbing and lifting weights but hasn't started running yet.

Rip Hamilton (shoulder) also did not play. Several other players are battling lesser injuries. C.J. Watson received a "shot" for his twisted left ankle for the second straight game.

"I'm alive," Watson said when asked how he was feeling. "That's all I can say."

Coach Tom Thibodeau said Derrick Rose would not play against the Trail Blazers at the United Center on Friday night. Earlier in the day, Thibodeau said Rose's availability would be a game-time decision but informed reporters during his pregame press conference that Rose would not play. He said C.J. Watson remains a game-time decision.

The Bulls have had players miss 71 game thus far this season because of injury and illness, and that doesn't count Friday night's game. Last season, Bulls players missed 61 games.

Carlos Boozer is the only player to start every game this season. Kyle Korver Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer have played in every game. Korver and Asik appeared in all 82 games last season.

The Bulls are 8-3 without Rose this season and 7-2 without Luol Deng, who will play for the second straight game. They are 22-6 without Rip Hamilton.

John Lucas III's father read his son's lips after he made that fadeaway jumper over LeBron James late in Wednesday night's upset of the Heat at the United Center. The long-time former NBA player and coach was one of many people who reached out to Lucas III after his 24-point performance against Miami.

"My dad was the funniest," Lucas III said. "He said, 'Did you say LeBron can't hold you when you hit that shot? You need to jump back inside your body and relax.' He always keeps me in line and keeps me focused."

Lucas will likely see more minutes tonight because coach Tom Thibodeau said after Friday's shootaround at the Berto Center that Derrick Rose (groin) and C.J. Watson (ankle) will be game-time decisions. Rose is not expected to play and will likely rest his groin at least through the weekend. Watson re-injured his twisted ankle against the Heat but remained in the game. Rip Hamilton (shoulder) is also out but Luol Deng (wrist) will play, according to Thibodeau.

"They're getting better," Thibodeau said. "Rip is moving along. He's doing more activity now. He's running. He's gone to the next phase. That's encouraging."

Both Lucas III and Thibodeau were far from disappointed that the NBA's trade deadline came and went Thursday without the team making any moves.

"It's critical," Thibodeau said of the chemistry his team has developed. "It's all part of team building and how everything fits together. There's a lot more to it then just collecting talent. It's talent and how it all fits together. Do you share the same core beliefs? Are you willing to sacrifice and be part of the team? That's all part of it."

"It's rare you have a team like this," Lucas III said. "Everybody gets along. We're a family. If we were to lose somebody it would hurt a little bit, not on the court but hurt us inside because we've formed a brotherhood here and we have each other's back. It's rare when all 14 guys like each other. Everybody gets together when we're on the road."

Lucas III has been perhaps the best example of the team's extraordinary depth this season. His being on the team also adds depth to the coaching staff because he receives free scouting tips and coaching from his father, the former boss of the Spurs, Sixers and Cavaliers.

"Before my game my father called me and told me, 'This is the way they played you last time," Lucas III said, referring to the Miami game. "They were in training camp with you so they think they have a feel for you. Switch it up. Go to this. Go to that.'

"It's always good to have a father who was an NBA coach and an NBA player because he's constantly watching our games, even when I don't play just in case we play that team again. What's their defensive schemes on us? What do they like to do, do they go over screens, do they go under screens, are they blitzing? I'm a student still."

Getting thrown into a playoff type atmosphere like he was against Miami doesn't phase Lucas III in part because of how he was raised.

"I remember hanging with Michael Jordan, who was one my dad's friends, when I was 5 years old," he said. "I remember playing one on one with George Gervin and being next to Isiah [Thomas] and Larry Bird. Larry Bird gave me his jersey after they beat my father in the Eastern Conference Championship, which I still have. I've always been around it. I've never been star struck or nervous because I've been around my entire life. I look at it as another game, another opportunity for our team to get better and for me to get better."

Wednesday night's Bull-Heat game pulled in a 2.2 overnight rating, which was the third highest-rated NBA game on ESPN this season, according to a network spokesperson. It did an 6.2 overnight in Chicago, making it the largest audience for an NBA regular-season game ever on ESPN in the Chicago market.

The strongest argument for the Bulls keeping their roster intact after Thursday's 2 p.m. trade deadline was made on Wednesday night at the United Center.

Beating the Heat had become difficult enough with Derrick Rose. Without him, the Heat's much anticipated first appearance here since eliminating the Bulls from the Eastern Conference Finals last season looked like a mismatch. Instead, the Bulls thrilling 106-102 win was perhaps the greatest example yet to the Bulls extraordinary depth.

The Bulls compensated for the obvious talent gulf with depth, intensity, relentless rebounding and lights out shooting from behind the three-point stripe.

The Bench Mob outscored Miami's reserves 56-15. The Bulls outrebounded the Heat 50-34.

"This is a great testament to our team," Taj Gibson said. "Everybody from top to bottom is humble and team oriented. We don't have any animosity. Everybody is always building each other up."

John Lucas was the Bulls go-to offensive threat during long stretches of the first and second halves and finished with 24 points, including a pair of free throws with six seconds left to seal it. Gibson is often mentioned in possible deals. He picked up where he left off in the fourth quarter of Monday night's win over the Knicks with eight points and eight rebounds. Rookie Jimmy Butler contributed on both ends, even when guarding LeBron James, who finished with 35.

Not only was Rose out, but the team's two other primary scorers --- Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer --- combined for only 13 points.

"For fans, it's easy to get caught up in stats and what people could do," Kyle Korver said of trade speculation. "I understand it. We didn't win last year and until we do there will be doubters. But we all believe in each other and we love plaing together. Our chemistry is so good on the floor. We genuinely like each other."

Anybody who saw Rose shuffling down the hallway outside the locker room before the game knew he wasn't going to play before Thibodeau made it official. Rose has a strained groin that Thibodeau said wasn't the result of any one play in Monday night's win over the Knicks but rather a "compilation of things over time."

He is listed as day-to-day, which if we've learned anything this season means he could either play against Portland on Friday or not until sometime next month.

"It was unbelievable," Deng said. "A lot of people would worry hearing Derrick would miss the game but everyone in the locker room stepped up and took on the challenge."

James dominated the first quarter with 14 points but the Bench Mob helped the Bulls outscore Miami 34-19 in the third quarter with unbelievable energy on both ends of the court. The Bulls ferocious play was epitomized by Joakim Noah blocking a Dwyane Wade shot only to dunk on Joel Anthony on the Bulls ensuing trip down the floor. That put the Bulls up by 12 with 4:35 left in the second quarter, had the United Center crowd in an ear-bleeding frenzy, Carlos Boozer pumping his fist and Noah leaping into teammates coming off the bench.

The frenzied crowd helpd the Bulls maintain that momentum until the end.

The city of Chicago wanted this matchup more than we did," Gibson said. "They were amped up."

The only way Pau Gasol-to-the-Bulls speculation makes sense is if the Lakers accept Carlos Boozer and his contract, which will pay him between $15 and $17 million over the next three seasons. The Lakers aren't interested, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, making trade speculation moot.

The Bulls are unwilling to include a package of players in any trade, especially if that package includes Joakim Noah. The Bulls interest in Gasol involves pairing him with Noah in an attempt to use their size advantage against the Heat and other playoff rivals. Including Noah in a trade makes little sense for the Bulls and therefore no deal is imminent despite persistent reports.

While the Bulls are keeping the lines of communication open and fielding calls, multiple sources said the team is unlikely to make a deal before Thursday's 2 p.m. deadline.

The Bulls value their depth, which has ridden to the rescue time and again during their injury-plagued season. It's an advantage they want to maintain.

Tom Thibodeau said with a grin at Bulls shoot around this morning that he likes to be cautiously optimistic.

All joking aside, the Bulls have maintained a cautious mentality over the past week and that will continue in the hours approaching their game with the Miami Heat at the United Center tonight.

It will be the veteran point guard's third stint with the team this season.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau insists every game counts the same, but center Joakim Noah admits that Wednesday night's showdown against the Heat means more than most.

"Everybody knows tomorrow is a big game," Noah said. "We're all excited."

The Heat scored 22 points off 15 Bulls turnovers in a 97-93 loss in Miami on Jan. 29, making ball security a top priority.

"We know we have to defend, we have to rebound, we have to take care of the ball," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "That's one thing in the game down there we didn't feel we did a very good job of. The way they convert turnovers into points, if they get into the open floor they're hard to stop. We have to do a better job."

LeBron James guarding Derrick Rose late in games as become a staple for the Heat. Thibodeau and Rose spent time watching film together after practice Tuesday.

"Just run our offense," Thibodeau said when asked how he would counter the move. "They are an excellent defensive team. LeBron is an excellent defender and their team is excellent. We have to try to attack them before they're set and if they are set we have to move them and keep the ball moving and keep our bodies moving. The big thing is taking care of the ball."

Derrick Rose has been fined $25,000 by the league for critical comments made about the officials after Monday night's win over the Knicks at the United Center.

Rose's frustration during and after the game was obvious. He drove to the basket time and again early in the game and drew contact but no foul was called.

At one point, he complained to the officials about the Knicks setting illegal screens. Again, no call.

"I've got to be the only superstar in the league going through what I'm going through right now," Rose said after the game.

Rose showed a lot of emotion after a resounding dunk with 6:02 left in the game. When asked why, Rose said: "I was mad because they weren't calling any calls the whole game. "That's probably the reason why."

When asked he thought his comments would draw a fine from the league, Rose said: "I couldn't care less right now."

Although Rose was not available to the media after Tuesday's practice at the United Center, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau addressed the issue.

"Derrick is not a complainer," Thibodeau said. "Usually, if he says something he has a point he wants to make. I thought he was driving the ball pretty hard and didn't get calls."

Derrick Rose's frustration was obvious. He drove to the basket time and again and drew contact but no foul was called.

At one point, he complained to the officials about the Knicks setting illegal screens. Again, no call.

"I've got to be the only superstar in the league going through what I'm going through right now," Rose said after Monday night's win over the Knicks at the United Center.

The difference in a closely contested game at halftime was free throws. The Knicks got to the line 21 times in the first half and converted 15. The Bulls were 7 of 11 and trailed 50-48. It evened out in the second half but Rose still believes he's not getting the respect he deserves from officials.

"I was mad because they weren't calling any calls the whole game," Rose said when asked about the angry look on his face after an empatic dunk with 6:02 left. "That's probably the reason why."

When asked he thought his comments would draw a fine from the league, Rose said: "I could care less right now."

When Tyson Chandler walked into the United Center on Monday night it was as an NBA champion. The former Bulls center, who won his ring with the Dallas Mavericks before signing with the Knicks before this season, said he's finally able to fully appreciate what Chicago has to offer.

"It's weird because just even coming to the city [Sunday], I realized how much I enjoy this city now that I'm away. Now that I'm older I'm able to appreciate the city. I was way too young when I came here. I recognize the culture and everything that the city has to offer. It's definitely one of my favorite cities."

Tom Thibodeau coached both Steve Novak and Kyle Korver and said he isn't sure who the better three-point shooter is.

"That's a great question," the Bulls coach said. "That would be a great shootout. They are both knockdown guys. Leave them open and they'll make you pay."

Novak ranks second in the league in three-point field goal percentage at .482, which is higher than his field goal percentage (.477). Korver is 18th from behind the arc at .419.

Korver made his second straight start against the Knicks on Monday night at the United Center while replacing the injured Luol Deng. Korver scored a season-high 26 points on 10 of 16 shooting, including 6 of 11 from beyond the three-point line, in Saturday night's win over the visiting Jazz.

Thibodeau coached Novak when he was an assistant with the Rockets.

"He's got one skill as great as anyone in the league," Thibodeau said of Novak. "He can shoot. Leave him open and he'll hurt you. He's a great kid, hard worker, good team guy. I'm happy for him."

The Knicks will try to snap their five-game losing streak against a Bulls team missing Luol Deng (wrist), Rip Hamilton (shoulder) and C.J. Watson (ankle) when they visit the United Center tonight.

The Bulls will have Joakim Noah back at center. Noah missed Saturday night's game against the Jazz with flu-like symptoms but participated in Monday's shootaround at the Berto Center. Deng, Hamilton and Watson did not participate, although it's possible Deng and Watson could return for Wednesday night's nationally televised game against Miami at the United Center.

By the way, tipoff for Wednesday night's game has been delayed until 8:30 p.m. to accommodate ESPN, which is broadcasting the game.

Jeremy Lin versus Derrick Rose will be the featured matchup in tonight's game.

"Derrick Rose steps up and loves challenges," Ronnie Brewer said. "It should be an interesting matchup."

Thibodeau has been following Linsanity since it began is worried about the Knicks offensive firepower and versatility even though they have lost five straight.

"They've had some tough games," Thibodeau said. "There's always a series of adjustments when you add players but they're a terrific team. They have a lot of weapons. They're putting a lot of points up on the board. They have a lot of guys who play multiple positions."

With Deng out, Brewer will draw the primary defensive assignment on Carmelo Anthony. Rookie Jimmy Butler could see more playing time against Anthony, as well. Butler got a taste of what it's like to guard the Knicks star when the Bulls defeated the Knicks earlier this season.

"He got some clean looks so we're going to have to do better than we did in that game," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said of Butler. "They scored a lot of points. Our team defense has to be a lot better. Carmelo puts so much pressure on you because of his ability to score in transition and his ability to score in the post. He hurt us with a number of different things. He's also a very good pick-and-roll player not only when he handles but when he sets.

"They can go small, they can go big. They have a lot of versatility."

Former DePaul standout and current Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin can't understand why Carlos Boozer has been the target of so much criticism since coming to the Bulls.

Corbin was an assistant for Utah during Boozer's six seasons with the Jazz.

"I worked with him for all the time he was in Utah, and some of the stuff that I heard about him after being here, I didn't understand," Corbin said. "The guy came in to work every day. He was great with our group of guys. He came in early before games to get himself ready to play. If his shot wasn't going in, he stayed after to work. He would come in and work extra. Great teammate. Versatile guy. You could put the ball in his hand and [he would] make plays. He was a big-game guy for us. He's a tremendous player and a great guy. I wish him well. We really enjoyed his time we had with him here in Utah."

While a postseason rematch with the Heat remains the No. 1 priority, Derrick Rose is also looking forward to spending time with other NBA greats while competing for a spot on Team USA this offseason.

"I could learn a lot of things from those guys," Rose said. "With them being leaders --- I'm still trying to become a young leader for this team, being more vocal, seeing how they approach everything, how professional they are. It will help out a lot just being around those guys. Hopefully, I'll come back a better player."

One of the reasons Luol Deng opted against surgery to repair ligament damage in his left wrist was his desire to play for the Great Britain national team in his home country. Noah will play for France.

Omer Asik's Turkish national team failed to quality for the 2012 Olympics in London.

"He's been talking trash to me," Rose said of Deng. "It's going to be fun seeing him over there. We'll probably eat dinner and hang out a little bit. That experience is definitely something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life."

The Bulls had only nine players in uniform for Saturday night's game against the Jazz at the United Center after Luol Deng (wrist), C.J. Watson (ankle), Rip Hamilton (shoulder) and Joakim Noah (flu-like symptoms) were ruled out.

Noah was a late scratch because of illness. Omer Asik started in his his place.

"Every night it's someone different out of the lineup or injured," Derrick Rose said. "We just have to go out and continued to play like we know how to play, which is aggressive and hard every game."

Deng tore a ligament in his left wrist on Jan. 21 and opted against surgery. He returned to the team after missing seven games but acknowledged after Thursday night's loss to the Magic that the injury has become painful and may force him to miss some games.

Deng did not participate in the team's shootaround at the Berto Center earlier in the day while Watson shot and ran, according to Thibodeau. Watson twisted his ankle in a win over the Sixers on March 4 and could return as soon as Monday night's game against the Knicks.

"Since I've been here it's his leadership," Thibodeau said when asked what Deng brings to the team. "He plays tough, he's mentally strong and he helps us even when he's not shooting well. He guards basically four positions, you can count on him every night. He brings a lot of toughness, a lot of intangibles to our team that leads to winning. Even though he has good statistics I don't think you can measure him statistically. He's just a winning player."

Deng has also vastly improved his three-point range. A career .327 shooter from beyond the three-point arc, Deng is coverting .425 this season, which was 14th in the league before Saturday's games.

"That's a testament to how hard he's worked at it," Thibodeau said of Deng's improved shooting. "I don't think there's been any change defensively. He's played exactly the same. He's been invaluable to us."

The availability of Luol Deng (wrist) and C.J. Watson (ankle) for tonight's game against the Jazz at the United Center will be a game-time decision, according to coach Tom Thibodeau.

"Nothing is happening that wasn't expected," Thibodeau said of Deng, who tore a ligament in his left wrist on Jan. 21. Deng opted against surgery and returned to the team after missing seven games but acknowledged after Thursday night's game that the injury has become painful and may force him to miss some games.

Deng and Watson did not practice with the team Saturday at the Berto Center.

"Since I've been here it's his leadership," Thibodeau said when asked what Deng brings to the team. "He plays tough, he's mentally strong and he helps us even when he's not shooting well. He guards basically four positions, you can count on him every night. He brings a lot of toughness, a lot of intangibles to our team that leads to winning. Even though he has good statistics I don't think you can measure him statistically. He's just a winning player."

Derrick Rose's 20-foot buzzer beater to beat the Bucks on Wednesday night was the third shot he has taken in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime this season. He has made all three.

"I saw it a few times," Rose said when asked if he'd seen the highlight. "I was just happy to get the win. They were making everything down there, especially their bigs with the way they were shooting the ball and the confidence they have. It was a fun game."

Rip Hamilton said doctors have told him it will take a month for his sprained shoulder to fully heal, which would make it difficult for him to be at 100 percent when the playoffs start.

The veteran said he believes he'll be able to return earlier than that.

"I don't think it's going to take me that long," he said.

C.J. Watson (ankle) is hoping to return for Saturday night's game against the Jazz.

Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard are friends but that doesn't mean Rose isn't ready for Howard to leave town. The MVP said he's tired of answering questions about the Bulls somehow obtaining the Magic center.

"It definitely getting old," Rose said. "We're sick and tired of hearing it. Like I said, the city speaks for itself. Chicago, marketing wise, is a great city. If someone chose to come here they would definitely fit. I'm cool with the teammates I have."

Howard told the Sun-Times earlier Thursday that the weather was too cold for him to play here. He may have been kidding, but no matter what he says, the league's prized soon-to-be free agent continues to be the subject of speculation about where he may end up after the March 15 trade deadline and/or next season.

That speculation will only heat up from now until the deadline.

"I don't pay attention to it unless someone comes to me --- like you all and tell me something," Rose said to a group of reporters. "I don't know what's going on or who's talking to who. You all know more than I do."

It's unlikely the Bulls will make a deal, although they are fielding calls and surveying the scene.

"This time of year it's part of the program," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "There are going to be a million trades talked about, very few happen. Most of it is speculation. Some of it I have no idea where it even comes from. Everybody is talking to each other. There's a lot of misinformation out there. You don't pay any attention to it."

Orland Magic center Dwight Howard wouldn't comment on where he'd like to end up if he is traded by the March 15 trade deadline.

But comments he made at his team's shoot around Thursday at the United Center indicate that Chicago may be out of the running.

Rose's buzzer-beating bomb burns Bucks, 106-104

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Truth be told, there is a ''Udonis Haslem Option'' when Derrick Rose has the ball with the game on the line in the final seconds of the game. But where that might be Plan B for some guys, it's Plan E or F at best for Rose.

Rose capped another sterling performance at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee with a Jordan Moment, dribbling down the final 18 seconds in a tie game before pulling up for a 20-foot jumper over Brandon Jennings at the buzzer to give the Bulls a 106-104 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.

''[My mindset] was to take the last shot,'' said Rose, who had hit 7-of-21 shots prior to the game-winner. ''I knew they were going to be playing me pretty tough. Brandon was pressuring me pretty good. And I had the opportunity to get space and make that last shot.''

No matter how hard he tried, Richard Hamilton couldn't say it: He's probably going to out awhile.

Hamilton, who has missed 24 of the Bulls' 40 games this season because of various injuries, will not play against the Milwaukee Bucks tonight in Milwaukee and officially is day-to-day with a sprained and bruised right shoulder he suffered in the first minute against the Indiana Pacers on Monday night. But the 6-7 shooting guard, with his right arm in a sling, indicated he's closer to ''out indefinitely'' than day-to-day.

''I'm just trying to lift my arm up,'' Hamilton said prior to the Bulls' shootaround at the Bradley Center on Wednesday morning. ''It's going to be ... I know ain't no miracle going to happen tomorrow or anything like that. Just trying to get the swelling down, trying to get my range of motion back. It's going to be a minute.''

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said backup point guard C.J. Watson will miss his second consecutive game with a sprained ankle he suffered against the 76ers on Sunday.

Derrick Rose has been named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

Rose tied his season high with 35 points and also had eight assists in Sunday night's win over the Sixers in Wells Fargo Center. He had 32 points and nine assists against the Hornets on Feb. 28 and 29 in a win over San Antonio the following night. He had 19 points and nine assists in 28 minutes against the Cavaliers on Friday night.

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. --- Doug Collins almost signed up for a second stint with the Bulls before he and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf decided that Collins working for him might strain their close personal relationship.

The Bulls hired Tom Thibodeau while Collins landed in Philadelphia, where he began his coaching career.

Talk about a win-win. The Bulls have blossomed into title contenders under Thibodeau while Collins inherited a team that went 27-55 in in 2009-10 and improved them by 14 games last season, which was the third best improvement from one season to the next in franchise history.

The Sixers are currently gunning for their first division title since 2000-01. Collins has also beaten the Bulls three straight times heading into Sunday night's game at Wells Fargo Center, which no other coach can claim.

"They are a proud team," Collins said of the Bulls. "They defend very, very well. Tommy Thibodeau has done a wonderful job with that team. They're defense is terrific. They rebound the ball, they shoot the three well. They have all the elements of a championship team."

Collins' team plays terrific defense as well. The Sixers lead the league in scoring defense. The 87 points they allow is the fewest points in franchise history since the shot clock was implemented in 1954-55. They also lead the league in field goal defense. The Bulls are second in points and allowed and seventh in opposing field goal percentage.

"Doug has done a great job with their team, not only with their individual defense but their team defense," Thibodeau said. "They have great speed, quickness. They play together defensively. You have to be careful. You have to take care of the ball. They're going to be in passing lanes. You can't be loose with the ball. If you turn it over they can convert very quickly."

There have been some strange games between these two teams dating back to last season, including the Bulls 121-76 drubbing of the Sixers at the United Center last season.

"It was one of the toughest losses I ever had," Collins said. "I was going back to Chicago and seeing all my friends and stuff and [was] a former Bulls coach. It was around Christmas time and they messed up my Christmas the way they hammered us that night. But I thought it was a great experience for us. We came back a better team."

The 76ers beat the Bulls at their own game. That's what bothers Derrick Rose most about losing to the 76ers 98-82 on Feb. 1.

"They were beating us to every loose ball," Rose said. "They out-rebounded us, we couldn't stop their transition. It was hard just looking at that tape."

The 76ers forced 17 turnovers in that game but are only 2-5 at the Wells Fargo Center since. Philadelphia has lost six of eight while the Bulls are won 12 of 14 since losing to Philly.

The 76ers had five players score at least 14 points in the previous meeting.

"They're athletic and quick and if you turn the ball over you put them in the open floor and that's really where they do their damage," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "That's what's different about them. They have a number of guys who can go off the dribble. [Andre] Igudala can handle the ball a lot, [Jrue} Holiday handles the ball, Lou Williams comes in and is a great pick-and-roll player, [Evan] Turner can handle the ball and Thaddeous Young is a matchup problem because of his quickness at the four."

The Bulls didn't have Luol Deng in the first game because of a wrist injury. Deng scored a season-high 24 points against the Cavaliers on Friday night.

"They beat us up pretty good the last time we played them here," Rose said. "We've just got to make the adjustment. We know this is going to be a hard-fought game and we have to come out prepared."

Kyrie Irving's introduction to Derrick Rose will have to wait --- again. Rose did not play when the Bulls clobbered the Cavs on Jan. 20. Irving will miss Friday night's game because of illness.

Still, Rose is impressed with the rookie who is averaging 18.5 points and 5.1 assists per game.

"He's a good player playing great," Rose said. "He can really shoot the ball and be a finisher."

In an interview with ESPN, President Barack Obama reiterated his faith in the Bulls and coach Tom Thibodeau and said he is confident that Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer can be the core of a championship team.

"Deng seems more confident," Obama told ESPN's Bill Simmons. "Boozer is in better shape. Derrick Rose has matured. I'm a little worried about making sure that they give him enough rest with the back spasms that he had. But the Bulls are right in there. They've got a great chance. The Heat are playing better than anybody right now. And when those folks get going on a fast break, it's over.

"But during the playoffs things slow down a little bit, and you got to run a half-court offense, and in that situation, I think the Bulls got a shot."

Obama said he's confident he will host a championship celebration for the Bulls at the White House if he's re-elected.

"Hopefully, it's this year," Rose said. "He promised us he would be at the game in the finals if we made it. It means a lot when you have the President on your side. It takes a lot of hard work to get [to a championship]. It takes dedication, focus and belief."

Obama said he has the NBA's League Pass on his iPad. He watches "SportsCenter" nightly and sometimes watches NBA games while reading his briefings after his family has gone to bed.

"I like the fact that he likes the Bulls," Thibodeau said. "We certainly appreciate the support."

President Nixon sent plays to then Washington Redskins coach George Allen. Thibodeau said he would carefully review any in-bounds plays submitted by Obama.

"We'll welcome anyone's suggestions," Thibodeau said. "That's the beauty of this job. Everybody has some pretty good ideas for you."

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