Chicago Sun-Times

May 2012 Archives

Bulls veteran guard Rip Hamilton signing autographs at Macy's State Street Department Store on Thursday, May 31, from 5:30-6:30pm for the first 250 fans who make any purchase in the Macy's men's department.

What was already a busy summer for Luol Deng just got busier.

The Bulls forward will not only play with Team Great Britain in the Summer Olympics but will participate in a Basketball Without Borders camp in Johannesburg, South Africa from Aug 30 - Sept 2.

Bulls guard C.J. Watson will also be at the camp, along with Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka, who is from the Congo, and the Milwaukee Bucks' Luc Mbah, a former BWB camper from Cameroon and the Thunder's Cole Aldrich. Deng, of course, is a native of Sudan.

BWB camps will also be held in Japan and Russia this offseason.

Top players from each country receive instruction from NBA players and coaches during the camps. Coaches and players also participate in community outreach.

Bulls forward Loul Deng didn't have the season he wanted to have. His individual game suffered after he tore a ligament in his left wrist. The team's fortunes were severely undercut when Derrick Rose tore the ACL in his knee in Game 1 of a first-round playoff series, which all-but ended the team's hopes of winning an NBA title.

Deng did achieve one goal he set for himself when he was named to the NBA's All-Defensive Team on Wednesday. Some believe the recognition was long overdue.

"Luol Deng, was very underrated last year," former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said earlier this season. "To not make the All-Defensive team, I thought was absurd for him not to make it."

LeBron James received 53 points after voting by NBA coaches. Players received two points for a first-team vote and one point for a second-team vote. Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka, Clippers guard Chris Paul, Grizzlies guard Tony Allen and Magic center Dwight Howard earned first-team honors.

Celtic guard Rajon Rondo, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, Knicks center Tyson Chandler and Celtics guard Kevin Garnett joined Deng on the second team.

Sixers forward Andre Iguodala had the most points of any player not named to the first-or-second teams with 19. The Bulls Joakim Noah was next with 14.

Carlos Boozer received one vote, which means he received a second-team vote from one NBA coach.

Bulls forward Taj Gibson was one of 13 players named to the 2012 USA Basketball Men's Select Team that will compete against Team USA during a six-day July training camp in Las Vegas, Nev.

Other players named were: Ryan Anderson (Orlando Magic/California); DeJuan Blair (San Antonio Spurs/Pittsburgh); DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings/Kentucky); DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors/USC); Derrick Favors (Utah Jazz/Georgia Tech); Paul George (Indiana Pacers/Fresno State); Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz/Butler); Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers/Duke); Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs/San Diego State); Jeremy Lin (New York Knicks/Harvard); Klay Thompson (Golden State Warrior/Washington State); and John Wall (Washington Wizards/Kentucky).

"The USA Select Team was a vital part of the USA Men's National Team's training in 2007, 2008 and 2010, and again in 2012 we'll utilize this team of select NBA players to help get our National Team ready for the very competitive summer that is ahead of us," said Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball chairman.

"Being chosen for the Select Team is quite an honor, and it's an important step in becoming involved in USA Basketball's National Team program in the future. In the past, current national team finalists like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Iguodala, as well as many other outstanding players got their USA National Team start through the Select Team."

The Bulls aren't counting on Derrick Rose returning next season. They aren't even planning for it. But general manager Gar Forman said he will keep the core of a team that had the league's best regular-season record in back-to-back seasons together with an eye toward the future.

Even if Rose's injury prevents the Bulls from competing for championship next season, Forman is confident they will do so in time.

"We're hopeful at some point he'll be back," Forman said. "I'm not sure we'll make plans as if he will be, but we're optimistic he will be at some point. The biggest thing in my mind and our mind with an injury like this is we've obviously spent a lot of time putting this team together. Everything was looking at the big picture, long term, and it's our job to stay focused on that and continue to look at what we feel is a long window of opportunity to have success. That's how we'll approach it. Have we taken a hit in the short term? Without question. Will we make decisions based on the short-term? We won't. Our decisions will continue to be based on the long-term and a big part of that is Derrick, who we feel will be a special player for us for the next 10, 15 years."

Rose will be continue his rehabilitation after surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee either in Chicago or in Los Angeles under the guidance of medical experts and the team's medical and athletic-training staffs. He will start running in about four months, at which point some basketball-related activities can begin, such as spot shooting. Then he'll work on cutting and then absorbing contact before he can start practicing with the team, which could happen as early as next January.

The speed and explosiveness that is his trademark should return in time, although it often takes longer than it does for the injury itself to heal.

"Some of the things you've seen Derrick do over and over again he'll have to re-learn," Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi said.

General manager Gar Forman said the team will pick up coach Tom Thibodeau's option for next season and will starting working on an extension this summer.

"Obviously, we value Tom greatly," Forman said. "We value what he brings to the organization and what he brings to the team and think he's one of the finest coaches in the league and we're hopeful he'll be our coach long-term.

Thibodeau said an extension is not foremost on his mind.

"I'm not worried about that," he said. "Those things take care of themselves."

General manager Gar Forman plans to sit down and talk to Luol Deng sometime in the next week about Deng's plans to compete in the Olympics despite a torn ligament in his left wrist and what that might mean for Deng and the Bulls moving forward.

Deng has said he will play for Team Great Britain this summer despite a wrist injury that could well require surgery that could sideline him for the first two months of the season. Deng said he will wait until after the Olympics before deciding to undergo surgery.

"Our biggest concern with Luol is his health," Forman said. "I know that's our fans biggest concern and I know it's his biggest concern."

PHILADELPHIA --- Luol Deng made one thing clear after the Bulls were eliminated in Game 6: He's playing in the Summer Games even if he does need surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist.

"I just know that I'm looking forward to playing in the Olympics," he said. "I'm excited about it, something I wanted to do since I was a kid and I'm going to prepare myself for it."

Deng tore the ligament in his wrist earlier this season and decided to play in pain rather than undergo surgery that would have resulted in him missing the majority of the regular season and perhaps even the playoffs.

"Honestly, my whole career, it's the toughest thing I've done and when I look back at it, I'm glad I did it," Deng said. "I really hope, in the long run, it's going to make me a better player. I learned a lot of things to be capable of doing that in the NBA, but I'm glad I made the decision. We had the best record and we were going into the playoffs with the best team, so it was definitely a great decision. Unfortunately, other things happened."

If Deng undergoes the surgery it will be after he plays for Team Great Britain, which could mean he would miss the beginning of next season. Complicating matters is that Derrick Rose is also expected to miss the first couple months of the season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL.

Deng said he'll wait to see how his wrist feels before and after the Olympics before deciding whether to undergo surgery.

"I haven't really ruled out not getting the surgery or getting it," he said. "I just haven't made that decision. I just know that I've got the Olympics ahead of me. Since I was a kid growing up, it's something I always wanted an opportunity to be a part of and the fact that it's in my hometown that I grew up in, in a country that gave me the opportunity to even be here, I'm looking forward to it."

PHILADELPHIA --- Joakim Noah looked tentative while warming up on a heavily taped left ankle as coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Gar Forman looked on before the game.

It's not a matter of whether Noah wants to play, but how effective he can be if he does play. Judging by how gingerly he was moving while mostly shooting during warmups, while he was cleared by the medical staff to play, he likely would not have effective, which is why it was decided that if he's going to return in this series the Bulls will have to force a Game 7 in Chicago on Saturday.

Fans at Wells Fargo Center cheered when Noah turned his ankle grotesquely in Game 3 and booed when he was helped off the floor. Before Thursday night's game, Noah exchanged words with Sixers fans who questioned his toughness and taunted him while he was warming up.

"We know his will," Thibodeau said. "He obviously wants to play. Joakim is a fierce, fierce competitor, but if he can't move it's not going to help us. We have to make sure he's healthy enough, get's cleared medically and that he can function well on the floor."

Sixers coach Doug Collins said his team would be prepared regardless of whether Noah played.

"[He brings] tremendous energy, playmaking, great offensive rebounding, intensity, all the things that matter in a playoff series," Sixers coach Doug Collins said.

Thibodeau got frustrated and cursed under his breath after his pregame interview session when asked if it was a coaches responsibility to make sure players don't put their desire to play before their physical welfare. Thibs said repeatedly during the interview session that Noah would first have to be cleared by the medical staff before Noah would be allowed back on the floor.

PHILADELPHIA --- First Taj Gibson walked into the old-school gymnasium at Community College of Philadelphia, where chairs were set up for Bulls players to meet and watch film before they took the floor Thursday morning for a shootaround leading up to Thursday night's Game 6 of their quarterfinal playoff series with the Sixers at Wells Fargo Center.

The forward who twisted his ankle in the third quarter of the Bulls Game 5 victory was not limping. Later, Joakim Noah walked into the same gym wearing headphones as curious onlookers looked on. The center who rolled his ankle in Game 3 was also walking without a limp, which is the best possible news for the injury-depleted Bulls.

Gibson insists he will play when the Bulls face elimination for the second straight game Thursday night while Noah's availability will be a game-time decision, according to coach Tom Thibodeau.

"The doctor said I can't do any harm to do it," Gibson said. "It's about how much pain I can take. I'm going to go out there and lay it on the line."

Gibson's return gives the Bulls a chance. He's had a huge impact on the series thus far. The possibility of Noah's return could give them an even bigger advantage.

Noah was on the floor shooting on Wednesday, according to Gibson, and planned to participate in portions of Thursday's shootaround, according to Thibodeau.

"It would be great for our team," Gibson said of Noah's possible return. "We would have an extra big, one of our emotional leaders back. He can help our team out in a lot of different ways."

Backup center Omer Asik has started the past two games with Noah out, although the 6-foot-9 Gibson has also logged minutes at center. Gibson and power forward Carlos Boozer have played short minutes together at times during the regular season but were an effective combination while sharing the floor in Game 5.

Thibodeau said Asik would get his third straight start if Noah is unable to play.

"It works best the way it is right now," Thibodeau said said of starting Asik at center instead of Gibson. "When Carlos has been out, [Gibson] has started and handled that extremely well. He has gotten a lot more comfortable playing the five. He and Carlos compliment each other extremely well. I also like what Omer has done. He's helped set the tone for our defense. The three of those guys together have done a great job."

Asik has taken a step back offensively this season but is a force defensively and as a rebounder. On the rare occasions when the Sixers were able to penetrate in Game 5, they were often met by Asik in the paint. The third-year center had four points, three blocked shots and six rebounds in 27 minutes, 39 seconds Tuesday night.

"He's terrific," Thibodeau said of Asik. "His shot blocking at the rim is huge, anchoring the defense, he's a big multiple-effort guy, communicates well, understands strengths and weaknesses of individual players well. He's an excellent pick-and-roll defender and offensively he's a great screener and passer."

The team that shoots better will likely triumph in Game 6. Players such as Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams and Elton Brand could heat up after the Sixers shot just 32 percent in Game 5.

Philadelphia shot a scorching 59 percent in Game 2. In the other four games, they are shooting just 36 percent.

"The biggest thing in playoff basketball is you're playing the same team over and over again so it's harder and harder to get easy baskets," Thibodeau said. "That's one of Philly's strengths. We have to take that out of the game. That's why it's so important to take care of the ball. If they turn you over and get into the open floor their speed and quickness is a big strength of theirs.

"Playoff basketball, as each series goes on game after game, if you have floor balance and you're not turning it over and are getting three defenders back, it's very difficult to get true fast breaks. You're forcing a team more into their secondary action."

Gibson's key to the Bulls forcing a Game 7 at the United Center on Saturday is more fundamental.

"Play with a lot of heart, play with a lot of effort, loose balls," he said when asked what the Bulls have to do. "Just fight for every possession. That's the key to the whole series and finishing the fourth quarter strong."

Taj Gibson did not require the use of crutches or a walking boot less than a day after he sprained his ankle in the Bulls 77-69 Game 4 win over the 76ers at the United Center. Joakim Noah, who sprained his ankle in Game 2, is still doubtful for Thursday's Game 6.

76ers head coach Doug Collins has maintained the same mantra since his team took a 3-1 series lead on the Bulls after an 89-82 Game 4 win in Philadelphia on Sunday.

With the Bulls facing elimination, he's adamant his team needs to take Game 5 as seriously as their opponent. He explained why at Tuesday's shoot around in advance of Game 5 tonight at the United Center.

"You're competing with somebody and it's more important to them than it is to you, then chances are you're not going to win unless you have more talent which is not the case," Collins said.

"You can't approach it with the idea that you've got three games to win one. That would be very dangerous."

Should Philadelphia close out the series tonight, it would provide validation for Evan Turner who said prior to the start of the playoffs that he would prefer to play the Bulls instead of the Heat because he thought it would be a more favorable match up for his team.

In the two games in Chicago, Turner's hometown, he's been booed because of those comments.

"You don't worry about the end of the game. I'm more worried about the beginning and the middle," Evan Turner said.

"I'm not trying to prove anybody wrong or rub it in their face. I'm just trying to come out and compete and help the 76ers do what's best for the organization."

Some may put an asterisk next to a potential 76ers series win after Derrick Rose missed all but Game 1 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament that will keep him out of the rest of the playoffs. But the 76ers' Andre Iguodala was quick to refute that.

"You put an asterisk on Hakeem Olajuwon's two rings?" Iguodala quickly answered referring to the two seasons Michael Jordan was playing baseball. "I think that's a part of the game. We would never want that to happen but it's the situation.

"As a team we just got to stay focused on the task at hand and try to finish things out and get a win."

A season that began with a buzzer beater on Christmas Day in Los Angeles, and included the Bulls posting the league's best record despite daily Derrick Rose injury updates, could end after Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Sixers on Tuesday night at the United Center in a way nobody expected.

The season was supposed to end with a much-anticipated showdown with the Miami Heat. Instead, it will take a Herculean effort for the Bulls to avoid being the fifth top-seeded team since 1984 to be eliminated by an eighth seed in a first-round playoff series when they host Game 5 against the Sixers at the United Center.

Despite what coach Tom Thibodeau says, the Bulls haven't "had enough to win with" during three straight losses. Joakim Noah is recovering from a sprained left ankle he suffered in Game 2. He rode a stationary bike during Tuesday's shootaround at the Berto Center and was shooting free throws after the workout.

If the Bulls can extend this series long enough, it's possible they could get their starting center back at some point.

"I hope so," Kyle Korver said. "I don't know. It was a pretty bad sprain but Jo is a pretty tough guy."

Thibodeau said Noah was "most likely" out Monday. Although he acknowledged that Noah is moving around a lot better, backup Omer Asik will start, barring a miracle.

"We'll see," Thibodeau said. "Maybe he gets better from now until tonight."

If the Bulls are to extend this series, they will need to find a way to generate offense. They've lost their best offensive weapon with Rose out. Although Noah isn't a primary scorer, he does more than most people realize for the Bulls offensively and his value extends beyond his ability to dominate the offensive boards.

The Bulls miss his ability to initiate offense from the high post.

Without Rose penetrating and generating points in the paint as well as wide-open looks for teammates, and without Noah in the high post, and with Andre Iguodala making Luol Deng a non-factor, the Bulls have to rely on their catch-and-shoot game, and Sixers coach Doug Collins has done a solid job of shutting that down by double-teaming Hamilton.

"He has got an unusual skill set," Thibodeau said. "He runs the floor. He play makes. He can shoot, he can post. There's a lot of things he can do. He's a big-time offensive rebounder. That being said, we have more than enough to win with. All of our guys have strengths and weaknesses. We just have to play to our strengths."

The other thing Noah helps the Bulls do has been sorely missing in the first four games of this series.

"Derrick and Jo are two guys who can get the ball and we get out and run," Kyle Korver said. "We're not getting fast-break points, we're not getting into our sets very quickly. We're having to take a lot tougher shots when their defense is set. They have a good defense. They really do. That's where we really miss them. We miss them a lot in our ability to run. We have a deep team, a lot of bodies. One of strengths all year is getting out and running and we haven't been able to do it this series."

Thibodeau has reminded players they have won three straight games 57 times during the past two seasons. That's an important thing for everybody to remember. As injury-depleted as these Bulls might be, winning three in a row against the opportunistic Sixers isn't out of the question.

"We can do it," Korver said. "For sure. We have to play really good basketball, though. We have to play inspired basketball, make the hustle plays and get the crowd into it."

Joakim Noah will "most likely," be out of Tuesday night's Game 5 with a twisted ankle. Thibodeau said his injured center was walking around some on his left ankle Monday.

Derrick Rose visited his teammates at the team's training facility Monday. Surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee has yet to be scheduled. The Bulls medical team wants to eliminate the fluid and swelling Rose's knee while also having him do some strengthening exercises before having surgery. It is hoped that will help him recover from the surgery quicker.

"There still working through things," Thibodeau said. "He's coming along well. He's doing a lot of rehab and feels pretty good. That's encouraging."

Luol Deng aggravated the torn ligament in his left wrist during the first quarter of Sunday's loss but practiced Monday.

"He's doing fine," Thibodeau said of Deng. "He's been dealing with this all season. It's not anything new. Some days are better than others. He just needs to keep plugging away."

PHILADELPHIA --- With Joakim Noah out with a twisted left ankle, Omer Asik made his third start of the season.

"Just do the stuff he does well," coach Tom Thibodeau said when asked what he wanted from Asik in Sunday's game. "Defend, rebound, screen well, pass well. I just want him to play to his strengths."

The Bulls lose scoring with Noah on the bench. They will also miss his ability to get his teammates involved with passes from the high post.

"Omer is more in the low post area," Thibodeau said when asked to compare both his centers' strengths. "Jo you can move away from the basket. He can play make. He's a much better shooter than he's given credit for. Jo can knock down those 16, 17-foot shots pretty consistently. That opens things up for you. That's probably the biggest difference. They're both excellent defensively. They're both very good rebounders. The offensive rebounding is the same. Jo's play making ability, too, he's highly skilled."

Noah's dribbling and passing ability make him the outlet when opposing teams try to trap the Bulls' point guards.

"Taj is pretty good at that also, to be able to hit him in the open floor and let him go," Thibodeau said of forward Taj Gibson, who will back up Asik.

Luol Deng could log some minutes at power forward as well.

PHILADELPHIA --- Although coach Tom Thibodeau said X-rays were negative, Joakim Noah's availability for Sunday's Game 4 against the Sixers is extremely doubtful.

"Most likely he'll be out tomorrow," Thibodeau said.

Noah rolled his ankle in the third quarter of Game 3 only to return briefly in the fourth quarter before being taken out of the game. He was walking on crutches with his ankle tightly wrapped before and after a film session at the team hotel on Saturday. Backup Omer Asik is expected to start. Forward Taj Gibson will back up Noah's back up.

"Omer is better offensively than he's given credit for because of his rebounding, his offensive rebounding, his screening, and he's also a very underrated passer," Thibodeau said. "He's not accustomed to playing the starters' minutes. That will be a little bit of an adjustment. We have the ability to play Luol [Deng] at the four also.''

C.J. Watson has been battling ankle and shoulder injuries all season and was especially ineffective in Game 3.

"We'll see," Thibodeau said when asked if third-string point guard Mike James may be needed Sunday, "but I'm confident C.J. will play good.''
Ronnie Brewer has played in all 66 regular season games and appeared in the first two playoff games against the Sixers but didn't leave the bench in Game 3.

"Rip [Hamilton] played more minutes, so that's what we were going with,'' Thibodeau said.

PHILADELPHIA --- Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah aren't the only Bulls players hurting, which makes their rallying from a two-games-to-one deficit after a 79-74 loss to the Sixers in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series on Friday night at Wells Fargo Center even more daunting with Game 4 looming Sunday.

C.J. Watson is hurting more then previously known. The backup point guard who once again stepped into a starting role when Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Saturday's Game 1 victory has been battling shoulder and ankle injuries all season.

It was apparent in Game 3. Watson's first three shots were air balls. He played only 20 minutes and finished with no points and four assists. Third-string point guard John Lucas III played almost 28 minutes and had 12 points and three assists despite making only 1 of 7 shots in the fourth quarter.

"C.J. is nicked up pretty good, too," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's giving us everything he has."

Luol Deng tore a ligament in his left wrist earlier this season. He claims he's fine but was favoring the injury at times while going 2 for 7 in the game. Deng also collected nine rebounds.

Deng is also being guarded by Andre Iguodala, who is one of the NBA's best wing defenders. Deng is also an elite defender, which is why two players who have matched up against each other for years have been basically cancelled each other out during the first three games. Iguodala was just 2 of 9 abd is now shooting 31 percent in three games. Deng is shooting 39 percent.

In some ways, that individual matchup has become emblematic of a what is expected to a low-scoring series between two defensive-minded teams.

Deng tried to make a shot with the shot clock winding down with 3:40 left but it was smothered by Iguodala.

"Injuries are part of the game. yOu have to have mental toughness to get past all that. We've had injuries all year. You just deal with it. If you look, you can find something every night, every game. You're short-handed, playing back-to-back, an early start, a late start, whatever it is. Or you can find a way to win. That's what you need. You need guys that have a great will to win and no matter what the circumstances are will find a way to win."

By Joe Cowley

PHILADELPHIA - The 76ers are hoping that Game 2 was more formula than fluke, and that's why Philadelphia coach Doug Collins went with the same lineup he used against the Bulls Tuesday in Chicago, going with Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday for Game 3.

"I think our preparation is good, we're ready to go,'' Collins said before Friday's game. "Now I think it's just going to come down to execution. I told our guys that the more familiar you get with a team, the harder it is because you know what each other wants to do. It becomes a battle of wills. We talked about all those hustle plays, those 50-50 balls, all those things that come into play. So you've got to execute, and the big thing is you just got to play free. For us, I want our guys to get out there and take the shots we took the other night, run, and do the things we did, and have fun doing it.''

Going off the first two games, first team to 100 points wins.

"They played their game in Game 1,'' Collins said. "Those 20 second-chance points really upped their shooting. They were so efficient. They got into a great rhythm. I thought we did such a great job disrupting their rhythm in Game 2, which created rhythm for us. When we got them out of our rhythm and sort of got into our rhythm we were able to clean up the boards and get out in the open court. We had 25 fast-break points. When we score like that the game is easier for us.''

PHILADELPHIA --- The surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate in Derrick Rose's left knee has yet to be schedule but is expected to be next week.

Rose is now going through "prehab," which consists of reducing swelling and fluid around his injured knee while strengthening supporting muscles that will hopefully allow him to recover from surgery quicker.

Rose injured his knee late in Game 1 and has been told the timetable for him to recover is approximately eight months.

"No decisions have been made," Thibodeau said. "We're just texting right now."

PHILADELPHIA --- Luol Deng needs to shoulder more of the scoring load with Derrick Rose out for the remainder of the postseason with a knee injury.

As simple as that statement may sound, it's complicated by the fact that Deng is being guarded the Sixers' Andre Iguodala, who is one of the NBA's best wing defenders.

Deng is also an elite defender, which is why two players who have matched up against each other for years have essentially cancelled each other out heading into Friday night's Game 3 of the first-round playoff series between the Bulls and Sixers at Wells Fargo Center.

In some ways, that individual matchup has become emblematic of a series between two teams that have become much more evenly matched since Derrick Rose was lost for the playoffs with a knee injury in Game 1. That's why it will likely be decided more by energy and effort than strategy and matchups.

"When you get deep into a series everybody knows each other's plays, they know what your tendencies are, they know what you love to do," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "It comes down to your ability to execute and not letting a team take you off your plays by force and really the will to win.

"Thibs is a meat and potato guy. He's not going to come and reinvent the wheel. I'm sort of that same way myself. What he's going to do is continue what they do and [say] we're going to do it better and harder. That's who he is. In playoff basketball, that's what you have to do."

Iguodala was limping noticeably after Game 2 because of a strained Achilles' tendon but the Sixers standout said he feels like he has a "new leg" after two days of treatment, which means he will continue to play a prominent role in a series in which he and Deng have basically cancelled each other out.

Deng is shooting 42 percent from the floor in the series and is averaging 12.5 points. Iguodala is shooting 35 percent and averaging 11.

"We've matched up against each other since our rookie year," Iguodala said of Deng. "We came in together. It's a lot of fun. Going into every game, I get pretty ticked when he scores and I'm sure it's the same when I score. That's going to be a key matchup but at the same time, when we go pick-and-roll, their bigs do a great job of getting the ball out of my hands. When he's coming off pin downs and he's slashing I'm looking for my bigs to help when I'm getting picked. It's like a chess match."

Said Deng: "This is not a one-on-one thing. It's not about Iguodala. It's not about myself. All year, it has been about our team. I'm not worried about any one individual. I'm worried about the Sixers. We just have to beat them."

With Rose out, Collins said he expects Deng and Carlos Boozer to combine for more shots than the 22 they took in a Game 2 loss.

"They need more from Luol," Collins said. "They need more from [Carlos Boozer] and Rip [Hamilton] and [Kyle] Korver and the guys who have played off Rose this year. They've become more primary guys."

The Sixers want to play in the open court. They had 25 fast-break points in Game 2. The Bulls need better transition defense, which is why Thibodeau is preaching floor balance, which he claims was his team's biggest problem Tuesday night.

"When the ball is being shot the perimeter players have to protect your basket," Thibodeau said. "Your bigs are going to the offensive boards to offensive rebound but your smalls have to protect the basket. If they're getting three-on-one breaks they're not doing their job."

The Bulls want to slow the Sixers down and play more of a half-court game, which would allow them to take advantage of their size inside. Boozer, for one, is hoping for more opportunities to score in the paint.

The Sixers will do everything they can to prevent that.

"We don't want to get into a halfcourt scrum with Chicago," Collins said. "They're bigger and stronger than us. They're going to want to mash us. The more of an open-court we can make it the better."

After two games, the Bulls and Sixers know what they have to do, which is why the rest of this series could turn into a low-scoring grind.

For whatever reason, the Sixers wanted it more in the second half of Game 2. The Bulls aren't used to getting out-hustled and being the less physical team, which is why players are emphasizing a return to the basics.

"We have to be aggressive, man," Boozer said. "We all have to play with a little bit of an edge. The first game we had an edge and that's why we won. In the second game we had an eight-point lead at halftime but we didn't have the same edge in the second half. We've got to come with that edge. We've got something to prove."

Even after one of the worst losses of their season, these Bulls remain very much in character. They know who they are. They know what they have to do. Just because they didn't play like a team with a defense-first mentality in an embarrassing Game 2 loss doesn't mean they're going to start searching for answers before Game 3.

"We are a good team," Luol Deng said. "We believe we're a good team. That's how we've been all year. If you watch the Bulls that's how we play. We always play hard. If we have a bad game, we come out the next game and try to change that."

That's been the Bulls M.O. all season. A team doesn't go 86 games bridging two seasons without losing successive unless it has resolve, giving credence to those who expect the Bulls to re-gain home-court advantage with a solid performance in Game 3 on Friday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Winning regular-season games while waiting for Derrick Rose to return from injury is one thing. Winning playoff games knowing your leader and best player is out for the postseason is quite another, or at least that's the other school of thought heading into a game that feels more and more like it might decide the series.

"They have the momentum," Deng said. "They're going to come out with a lot of energy. It's up to us to come out, play hard and play our game and not worry so much what Philly's doing or what they are going to try to do."

Rose isn't making the trip. Whatever emotion surrounding him tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Game 1 has become a grim reality. The standing ovation he received from the United Center crowd while delivering the ceremonial game ball before Game 2 has dissipated.

Now comes the grind of a playoff series between two defensive-minded teams that often struggle to score.

The Bulls were dominant in Game 1 and were dominated in the second half of Game 2. They insist the uncharacteristic problems that surfaced Tuesday night are more about what they didn't do than anything the Sixers did. No disrespect to Doug Collins' team. They did a lot of things right, especially when it came to beating the Bulls in the three areas that has defined their success under Thibodeau --- defense, rebounding and effort.

"We've got to play to our strengths," Thibodeau said. "That's what basketball is all about. Play to your strengths, cover up your weaknesses and we have to make sure we're getting back and not putting them in the open floor. To me, that was the biggest thing, their ability to get into the open floor."

Thibs isn't about to start tinkering with a philosophy that has resulted in the NBA's best regular-season record in successive seasons. The same goes with Collins, who is similarly entrenched in his own ideology.
With Rose out, whatever talent advantage the Bulls had is negated. The winner of this series will be the team that wants it more.

"We had a real bad third quarter," Joakim Noah said. "Way too many baskets in transition. They played harder than us. That's disappointing."

The Bulls must do a better job of stopping the quicker 76ers in transition. Thibodeau's team had only eight turnovers in Game 2 but Philadelphia had 17 more fast-break points. That was a huge point of emphasis on Thursday, as was floor balance and improving a defense that allowed the Sixers to shoot a whopping 59 percent from the floor.

Then there's also the notion --- either real or perceived --- that the league's most consistent team is suddenly fragile after the loss of Rose and an wretched all-around performance in Game 2.

"There's a lot going on," Deng said. "Like I said, it has been that kind of year. Rip [Hamilton] missed games, I tore my wrist and we thought it was for the season and then I came back and now Derrick. So it's been up and down for the guys but that's what it is. This is what's going on and we just have got to get on the floor and play."

Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich has been named the NBA's Coach of the Year, denying Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau a chance to become the first coach in history to win the honor in back-to-back seasons.

The NBA has announced that Popovich has won the award for the second-time in his 16-year career after leading a veteran Spurs team that includes Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili through the lockout-shortened, 66-game season with a 50-16 record.

Popovich finished with 467 votes from a panel of 119 sportswriters and broadcasters. Thibodeau had 315 points. The Pacers' Frank Vogel was third with 161 points.

The Bulls finished with an identical record but secured home-court advantage through the NBA Finals because they defeated the Spurs in their only head-to-head meeting this season.

Thibodeau led the Bulls to the league's best record for the second straight season despite players missing 98 games because of illness or injuries compared to 61 last season. Reigning MVP Derrick Rose missed 27 games during the regular season before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Saturday's win over the Sixers in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

Thibodeau has much respect for what Popovich has accomplished in San Antonio while winning four NBA titles.

"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," Thibodeau said before his Bulls defeated the Spurs in San Antonio on Feb. 29.

Not even Phil Jackson or Red Auerbach won Coach of the Year in back-to-back seasons, which may have been a factor in Thibodeau finishing behind Popovich. There was sentiment among some voters that if Jackson and Auerbach had not accomplished the feat nobody else deserved to, either.

Phil Jackson won 11 NBA titles but won the award only once in 1995-96. Auerbach won nine NBA championships and was named Coach of the Year in 1964-65.

Derrick Rose was undeniably the Bulls' most important player--particularly on the offensive end.

But with Rose out for the playoffs and likely part of next season, who will emerge to take over that role? Likely no one. As the Bulls have said in the days since the Rose injury, they'll look to replace Rose with a number of people.

Coach Tom Thibodeau still doesn't know if Derrick Rose will be at the United Center for Tuesday night's Game 3 against the Sixers.

"We're leaving it up to him," Thibodeau said. "As soon as he's ready to be around, obviously, we want him to be here."

Thibodeau continued to tell his players and the media that nothing changes in Game 2 even though Rose will miss the remainder of the postseason with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered late in the Bulls' Game 1 victory.

Thibodeau has used the same approach all season and he's not going to change now.

"You begin your season thinking about all the things you're going to need for the end of the season," he said. "You have to be building those habits all season long. If you're starting to build those habits now you're in trouble. Hopefully, we've built those habits. How we prepared should not change. The things we need to get accomplished in the game is not going to change and everybody knowing what they're supposed to do is not going to change. We feel if we do those things we can win."

C.J. Watson will start in place of Rose tonight. Watson has started 25 games during the regular season. Thibodeau said whether John Lucas III or Mike James is the second point guard off the bench will be a game-time decision.

"It has helped a lot not just for me but the whole team," Watson said when asked if he will benefit from playing so much in Rose's absence this season. "We have confidence we can make big shots and play big minutes even with Derrick out. We've also been able to win games with Derrick out so it's nothing new for us."

The Bulls scored 103 points in Game 1 and are now 23-0 this season when scoring 100 or more points.

"Offensively I liked the way we played," Thibodeau said of Game 1. "We scored a lot. The ball was moving. We need to take better care of the ball. If you turn the ball over against them it puts them in the open floor. Taking care of the ball is a big priority for us. Defensively, they have a lot of guys who can initiate offense for them. You have to be down and ready. We have to keep our feet moving. We have to challenge shots and rebounds."

Elton Brand was 8 of 15 from the floor for a team-high 19 points for the Sixers. The former Bull also had seven rebounds.

"You're talking about a guy who has accomplished a lot in this league," Thibodeau said of Brand. "He can shoot the ball, he can post the ball, he's tough on the offensive boards, a skilled playmaker. There are a lot of things he brings to the table. Because of all the things we have to do with guys off the dribble, too, we have to make sure we're getting back to his body. He's a tough matchup."

Derrick Rose will be unable to play for Team USA at the London Games this summer after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Saturday's Game 1 win against the Sixers.

Winning an Olympic gold medal has been a goal of Rose's, but he may never get the chance if what NBA Commissioner David Stern told ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd on Monday becomes a reality.

"My own view is that post-London, we should be thinking about what soccer does and make it 23 and under," Stern said.

There's an increasing sentiment that the current U.S. Olympic model isn't working. Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen both suggested players should be paid for participating. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban complained to Greg Couch of last week that NBA owners allow their assets to make millions for the U.S. Olympic Committee while receiving nothing in return.

"It's the biggest mistake the NBA makes,'' Cuban told Couch. "If you look up stupid in the dictionary, you see a picture of the USA Dream Team playing for free for corporate America so the U.S. Olympic Committee can make millions of dollars. If you come up with something that you own, that you give it to me for free so I can make billions of dollars, I want it.

"And it has nothing to do with patriotism. It's all about money. You don't see the Olympic Committee saying, 'Oh we made so much money. Let's give it to people.'"

Rose is 23. The next time the Olympics roll around he'll be 27, which means he would be too old to compete for Team USA, although Bulls teammates Luol Deng (England), Joakim Noah (France) and Omer Asik (Turkey) would likely be able to participate because their countries are not expected to place an age restriction on participation.

Rose was a member of the 2010 USA World Championship team that claimed the gold medal in Istanbul, Turkey. As the starting point guard for the 2010 U.S. squad, Rose averaged 7.2 points per game, 3.2 aassists per game, and 2.1 rebouns in 23.1 minutes.

"It means a lot," Rose said when asked about making the Olympic team earlier this season. "It's an honor just to be on that team. If they choose me to be on that team I would love to play. It's a goal of mine, to win a gold medal."

Rose thought playing with so many other NBA greats would help him become an even better player and leader.

"I could learn a lot of things from those guys," he 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."

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