Apr 21, 2013 8:27 PM EDT
The Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets finished the regular season ranked as two of the slowest paced teams in the league, preferring to operate in halfcourt sets. As much as anything the series appears to be shaping up to be defined by health and interior scoring.
Brooklyn had the third slowest pace in the league (88.76) followed by Chicago ranking the fourth slowest (89.35).
However, Brooklyn appears to have an advantage on the interior due to the ailing health of Joakim Noah.
Noah is battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot, which gave Tom Thibodeau cause for concern on the eve of the series.
“There will be some restrictions on him,” said Thibodeau before Game 1.
While Noah has dealt with the injury previously during his career, there’s no timetable for his recovery and his current status is day-to-day.
“It’s the type of injury where you don’t know how he’s going to feel the next day,” said Thibodeau.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn headed into the postseason relatively unscathed.
“I think we’re as healthy as we’ve been in a long time,” said P.J. Carlesimo. “Maybe it’s wrong to say Joe (Johnson), Gerald (Wallace), or (Keith) Bogans are 100 percent healthy, but they’re better than they’ve been. Collectively we’re in better shape than we’ve been in a long time so that’s a positive.”
With Noah’s effectiveness limited, Carlesimo wants use his center tandem of Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche to wear down a depleted Bulls' frontcourt.
“We want to go inside regardless,” said Carlesimo. “We want to go to Brook (Lopez), we want to go to Blatche whether Joakim (Noah) is there or Nazr (Mohammed).”
The tandem worked well in Game 1 as Brooklyn received a combined 33 points on 13-for-26 shooting from Lopez and Blatche. The tandem took a noticeable toll on Noah.
“(Noah) was tired,” said Reggie Evans. “He did good for the little time that he played. It seemed like he hurt himself again, that’s what it looked like to me.”
While Noah’s health has declined towards the latter stages of the season, Deron Williams has dramatically improved since the All-Star break. Williams received a third set of cortisone shots in both ankles, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment, and cleansed his body with a juice diet.
According to Evans, Williams has rediscovered his “lift” and has played like an elite point guard ever since.
“He’s looking good,” said Evans of Williams. “He’s looking like he’s supposed to be, one of the top point guards in the league.”
While Brooklyn made a dramatic statement in Game 1, the series is far from over.
“It’s going to be a tough physical series,” said C.J. Watson. “We’ve got to go out there and match their intensity, match their toughness, and play hard every possession.”
Apr 19, 2013 9:59 PM EDT
Not much was expected from the Chicago Bulls this season.
Losing Derrick Rose, the 2011 NBA Most Valuable Player, was thought to be the biggest blow to a team that would face many this season. There would be no talks of championship contention for Chicago this season, at least that was the expectation entering the season. Perhaps an eighth seed or a trip to the lottery.
The Bulls, however, didn't allow the loss of their best player to derail their season. Guys stepped up and the team, surprisingly, comfortably made the playoffs, their fifth consecutive trip.
Their stellar play suffered toward the end of the season as injuries caught up to the surprising team. Joakim Noah missed 12 of the Bulls' final 15 games dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, while other key players missed time for the team down the stretch.
The Bulls are still a confident team, and much healthier than they have been in months entering their first round series against the Brooklyn Nets. But they know that they'll have their work cut out for them and not much time to work out the wrinkles.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Tom Thibodeau said. "We're going to have to be at our best in a very short amount of time. I know we're a well rested team but the question I have is whether we're a sharp team. We have guys that haven't played a lot of minutes, but they're going to be called upon to be at their best. The moment of truth will be here shortly."
Noah, their most important player, is still hurting, but the rest of the players are feeling good. That has built confidence entering the playoffs. The feeling is heath is their biggest struggle. If they can play injury-free basketball, they feel they can make a deep playoff run.
"I just love us healthy," Carlos Boozer said. "We're dangerous team when we're healthy and have our whole squad out there. We've had guys out for so long and we're just getting guys back. We know how much better we can play. We've had moments when we've had our whole team and played amazing this season. We've also had games where we already defeated and it was a grind. So we're happy to get guys back and hopefully we can keep getting healthy."
The Bulls finished the season 5-5 over their final 10 games. While the record is disappointing, they know they're much better than they've played. Leaving the regular season behind, the Bulls are looking forward to getting the playoffs started and reminding everyone what they're capable of when healthy and focused.
"We're a confident team," Kirk Hinrich said."We know we haven't played our best lately, but we realize when we're right we can be a very formidable opponent."
Apr 10, 2013 3:23 PM EDT
Before joining his fifth team since 2010, Nate Robinson decided to alter his mindset to maximize his potential with the Chicago Bulls. As the regular season draws to a close, Robinson and Tom Thibodeau believe he’s succeeded in his endeavor.
“My mindset was to do whatever coach asked,” said Robinson. “When I got the call (Thibodeau) wanted me to come to the Bulls, I was like 'this is my chance to show the world and these guys that I can be that player that they want me to be'. I just took an initiative to come in and do whatever it took to play as hard as I can when my number is called and just have fun.”
Robinson has been a fixture in the Bulls’ rotation by becoming a consistent playmaking point guard and defensive ball hawk.
“He’s done a good job,” said Thibodeau. “I think along with his experience, each year he’s gotten better and better. He’s been a catalyst for us and he’s had some big games. We want him to be a complete player to play on both sides of the ball and he’s trying to do that.”
Known as a top defensive coach, Thibodeau has worked relentlessly with Robinson on defensive principles and has been pleased by his progress.
“I think he’s growing in that area,” said Thibodeau of Robinson's defense. “He’s improved on his on-ball defense and his off-ball defense because he’s playing a lot with Kirk (Hinrich) now. That’s an area that he’s concentrating on right now. As long as he tries to play the best defense he can, that’s all we can ask him to do.”
Robinson has enjoyed being reunited with Thibodeau, who was an assistant coach when the Seattle native played for the Celtics.
“It’s been great,” said Robinson. “Coach Thibodeau is awesome. He’s on me all the time, which I love because that means he cares and he wants me to get better and help these guys bring energy.”
Thibodeau’s constant tutelage has helped Robinson become a more disciplined point guard and orchestrator.
“Right now I’m actually running the point throughout the course of the game when I’m in there subbing in for Kirk (Hinrich),” said Robinson. “He just molded my game to be more of a floor general and be more of a leader.”
Thibodeau has amazingly found a balance between minimizing Robinson’s erratic play while maintaining his infectious high-energy play.
“You don’t want to change who he is,” said Thibodeau. “There’s going to be some good and bad. At the end, you hope the good outweighs the bad. He’s a talented guy that can come in and knock down three or four shots real quick for you. That’s what we want him to do, provide a spark, and he’s done that.”
With the help of Thibodeau’s guidance in his eighth season, Robinson has finally seen the maturation in his game he has long desired.
“It’s funny because my ‘out of control’ is controlled for me,” said Robinson. “For me it’s just accepting my talent and getting better and slowing down and seeing the game. I’m just trying to better my talents by being more poised. I think over the years it took me a while to get it, but I guess I just love to play the game for what it is. I just have fun with it. I don’t really worry about what people say about my game. I play the way I think it’s supposed to be played, which is hard and my way. I just try to do it within a controlled system of the coaches. I just love basketball. What can I say? I’m like a kid in the candy store and I just love playing, it’s like I’m playing at the playground.”
While the game has slowed down for Robinson, it’s his rapid maturation that has helped Chicago sustain the loss of Derrick Rose and maintain a playoff spot.
Feb 21, 2013
The Kings, Knicks, Rockets, Thunder and Cavaliers have been the most active teams at the deadline over the past decade, while the Spurs, Pistons, Heat, Lakers and Pacers have made the fewest deals.
Feb 04, 2013
Gaining the trust of Tom Thibodeau has been a process for Jimmy Butler, and last year he concentrated on showing the coach that he’s always ready. Butler got off to a slow start this season, admittedly passing up shots and playing tense. Nevertheless, his minutes gradually increased, and his confidence followed.
Dec 28, 2012
For a brief moment last offseason, coming back to the Bulls looked like a realistic possibility for Keith Bogans. Ultimately, Bogans believed re-signing with the Nets fit him best.
Nov 25, 2012
Brandon Jennings set a serious tone from the tip and played an excellent game Saturday, going for 23 points, seven assists and five steals, carrying the offense with Monta Ellis missing 10-of-17 shots and Ersan Ilyasova again disappearing.
Nov 10, 2012
The Bulls remain strong defensively as expected, but scoring points without Rose will determine if the Bulls bounce around .500 this year or contend in the upper half of the Eastern Conference.
Nov 01, 2012
While the drop-off from the Heat to the rest of the Eastern Conference is severe, the Lakers, Spurs and Thunder have quick company in the second and third tiers.
Nov 01, 2012
Mark Bartelstein hoped for the Bulls to meet somewhere in the middle of the two sides’ offers, and once he got a respectable proposal to take back to Taj Gibson, both player and agent discussed terms of the deal in a tense, cramped Bulls’ locker room.
Oct 03, 2012
Thomas’ NBA aspirations are still upbeat, but it’s unmistakable that he is excited about the opportunity to play overseas. This will provide another challenge for him to meet, and he’ll have immense support.
Oct 02, 2012
With the departures of Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver, Jimmy Butler knows his role will heighten and his minutes will increase this season; Derrick Rose has been most impressed by Marco Belinelli amongst newcomers.
Oct 02, 2012
As news of Tom Thibodeau’s four-year contract extension with the Chicago Bulls spread across the Berto Center on Monday afternoon, it was collectively met with relief and excitement.
Aug 19, 2012
The Nuggets, Lakers, Heat, 76ers and Nets were amongst the teams with great offseasons, while the Bucks, Magic, Suns, Knicks, Cavaliers and Bulls were in the bad column. Here's how all 30 teams have fared in the 2012 offseason.
Aug 18, 2012
For years, Derrick Rose was opposed to joining the public exposure social media brings. He understands how fragile an athlete’s reputation can be, but this opportunity to again permeate through the NBA’s landscape was ready to be seized.
Aug 13, 2012
The Jazz and Thunder have had the most Gold Medalists since the USA began bringing NBA players in 1992, while Duke leads amongst colleges. How do the other 29 NBA teams rank?
Aug 13, 2012
Despite the allure of the Bulls’ franchise and the possibility of playing with Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard never wanted to come to Chicago. For all he talked about his first priority being winning, Howard never wanted to be sidekick to Rose, who fully surpassed him as adidas’ most popular and productive pitchman.
Aug 07, 2012
Many believe the 12-13 season is lost for the Bulls, but the blueprint to threaten opponents – Tom Thibodeau’s schemes, the swarming defense and rebounding, the strict know-how offensively – remains intact.
Jul 30, 2012
As much as John Lucas III wanted to remain with Chicago, the front office never budged from its one-year offer and couldn’t match the Raptors’ proposal, both in terms of basketball and finances.
Jul 27, 2012
The Bulls have one of the easiest schedules based on last season’s win-loss records, an outcome the franchise could absolutely use in a season in which Derrick Rose will miss significant time.
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