Posts Tagged ‘Mike Dunleavy’

One gear: Thibodeau, Bulls continue to grind forward

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com

Tom Thibodeau's intensity has set the tone for the one-speed Bulls. (Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

Tom Thibodeau’s intensity has set the tone for the one-speed Bulls. (Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – If the Chicago Bulls didn’t exist, NBA commissioner Adam Silver would have to invent them.

As this team rests its star players for a fresh start in the NBA postseason, as that team eyeballs the standings to scale its efforts on a given night to playoff positioning or lottery chances, the Chicago Bulls trudge forward, always forward.

Sometimes they march. Sometimes they plod. Every once in a while, the game flows more freely and you’d swear you saw swooshes on their work boots. But this is a one-direction, one-speed, one-gear team – forward, forever in overdrive – that doesn’t apologize when critics seize on that as a problem at this time of year: The Bulls play so hard all the time, so there’s no “next level” to which they can take their game in the playoffs.

Like that’s a bad thing.

So what if Chicago doesn’t click-clack through the shift gate like some exotic sports coupe flitting about the Riviera? Armored tanks, steamrollers and threshers seem to do fine without dual-clutch 7-speed gearboxes. So do Terminators, a.k.a., Tom Thibodeau.

“We’re not changing,” Thibodeau said after the 108-95 victory over Orlando in the Bulls’ home finale. “We’re trying to win games. … We’re not changing our approach: Every game, analyze what we’re doing well, what we’re doing not as well as we would like, make our corrections, move on to the next one, know the opponent well, keep moving forward. That’s all we can do.”

You could stump a few Chicagoans by asking to identify the source of the following quote: “It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.” Who said that: Michael Biehn‘s character in the original “Terminator?” Or a Bulls player, requesting anonymity, in describing Thibs?

Forward Taj Gibson didn’t take the unnamed route when he went there Monday.

“You guys have been around for a minute now,” Gibson, a top Sixth Man candidate, told reporters. “You guys should know that guy in the other room over there, he’s not going to tell anybody to take any rest. He’s old school. He doesn’t believe in that. He just believes in pushing forward.


VIDEO: The passion of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau

“Like he said, ‘The finish line is ahead. You’ve got to just run through it. You can’t slow up, you can’t try to trot through. You’ve got to run full speed ahead through it and whatever happens, happens.’ He told us, ‘We want to walk through the fire together as a team, as a unit. Nobody’s going to take that from you. You’ve just got to keep walking through it. Don’t stop for anything.’ “

OK, so there’s no ring collection in the Chicago locker room. Backup center Nazr Mohammed is the only player to have reached The Finals, never mind win the title, and the Bulls’ collection of Larry O’Brien trophies has fit on the same shelf for 16 years now.

But then, Thibodeau and his crew aren’t preachy about their relentless ways – heck, it might scare off some free agents the way tales of Pat Riley‘s taped, full-contact, two-hour “shootarounds” used to. Grinding steadily forward simply is what has worked for Chicago.

There really wasn’t much choice, after the long-anticipated return of MVP candidate Derrick Rose ended just 10 games in. Rose’s second season-ending knee injury and the subsequent trade of All-Star Luol Deng threatened to do more than just slam shut this Bulls edition’s championship window. It had some fans luridly licking their chops over lottery slots. They, of course, were the ones who know nothing about Thibodeau.

The Bulls are 21-8 since the All-Star break and 34-17 since trading Deng in early January. Their defense is a constant, the relentless embodiment of their head coach. And though Chicago ranks ranks 28th in offensive rating (102.7), the Bulls lately have been almost breezy, scoring 100 points or more in five of their past seven.

With Gibson and Joakim Noah developing as scoring options, with shooter Mike Dunleavy moving into a starting spot up front and with D.J. Augustin dusting off his career as Thibodeau’s latest point-guard reclamation project, the offense has hit triple digits 14 times in its 29 post-break games vs. 11 times in the 52 before it.

Their 100-89 loss Sunday in New York snapped a seven-game winning streak, but at least it wasn’t the result of guessing at the Indiana-Miami flip-flopping atop the conference and trying to game the playoff seedings. If anything the Bulls Game 7 everything.

“It’s made us who we are,” guard Kirk Hinrich said after the Magic victory. “That’s just kind of the makeup of this group and the beliefs that [Thibodeau] goes by. Us as players, there’s something to be said about just coming in, preparing. You feel prepared, you’re confident, and that goes a long way.”

Dunleavy occasionally has rolled his eyes at the work-load demands he has faced under Thibodeau. Then again, the 6-foot-9 forward didn’t play on a .500 team in his first 11 NBA seasons, so he’s not complaining.

“Playing with high intensity like we do all year helps,” he said. “I certainly am going to keep the same approach in the playoffs. It’s just another game because I think we prepare for every regular-season game like it’s a playoff game. That’s the way we’ve been doing it, and hopefully we roll right through in terms of smoothness and transition into the postseason.”

Roll? Typically by this time each spring, the Bulls are limping and bleeding. Once the smoke and smell of sulfur from Rose’s latest demise cleared, though, the rest of the roster got and largely has remained healthy. As hard as Thibodeau pushes, they have become true believers in the ol’ “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” ethos.

“We believe in ourselves, we believe in our abilities,” Noah said. “We think we’re going to be a tough out. We’re going to go out there and give them hell.”

Forty-eight minutes of it, sometimes served up that way per man (see Jimmy Butler, 2013 postseason). All in one gear, at one speed.

Down goes Dunleavy…before getting back up to spark Bulls


VIDEO: Stitched-up Dunleavy scores 21 second-half points to lead Bulls to rout of Rockets

CHICAGO – Despite his years at Duke and his status as NBA offspring, factors that might cast him as one of the game’s bluebloods, Mike Dunleavy made it painfully clear he bleeds Chicago Bulls red Thursday night in his team’s 111-87 victory over Houston at United Center.

Dunleavy’s head got in the way of Chandler Parsons‘ elbow as the Rockets forward bore down on a fast break in the second quarter. Dunleavy got the call – a charge on Parsons – along with a gash over his right eye that bled instantly and profusely. The Bulls wing player, though dazed, pushed himself up to the floor and hurried to the dressing room, where he took 10 stitches.

Video and photos showed blood running down his face, and ball boys had to mop on the diagonal from the lane nearest Houston’s bench to the far corner to clean up the trail.

Naturally, since he wasn’t more seriously injured, Dunleavy’s mishap was met with amusement and a little locker-room admiration – especially since he returned in time to start the second half and score all of his game-high 21 points from that point, despite the bandage, the throbbing and the swelling.

“That gash looked scary, man,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. “That gash looked like a Rocky cut, like when Rocky was in the movie going ‘Cut me, Mick. Cut me!’ Everybody was like, ‘Yo, if you get hit one more time, it’s over for you.’ And he kept a smile on his face. He said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m gonna light it up.’ “

Said Dunleavy: “It was pretty hard initially and kind of knocked me back. But once I hit the ground and realized I was bleeding, you’ve got to go to the locker room and get stitched up. No point in hanging around the court and getting blood everywhere. … I just knew, once they got the stitches done, I was coming back.”

He hit 7 of his 11 shots in the third quarter, including 3 of 4 3-pointers, for 18 points. The Bulls, up 50-42 at halftime, outscored Houston 35-16 in the third. But Dunleavy stuck around for nearly nine minutes in the fourth anyway – Rockets coach Kevin McHale largely had yanked his starters by then – to finish 8-of-15 with seven rebounds. He even took another charge.

“That was very impressive and I think it inspired the team,” Chicago’s Joakim Noah said. “He had a huge knot on his head. Looking like Holyfield – the white version. And just coming out there, putting on a new jersey and gutting it out in the second half … it was good for Duke’s street credibility.

“It shows a lot about the character of this team, that somebody could get hit the way he got hit. I’d never seen nothing like that really, getting rocked the way he got rocked. It [blood] was really coming down. Ten stitches. Then to play the second half the way he played? I like that [stuff].”

Easy for Noah to say. Dunleavy said the Bulls’ medical staff checked him for symptoms of whiplash and also peppered him with some questions as part of the NBA’s concussion protocol. “They were asking me questions and I was answering them in a way that wouldn’t lead them to believe I had a concussion,” he said.

At that point, Dunleavy said he had no doubt he would play in the second half, though he didn’t attribute his performance to the blow or any emotions from it.

“It was just a matter of how long it took ‘em to stitch me up. I’ve had that happen a couple times. Sometimes it’s 10 minutes, sometimes it’s 20,” he said. “It wasn’t a malicious hit on Parsons’ part. Sometimes in that case, when it is intentional, yeah, it can fire you up. But I was kind of sitting back here bored, getting stitched up. I wanted to play.”

It’s been a long season for Dunleavy, who signed a bargain contract (two years, $6.5 million) with the Bulls last summer in the hope of becoming a valuable reserve on a championship contender. Then Derrick Rose went down again, Luol Deng got traded and Dunleavy got bumped into the starting lineup for 44 of 65 games so far.

He’s averaging 30.4 minutes, his most in six years, while shooting just 42.8 percent, 37.0 percent from the arc. Right up to the trade deadline three weeks ago, there were rumors that Dunleavy might be moved, an extra shooter for an ambitious team. But the Bulls kept him, and coach Tom Thibodeau has used him every which way.

“That is the price of winning,” Thibodeau said of Dunleavy’s gash, “and that is why he is so valuable to our team. When you talk about toughness, that is toughness.”

Teammate Jimmy Butler said: “He’s on this team for a reason. He’s a tough SOB. Mike’s been big for this team. Helluva player, helluva shooter, helluva scorer.

“But I will make fun of him when he comes in tomorrow with a black eye.”

Emotions Well Up On Road-Weary Bulls


VIDEO: Bulls lose big to Kings in Sacramento

Some percentage of sports is acknowledged to be mental (or emotional or psychological or whatever words you choose to distinguish the thinking-and-feeling stuff from the physical). Fifty percent, some coaches will tell you. More than that – 75 percent – others may contend. Or as Yogi Berra allegedly liked to say, “Ninety percent of this game is half mental.”

The Chicago Bulls, at the moment, are all mental.

Before, during and after their 99-70 loss to the Sacramento Kings Monday night, the Bulls in fact were a hot mess. The most obvious and video-worthy of them was center Joakim Noah, who momentarily lost his mind after being banished in the third quarter with his second technical foul. Noah erupted, going into his own Al Pacino-esque, “You’re out of order! You’re out of order!” movie-courtroom rant, only he directed his wrath and his pointing at three referees rather one judge.

But the Bulls’ center, typically a ball of emotions in the calmest of times, has had plenty of company lately. Forward Carlos Boozer is irritated with his benchings in fourth quarters (he has played only 128 of his 1,314 minutes, less than 10 percent, after the third quarter). Coach Tom Thibodeau is frustrated that Boozer hasn’t absorbed the reasons for those benchings – primarily, backup Taj Gibson is a more stalwart defender, even as he improves offensively – and general manager Gar Forman is disappointed that Boozer shared his irritation with reporters before the team’s shootaround Monday morning at Sleep Train Arena.

Gibson, meanwhile, probably is confused by a wild-hair trade rumor that A) makes no sense for the Bulls, B) seems built off the flimsiest of dots-connecting, and C) makes no sense for the Bulls. Wing Jimmy Butler is flummoxed, or ought to be, by his miserable shooting – 36.8 percent and 27.6 from the arc, after 46.7 and 38.1 in 2012-13.

Reserve Mike Dunleavy should be feeling a little cranky about now, since – to use team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf‘s adjective – this “mediocre” trudge through the schedule wasn’t what Dunleavy imagined when he signed last summer, nor was the trade speculation hovering over him for the next couple of weeks.

And naturally, the whole lot of them sure are forlorn over the loss of point guard Derrick Rose to a second season-ending knee surgery and the subsequent trade of forward Luol Deng as a bag-it move to avoid luxury tax. Deng is heading toward free agency and was unlikely to re-sign at Chicago’s price, so why go into the onerous tax and lock in repeater status for, y’know, a mediocre season?

All of which illustrates that the NBA challenges players’ minds as much as, maybe even more than, their bodies. Mental toughness is a must for teams that want to not just survive but achieve, and really accomplish big things.

The same Bulls team that reeled in the immediate wake of Rose’s injury, losing 12 of 15 in a month’s span, had righted itself through some very physical tactics: Defense and effort. The Deng trade on Jan. 7 sent Noah into a funk, yet he appeared to channel his emotions then into rousing individual performances, stringing together double-doubles and growing his point-center role in the offense.

Now, however, Chicago is halfway through a six-game, 13-day “Ice Show” trip that forces the team out of United Center each year at about this time. A 2014 that began with nine victories in 11 games, bumping them above .500 at 21-20, has turned into a 3-4 slip since. They’re on the road through Sunday, they missed 56 of 78 shots against the Kings’ defense – the Kings’ – and their offense is off the rails (less than 90 points in four of the past five games).

The whole we’ve-seen-this-movie-before storyline, with Rose declared out till October, is wearing on everybody – players, coaches, management, fans – and the Bulls are stuck between their usual plucky selves and the upside-down allure of stumbling their way into the lottery for a deep draft.

Until the Bulls wrap their heads around what’s left of this season, and what it is they really want to be or achieve, there’s nothing physical (other than reliable health of the players who remain) that will help. This is mental.

“The one thing about this league – things can change quickly on you,” Thibodeu told reporters in Sacramento. “And they have. So it went from good to bad very quickly. And just as quickly as it has gone from good to bad it can go from bad to good again. We gotta change. We gotta have more urgency. We gotta work our way out of this.”

Actually, they need to think their way through it.

“We can’t get mired in personal dilemmas,” Thibodeau also said. “You got to get into the team. Get into the circle. That’s what we need to do.”

‘Blowout Minutes’ Contributing To Chicago’s Injury Woes?


VIDEO: The GameTime crew talks about how the Bulls are adjusting without Derrick Rose

CHICAGO – On a short list of the dirty words of Chicago sports, “minutes” is to the Bulls these days what “Bartman” is to the Cubs or “Cutler contract” is this week to the Bears. Cringe-inducing lightning rods, all three of them.

To many around the Bulls, outside the team and even inside, minutes equal workload, which equals overuse, which equals injuries. No team has been more waylaid by them the past two seasons than Chicago. The most obvious have been Derrick Rose‘s two knee mishaps: an ACL blowout that wiped out 2012-13 and the torn meniscus that shut down his comeback after just 10 game this season. But others – Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler – have crowded into trainer Fred Tedeschi‘s domain often enough that he should hand out numbers, like the deli counter.

So far this season, only Gibson, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy have played in all 31 games. Joakim Noah has missed just one, but that’s on the heels of a training camp and preseason lost almost entirely to a groin strain. Deng came back Thursday against Boston from soreness in his left Achilles – for the second time – but has missed nine games. Hinrich’s aching back put him down for a week last month. And Butler followed up a case of turf toe that wiped 11 games off his schedule with a sore ankle that cost him another just before Christmas.

Because this is more than a one-player or one-snakebit-season thing with this club, questions and criticism have intensified about coach Tom Thibodeau‘s demands on and use of his players. Remember how Butler played three entire games consecutively and hit 48 minutes in five of 12 overall? And how Deng, after averaging 39 minutes through 211 games in Thibodeau’s first three Chicago seasons, got so worn down that he became sick, leading to the spinal-tap exam and complications that put him in the hospital in what some termed a life-threatening crisis?

Last season, despite Rose’s absence and lineup juggling to accommodate other hurt players, the Bulls overachieved to a 45-37 finish and a first-round upset of Brooklyn in the playoffs. This season, they’re 13-18 – 7-13 since Rose went down Nov. 22 – and the crankiness has become more targeted.

Say “injuries” and the dogs of Chicago instantly drool. So do some many miles from United Center, too.

One former NBA player and coach told NBA.com recently: “Is Tom going to become the new Larry Brown, where after three years, because of the grind he put on guys, they can’t take it? Because the players were complaining about Thibs and practices last year, and all the minutes they were playing there. On their team, everybody’s always hurt. Even Jimmy Butler – young guys are breaking down. He just keeps his foot on the pedal the whole time.”

Leave it to NBA.com’s stats maven, John Schuhmann, to pull some numbers that indicate just that: Minutes logged late in lopsided games.

Most fourth-quarter minutes with team up or down
16 or more points among players who have started
at least half their team’s games
Player MIN Team MIN PCT
Lance Stephenson 74 124 59.6%
Wesley Johnson 71 96 74.1%
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 65 104 62.5%
Joakim Noah 63 124 50.7%
Victor Oladipo 63 114 55.3%
Paul George 56 124 45.1%
Kirk Hinrich 56 124 45.1%
Jodie Meeks 54 96 56.4%
Arron Afflalo 51 114 44.7%
Nikola Pekovic 48 126 38.1%

Makes sense, right? If a coach is using key rotation players deep into games that look to be breezy victories or lost causes, then he is overburdening them and courting future injuries from overuse. Or, viewed from the half-full perspective, that’s a swell time to conserve energy and legs, while giving backups and young players on-the-job experience. At least that’s how coaches like San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and a few others see it, yanking veterans such as Tim Duncan and Tony Parker unless circumstances change drastically.

Now consider the Bulls: Through Friday’s games, they had five players among the league’s top 59 in fourth-quarter minutes when their team was either ahead by, or behind by, 16 points or more. Sixteen points, the filter applied via NBA.com/Stats, seems a reasonable-enough definition of “blowout” or “garbage time” in the fourth quarter – that means it is a six-possession margin. Through Friday, Schuhmann discovered, teams were 1-205 when trailing by 16 points or more in the fourth quarter. The lone exception: Golden State’s comeback against Toronto on Dec. 3.

(more…)

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 12


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 12

NEWS OF THE MORNING

One trainer helps mold NBA’s superstars | Bulls’ offense hits new lows in loss to Knicks | Report: Asik changes agents

No. 1: Meet the NBA’s trainer to the stars — From Derrick Rose to Kevin Durant to Kevin Love to Steph Curry (and many others), making the leap from good young player to bona fide superstar or even MVP honors comes from hours of work away from the spotlight. One common thread between all of these players is the man they’ve hired as their trainer, Rob McClanaghan. McClanaghan has helped mold, rebuild or deepen each player’s game in one way or another and in a great feature from Yahoo!Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, we get a look at precisely how he helped these players reach the next level in their games:

Long before Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose could resume a relentless rehabilitation regimen, the youngest MVP in NBA history and Rob McClanaghan had to go back beyond all the fierce workouts – beyond the thousands of hours of shooting and slashing and sweat – and resume the most fundamental of grade school drills: form shooting.”One hand, elbow in, eyes on the rim,” McClanaghan remembered over dinner recently. “I think it was more mentally taxing on him than anything we did, because D-Rose always wanted to do more. My job was simply to tell him, ‘Be patient. We have time.’ “

Beginning over 18 months ago, shuttling between Chicago and Los Angeles, McClanaghan and Rose progressively did more and more. Once Rose had missed a full season and returned to the gymnasium in June, McClanaghan told him simply: “I’m going to work you out like you never got injured. Let’s go back to what we did before you ever get hurt.”

From his predraft workouts at the University Memphis to his MVP season with the Bulls, Rose has relied on McClanaghan to run his workouts, sharpen his skills and bring him back from the abyss of a torn ACL. Once again, with a torn meniscus costing Rose the rest of this season, they will return to the gymnasium together on the star’s jagged journey back.

When Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love needed the summer of his life to restore him to All-Star status, Love was back with McClanaghan, his long-time trainer, in Los Angeles.

When Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant wanted to wash away the frustration of an early exit in the playoffs, he came to McClanaghan for a summer of early morning and evening workouts. When endorsement travels sent Durant overseas for a promotional tour, he brought McClanaghan with him. Golden State guard Stephen Curry left his old trainer and hired McClanaghan.

In trying times for the NBA’s biggest basketball stars, at their most crucial crossroads, it is uncanny how they keep coming back with McClanaghan for the crux of the work growing their talents.

From a consistent presence in players’ lives to a solitary companion in rehab processes to the fixer of lost souls and games, McClanaghan has transformed himself into one of the most influential figures in pro basketball. When the next wave of college stars declare for the 2014 NBA draft, it’s almost assured agents will hire McClanaghan to oversee the preparation process for several of them.

McClanaghan became the primary trainer for several of [Arn] Tellem‘s clients, including Rose, Westbrook, Atlanta’s Al Horford and New Orleans’ Tyreke Evans. McClanaghan ran the predraft workout training for dozens and dozens of players, and soon referrals had him working with stars outside Tellem’s stable. There isn’t a general manager, or few high-profile coaches, who haven’t sat in the gym for McClanaghan’s workouts.

In the past year, McClanaghan parted with Tellem and has gone out on his own. When troubled free agent Lamar Odom needed two weeks of intense work to springboard his comeback, his advisers flew him to Rhode Island to work with McClanaghan.

In the end, his most profound influence comes working with superstar players. Over the past several summers, the balance of power in the NBA played out in McClanaghan’s gym in Santa Monica. And in a lot of ways, his court turned into comeback and redemption central in the summer of 2013.

“One of the best summers we ever had,” McClanaghan said. “Derrick is coming off his injury, K.D. is coming off a disappointing end to his team’s season, Kevin Love and John Wall are coming off injuries and they just came in there and killed it.

“What makes it so incredible is that the way the very best players bring it every day in the gym. There’s an aura to it, a level of competition that I think can be intimidating to other players who come and work out there. If you don’t bring it like them, you may get called out. They will bring it harder than the guys who are free agents, who are fighting to stay in the league. And sometimes I think lesser-talented guys don’t come to the gym because of that. They ask themselves, “Do I want to work that hard? Do I want to bring it?’


VIDEO: McClanaghan talks with The Beat crew about his high-profile clients

***

No. 2: Bulls’ offense continues to sputter in loss to Knicks — In case you were wondering, the last time the Chicago Bulls failed to score at least 80 points in three straight games — a slump they’re currently in — it took place back in 2001 … the height of the post-Michael Jordan rebuilding years. With last night’s loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Chicago finds itself in 14th place in the East and stumbling fast. Bulls.com blogger Sam Smith details the issues with Chicago of late:

Give the Bulls this: They were hustling and still running despite having to play so much and so long and with so little help. They were going to the floor for loose balls and fighting over screens. But defense and rebounding doesn’t add any points to the total.

Mike Dunleavy is regarded more as a catch and shoot scorer. But with Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler out, Dunleavy has basically emerged as the lone offensive option.

But noticing the Bulls not only weren’t making outside shots or even preferring to take them, the Knicks as the Bucks did basically sunk into the lane and invited the Bulls players to shoot. It’s also why the turnover numbers remained astronomical and are difficult to remedy for now.

If you cannot make shots or pose a threat to, then the defense sags back into the lane. That closes off passing lanes and reduces the spacing. The Bulls are a good passing team and always looking for the extra pass, the interior pass, the backdoor. But with five defenders basically inside, there’s little room to get a pass through and lots of ways to create turnovers. The postups for Gibson and Carlos Boozer, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds, are thus also clogged. And there isn’t always a lot of active movement to spread the defense, not that they’re biting that someone might actually make a long shot.

The Bulls, 8-12 and two and a half games ahead of New York for 14th in the Eastern Conference, in back to back nights lost to the teams with the two poorest records in the Eastern Conference. Of course, they have also beaten the only two teams in the Eastern Conference with winning records, Indiana and Miami.

“I think that we showed some fight tonight,” said Joakim Noah. “We just got to stick together as a team. We’ve been losing a lot of tough games right now, but we can’t pout. We have to stick together through the hard times. We’ve got some guys coming back. Keep grinding and I know this is going to turn around. It’s tough. Losing sucks. We’ve been through a lot this year. A lot of adversity. But I think that we have a positive group. You can’t get too down on yourself. We’ve just got to move on to the next game. As guys come back, as guys understand what their roles are, our team will be a lot better.”

It has been perhaps the most frustrating and ineffective stretch of basketball for the Bulls in more than a decade with the loss of Rose, multiple injuries, a vanishing offense and a series of last second losses.

But in the end, as furious and fearless as they were on defense, that’s how mostly inept and incomplete they Bulls were on offense as after tying the game with 3:38 left the Bulls didn’t score again until there was 10.8 seconds left and they trailed by seven points.

“Part of the problem is we have a lot of moving parts so we have guys who are not used to playing with each other,” said Tom Thibodeau. “But we can’t use that as an excuse.”

***

No. 3: Report: Frustrated Asik switches agents — Rockets center Omer Asik has been waiting for weeks, seemingly, to find out where he will be traded to. As he endures the trade rumors associated with his name and potential deal being bandied about, Asik will have a new agent filtering the news for him. According to CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger, Asik has switched to the mega-group led by agent Arn Tellem:

Disgruntled Rockets center Omer Asik is changing agents, switching from Andy Miller to Arn Tellem of Wasserman Media Group, league sources told CBSSports.com on Tuesday.

Asik’s decision to change agents was first reported on Twitter by the Turkish basketball site Superbasket.org. He must submit paperwork to the National Basketball Players Association to formalize the change, and then Tellem must wait 10 days before commencing representation.

Asik has been unhappy with his role in Houston since the Rockets signed Dwight Howard as a free agent this past summer. He has made a formal trade request, and Rockets GM Daryl Morey has been ramping up his efforts to trade him. Asik was lured away from the Bulls as a restricted free agent in 2012 with a three-year, $25 million deal. The actual payout on the third year of the deal next season is $15 million, which could be a deterrent to consummating a deal.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: A good look at why Jeff Van Gundy didn’t call last night’s Bulls-Knicks game in New York … Speaking of Chicago, reports indicate they will soon sign guard D.J. Augustin to a deal … Clippers reserve forward Antawn Jamison passed the 20,000 point mark in his career

ICYMI Of The Night: Lob City’s crew is known for their power finishes, so when they have a rare miscue (like this one from DeAndre Jordan), it’s worth a look …


VIDEO: DeAndre Jordan’s attempt to finish the lob gets stuck between the rim and the backboard

Back And Forth With Bones: Bulls-Jazz

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Back and Forth With Bones is an email exchange between NBA.com’s John Schuhmann and NBA TV’s Brent Barry during a Monday night game. This week, they sat down (Schuhmann at home in New Jersey, Barry in the studio in Atlanta) to watch the 6-6 Chicago Bulls and the 1-14 Utah Jazz on NBA TV.

Pregame

Schuhmann: I think this game qualifies as the Saddest Matchup of the Season. The Bulls just lost Derrick Rose for the year and the Jazz are 1-14, having trailed three of their last four games by at least 28 points. But somebody has to win tonight!

Chicago has actually been much better defensively with Rose off the floor, and Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler is a pretty strong defensive backcourt. But for the time being, they’re also without Butler. So Marquis Teague and Tony Snell will each have a chance to prove they belong in the rotation. Long-term, they should be OK defensively, and they’ve been pretty poor offensively thus far, but they won’t be able to get much better without Rose.

And obviously, this puts more pressure on Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah to play big minutes and stay healthy. Noah’s minutes (29.3) are down below where he was two years ago (30.4) after a big increase last season (36.8), but I wonder if they go back up now that Rose is out.

Utah had two of their better offensive games upon Trey Burke‘s arrival, but they’ve actually been at their best with Diante Garrett playing point. This guy is a plus-24 for a team that’s been outscored by 67 points since he arrived.

Chicago can get points on second chances. They rank third in offensive rebounding percentage and the Jazz rank 29th in defensive rebounding percentage. It’s strange that Utah is such a bad rebounding team with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter (who’s out with a sprained ankle) up front. They’re actually worse with both of them on the floor than they are overall, but we talked a couple of weeks ago about how they extend out too much on their pick-and-roll coverage.

What are you looking for tonight?

Barry: So many things going wrong for both of these teams. Both are coming off very embarrassing performances and have a number of players in the role of proving they belong to be in the rotation, if not in the NBA.

The Kanter loss for the Jazz will greatly affect their ability to score points. Burke is trying to get his legs and conditioning back after just one start. And beginning his career with a team under these circumstances is very very tough.

I guess this game boils down to the identity of the teams. The Bulls have one and Utah has yet to establish one. I look for the Bulls to respond in a way that they have in the past without Rose. Even though the makeup of this team is different, they should be able to pull this game out with the experience of their roster.


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Robinson On Rose-Less Bulls: ‘They’ll Figure Out A Way To Win’

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DALLAS – Back in Chicago for a late October preseason game, Nuggets guard Nate Robinson acknowledged how much he missed his old Bulls teammates with whom he’d been through so much during last season’s inspiring and trying ride without Derrick Rose.

Exactly a month later, with Rose having undergone season-ending knee surgery Monday, it’s the Bulls who might miss Robinson more than they could have imagined.

An important offensive spark and a big-shot maker during his one season with Chicago, Robinson never got the chance to play with Rose. Just four nights ago, he faced off against him in Denver, going for 11 points and three assists to help his new club beat the Bulls by 10. The next night at Portland, Rose tore the meniscus in his right knee just 10 games into his return from the torn ACL in his left knee that kept him out all of last season.

“Sad,” Robinson told NBA.com Monday night as the Nuggets prepared to face the Dallas Mavericks. “It’s sad for me, it’s sad for him, I know for sure. My son was really sad about it because he loved Derrick Rose. He got a picture with him last year. He was so excited.”

The entire NBA was excited to have Rose, the 2010-11 league MVP, back in action. Suddenly, and sadly, everybody’s wondering if Chicago can reset again without their star point guard and grind out another season without him. That process has started excruciatingly slow in the immediate aftermath. On Sunday in Los Angeles, the Clippers hammered the Bulls by 39 points, 121-82. Playing at one-win Utah on Monday, the Bulls struggled again, losing, 89-83 to the Jazz in OT.

“It’s tough. It’s definitely going to hurt them, but they’re tough, man,” Robinson said. “They’ll figure out a way to win. They always do.”

They’ll have to do it without the bolt of energy that is the 5-foot-9 Robinson, who produced one of those familiar scoring flurries in Dallas with 17 points, 13 coming in the fourth quarter that included three 3-pointers to help the Nuggets get a 110-96 road win. With Chicago, Robinson averaged 25.4 mpg and played in all 82 games for the injury-riddled squad. He averaged 13.1 ppg and 4.4 apg for the Bulls, and 16.3 ppg during their gritty playoff run into the East semifinals that included an unforgettable 34-point explosion in the triple-overtime Game 4 win in the first round against the Nets.

Robinson started 23 games and was indispensable to Chicago’s success considering Kirk Hinrich, who again takes over as the starting point guard, played in just 60 games last season.

In Sunday’s loss to the Clippers, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau started Mike Dunleavy alongside Hinrich with regular starter Jimmy Butler (sprained big toe) still injured. Monday night at Utah, Thibodeau gave rookie Tony Snell the start. At the point, Chicago also has veteran journeyman Mike James and second-year point guard Marquis Teague, who played in 48 games last season and had played in just half of the Bulls’ first 12 games.

Considering the circumstance, Robinson, who signed a two-year, $4.1-million free-agent deal with the Nuggets, would likely again be counted on as a big-minute contributor in Chicago. But he’s long gone.

“I don’t know what they need. I don’t know nothing about it,” Robinson said of the Bulls’ predicament. “I know these guys here, I got their backs, my new teammates.”

It hasn’t been instant success start for Robinson, 29, in Denver, which has a glut of backcourt players with Randy Foye starting alongside Ty Lawson, and a bench that includes veteran Andre Miller, who still logs 18.9 mpg, plus second-year swingman Evan Fournier. New coach Brian Shaw is playing Robinson 16.9 mpg. He’s averaging 7.5 ppg and 2.3 apg. He’s shooting 34.4 percent from the floor, although 40.6 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

After a sluggish start to the season, the up-tempo Nuggets are now 7-6 and on a three-game win streak as they adjust to Shaw’s more inside-out offensive approach. Forward Wilson Chandler recently returned to the lineup and at some point forward Danilo Gallinari will make his return from the ACL injury he sustained last April.

Still, the Nuggets are getting up and down the floor, a quick pace that seems a natural fit for the frenetic Robinson.

“I just like to play basketball,” he said.

Gibson, Dunleavy Are Bulls’ Other October Bright Spots

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CHICAGOThe bright spot of the preseason so far for the Chicago Bulls is a no-brainer: Derrick Rose hasn’t just looked like his old self at times, he has looked quicker and stronger than his old self, with no apparent inclination to baby his surgically repaired left knee.

It’s early, but it looks as if sparing himself the rigors of an 82-game season might have benefits beyond the restoration of that torn ACL. That rehab year, in fact, almost might have been a physical and mental sabbatical.

Consider: Through five October appearances, Rose has scored 104 points in 124 minutes. That’s a rate of .839 points per minute and THAT is more prolific than at any previous point in his career. He was at .454 as a rookie in 2008-09, .564 a season later, .670 in his 2010-11 MVP season and .620 in an injury-riddled post-lockout season.

“He has great balance to his game right now,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said after the 105-84 dispatching of Milwaukee Monday night at United Center. “If you back up on him, he doesn’t hesitate to pull up. … He is pushing the ball and attacking right from the start.”

The dim spots for Chicago have been obvious as well: Joakim Noah (groin strain), Jimmy Butler (bruised left knee) and Kirk Hinrich (concussion) all are hurt. Injuries big and small have undone Chicago repeatedly during the Thibodeau era, at least by spring, a source of profound frustration for the team and fans.

It’s especially vexing this preseason, with Noah eager to build on an All-Star season, Butler promoted into the shooting guard spot and Hinrich presumably freed by Rose’s return to lead the second unit and sometimes play alongside the star point guard. A lot of learning time is being burned, with the regular season a week away.

Fortunately for Chicago, two other players have eased the fretting and kept the storyline from going entirely Rose 24/7: Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy.

Gibson is the 6-foot-9 power forward whose contract extension last October produced a nice payday (four years, $33 million) and a step-back season. His scoring, rebounding, shooting and defense all dropped from previous levels, a particular problem in the wake of backup center Omer Asik‘s departure. Then there were stretches of 10 and seven games that Gibson missed with left knee issues.

“I think he was distracted last year,” Thibodeau said recently. “He had a different sort of season. Once he got on track and started playing well, he took on the injury. He still managed to have an OK season, but it wasn’t up to his standards.”

Those standards are going up now, along with expectations, based on Gibson’s work during the Bulls’ 6-0 start. His 14.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in 27.7 minutes translate to 18.4 and 10.2 per 36 minutes, easily the best of his five NBA seasons, and he’s making 62.5 percent of his shots. Thibodeau calls him the “best practice player” of their preseason.

Playing center more in Noah’s absence, Gibson came back heavier and stronger. He’s more comfortable and confident in the offense, not rushing as much. And he was reminded over the summer, in talks with Thibodeau and in workouts with Rose, of the value of hard work.

“One thing when you’re an NBA player, you want to be perfect,” Gibson said. “I was frustrated. I felt like I could have done a lot better. When I started working out, especially in the weight room with Derrick, I just had that mindset. I was thinking about playoffs, I was thinking about Miami, I was thinking about all those moments and I just made it bother me. I thought about the [final playoff] series, the season. I had a chip on my shoulder and I still do.”

Dunleavy was thinking about the playoffs, too — and how seldom he has sampled them. The 11-year veteran has gone twice, without ever playing for a team that finished .500 or better. That’s what led him to sign as a free agent with Chicago, where the learning curve can be steep — especially defensively — for newcomers. Wings like Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Richard Hamilton and Marco Belinelli have had periods of adjustment, but Dunleavy has had a fairly breezy transition thus far.

“I think I have an understanding of what we’re trying to do at both ends,” he said. “Yeah, I’m not shooting the ball great, but all the other stuff I feel really comfortable with. Each and every day, there’s always something new you’re picking up and learning.”

Thibodeau has been delighted with Dunleavy’s versatility, decision-making and potential to create space with his perimeter shooting. He has hit only 33.3 percent of his shots (5-for-16 from the arc) but he has started three of the six games and been used in various combinations. Against the Bucks, Dunleavy had 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 32:35. He orchestrated a highlight, too, dropping a behind-the-back pass for Gibson for a fast-break dunk.

“He’s a 6-9, 6-10 wing,” Gibson said. “He can shoot, he can rebound, he can dribble. He looks like the old Dunleavy when he was at Duke – a triple threat. You look at his size, he’s really big, he’s in there rebounding. Him and Lu [Deng] give us tall wings. His shot is going down now. As long as his confidence is going, he’s good.”

Gibson and Dunleavy both have been good, sources of encouragement beyond the most obvious one.

Five Most Underrated Free-Agent Signings

By Jonathan Hartzell, NBA.com

The NBA offseason tends to be dominated by articles and information about the top players in the league. Often forgotten about are the fringe stars and role players on every team who do the little things to help win games.

With this in mind, here are the five most underrated free-agent signings of the 2013-14 offseason:

Earl Clark, Cleveland Cavaliers – 2-years, $9 million

Earl Clark should help the Cavaliers' bench.

Earl Clark should help the Cavaliers’ bench.

Clark instantly fills a void for the Cavaliers and he could help Cleveland make it back to the playoffs. The 6-foot-10 Clark had his best NBA season with the Lakers in 2012-13, averaging 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23.1 minutes. He will provide valuable length and athleticism off the bench at an extremely affordable rate and, at 25 years old, his game still has a lot of room to grow.

Jose Calderon, Dallas Mavericks – 4-years, $29 million

Jose Calderon's passing ability will be welcomed in Dallas.

Jose Calderon’s passing ability will be welcomed in Dallas.

The Spanish guard played eight seasons with the Toronto Raptors before being traded to the Detroit Pistons midseason. As a Raptor he experienced only one winning season, but he proved to be one of the best distributors in the league. He added a significantly improved 3-point shot last season to finish the season averaging 11.3 points and 7.1 assists on 49.1 percent shooting and a league-leading 46.1 percent from 3-point range. The contract he signed with Dallas this summer is arguably too long and expensive for a player who isn’t a stalwart defender. However, this will prove to be an important deal if Calderon is able to help Dirk Nowitzki lead the Mavericks back into the playoffs.

Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks – 2-years, $19 million

Paul Millsap may have a lot of reasons to smile in Atlanta.

Paul Millsap may have a lot of reasons to smile in Atlanta.

This is a great deal if the Hawks’ plan is to make the playoffs this season. Millsap is one of the most underrated power forwards in the league and incredibly Atlanta signed him to a practically risk-free two-year deal. The 6-foot-8 forward from Louisiana Tech played his first seven NBA seasons with the Jazz and averaged 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals last season. The one negative about this signing? It pushes long-time Hawk Al Horford back to the center spot where he is nowhere near as dominant as he is as a power forward. But when you have the opportunity to bring in a player of Millsap’s talent level, preferred rotations and positions can be worked out later.

C.J. Watson, Indiana Pacers – 2-years, contract terms undisclosed

C.J. Watson

C.J. Watson significantly upgrades the Pacers’ guard depth.

Watson has proven to be one of the NBA’s best backup point guards over the last few seasons and his presence on the Pacers will significantly improve their depth. Watson allows the Pacers to not fall too far behind when starter George Hill rests. Plus, Watson’s ability to handle the ball and shoot from 3-point range (41.1 percent last season) will let Indiana occasionally run a Hill-Watson backcourt. The 6-foot-2 guard spent last season as the top backup for the Nets’ Deron Williams and before that, spent two successful seasons with the Chicago Bulls. Watson knows his role and his ability to consistently perform it makes this a great signing for the Pacers.

Mike Dunleavy, Chicago Bulls – 2-years, $6 million

Mike Dunleavy Jr.

Mike Dunleavy Jr. is a well-skilled and solid NBA veteran.

Dunleavy is an excellent floor-spacer who can consistently knock down 3-point shots at a high rate and provides the Bulls with solid bench depth after the departures of Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli. His presence should help create driving and passing lanes for Derrick Rose, who is reportedly one of the major reasons Dunleavy wanted to play in Chicago. The 32-year-old Dunleavy spent the last two seasons with the Bucks, averaging 10.5 points, 3.9 boards and shot 42.8 percent shooting from 3-point range last season. This signing looks like a terrific deal for  Dunleavy and Chicago as it should help the Bulls reclaim their spot as a championship contender when Rose returns.

Neal, Bucks Agree To Two-Year Deal





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It took a little while, but Gary Neal has finally found a comfortable landing spot. The former San Antonio Spurs’ sharpshooter agreed to a two-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks worth a reported $3.25 million per season, according to the Journal Sentinel.

With their point guard situation still in flux, they extended a qualifying offer to Brandon Jennings making him a restricted free agent this summer, Neal gives bucks coach Larry Drew another seasoned offensive weapon to work with at shooting guard. The Bucks added O.J. Mayo earlier this summer. They also presented restricted free agent point guard Jeff Teague with a four-year, $32 million offer sheet that the Hawks matched.

Neal’s most recent and perhaps best career highlights came last month in The Finals, during the epic seven-game series between the Spurs and Miami Heat. He scored a playoff career-high 24 points in a Game 3 blowout of the Heat, nailing six 3-pointers in that contest as he and Danny Green combined for 51 of the Spurs’ 113 points.

Neal, 28, averaged 9.7 points and shot 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line in three seasons with the Spurs.

The Bucks, who lost J.J. Redick (to the Los Angeles Clippers) and Mike Dunleavy (to the Chicago Bulls) in free agency, were in need of a someone who could provide an offensive spark off of the bench. Neal is the sort of fearless, big-game performer Bucks general manager John Hammond was looking for.

There is still business for the Bucks to tend to, of course. They have to figure out what to do, if anything, with Jennings. As it stands, he’s set to return to his starting point guard spot for the 2013-14 season. He would then become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2014.