HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Chicago Bulls fans hoping eagerly anticipating the return of Derrick Rose will apparently have to wait a little longer than expected.
While there is still no concrete timetable for his return, all you have to do is some elementary math to figure out it’s going to be a while before he makes his return from offseason surgery on the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
“I don’t have a set date,” Rose told USA TODAY Sports on Monday in his first extensive interview since the 2012-13 NBA season began. ”I’m not coming back until I’m 110%. Who knows when that can be? It can be within a couple of weeks. It could be next year. It could be any day. It could be any time. It’s just that I’m not coming back until I’m ready.”
How close is Rose to 110 percent?
“Right now, probably in the high 80s,” he said. “Far away. Far away.”
Whatever the distance is between Rose’s high 80s and the 110 percent he needs to be at in order to get back on the floor with his Bulls teammates, who have been even better than expected in his absence, it probably won’t be traveled in a matter of days. There was some hope that Rose would be ready after All-Star weekend. But that doesn’t seem practical based on his own assessment of where he is right now.
That said, the “high 80s” is a lot closer to 110 percent than the 50s, 60s or 70s. So there is still reason for optimism in Chicago.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The good vibrations surrounding the Chicago Bulls have more to do with the grinding they are doing in the Central Division these days without Derrick Rose.
In fact, they have everything to do with Rose and his recovery from ACL surgery, a recovery that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau says is right on schedule. Any doubts that Rose would be back in uniform this season are being massaged by reports that he could return sometime after the All-Star break in February.
“Everything is going according to plan,” Thibodeau said before Monday’s game. “He’s not ahead of schedule, he’s not behind schedule. He’s exactly where he should be.
“He’s doing great. You have to be patient with it. He’s been very diligent. He’s in every day. He’s moving along. He started cutting. He’s been shooting for a while now. He feels pretty good, so we just have to be patient.”
When the Bulls head out on the five-game circus road trip this week, Rose is expected to stay at his summer workout base in Los Angeles. The Bulls will spend three days in L.A. later this week before playing the Clippers on Saturday.
“We’re going to do what we think is best for both the team and Derrick,” Thibodeau said. “So on this trip, I like him being in one place, so he may meet us out in L.A., but for him the rehab has to be the priority. For us, it’s a long trip and we’re going to be jumping around, so he’ll be on the trip for part of it; he’ll meet us out in L.A.”
The longer the Bulls remain in the mix in the division without Rose, the better. Plenty of people wrote them off this season without Rose, yet the Bulls have shown themselves to be much more than the one-man crew so many assumed they’d be.
The Indiana Pacers were easy pick to pass them up in the division, but it’s the Bucks (4-2) and the Bulls (4-3) who are currently sitting atop the standings. All the Bulls have to do now is maintain their spot until the end of February, when a superstar reinforcement arrives.
HANG TIME CHICAGO – It was as if a platypus and a Tasmanian devil got together, downed a few too many, impulsively detoured to a little chapel in Vegas and, nine months later (or whatever the gestation period would be — work with us here), were gifted with a beautiful white swan as their most unexpected bundle of joy.
That’s how the game at United Center played out Tuesday night, between a misfiring and road-weary Atlanta Hawks team and a sluggish, numb-for-three-quarters Chicago Bulls club. Ugly met ugly, with the winners shooting 33.8 percent and the losers poised to avert defeat if only its starting backcourt had gone 6-for-25 rather than 5-for-25.
Somehow, improbably, the late moments of what became Chicago’s 76-74 victory were striking, memorable and the stuff of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Hawks and the Bulls. Derrick Rose’s tenacity, Josh Smith’s athleticism, Tom Thibodeau’s craftiness on the sideline – all of it and more was on display late, even with a hushed video review by the refs mixed in to turn two hours of farce into a few minutes of thriller.
How bad were things 40-plus minutes? Atlanta – which was wrapping up a north-by-southeast back-to-back (at Miami/at Chicago) after beating the Heat Monday – missed 41 of 63 shots through three quarters, but managed to lead by as much as 19 points. The Bulls were even worse after a 2-for-21 second quarter.
“In the first half, we were backward,” said Thibodeau, Chicago’s head coach. “We were shooting when we should have been passing and passing when we should have been shooting.”
Said Rose: “We know we’re 10 times better than what we showed out there … I felt bad for our fans to see us play that bad.”
By the end, though, much was forgiven. Atlanta, still struggling offensively, lost focus defensively. Trips to the foul line became adventures. And Rose got busy, scoring 17 of his game-high 30 points in the final quarter and going all 2010 MVP on the Hawks. His driving bucket with 57.8 seconds left got Chicago its first lead of the night, 72-71. Then, after a throwdown by Smith of Marvin Williams’ alley-oop, Rose did it again, as described by ESPNChicago.com’s Jon Greenberg:
Two between-the-leg crossovers, a hesitation dribble to freeze the point guard, and then an explosion to the hole. After he picked up the dribble, Rose carried the basketball – though it wasn’t a carry – coasting toward the rim where [Smith] in wait.
Smith had already blocked Rose at the rim twice in the quarter, but this time Rose timed his shot perfectly, a teardrop high over Smith’s extended hand. It kissed in off the glass.
And still that didn’t win the game. There were 9.9 seconds left. Al Horford promptly got Atlanta even at 74-74 when he pivoted into Luol Deng, going under Horford’s screen, and got the call, making the second of two free throws. That left 7.7 seconds for the Bulls, at which point Thibodeau subbed in center Joakim Noah, who’d been sitting since 10:04 of the third quarter in deference to backup Omer Asik’s energy and production.
The play that ensued was swan-like for basketball fans. As Deng looked to pass inbounds on the right sideline, Rose circled past him but either didn’t really want the ball or looked too vulnerable to an Atlanta trap. So the Bulls forward tossed it to Noah, then slashed to the basket behind what wound up as a screen by Rose. Noah hit him with the ball in stride and Deng’s layup at 3.7 proved to be the game-winner. Multiple Chicago defenders smothered Joe (3-for-17) Johnson’s 3-point attempt from the left wing at the buzzer.
The only funky thing at the end was Thibodeau stating that Rose was the first option all along on the play, while Noah’s presence and the precision of Deng’s cut-catch-and-score argued that it was set up from the start with the Bulls’ point guard as a decoy. Sounded like Thibodeau was hoping to pull that one out of the playbook again some night, which meant there was something worth hanging onto from a game so ooogly it required three o’s.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Not that we needed any co-signers for the Derrick Rose-4-MVP campaign this season, but when Michael Jordan endorses a candidate … do you need anything else?
The Bobcats owner witnessed the movement first hand last night, with Rose and the Bulls pounding Jordan’s bunch in a 101-84 win in Charlotte.
Jordan declared Rose the “MVP of the season.” And then added, “He deserves it. He’s playing that well. And if he doesn’t get it, you’ll see how I felt a lot of years.”
This came hours after Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf made a declaration of his own, telling the Chicago Sun-Times, “We have an outstanding coach, an outstanding bunch of players, the team is deep, and if we stay healthy, we have an awfully good chance of winning at least four championships.”
When you already have six fingers covered, courtesy of Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Bulls of the 1990s, you know of what you speak. But Rose isn’t shrinking from the hype. The hometown kid is the unquestioned leader of the Windy City Revival. The fact that he’s embraced the role is what’s most impressive and also most remarkable for a player that before this season seemed interested in anything but trying to fill the gigantic void left by Jordan.
“I wish, man,” Rose told the Sun-Times when informed of Jordan’s endorsement. “‘It’s a great that he said that. It’s an honor. We’re just trying to keep winning. The award will come if we keep winning. We’re trying to play hard and play together. We just have to keep playing aggressive, and play with an edge.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Anyone that tuned in to Monday night’s Bulls-Thunder game in anticipation of an epic point guard battle between Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook went to sleep disappointed.
They both played decently, though neither of them played up to their own lofty standards. But they were a mere sidelight on this night to a bigger headliner. This time it was Bulls forward Carlos Boozer who stole the show.
Boozer, in just his fourth game of the season (delayed by a broken finger), went wild on the Thunder, piling up 29 points and 12 rebounds to power the Bulls to a 99-90 win.
The Bulls had to wait a month to see it in action, but they have to feel good about the immediate future with a healthy Boozer easing into his role alongside Rose and Joakim Noah.
“I’m just playing,” Boozer said. “This is regular stuff for me. I’m getting better every day. I’m playing off D-Rose. He’s our guy. Teams are double- and triple-teaming him, so I’m just moving to open areas.
“I’m an aggressive offensive player. And defensively, I was better on pick-and-rolls and help side defense.”
Boozer indeed came out aggressive with eight first-quarter points. He also converted two circus shots for potential three-point plays in the third, but missed one free throw.
“He should make everyone’s game easier,” Derrick Rose said. “He and I can play pick-and-roll. Joakim (Noah) can be on the weak side, tipping in shots.”
Added coach Tom Thibodeau: “We want to be an inside-out team. You can see what Carlos brings. He’s such a threat in every aspect — from transition, to pick-and-roll, to catch-and-shoot. He runs the floor well.”
Boozer and the Bulls weren’t the only team to experience a breakthrough Monday night.
BOSTON –Kobe Bryant has been saying it for weeks and yet no one seems to be listening.
When the Lakers have lost in this postseason, Bryant insists, it’s usually been a product of their suspect defense.
It happened against Oklahoma City twice and against Phoenix twice as well. And now they’ve dropped three to the Boston Celtics in these Finals, including Sunday night’s Game 5 at TD Garden, each one a struggle for the Lakers on the defensive end.
Sooner or later someone other than the Hang Time crew is going to take Bryant’s no-defense rants serious and realize that he’s right. The Lakers are four quarters away from being a painful fishing trip because they cannot stop the Celtics when it matters most.
There’s no better example than the third quarter of Game 5. Bryant went bonkers after halftime, scoring a staggering 17 points in just six minutes, 19 straight when before someone else found the bottom of the nets, and the Celtics’ actually increased their lead from 11 points to 13 points.
Bryant’s best offensive stretch of this entire series didn’t change the outcome of the game one bit because his team couldn’t get a stop with a crossing guard and a sign when they absolutely had to have one.
And you wonder why a scowling Bryant delivers one-word answers from the podium after every loss.
“They broke the game open in the third quarter,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said, “and it was a struggle for us to get ourselves back into that ballgame. We came back at the end of the third and narrowed the margin, but sequences of plays, turnovers, a couple turnovers by Kobe and run-outs created that 10-point gap at the end in which we had to really struggle to get back into the game.”
Bryant was magnificent in defeat, scoring a game-high 38 points on 50 percent (13-for-27) shooting from the floor.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Bryant did what only he can during that third quarter stretch. “He’s the best shot maker in the game,” Rivers said. “There’s probably better athletes and all that, but there’s no better shot maker than Kobe Bryant. I mean, in that stretch I kept turning to [assistant coaches Tom Thibodeau and Armond Hill) and saying, ‘those are tough shots.’ He was making tough shots. You’ve just got to live with it and play through it.”
It also helps when you are just as good, if not better, on offense than Bryant was. The Celtics got their 92 points Sunday night on 56 percent (40-for-71) shooting from the floor.
While Bryant was putting on his one-man shooting show the Celtics were busy pounding them on the other end of the floor. Over an eight-minute stretch the Celtics scored on 12 of 13 possessions, turning it over on the only one they didn’t score on. They had four second-chance opportunities and continued to outhustle and outmuscle the Lakers at the right time.
“Defensively, we weren’t very good at all,” Bryant said. “Last game it was the fourth quarter and this game it was the third quarter. We didn’t get any stops. They got layup after layup, and you can’t survive a team shoots 56 percent … we’re normally a great defensive team.”