Charlotte Hornets vs. Chicago Bulls 10/19/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Charlotte Hornets took on the Chicago Bulls in a preseason matchup on Sunday.

With Derrick Rose finally healthy, the Bulls are looking to prove the wide-open Eastern Conference runs through them.

The Hornets will be looking to return to the postseason and make a run with their young talent.

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Chicago Bulls Will Get More Dangerous With Time

Frustration with the slows starts the Chicago Bulls have suffered through is mounting.  Best advice?  Take a breath and calm down.  Here is why.
Derrick Rose Just Got Back
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not easy to switch from one philosophy to another for any pro sports team.  Over the past two years the Bulls have had to alter their style of play in order to make due without the presence of point guard Derrick Rose.  It requires an entirely different mind set with different rules.  Now that he is back from his second knee surgery, it inevitably was going to take time for him to reintegrate with the team and for the team to reintegrate with him.  That can often lead to all sorts of unusual issues, slow starts being one of them.
They fell behind early to Denver on October 13th before recovering for a 20-point win and then had to overcome a 20-point deficit to stun Atlanta at the buzzer on the 16th.  Even though it’s just preseason and both games were wins, it has many people nervous about what t

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Predicting the Biggest Changes We’ll See from the Chicago Bulls This Season

After a summer full of clever roster moves, the Chicago Bulls will undergo a few changes this season.

The team picked up free agents Pau Gasol and Aaron Brooks, as well as highly touted rookies Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. This quartet—along with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and others—clearly make the Bulls a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.

Rose, who has missed a bunch of games due to knee injuries, is healthy and could return to his 2011 MVP form. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Noah is primed for another amazing campaign, and Gasol serves as Chicago’s best low-post threat in years.

This is head coach Tom Thibodeau’s fifth season with the Bulls. Ever since his arrival, the team has played top-notch, stifling defense on a daily basis. And that won’t change this year. What are some changes we’ll see from Thibodeau’s troops in 2014-15?

 

Place More Emphasis on Three-Point Shooting 

Last season, outside shooting was basically nonexistent for the Bulls. They attempted just 17.8 threes per game, which ranked 28th in the league. And they hit only 34.8 percent of those attempts (ranked 24th).    

Things will be different this time around, though. With Rose and Gasol drawing double-teams, shooters like Mike Dunleavy, McDermott and Mirotic will get a bunch of open looks all year long.

McDermott could emerge as the Bulls’ best three-point shooter, even in his first year. The Creighton University product hit 44.4 percent of his attempts in the summer league and is shooting 35.3 percent in the preseason, which is respectable for a rookie.

He’ll have a field day from beyond the arc as Rose drives and kicks it to him, or when he receives a pinpoint pass from Noah or Gasol.

Rose can also be an outside threat, although you wouldn’t have noticed watching him during the FIBA World Cup. He hit only one of his 19 attempts.

However, he is shooting 40 percent from downtown this preseason. The three-time All-Star went 3-of-4 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks.   

Expect the Bulls to go from one of the league’s worst three-point shooting teams last season to somewhere in the middle of the pack this year.

 

10-Man Rotation

The words “10-Man Rotation” and “Tom Thibodeau” look really weird in the same sentence. As everybody knows, Thibs has been known for giving his starters a boatload of minutes instead of using the bench.

For example, Jimmy Butler played a franchise-record 60 minutes against the Orlando Magic last January. Yes, you read that right. It would be understandable if it was Game 7 of the NBA Finals. But it was a regular-season contest against a lowly, rebuilding team.

Per Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago, Thibodeau prefers a nine-man rotation:

“Usually most teams are around nine,” he said. “And then as the playoffs get closer, you’re going to pare that down some more. We’ll see. My first two years we played nine, sometimes 10. Ten is hard, most likely nine.”

While Thibodeau said going 10-deep is difficult, he didn’t say it was impossible. Look for him to utilize his much-improved bench this season. There’s way too much talent not to.

So which 10 players will crack the rotation? Well, we know Rose, Noah, Gasol, Butler, Taj Gibson, Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich are locks. Expect Brooks to also make the cut, replacing D.J. Augustin as a scoring backup point guard.

McDermott and Mirotic will be everyday players as well. Thibodeau isn’t a fan of playing one rookie, let alone two. Yet, when you have two rookies who can shoot the lights out like these guys, you have to play them both.

That means Tony Snell, E’Twaun Moore, Nazr Mohammed and Cameron Bairstow are left in the cold, unless a key player suffers an injury (knock on wood).

 

Doug McDermott Will Start at Small Forward       

Not only is McDermott a rotational player, but he’ll also be a rookie starter. Dunleavy, of course, will begin the year as Chicago’s starting small forward. But McDermott will supplant the veteran at some point this season.

He’s just too good to sit on the bench, and Thibodeau will eventually realize that.

One of college basketball’s greatest scorers ever, McDermott averaged 26.7 points during his senior year. And as Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley points out, he can score in a variety of ways:

He has an underrated knack for creating his own shots, which will be a valuable tool when he isn’t logging minutes beside Rose, Gasol or Noah. McDermott is capable of taking defenders off the dribble, comfortable banging with them on the low block and crafty getting himself to the free-throw line, where he was an 87.0 percent shooter his final two seasons at Creighton.

Putting the ball in the hoop isn’t the only thing McDermott can do. He rebounds, moves well without the ball and is an underrated passer. And although he isn’t a lockdown defender by any means, he does show effort on that end of the floor.

McDermott has started twice this preseason with Dunleavy sitting out due to knee soreness.

Per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Thibodeau hasn’t ruled out starting him on a more permanent basis:

I don’t want to overlook what Mike’s done either. Mike has shot the ball extremely well, so I think he helps that first unit function well, so I’m not locked into it, but I don’t want to … Mike’s team defense is outstanding. I don’t want to overlook that. You have to think about you’re guarding a starter now, so that does make a difference.  

McDermott will ultimately win his coach over and replace Dunleavy in the starting lineup by Christmas.

Bulls fans, get used to hearing this before games: “A 6’8″ forward from Creighton…No. 3…Doug McDermott!”

 

All stats are from Basketball-Reference.com.

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Early Lessons from Doug McDermott’s Preseason with Chicago Bulls

Doug McDermott lit up TV screens at Creighton University as one of the best shooters in NCAA history. And while he owes his new career as a pro with the Chicago Bulls to that singular scoring ability, he’s also got a lot to learn if he expects major rotation minutes.

Especially in Tom Thibodeau’s demanding system. When asked about McDermott’s progress before the Bulls’ 85-84 preseason victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday (the second of two exhibition games McDermott has started), Thibodeau said per Mark Strotman of CSN Chicago, “The most important thing is that the team functions well when he’s on the floor.”

Thibodeau, like many NBA coaches, is more concerned with a total skill set than with one specialty. “Dougie McBuckets” will have to stay tight on defensive strings and exercise correct spacing within Thibodeau’s offensive playbook. He’ll have to shoot when he’s supposed to shoot and pass when he’s supposed to pass. He has to be aware

Whether he can become an efficient chess piece in the complex stratagem of the NBA is what will determine McDermott’s success. Thibodeau is confident that he can. “He has a great approach,” the coach said. “He strives for improvement each and every day. He’ll continue to get better.”

McDermott’s head does seem to be in the right place. He hasn’t found his shooting touch much—he’s just 40 percent from the field in the preseason—but he has been able to get his open shots and release the ball quickly. Perhaps most importantly, he’s been able to gain the respect of defenses and stretch the floor, opening up the lane for Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol.

He’s also been committed to contributing in other areas. He collected nine rebounds against Atlanta, and eight against both the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons“The rebounding is good. You’re not going to shoot the ball great every night in this league, and when you don’t, you’ve got to do other things, and that’s what he showed he can do,” Thibodeau said.

Whether McDermott can stand up to his coach’s defensive standards is another question. He hasn’t been exactly a sieve thus far, but he hasn’t been good enough to earn significant minutes, either. McDermott’s concepts and intentions seem to be fine, but he’s definitely still adjusting to the intensity of the NBA trenches.

As Blog a Bull’s Kevin Ferrigan puts it, “McDermott has a pretty tough time navigating screens at this stage of his career… The speed of the game is new for McDermott, so he might just not be used to big men who move as quickly as NBA big men.”

McDermott doesn’t have the foot speed or power to likely ever be a terrific defender on the wings, but in time he can learn the body tricks that teammates like Kirk Hinrich use to consistently frustrate the opposition—Hinrich is infamously difficult to screen. It’s that kind of mettle the rookie must build in order to be a rotation player, and earn the respect of teammates like Aaron Brooks, who has taken to a sort of hazing by calling McDermott “Ray.”

Beyond the myriad gritty details of NBA performance, though, McDermott’s renowned scoring still has a ways to go before it translates to the next level. Although he’s been able to get his open jumpers off the ball—and it should only be a matter of time before they start falling at a greater rate—McBuckets has not yet shown the capacity to create shots for himself.

McDermott hasn’t exactly been looking for those opportunities, either. He seems more eager to fit into his team’s mission statement than to chisel out his own imprint on games. Self-creation (which he did at a wunderkind level at Creighton) was one of the more doubtful aspects of McDermott’s game as he was being vetted for the draft, as he lacks the elite athleticism typically associated with the NBA’s best.

McDermott has not been a dynamic isolation player, but he also hasn’t had much of a chance to prove himself as one yet, either. He hasn’t had a chance to prove himself as much of anything, in fact. But through McBuckets’ small sample size we have seen that he’s a natural addition to his team.

Willing, docile, hard-working and eager to adopt his coach’s obsessive attention to detail, McDermott will be an integral Bull—perhaps even a starter—by season’s end.

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Atlanta Hawks vs. Chicago Bulls 10/16/14: Video Highlights and Recap

Elite offense met elite defense on Thursday night when the Chicago Bulls faced off with the Atlanta Hawks in a preseason clash. The Hawks’ high-octane offense looked to find some momentum, but they faced a stern test from the Bulls’ lockdown defense.

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Winners, Losers from Week 2 of Chicago Bulls’ NBA Preseason

The Chicago Bulls turned their preseason around this past week, winning two consecutive games to even their record at 2-2.

In the two wins, there were a few encouraging performances and, unfortunately, some undesirable showings.

Chicago’s backcourt is starting to come along and settle into its own. With all the doubts about Jimmy Butler’s scoring, the four-year guard looks like a brand new version of himself and could potentially turn into a fierce two-way player.

There is still a lot of work to be done offensively, but Chicago’s rookies have shined in that area. Both Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott posted double-digit scoring nights against the Denver Nuggets.

Chicago turned it around this week after an 0-2 start, so let’s review the players who stepped up and the ones that struggled.

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Doug McDermott Will Force Chicago Bulls to Find Real Role for Him Right Away

The Chicago Bulls aren’t going to hand major minutes to sharpshooting rookie Doug McDermott.

That isn’t the style of head coach Tom Thibodeau, nor is it a common practice among any NBA team holding even the faintest championship hopes. The fact that McDermott’s debut coincides with that of celebrated rookie Nikola Mirotic only compounds the issue.

As Thibodeau has been quick to point out, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, championship rotations typically don’t have room for two first-year players:

If Thibodeau has hesitations about playing a pair of rookies, though, that won’t be McDermott’s problem. The 22-year-old has left little doubt he is capable of playing a meaningful role for Chicago already this season.

At his essence, he is a scorer. Broken down even further, the guy is a lights-out shooter.

“McDermott is one of the best three-point shooters in the annals of the NCAA,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Kelly Scaletta. “Per Sports-Reference, of players who attempted at least 500 threes in their collegiate careers, his long-range shooting percentage of 45.8 is fourth-best all-time.”

McDermott’s four-year stay at Creighton could only be called legendary. He was a high-volume, high-production player as soon as he stepped onto campus, and over the course of his career, he managed to increase both categories plus clean up his efficiency.

He does more than score—he averaged 7.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists last season—but the Bulls can employ him as a shooting specialist right out of the gate.

“So far, what I’m seeing from Doug, in the USA setting and summer league, is his ability to shoot,” Thibodeau told reporters at the start of training camp, via ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell. “And I see how people react to his ability to shoot. When you have someone like that, it opens up the floor.”

The Bulls managed to scrape by largely without a three-point attack last season. Their 34.8 perimeter percentage ranked 24th overall, which was the lowest among all 16 playoff teams. That success rate wasn’t negatively impacted by an abundance of attempts either. In fact, only the New Orleans Pelicans (15.9) and Memphis Grizzlies (14.0) averaged fewer than the Bulls (17.8).

Chicago won’t be merely trying to survive at the offensive end this time around—not with former MVP Derrick Rose back leading the attack and four-time All-Star Pau Gasol forming arguably the NBA’s best passing frontcourt combo with Joakim Noah.

The Bulls have the chance to field an elite offense. They were fifth in offensive efficiency during the 2011-12 campaign, and this group looks deeper on paper than that one.

Having a marksman like McDermott on the floor only adds to the potential potency. The more defensive attention he draws as a shooter, the wider the driving lanes for Rose become. Real estate comes in equal abundance for Gasol’s post offense, Jimmy Butler’s off-ball cutting and Taj Gibson’s rolls to the rim.

McDermott can play that role right now. That isn’t me making that claim; it’s his 44.4 three-point success rate at summer league and his preseason 42.9 three-point percentage saying he’s ready. It’s the short-term memory he has already shown, having followed up a dismal 3-of-12 effort from the field in his second game with a 16-point, 5-of-8 shooting performance two games later.

“His nerves are calming down,” Rose said, per ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell. “Getting more confidence with the way that he’s playing, knowing that he’s able to take shots whenever he’s open. He’s going to be a big part of this team.”

The long ball alone won’t secure McDermott that “big part,” of course. Luckily, it isn’t the only trick in his bag.

He has an underrated knack for creating his own shots, which will be a valuable tool when he isn’t logging minutes beside Rose, Gasol or Noah. McDermott is capable of taking defenders off the dribble, comfortable banging with them on the low block and crafty getting himself to the free-throw line, where he was an 87.0 percent shooter his final two seasons at Creighton.

As Bleacher Report’s Dylan Murphy observed, McDermott has enough in his arsenal to attack any type of defense:

As an offensive player, his three-point range, off-the-dribble capabilities and clever post-up game provide him with the kind of versatility that makes him valuable to any type of offense. 

If he gets matched up against a smaller player, he can walk him down to the block and take advantage with his strength and well-groomed back-to-the-basket repertoire. If he’s guarded by a bigger player, his quickness and ability to stretch the floor can cause serious problems.

McDermott’s offensive versatility will allow him to fill a number of different roles depending on which players are surrounding him.

“Doug can play off of people,” Thibodeau said, per Comcast SportsNet’s Mark Strotman. “You can also run stuff through Doug, so I think you can play him with either unit and he’ll fit well.”

McDermott’s ability to adapt to different situations will be the key to keeping him on the floor. Despite the fact his offensive skills seem to mesh so well with the rest of this offense, he will need to constantly prove himself at every step.

That isn’t a knock on him, just a reflection of the short leash with which Thibodeau has typically handled rookies.

During his four seasons at the helm, four players have made at least 40 appearances during their rookie years. Two of them, Jimmy Butler and Marquis Teague, saw fewer than nine minutes a night. Omer Asik held a small rotation role in 2010-11, playing a little over 12 minutes per game. Tony Snell saw 16 minutes of action a night last season, but his contributions fluctuated wildly as largely an injury replacement.

Obviously, the Bulls like McDermott, otherwise they wouldn’t have parted with a pair of first-round picks to get him. And their three-point collection needs his touch, even with newcomers like Mirotic and Aaron Brooks helping to bolster the ranks.

But McDermott needs to prove he can limit his mistakes and make a relatively seamless transition into the middle of a championship chase. The Bulls want to see him clear this hurdle, but they’re still going to force him to jump.

“I know there’s a steep learning curve,” Thibodeau said of playing rookies, via the Chicago Tribune‘s K.C. Johnson. “You can’t do it at the expense of winning or losing games. It’s important they earn their time. I think they will as we go along. How much, I don’t know yet. But shooting is one of the areas we wanted to address, and I think we’ve done that.”

While the Bulls will welcome the new offensive help, they won’t sacrifice their defensive identity to get it.

That puts the onus on McDermott to show well at that end of the floor, but his teammates can help him get there. He doesn’t need to be a lockdown defender, just someone who understands how to take advantage of that proven system and individual defensive talent already in place.

“I think I still have a ways to go to to learn the terminology and get on the same page with some of these guys,” McDermott said, per Bleacher Report’s Sean Highkin. “I think I can become a good defender, especially a team defender.”

McDermott isn’t your “typical” rookie.

He understands how to play the game, a gift stemming from both being the son of a coach and having spent the last four years playing it at a high level. He also knows what he brings inside the lines, which will help him maximize his strengths and work around his weaknesses.

While none of this will spare him from the “typical” rookie challenges, it will allow him to produce some atypical results for a Thibodeau-coached rookie.

McDermott will have to earn every minute he gets, but with his shooting touch, intelligence and competitive edge, he has all the weapons needed to secure a significant role in the rotation.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Chicago Bulls Preseason Player Rankings

At the midway point of the 2014 preseason Bulls fans have witnessed a bit of ups, a bit of downs, but mostly ups if you’re looking at the right things.
Derrick Rose seems to have barely lost a step and his shot has improved greatly compared to the sample received from his involvement with Team USA this past summer. Most importantly though, he is playing smart.
It’s no secret the Bulls will go only as far as their much maligned leader can take them.
There are other positives to draw as well. Here, Sports Mockery will rank the Chicago Bulls’ regular rotation players in terms of preseason performance thus far.
11. Tony Snell- 6.42 PER

Snellycat had a phenomenal summer league campaign, however his preseason showing thus far has proven those results must always be taken with a grain of salt.
He doesn’t rank in the top five of any statistical category (advanced or per game averages) for the Bulls and still doesn’t seem to have found his place in Tom Thibodeau’s demanding system.
To expound on that poin

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Power Ranking Chicago Bulls Players Heading into 2014-15 NBA Season

The 2014-15 NBA season is the biggest, most expectation-laden Chicago Bulls campaign since we turned over into a new century. Coach Tom Thibodeau’s steely system, which charges his team through the regular season seemingly regardless of who gets hurt, has to prove its worth in the playoffs.

And the Bulls are faced with perhaps their last great opportunity for a contemporary title as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers try to figure out life with a new coach, new roster and a ton of other young, moving parts.

What better way to size up the Bulls’ chances than with a good old-fashioned power ranking? Let’s see what Chicago’s got.

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Early Lessons from Nikola Mirotic’s Preseason with Chicago Bulls

The shadow of Nikola Mirotic hung over the hopes of devoted Chicago Bulls fans for years. As he ascended to the status of arguably the best non-NBA player in the world, and Chicago fans struggled through two straight years without superstar Derrick Rose, Mirotic’s legend grew into a refuge for positive Bulls outlook.

Now, he’s here, and seeing the man behind the myth has enlightened us beyond the scuttlebutt and fleeting YouTube clips we had before. He’s on our TVs now, and while Mirotic’s talent is huge and clear, we’ve also learned that the power forward is not quite ready for heavy NBA minutes—not yet, anyway.

Mirotic dazzled in his debut game in Chicago, against the Washington Wizards. He authoritatively ran the floor with the ball, popping up for easy three-pointers and dribbling to the hoop for deft finishes when the defense rushed him. His defense was shaky, but on offense he looked like someone who’d been doing this for years. He scored 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and five rebounds. It was thrilling.

But consistency is hard in the NBA, where the speed, physicality and complexity of the game take it to a suffocating stratosphere of difficulty.

In Mirotic’s next game—which also made for his first professional back-to-back—he struggled mightily against the Detroit Pistons. Looking suddenly like a frazzled amateur, he turned the ball over five times and fouled out in 14 minutes. He only got one shot off—a miss—and frustrated many fans by passing on a number of open looks.

In the Bulls’ third preseason bout, against the Milwaukee Bucks, Mirotic’s play was again underwhelming, but there were signs of growth. Over 16 minutes, he tallied only two fouls and turned the ball over just once. Clearly, coach Tom Thibodeau had effective instructions about defensive body control and care with the ball. While Mirotic shot just 1-of-7 for two points, he also had three blocks and didn’t let the Bucks get to the line.

That he improved within Thibodeau’s system against Milwaukee is encouraging, as the coach typically only gives playing time to his men who show intense attention to the detail work of a game—staying on a defensive string, strong ball-handling and decision-making.

If Mirotic can combine his good team play with the fireworks he fired against Washington, he’ll be some kind of fantastic. But he’ll have to meet his coach’s demands, first and foremost, to get his time on the court.

As Kirk Hinrich’s second stint in Chicago has taught us, you can shoot about as poorly as possible and still get minutes, so long as you play well within Thibodeau’s mold.

Mirotic seems to be learning his priorities quickly. The task now is to balance the strenuous tasks of Bulls ball with the free-roaming flash we saw in his debut—and then do it again. If he does that, he’ll certainly be a rotation player in short time. But he’s yet to do it even once, so we’re best to stay rational in Mirotic exuberance for now.

But if you got Mirotic fever after the performance against Washington, you’re not alone. Bulls fans have been yearning for dynamic scorers even since Derrick Rose was a healthy MVP—there simply hasn’t been a ton of shooters in Chicago. To see the team’s new forward from Monenegro, by way of Spain, do his best Dirk Nowitzki impression (even if it was only for a half, and even if it was only a preseason game) gave the city a whole new brand of basketball excitement.

It’s not time to buy the man’s jersey yet, but Mirotic’s skills are supreme, and he’s shown a malleability to his warrior-making coach. His process is underway now—he’s made it to the gauntlet-grind of the NBA, and with health and persistence, Mirotic appears to have the tools to become an indispensable part of his squad and perhaps even an NBA star.

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