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News » Rose & Best supporting Factors

Rose & Best supporting Factors

Rose & Best supporting FactorsThe last we saw of the Bulls , they were walking off the court in Boston after the Game 7 playoff loss to the Celtics back in May. But despite the disappointment of losing in the first round, there was an aura of optimism around the team that night because of the gritty play of the young Bulls throughout the series.

If the roster were kept intact (with a few tweaks here and there), many believed the Bulls were capable of stepping up a level. Of course, things didn't quite work out that way this summer.

Leading scorer Ben Gordon, who averaged 24.3 points in the playoffs against the Celtics, left via free agency, and the Bulls really made no significant additions, save for the drafting of forwards James Johnson and Taj Gibson.

Still, with training camp set to begin today, many in the organization believe stepping up a level remains a possibility -- if a few of the youngsters continue to grow.

Foremost on that list is point guard Derrick Rose, who had a splendid rookie season and was a near-unanimous choice as the NBA's rookie of the year.

But as good as Rose was last season -- 16.8 points on 47.5 percent shooting and 6.3 assists -- he spent a great deal of time deferring to his more experienced teammates.

This season, even though he doesn't turn 21 until Oct. 4, there's no reason for him to defer to anyone.

In fact, Rose being consistently more aggressive on the offensive end is one way the Bulls are hoping to make up for the loss of Gordon's production -- and that includes becoming the team's go-to scorer at the end of games.

We certainly saw during Game 1 of the Boston series that Rose is capable of scoring in bunches and dominating a game when he puts his mind to it. Frankly, he was unstoppable, and the Celtics didn't know what to do as the Bulls pulled off the 105-103 shocker.

While I wouldn't expect Rose to match his gaudy numbers from that night (36 points and 11 assists) on a regular basis, I believe he can bounce back from a couple of off-the-court controversies in the spring and summer to average better than 20 points and seven assists -- and make a serious push at becoming the Bulls' first All-Star since the Jordan era.

Losing Gordon actually could accelerate Rose's development because he won't be worried about getting Gordon shots.

For the Bulls to take a step up, Rose has to grab the reins and become the on-court leader, but this is far from a one-man team, and there's plenty of talent around.

With the first team practice set for Saturday, here's a look at four other key factors for the upcoming season:


Without saying so publicly, management isn't concerned about losing Gordon because they have John Salmons to step in at shooting guard.

Although Salmons isn't the explosive scorer Gordon is, he can create his own shot and brings more size (he's 6-6) and defense to the position. His acquisition at the trade deadline in February is the main reason the Bulls were able to turn their season around.

With Kirk Hinrich coming off the bench, the Bulls , despite losing Gordon, still have one of the better (and versatile) three-guard rotations in the league. They also added veteran Jannero Pargo for additional backcourt scoring.


Another reason for optimism is the improved health of small forward Luol Deng, who missed the last 2? months of the regular season and the playoffs with a stress fracture of his lower right leg.

If Deng is healthy, he should be able to average in the upper teens (he averaged 14 points last season in 49 games), which also will offset some of Gordon's production -- and, perhaps, get some of the critics off his back who mention his $71 million so much it seems a part of his name.

Deng is still only 24 and added 15 pounds of muscle over the summer. There's no reason to believe he can't regain the form that saw him average 18.8 points three seasons ago.


Is this the year Tyrus Thomas finally gets it and starts living up to his promise (and draft position)?

We'll see, but Thomas, 23, is entering his fourth season and actually did show flashes last season when he averaged career highs in points (10.8) and rebounds (6.4).

Now is the time for him to show he better understands the game and game situations. On too many occasions in the past, he has appeared to be more of an athlete playing Basketball instead of an athletic Basketball player.


The weakness of the roster still is the frontcourt, but center appears to be more stable than it was at the start of last season.

The addition of Brad Miller (acquired at midseason along with Salmons) is part of the reason for that stability, but perhaps the biggest reason is the improved play down the stretch and in the playoffs of Joakim Noah. Early last season, some had dismissed Noah as nothing more than an energy guy off the bench.

But in the playoffs, he showed he could be effective as a starting center, averaging 10.1 points and 13.1 rebounds in 38.7 minutes. Noah has been working hard in the weight room this summer and could be poised for a breakout season if he can maintain his post-All-Star-break production from last season.


The team will practice at the Berto Center in Deerfield.

Media day: 11:30 today.

First practice: 10 a.m. Saturday.

Preseason opener: Next Friday, at Indiana Pacers.

Notable preseason game: Oct. 6, vs. Utah Jazz in London.

Regular-season opener: Oct. 29, vs. San Antonio Spurs at the United Center.

Key additions: F James Johnson, F Taj Gibson, G Jannero Pargo.

Key losses: G Ben Gordon, F Tim Thomas.


34 days until the Bulls' regular-season opener against the San Antonio Spurs at the United Center, 7 p.m., TNT.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: September 26, 2009


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