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NBA Sunday: No Rose Good For Bulls?
Posted By Joel Brigham On March 25, 2012 @ 10:10 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Time Without Rose Good For Bulls?
Last year’s MVP Derrick Rose is dealing with his third nagging injury of the year, but the Chicago Bulls have won five of the last six games without him, including impressive victories over the HEAT, 76ers, and Magic, as well as a stunning overtime buzzer-beater against the Raptors on Saturday night.
It begs the question—is this a good thing for the Bulls, learning to play without their best player so that they’re potentially even better when he gets back?
The question isn’t a simple one to answer. Despite those exciting wins over Miami and Orlando, the Bulls did lose at home to a reeling Portland Trail Blazers team last week, and they also struggled to beat the lowly Raptors two games in a row. If weren’t for a miracle buzzer-beater by Luol Deng, the team would’ve lost another ostensible softball at the United Center.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau, predictably, isn’t satisfied with that.
“It is disappointing,” he after Saturday night’s win. “We found a way to win. We hung in, but the disappointing thing is that it is two games in a row. We were fortunate in Toronto with a big fourth quarter to bail ourselves out. We had two days off to rest, to practice and to be ready to play. In the end, it was disappointing.”
And that’s why the team really needs Derrick Rose back. As excited as the city of Chicago is about having a team that could compete for a championship, the wind will get sucked out of the Windy City very quickly if the Bulls have to do it without D-Rose. They’re eking out wins now, but it won’t always be that way.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team is gaining confidence in themselves as they keep on winning without their star.
“We’ve been without [Rose] for a little bit. We’ve been without Rip for most of the season,” Carlos Boozer said, adding, “We just have that belief in each other. We believe in each other. Whoever’s out there can get the job done. We’ve had that since we all got together last season, and guys step up.”
With only about a month left in the season, however, Rose will have to get himself healthy and start getting back into the routine of things with his team if he hopes to be fully ready for the playoffs in about a month. He’s the kind of player who can, to a certain extent, step right back into the starting lineup and dominate like he never left, but NBA players are creatures of habit, and both Rose and Hamilton will be their most effective in the postseason only if they build some momentum heading into May.
Both guys are close, and the Bulls most definitely are not a better team without them. Rose, particularly, is the heart and soul of the city, let alone the team. While it’s encouraging to see this group thrive even without the guy who last year was given full credit for the team’s success, they really do need him, and hope that he comes back soon, hopefully for good this time.
Gilbert Arenas Finding Himself in Memphis
For basically his entire career, Gilbert Arenas has been a polarizing figure. That, however, had little to do with his inability to sign a contract this season after getting set free by the Orlando Magic back in the autumn. He remained unemployed for so long because too many teams believed he’d lost the ability to be a difference-maker on offense.
He’s getting his opportunity to prove 29 teams wrong now that he’s a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, and after two games with the team he already seems as happy as he’s been in a while.
“I’m just back to my old self, laid back, funny guy,” Arenas told ESPN.com’s Justin Verrier. “Last couple years I was just stressed. Right now I’m just trying to get back to my own element.”
The transition so far has been a slow one, with Arenas scoring only 4 points on 2-for-9 shooting over the course of those first two games. He’s not setting the world on fire in his surprisingly underpublicized return, but give the guy a break; he hasn’t played professional ball in almost a year.
“It’s more difficult than I thought,” Arenas said about his return to the game. “I went from being a couch potato and playing at the Y on Thursdays to playing in an NBA game. I haven’t had a practice yet, I haven’t got in shape yet. I’m trying to get the feel of the game again.”
Part of the problem in Orlando, Arenas said, was that in all his time there he never really got the opportunity to get that feel of the game. According to him, he’s felt off since leaving Washington in late 2010.
“I came from Washington where I was [scoring] 20, 30, but when I got [to Orlando], it was different style, different coaches,” Arenas said.” I just wasn’t used to it. I never bounced out of it, I never caught a rhythm.
“The games they did play me, [when] I was forced to play, I did score,” he added. “But other than that I just didn’t get a rhythm. It’s basically like me coming out here just trying to find the rhythm, make sure everybody’s OK with me shooting. I just didn’t want to step on anybody’s toes in Orlando. Here, I feel a little bit more comfortable and I now I’m just trying to get in shape.”
It’s a complete turnaround for a guy who’s a couple years removed from being relevant. But he wants to be relevant again, and not because of controversial comments or actions.
“I don’t want to be in the public eye anymore,” Arenas said. “I just want to go out there, get in shape and when the time comes, help this team win.”
The league just didn’t feel right with no Gilbert Arenas in it, so it’s nice to have the natural order of things restored. He wants to have fun, but he wants to win games, too, and hopefully Memphis is a place where he’ll be given the opportunity to do both.
What’s Slowing Down Philadelphia?
Early in the season, Philadelphia was easily among the most surprising teams in the league, leading the Atlantic Division and beating teams nobody expected them to beat. At this point, pretty much everybody accepts this group as a really good NBA team helmed by a really good NBA coach in Doug Collins. But they aren’t great. Not yet, at least.
The really interesting thing about that fact is that different players and coaches with the team have differing views about why, exactly, that is.
Head coach Doug Collins, for example, blames the schedule.
“We’ve had some really good games and some really good efforts,” he said. “We beat the Bulls, we beat the Magic, we beat the Knicks, we beat the Celtics—but I think it’s been more of the Western Conference than the East
“That killer schedule,” Collins added. “We’ve only played five games against our division, which is unheard of at this time of year.”
And Philly has done well within the Atlantic, which they still lead, but Elton Brand has other ideas for why this team can’t get over the hump.
“It hurts us when we get up early,” he told HOOPSWORLD. “We’ve played some of our worst games when it came easy early, because once they come with that second unit, the defensive pressure intensifies a little bit and the ball stops moving as much.”
This he attributes to a lack of experience.
“We’re a young team, definitely, and we’ve got to grow up.”
For Evan Turner, who is himself in the midst of growing up quite a bit during a breakout season, had some pretty mature things to say about moving this Philly team from good to great.
“We just keep learning,” he said. “Most of our losses came within one or two points, so you keep learning and any given day be the other way around.
“You’re a team. You play team basketball,” he continued. “There are a ton of teams that can’t go nine or ten deep or have the best defense in the NBA. There are a ton of teams that can’t attest to that.”
Of course, an outside can look at this team and simply cite the lack of any real superstar power as the reason the team can’t close out close games or get that extra shot of something that all the really good teams seem to have. Maybe all they really need is some star power.
Or maybe they’ve got it in them, and we just haven’t seen them play to their full potential yet. Either way, the Sixers are unquestionably a good team in the East again. It’s just a matter of now figuring out how to make themselves great.
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