Chicago Bulls: Melissa Isaacson

Bulls season feels like a step back

May, 14, 2013
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
CHICAGO -- There were moments Monday night when Game 4 of the Chicago Bulls' second-round playoff series against the Miami Heat felt like just another regular season contest only, well, worse.

Waiting for the rally that never came; for the appearance of a Bulls' star (in this case Luol Deng) that simply wasn't to be; for something, anything, to tell us in which direction this team was headed.

What it felt was ultimately unsatisfying, not unlike this Bulls season.

While their 2012-13 campaign will deservedly go down as one of overachievement, of another masterful coaching job by Tom Thibodeau, of an inspirational display of effort, it will also leave fans with the most bitter of sports' aftertastes -- the dreaded "What if?"

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Rose needs to make a decision

May, 6, 2013
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
Selfish was not necessarily a word I would have attached to Derrick Rose before now.

Misguided, perhaps. Confused, in all likelihood.

But assessing his condition as day-to-day for some two months now just doesn't fly anymore. And continuing to keep his team up in the air regarding his playing status after it just completed one of the most courageous and improbable first-round playoff victories in memory, is unfair and yes, that is selfish.

I don't think for a minute Rose is intentionally trying to hurt the Bulls with this drawn-out drama. If he believes the proverbial door is still open to him re-joining the team, then we should believe him. But therein lies one of the countless frustrating and befuddling elements to this debate.

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Mental rehab key part of Rose's process

April, 26, 2013
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
A Chicago-area sports psychologist, psychiatrist and hypnotist experienced in treating elite athletes are largely in agreement about the curious case of Derrick Rose, but their methods for helping the Bulls guard, if they were to work with him, are as fascinating as they are diverse.

[+] EnlargeRose
AP Photo/Kathy WillensDerrick Rose's return to the court has mental obstacles as well as physical ones.
For all of them, it begins with acknowledging fear as possibly a major component in Rose continuing to hold himself out a year after reconstructive knee surgery. Rose has maintained that while the knee feels strong, it's his confidence in testing the knee that remains an obstacle.

Vincent Chung, a hypnotist who has worked with professional athletes from Chicago teams as well as Olympic athletes, said the key for any athlete in that position is to get rid of "paralyzing fear."

"There are several factors when dealing with injuries and one is the fear of being re-injured," Chung said. "Fear is actually a useful emotion. It teaches people to be careful. You don't want to be fearless because then you are going to do things that are unsafe. But paralyzing fear also doesn't protect us, it actually makes it more dangerous so when Derrick is doing the acrobatic moves he does, he's in more danger of getting hurt."

To eliminate that, Chung, who received his MBA from the University of Chicago but said he became interested in hypnosis to help fellow Wall Street traders balance fear and greed, might ask Rose to associate a color with different emotions, then change the color and thus the emotion.

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72 reasons why Jordan's team best

March, 26, 2013
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
It was one of those questions that probably had to be asked. But pondering a list of basketball accomplishments that could have lapped even the best of his contemporaries, Michael Jordan was not about to take the hyperbolic bait.

It was April 16, 1996, the visitors locker room in the Bradley Center, and as far as Jordan was concerned, another annoying night spent fighting off a Milwaukee Bucks team that had no right to be this pesky.
“The first NBA championship. The [NCAA] championship,” Jordan began to tick off. “The Olympic gold medal in ’84. The second NBA title. The third NBA title. The second gold medal. Draft day.

“And then 70 wins.”

He had been asked to rank this moment, when the Bulls had just surpassed the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers and set a new record for most victories in a regular season. And clearly, Jordan was not ready to pop open the champagne that night.

But 70 victories was more than merely impressive, it was closer to surreal. Consider that if the Miami Heat, whom the Bulls host Wednesday night at the United Center and who currently have won 27 games in a row, win every game remaining on their regular-season schedule, they would still, at 68-14, be four victories shy of that Bulls team, which ended up at 72-10 (87-13 including the playoffs). They would also fall short of the 1996-97 Bulls, who finished 69-13.

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Kukoc downplays photo with future dictator

March, 12, 2013
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
Toni Kukoc was minding his own business two years ago when he first heard the news that he had turned up in a photograph with Kim Jong Un taken years before.

Kukoc I consider myself pretty well-traveled but I don't know at least 50 percent of the countries and I'm supposed to know some kid who (was going to eventually) take over his dad's dictatorship?

-- Toni Kukoc

The North Korean dictator was but a 13- or 14-year-old kid at the time and also a basketball fan, and Kukoc suspects he asked to pose for a picture when the Bulls were in Paris for an exhibition tour before the 1997-98 NBA season.

"I heard about it when his dad was dying or had died and he took over," said the former Bull by phone on Monday. "Apparently he was watching the Bulls. A Croatian paper told me about it then."

The Washington Post also reported in a story three years ago that Kim was a big basketball fan who had NBA mementos, including photos taken with Kukoc as well as Kobe Bryant. This week, the story surfaced again when New York Magazine wrote about it.

"It's Paris, the McDonald's tournament, we're world champions," Kukoc said. "Every place you went, people were trying to take pictures. What am I supposed to say? I don't really know what to say. I don't remember what I had for lunch today and I can remember that? It ended up a crazy thing."

Oddly, this is the second time in two weeks a former Bull has been mentioned in the same sentence with the dictator. Dennis Rodman accompanied the Harlem Globetrotters to North Korea at the end of February with a production crew to shoot an episode on North Korea for a new weekly HBO series. Rodman struck up a friendship with Kim during the visit.

After Rodman's visit, the White House said North Korea's government should focus on the well-being of its citizens, not on "celebrity sporting events."

"Dennis is a grown man and he can do whatever he pleases and whatever he wants," Kukoc said. "I'm pretty sure he meant well, but I don't know why he went there to begin with, why the Globetrotters would go to North Korea. I just know what I watched and what I saw come out of it was more negative than positive."

Kukoc said he would pose -- especially 16 years ago -- with virtually anyone who asked for a photo, particularly a child.

"I consider myself pretty well-traveled but I don't know at least 50 percent of the countries, and I'm supposed to know some kid who (was going to eventually) take over his dad's dictatorship?" Kukoc said. "I don't think if there were seven bodyguards around him with guns I wouldn't have noticed.

"We try to please fans, be nice to people who ask 'Can I have a picture?' But who knows who you're taking pictures with, what you're signing. Do you really have an idea who these people are? You're trying to be nice and polite, trying to get people not to say 'He's a (a bad guy), he doesn't talk to people.' But on the other side, who knows what can happen?"

Source: Rose cleared but he's not ready

March, 8, 2013
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
Derrick Rose's doctor has cleared the Chicago Bulls' star to play, a team source said, but his long-awaited return to the lineup won't occur, Rose has told the team, until he can confidently dunk off his left foot.

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Thibodeau: Rose 'right where he should be'

February, 20, 2013
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Derrick Rose fever continued at the Berto Center on Wednesday. Lest that start any new rumors, the Chicago Bulls star is perfectly healthy. But the questions continue at an infectious pace with each new scrimmage demanding new evaluations.

Rose scrimmaged with the non-starters but when asked to comment on an ESPN report that Rose is game-ready, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn't bite.

"It's hard to say," Thibodeau said. "He's made some good steady progress. He's right where he should be. There has to be an understanding that in practice you're trying to get to a game-like intensity and you know you're never going to get there, so there's a whole different level to playing in an NBA game. He's making good, steady progress, he's doing fine, he's got to continue to work on his rehab."

As Rose shot solitary jump shots after practice with his usual accuracy, Thibodeau was asked if his continued rehab from knee surgery last summer was more a psychological or physical battle.

"We're not saying it's mental or physical," Thibodeau said. "He just has to continue to work on his rehab and keep concentrating on that. When he's ready to go, we'll know and then he'll go. There's no timetable."

Oh yes, and Thibodeau did confirm that Rose is not playing against the Miami Heat on Thursday night.

Reinsdorf reflects on Jordan's epic run

February, 14, 2013
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson

So, Michael Jordan is turning 50. You'd think it was the anniversary of non-dairy creamer or Astroturf or something.

Even Jordan himself referred to his upcoming birthday and corresponding national observances the other day as "all the fuss," in explaining to that he'd rather not add to it.

But Jordan turning 50 is significant. And Jerry Reinsdorf recognizes it.

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MJ surprised over golf course flap

November, 29, 2012
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
Michael Jordan said Thursday he did indeed refuse to change out of cargo shorts while playing golf recently at a Miami Beach country club, but he said he was hardly being a rebel.

"I've been there many times and no one told me a thing," Jordan told ESPN Chicago by text. "Then all of a sudden they come to me on the 11th hole and say I can't wear cargo shorts. Wow! The round is almost over and you want me to buy shorts now? Yeah, right!!"

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Peterson to Rose: Attack your rehab

November, 9, 2012
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
Adrian Peterson, sport's modern-day epitome of successful knee rehab, advised the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose to "attack" his comeback and not hesitate to return as soon as he can.

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At their core, Bulls may have enough

June, 28, 2012
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson

DEERFIELD -- One of the worst things to come from Derrick Rose's knee injury, other than the injury itself, of course, is that we never got to see how good the Bulls could be.

We saw them get awfully close during the regular season. And it was very good. But apparently now that we have seen how good LeBron James can be, it only stands to reason that the Bulls now stink.

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Despite slights, Isiah praises Dream Team

June, 14, 2012
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
CHICAGO -- Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas watched NBA TV's "The Dream Team" on Wednesday night along with countless other basketball fans who were not in Barcelona 20 years ago, but he expressed no bitterness afterward over being left off perhaps the most gifted team assembled.

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Wait will be long for same old Rose

May, 15, 2012
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
CHICAGO -- At a certain point while reporters directed questions at the orthopedic surgeon who performed Derrick Rose's reconstructive knee surgery, the medical jargon started to blur together.

All anyone wanted to know is when. And how. When will Rose be able to return full-time to the basketball court and how will he regain the form that has made him one of the best players in the NBA?

The short answer to the timetable question, said Bulls team surgeon Dr. Brian Cole, is eight to 12 months. The long answer was somewhat chilling.

"While he will hopefully be at a very high level in 12 months, it still may take slightly longer to be at his pre-injury level," Cole said. "That's not uncommon in athletes of this caliber."

And in one sentence by the medical professional best-equipped to predict, the reality of the situation set in. The next time we see the Derrick Rose we have grown so accustomed to watching on the basketball court, he will be 25 years old. Still young, likely still supremely gifted, but no longer a kid either.

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10 burning questions facing the Bulls

May, 11, 2012
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- The skies were blue, sun shining, temperature perfect and the day miserable in Chicago, Friday. At least for Chicago Bulls fans who, though not exactly optimistic about the team's playoff chances after Derrick Rose tore his ACL two weeks ago, were left with an aching void after the Bulls were eliminated in the first round by eighth-seed Philadelphia.

The only thing left now, other than the typically frustrating rhythms of Cubs and Sox baseball and football in shorts, is to dwell on the what if's and what-will-be's.

Here are 10 burning Bulls thoughts sure to bug us all summer:

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Collapse could have lasting impact

May, 3, 2012
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- It is not likely to spark any great shock should the Chicago Bulls end up succumbing to the Philadelphia 76ers in their first-round series and fade out of these NBA playoffs.

Nationally, the news cycle might not even last 24 hours for the team that lost its franchise player to a devastating knee injury in Game 1, then was defeated with a guy named C.J. Watson taking his place. And even locally as some people actually dumped their playoff tickets and other more sane fans quickly predicted doom, there is likely to be a sense of inevitability along with the disappointment.

But a first-round elimination by the Bulls, currently tied 1-1 after an embarrassing home loss in Tuesday's Game 2, should spark shock and locally, it should cause outrage. And more than that, early elimination by the Bulls, coupled with Rose's injury, may well have long-term implications for a franchise, its players and a head coach whose prospects only recently seemed unquestionably positive.

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Jimmy Butler
20.2 3.3 1.7 38.9
ReboundsP. Gasol 12.1
AssistsD. Rose 5.0
StealsJ. Butler 1.7
BlocksP. Gasol 2.1