Chicago Bulls: Preseason

Shots finally fall for Marco Belinelli

October, 26, 2012
10/26/12
10:27
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[+] EnlargeMarco Belinelli
Jerry Schultheiss/US PresswireMarco Belinelli made his first 3-pointer of the preseason in Friday's Bulls win.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Chicago Bulls backup guard Marco Belinelli prides himself on his shooting, and it bothered him that his shot had been far from accurate throughout the preseason.

On Friday, in his final opportunity to correct himself before the regular season begins next week, Belinelli displayed that one skill that made him an attractive offseason asset for the Bulls to pursue.

In the Bulls’ 97-90 win over the Indiana Pacers at the University of Notre Dame on Friday, Belinelli connected on his first 3-pointer of the preseason and scored seven points on 3-of-5 shooting.

“I don’t think he’s been playing poorly,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He hasn’t shot well so far, but we know he will. He’s already proven that. I think he’s made several good plays off the dribble for us. Defensively, he’s improved each day. He still has a long way to go. He has to be confident in his ability to play well on the nights he doesn’t shoot the ball well, and I think he can.”

Belinelli somewhat agreed with Thibodeau. While Belinelli felt he was contributing in small ways, he was frustrated he wasn’t giving the Bulls more in terms of his shooting and scoring. He’s averaged 8.9 points and made 369 3-pointers in his past five years, and he expected the same this season.

“I was really pissed off, especially when a shooter can’t score the ball,” said Belinelli, who entered Friday’s game 0 for 7 from 3-point range in the preseason. “It’s terrible. At same time, I tried to be positive, work a lot on my shot, be ready to score the ball. I think the last couple games I didn’t play well. Tonight, I was thinking about my shot to start this game and be more aggressive. I think tonight was really good. I want to be good for the season.”

Belinelli not only was looking to be aggressive on Friday; he was also forced to be that way. In the second quarter after having already missed a 3-pointer, Belinelli found himself with the ball beyond the 3-point line on the right side with the clock winding down. As soon as Belinelli saw the 24-second clock, he didn’t hesitate and shot a leaning 3-pointer with a defender in his face and the ball fell through the net. In a season where he’s expected to hit a number of easy 3-pointers, Friday’s make may be one of the more difficult he’ll connect on this season.

“That was crazy,” Belinelli said. “That was crazy. … It was one second on the clock. I just took the ball and shot the ball. That’s why I scored. I didn’t think too much about that. Now I’m thinking it’s time to be a better player and not think too much.”

According to Bulls point guard Nate Robinson, Belinelli just needs to possess the Peter Pan mentality.

"I told him it's going to be big for him, but we know he can score, it's just a matter of time,” Robinson said. “I've seen Marco go four or five 3s in a row, get to the free-throw line, drive left to right, finish left. He's a hell of a player. But on top of that, his confidence, I told him don't ever lose that, you'll be OK. I always tell people my Peter Pan theory: You can't play without happy thoughts. You got to be happy to be able to fly, so I just told him you got to think happy thoughts. Be like that kid in the playground by yourself, you're just happy and playing and hoopin'. You just got to go back to that."

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 97, Pacers 90

October, 26, 2012
10/26/12
8:54
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Let's take a quick look at how the Chicago Bulls earned a 97-90 win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.


How it happened: Nate Robinson had 21 points and eight rebounds to lead the Bulls to a win in their preseason finale. Luol Deng added 17 points. Taj Gibson chipped in nine points and 11 rebounds.The Bulls played well in spurts and seemed to have hit their stride throughout the first half against their Central Division rival.

What it means: For three quarters, the Bulls played solid basketball. The offense was running crisp sets and the defense was looking solid. The Bulls were simply playing harder than the Pacers. The issue for Tom Thibodeau is that the execution wasn't the same in the fourth quarter. Yes, the Bulls pulled out a victory, but they almost blew a 12-point lead and didn't look as confident in the final minutes. The Bulls are going to win a fair share of their games this season just playing harder and tougher than their opponents. The problem is that without Derrick Rose to go to in the fourth quarter, the ultimate safety net is no longer available. They've got to continue to learn how to play without him in order to be successful. The good news is that Rip Hamilton and Robinson knocked down shots with under a minute left to secure the victory. The odds are high that in the foreseeable future without Rose, Hamilton will be looked upon to take on his role late in games.

Stat of the night: The Bulls out-rebounded the Pacers 50-37.

Hits: After struggling to find his range all of preseason, Marco Belinelli finally knocked down a 3-pointer and a couple other shots to boost his confidence.

Misses: Gibson's jumper. The fourth-year forward has played very solid defense and grabbed plenty of rebounds in the preseason, but he just can't seem to find a consistent rhythm with his shot right now. He was just 2-for-7 on Friday and finished the preseason 15-for-46 from the field.

What's next: The Bulls will practice the next few days before opening up the regular season Wednesday night at home against the Sacramento Kings.

Bulls believe Teague can help if called upon

October, 26, 2012
10/26/12
7:11
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – In six preseason games, Chicago Bulls rookie point guard Marquis Teague is averaging one point and one turnover in five minutes of action. The first-round pick has struggled to find a rhythm and looks lost at times on the floor.

At just 19, and just a few months removed from Kentucky Wildcats, Teague was always viewed as more of a project this season. But with the groin injury to Kirk Hinrich, the up-and-down play of Nate Robinson and the fact that Derrick Rose will be rehabbing his knee injury for much of the season, Teague has suddenly found himself pushed into a larger spotlight as a backup point guard. Despite his lack of experience and his unimpressive preseason to date, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau remains publicly confident that Teague could step in and play meaningful minutes once the season begins.

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Hinrich injury underscores Bulls' issues

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
11:50
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- The last thing the Chicago Bulls needed on Tuesday night was a reality check.

After playing up and down throughout the preseason, the Bulls, especially the starters, appeared to hitting their stride in the first half of their 94-89 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The loss of Derrick Rose continues to sting, but with Kirk Hinrich leading the way and Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Rip Hamilton playing well together the absence of the former MVP didn't hurt so bad. Even without Rose, the Bulls have enough talent to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, with solid veterans to weather the storm.

[+] EnlargeKirk Hinrich
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireKirk Hinrich left the game in the second quarter with a strained groin.
But at some point in the first half Hinrich tweaked his right groin and the reality of the Bulls’ situation struck home once more. They are banking on a group of veterans, led by Hinrich, who have dealt with serious injuries throughout the last two seasons. While there's no telling yet whether or not this Hinrich injury is serious, it shined a spotlight on the biggest problem with the current roster. The depth that has been the Bulls' biggest attribute over the past two years is gone.

The starters are all good, but if one of those players goes down Tom Thibodeau's bunch is in trouble. No longer can the Bulls count on C.J. Watson or John Lucas to spell Rose. If Hinrich goes down, Thibodeau must turn to Nate Robinson, Marquis Teague or Marko Jaric. Robinson, sporadic as he may be, is still the best option considering the 19-year-old Teague looks like a JV player trying to stick with the varsity and Jaric has barely played since training camp started.

While Rose’s point guard spot is definitely the most crucial position, it's not as if the Bulls can afford to lose anyone else in the starting lineup either. Aside from Taj Gibson and, to a lesser extent, Nazr Mohammed, there can't be another player Thibodeau has much confidence in at the moment, no matter what he says. Marco Belinelli is 0-for-the-preseason from beyond the arc, missing both of his field goal attempts Tuesday night. Jimmy Butler has looked better at times, but is still an unknown quantity. In the span of five months, the Bulls have gone from having probably the deepest roster in the league to having a roster that depends on its starters more than most. Thibodeau, at least publicly, says he doesn't feel his team is more vulnerable, but what else is he supposed to say?

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Kirk Hinrich suffers groin injury

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
10:00
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO – Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich left Tuesday night’s game with a strained right groin.

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Rapid Reaction: Bulls 94, Thunder 89

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
9:40
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Chicago Bulls earned a 94-89 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night at the United Center.

How it happened: Carlos Boozer had another good game, scoring 24 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out five assists. Luol Deng added 21 points, five rebounds and three assists. The Bulls caught a break in this one with Oklahoma City stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook getting the night off to rest. Kirk Hinrich did not play in the second half because of a strained right groin. Given that the Bulls are already playing most of the year without Derrick Rose and Marquis Teague has struggled in limited minutes, they have to hope Hinrich isn't out for an extended period of time.

What it means: Yes, the Bulls won, but they did so against a team playing without its two best players. With a bench that is still struggling to find its niche, Tom Thibodeau is more dependent on his veteran starters than ever. They simply can't afford to have any of them go down for a while. The issue is that each player has dealt with various serious injuries over the past few years so it's hard to imagine a scenario where they all stay healthy all season. What Tuesday's game underscores is that the depth that has been such a key for the Bulls in recent years just isn't there right now. Marco Belinelli didn't score in this one and still hasn't hit a three-pointer this preseason. Nate Robinson, Taj Gibson and Nazr Mohammed combined to go just 3-for-15 from the field. There's still time for the Bulls, but Thibodeau understands his team has a long way to go to find consistency up and down the roster.

Stat of the night: Thunder swingman James Harden was 2-for-17 from the field.

Hits: Joakim Noah had a solid night and looked energized in 35 minutes. Noah had 15 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

Misses: The Bulls bench. They scored just 13 points and went a combined 5-for-20 from the floor.

What's next: The Bulls will practice the next couple of days before their final preseason tilt against the Indiana Pacers on Friday night in South Bend.

Carlos Boozer's big night a positive sign

October, 19, 2012
10/19/12
10:48
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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[+] EnlargeCarlos Boozer
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhCarols Boozer scored 24 points in Friday's Bulls win.
CHICAGO -- If the Chicago Bulls are going to have success this season without Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer has to play like he did in Friday night's 92-81 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

His teammates know it. His coach knows it. And most of all, the veteran forward knows it. After struggling to find a rhythm during the preseason, Boozer scored 24 points and pulled down nine rebounds Friday, finally finding the form that everyone in the Bulls' locker room hope can propel them while Rose recovers from a knee injury.

"He just needed to get going," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "He just needed to have a strong game to have himself ready for the season. I was saying to him, 'Just get your legs going. Get yourself going in the post.' He did a phenomenal job just running the floor, getting early seals, back to the old Carlos we know he can be and it was great. He did a great job. We kept feeding him and we're going to continue to do that throughout the year. He's going to be a big part of our success this year."

The key for Boozer was he was able to get into the rhythm of the offense early and his teammates made a point to get the ball to him. They knew he had been struggling to find his shot and they realized that it was time for him to shake off the rust.

"I like the way that Carlos played tonight," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He is practicing well. Tonight he got into a good rhythm. We have to seek him out more."

While some Bulls fans were concerned about Boozer's up-and-down play during the exhibitions, the forward always seemed certain that he would find his rhythm.

"Getting better and better every day, that's the goal," he said. "The reason we have preseason is so we can get better and better and get ready for the regular season. I see myself getting better and better each day, each game, each week, and the preseason's almost over so it's about time to get going."

As has been the case over the past two years, the key for Boozer Friday was that he started knocking down shots in the first quarter. The fact that his team was going to him gave him the confidence he needed to be successful against an undermanned Timberwolves team.

"It just happened by the course of the game," Boozer said. "It wasn't like it was planned out. It just happened. We got a couple stops, ran in transition, I did a good job of sealing the ball and making myself presentable to them and they hit me in the right spots to be successful."

No matter how it happened, Thibodeau was just happy that it did.

"We do stress inside-out," he said. "The guys did a good job of getting the ball to Carlos. When he has his feet in the lane and showing you his number, we have to get him the ball. Carlos' effort on the boards was good. Tonight he was a multiple-effort guy. He is capable of doing that all the time."

If he does, the Bulls will be in good shape this season.

Thibs wants to see 4th-quarter improvement

October, 19, 2012
10/19/12
10:40
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau saw continued improvement from his team in a 92-81 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, but the Bulls are still far from where he wants them to be after five preseason games.

Thibodeau again was especially displeased with the Bulls’ fourth-quarter performance. Both teams went basket-for-basket in the quarter and each scored 22 points.

[+] EnlargeMarco Belinelli
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty ImagesMarco Belinelli is struggling and so the Bulls in the fourth quarter.
“We have got to get better,” said Thibodeau, whose team improved to 3-2 in the preseason. “We have to recognize the difference between the fourth quarter and first three quarters. The intensity level is different. We have to execute better, and we need to watch our spacing. We need to recognize the matchups and go to the hot hand.

“We are playing hard and we need to be playing smart. We have to do it collectively. When we are standing and dancing with the ball, that is when we get into trouble. When the ball moves freely, good things happen for us.”

In the fourth quarter, the Bulls’ lead fluctuated from as high as 18 points to as low as 10 points. They shot 8 of 19 from the field.

Bulls forward Carlos Boozer, who scored a game-high 24 points, thought the team’s problems occurred throughout the second half, not just the fourth quarter. The Timberwolves outscored the Bulls 46-42 in the second half after the Bulls led 50-35 at halftime.

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Rapid Reaction: Bulls 92, Timberwolves 81

October, 19, 2012
10/19/12
10:11
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Chicago Bulls earned a 92-81 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night at the United Center.

How it happened: Carlos Boozer played the best game of his preseason, going off for 24 points (10-for-17 from the field), nine rebounds and four assists. Richard Hamilton added 15 points and five assists. Taj Gibson had 12 points and 11 rebounds while Joakim Noah pulled down 12 rebounds.

What it means: The Bulls needed to see this kind of performance from Boozer before the preseason was out. The veteran forward had not had a breakout game until Friday night. He was active early on offense and knocked down shots. If the Bulls are going to continue their winning ways this season, they must get this type of performance from Boozer on most nights, a more consistent performance.

Stat of the night: The Bulls had 47 rebounds.

Hits: Aside from the starters' performances, Nazr Mohammed had another solid outing. The backup center had six points and four rebounds in 15 minutes.

Misses: Marco Belinelli continued his preseason struggles. The veteran shooter was 0-for-5 from the field in 18 minutes.

What's next: The Bulls are back on the practice floor Saturday afternoon.

Big game a big boost for Nate Robinson

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
11:49
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- After struggling over the Chicago Bulls' first three preseason games to find any kind of rhythm, Nate Robinson received words of encouragement from plenty of people. It seems that two particular groups put his mind at ease: His teammates, and his children. The point guard took those words to heart, both on and off the floor, delivering in a big way on Tuesday night in place of injured starter Kirk Hinrich.

"I was kind of hard on myself (about) making shots and guys are just like, 'Just play, have fun. It will come back.'" Robinson said Tuesday after scoring 24 points and dishing out 13 assists in a 100-94 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. "I worked on my jump shot a lot and I was kind of disappointed in myself. But I talked to my kids the other day and they were like, 'It's OK, daddy. We still love you no matter what.' So that kind of helped me out today just having happy thoughts and just going out there playing and having fun and I did that."

Robinson's ability to have fun on the floor has never been in question. After making big plays he usually throws his arms into the air as if he was an airplane. On this particular night, he through an alley-oop off the backboard, something he said he won't do again for fear of the wrath of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. But it's clear that Robinson is at his best when he's having fun … and he was having plenty of that with his new teammates.

"I was just really trying to get guys involved, finding right spots, and they did a great job of making me look good," Robinson said. "But it was a team effort, man. They made shots and we played great defense as a team. And it was fun."

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Mohammed hopes to retire with Bulls

October, 15, 2012
10/15/12
7:38
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[+] EnlargeNazr Mohammed
Bradley Leeb/US PresswireNazr Mohammed has averaged nine points, and 9.6 rebounds in three preseason games.
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Nazr Mohammed has learned throughout his career not to get too settled with any one team.

His first lesson with that uncertainty came during the NBA draft in 1998. Mohammed, a Chicago native, was taken by the Utah Jazz out of the University of Kentucky in the first round and was later traded that evening to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Mohammed’s career journey went from the 76ers to the Atlanta Hawks to the New York Knicks to the Detroit Pistons San Antonio Spurs to the Charlotte Bobcats to the Oklahoma City Thunder last year.

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Hinrich fits right in with hard-working Bulls

October, 14, 2012
10/14/12
6:35
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- The more Kirk Hinrich and Tom Thibodeau speak, the easier it is to understand how the two found each other during the summer’s free-agency period. In basketball circles the two men always have been defined by their work ethic.

"He's a hard-nosed competitor," Thibodeau said recently. "I think the fact he was here once before helps a lot. He's familiar with a lot of the players that we have so I think that helps his transition. And he's been in a lot of different situations. He's a very good leader and I just think it's a good fit for us."

[+] EnlargeKirk Hinrich
David Sherman/Getty ImagesKirk Hinrich is happy to have a second chance with the Bulls.
Through three preseason games Hinrich has been the most consistent player on the Chicago Bulls roster. He's the one who sets the tone for the rest of the team and he's the one who has fallen back into the groove of being a leader of the organization. Whether Hinrich is playing on the floor, or speaking to reporters off it, it's clear that he is enjoying his second life in a Chicago uniform.

"I just tried to approach it as a new stage in my career," Hinrich said. "I'm looking as it as an opportunity. I'm on a team that kind of values the same things I value. And it's been fun so far."

Then Hinrich added the part that Thibodeau loves most.

"It's a lot of work, but it's been fun."

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Rapid Reaction: Bulls 92, Grizzlies 88

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
10:08
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Chicago Bulls earned a 92-88 win over the Memphis Grizzlies in Tuesday night’s preseason opener at the United Center.

How it happened: The Bulls understandably looked rusty at times in the first half, but the starters, led by Luol Deng, pushed the Bulls to a 21-4 run to start the second half giving them a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Deng finished with 18 points in 24 minutes. Rip Hamilton added 13 points and four rebounds while Joakim Noah chipped in with 10 points and seven rebounds.

What it means: Tom Thibodeau has to be pleased with the way his first unit performed. Deng looked to be in midseason form, racing up and down the floor. Hamilton played much freer without the confines of the bulky shoulder brace he wore at times last season. Noah, who had missed the last three days of practice for personal reasons, looked winded but made a few nice offensive moves. The key for the Bulls was the way their first-team offense pushed the ball all night. They played with a pace that most teams don't have early in the preseason. Kirk Hinrich looked comfortable playing with Deng and some of his old teammates, dishing out seven assists.

Stat of the night: The Bulls had 32 fast-break points.

Hits: Veteran center Nazr Mohammed was impressive in his first Bulls appearance. The Chicago native scored 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 22 minutes.

Misses: Jimmy Butler struggled badly in his first preseason game. The second-year swingman scored just two points, going 1-for-11 from the field. The Bulls are expecting a lot from Butler off the bench this year and he knows he must play better in order to earn Thibodeau's trust.

What's next: The Bulls have the day off Wednesday. They return to the practice floor Thursday afternoon.

Noah misses practice for personal reasons

October, 7, 2012
10/07/12
4:29
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was not at practice Sunday afternoon because of personal reasons. His status for Tuesday night's preseason opener against the Memphis Grizzlies is uncertain.

"We'll see," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "It's just a personal matter that he's dealing with. Not sure yet (of his return) ... He'll be out for a couple days. Hopefully he'll be back, he might be back (Monday). I don't know."

While Thibodeau didn't discuss the exact reason for Noah's absence, Noah did acknowledge during Bulls media day that his grandmother passed away Monday morning.

Rip Hamilton ready for preseason finale?

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
6:53
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is still undecided as to whether or not new shooting guard Rip Hamilton will make his Bulls debut in Tuesday night's preseason finale against the Indiana Pacers.

"Today was a little bit better," Thibodeau said after Monday afternoon's practice. "We'll see how it goes at the shootaround [Tuesday]. Then we'll make a decision."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5