And then Thompson topped DeRozan.
Tristan Thompson finishes a ferocious dunk in his Bulls debut against the Hawks.
Tristan Thompson finishes a ferocious dunk in his Bulls debut against the Hawks.
Not on the court, though Thompson’s presence was the missing factor of physical presence the Bulls often have lacked this season. But DeRozan just did what several other NBA players already have, though they are the pantheon of NBA excellence.
Thompson declared what likely no one in the NBA ever has, that Dennis Rodman is his hero and role model on and off the basketball court.
Be like Dennis?
Thompson isn’t quite Rodman, though his desire to deliver Rodman’s hustle and effort is commendable. It is just what the Bulls will need in the playoffs.
“I idolize Dennis Rodman, idolize the Worm,” Thompson said asked about his inaugural comment Wednesday about being another Rodman. “He was the first person, I believe, in this league, in NBA history, to be a star in their role. I remember saying that, ‘Be a star in your role,’ when we were on that run in Cleveland, making the championship runs. He was the definition of being a star in your role, and that’s something I wanted to embody in myself and my game.”
It’s not exactly accurate since the NBA has a long history of Rodman kind of rugged role players, if not as dominant rebounding. The Bulls had Charles Oakley. Names like Maurice Lucas, Paul Silas, Bill Bridges, Clyde Lovellette and Jim Loscutoff come to mind. OK, perhaps just to my mind. But like Bluto in Animal House—no, I’m not done with 70’s references—Thompson was rolling. No reason to stop him.
“I remember (being) in the playoffs,” Thompson said. “I used to watch his clips for five minutes before every playoff game, his activity, keeping the ball alive, being relentless, to put that fire inside of me. The fact I’m able to put on a Chicago Bulls jersey and go out there and try to make Dennis proud. That’s all l’m trying to do. He’s a Hall of Famer, a guy I look up to the way he plays; everything he does in life I look up to. He’s great. It’s an honor.
“They need to retire that 91. C’mon now, let’s get to it. I always buy his merch(andise), support him. His vintage shirts are pretty cool. Big fan of Dennis, the Dennis Rodman!”
So imagine what Thompson might have to say on his fifth day as a Bull.
Hard to believe this season is getting better.
It certainly looked like it was when the Bulls began the game 10-0 and pretty much controlled the entire game.
And then were about to lose.
Tap to watch highlights from Chicago’s 112-108 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
So these Bulls without Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams still aren’t quite playoff ready. But coming out of the All-Star break during which DeRozan, LaVine and Dosunmu participated and showed few ill effects, the Bulls looked like they got a bit better. Ever the demanding teacher, Bulls coach Billy Donovan before the game wasn’t so much impressed with the record as concerned with the passive defensive efforts generally being bailed out by DeRozan.
Not the ultimate formula for success, Donovan suggested.
The Bulls defended well to start, high scoring Atlanta with just six points in the first seven minutes and kept under 30 percent on threes for the game. Donovan emphasized defending threes better, and the Bulls responded with active closeouts, Vucevic’s at the denouement the highlight.
“Defensively, I thought the way we started the game was really, really good,” said Donovan. “There was a time in the third quarter we were giving up too much at the basket. I thought the fourth quarter was much better.”
The Bulls led 24-19 after one quarter with DeRozan tallying 16, his most for a quarter this season. Yeah, that All-Star weekend must have been tiring.
Thompson moved quickly into the backup center spot and just as quickly was a factor finishing on a Coby White pass as the Bulls got ahead 38-27. But the Hawks with their size on the wings kept misses in play (24-9 in second chance points) and repeatedly were able to get Clint Capella with 14 points and 17 rebounds rolling off pick and rolls for lob scores.
Atlanta drew within 52-50 at halftime and took its first lead of the game midway through the third quarter. With DeRozan regaining his energy for his fourth quarter role, LaVine kept the Bulls tied after three at 82 with a dozen points in the third quarter. Thompson closed the third with a pair fo offensive rebounds leading to four free throws.
Tap to listen to postgame reaction from Bulls coach Billy Donovan following their sixth straight win.
“I thought he was great tonight,” Donovan said. “He (Thompson) was great on the bench. When you’ve been around the amount of winning he has, been around championship teams, you gather an understanding of the things that go into winning and I think DeMar has that, too. Tristan’s voice on the bench, on the court, was really impactful and the way he played. He was in the huddle talking about being more physical. And when he did get in there, he really had a presence. We gained a little control of the game and he gave us good minutes considering he’s had just one day of practice and is learning to play with everybody.”
But then you sit back—or set some good screens—and watch DeMar work.
The Amazing One got into the fourth quarter with three consecutive baskets to start, backed off enough to see Dosunmu with a pair of scores and White with three, including a pair of crucial three pointers. But with Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari finding mismatches for scores, the Hawks scored on seven consecutive possessions for a 108-105 lead with 1:35 left. It also was when they won a challenge on a potential jump ball for possession. And then got another offensive rebound. But Young slipped trying to create a play and the Hawks couldn’t get off a shot before the 24-second violation.
It still was Atlanta by three with 58 seconds left.
Fans could have been leaving at that point knowing the Bulls would win.
It was DeMar Time.
“What he’s done, however many games it’s been, really it’s been the whole year, he’s just been remarkable,” enthused the usually unenthusiastic Donovan. “Incredible, his poise and calmness in situations is amazing.”
DeRozan eased into a 19 footer with 46.9 seconds left—no, he almost never misses—and then Dosunmu stayed with Young and blocked his driving attempt.
“Ayo did a great job,” said Donovan.
Then it was not just talent and instinct but intelligence.
The Bulls got the ball trailing by one with about 24 seconds left. The typical strategy then usually is to run down the clock for a good shot with perhaps a chance for an offensive rebound, but not to leave the opponent much time.
But DeRozan dribbling up court quickly saw what the Hawks were planning, his CPU processing the data quicker than anyone could react.
Dosunmu also got the rebound of the block and handed to DeRozan, who began dribbling up and surveying the Hawks defense. Bogdanovic was picking up, but DeRozan apparently could see Kevin Huerter to the left creeping over to double and likely force the ball to someone else. DeRozan always has said he’s comfortable making the play for someone else. But the truth is when you’re on a roll like that, make a play. That really is what making the right play is about. Not as some say inviting the defense and putting it the hands of maybe Dosunmu or Vucevic, who were stationed in the corners. It’s the flaw in the conventional wisdom these days often mentioned as making the right play. The right play is when your best player takes responsibility.
“You love it and you hate it,” DeRozan said. “Of course, you don’t want to be down and have the pressure on yourself to try to pull out a game. But when you’re in those moments, you’ve got to take it on. I love the moments. I love the challenge. I love the opportunity. It’s fun to me.”
So DeRozan sped up, darting quickly toward the circle, and then spinning left toward the elbow and away from Huerter’s late help. DeRozan took a step in along the lane on the left side near the high post about 13 feet away, spun and went down fouled as the ball settled through. The free throw made it 110-108 and then Vucevic forced Bogdanovic into a higher arc than necessary for the miss.
“Just tried to concentrate; they hit me,” offered DeRozan. “Made the shot and the free throw.”
Yup, just like that.