Chicago Bulls – Nikola Mirotic, Not Derrick Rose, Rules Preseason Debut

Nikola Mirotic

How seriously do teams take the NBA preseason? From the tension and borderline violence in the game between the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards, it seems that very seriously. Derrick Rose look good, Nikola Mirotic looked even better, but most of the attention went to Paul Pierce acting like a little kid in front of Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler doing everything possible except for putting the ball in the basket.

The Wizards won 85-81, but rarely do the results in these games actually matter. It’s about seeing how the starters are doing during their minutes on the floor, and whether or not certain players, especially the new ones, are fitting with the team. Derrick Rose, despite being a Bulls player since 2008, is almost like a new player (not for the first time), and just like last preseason although unlike the Basketball World Championship, he seems more than ready to begin.

Rose finished the game with 11 points in 14 minutes on 4-of-7 from the field. He didn’t pick up any injuries and didn’t look rusty at all, but with preseason kicking into high gear, it’s highly doubtful he’ll appear in Chicago’s next game. Joakim Noah underwent knee surgery during the offseason and was also limited to 14 minutes. Unlike Rose, Noah was filled with layers of rust, scoring two points on 1-of-6 from the field.

Paul Pierce may be a hall of famer, but he’s also a dirty player, and some things never change. After a very hard foul on Jimmy Butler, something the Wizards insisted on doing all game long (including a violent screen from Kevin Seraphin) Noah had some words with Pierce and gave him a small nudge on the arm. Pierce, maybe taking a page from the Jose Mourinho book of annoying rivals poked Joakim Noah on the forehead, which led to an almost-brawl. Feels like teams can’t wait to get the season started.

One problem for the Bulls this season will be splitting time among their froncourt players. Pau Gasol (8 points) is a new arrival which will be in the starting lineup, hurting Taj Gibson who made great progress last year. Gibson was just 3-of-12 from the field, scoring 10 points. The addition of Nikola Mirotic also adds positive headaches to Thibodeau, with the Croatian scoring 17 points off the bench, showing his ability to hit 3-pointers off the dribble, and giving everyone the notion that he’s much more than just a stretch 4.

Jimmy Butler didn’t just brawl and fight in this game. He got to the line eight times and finished with 7 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, with the Bulls expecting to see him take the next step when it comes to offensive contribution and consistency. The rookie, Doug McDermott, scored 8 points including 1-of-2 from beyond the arc. All these changes probably mean that Tony Snell, entering his second season in the league, will find it hard to get minutes during the regular season.

Paul Pierce? He scored just 2 points for the Wizards, led by Glen Rice Jr. with 18 points. John Wall looked bad with 1-of-7 from the field and Otto Porter Jr. was the worst with 1-of-10 from the field. The Wizards got big games from big men, as Marcin Gortat with a double double (13-10) and DeJuan Blair with 8 points and 10 rebounds did most of the damage for a team expected to do just as well if not better than last year.

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