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News » Bulls' fishing trip starts early

Bulls' fishing trip starts early

Bulls' fishing trip starts earlyUnless they make a blockbuster deal before then, the Bulls will enter the NBA's free-agency period next summer flush with cash looking to hook the big fish they've lacked since Michael Jordan left more than a decade ago.

And this time they believe they have the right bait -- second-year point guard Derrick Rose -- to lure an All-Star to town.

Before the Bulls departed for Cleveland on Thursday (where they face the Cavaliers tonight), Rose was asked if he dreamed of playing with LeBron James -- the biggest of the big names that can become free agents this summer -- next season.

''Yeah, any one of those superstars can come here,'' he said with a smile. ''I wouldn't mind playing with anybody, especially a guy like LeBron. It can't do nothing but make the team better.''

Uh, that may be the understatement of the season.

If James' priority in selecting where he'll spend the next several years of his career is the place that gives him the best chance of winning, the 6-8 forward would have to take a serious look at the Bulls .

James is only 24, and the Bulls' talented young roster would be a natural fit. Rose, of course, is the most attractive of those young players, and he could get a head start in the recruitment of James by having a big game tonight.

Quicken Loans Arena is one of the toughest places in the NBA for a visitor, but Rose looks forward to the trips to the shores of Lake Erie.

''I like playing there, to tell you the truth,'' he said. ''It's a great crowd, great floor, great arena to play in, and they're a good team.''

Besides, the Bulls already have a win there this season, an 86-85 victory on Nov. 5 in which they successfully defended a James drive in the final seconds to hold on.

''It gives you confidence, but we can't take anything for granted,'' Rose said. ''We still have to go out there and play hard and play the game. They're a good team, they're rollin' right now.

''They're gonna come at us real hard, try to get us out of the game quick and jump on us, but we just have to go out there and play hard.''

The loss to the Bulls came during the Cavaliers' stumble out of the gates. They've rebounded and now lead the Central Division with a 13-5 record.

But the Bulls also can take solace in the fact that Rose was only playing at about 80 percent then as he worked his way back from a right ankle injury.

He isn't ready to declare himself 100 percent just yet, but his two crowd-pleasing dunks Wednesday in the Bulls' win over the Detroit Pistons -- including a two-handed alley-oop where his head was nearly at the rim -- show he has regained the explosive athleticism that was missing the first month of the season.

''I'm getting back there, I'm getting explosive, and it's coming along,'' he said.

For the Bulls to operate at peak efficiency offensively, they need Rose getting to the rim and finishing.

''He's getting his confidence back in terms of his ankle, his explosion,'' coach Vinny Del Negro said. ''In the last three or four games, he's really starting to push the tempo better, which I like. He's been aggressive off the screen-and-rolls and opened things up for his teammates.''

For the season, Rose is averaging 15.6 points and 5.2 assists, which is below the standard he set as a rookie. But he is averaging 19.8 points on better than 50 percent shooting in the last four games.

Two weeks ago in Los Angeles, a frustrated Rose vowed not to cut his hair until he started playing like himself. When asked if he was playing well enough to get a haircut, he said:

''We're still under .500, right? I'm not cutting it for a while.

''I've definitely done what I wanted to do, but I still need to come out in the first half and assert myself. I'm getting there, I'm being more aggressive, getting to the hole, getting to the line. I just have to continue to help the team.''

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Added: December 5, 2009


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