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News » What we learned from the preseason

What we learned from the preseason

What we learned from the preseason The Bulls were missing so many key players to injury or illness this month, the preseason hardly seemed useful.

On the other hand, by finishing 6-2, the Bulls matched their best exhibition record of the last 16 years. And the other time the Bulls were 6-2 in preseason, they went on to win 49 games and reach the second round of the playoffs in 2006-07.

So here?s a rundown of what went well and where improvement is required now that preseason 2009 is history:

The good

Defensive steps: When training camp began, general manager Gar Forman and coach Vinny Del Negro promised that defense would be a top priority this season.

The Bulls didn?t face the most rugged preseason schedule, but they did manage to hold opponents to 91.9 points per game and a field-goal percentage of .403. It?s a start.

The rise of Taj: No. 26 draft picks come with built-in low expectations, but 6-foot-9 forward Taj Gibson was consistently solid. He averaged 12.4 points (fifth-best among rookies in the preseason), 5.8 rebounds (third-best among rookies) and shot 55 percent from the field (fourth).

Beyond that, the 24-year-old Brooklyn native played like a calm veteran with a high Basketball IQ. Tim Floyd must have taught him well at USC.

Winning is a habit: Throughout the preseason, several Bulls raved about the strong locker-room chemistry. On the court, they shared the ball and played with confidence. Eight players averaged double-figure points, while a ninth, Brad Miller, was at 9.8 ppg.

In short, the Bulls resembled a team that expects to be a playoff contender. Preseason doesn?t mean much in the long run, but this sort of performance beats the alternative.

"We have a lot of areas to improve in," Del Negro said following Friday?s 93-70 win over Washington. "But I like our effort; I like our demeanor."

The bad

Missing the point: Derrick Rose should be ready to play in Thursday?s season opener against San Antonio, but the Bulls haven?t had their best player on the floor full-time since he injured his right ankle on Oct. 2 at Indiana.

Getting Rose back in the lineup will be a bonus, but might take some adjustment.

"We have a lot of continuity that still needs to be built on both ends of the court," Del Negro said. "That?s only going to come when we get our whole group together."

Deng needs time: Of the Bulls ? top nine scorers during the preseason, all but two shot at least 44 percent from the field. One who didn?t was Luol Deng, who averaged 10.8 points and made 38 percent of his field-goal attempts.

The Bulls would like to see more from Deng, but realistically, he needs more time to shake off some rust. He missed the final 29 games last season and had to rest most of the summer while recovering from a stress fracture in his right shin.

On the bright side, Deng played in every preseason game and ranked second on the team in minutes played, behind Gibson. So he seems to be on the right track.

"I think from the first preseason game to now, my cutting, running the floor, playing defense ? I just feel a lot better and a lot more comfortable doing it," Deng said. "I think I?m healthy enough."

Ready or not: This has nothing to do with the preseason, but the continuity-challenged Bulls face a difficult start to the regular season. After opening with the Spurs, the next four games include Boston, Miami and Cleveland ? all on the road.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 26, 2009


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