Denver's Karl takes notice of Bulls' ability to hit the boards


Nov 10

By Adam Fluck

Only twice this season have the Chicago Bulls allowed more than 90 points in a game. Both times, the Bulls lost. When an opponent scores 90 or less, they are 4-0.

The team stated a renewed commitment to defense when training camp opened, and so far, so good. After holding the Spurs to 85 points in an opening night win and the Cavaliers to the same total in a road victory one week later—both before national TV audiences—other teams are taking notice.

“They put three guys on the boards probably as well as anybody in the NBA,” said Denver Nuggets Head Coach George Karl. “They rebound it with more energy than size. [Luol] Deng is a rebounder, but he’s a runner. [Joakim] Noah is athletic and really quick to the ball. [Brad] Miller has always been a sly rebounder. [John] Salmons, when he puts his mind to it, can get some rebounds.”

Though Noah leads the Bulls with 11.0 rebounds per game, Deng’s durability has been a pleasant surprise in his return from a right tibia stress fracture. His rebounding has been as well, as the 6-9 small forward has averaged 10.0 rebounds per game through six contests.

“He seems to be a more committed player,” Karl said of Deng. “He’s involved in more plays than just being a scorer like he was in the past. It seems like his defense comes out when you watch him. He’s had a couple big time rebounding games. I would think that down the stretch he’ll be at the four. [The Bulls] have a lot of confidence that even though they are small, they can rebound the ball and defend.”

Karl, a former North Carolina Tar Heel, even admitted he’s always been a fan of Deng in spite of his collegiate affiliation: “He’s one of the few Duke guys I’ve liked.”

As for the matchup at point guard between Chauncey Billups and Derrick Rose, Karl downplayed its significance from his standpoint, but did speak highly of Rose as he continues to mature and learn the game.

“Chauncey is a guy who makes it happen with his knacks and senses,” he said. “Derrick Rose is an incredible talent. He’s going to be incredibly good.”

Karl’s Nuggets will get a boost tonight with the return of two players—Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith. Martin suffered a left fibula contusion at Miami on Nov. 6 and was on the sideline for Denver’s next two games, both losses.

“The two games we played without him showed that his basketball IQ is important to us,” said Karl. “His defensive toughness is important to us.”

Smith, on the other hand, will play for the first time this season following a seven-game suspension for a reckless driving conviction. Smith won’t start—Arron Afflalo will get the call—but Karl said he did not plan on limiting Smith’s minutes.

“If he plays good, he’ll get 35,” he said. “I don’t know if his conditioning will let him get 35, but he’s been working hard and he looked good in shootaround. I think he’s a little nervous and anxious, as I would be.”

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