Bulls have hands full with Mavericks' size and ability


Mar 6

By Adam Fluck

They say everything is bigger in Texas, and there is no exception when it comes to the Dallas Mavericks, who start a pair of seven-footers, two sized 6-7, and a 6-4 point guard. By the way, they’ve got a record of 42-21, second best in the Western Conference.

“They’re big,” acknowledged Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro on Saturday. “They’ve got a lot of talent and they’re on a major win streak. But they’ve got a lot of talent, and that’s why they’re winning. Their trade deadline move was very solid and it’s helped them obviously.”

On Feb. 13, Dallas acquired Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood and cash from Washington for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton and Quinton Ross. The move has paid off for the Mavericks, winners of 10-straight games, including three on the road versus Eastern Conference playoff contenders.

Though the Bulls will still be without Joakim Noah, out at least a few weeks more with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, injuries to Kirk Hinrich (right ankle sprain; day-to-day) and Luol Deng (left knee; probable) have improved and both are expected to start on Saturday.

“Luol is feeling a little bit better. He still has some swelling in [his knee], but I think it has gone down,” Del Negro reported. “Kirk is feeling a little bit better. Neither one practiced [Friday], but Kirk will fight through it.”

Despite the sore knee, Deng is averaging a double-double with 22.5 ppg and 10.0 rpg in 41.0 mpg over his last four contests.

Meanwhile, Derrick Rose has continued his hot streak, averaging 25.4 ppg, 4.4 apg, and 3.2 rpg in 38.7 mpg over his last five games. He is also shooting .524 from the field and .792 from the charity stripe over that stretch.

“Rose is one of the most difficult guys in the league to guard because of his ability to get places with the ball,” said Mavericks Head Coach Rick Carlisle. “His outside shot keeps getting better.”

Del Negro cited rebounding, controlling the tempo and a greater sense of urgency as keys to getting a victory against the Mavericks.

“I think our bench has to step up and be a little more productive,” Del Negro added. “They need to try and give the starters a little bit of a rest. We have to be productive. If we’re turning it over and struggling a little bit, you have to find ways to pick up your urgency defensively and get some stops and rebound the ball.”

The Bulls trail the all-time series with the Mavericks 29-28, but Chicago is 16-12 against Dallas in the Windy City. Last year against the Mavs, Derrick Rose averaged 19.0 ppg, 7.5 apg and 6.5 rpg in 42.5 mpg.

Dallas is 17-3 in its last 20 games versus Chicago. The Bulls are 2-3 against Dallas in overtime contests, most recently falling to the Mavs 115-114 on Feb. 7, 2009 in Dallas.

Future Hall of Famer Kidd keeps going

At the tender age of 36 and now in his 16th NBA season, Mavericks guard Jason Kidd continues to play at a remarkably high level.

“He’s been playing great for the two years since I’ve been here,” Carlisle said on Saturday. “He’s had a few monster games; he had the huge triple-double game in Atlanta. Those kinds of things get everyone’s attention, but it’s nothing new.”

The aforementioned triple-double, in which Kidd recorded 19 points, a season-high 16 rebounds, a season-high tying 17 assists and two steals in 46 minutes against the Hawks on Feb. 26, was the 104th of his career. He is the first NBA player to record 15, 15 and 15 in the same game since he did so with 21 points, 16 rebounds and 16 assists (with Dallas) on Jan. 30, 1996.

“Also, I think the guys coming in from the trade, when you get a new batch of guys, it energizes people a bit. I think Jason has embraced the challenge of getting these guys integrated,” Carlisle added. “He’s been a big part of it because we haven’t been able to do a lot of play calling because we haven’t had a lot of practice time to do anything to get our plays in. He’s been a facilitator.”

The Bulls’ Del Negro echoed Carlisle’s sentiments about Kidd.

“He’s got an incredible feel for the game,” said Del Negro, who shared the backcourt with Kidd when the two were members of the Phoenix Suns. “He’s strong, fast and a student of the game. He makes all the big plays and guards. He just has the whole package and he’s fun to play with.

“He’s a future Hall of Famer for sure,” Del Negro added. “He defies time the way he’s playing with his age, but I know how hard he works at it with the conditioning he puts in during the summertime. So it doesn’t surprise me.”

Audio—Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro on facing the Mavericks, the latest on Hinrich and Deng’s injuries, and Dallas point guard Jason Kidd (03.06.10):

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