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Rose hoping Illinois will go Public again

Carlos Boozer who had 13 points 11 rebounds closes Detroit’s BrandKnight. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Carlos Boozer, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds, closes in on Detroit’s Brandon Knight. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 1, 2012 8:35AM

Derrick Rose was among a number of Chicago high school basketball stars who jilted Illinois since the Illini played in the NCAA championship game in 2005. But he sounded like an Illini fan in hoping Illinois can re-establish its connection with the Public League under new coach John Groce.

‘‘We haven’t had that great feeling here in a long time since that run they had with Dee Brown and [Deron Williams],’’ Rose said Friday. ‘‘I know everybody’s just dying and waiting for that one team to bring us back.’’

Rose also endorsed his former high school coach, Robert Smith, for an assistant’s job at Illinois.

Simeon sent Deon Thomas, Nick Anderson and Bryant Notree to Illinois, and current star Jabari Parker, the son of former NBA player Sonny Parker, is a big target for Illinois next season.

‘‘I think he’ll be a great assistant,’’ Rose said of Smith, who has won five state championships at Simeon. ‘‘On the high school level, he did everything possible. It would be great for him to go to the college level and see what he could do there.’’

The main event

The Bulls play the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Sunday afternoon in a marquee showdown between the teams with the best records in the NBA. The Thunder (39-12) has the best record in the Western Conference.

But coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t concerned about his team getting caught looking ahead.

‘‘I think our guys are pretty good,’’ he said. ‘‘They understand that every team is tough in this league. If you look ahead or behind, you lose sight of what’s important.’’

Bench mobster

Though Luol Deng is a starter, he usually opens the second quarter with the second unit. And it’s not unusual for him to play better with the second unit than the starters.

‘‘Lu loves it when we come in the game because we’re going to push it,’’ Taj Gibson said. ‘‘We’re going to fight every possession. We’re going to hold everybody accountable. He just flourishes in it. He makes big shots with us.’’

Deng takes pride in being a second-unit player.

‘‘He’s a bench-mob member,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘He kind of gets mad when we say he’s not. But we say he is. A guy that plays that many minutes, he deserves it.’’

Defense first

After allowing 100 or more points in back-to-back games against the Raptors (a 102-101 victory) and Nuggets (a 108-91 loss), the Bulls have regained their NBA-leading form on defense. They held the Hawks to 77 points Wednesday night. The Pistons made eight of their first 10 shots Friday night to take an 18-10 lead. But they were 8-for-34 the rest of the first half, including 5-for-25 in the second quarter.

‘‘Thibs got on us the other day [after the Nuggets game],’’ John Lucas III said. ‘‘The [Toronto and Denver] games, our defense was down a little bit. We went back to the drawing board. Thibs told us, ‘We’re a defensive team. We’re not a run-and-gun team. We’re not going to try to outscore teams.’ We had to get back to Chicago basketball.’’

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