Russell Westbrook believes Derrick Rose is close to comeback
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com February 24, 2013 11:16PM
Chicago Bulls guard Nate Robinson (2) goes up for a dunk over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
Updated: February 25, 2013 3:18PM
OKLAHOMA CITY — The finger-pointing started for the Bulls on Sunday night.
A 30-point loss to the defending Western Conference champions will do that to a team.
But rather than identify teammates who need to pick it up, All-Star center Joakim Noah said the blame starts with him, and the rest of the Bulls can just jump into line.
‘‘It starts with myself — I’ve got to play better,’’ said Noah, who had eight points and nine rebounds in a 102-72 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. ‘‘Everyone has to look at themselves in the mirror. We’ve had a tough stretch right now. It’s very humbling to lose like that. This isn’t getting it done, and it’s tough.’’
It’s not going to get any easier for the Bulls (32-24), either, as coach Tom Thibodeau reiterated.
‘‘We have to do our jobs,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘We’ve shown when we do that, we’re capable of beating anyone. We have to be mentally tougher; we have to be stronger. When you face a little bit of adversity, whether you’re short-handed, you have to dig down and get the job done.
‘‘We have to go home and play a lot tougher. Our level of intensity has to be much higher. We’ve got to get that part right, and we’ve got to get it right quickly.’’
Tough times have hit, and they’ve hit hard. There was a one-sided loss to the undermanned San Antonio Spurs on Feb. 11. On Thursday, the Miami Heat waltzed out of the United Center with an 86-67 win. And now, a complete no-show in Oklahoma City. Luol Deng and Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 13 points apiece.
It got so bad for the Bulls in the first half that with just under three minutes left in the second quarter, they were trailing 42-27 while shooting 20 percent (9-for-45), including 2-for-17 from the bench.
‘‘The way we competed, it’s just embarrassing,’’ Noah said. ‘‘But it’s not time to feel sorry for ourselves. Things move fast in this league, and we’ve got to bounce back fast.’’
Sunday wasn’t all bad news. Before the game, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook — who finished the evening with a game-high 23 points — offered up some news about Rose, his good friend and offseason workout partner.
While Westbrook said he hasn’t spoken to Rose much lately, there has been enough communication between the two that he sees Rose returning sooner than later in his recovery from a surgically repaired anterior cruciate ligament.
‘‘I’ve communicated with him a few times,’’ Westbrook said. ‘‘I see that he’s getting better. He’s almost close to coming back.’’
Thibodeau wants Rose coming back to a team that plays like one.
‘‘You have to do what’s best for the team, not necessarily what’s best for yourself,’’ Thibodeau said with more than a hint of anger. ‘‘You can’t get stuck in whatever problems you’re having individually. You have to do your job for the team — first.’’