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News » Cheery-O for Bulls rookie

Cheery-O for Bulls rookie

Cheery-O for Bulls rookie James Johnson and Taj Gibson posed for a photo this week in London with their rookie backpacks. Johnson had Dora the Explorer, while Gibson looked sharp carrying the Disney Princesses.

It was all in the NBA tradition of saddling first-year players with chores and light humiliation. The rookies also forgot to load the team?s equipment onto the bus before Monday?s practice, according to Bulls .com, and had to run stairs at O2 Arena.

The trip to London ended very well for the rookies, though, especially Johnson. The 6-foot-9 forward from Wake Forest grabbed an offensive rebound and buried a 17-foot jumper at the buzzer to give the Bulls a 102-101 victory over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday. The Great Britain exhibition drew 18,689.

"Just shoot it, that was the only instinct," Johnson said. "I knew we didn?t have much time on the clock. I just tried to let it go as fast as I can before the clock ran out."

After Utah?s Ronnie Price hit 2 free throws with 25.4 seconds left to give his team a 1-point lead, Johnson shot an air ball 3-pointer from the corner, but the Jazz lost the rebound out of bounds with 6.5 seconds on the clock.

On the Bulls ? second chance, Derrick Byars missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, but a long rebound landed in Johnson?s hands. He drained the game-winner in front of the Bulls ? bench and was mobbed by teammates. The shot left his hand a split-second before time expired.

"To come here my first time was a great experience," Johnson said. "Get to see the soldiers with the red coats on, things like that. A lot of stuff you only get to see on TV."

The Bulls played very well despite missing three starters. While Derrick Rose and John Salmons started at guard in the preseason opener at Indiana, the Bulls used Kirk Hinrich and Jannero Pargo against the Jazz.

Rose sat out with a sore right ankle and Achilles, while Salmons skipped the trip for personal reasons. Gibson started at power forward in place of Tyrus Thomas (bruised hip).

Johnson finished with 18 points and a team-high 8 rebounds. London native Luol Deng also scored 18 points while hitting 8 of 12 shots from the field.

"It was amazing," Deng said. "I?m glad it?s kind of over, but it?s unbelievable. I?m looking in the stands and seeing some of the people who helped me play Basketball."

Deng was eager to play more but stuck to 25 minutes since he?s coming back from a stress fracture in his right shin.

"It?s exciting to be home and I wanted to play a lot of minutes," he said. "But it was the right thing to do to keep managing my minutes."

The Bulls (2-0) led by 11 points late in the third quarter before pulling most of the regulars. Pargo added 16 points and Hinrich had 11. Joakim Noah finished with 10 points and collected 6 of the Bulls ? 13 blocks.

Johnson was the No. 16 pick of this year?s draft. He showed off his multiple skills by pulling down a defensive rebound and going all the way for a lefty layup and 3-point play that put the Bulls up 100-99 with about a minute left.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: October 8, 2009


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