Derrick Rose returns, but Carmelo Anthony buries the Bulls

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Derrick Rose made his return to the Bulls starting lineup on Sunday after missing the last 12 games with a groin injury. The reigning MVP started slowly, exploded in the third quarter and was hit-or-miss from then on, finishing with 29 points, four assists, and eight turnovers in 39 minutes of action.

Rose was the story going in, but once the game got started, the afternoon belonged to Carmelo Anthony, who scored a season-high 43 points and drained two clutch three-pointers that propelled the Knicks to a 100-99 overtime win over a Bulls team that owns the league’s best record.

Rose clearly had some rust to shake off, and went 1-of-6 from the field for seven points, one assist, and five turnovers as the Knicks got off to a fast start, leading by as many as 21 points in the first quarter. Anthony had 22 points by halftime, and looked very comfortable getting each and every one of them.

In the third quarter, however, Rose seemed to find his stride. And the Bulls did what’s made them successful all season long: they made halftime adjustments and locked down defensively to get themselves back in the game. Rose exploded for 14 points in the third, while the Bulls’ team defense held the Knicks to just 30.4 percent shooting.

Chicago led by three after three, and put two and three defenders in front of Anthony for most of the fourth quarter, which forced the Knicks into swinging the ball and hoisting long three-pointers or contested jump-shots out on the perimeter. J.R. Smith was the one who got most of the open looks, but he couldn’t find his range, finishing just 1-of-6 in the period and a dreadful 6-of-22 for the game.

The Bulls seemed to have everything under control, and led by 10 points with just under 3:30 to play in regulation. But Rose, partly due to rust and fatigue, and partly due to some excellent defense from Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert, forced the issue down the stretch, but missed open shots and chances at the rim. Two of Rose’s turnovers came as the Knicks closed the period with a 10-0 run, capped by Anthony’s three that sent it to overtime.

But that was nothing compared to the game-winner Carmelo hit, a cold-blooded three that came after a furious Knicks possession in which they simply out-hustled a Bulls team that has built its reputation on doing exactly that. New York’s final possession began with 43 seconds left in overtime, but after multiple offensive rebounds and four shot attempts, it didn’t end until Anthony’s game-winning three went down with 8.2 seconds remaining.

Rose took the final shot attempt, and had a decent look at a runner of about seven feet, but it wasn’t to be.

This was Anthony’s game, and he played it efficiently and with a superstar swagger that very few of the game’s best players are able to display. Carmelo seems to play best when he has the spotlight to himself; this performance came with Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin both still out due to injury. On this afternoon, he was able to take advantage of it.

Kings’ rookie De’Aaron Fox commits California mortal sin, slams In-N-Out

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We Californians take a few things seriously. Surf reports, for one. Winemaking/tasting. Tech toys. Coming up with potential blockbuster movie franchise ideas, getting a star to buy in, then maybe or maybe not worrying about getting a decent script.

Also, In-N-Out Burger. If there is one thing all Californians can agree on, it’s that In-N-Out is the best burger chain in the world. It’s not up for debate.

Apparently Kings’ rookie De'Aaron Fox did not get that memo. He did a Q&A with Rolling Stone’s Seerat Sohi and crossed a sacred line.

“All I gotta say, you can tell everybody that lives in the state of California this: In-N-Out is not good.”

What’s your beef with In-N-Out Burger?
“Their burgers are overrated. They’re OK.”

Even Animal Style?
“Yes. People always say, you haven’t tried this. You haven’t tried that. I’m like, “Yeah, I looked up the secret menu. I’ve tried it all. It’s just not good.”

That’s controversial. What’s the best fast food spot then?
“Honestly, for me, I don’t count Chick-fil-A, because it’s way too good to be considered fast food. So I’m gonna say Wendy’s. Fat Burger in L.A. is better than In-N-Out.”

It’s this simple: Fox is flat-out wrong.

First off, Chick-fil-A is wildly overrated, so we know the taste of the 19-year-old point guard is off. Fat Burger is legit. But Wendy’s? Come on now, that’s just average.

If Fox had tried to argue Five Guys, I would have let it slide — I don’t think they’re as good, but I will admit a California bias. But Wendy’s? You lose the entire argument right there. It’s like saying Pixels was the best movie ever.

In-N-Out is the best. Fox needs to get on board with this.

Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic hospitalized after practice fight with Bobby Portis

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It was going to be a difficult season in Chicago if everything went right — and two days before the first game of the season things have gone horribly wrong.

Bulls’ starting forward Nikola Mirotic got into a shoving match with Bobby Portis, and Portis turned and sucker-punched him, according to multiple reports.

The Bulls have confirmed the fight and have announced Mirotic suffered a concussion and maxillary fractures in his face — the upper jaw and nasal cavity area — which likely will require surgery. He is going to miss weeks of time.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports had more details.

Mirotic was taken to the hospital Tuesday after their shoving altercation during practice ended with an alleged cheap shot from Portis to Mirotic’s face, league sources told The Vertical. Mirotic is undergoing tests, but is expected to be out for the foreseeable future, league sources said.

Mirotic will miss weeks, according to a source, and you can be sure severe discipline from the team is coming down for Portis.

In the short term, this likely means more run for rookie Lauri Markkanen as well as just re-signed Cristiano Felicio.

LeBron James will play in opener against Celtics

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Did we really expect anything else?

LeBron James was a game-time decision for the season opener in Cleveland against Boston and Kyrie Irving due to a sprained ankle. We expected he would go, but ankles can be tricky and are easy to re-injure once sprained, so the Cavs wanted to be careful.

He’s going to play. Coach Tyronn Lue made it official.

LeBron is the best player on the planet, but he can coast through the regular season at times. What teams try to avoid is giving him extra motivation… say bringing in a guy who left the team last summer on opening night. Expect full force LeBron tonight.

LeBron James, do you owe Cleveland anything? “I don’t owe anybody anything”

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It will be the biggest off-court topic of the NBA season: Will LeBron James stay with the Cavaliers after this season?

Right now, LeBron doesn’t know the answer to that question for sure. I’m sure he has ideas, but he wisely leaves all his options open, then can make a call next summer when the time comes.

When that time does come, does he owe his hometown Cleveland anything? LeBron answered that question in the latest issue of GQ, and he answered with an emphatic no.

“LeBron James owes nobody anything. Nobody,” he said. “When my mother told me I don’t owe her anything, from that point in time, I don’t owe anybody anything. But what I will give to the city of Cleveland is passion, commitment, and inspiration. As long as I put that jersey on, that’s what I represent. That’s why I’m there — to inspire that city. But I don’t owe anybody anything.”

That’s not what Cavs fans may want to hear, but it’s also spot on. LeBron has given this franchise everything he has, he has brought them the first title the team has had in 50 years, and nobody sane can question his passion or how hard he plays.

LeBron could well get to his eighth straight NBA Finals, feel he’s on a team that can push the Warriors, then look at his options — the Lakers and a young core that doesn’t defend well, for example — and think maybe he’s best where he’s at. Perhaps he teams up with another star in Los Angeles or somewhere else. If LeBron called up 28 teams and said “I want to come there” those teams would make whatever moves they needed to for the deal to happen. (I say 28 because the Warriors wouldn’t, and even they’d think about it.)

LeBron has the leverage, and he is always a guy who keeps his options open. He will be asked about his future in every road stop, he will dodge the questions, and we’ll try to read the tea leaves, but as of right now LeBron doesn’t know for sure what LeBron will do next summer. Neither do we.