Jackson likes Bulls; sees room to improve

Phil Jackson said the return of Carlos Boozer will add a big piece to the Bulls. Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire

Phil Jackson likes what he sees with the Chicago Bulls, but the Los Angeles Lakers coach isn't sure the Bulls are a legitimate contender for the Eastern Conference just yet.

"They're not big," he said Tuesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "They don't have the dominant size.

"We'll see what happens when [Carlos] Boozer comes back to give them that 260-pound power forward in there. But they have the speed … and I think they can surprise a lot of people. Will they survive that group of Orlando, Miami and Boston, will be key for them."

Jackson believes the Bulls' playoff experience the past two years against Boston and Cleveland will help.

"They're a talented team," he said. "They're ready now to start moving into position as a dominant team in the East. We thought maybe they'd be a four-five with Atlanta, Orlando, Miami and Boston. This team when Boozer gets back is really talented, and they have guys who come through a learning process through the playoffs ... the last couple of years that's improved their basketball acumen.

"[Joakim] Noah's now a terrific competitor. He knows how to work and play the game. His first year I remember he was a little confused about the direction of the team and how they were going. [Derrick] Rose has now developed into this guy who has figured out the variety of defenses thrown up to stop him. He's developed an outside shot, and now you have to play him more on the exterior rather than just plug him in the lane.

"And the other guys, Luol Deng, and [Taj] Gibson is playing a good role. They have some situations depth-wise they're concerned about, but when Boozer gets back I think that will all be solved. They'll have the kind of direction they want to have as a basketball club, and they have every reason to be very optimistic about this team."

Jackson isn't ready to crown Rose a top point guard yet, but he does see potential.

"I don't think there's any doubt as point guards go, he's considered in the top five point guards," Jackson said. "This is a tough category, because so many teams rely on point guards to have aggression and the initiative for their team. You have so many really talented point guards that have emerged in the game the last five years, Derrick stands heads above some of them.

"With Chris Paul, a generator of a lot of things that happens on the team. [Rajon] Rondo is one of those guys who has emerged in the playoffs the last two years to really create things for the rest of his teammates. Rose has kind of got that idea. He's unselfish and wants to win. I think there's all those categories that make him potentially one of the top players in this game."

The Lakers host the Bulls on Tuesday night.