Bulls

Bulls open critical road trip in Milwaukee

268130.jpg

Bulls open critical road trip in Milwaukee

Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011
Posted 11:18 a.m. Updated 6:32 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEEThursday nights home win in a marquee matchup over the Heat might have made league observers take the Bulls more seriously as true championship contenders, but to the team itself, it was just another game. Okay, maybe it wasnt that insignificant, but dont expect them to have a letdown performance in Saturdays contest against the Central Division rival Bucks.

Every game is important and I think that the last couple games just prove to you how difficult the NBA is. You beat a team like Miami; the day before, we lose to Toronto, Joakim Noah told CSNChicago.com before the teams morning shootaround at the Bradley Center. So, it just shows you have to be mentally prepared and you have to be ready for all obstacles.

Still, one would think preserving their perfect record against divisional opponents would be a motivating factor, right?

We didnt set out to do that. If we could, wed win every game. I think that were on a run right now. We came back from beating a good team. Weve got the opportunity to play a good team tonight to see how good we really are, said Derrick Rose, pooh-poohing that notion. Milwaukee has had a lot of injuries. A lot of their key players were out, banged up and that really can hurt your team. Trades and all that stuff, getting used to playing with each other, changing lineupsthats toughand they just havent had time to play with each other, really.

Rose professed that the Bulls remain an insular bunch, concerned with only their self-perception, winning games and continually improving.

We dont really care about what other people say. If anything, we knew in the beginning that we were going to be an all right team with the way that we work, the way that we practice and all that stuff. We go hard, so where were at right now or the way that were playing, were not surprised because we work so hard in practice and we trust in and have confidence in each other, said the All-Star point guard. Hopefully, but weve just got to continue to win. Winning takes care of everything. Youve got to notice us one day.

Concurred Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Each game, we just worry about the opponent were facing. All that stuffthe recordthat doesnt mean anything. To win tonight is whats important, so we focus on that. the big thing for us to have a good shootaround. This team is dangerous. Theyre getting guys back, theyre playing at a high level, so we know that we have to be ready right from the start of the game and establish a defensive identity to the game.

Not only is Thibodeau unconcerned with the fanfare garnered from the Heat win, the basketball lifer is truly preoccupied with how his squad will fare against the Bucks, who went from last years plucky Fear the Deer campaign to a disappointing, injury-plagued season thus far after being saddled with high preseason expectations.

That game is gone. I think you take it game by game and certainly analyze why you either win or why you lost, and then you move forward from there. The big thing is the improvement. If you keep looking back and youre not ready for this game, then it hurts you. If you learn from it, it prepares for your next game, then its good and thats what were trying to do, is each and every game, to move forward, to correct the mistakes that weve made in the previous game and keep adding, try to build the right habits. I think when we get to the playoffs, you want to make sure were building those habits that can make us successful down the road, said Thibodeau.

The big thing has been the injuries for Milwaukee. Bucks center Andrew Bogut had the big setback last year and hes continuing to work through it. To me, he still has great impact on the game because he anchors their defense, hes a great shot-blocker and hes a tough guy to stop when he gets good positioning. And then Brandon Jennings, when your point guard and your center get hurt, its tough to overcome and they have a lot of new guys. Swingman Carlos Delfino being out with his injury, that hurt them. But theyre dangerous. Theyre an extremely well-coached team, they have a defensive identity and now that theyre getting their players back, its a team thats hard to guard, they share the ball, the move the ball great. Its a great drive-and-kick team.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

dunnlavinelauri.png
USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill recap the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, look at the continued growth of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and discuss if Bobby Portis is part of the Bulls’ long term future.

They also check in on LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, discuss whether or not the Golden State Warriors can make another title run and the latest on the status of San Antonio Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard. The guys also discuss how Oklahoma guard Trae Young could look in a Bulls uniform if he’s available for them in the draft.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.