Sometimes you lose (win), sometimes you win and sometimes you're just tanktastic

Sometimes you lose (win), sometimes you win and sometimes you're just tanktastic

Sometimes you lose:

Cue Rosie Perez from “White Men Can’t Jump”: “Sometimes when you lose, you really win and sometimes when you win, you really lose”

The Bulls wouldn’t have minded if the Orlando Magic put together an improbable performance, but the Magic authored a ending worthy of their conference-worst standing.

After putting together a gutsy comeback in the fourth quarter, rebounding from an 18-point deficit, they had a chance to win with 15.2 seconds left.


Someone forgot to tell Zach LaVine the Bulls were supposed to lose, as he cut off Shelvin Mack’s angle on the inbounds pass, stealing it and getting a breakaway dunk with 12.4 seconds left to essentially seal the 105-101 win Monday at the United Center.

“He made a great read on the play, shooting the gap and getting the steal,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We were awful in those last seven minutes, as far as closing out that game. Had the big lead and just took our foot off the gas.”

With two games separating the Bulls and Magic before the game, the loss would’ve been valuable to the Bulls. In a league where there’s eight truly bad teams, the Bulls are eighth and it’s a clear distance of sorts between them and the next-worst team.

They’d just rather it not appear that way in the standings, so when Mario Hezonja got hot from the 3-point line and scoring 14 in the final period, there probably weren’t too many folks shedding tears.

The Bulls were collapsing and headed to a crushing loss. But after a five-point lead turned into a three-point deficit in a two-minute span, Bobby Portis hit two baskets to keep things within striking distance.

First a leaning floater and then a triple from a pick-and-pop with Jerian Grant feeding him to tie the game at 101.

Portis scored 10 of his 19 in the fourth, adding seven rebounds and three triples in 26 minutes.

“That’s a play coach runs for me all the time,” Portis said. “I have confidence in that shot and it was open. Coach always says it’s the open shot that’s the best shot, because if you keep passing you might not get a good shot.”

That might explain the 17 shots Portis took, clearly being aggressive on both ends as he provided energy in what wasn’t a well-played game for the better part of 46 minutes.

“It’s a great learning opportunity,” Hoiberg said. “We have to find a way to close it. It’s always better to learn from a win, no doubt about that.”

The Bulls are clearly not yet fully tanking, although they’re straddling the line. Kris Dunn is out of concussion protocol but hasn’t returned. But Cristiano Felicio hasn’t cut into Robin Lopez’ minutes and Cam Payne was still inactive.

They’ll have time to make up the 2.5-game deficit the Atlanta Hawks have over them at the bottom of the East, while the Sacramento Kings hold the same “lead” at the top of the lottery standings.

Problem is, there’s 26 games left and seven teams between where the Bulls are and where they’d ideally like to be at the end of 82 games.

Talk to ‘em, Rosie.

Sometimes you win:

If there’s any solace in the win, for the lottery truthers, it’s the fact LaVine was the one making the late-game play. He forced a bad angle on Jonathon Simmons’ inbounds pass to Shelvin Mack, breaking free for the aforementioned dunk to prevent the Bulls from a stunning collapse.

LaVine was a game-high plus-16, scoring 18 with seven rebounds and five assists in 33 minutes. He took a wing jumper on the possession before and was perturbed he couldn’t come through, so with the Magic having a chance to take a lead, he stepped in—literally.

“I pushed up on him (Mack),” LaVine said. “Tried to make it tough. I bumped into Mack, made an aggressive play on the ball.”

If you like the bright side of things, two of the cornerstones for the Bulls are backcourt players who’ll have the ball in their hands late as the NBA is a guard’s league and neither is afraid of clutch situations.

“You always want to have options late in games, depending on who’s got it going,” Hoiberg said. “Tonight he missed a couple shots but then makes the big defensive play for us and knocks down the clutch free-throws for the second time in three games.”

Kris Dunn doesn’t scare, and as LaVine has shown in the last four days, with his big plays late against the Timberwolves, he doesn’t flinch either.

“I embrace it, you have to get it done,” LaVine said. “Everybody wants the ball in their hands at the end of the game. You have to have the confidence. I think I do. You have to be sharper. You’ve gotta be aggressive. You have to make a big play.”

And let’s be honest here. LaVine is up for restricted free agency this summer. All of these plays go into this dossier to frame during negotiations, when free-agent money will be scarce league-wide.

So if a negotiation can get on the contentious side, winning plays like the last few nights can be his trump card of sorts.

“You gotta play for yourself,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com. “You got front office evaluating you and things like that. There’s pride, you gotta go out there and show your worth. I definitely have something to play for.”

When it was mentioned LaVine had something specifically to play for, he cut off the question like he cut off Mack on the inbounds pass, telling NBCSportsChicago.com, “The contract, yeah. (That’s) Backup, yeah. To show that you’re worth it. Of course.”

In his three games leading up to Monday, LaVine was averaging 27.7 points and 5.7 rebounds for his best stretch of the season to date, capped off by the 35-point masterpiece against his former team.

But he doesn’t want to simply be measured by the numbers, telling NBCSportsChicago.com, “I’m giving you plays. It’s pride as well. At the end of the summer you have to stand up for yourself. You don’t worry about that, you let your play speak for itself. You’re not going out there and playing for money. It’s a big factor in our game.”


All bad teams aren’t created equal, and there’s reason the Magic are angling for the best pick possible because aside from Aaron Gordon, there isn’t much top-level talent on the roster.

They traded underwhelming Elfrid Payton at the deadline and didn’t exercise their 2018-19 option on former draft pick Mario Hezonja—yes, the guy who nearly shot the lights out and pulled a win out of nothing Monday night.

Next to the Atlanta Hawks, it may be the worst roster in the league but they play hard for coach Frank Vogel.

That being said, a favorite NBA commercial comes to mind—something the league could revive for the final stretch as several teams will be trotting out less than their best to improve lottery position.

(Just change the final slogan to “tanktastic!)



Okay, here’s another fave:

And last one:


Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history


Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history

We're trying to figure out the best season in Bulls franchise history, and we want your help in deciding.

Because the Bulls tout the greatest player in basketball history, who could have made up this list by himself, we're giving Michael Jordan his own side of the bracket. But the other side of the bracket is also filled with some pretty memorable and remarkable campaigns.

So read up on each matchup and then have your voice heard by voting on our Twitter page here. Check out the entire bracket in the graphic above.

The Jordan Region

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96) vs. No. 8 Michael Jordan (1990-91)

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96): Jordan was on a mission in his first full season back from retirement. He led the Bulls to a then-record 72 wins with a regular-season MVP award, All-Star MVP and romp through the NBA playoffs, where the Bulls went 15-3 en route to their fourth NBA title. Jordan won his eighth straight scoring title at 30.4 points a game, with nine games where he put up 40 or more. He saved his best for Detroit, scoring 53 with 11 rebounds and six steals in early March. To prove Jordan was getting better as he aged, he shot a career-high 43 percent from 3-point range at age 33.

No. 2 Michael Jordan (1990-91): 1990-91: Jordan's second MVP came with his first NBA title, as he was at the peak of his powers physically combined with the ultimate team success, with the Bulls finally getting past Detroit before defeating the Lakers in the Finals. He shot a career-high 54 percent from the field while averaging 31.5 points, six rebounds and 5.5 assists as he began to fully embrace the triangle offense in Phil Jackson's second season. Jordan had 57 games where he shot better than 50 percent from the field, and was among the league leaders in steals at 2.7 per game while earning his fourth straight All-Defensive First Team honor.

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11) vs. No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94)

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11): Where to begin? The youngest MVP in league history took the league by storm, averaging 25.0 points and 7.7 assists while leading the Bulls to a league-best 62 wins. Rose had been named an All-Star the previous season but took his game to new heights in Year 3, appearing in 81 games, making 128 3-pointers (after making a combined 32 his first two seasons) while helping the Bulls rank first in defensive efficiency under first year head coach Tom Thibodeau. Rose and the Bulls lost in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat, with Rose shooting a paltry 35 percent on 24 attempts per game. But his historic season will always go down as one of the franchise’s best, and the only non-Jordan MVP.

No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94): Yeah, well what would Scottie be without MJ? We found out that answer in 1993-94, when Pippen took the reins of the franchise as Jordan rode the Birmingham bus as a minor-league baseball player. Pippen responded with a sensational season, averaging 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He averaged 2.9 steals, shot 49 percent from the field and became a 3-point threat for the first time in his career. He was named First Team All-NBA and All-NBA Defensive First Team, and finished third to Hakeem and The Admiral in MVP voting. He averaged 22.8/8.3/4.6 in the postseason but ultimately proved it was easier to win in the spring with MJ by his side. Still, this individual season was one of the franchise’s best, if not the best. Hardware isn’t everything.

NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander


NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

For most of the college basketball season, John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats ranked among the nation’s biggest underachievers. Calipari had perfected the one-and-done route in Lexington, recruiting classes full of McDonald’s All-Americans every year, making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and then sending those talented freshmen off to the NBA. Matter of fact, Coach Cal’s ability to get players ready to play professionally is the foundation of his recruiting success.

However, this season the tried and true formula ran into a bit of a speed bump. Injuries and inconsistency led to double digit losses for the Wildcats during the regular season, and an uncertain tournament outlook. That’s when freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander emerged as the leader of this young team, and sparked Kentucky to a Southeastern Conference tournament championship.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been even better in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 19 points with 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the Wildcats’ opening round win over Davidson, then coming back with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in a victory over Buffalo.

At 6-6, Gilgeous-Alexander has the ability to shoot and pass over smaller defenders, while also possessing the quickness that is so crucial at the point guard position. Yes, he is very thin at 180 pounds, but has the frame to put on weight once he’s introduced to an NBA strength training program.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been Kentucky’s most efficient player throughout the season, shooting 49% from the field and nearly 42% from the 3 point line. He has the quickness and ball-handling ability to break down defenses and get in the paint for easy scores or assists. As the season progressed, Gilgeous-Alexander took on the role of go-to scorer late in games, sparking Kentucky’s runs in the S.E.C. AND NCAA tournaments.

So, by now I’m sure you’re asking, where does he fit with the Bulls? 3 weeks ago I was hoping Gilgeous-Alexander might be available in the 16-22 range where the Bulls might be able to get him with the Pelicans’ 1st round pick acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade. Unfortunately, his outstanding post-season play has him rocketing into the late lottery in the most recent mock drafts, and he could move up even higher if Kentucky advances to the Final 4.

The Bulls are happy with Kris Dunn as their starting point guard, and both Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne are under contract for next season. But if somehow the Pelicans fall out of the playoff field in the West (which seems very unlikely right now), adding an athletic combo guard like Gilgeous-Alexander would be an outstanding pick at 13 or 14.

So, when you’re watching Kentucky play in the NCAA Tournament, keep an eye on the tall, skinny guard wearing #22 and try to project just how good he might be on the professional level.