Bulls

Bulls anxious to turn tables on Sixers

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Bulls anxious to turn tables on Sixers

PHILADELPHIA It would be a stretch to call Sundays game a grudge match, but lets just say the Bulls didnt take their 16-point defeat at the hands of the 76ers last month lightly. The good news is they believe they know how to remedy what went wrong.

Play a lot tougher. Theyre good. They beat us up pretty good last time we played them here. Just got to make the adjustment, where we know its going to be a hard-fought game and come out prepared, Derrick Rose said, prior to the teams Sunday-morning shootaround at the Wells Fargo Center. Our effort. They beat us to every loose ball, out-rebounded us, transition couldnt stop them in transition, just getting back and it was hard to look at that tape.

Come out more prepared. Theyre a good team. I think were kind of mad at the way that they smacked us last time, at their place. Its definitely going to be a fun game, he continued. I think being locked in all 48 minutes. Theyre a good team. I thought the first half, we played decent over there, kind of lost focus a little bit in the second half and they made their run. Weve got to stop that. Weve got to go in focused. Were playing a very good team, good team at home, but were pretty confident with the last three games that weve played and having everyone back, so were looking forward to going out there and having a good game.

Rip Hamilton, who missed the February loss, chimed in from an observers viewpoint: They beat us to every loose ball, they came out with a lot of energy. It was game that we wanted to get that they won, so tonight we want to be prepared to hit first.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau diagnosed his teams issues in the blowout defeat, in which he sat his starters throughout the entire fourth quarter, from a strategic standpoint.

They were really soft in the pick-and-roll. They were forcing weak. We turned the ball over. That was our big problem, he said. Theyre athletic and quick, and if you turn the ball over, you put them in the open floor and thats where they do their damage. The thing thats different about them is they have a number of guys who can go off the dribble. Iguodala can handle the ball a lot, Holiday handles the ball, Lou Williams comes in great pick-and-roll player Turner can handle the ball and then, Thaddeus Young, hes a matchup problem because of his quickness at the four.

Thibodeau lauded the Sixers unselfishness on offense, citing it as a key to their success this season, in which they lead the Atlantic Division, ahead of more ballyhooed squads, such as Boston and New York.

They play for each other. I think thats the important thing. Play to win, make the extra pass, hit the open man, so I think you start off with that in mind. It starts off with your primary scorers. I think they have the responsibility of making the right play, so when theyre one-on-one and have the opportunities to score, they look to do so, but when the second defender comes, they have the responsibility to make the right play, hit the open man, said Thibodeau. The hard thing is being committed as a team to share the ball and I think if you have the right guys, theyll do that and I think if you look at the good teams in this league, to advance and to play well, I think you have to do that, so if one guys holding on to the ball, it makes it easy on the defense.

No surprise as Bulls, Zach LaVine decide to wait on contract extension

No surprise as Bulls, Zach LaVine decide to wait on contract extension

Only a couple names went off the board of 2014 draftees who reached agreements on extensions with their teams, with Zach LaVine sitting on the sidelines as the midnight deadline came and went.

His debut in a Bulls uniform and contract will have to wait.

Although LaVine’s representatives and the Bulls front office remained in communication, there was never any serious talk of a deal being reached and he’ll hit restricted free agency this summer.

The Bulls will have a better picture of what type of player LaVine is post-surgery on his left knee, and LaVine will have a chance to reconstruct his market value the way he’s done to his knee—as evidenced by his casual stroll down the lane, two dribbles and two-handed dunk while running a dummy offense with the assistant coaches over the weekend at the Advocate Center.

His return isn’t imminent, as he’s still weeks away from being cleared to practice, following the track of his rehab from surgery.

Perhaps in a bit of curious timing, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was talking about LaVine, saying his future shooting guard wasn’t going through much in the way of 5-on-0 drills.

“The big focus right now is on his rehab,” Hoiberg said.

But considering how few options Hoiberg has on a team that isn’t expected to win more than 20 games, the thought of how he’ll use LaVine on the floor in this offense isn’t unrealistic.

“He's doing a lot of unpredictable movements, but a lot of that is 1-on-0 workouts. Yeah, absolutely there's things we look at and see actions that other teams might be running for their skilled players or shooters.”

Justin Holiday will be keeping the seat warm for LaVine until LaVine is completely healed from his surgery, and while the Bulls are adhering to the nine-month recovery prognosis after his February surgery, his return will be highly anticipated.

“Some of the things we're running for Justin right now I think will be very good for Zach as well,” Hoiberg said. “Then we're going to get both of those guys on the floor, it's going to give you two really good options as far as shooting and spacing and two athletic wing players.”

With the Bulls in the infancy stages of a rebuild, LaVine’s success is one they’ll be invested in above any other player on the roster considering the financial stakes.

LaVine can command a deal well over $100 million this summer and will join the likes of draftmates Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon into the always-tricky world of restricted free agency.

The Bulls have done this dance before, most recently with Jimmy Butler before Butler blossomed into an All-Star. There was a small gulf between Butler’s contract wishes and the Bulls offer before the 2014-15 season began, one that resulted in Butler receiving a max contract when Butler took the biggest single-season leap in his career.

Preserving precious salary cap space has been paramount for the Bulls, who originally signed Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo to short-term deals with an eye on the summer of 2018, believing many teams will have overspent with the salary cap boom.

In that instance, they’re correct and are in position to have among the most cap space in the NBA next summer when Wade’s contract buyout runs off the books being close to $40 million under the cap. As of now, only Robin Lopez is guaranteed over $10 million for next season and Nikola Mirotic’s deal is a team option.

For LaVine, he began to blossom playing as a third wheel behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota before tearing his ACL. If he’s a reasonable facsimile physically, he will produce at a higher clip than scoring 18.9 points as a No. 1 option in Chicago.

As the centerpiece in the Butler trade, the Bulls have no intentions on letting him walk and LaVine is even more incentivized to perform for a potential max contract.

“I'm very excited about Zach. You can tell how much he wants to be out there with our guys. Every day he comes in and says, 'Coach, I'm ready to go out there',” Hoiberg said. “It's a process. We have to make sure he 100 percent healthy, even though he feels no symptoms right now at all. He's got no soreness in that leg. But he can't wait, his teammates can't wait and the staff obviously is very excited to get him back out there.”

Bulls continue stockpiling young point guards

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USA TODAY

Bulls continue stockpiling young point guards

Point Guard of the Future Part VIII? 

The Bulls added another guard to their already-claustrophobic backcourt on Monday, claiming Kay Felder off free agency waivers, according to The Vertical's Shams Charania. 

Felder, 22, was dealt alongside Richard Jefferson from the Cavaliers to the Hawks on Saturday before being immediately waived.

The Bulls then decided to take a flyer on the Oakland University product because why the heck not? Barring some type of NBA miracle, the Bulls are on a season-long march to the lottery, so adding another young player can't hurt. Even if Felder is now the fifth point guard, joining Cameron Payne, Kris Dunn, Ryan Arcidiacono and Jerian Grant, on the squad. 

In 42 games with the Cavs last season, Felder averaged four points and 1.4 assists in just over nine minutes. He was drafted with the hope that he could further his NCAA reputation as a scorer. However, he connected on just 39 percent from the field during his rookie season. He's also undersized -- like Nate Robinson-Isaiah Thomas Undersized -- lowering his ceiling as a defender. 

Whether he can find a niche as a second-unit heat check guy remains to be seen, but with Kris Dunn expected to miss a few weeks, it gives Fred Hoiberg another option at the very least. He's also former NBA All-Star Steve Smith's cousin, should you believe in the power of basketball families. 

In a corresponding move, the Bulls waived Diamond Stone and preseason hero, Jarell Eddie.