Bulls

Bulls look to recover in Orlando on CSN

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Bulls look to recover in Orlando on CSN

The Bulls are hoping not to be on the wrong end of a team snapping a long losing streak when they travel to Orlando to take on the Magic tonight. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. followed by Bulls Postgame Live with Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill.
Tom Thibodeau's group ended 2012 on a sour note on Monday in a loss to the Bobcats, 91-81, to help Charlotte break an 18-game losing streak that dated back to Nov. 24. During that streak, opponents scored 100 or more points 15 times, yet the Bulls could only muster 81 points on a dreadful 35 percent shooting.
The Bulls' performance should give the Magic, losers of six straight, some added confidence heading into tonight's matchup. That, and the same day the Bulls had their hiccup against Charlotte, Orlando went down to the wire against the defending champion Miami Heat.
Related: Bulls play down to competition in Charlotte loss
The Magic led by as many as 11 points in the second half and seven in the fourth quarter, but LeBron James and company came back to win, 112-110, in overtime. But behind the late collapse was a career performance from center Nikola Vucevic, who went for 20 points and 29 rebounds against the Heat's weak interior.
Considered, more or less, as a throw-in as part of the four-team deal that sent Dwight Howard to Los Angeles and Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia, the 22-year-old Vucevic has been a force inside through the season's first two months.
Starting all 31 games, Vucevic is averaging 10.8 points and 10.5 rebounds, the latter of which ranks seventh in the NBA. He's also improved since Glen Davis was sidelined with a shoulder injury, averaging 14.5 points 14.3 rebounds over the last six games. He went for 16 points and 10 rebounds in his first meeting with the Bulls on Nov. 6. It will be a tough task for Joakim Noah, if he's able to play -- Noah is still sick and is a game-time decision with flu-like symptoms, as is Vladimir Radmanovic.
Vucevic will be at the forefront of the Bulls' gameplan tonight, along with another newcomer leading the Magic in scoring in 2012-'13.
Related: Orlando's Davis says Bulls will be fine without Rose
Shooting guard Arron Afflalo was also a part of the Magic's deal involving Howard, coming from the overcrowded small forward position in Denver, and has thrived in his increased role in Orlando. Now in his sixth season, Afflalo scored 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting in the Magic's 99-93 loss in Chicago on Nov. 6, and has averaged 21.3 points during Orlando's losing streak.
Not to be forgotten behind Afflalo is sixth man J.J. Redick, who is also enjoying a career year in the wake of the All-Star Howard's departure. He has started just four games but is fourth on the team in minutes per game, averaging 14.4 points, 2.0 3-pointers, 2.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists, all of which are career-highs.
He may be a potential target for the Bulls at the trade deadline, as reported by CSN Bay Area's Ric Bucher. Starter Rip Hamilton has returned to the lineup, and Marco Belinelli was improved in December, but the Bulls could be looking to shore up the position by acquiring another shooter; Redick would certainly fill that role.
Related: Could Bulls be players for Redick at deadline?
Afflalo and Redick have picked up the scoring load with Davis and Jameer Nelson (hip) out, but Nelson will return to the lineup tonight. They're coming off a solid performance against the Heat, and the Bulls are coming off their worst loss in the Tom Thibodeau era, so it could go either way tonight in Orlando. Tune into Comcast SportsNet all evening for your Bulls coverage, beginning at 6 p.m.

Bulls thankful Kris Dunn's injury wasn't worse; Zach LaVine cleared for extended minutes

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USA TODAY

Bulls thankful Kris Dunn's injury wasn't worse; Zach LaVine cleared for extended minutes

The fall was nasty and the concussion was substantial for Kris Dunn. But at second blush the Bulls are thankful it wasn’t worse.

Given the way his body jerked after Dunn released himself from the rim, the Bulls are glad he didn’t suffer a neck injury in addition to the concussion and dislocated front teeth.

“It could have been a major, major injury,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Obviously, it is a significant one with the concussion. You can't take these things lightly, but with the way that he fell and hit head first, we're really thankful that he'll be back hopefully before too long. But obviously we'll take things very cautiously, a cautious approach with this because of how significant concussions are. But hopefully we'll get him back soon.”

Dunn has braces on the front teeth to stabilize them, and Hoiberg said he’ll see the doctor every day over the next several days, per the league's concussion protocol. There’s a chance Dunn could join the Bulls on the three-game road trip, but he’ll miss at least Saturday’s game in Atlanta. The Bulls travel to New Orleans on Monday and Philadelphia on Wednesday.

It’s the second freak injury Dunn has suffered this season, in addition to dislocating his finger in the preseason. He struggled with it initially upon returning but recently had shown no signs of issues with it.

Dealing with a concussion and also a mouth injury makes things more complicated as far as his playing style. He plays aggressive and fast, bordering on recklessness occasionally.

Hoiberg doesn’t believe that will change when Dunn returns.

“I don't think it's going to change the way Kris plays,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously it was very unfortunate in the timing because he had a couple of really good plays there to get things really turned in our favor and get the momentum going down the stretch and they get a called timeout and get a layup out of it right away. Then we still had our chances late in that game. Kris was responsible as anybody for getting that game to striking distance. Unfortunately, we just couldn't make the plays we needed to to get the win.”

The more conservative style of Jerian Grant will take over in Dunn’s absence. Grant has been steady as a backup, averaging 7.6 points and 4.6 assists. Unlike Dunn, though, Grant hasn’t had issues with turnovers, at a four-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio this year.

Teams will dare Grant to beat them from the outside, as he’s missed 15 of his 16 3-point attempts this month.

“I've been here before, so I'm prepared. I've started a lot of games so far in my career, so I'm ready for it,” Grant said. “The last time I started, we got a win. I did what I had to do so I'm prepared to do whatever we need to do to get a win.”

Where Grant will receive relief is from Zach LaVine getting clearance for more minutes, as he’ll play in the fourth quarters and will have his minute-restriction increased to 24 minutes.

LaVine will likely play some point guard during stretches, and is shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range in the small sample size of three games and 19.7 minutes.

“We're not going to overextend him right now because he's still obviously very early in the process as far as getting back on the floor and getting in game shape,” Hoiberg said. “We don't want to get him fatigued out there so we'll keep his rotation stretches short. But wee will hopefully have him available some in the fourth quarter to give us what Kris does down the stretch, who's been as good as anybody on our team as far as helping out close games.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is Fred Hoiberg the coach of the future?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is Fred Hoiberg the coach of the future?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly) and Nick Friedell (ESPN.com) join Kap on the panel.  The Bears coordinators meet the media.  So how much will a new coaching staff improve the team?

Fred Hoiberg has the young Bulls playing hard.  So is he the coach of the future?

The Blackhawks are struggling to get their messaging right regarding Corey Crawford’s injury, John McDonough stands by Coach Q and Stan Bowman and Nick gives an impassioned defense of Sammy Sosa after Tom Ricketts says he needs to put everything on the table to be welcomed back to the Cubs.