Bulls looking for a steal on summer league roster


Bulls looking for a steal on summer league roster

LAS VEGAS Whether or not Adrian Griffins candidacy for the open head-coaching vacancy in Portland gains traction, one thing that can be said about his debut as the Bulls summer-league head coach is that, like his boss, his team showed resiliency.
The Bulls assistant coach, who interviewed with the Trail Blazers after arriving in Las Vegas for the NBA summer league, lost to the Celtics in the teams first game Tuesday night, but while play was ragged at times, the teams comeback was admirable.
However, in another similarity to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, Griffin doesnt believe in moral victories, stating: The first quarter was fine, but I think the second quarter got away from us. His protg, Jimmy Butlerthe only player with Bulls regular-season experience on the summer-league rosterfollowed suit, explaining: In the first half, we let them do whatever they wanted to doshoot open jumpers, not guarding the ball tough enoughand thats why they got up 20, but then when we started playing Chicago Bulls basketball, we cut it down to a pretty marginal lead.
Regardless, even aside from Butlers strong performance and first-round draft pick Marquis Teagues struggles, there was more to evaluate for a team that could have a handful of non-guaranteed training-camp invitees this fall with a chance to make the actual roster. For those players, their outings were being monitored by the likes of Thibodeau, Bulls general manager Gar Forman and team executive vice president John Paxson, all of whom were sitting in the stands at Cox Pavillion on the campus of UNLV.
Malcolm Thomas, an athletic power forward from San Diego State who had a cup of coffee with the Spurs last season, as well as excelling in the D-League in his first year out of college, was impressive. Thomas finished with 10 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots on the evening, and played with boundless energy, something the Bulls could be in need of, as they continue to scour the free-agent market.
Malcolm Thomas is a very good player, Thibodeau told CSNChicago.com about the defensive-minded San Diego native, who teamed up with Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard in college and would be a potential candidate if the Bulls search for additional big-man depth. Hes looking for an opportunity, played very well last year in the D-League, has a lot of energy. I think hes very capable.
Joining Thomas, Teague and Butler in the starting lineup was a true rookie, shooting guard Ramone Moore and while the Temple products numberseight points on 3-for-5 shootingarent exactly eye-opening, his smooth outside stroke and overall headiness showed maturity. The 6-foot-5 Philadelphia native also earned some praise from Thibodeau.
Hes skilled and hes a good player, he said. This will be a good test for him, so well see how he does.
As for Moore himself, he found himself matched up with a familiar face in Bostons Dionte Christmas, another Philadelphian and Temple product (in the interest of full disclosure, Temple is also the alma mater of this writer).
We already knew coming into the game what to expect in playing against each other, Moore said afterwards. Its a Temple thing. Its good to play against each other.
I just want to come in, do as much as I can. This is our first summer-league game, he continued. Weve been going pretty hard, just trying to prepare and everybody just wants to go out here, and show their talent. Ive been shooting the ball pretty well and working on it, and thats something I can bring to this team.
The final member of the Bulls starting quintet also has the most NBA experience.
After not playing in the league last season, Leon Poweironically, a former player for Boston, the team the Bulls lost to Tuesdayis on a comeback mission. After being plagued with knee injuries since his high school days, the undersized power forward hopes to give it another shot. His Bulls summer-league debut, however, wasnt stellar, as he appeared to be working the rust off.
Hes proven to be a very good NBA player. Unfortunately for him, hes had health issues, so the big thing is he has to prove to people that hes healthy, Thibodeau, who coached Powe with the Celtics, told CSNChicago.com. The fact that hes out here is a good sign and now he has to play well.
In addition to his experience, Powe has another advantage from his familiarity with Thibodeau, who implemented his defensive philosophy in Boston under Doc Rivers.
Got my body back where I want it, no knee brace, so everything is feeling good. Just happy to be back out there, Powe told CSNChicago.com. I know all the defensive schemes, most of the offense already. Ive only been here like three days. Its been going real well for me.

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

MINNEAPOLIS—The applause was thunderous on the welcome back for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, two Timberwolves draft picks sent away when the chance to acquire Jimmy Butler came along.

But some of the air was taken out the Target Center due to the absence of Jimmy Butler, who’ll miss the next several weeks after deciding to have surgery on his right meniscus following an injury Friday night.

So while there was no rematch of the thrilling contest the two teams had in Chicago, some things were very much the same.

Lauri Markkanen’s struggles continued.

LaVine showed more flashes of his complete game and Dunn had a couple moments of his own.

And on the other side, Tom Thibodeau kept his starters in the game with victory secured and his team up 20 points in the Timberwolves’ 122-104 win over the Bulls Saturday night.

The Timberwolves broke the game open in the fourth quarter with some key shot-making from veteran Jamal Crawford, as he was one point short of the Timberwolves having four 20-point scorers on the night.

Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins combined for 70 points in their first game of many without Butler.

LaVine was a main reason the Bulls stayed afloat in the first 36 minutes, finishing with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his first game back in front of the Minneapolis crowd he spent his first few years playing for.

Going head-up with his former teammate Wiggins for a stretch, the two seemed to relish their practice matchups. Wiggins was doing a lot of pure scoring while LaVine seemed to enjoy probing the defense and making plays for teammates, taking more of a ballhandling role as opposed to floating around the perimeter for 3-point attempts.

“He’s doing a much better job not settling for tough shots,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s attacking the basket much better than he was. You can just see him getting his legs, getting more comfortable. It was good to see him as a playmaker, he was terrific.”

Perhaps the Bulls are unlocking something with LaVine, getting him the ball in different places and on the move, where he made some nifty passes in traffic, exercising patience and maturity.

“I liked it. Hopefully we get a little bit more of it,” LaVine said. “But it’s working. Should’ve stuck to it.”

They didn’t, as the Bulls didn’t look as organized as they have previously. Dunn looked extremely motivated and aggressive but it seemed to work against him at times as Teague took advantage of Dunn being too quick for his own good. So hyped up, Dunn blew a breakaway dunk in the first half, but luckily Nwaba was right behind him for a putback.

That type of energy was expected for Dunn and LaVine, maybe even moreso for Dunn considering his underwhelming rookie year where he didn’t get much chance to play as a top-five pick.

Dunn finished with 10 points on four of 12 shooting while Cameron Payne scored 11  in 19 minutes, but the decision making from both point guards left plenty to be desired—which is to be expected given the lack of veterans on the floor.

Their starting unit again struggled as Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez again sat as the evaluation of the younger players continued.

Cristiano Felicio had a better outing than his foul-plagued game against Philadelphia, scoring 11 points but had his hands full on the other end. David Nwaba impressed for the second straight game as a starter, getting in the open floor to force the action, scoring 14 with nine rebounds in 34 minutes.

“The second quarter, I thought, was one of our better quarters of the year,” Hoiberg said. “As bad as we played in the first quarter, I thought we were down 20. We just didn’t sustain it. Against a great team like that, it’s gonna cost you.”

Nwaba, along with Bobby Portis, was a big reason why the Timberwolves couldn’t run away from the Bulls until well into the fourth quarter, even after taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter and sending Hoiberg scrambling for early timeouts.

“You can expect it because you haven’t played with that group before,” LaVine said. “We’re gonna get that chemistry down. We (only) had a couple practices with that lineup.”

Whether it’s the lineup change or just the rookie blues, the year has clearly caught up with Markkanen, who only made one field goal in 32 minutes.

“Gotta get some extra shots up. I see myself thinking too much,” Markkanen said. “That’s how it is. Of course it’s frustrating to not make shots but it is what it is. Gotta work through it.”

Markkanen has gone one-for-eight in each game coming from the All-Star break and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.

“He’s shooting the heck out of the ball in practice,” Hoiberg said. “He’s struggling right now with his confidence, no question about it. As a shooter, you gotta keep looking to be aggressive, take the open ones. It takes one game to get that confidence back.”

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”