Bulls

Bulls unhappy with end of trip, but happy to be home

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Bulls unhappy with end of trip, but happy to be home

BOSTON -- Derrick Roses Monday appointment with a back specialist aside, on paper, all seems well with the Bulls these days. Sure, they didnt close out their nine-game road trip the way they would have liked after losing Sunday to the Celtics, but a 6-3 record is nothing to complain about.

Right? Wrong, if you ask them.

Those three losses that we had, its not something we like. We wish we could go back, play them again and win them all, but the challenge for us now is to go back home and take care of our home court, said Carlos Boozer. We wish we didnt lose one of them, man. We feel like we could be undefeated and to have the six, seven losses that we have, its tough because we feel like we should have won every one of them.

Concurred Rose: I think we did badly, man. We were 6-3. For us, thats not good. We did kind of badly on this trip. Hopefully the next trip that we have, we play well and our record is better than this one.

Joakim Noah agreed: 6-3, its OK, but its not great. For what were trying to do, were not happy with 6-3.

Left unsaid was the fact that the three opponents the Bulls lost to -- Miami, Philadelphia and Boston -- were the three toughest of the trip. While beating Central Division rival Milwaukee, a pre-Linsanity Knicks team and the murderers row of Washington, New Orleans, Charlotte and New Jersey could be considered taking care of business and avoiding letdowns, it isnt exactly a resume booster.

Youve got to play well on the road. You cant judge anything now. You judge it at the end. When you go in and you play a quality opponent on the road, every team is capable of beating you. Youve got to do the same things to win, argued Tom Thibodeau. You could lose to anybody in this league. I dont look at it the way you guys do. I look at it totally different.

I thought we hung tough, I thought we got good bench play out of a number of guys. The starters played well, but we still could have done a lot better, continued the coach in evaluating the trip. Some things we did well, some things we need to improve upon, so theres good and bad, but wed like to have the opportunity to have some practice time, where we can work on improving in all areas and were looking forward to that.

Luol Deng put a positive spin on it: It was a great road trip. We want to win every game. At the same time, we got to spend a lot of time together off the court. It kind of helped us. But a lot of games, we came out and played great. We wanted to end it better. Even though we didnt play great tonight, we still gave ourselves a chance to win the game and it came down to right at the end.

After more than two weeks of living out of suitcases, the Bulls return to the Windy City and begin a slate of home games that lasts until the All-Star break.

Were looking forward to it. We wish we went back off of a win, but itll be good to be back in Chicago, said Boozer. I dont think were far from where we want to be. I think were right there, but it would be good to get healthy a little bit and get some of the guys that were missing back. It would be great, but itll be good to be back in Chicago, get some home-cooked meals, sleep in our own beds and play some home games at the UC.

Rose chimed in: I cant wait, just to be in the UC again. I know our fans are going to come out and support us. Its going to be fun, exciting and its going to be some good games.

Deng, who played Sunday with a heavy bandage on his left wrist, has personal reasons to be happy to play at the United Center again after more than two weeks away from the West Side.

The injury and being out, then getting on the road and playing on the road, Im not going to lie to you: Im looking forward to going home and playing at home, said Deng. Honestly, its always good to be home. Its always good to play in front of your fans, but its the NBA. Whatever your schedule is like, it doesnt really matter. You have a tough schedule early or tough schedule late, it really doesnt matter. Youve just got to focus on your next game. I think its a lot of things going on -- All-Star, all that, game, youre playing this, youre playing that -- all that, youve got to put all that aside and just focus on the next game.

Above all, Thibodeau expects his squad to keep its foot on the gas, no matter the quality of opponents (not that he thinks any foe is weak, of course) for not only the home stand, but for the remainder of the Bulls schedule, which is regarded as significantly easier, in terms of travel, opposition and off days.

Weve got to be ready when we go home, thats the big thing. We cant look back. Everybodys going to say, Your schedule changes, its going to be easy, and its not going to be easy, he said. You cant look ahead, you cant look behind. Youve just got to stare at that next one. The next ones Sacramento. Weve got to be ready for it.

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

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ESPN

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

The NBA may have lost another top superstar due to injury.

On Friday, Jimmy Butler appeared to have suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee. He left the game against the Houston Rockets unable to put any pressure on his right leg and needed assistance getting back to the locker room. 

Here's a video of the incident:

Coach Tom Thibodeau said that Butler will have an MRI when the team returns to Minnesota on Saturday.

Butler drew a lot of headlines last weekend after not playing in the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Entering Friday, Butler led the league with 37.3 minutes played per game.

The Bulls also take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Saturday night.

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.