Bulls

Could the Bulls bring DeMarcus Cousins to Chicago?

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Could the Bulls bring DeMarcus Cousins to Chicago?

One of the best centers in the NBA could be available in trade in the hours leading up to Thursday night’s NBA Draft. Sacramento’s 24-year-old DeMarcus Cousins has been linked to trade rumors involving several teams around the league, and even though Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive and head of basketball operations Vlade Divac insist Cousins is not available, a chain of events has already begun that might force the organization’s hands.

First, a little history. Cousins was a big fan of former Kings’ coach Mike Malone, who was fired unceremoniously early last season when injuries sent the team into a tailspin after an impressive early start. Former DePaul star Tyrone Corbin was inserted as interim coach, and left to twist in the wind while Ranadive continued to search for big-name options. Ranadive eventually settled on NBA lifer George Karl, who’s been known to feud with his star players in previous stops, and that move immediately drew less than favorable reviews from the Cousins camp.

Karl and "Boogie" were able to co-exist over the final half of last season, but when Karl told reporters in his end of the year review that he didn’t have an untradeable player on the roster, the uneasy alliance already was starting to crumble. Now, after seeing his name bandied about in numerous trade scenarios over the last several weeks, Cousins is ready to bolt Sacramento and would welcome a trade to the division rival Lakers. Y! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski detailed how difficult it would be to bring Cousins back to Sacramento next season, given his relationship with Karl is now beyond repair.

[BULLS: Mark Schanowski's NBA mock draft]

If a trade of Cousins is seen as almost inevitable, is there any chance the Bulls could make a serious bid for a player who made his first All-Star team last season, averaging 24 points and almost 13 rebounds per game? Cousins also was part of the U.S. gold medal winning team at the World Cup, and has had some big games against the Bulls in the past.

The Lakers have reportedly offered the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s draft, along with last year’s lottery pick, Julius Randle. The Celtics are willing to offer multiple first rounders and players to acquire their top trade target. If Ranadive eventually relents to Karl’s pleas to move Cousins off the roster, you’d have to think just about every NBA team will show interest.

So, what could the Bulls offer in a package for Cousins? Any deal would probably involve Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade move once he’s agreed to his new max contract. Butler’s max deal would start at just under $16 million, almost exactly what Cousins is scheduled to make next season. The Bulls could sweeten the package by returning the Top-10 protected first round pick for 2016 or 2017 owed to them by the Kings in the Luol Deng trade, while also including a future first rounder of their own.

If that’s not enough to interest Sacramento, would the Bulls consider trading Derrick Rose? The former league MVP has two years left and $41.3 million left on his contract. The Kings could match the money with a deal of Cousins and veteran point guard Darren Collison, while also receiving one or two first rounders back from the Bulls.

[NBA DRAFT: Get ready with more than 60 player profiles]

Granted, trading Butler or Rose in a package for Cousins would leave the Bulls extremely heavy in the front court with Cousins, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic. But remember, Noah only has one more year left on his contract, Gasol one year plus a player option, and Gibson has two more years. Gibson could also be traded at some point next season after he’s fully healed from his recent ankle surgery.

The harsh reality for the Bulls is they probably missed out on their best chance to beat LeBron James and the Cavs with their current roster. Big changes are coming in the next couple years with just about all of their key players’ contracts due to expire.

Why not accelerate the changeover by acquiring one of the NBA’s top scoring big men at a time when every other team in the league is fascinated by going small after the Warriors’ championship run? Maybe building a team around Cousins, either Butler or Rose, and young shooters like Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Tony Snell will put them in a better position when LeBron inevitably starts to slow down.

It’s a lot easier to find complementary wing players than All-Star bigs, which means the market for Cousins will be extremely competitive. New coach Fred Hoiberg might be inclined to design an offense around a speedy point guard and a collection of wing shooters, but the opportunity to make a bid for a player as talented as Cousins might be too good to pass up.

Hey, at least it’s worth a phone call.

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

Los Angeles—Lauri Markkanen called himself “The Finnisher” when asked what the movie of his life would be called.

Apparently, that moniker didn’t apply to the All-Star Skills challenge as he took down the best big men but couldn’t close against a former Bull, Spencer Dinwiddie, in the final.

The contest highlights players’ ability to dribble around cones shaped like NBA logos, throwing a chest pass into a net while having to complete a layup and then 3-pointer before their opponent does.

Markkanen took down Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid before facing off with Dinwiddie. He held a pose after hitting a triple to beat the uber confident Embiid, in what will likely be used as a memorable gif following the weekend.

His confidence doesn’t come across as blatantly as Embiid’s, but that snapshot shows he’s no humble star in the making. He didn’t even practice for the contest, by his own admission.

“I heard some of the guys did,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t do much, just before the competition, I did a little warm-up.”

Missing on the first pass attempt into the circular net in the final, it gave Dinwiddie the advantage he wouldn’t relinquish, hitting on his second 3-point attempt before Markkanen could make it downcourt to contest.

“It’s a lot harder than I’ve seen,” Markkanen said. “I thought it was gonna be super easy but it was kind of tough. Maybe I need to hold my follow through (on the pass).”

“I saw he missed (the first shot) and I started going. I thought he would’ve missed it too. I think I would’ve gotten it on the third shot.”

Being one of the multi-dimensional big men in today’s game who can be adept on the perimeter as well as the interior, it almost seems like the contest was made for Markkanen. Although he doesn’t do much handling in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, it’s clearly a skill he will develop as time goes on.

The last two winners of the skills challenge were Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and Markkanen was well aware of the recent trend.

“The last two years the bigs have won,” Markkanen said. “I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t keep the streak going after (those two). I think there’s a lot of guys who can do that now, it’s why they changed the format to bigs versus smalls.”

For Dinwiddie, who was discarded by the Bulls last season after a promising start in the preseason so they could pick up R.J. Hunter, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity with Brooklyn.

“I think for Chicago it was just another series of unfortunate events,” he said. “They were in win-now mode. I was an unproven guard on a non-guaranteed contract and they felt Michael Carter-Williams gave them a better shot to win.”

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-4544-23, and 22-6.

5. Jordan wins fourth title and finishes greatest individual season ever, June 16, 1996

It’s hard to comprehend just how much Jordan accomplished during the 1995-96 season. We’ll try:He won his fourth championship, was named NBA Finals MVP for a record fourth time, won All-Star Game MVP, won a record 72 games, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, was the league’s leading scorer and became the Bulls’ all-time leader in games played. So when he dropped a casual 22 points in Game 6, it marked the end of one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Oh, and Space Jam came out a few months later.
 
4. Jordan hits six triples, scores 35 points in first half against Blazers, June 3, 1992

During the 1991-92 regular season, Jordan never made more than three 3-pointers in a single game. In fact, the most 3-pointers he had in any two-game stretch that year was four. So when he began burying triple after triple in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, even Jordan couldn’t believe it, giving a shrug toward the NBC announcers as if to say, “I don’t know, either.” Jordan finished the first half with six triples and scored an NBA-record 35 points. The Bulls cruised in the second half, so Jordan finished with only 39, but his shrug remains one of the most iconic NBA Finals moments in history.
 
3. Jordan battles the flu, scores 38 in Game 5 on his way to fifth title, June 11, 1997

The Flu Game. Jordan was battling a nasty illness in the lead-up to a pivotal Game 5 in Utah, and there were concerns about whether he would even suit up. Hours before tip Jordan got out of bed and made his way to the arena, looking to halt Utah’s momentum after it had taken Games 3 and 4 to tie the series. The Jazz came out red-hot while Jordan looked sluggish, but he responded with 17 points in the second quarter alone to give the Bulls a halftime lead. Jordan then keyed a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to erase a Jazz lead, and he hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls a three-point lead. The Bulls hung on, and Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen’s arms walking off the floor. His final line? 38 points, 13 of 27 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Two days later the Bulls won the title in front of a sellout Chicago crowd.

2. Jordan scores 63 points against Celtics in playoff loss, April 20, 1986

Jordan had just turned 23 years old when he took to the Boston Garden floor to face Larry Bird in his prime and the Celtics. These Celtics had gone 40-1 at home, led the NBA in field goal percentage defense, started FOUR future Hall of Famers and had a fifth come off the bench. They would ultimately go down as one of the all-time greatest teams, and Jordan made them look absolutely silly. He played 50 minutes in the double-overtime thriller, shooting 22 of 41 from the field and making 19 of 21 free throws, including the last two with no time on the clock and the Bulls trailing by two at the end of regulation. He scored 54 in regulation, added five in the first overtime and four in the second. He also led the Bulls with six assists. It still stands as the NBA record for most points in any playoff game. Twenty-three years old. Twenty. Three.

1. Jordan scores 45 in final game with the Bulls, securing sixth championship, June 14, 1998

Jordan’s final game with the Bulls was iconic. Like so many of these moments, die hards know exactly where they were. The 45 points were majestic, and while he only had one rebound and one assist he affected just about every possession on both ends. But what we’ll remember most is the final 37 seconds. Jordan drove to the basket for layup that cut Utah’s lead to one, then stripped Karl Malone from behind on the next trip down. That gave the ball back to the Bulls with 20 seconds left. Jordan let the clock tick down to around 9 seconds before making his move from the left wing, driving right on Bryon Russell, (maybe pushing off) and pulling up for a jumper at the foul line. The shot was good with 5.2 seconds remaining, and John Stockton’s ensuing 3-pointer was off the mark. It gave Jordan and the Bulls their sixth NBA title, and marked the perfect ending to his Bulls career: getting it done on both ends, in the clutch, and finishing with a victory. Because it encapsulated so much of his 14-year career in Chicago, it’s our top Michael Jordan moment.