Bulls

Deng returns, Bulls cruise to win in Milwaukee

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Deng returns, Bulls cruise to win in Milwaukee

After sitting out seven games, Luol Deng returned to the Bulls (20-6) starting lineup and his presence -- along with a mostly pro-Bulls contingent filling the Bradley Center helped fuel them to a 113-90 win over the Milwaukee Bucks (10-13).

The game was nothing short of outright domination of their Central Division rivals as the Bulls shot 14 of 30 from the three-point range, controlled the boards, outrebounding Milwaukee 53 to 39 and gave their home town fans that made the drive a show.

Rose led four Bulls who scored in double figures with 26 points to go along with 13 assists and seven rebounds.

Kyle Korver scored 18 points off the bench, knocking down four of his eight three-point attempts. Joakim Noah contributed 14 points and nine rebounds, and in his return, Deng finished with 21 points and nine rebounds in 41 minutes.

Rose set the tone early, scoring 16 of the teams first 18 points nailing three three-pointers in the process totaling the Bucks first quarter output as Chicagos hot shooting put the game out of reach in the first half as Chicago pushed to a 67 to 43 cushion in the first half.

Derrick remembers things, said Korver. The last time we played Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings really went at him in the first quarter and Derrick, he looks for anything and he really wanted to attack.

I thought the crowd tonight was amazing, he continued. It was like a college crowd, it was rowdy, for all for us. A couple of guys hit shots and it kinds of snowballs and then everyones playing with confidence. I thought the ball moved really well, we made the extra pass all night and its just fun basketball.

The Bulls shot 62 percent in the opening half, going 9 of 13 on threes.

I was just taking what they were giving me, said Rose. They were giving me my shot and I was taking it. Thank God, tonight, they were going in.

With the lessons learned in past games of putting a team away when theyre down, Chicago didnt have to apply to hard of pressure on the accelerator in the second half as the hole for Milwaukee was too big to dig themselves out of.

Deng played the entire second half, unti Tom Thibodeau pulled him along with Noah, Rose and Korver at the 1:35 mark of the fourth.

He was great, cant say enough about him, said Thibodeau about Deng. He stays in great shape, got out there and did everything; played defense, rebounded the ball, made shots, made plays, made us function well as a team, moved great without the ball ,so very encouraging.

After admitting to being a bit hesitant to start the game, Deng found a rhythm in the second quarter, scoring eight points.

I felt a little hesitant, I was worried about getting a bump and falling in the beginning of the game and I kind of missed those layups, but I took the hit in the fourth quarter so just keep that in my mind that the wrist is fine.

Im going to feel it. As the game goes on, I forgot about it. I was cautious at the start of the game. As the game went on, just playing basketball, I didnt even think about it until I fell in the fourth quarter.

The true test for Deng will be to see how the wrist responds in the morning;

I thought he was aggressive, wasnt shying away from contact and he was rebounding the ball in traffic and the big thing is, well see how he feels tomorrow. In terms of how he was in the game, he said he felt great so thats a very encouraging sign.

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”

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.”