Bulls

Hamilton to return vs. Pistons?

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Hamilton to return vs. Pistons?

The Bulls morning shootaround at the Berto Center better known as Groundhog Day, since the news is typically the same, day after day featured Tom Thibodeaus daily proclamation that his starting backcourt of Rip Hamilton and Derrick Rose were game-time decisions for the evenings game.

Said the reigning NBA Coach of the Year: Rip practiced he did the whole practice and Derrick did part of the practice.

However, while Thibodeaus morning declarations can usually be taken with a grain of salt by now, both fans and media alike understand that game-time decision can be translated into out Friday could be a little different.

Hamilton continues to make progress in his recovery from his right-shoulder injury and now that the veteran shooting guard has taken contact and is fully immersed in all team activities, it appears that its a high possibility that he returns to game action against his former team, the Pistons. Ironically, after missing time with groin and thigh injuries early in the season, Hamilton returned to the Bulls lineup for a January reunion at Detroit, after which he subsequently was again sidelined, a result Thibodeau wouldnt like to repeat.

Weve said this all along: A guy coming back shouldnt be based on who the opponent is. It should be based on health. Is he healthy enough to play? If youre healthy enough to practice and youre healthy enough to play, then you play, regardless of who the opponent is and I hope thats the case, he said. Hindsights always 20-20, but I dont know.

Its an unusual season and its a shortened camp, and youre behind it was right at the beginning of the season, so I think he felt that he was healthy enough to play and it didnt work out, but I think at that particular time, you were basing it on the information that we had at that time, Thibodeau continued. Normally, you have four weeks of training camp and you have eight preseason games, so at the end of that month, you have a pretty good read of where everyone is and quite honestly, on that trip, the first trip that we had, Rip played very well. So, there werent any signs, really until we got back, where he was having problems. Thats all gone, thats in the past, so you can only deal with what you have now and I think hes done a great job with his rehab now. His lower bodys completely healthy. Hes moving great, which is critical for anybody, for his shooting and defense. Hes worked hard with his shoulder, so we just have to be patient. When hes completely healthy, he goes.

Despite Thibodeaus philosophy of not returning because of a particular opponent, Rose believes his backcourt partner will indeed suit up Friday against the Pistons at the United Center.

Rips been good. Hes been moving around way more than I have. More than likely, I think hes going to play tonight, definitely against his old team, so I think hes going to be out there, he said. Hes been shooting the ball, getting a lot of treatment along with me and I know everybodys been waiting for him.

As for Rose himself, he could be shelved for a bit longer.

Hes doing a little bit more each day. Hes coming along, so well see where he is tonight, said Thibodeau. Medical clearance first and when hes pain-free, then he goes.

The reigning league MVPs patience has been tested by his most recent ailment, a strained right groin.

Theres not too much to say. Im trying to get better every day, just trying to get healthy. Its coming along, so hopefully Ill be out there soon, he explained. Its killing me. Just being out, missing the action, some good games have been played, but really taking my injury into concern. Im not trying to rush back, where if I do rush back too early, I could re-injure it, so just taking my time.

Im definitely impatient. For me to miss these type of games and miss this amount of games, its definitely been hurting.

Regarding his progress, Rose who participated in the shooting portion of Fridays shootaround has been increasingly more active.

Just pool work, trying to run, getting treatment twice a day and trying to take positive, he said. Ive been able to run, but its not the same. My speed is everything, so just making sure I dont re-pull it.

My speed is my whole entire game. I havent learned to play without my speed. Im not old yet. I havent learned that part of the game yet, added Rose. If Im feeling like I can do a little bit more, Ill stay in and do extra work. Ive got two treatments a day, where I come in early in the morning, like at 10, and then come back later in the day, like at 5, so just trying to get better.

Although Thibodeau likely wouldnt approve, Rose indulged the assembled media by looking ahead to Sundays marquee matchup against the Western Conference-leading Thunder at Oklahoma City.

Depending on how I feel. If I feel healthy enough to go out there, Im going to play. If not, Im not going to play, he said. For me to play, it would be great, but if not, I know that if we make it far and they make it far, well have a chance to play them.

Rose is close with fellow All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook of the Thunder, with whom he shares off-season workouts in California, though he claims they dont stay in contact during the season.

Not during the season, but after the season. Of course, we work out together, he said. But friendship is great, where our families are close, were definitely close and itll hurt me not to play that game.

Rose also opined on the leagues MVP race and named Oklahoma Citys Kevin Durant, the two-time reigning league scoring champion, as the likely heir apparent to his throne.

KD is playing great, man. Just hearing about what hes doing, about how hes playing. Numbers speak for themselves, how he was working out last summer and hes been playing great basketball, he said. I think KD, man. KD for sure.

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.