Bulls

Improved Bulls' shooting, Cook's initial impression, other notes

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Improved Bulls' shooting, Cook's initial impression, other notes

-- Nobody would confuse the Bulls for one of the more proficient three-point shooting teams in the league, but after a rough start from long distance to begin the season, the team is becoming more competent from deep.
Theres no Kyle Korver on the roster, but reserve shooting guard Marco Belinelli, after gaining confidence during the month of December as fill-in starter for then-injured Rip Hamilton, has emerged as the teams most reliable outside marksman. Luol Deng, a much-improved deep threat in recent years, is also finding his groove, while backup point guard Nate Robinson is streaky, yet dangerous, from behind the three-point arc. Veteran backcourt starters Kirk Hinrich and Rip Hamilton cant be ignored, either.
We were 30th in the league for a while. Weve steadily moved up throughout the course of the season. I think the threes that were taking right now are a lot better than the ones we were taking earlier in the year, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said after Wednesday mornings shootaround at the Berto Center, before getting into the reasons why. Just rhythm, off-ball movement, off the swing, off the ball in the paint. I think when guys make the extra pass, thats usually when you get the high-percentage three.
Well, the game tells you how many threes you should take. I dont want to be an outside-in team. I want to take the right threes. A lot of your three-point shots come off double team, the coach continued.
You dont always have to take the three. What it does lead to is long close-outs or open shots and you want to get a balance of three, the drive, get to the free-throw line, but the ball in the paint is what wins in this leagueI think were a decent-shooting team. Our free-throw shooting has been excellent all year and now, the threes are coming around. When you look at what Hinrich has shot career-wise, you know that hes a good three-point shooter. Lu started off a little slowly, but now, his threes are going down. Marcos shooting the three great, Nates shooting the three great, so weve got some guys who can knock it down.

-- The Bulls newest addition, shooting guard Daequan Cook, isnt likely to play extensive minutes in the near future, but Thibodeau still likes what he sees in practice.
Its been a very short amount of time, but I like what Ive seen so far and weve liked him for a while, and so, his shooting is something that we need and I think he could help us down the road, the coach said. He just has to come in and learn right now, and you never know when the opportunity comes, so I like knowing that hes there. It gives you quality depth. I think he complements Carlos and Luol extremely well, and thats what youre doing. Youre always trying to build your team around your primary scorers and look at what they can add to the team."

However, it wouldnt be surprising if the 25-year-old is in the same boat veteran swingman Rasual Butler was in as a midseason acquisition two seasons ago, as the rotation is already set and Thibodeau is notorious for sticking with what he knows. Still, with his youth, the 2009 NBA All-Star weekend three-point shootout winner could be auditioning for the future.

-- Thibodeau is obviously familiar with Bostons Kevin Garnett and although the future Hall of Famer has rubbed several opposing players the wrong way with his constant barrage of trash talk on the court, dont count the Bulls head coach as among his detractors.
Garnett was again in the headlines following getting tangled up with Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony on the court during the Celtics win Monday evening in New York. Anthony not only suffered through a miserable 6-for-26 shooting night, but he lost his cool both onthe two All-Stars were assessed double technical foulsand off the court, as reports surfaced of Anthony going to the visiting locker room to confront Garnett afterwards, then continuing the dispute all the way to Bostons team bus, something confirmed by video.

I havent seen it, so I dont really want to comment on that, other than my experience with Kevin was spectacular. He drives the team. Hes one of the those guys that, if youre if an opponent, you probably dont like him, but if hes on your side, you love him. He led that team to a championship and so, I have great respect for him, Thibodeau said. Carmelos a fierce competitor, too. Thats the one thing I respect about both of those guys. You put fierce competitors in a game together, theyre going to go at each other. Thats what they do. Thats what competitors do.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.