Bulls

Indy exhibition game gives fans their money's worth

Indy exhibition game gives fans their money's worth

Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011Posted: 9:30 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Follow @CSNBullsInsider
INDIANAPOLIS--The lineup wasn't as star-studded as Sunday's "Battle of I-95" in Philadelphia--especially with no-shows that included NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, Chicago native Will Bynum, hometown product George Hill, Caron Butler and others--but the Washington, D.C.-based Goodman League and the Indy Pro-Am squad (consisting solely of locally-bred talent; Indy Pro-Am participants from this summer, local college heroes and even Pacers hailing from out of town played for the guests) put on a show Saturday night for fans at the University of Indianapolis, who were also treated to an extended postgame autograph session.

Instead of engaging in the absurdity of breaking down a glorified pickup game sans defense--by the way, the visitors held on for a 170-167 win--here's a look at how the NBA participants (no disrespect to the trio of Goodman League replacement players) fared in the contest:

John Wall (Goodman), Washington Wizards, 41 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds: Wall continued his strong summer with a triple-double, playing every minute of the contest, maintaining competitiveness and intensity throughout, while giving the audience its money's worth with his aesthetically-pleasing combination of aerial acrobatics and blazing speed.

Eric Gordon (Indy), Los Angeles Clippers, 40 points, nine assists: One of the marquee names for the hometown squad, the rising star was his usual dominant self in terms of scoring, showcased some point-guard ability and overall versatility but couldn't quite complete the comeback down the stretch for the hosts.

Jeff Green (Goodman), Boston Celtics, 35 points, 12 rebounds: Somewhat of a forgotten man after being traded from Oklahoma City last season, the native Washingtonian did a little bit of everything for the squad from his hometown, as the versatile forward displayed smooth ballhandling, touch on deep jumpers and finished strong above the rim.

DeMarcus Cousins (Goodman), Sacramento Kings, 33 points, 15 rebounds: Coming off an up-and-down rookie campaign, the big man with a mean streak showed signs of his infamous attitude on occasion, but mostly displayed his undeniable talent, providing a low-post presence and flashing uncanny perimeter skills for a player of his size.
Mike Conley (Indy), Memphis Grizzlies, 25 points, five assists: Noticeably stronger following a campaign in which he led his team to a surprise postseason run (after harsh criticism for receiving a lucrative contract extension), the young floor general looked polished and his perimeter jumper, formerly a weakness, was crisp.

JaJuan Johnson (Indy), Boston Celtics, 25 points, five rebounds: The Purdue University product was one of the best players in the college game a year ago and is expected to eventually provide some relief for Kevin Garnett, but while doubts about whether his slender frame can withstand the pounding of the pro level remain, his skilled post-up game looks to be ready for the NBA.

Paul George (Goodman), Indiana Pacers, 24 points, 11 rebounds: The swingman earned a reputation as a strong defender in his rookie campaign--particularly against league MVP Derrick Rose in the first round of the playoffs--but displayed his fantastic athletic ability in this contest, soaring to make high degree of difficulty dunks seem routine, as well as showing some offensive polish.

Zach Randolph (Indy), Memphis Grizzlies, 21 points, 10 rebounds: The game's elder statesman isn't exactly built for a speed game, but held his own--and occasionally held opponents, such as Cousins; good-naturedly, of course--after a late arrival, although he mostly deferred to his younger, less vertically-challenged teammates, as he seemed mostly happy to participate.

Gordon Hayward (Indy), Utah Jazz, 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists: Arguably the people's choice among the local fans, the former local college hero--he led Butler to the 2010 NCAA national championship game--probably functions better in a more structured environment, but his efficiency, subtle contributions and versatily ultimately led to solid production.
Lance Stephenson (Goodman), Indiana Pacers, 16 points: Defense and on-court maturity (he earned the game's only technical foul) are still issues, but the New York City product's playground background served him well and his blend of natural scoring instincts, size for either backcourt position and yo-yo handle--perhaps more impressive than even Wall's--were perfect for this setting.

Shelvin Mack (Goodman), Washington Wizards, 15 points: Like his former college teammate Hayward, the second-round draft pick's businesslike game wasn't the most eye-catching, but his pro-ready frame, understanding of the game and solid all-around skills should translate to a long, if not spectacular NBA career.

Jeff Teague (Indy), Atlanta Hawks, 13 points, eight assists: After his breakout second-round playoff performance against the Bulls, the young floor general showed his postseason flashes of talent was no fluke, engaging in a mini-duel with Wall, demonstrating some skillful dribble moves, showing off deep range and skying for impressive dunks and blocked shots.

D.J. White (Indy), Charlotte Bobcats, 12 points, six rebounds: A role player on the pro level, the former Indiana Hoosier was relegated to the same status with high level of talent on the floor, but managed to make the most of his limited opportunities.
Josh McRoberts (Indy), Indiana Pacers, 11 points, eight rebounds: The up-and-down, guard-oriented setting wasn't ideal for a post player, but the homegrown big man--a Pacer, born and raised in Indiana--showed off his athleticism with a handful of high-flying dunks and even some surprising ballhandling ability, exciting a crowd supportive of his efforts.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

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.”