Bulls

Kyrie Irving announces Cavs return with MJ language

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Kyrie Irving announces Cavs return with MJ language

Kyrie Irving announced his return to the Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon, and the language should read familiar to Bulls fans.

That language, of course, would be the same two words Michael Jordan used to announce his 1995 return to the Bulls after a 21-month hiatus playing professional baseball.

Irving has been sidelined since he fractured his kneecap late in Game 1 of last season's NBA Finals, missing the rest of that series - the Warriors beat Cleveland in six games - and the Cavaliers' first 24 games of this season.

Irving had said all along he had a specific date in mind on when he wanted to return, though his arrival to the Cavs' lineup comes after the original three-to-four-month timetable the team announced following his surgery in June.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Irving, 23, will be a welcome addition to a Cavaliers lineup that has rotated free agent acquisition Mo Williams and Matthew Dellavedova at the point. Despite Irving's injury, the Cavaliers sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 17-7 record and recently welcomed back Iman Shumpert (wrist) to the lineup.

Irving was named to the All-NBA Third Team in 2015, averaging 21.7 points and 5.2 assists a year ago.

Since the Cavaliers signed LeBron James and traded for Kevin Love last season, they're 50-14 when those two and Irving are in the lineup.

The Cavaliers host the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday and will face the Bulls next on Jan. 23 in Cleveland.

Kendall Gill named to Illini Athletics Hall of Fame

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NBC SPORTS

Kendall Gill named to Illini Athletics Hall of Fame

Kendall Gill can add another bullet point to his resume.

NBC Sports Chicago's Bulls analyst was announced as a member of the University of Illinois' Athletics Hall of Fame for the Class of 2018. Gill enters in the same class as his coach at Illinois, Lou Henson, and former Bulls broadcaster Johnny "Red" Kerr.

Gill was a part of Illinois' 1989 Final Four team and earned consensus Second-Team All-America honors the following year as a senior when he led the Big Ten in scoring (20 points per game). He is third in program history in steals with 218.

He went on to have a 15-year NBA career, which included a stint with the Bulls.

Last year was the inaugural class for Illinois' hall of fame.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

The Bulls square off against the Sixers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, with coverage beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live. Here are three things to watch as the Bulls begin the stretch run of their regular season.

1. The new rotation: Most of the Bulls’ rotation looks the same, but the addition of David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne will have a different feel. The Bulls clearly want to get a look at these guys before the end of the regular season, meaning they’re not just going to get sporadic minutes. They’ll have to play through their mistakes, play out-matched at times and be put in uncomfortable situations. But the Bulls need to see what they have, especially in Payne, who has missed the entire season to this point with a broken foot.

2. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: They’re quite the 1-2 punch and have the Sixers looking at their first playoff appearance since Derrick Rose hadn’t yet torn an ACL. Yeah, that’s a long time. Embiid just finished his first All-Star appearance (starting in his second year) and Simmons is the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will have their hands full with these two. Luckily…

3. Kris Dunn is back: The Bulls wanted to get Dunn some run before heading to All-Star Weekend to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, and he looked healthy in that thumping against the Raptors last week. The good news is John Paxson says Dunn won’t be on a minutes limit, which means he’s healthy. That, of course, is more important than how he’s playing. It’ll be fun to see him, LaVine and Markkanen play together down the stretch. Their numbers together aren’t great, but the Bulls are 2-2 with all three in the lineup, and tanking or not…it’s more fun to watch when those three are rolling.