LIVE: Bulls look for 2-0 start to road trip on CSN


LIVE: Bulls look for 2-0 start to road trip on CSN

Monday, Feb. 28, 2011
11:05 a.m.
Associated Press

With each game Joakim Noah plays, the Chicago Bulls are feeling more comfortable and confident.

Noah and his teammates appear to have one more game to fine-tune their chemistry before the schedule becomes much tougher.

After opening an important five-game road trip with a win, the Central Division-leading Bulls look to hand the lowly Washington Wizards a 15th loss in 17 games when they meet Monday night.

In his third game back following right thumb surgery that kept him sidelined for two months, Noah had eight points and 17 rebounds - including nine on the offensive end - in Saturday's 83-75 win over Milwaukee.

"The more I'm out on the court, the better I feel and the more energy I have," said Noah, who is averaging 13.7 rebounds in the last three games. "The longer we get to play together, I think we are going to find out how good we can be as a team."

Chicago (40-17), which is in a tight race with Boston and Miami for the best record in the Eastern Conference, looks like a title contender when healthy, winning nine of 12 games when Noah, Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer are all on the court.

"We are getting into a nice rhythm now that everyone is back," Rose said. "Noah has come back and really helped us. I think we can get nothing but better as the season goes along."

The Bulls are going to have several opportunities to test themselves against some of the better teams in the East during this road trip. After this game, they visit Atlanta on Wednesday, then play Orlando on Friday before wrapping up the trip in Miami on Sunday.

Before looking too far ahead, Chicago needs to focus on facing a Wizards team that nearly beat one of the league's best its last time out.

Washington (15-43), an NBA-worst 2-14 since Jan. 24, gave Dallas a scare Saturday, storming back from nine points down with four minutes to play to tie the score at 97 on Jordan Crawford's jumper with 1:36 left. The Wizards were unable to pull ahead, though, missing five of their next six shots and losing 105-99.

John Wall keyed the comeback, scoring eight of his 24 points in the final three minutes, but also missed two free throws that cost Washington a chance for the upset. As a team, the Wizards missed 10 of 16 from the foul line.

"We shoot free throws - we win the game," coach Flip Saunders said.

Washington's offense is showing some signs of life, averaging 100.5 points in its four games since the All-Star break with Wall scoring at least 21 in each of the last three, but it could have trouble against Chicago's stout defense.

The Bulls, who allow an average of 92.5 points, limited the Bucks to 38.2 percent shooting and improved to 34-1 when allowing 95 points or fewer. This doesn't bode well for the Wizards, considering they're 3-27 when failing to score more than 95.

Chicago has won the two meetings with Washington this season, and seven of nine in the series since the start of the 2008-09 season.

The Bulls beat the Wizards at the United Center 103-96 on Nov. 13, as Rose had 24 points and Noah added 21 points and nine boards while Boozer was out. They won in Washington 87-80 on Dec. 22 behind Boozer's 30 points and Rose's 25, with Noah sidelined.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history


Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history

We're trying to figure out the best season in Bulls franchise history, and we want your help in deciding.

Because the Bulls tout the greatest player in basketball history, who could have made up this list by himself, we're giving Michael Jordan his own side of the bracket. But the other side of the bracket is also filled with some pretty memorable and remarkable campaigns.

So read up on each matchup and then have your voice heard by voting on our Twitter page here. Check out the entire bracket in the graphic above.

The Jordan Region

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96) vs. No. 8 Michael Jordan (1990-91)

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96): Jordan was on a mission in his first full season back from retirement. He led the Bulls to a then-record 72 wins with a regular-season MVP award, All-Star MVP and romp through the NBA playoffs, where the Bulls went 15-3 en route to their fourth NBA title. Jordan won his eighth straight scoring title at 30.4 points a game, with nine games where he put up 40 or more. He saved his best for Detroit, scoring 53 with 11 rebounds and six steals in early March. To prove Jordan was getting better as he aged, he shot a career-high 43 percent from 3-point range at age 33.

No. 2 Michael Jordan (1990-91): 1990-91: Jordan's second MVP came with his first NBA title, as he was at the peak of his powers physically combined with the ultimate team success, with the Bulls finally getting past Detroit before defeating the Lakers in the Finals. He shot a career-high 54 percent from the field while averaging 31.5 points, six rebounds and 5.5 assists as he began to fully embrace the triangle offense in Phil Jackson's second season. Jordan had 57 games where he shot better than 50 percent from the field, and was among the league leaders in steals at 2.7 per game while earning his fourth straight All-Defensive First Team honor.

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11) vs. No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94)

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11): Where to begin? The youngest MVP in league history took the league by storm, averaging 25.0 points and 7.7 assists while leading the Bulls to a league-best 62 wins. Rose had been named an All-Star the previous season but took his game to new heights in Year 3, appearing in 81 games, making 128 3-pointers (after making a combined 32 his first two seasons) while helping the Bulls rank first in defensive efficiency under first year head coach Tom Thibodeau. Rose and the Bulls lost in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat, with Rose shooting a paltry 35 percent on 24 attempts per game. But his historic season will always go down as one of the franchise’s best, and the only non-Jordan MVP.

No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94): Yeah, well what would Scottie be without MJ? We found out that answer in 1993-94, when Pippen took the reins of the franchise as Jordan rode the Birmingham bus as a minor-league baseball player. Pippen responded with a sensational season, averaging 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He averaged 2.9 steals, shot 49 percent from the field and became a 3-point threat for the first time in his career. He was named First Team All-NBA and All-NBA Defensive First Team, and finished third to Hakeem and The Admiral in MVP voting. He averaged 22.8/8.3/4.6 in the postseason but ultimately proved it was easier to win in the spring with MJ by his side. Still, this individual season was one of the franchise’s best, if not the best. Hardware isn’t everything.

NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander


NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

For most of the college basketball season, John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats ranked among the nation’s biggest underachievers. Calipari had perfected the one-and-done route in Lexington, recruiting classes full of McDonald’s All-Americans every year, making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and then sending those talented freshmen off to the NBA. Matter of fact, Coach Cal’s ability to get players ready to play professionally is the foundation of his recruiting success.

However, this season the tried and true formula ran into a bit of a speed bump. Injuries and inconsistency led to double digit losses for the Wildcats during the regular season, and an uncertain tournament outlook. That’s when freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander emerged as the leader of this young team, and sparked Kentucky to a Southeastern Conference tournament championship.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been even better in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 19 points with 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the Wildcats’ opening round win over Davidson, then coming back with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in a victory over Buffalo.

At 6-6, Gilgeous-Alexander has the ability to shoot and pass over smaller defenders, while also possessing the quickness that is so crucial at the point guard position. Yes, he is very thin at 180 pounds, but has the frame to put on weight once he’s introduced to an NBA strength training program.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been Kentucky’s most efficient player throughout the season, shooting 49% from the field and nearly 42% from the 3 point line. He has the quickness and ball-handling ability to break down defenses and get in the paint for easy scores or assists. As the season progressed, Gilgeous-Alexander took on the role of go-to scorer late in games, sparking Kentucky’s runs in the S.E.C. AND NCAA tournaments.

So, by now I’m sure you’re asking, where does he fit with the Bulls? 3 weeks ago I was hoping Gilgeous-Alexander might be available in the 16-22 range where the Bulls might be able to get him with the Pelicans’ 1st round pick acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade. Unfortunately, his outstanding post-season play has him rocketing into the late lottery in the most recent mock drafts, and he could move up even higher if Kentucky advances to the Final 4.

The Bulls are happy with Kris Dunn as their starting point guard, and both Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne are under contract for next season. But if somehow the Pelicans fall out of the playoff field in the West (which seems very unlikely right now), adding an athletic combo guard like Gilgeous-Alexander would be an outstanding pick at 13 or 14.

So, when you’re watching Kentucky play in the NCAA Tournament, keep an eye on the tall, skinny guard wearing #22 and try to project just how good he might be on the professional level.