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NBA not only game making noise this time of year

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NBA not only game making noise this time of year

Monday, April 4, 2011Posted: 4:00 p.m.

By Aggrey SamCSNChicago.com
While the Bulls were making quick work of the Timberwolves in Minnesota last Wednesday, basketball fans at the United Center were treated to a glimpse of the future. The 2011 McDonald's All-American Game was held in Chicago for the first time in two decades and judging from the sellout crowd, it won't take as long for the annual high school all-star game to return to the Windy City.

The East team knocked off its West counterparts, 111-96, but as it goes in these type of affairs, the talent on hand was more important than the final result. New Jersey native Michael Gilchrist, a 6-foot-7 Kentucky-bound small forward that has drawn Scottie Pippen comparisons and James McAdoo, a skilled 6-foot-9 power forward from Virginia who's headed to North Carolina--like his famous uncle, former NBA scoring champion and current Miami Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo--earned game co-MVP honors.

Perhaps the most impressive player, however, from a potential standpoint, was a Chicago resident. Anthony Davis, who attends Perspectives--a charter school that's far from a city basketball powerhouse--is a versatile forward with the rebounding and shot-blocking ability of the big man combined with perimeter skills of a guard.

In fact, the 6-foot-10 Kentucky recruit--the Final Four team had four players in the game, with Indianapolis point guard Marquis Teague (brother of Atlanta Hawks reserve Jeff) and Oregon forward Kyle Wiltjer joining Davis and the aforementioned Gilchrist--actually was a guard until an eight-inch junior-year growth spurt transformed him from a run-of-the-mill high school player into one of the nation's top prospects, especially after he dominated summer All-American camps and AAU tournaments. With Davis' length, athleticism, non-stop motor and tremendous upside--he's often compared to a young Kevin Garnett--some observers believe he's an early favorite to be the top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Davis scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked four shots Wednesday.

Another Chicago prospect, 6-foot-5 Wayne Blackshear of Morgan Park High School, also participated in the game. Despite suffering a shoulder injury in the practices leading up to the main event, the Louisville-bound swingman started the contest, although he only scored two points in limited minutes.

Another player in the game with Windy City ties was Austin Rivers, regarded by many as the nation's top overall prospect. An exciting 6-foot-4 scorer, the Duke recruit is the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.

The elder Rivers--who sat courtside at the game--participated in the event himself during his days as a prep standout at Proviso East High School in nearby Maywood, which also produced former NBA player Michael Finley, Lakers guard Shannon Brown and Kansas State star Jacob Pullen.

Michigan State recruit Branden Dawson, an athletic, 6-foot-5 wing from nearby Gary, Ind., also played in the game.

McDonald's has hosted a girls game for some time now and this year's event featured one local prospect, Ariel Massengale from Bolingbrook High School. The three-time state champion and Tennessee-bound point guard was Illinois' Ms. Basketball, and only added to her long list of accolades by leading the East to a 78-66 victory over the West Wednesday night.

Her counterpart for the boys "Mr. Basketball" award--shared with Stanford recruit Chasson Randle of Rock Island--Ryan Boatright of East Aurora High School, was a surprise snub in the minds of many observers. An electrifying 5-foot-10 guard with an incredible knack for scoring, jaw-dropping leaping ability, tremendous ballhandling skills and the speed of a sprinter, the Connecticut-bound showman was the biggest attraction in the Chicagoland area this past high school season.

At UConn, he will attempt to fill the big shoes of another small guard with a huge heart, All-American Kemba Walker. Walker's entire season--particularly his run from the Big East Tournament to Monday night's NCAA championship game--has been awe-inspiring. A big-time scorer this season, NBA personnel types are quick to forget that his point production on an inexperienced Huskies team is out of necessity; he was a playmaking, defensive-minded point guard prior his first two years in college, something that should aid his transition to the next level.

One of Walker's young teammates, freshman wing Jeremy Lamb, has been receiving rave reviews throughout the postseason, in which he has emerged as an excellent secondary scorer. At 6-foot-4, with excellent athleticism, length and range, he has shot up the boards as a prospect, although his slender frame may make at least another year in the college game in his best interests.

UConn's championship-game opponent, Butler, is no stranger to the big stage--the Bulldogs also made it to the finale last season, losing to Duke after current Utah Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward's halfcourt heave rattled out at the buzzer--and pro scouts are likewise familiar with their star junior guard Shelvin Mack. But while a significant amount of time throughout the season is spent evaluating college prospects, NBA executives are only human, leading to Mack's potential pro stature suddenly rising, albeit in a shallow pool of a guard class.

Mack's teammate, senior forward Matt Howard fits the NBA prototype even less--mainly due to his lack of explosiveness--but his skill, strength, ability to knock down jumpers, toughness and various intangibles have also been winning scouts over as of late, despite a collective insistence that clutch performances in the "Big Dance" don't make a difference come draft day.

March Madness, indeed.

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

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USA TODAY

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.