Bulls

NBA player carousel may finally be over

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NBA player carousel may finally be over

From the fan who despises him the most to the player himself, it's safe to say that anybody who was still paying attention is relieved that the Dwight Howard trade saga is over. But while many have focused on the current culture of the NBA, in which players can demand to go to their preferred destination, either via trade or as free agents, a cursory look at the landscape shows that there simply aren't many more moves to be made when it comes to the league's top talent.
Over the past few years, we've seen Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams all force their way out of town to major markets, while the likes of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire departed in free agency. That doesn't even include Dwyane Wade helping Pat Riley put together the "Big Three" in Miami, max contract extensions for Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook or Joe Johnson signing a massive extension in Atlanta, then getting traded to Brooklyn to pair up with Williams.
The list goes on -- Dirk Nowitzki's extension in Dallas, Blake Griffin's max deal from the Clippers, Kevin Garnett postponing retirement to take another shot at a title in Boston, Ray Allen leaving the Celtics for the Heat, Steve Nash leaving the Suns for his former rival Lakers and, of course, Derrick Rose's five-year pact to stay in his hometown -- but you get the point: NBA superstars, for the most part, likely won't be changing uniforms for a while.
Barring impatient front-office types getting antsy -- imagine if the Lakers are somehow a bust or the Knicks still can't find a way to get Anthony and Stoudemire to co-exist harmoniously on the court -- don't anticipate the same whirlwind of player movement, not from top-tier stars, in the near future.
After the league's more free-spending franchises went all-in on marquee players, they have no choice but to see how things play out this season, lest tacitly admitting to fans that they made major mistakes, and that the rosters they assembled aren't truly equipped to get to the promised land. Whether it's the old guard of the Lakers, Celtics and Knicks or upstarts like the Heat, Mavericks and Nets -- the Spurs are exceptions to that rule, as an upper-echelon team that's competitive while exhibiting fiscal responsibility; it remains to be seen what route the Thunder, their management-style descendants, will ultimately choose -- a win-now mentality has mostly superseded building through the draft or developing young players around the NBA, meaning that the future is treated as some distant thing that may or may not be around for organizations to enjoy with their current stars.
Now that Howard's saga has been temporarily resolved, there aren't many impact players presently on the block, according to league scuttlebutt, and middling free-agent class next summer (the aforementioned Paul, Atlanta's Josh Smith and potentially Oklahoma City's restricted free-agent duo of James Harden and Serge Ibaka, underrated veteran Al Jefferson and recently-jettisoned dominant centers Howard and Andrew Bynum top the list) doesn't allow most teams to drastically improve instantaneously, placing even more significance on how things shake out this season.
Trades can always be made, but without the drama of a star demanding out of his current locale, the upcoming NBA campaign, barring major in-season injuries, could be somewhat of a throwback year, as what happens on the court, not off of it, is the main focus.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.  

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

There's not often hype surrounding a game between two of the NBA's worst teams, but Tuesday's Bulls-Lakers matchup was intriguing to many because it offered a chance to see a pair of top rookies compete. 

Oh, but you didn't think we meant Lonzo Ball and Lauri Markkanen, did you?

Nah, it was two different, less-touted first-year players that ended up stealing the spotlight at the Staples Center. 

Kyle Kuzma and Antonio Blakeney may not be household names, but they sure played like they were in the Bulls' 103-94 loss. 

Kuzma, the Lakers rook drafted 27th overall, has been a spark for Luke Walton's squad all season long. Boasting a terrific scoring arsenal, the Utah product carried the load for the Lakers' offense in the first half, dropping 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He finished the game as L.A.'s leading scorer with 22 in 40 minutes. But if you still need a more in-depth scouting report on Kuzma, just let Lonzo break it down:  

More importantly for Bulls fans, though, was the play of their undrafted guard who's signed to a two-way deal. 

Blakeney, the unofficial Summer League MVP, came off the bench on Tuesday and immediately left his mark on the game. The 21-year-old out of LSU posted 15 in the first half, finishing through contact as well as connecting on outside jumpers. 

Blakeney's shooting isn't reliable quite yet, but his energy has clearly influenced Hoiberg's rotation. The guard went from playing one NBA minute in the Bulls' first 11 games to playing 75 in the last four. Given that his two-way deal allows him to only spend 45 days with the team, it'll be fascinating to see how creative Gar Forman and John Paxson will get with his contract if this type of production continues. 

In a season that's obviously going to have its share of rough moments, an offseason flyer hitting is a huge plus for the rebuild. 

As for the recognized rookies, Lonzo's shooting woes persisted and Markkanen had maybe his worst offensive performance of his young Bulls career. Combined, they finished 7-for-30 with 21 points. Not ideal.