Bulls

Rip returns to Palace, helps Bulls cruise past Pistons

630166.png

Rip returns to Palace, helps Bulls cruise past Pistons

Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 4, 11:10 p.m.

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. While the return of Rip Hamilton to his old stomping grounds ended up being somewhat anticlimactic, the shooting guards return to the Bulls lineup only further stabilized his new team, which convincingly beat their Central Division rivals, the Pistons, 99-83, Wednesday night.

Five Bulls scored in double figures in a balanced effort that highlighted the squads unselfishness.

I thought the ball moved, extra pass. I thought our spacing looked a lot better, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. I thought we ran the floor harder. I liked the offense a lot.

The visitors jumped on the Pistons early, scoring the games first six points and showcasing solid ball movement, as well as suffocating defense. Hamilton (14 points, five assists), in his first game in the Palace of Auburn Hills since he signed with the Bulls, was effective, converting a traditional three-point play and dishing out a pair of assists when defenders collapsed on him after coming off screens.

First quarter was good; I think just adrenaline, said Hamilton, who described his injured groin as sore afterwards. Second quarter, I felt a little pull, but there was no way that I was getting off the court.

Added Thibodeau: I thought he handled the whole situation really well. Got himself ready to play, was focused and to start the game, he came out and he was playmaking. He wasnt trying to do too much and I think that speaks to his experience. He plays to win and I thought that he was terrific.

But the home team, led by the mature play of second-year big man Greg Monroe (19 points, 13 rebounds, five assists), battled back they were assisted by Thibodeau picking up an early technical foul for arguing an officials call that a Rodney Stuckey made basket was indeed good to ensure they werent run out of their own building from the outset.

However, Chicagos continued unselfishness, a spark from its reserves -- with backup point guard C.J. Watson sidelined, Derrick Rose (17 points, 10 assists) stayed in the game, along with Luol Deng, and got his first dunk of the young season -- and a re-commitment to defense led to a 22-14 after a quarter of play.

Thibodeau rested Rose at the start of the second period, turning over the reins to third-stringer John Lucas III, who, after some early jitters (a turnover and a foul), drew a charge, found Taj Gibson (12 points, seven rebounds, four assists) for a dunk and knocked down a triple in quick succession. Speaking of Gibson, his typical high-energy play was also a key factor in the modified Bench Mob maintaining the Bulls edge over their hosts, then turning it into a double-digit cushion.

I thought John was terrific, but Ive told you guys this all along. That doesnt surprise me, said Thibodeau. His rebounding, excellent. His defense, excellent. Seven rebounds in 20 minutes or so, real active.

Thibodeau went back to his starters and they extended the lead even further, as Joakim Noah (13 points, 11 rebounds, four assists) scored and rebounded at a high level, while Carlos Boozer (19 points, seven rebounds) was effective as a post-up threat and mid-range shooter and Rose was content to run the show, but made sure the Pistons occasionally felt his scoring presence. Going into the intermission, the Bulls held a 51-35 advantage.

Detroit, minus starting point guard Stuckey (he wouldnt return to the contest after halftime due to a sore left groin; rookie Brandon Knight replaced him), attempted to mount a challenge after the break behind the polished Monroe, but the Bulls held their hosts at bay. Boozer and Noah continued to dominate inside, while the backcourt duo of Hamilton and Rose simply picked their spots.

Weve been playing great this season. I know a lot of you all media, for some reason, put our play under a microscope, but I thought weve been playing great, said Boozer. Our record shows it, our defense shows it playing great defense this season together and were sharing the ball good offensively, made the right plays and were having fun.

Added Rose: They played great. Moving the ball well, passing the ball to each other. They played great together. Thats how they always should play. They always look for each other and thats a good thing, tells you that they like each other, but I think their passing was on target today.

The guard tandem were tremendous distributors in the third quarter, setting up the Bulls post players for multiple easy opportunities throughout the period, which ended with the Bulls leading, 71-58. Not that the fans in attendance cared, as the biggest rise out of the sparse Palace audience of 9,125 came when the JumboTron showed an arena employee showing off his 1980s-style dance moves.

Contributions from reserves Gibson and Ronnie Brewer (nine points), whose much-improved jumper gave the swingman an added dimension to his game, got the Bulls off to a good start in the final stanza.

Once again, though, the Pistons tried to battle back to within striking distance, as the likes of rugged forward Jonas Jerebko (13 points) and Chicago native Will Bynum (10 points in 16 minutes of action) flirted with cutting the deficit to single digits by the midway point of the frame.

"I thought we loosened up, Thibodeau observed. We were trading buckets for a while there.

Down the stretch, however, Chicagos offensive balance allowed the visitors to cruise, as Boozer, in particular, scored with ease, though the Pistons began to lay the wood to their guests Noah was fouled flagrantly by former teammate Ben Gordon, Hamilton was knocked to the ground by Bynum and Rose lay on the court momentarily, then walked back to the bench under his power and returned to the contest after taking a scary fall as if they were the Bad Boy Pistons of old.

However, Rose insisted he was good afterwards, though he had his left elbow X-rayed, while Thibodeau said, Thats part of the NBA.

Although Thibodeau was dissatisfied with his teams ball-security issues at the end of the contest, their ability to stay focused on the second night of back-to-back games, ensuring their new teammate had a successful semi-homecoming, was enough for the perfectionist, who prizes winning above style points, to be moderately pleased.

Were still not a 48-minute team. I like the way were moving. I think we responded well to our performance yesterday. I thought the concentration was really good today. I want us to move in the right direction, so this was a good day, but in this league, once you start feeling good about yourself, youre going to get knocked on your butt, said Thibodeau.

Weve got to be ready. Were going down to Orlando. Theyre really good. They put a lot of pressure, theyve got a dominant inside force and great shooting.

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

anthony_davis.jpg
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

2-18_markkanen_usat.jpg
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.”