Sharpshooter Korver emerges as clutch performer


Sharpshooter Korver emerges as clutch performer

Saturday, April 23, 2011
Posted: 12:10 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
INDIANAPOLISAll season long, pundits and even opponents have maligned the Bulls lack of balanced scoring and outside shooting. Those people underestimated the value of Kyle Korver.

Ideally, the Bulls would have more options than Korveralthough Derrick Rose and Luol Deng are much-improved long-distance threats, and fellow starter Keith Bogans is also capable of hitting from deepbut when a team has one of the truly elite shooters in the league on its side, it provides a unique weapon. Moreover, not only is Korver potent from behind the arc, hes emerged as a major complement to Rose in the clutch, as evidenced by his body of work in the fourth quarter against the Pacers thus far.

Im just trying to take shots that are there. In the playoffs, the sets that we run, they work less and less because you run the same sets every game, they go over it in practice every day and youve got to have guys that can just break you down and play. Weve got the best one in the world in Derrick, so when theyre worried about him, thats when we have to really step up, move to the open spot, find the open seam and I just try to be one of those guys, said Korver. Youve just got to try to be ready. The type of player that I am, Ive been in that situation a lot in my basketball career on every level. Its one of those things. You just try to be ready. You cant get caught up in it. Youve got to know time and score, but you cant get caught up in, This is the big shot. I think its just over time and experience, you just kind of learn how to do those things.

You just try to play smart. You dont want to force the issue, but Ive always said: Im not the fastest guy in the world, but youre going to get tired before I do, he continued, laughing. I just keep on going and eventually, somebodys going to turn their head and just try to be ready.

Korver has developed a special chemistry with Rose, the ultimate drive-and-kick point guard. Their partnership has burgeoned to the point where the pair often confer during breaks in the action to strategize.

Hes helping us out a lot, shooting the ball when hes supposed to. I always tell him, when hes got an open look, shoot it because his chances are way greater than ours, Rose revealed. Hes a great teammate, comes to you, tells you how theyre playing you, how the game is.

Its great when you have a teammate come to you. As a point guard, youre going to miss some thingsyoure not going to see everythingand just telling me how they were playing him. Thats why, towards the end of Thursdays Game 3, I just kept going to him because Collison was on him. Korver has a great release on his shot, jumps pretty high and can get his shot off on him.

Korver struggled to find his rhythm at various junctures of the season, in part to adjusting to a new system and raising his defense to a level that earned Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus trust. He bought in from the start of the campaign, but now even downplays his own contributions because of his belief in the system.

If our defense is really on, we dont need to score 120 points to win. We scored in the 80s Thursday and we won. Weve done that a lot this year, said Korver. Shooting comes and goes, defense is what keeps you consistent throughout the year and obviously Thibs preaches that all the time, and I think because of that, were able to be in a game like Thursday. If we dont play the defense in Game 3, we probably lose.

Not without his 10 fourth-quarter points, torrid marksmanship and continued coolness under pressure.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

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.