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Simeon prospects attracting college coaches

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Simeon prospects attracting college coaches

While Derrick Rose was christening his renovated neighborhood Tuesday, the league MVP's alma mater, Simeon Career Academy, was bustling. School was already over for the day, but the parking lot was filled, as college basketball coaches and other observers packed the high school's auxiliary gym to watch an open gym.

Unlike the Wolverines' first open gym this fall, no limousines pulled up 81st Street and Vincennes Avenue, but the likes of DePaul's Oliver Purnell and Washington's Lorenzo Romar were on hand to evaluate the two-time defending state champion's prospects. And although Rose had prior obligations, another former Simeon star with an NBA resume stopped by, as alumni Bobby Simmons caught a glimpse of the young talent.

Expected to be a top-10 nationally-ranked team heading into the high school season, even the non-varsity players and reserves at Simeon can play and would have a chance to be impact players for the average high school basketball program. But the school that produced Rose, Simmons, the late Ben Wilson and other Chicago schoolboy stars isn't the average program.

It should be noted that incumbent starting point guard Jelani Neely, a 5-foot-11 senior, sat out as he continues to recover from offseason ACL surgery. Neely, a heady type with playmaking ability, projects as mid-major Division I prospect.

Also, while they likely won't see significant varsity minutes, two of Simeon's freshmen stood out. Brandon Hutton, a hard-nosed forward with slashing ability and defensive prowess, has skills that translate to him being a big contributor throughout his prep career, while Dennis "D.J." Williams, a lanky wing, has considerable upside and the tools to one day develop into a star.

That said, here are quick evaluations of five of the most impressive players from Tuesday's session.

Jabari Parker, 6-foot-8 junior: Regarded by some as the nation's top overall prospect, Parker showed why, as his all-around game looks poised to reach another level. Easygoing off the court, his intensity was noticeable as he played all-out throughout the session and quietly encouraged his teammates. As Romar, his father Sonny's former NBA teammate watched, he dominated with his play, showing more explosiveness athletically on powerful dunks in both transition and half-court, using finesse on drives through traffic, showcasing a polished post-up game, consistently hitting both shots from behind the three-point arc and stop-and-pop jumpers, rebounding the ball at a high level on both ends, setting up for his teammates for scoring opportunities and digging in defensively.

Steve Taylor, 6-foot-8 senior: It's evident the Marquette commit has continued to develop and get stronger, as his back-to-the-basket game, powerful finishes and rebounding all looked much improved. Additionally, his ball handling has become more fluid, complementing his already potent shooting range, which means he'll have a chance to play both forward positions at the next level, if he can stay in front of quicker wing players. The assertiveness and leadership Taylor showed were good signs for the state's lone top-100 recruit nationally, who also looked bouncier athletically.

Kendrick Nunn, 6-foot-2 junior: Nunn, who committed early to Texas A&M, demonstrated his big-time athleticism early in the session with a powerful thrown-down over one of his teammates on the fast break. More of a combo guard than a pure point, the top-50 junior is an explosive scorer with the ability to score from deep, hit shots off the bounce and capitalize on crafty drives. The lefty is also a solid decision-maker and willing passer, enabling him to play either backcourt position.

Jaylon Tate, 6-foot-2 junior: A transfer from Catholic power De La Salle, it's apparent that the top-100 national prospect is adjusting from a more rigid half-court system, as he plays very unselfishly, makes pinpoint passes and seems to understand the concept of ball movement and spacing, lost arts among many young players. His playmaking ability should benefit Simeon, as he'll have plenty of distribution options. Tate is also a strong on-ball defender, possesses good size for his position, finishes well in transition and can knock down pull-up jumpers.

Kendall Pollard, 6-foot-5 junior: Due to the star power of some of his teammates, Pollard flies under the radar a bit, but his defensive acumen, willingness to battle inside, overall hustle, finishing ability and improving perimeter skills bode well for his future. Already a mid-major prospect at the present, Pollard is in the process of transitioning from an undersized interior player into a versatile wing with excellent toughness. His eye-catching blocked shots in transition garnered the attention of the entire gym.

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.

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

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ESPN

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

The NBA may have lost another top superstar due to injury.

On Friday, Jimmy Butler appeared to have suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee. He left the game against the Houston Rockets unable to put any pressure on his right leg and needed assistance getting back to the locker room. 

Here's a video of the incident:

Coach Tom Thibodeau said that Butler will have an MRI when the team returns to Minnesota on Saturday.

Butler drew a lot of headlines last weekend after not playing in the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Entering Friday, Butler led the league with 37.3 minutes played per game.

The Bulls also take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Saturday night.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.