Bulls

Thibodeau discusses Bulls All-Star chances

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Thibodeau discusses Bulls All-Star chances

BOSTON Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau isnt one to play favorites usually, but its an open secret in team circles that hes a huge fan of Luol Dengs approach to the game, work ethic and consistency.
That why it was no surprise that when Thibodeau was asked about which Bulls have a chance to be named an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve Jan. 24, when the coaches votes are in, Deng was the first name out of his mouth.
Deng, certainly. To me, hes shown he should almost be a lock, in my eyes, based on the way hes played from the start of the season to the finish, Thibodeau said after the teams morning shootaround Friday at TD BankNorth Garden. I thought two years ago, Luol deserved to make and didnt make it. Then, he ended up making it last year, so sometimes it takes some time to build up and to finally be recognized because people will tend to look at the entire season also.
Deng, a first-time All-Star last season, downplayed the significance of the honor.
I think, as a player, you always want to be an All-Star. I think it just says a lot about your career, it says a lot about your team, people respecting your team with the record that you have and what youve done, so its something that you want to have, he explained. If youre not an All-Star, its not the end of the world, as long as you know youre having a good season, people appreciate what you do, your teammates appreciate what you do. You want to be an All-Star, but if youre not, you still could have a great season without being an All-Star.
Thibodeau also made cases for his other two frontcourt starters, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
I think Joakim started off great, sort of tailed off a little bit with the flu, but is picking it up again. Carlos has been steadily getting better from the start of the season, to where hes playing great right now, he said. I think all three deserve consideration, but those things are so political. As I said, you can make a case for all of them and I think when you win it helps, and winning is the most important thing.
After Thursdays announcement of the All-Star Game starters, there are only seven spots left to go around on each conferences squad, so the competition is stiff. Although the Bulls fourth-place record in the East and the appreciation observers have for how the team has performed without Derrick Rose is considerable, its tough to see two, let alone three players getting the nod to play in Houston next month.
At the end of the day, none of us got voted in. Voting is fans and thats what they think, so thats what it is. But other than that, after that, whoever makes it, its what the other coaches think. Someone whos been playing well against them or someone that they see has had a good season, and as a player, all of us have got to respect that, Deng said. If were all in it, were all in it. But everybody deserves it. If none of us are in it, we know that were still playing well enough to be considered or for some people to think we should be in it.
Thibodeau believes that his coaching peers will take winning into account, which could help his players of the teams currently above the Bulls in the standings, Miamis Chris Bosh, New Yorks Tyson Chandler and Indianas Paul George have good chances to be named as reserves which could help his frontcourt stars be named ahead of players with better statistics, but worse team records.
I think most coaches do and I think coaches will look at what a guy brings to the team overall, have they done it consistently and then, some guys, its a build-up, too, he observed. But you can make a case for a lot of guys and theres certainly a lot of guys that are playing well, and are also deserving, and not just our three.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Tuesday night tilt against the Cavaliers on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. LeBron James will be on your television

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is must-see TV. Now in his 15th NBA season, James has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite playing just one preseason game (against the Bulls), James has shown anything but rust in three games, averaging 25.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 37 minutes. He's a threat every night to do something you've never seen on a basketball court, His Airness included. Justin Holiday and Paul Zipser will have their hands full against the game's best player.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Week 2

Small sample size alert! But through the season's first week Markkanen and Ben Simmons are the only rookies averaging a double-double (Dallas' Dennis Smith has played just one game, averaging 16 points and 10 assists). While the Bulls have struggled through two games, Markkanen's net rating is third best on the team and he leads the Bulls bigs in rebounds per game and rebound percentage. Markkanen has shown some versatility offensively, and his 7 free-throw attempts have been a nice surprise as well.

3. Don't forget: The Bulls swept the Cavaliers last year

OK, so expecting a victory Tuesday night in Cleveland isn't smart. The Bulls will be underdogs just like they were in each of the four games last season, all of which were Bulls winners. It was the first time in 52 division series that LeBron James had been swept, which is pretty remarkable considering the Bulls were the No. 8 seed and the Cavs coasted to a third straight NBA Finals. We're not over here predicting a win. But just remember: the Bulls have fared well against James in the regular season.

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

The Zach LaVine timeline for a Bulls debut remains the same, although he’s ahead of schedule in every metric of his return from ACL surgery this past February.

It doesn’t mean he isn’t angling for more work and pushing his limits to learn the offense he’ll be featured in, along with taking contact “here and there,” in his words. He’s supposed to wait nine months from the day of his February 14 surgery before taking contact, which would put him at a November 14 practice before the Bulls go to Oklahoma City.

“I should be doing contact really soon. It all depends on them,” LaVine said in his first public words since media day several weeks ago. “I’m pushing them as hard as I can, but at the end of the day we still gotta be careful. I feel great. I’m doing everything I was doing before. I’m pretty sure I can do contact, but we’ve got to stick to that schedule. But every day I’m just getting back, trying to as close to 100 percent as I can before I come back.”

LaVine was at Air Canada Centre getting a workout in before the Bulls opener against the Raptors and has gotten in heavy workouts on the off days with the assistant coaches in the meantime.

Sticking to the schedule will be on both LaVine and the Bulls, although both sides could be tempted to cut corners a bit. It would be human nature for the Bulls to show the NBA world their centerpiece from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night, as well as LaVine to want to be the frontline player he feels he deserves to be.

“Yeah, it’s definitely hard. I don’t like missing games,” LaVine said. “Before the injury I didn’t really miss any games. I think I missed one or two in my career, so it really sucks just sitting there, not being able to help. I try to help as much as I can from the sideline. You know, give a little advice here and there, but yeah it hurts.”

He’s also in line for a big-time extension, having passed the deadline for extensions for players in his 2014 draft class. He’ll have to wait until the summer, especially since it didn’t make sense for him to extend unless it was a max deal.

“Obviously, I want to be here for a long time,” LaVine said. “And I feel the deal is going to get done, either then or next summer. I don’t have any fear in that. I think I know I’ll be in black and red for a little bit longer. I’m very happy and looking forward to that day as well. The main concern is just getting back on the court, get my legs ready and try to help the team as much as possible until then.”

LaVine was averaging a career-high 18.9 points as a third option behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but will be featured in Fred Hoiberg’s offense as a first and maybe even second option, too—especially seeing how anemic the Bulls offense has looked in the first two games.

“With the team that we have and the system that (Fred Hoiberg) put in, we’re going to get up a lot of threes,” LaVine said. “When we’re on we’re going to blow some teams out with those threes. When we’re off, as the last couple games have shown, it’s going to be a struggle to score sometimes, but I think that’s where I can come in and help, and I can’t wait to get out there and start playing.”

Never lacking for confidence, LaVine hasn’t been deterred by the losing or even the unfortunate Bobby Portis-Nikola Mirotic incident from last week.

“We’re building something here. People understand we’re going through a little bit of that process,” LaVine said. “But we’re going to play and win. When I’m on the court, I’m trying to win. Wins and losses do happen. We can always take positives from both of those. That’s how you grow.”

As for Mirotic, LaVine hasn’t spoken to him but has sent texts—as it seems many of the Bulls have reached out to their teammate over the last several days.

“It was unfortunate. That’s what happens when two players are battling I guess,” LaVine said. “I don’t think either of them were in the wrong. It was just something that happened, an altercation. Men are men sometimes. We never should have that happen. But I think we’ve moved past it. Bobby’s in a good spot. We’ve all tried to contact Niko. I think we’ll all be able to move forward.”