Bulls

Will Bulls join NBA's arms race?

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Will Bulls join NBA's arms race?

Just when it looked like the league's claims of competitive balance and altering the system seemed like a joke -- with a reported deal that would have sent All-Star point guard Chris Paul from the NBA-owned Hornets to the Lakers, in exchange for Pau Gasol (who would have been dealt to Houston) and Lamar Odom -- things took an even stranger turn Friday evening.

Instead of Paul joining forces in a star-studded backcourt with Kobe Bryant, Gasol suiting up for new Rockets coach and Hall of Fame big man Kevin McHale (a match made in heaven, even if the rest of Houston's roster -- starters Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, as well as reserve Goran Dragic were New Orleans-bound -- would have been gutted) and the Hornets remaining competitive, even in the wake of their franchise player departing, NBA owners cried foul and lobbied league commissioner David Stern to cancel the three-team trade.

On the same day the NBA's new collective-bargaining agreement was ratified -- meaning training camps and the official start of free agency will simultaneously begin Friday afternoon -- that news was overshadowed by widespread reports of the proposed blockbuster deal and subsequent reports that it won't happen. In all, a whirlwind day for the league in general, which was looking forward to a Paul-Derrick Rose matchup to open the NBA season on Christmas Day.

As it relates to the Bulls and other upper-echelon teams, there has to be a big sigh of relief, just as small-market franchises must also be breathing easy with the knowledge that a nearly five-month labor standoff wasn't all for naught, something that would have been exposed if Paul went to the Lakers, especially so soon after the work stoppage ended.

However, that hasn't stopped the free-agency floodgates from opening, as other signings being reported as imminent include Bulls target Caron Butler signing with the Clippers and former Bulls draft pick Tyson Chandler heading to the Knicks, providing New York with the true center they've long coveted to play alongside All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire, bolstering their sieve-like defense.

Quietly, the Heat have also been active, reportedly agreeing to terms with Chandler's former teammate, Eddy Curry, to help plug their hole in the middle, as well as veteran small forward Shane Battier, who tweeted the news himself.

The Bulls haven't been completely idle in the hours prior to the official start of free agency, as a source confirmed to CSNChicago.com the Chicago Tribune's report that Chicago native and veteran shooting guard Luther Head has been invited to Bulls training camp.

Head, who spent time in Houston when Tom Thibodeau was a Rockets assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy, isn't exactly the big name fans are looking for and it's likely the Bulls will make further additions, but at the very least, he provides them with an experienced player capable of knocking down outside shots. Additionally, the same source told CSNChicago.com that veteran reserve forward Brian Scalabrine is expected to be present for the first day of camp Friday and eventually be re-signed, as is backup point guard John Lucas III.

However, with fellow contenders like the Knicks, Heat and Lakers making moves (or at least attempting to do so; with or without Paul, it's suspected that a potential deal for Dwight Howard is looming) and potential options like Butler coming off the board -- meaning other candidates, such as Jason Richardson and Jamal Crawford, have a baseline for their market value -- the pressure to keep up with Joneses is increasing.

Furthermore, last season's shooting guard Keith Bogans may not yet be a done deal, according to a source. Bringing back big man Kurt Thomas -- a move made more significant if young reserve center Omer Asik further aggravated the leg injury suffered in the Eastern Conference finals by playing in the summer's FIBA EuroBasket tournament for Turkey, as well as the possibility that backup power forward Taj Gibson could be dealt -- isn't a foregone conclusion.

A person with knowledge of the situation told CSNChicago.com that the Trail Blazers, his hometown Mavericks and the Heat, the team that drafted him, are among the teams interested in the league's oldest player.

Clearly there's a need for a perimeter scoring boost in the Windy City, but if indications that the organization isn't willing to spend the money necessary to sign an impactful wing player are correct, the big splash many Bulls fans both hope for and expect might not happen.

Or will the Bulls, equipped with roster stability, tremendous team chemistry and coming off a 62-win season, join the NBA's arms race and make an addition that garners major headlines of their own?

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-4544-23, and 22-6.

5. Jordan wins fourth title and finishes greatest individual season ever, June 16, 1996

It’s hard to comprehend just how much Jordan accomplished during the 1995-96 season. We’ll try:He won his fourth championship, was named NBA Finals MVP for a record fourth time, won All-Star Game MVP, won a record 72 games, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, was the league’s leading scorer and became the Bulls’ all-time leader in games played. So when he dropped a casual 22 points in Game 6, it marked the end of one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Oh, and Space Jam came out a few months later.
 
4. Jordan hits six triples, scores 35 points in first half against Blazers, June 3, 1992

During the 1991-92 regular season, Jordan never made more than three 3-pointers in a single game. In fact, the most 3-pointers he had in any two-game stretch that year was four. So when he began burying triple after triple in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, even Jordan couldn’t believe it, giving a shrug toward the NBC announcers as if to say, “I don’t know, either.” Jordan finished the first half with six triples and scored an NBA-record 35 points. The Bulls cruised in the second half, so Jordan finished with only 39, but his shrug remains one of the most iconic NBA Finals moments in history.
 
3. Jordan battles the flu, scores 38 in Game 5 on his way to fifth title, June 11, 1997

The Flu Game. Jordan was battling a nasty illness in the lead-up to a pivotal Game 5 in Utah, and there were concerns about whether he would even suit up. Hours before tip Jordan got out of bed and made his way to the arena, looking to halt Utah’s momentum after it had taken Games 3 and 4 to tie the series. The Jazz came out red-hot while Jordan looked sluggish, but he responded with 17 points in the second quarter alone to give the Bulls a halftime lead. Jordan then keyed a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to erase a Jazz lead, and he hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls a three-point lead. The Bulls hung on, and Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen’s arms walking off the floor. His final line? 38 points, 13 of 27 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Two days later the Bulls won the title in front of a sellout Chicago crowd.

2. Jordan scores 63 points against Celtics in playoff loss, April 20, 1986

Jordan had just turned 23 years old when he took to the Boston Garden floor to face Larry Bird in his prime and the Celtics. These Celtics had gone 40-1 at home, led the NBA in field goal percentage defense, started FOUR future Hall of Famers and had a fifth come off the bench. They would ultimately go down as one of the all-time greatest teams, and Jordan made them look absolutely silly. He played 50 minutes in the double-overtime thriller, shooting 22 of 41 from the field and making 19 of 21 free throws, including the last two with no time on the clock and the Bulls trailing by two at the end of regulation. He scored 54 in regulation, added five in the first overtime and four in the second. He also led the Bulls with six assists. It still stands as the NBA record for most points in any playoff game. Twenty-three years old. Twenty. Three.

1. Jordan scores 45 in final game with the Bulls, securing sixth championship, June 14, 1998

Jordan’s final game with the Bulls was iconic. Like so many of these moments, die hards know exactly where they were. The 45 points were majestic, and while he only had one rebound and one assist he affected just about every possession on both ends. But what we’ll remember most is the final 37 seconds. Jordan drove to the basket for layup that cut Utah’s lead to one, then stripped Karl Malone from behind on the next trip down. That gave the ball back to the Bulls with 20 seconds left. Jordan let the clock tick down to around 9 seconds before making his move from the left wing, driving right on Bryon Russell, (maybe pushing off) and pulling up for a jumper at the foul line. The shot was good with 5.2 seconds remaining, and John Stockton’s ensuing 3-pointer was off the mark. It gave Jordan and the Bulls their sixth NBA title, and marked the perfect ending to his Bulls career: getting it done on both ends, in the clutch, and finishing with a victory. Because it encapsulated so much of his 14-year career in Chicago, it’s our top Michael Jordan moment.

Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn have moments in highlight-filled rising stars challenge

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn have moments in highlight-filled rising stars challenge

LOS ANGELES—Kris Dunn wanted to have some fun in the Rising Stars game while Lauri Markkanen wanted to get a win.

Both accomplished their goals, being on opposite sides for the first time as the best first and second year players were divided into U.S. and International teams, with the World Team winning 155-124 Friday night at Staples Center.

It wasn’t set up for either Dunn or Markkanen to truly stand out considering the presence of Lakers and Celtics players who were more notable and flashy, along with the spectacular exploits of rookies Donovan Mitchell (Utah) and Dennis Smith Jr (Denver).

Those two certainly wowed the crowd at times with half-court alley-oop passes, giving a preview of what Saturday night will look like, considering both will be in the dunk contest.

Dunn scored nine points in 18 minutes while Markkanen scored 15 in 22 minutes. Both came off the bench, ceding to the likes of Sacramento’s Buddy Hield (29 points) and Bogdan Bogdanovic, who turned the game into his own 3-point showcase with 30-foot bombs, hitting seven triples for 26 points off the bench.

Boston’s Jaylen Brown led all scorers with 35 points and 10 rebounds, playing for the U.S. team, showing his entire bag of tricks with spectacular dunks and dribble moves for jumpers.

Markkanen had his moments in the “game within a game” category. When prompted by World coach Rex Kalamian that the first player to get a block would get $100, Markkanen tipped the next shot at the rim and pointed to the scorer’s table, but wasn’t credited with the block.

However, he felt like he got his pound of flesh with Dunn on a tip-dunk. The two didn’t have their moment

“I almost jumped over his head. That counts,” he joked.

Dunn made sure that although he and Markkanen were on opposite sides that he remained Markkanen’s biggest fan.

When asked who was his pick for rookie of the year, he repeatedly said “Lauri Markkanen”, over the likes of Mitchell and Kyle Kuzma from the Lakers, another standout rookie.

His reasoning was simple.

“Why? He hit eight threes in Madison Square Garden,” Dunn said, half-jokingly.

Half-jokingly.

“For Lauri to be a rookie and have so much confidence in himself and to play in big time games, especially at Madison Square Garden. I’m gonna keep bringing that game up. Because He had eight three’s. You don’t see that too mnay times. Lauri is a big player for us,” Dunn said.

Markkanen probably won’t win the award but to see Dunn so steadfastly support his teammate in this way is a good sign for a budding relationship, despite the light moments of competitiveness where Dunn said he wanted to take advantage of Markkanen on the perimeter.

Markkanen’s game has been aided by Dunn on the floor and one could see how the quality of looks Markkanen had in the past few weeks suffered with Dunn out due to a concussion.

Dunn’s turnaround directly led to the Bulls turning around their season in December, and he remembers what he was doing this time last year at the All-Star break when he wasn’t selected to be part of the rookie challenge.

“Thibs had me in the gym,” Dunn said.

It seemed unlikely but he’s rebounded nicely, being a shoo-in for 15 points, eight assists and two steals on a nightly basis. Turning the corner has been a bright spot in the season.

“I wouldn’t say a specific game but each and every game I started to get more comfortable, not with myself but with my team,” Dunn said. “Being a point guard, you gotta build that chemistry with your teammates and try to figure out where everybody needs the ball. How you can be aggressive and lead at the same time.”