Bulls

MVP favorite might be out for a month

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MVP favorite might be out for a month

From Comcast SportsNet
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Reds first baseman Joey Votto will have surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, leaving the NL Central leaders without their best hitter for the next three to four weeks. The 2010 National League MVP hurt the knee while sliding into third base June 29 in San Francisco, but has continued playing. Votto started for the NL in the All-Star game last Tuesday. A medical exam Monday night detected the tear and Votto will have arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday. General manager Walt Jocketty said Votto didn't have an MRI earlier because the first baseman didn't think he needed one. "He didn't request it until then," Jocketty said. "He said it wasn't a problem until the last couple of days." Votto decided to have the surgery. Jocketty said it's a simple procedure that takes only 20 to 30 minutes. "It is in my best interest and in the best interest of the team to do it now so that I can be healthy during the last two months of the pennant race," Votto said in a statement. Votto is batting .342 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs. He leads the NL in doubles, walks, on-base percentage and extra-base hits. "We'll see what we can do internally, initially," Jocketty said. "But it's going to be difficult to replace Joey Votto." He went hitless in his first two games back from the All-Star game then had a single and an RBI double during a 4-2 win over St. Louis on Sunday night that moved the Reds into sole possession of first place in the NL Central. The Reds didn't immediately make a move to replace him on the roster. Cincinnati has been in first place for 46 days because of its pitching and the NL's top defense. The Reds have used only five starters, a modern franchise record this deep into the season, and their bullpen is the best in the league. The offense has struggled, ranking in the middle of the league, and the loss of Votto costs the team its most consistent hitter. Votto was named MVP after the Reds' run to the NL Central title in 2010, but Cincinnati got swept by Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. He received a 10-year contract extension before the start of this season that added 225 million to his deal. Now, the Reds will find out just how much he means to the franchise. They lost their first game without him, 5-3 to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night. "He's an MVP, a Gold Glover. What more can you ask in a guy?" said Todd Frazier, who filled in at first base. "Injuries are huge in baseball. He's got that presence. Whenever he is out there, he can do damage." Reds starter Bronson Arroyo saw Votto shortly before the game and got the bad news directly. "He looked funny," said Arroyo, who lasted only three innings. "I said, Are you playing?' He said, No, I need surgery.' At this time of year, if we can keep pressure on the other teams in our division and stay in the race -- if we can weather the storm -- he could give us a lift when he comes back." Instead of having a mainstay at first base and the No. 3 spot in the order, manager Dusty Baker will have to get creative. There's no obvious replacement on the roster or in the minors. Baker's first inclination was to have Frazier, who is Scott Rolen's backup at third base, play more at first. "That's a good possibility," Baker said. "He'll play some third, some first. (Miguel Cairo) will play some first. He's an outstanding first baseman. We'll mix and match depending on offensive and defensive matchups." The challenge is to stay in contention until he gets back. "We've got the guys who can do it," right fielder Jay Bruce said. "The pressure's on, but we've got to step up. I'm confident that we have those guys on the team. "Look at the Dodgers. They lost Matt Kemp, but they weathered the storm. It's early enough that we can weather the storm."

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.