Bulls

Starting Five: Bulls to face Jordan-owned Bobcats

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Starting Five: Bulls to face Jordan-owned Bobcats

Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011
10:32 a.m. Updated 4:32 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

1. Charlotte star swing man Stephen Jackson spoke to CSNChicago.com about the teams mentality under new Bobcats head coach Paul Silas. Well, I think were playing the type of ball everybody wants to play. Its exciting, our style of play and hes giving the young guys confidence, the confidence that they need to for them play well and for us to play well. I think its been great, Jackson told CSNChicago.com. Its Golden State with a defensive mentality. Youve got a lot of guys that can score, that can get up and down the floor quick. Coach is letting us use that talent in that aspect and were trying to get back to the defensive team we were last year. Continued Jackson: Its been hard, but I think were making the adjustment. Weve got guys that can step up. Weve got a lot of young guys that are getting the opportunity to play and are doing a great job. And also, D.J. is coming into his own, which we knew that he could do, so its exciting to see these young guys grow and start to contribute to our team.

Jackson also believes third-year point guard D.J. Augustin is benefiting from Silas guidance. Its been good because you dont have too many point guards in the league that can shoot and also run a team as well as he can, and I think for him, Coach is giving him the confidence to be a leader out there and to be able to take shots and make mistakes, and not worry about coming out of the game. I think its helped his confidence and thats why hes been playing so well, said Jackson.

2. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau coached new Bobcats assistant Charles Oakleya former Bull and one of the leagues all-time tough guys during his NBA careerin New York.

Prior to the teams shoot-around Wednesday morning in Charlotte, he opined on the colorful Oakley as a coach. Whatever he decided to do, I thought hed be great at it, just because of the way he approaches everything. When he goes into something, hes 100 percent committed to it and I think hes figuring out now what he wants to do. He tried the management part of it, now hes trying the coaching part of it. Whichever way he decides to go, hell be great at it, said Thibodeau. The way he played is also the way he practiced every day. Never took a day off and you got 100 percent from that guy all the time.

Jackson also discussed Oakleys contribution to the team. Its good, bringing that toughness that we need, getting our big guys to be physical and to have our best constantly on the court is something that I think he was one of the best at, and its definitely going to help us if our bigs can start playing the way he played.

3. Thibodeau also discussed Silas, another of the NBAs warriors during his playing career, as well as a head coach known for turning teams around quickly. Hes been around the game forever. Hes done a great job in a number of different places. Theres not too many things that he hasnt seen and experienced. Hes been through every situation, so I think hell do a great job here, said Thibodeau. When you look at the way theyre constructed, Augustin with his shooting and then you look at the two, three and four, when you have Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Diaw, because of their versatility, it makes them different. They do a lot of switching, they can spread you out, theyre skilled and now theyre pushing the ball more. But I thought this team has always had a defensive mindset to it and theyre unique because of all the switching they can do. You cant allow that to slow you down or turn you over because now theyre in the open floor. Theyre hard to stop. I like Kwame Brown. Some people have criticized him, but I think hes a terrific defender, he plays hard and then when you look at Tyrus Thomas athleticism coming off the bench, Henderson is playing a lot better right now and Livingston poses a number of problems because of his post-up ability, ability to run the team, great vision, unselfish. So, theyre a talented team.

4. Rose talked about his individual improvement on the defensive end, an area of weakness before this season. I think I improved a lot everything was just new. In college, you dont really play pick-and-roll defense like that. We were a good defensive team, but we never played pick-and-roll defense, said Rose, who credited Thibodeau for his defense becoming better. He forces it. He holds you accountable, especially me, on everythingThibodeau doesnt really do that embarrass players during film sessions, but hell stop the film and tell you what youre doing wrong. Were used to it right now. We watched so much film in the beginning of the year and in training camp of ourselves, that we expect him to be hard on us in film.

Continued Rose: I look at Kobe Bryant. Hes a guy that, he tries to kill you on both ends. Definitely when he has the ball, hes trying to score every single time, but on the defensive end, hes giving his heart outjust watching how almost everybody in the league plays defense. Chris, Deron, Rondojust seeing what they do on defense because in pick-and-rolls, people play different, teams send people different ways. The biggest thing I know in pick-and-roll is that youve got to push yourself into the ball, so that you can avoid all the screens.

Thibodeau chimed in about where he thought Rose improved the most. Guarding the ball, his ball pressure. I think the two areas hes improved the most are getting over screens and challenging shots. Now, I think hes starting to see how he can help with his team defense. I think hes reading plays well and I also think his rebounding. He knows when he rebounds and he busts out with the ball, thats almost an impossible break to stop, said Thibodeau. Fighting over screens is about both effort and technique. Communication by the big, effort, intensity, technique. I think you have to combine all those things and I think you have to continually work on it.

Thibodeau went on to talk about the biggest adjustment defensively from the college level to the NBA. In the pros, youre going to see multiple pick-and-rolls on the same play, so you may handle the first one well and there may be a re-pick and then maybe even a third one. You have to be prepared to do that throughout the course of a game, to develop a multiple-effort mentality, said Thibodeau. You get over the first one and even when you do handle the first part of it, you still have your team help responsibilities after youve done that. Its a never-ending concept. You cant stop and you cant relax. You have to keep going, you have to do it for 24 seconds, you have to do it for 48 minutes, you have to do it day after day. Thats what makes a team special. Thibodeau used his last point guardBostons Rajon Rondo, a highly-regarded defenderas an example. He Rondo really had to work at it, too. Youre coming in from college, I think the biggest thing is getting to learn the players, their tendencies, the teams, their systems. You understand the speed of the game and the strength the players have, and I think that you have to recognize that you have to get stronger, said Thibodeau. I know Rajon has and I know Derrick has the commitment to the weight room, so you can get over things. Youre going to get hit and your body position is critical.

5. Dont forget to follow me on Twitter at @CSNBullsInsider.

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.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill recap the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, look at the continued growth of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and discuss if Bobby Portis is part of the Bulls’ long term future.

They also check in on LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, discuss whether or not the Golden State Warriors can make another title run and the latest on the status of San Antonio Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard. The guys also discuss how Oklahoma guard Trae Young could look in a Bulls uniform if he’s available for them in the draft.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.