Taj Gibson

Former Bulls in the playoffs: Dwyane Wade turns back the clock in Philly

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Former Bulls in the playoffs: Dwyane Wade turns back the clock in Philly

The NBA Playoffs are just three days old and yet there's a contingent of former Bulls who are alreayd leaving their mark on the postseason.

As the first in a series, we won't roll these out every day, but any time one of the dozen or so former Bulls in the postseason has a big night, we'll let you know right here.

Dwyane Wade, Heat: Flash turned back the clock in Miami's Game 2 victory in Philadelphia, scoring 28 points on 11 of 16 shooting in a 113-103 victory. Wade scored 21 points in the first half and made nine of his first 10 attempts, and he closed out the Sixers with an 18-footer to give the Heat an eight-point lead inside a minute to play. It was Wade's first 20+ point game since March 6, and the 28 points were the most he had scored since he scored 31 against the Kings last season with the Bulls. Miami won't necessarily need Wade to go off like that again to win the series, but it sure helped Monday night.

James Johnson, Heat: Not to be outdone by Wade, former first-round pick James Johnson was equally as good. In addition to being tasked with guarding Ben Simmons, Johnson finished with 18 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting night, sive rebounds, five assists and three steals. He's made all four 3-point attempts in the series, and the Sixers haven't had much of an answer for him as they focus their attention on players like Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson and now Wade. He could become the series' X-factor.

Nikola Mirotic, Pelicans: We're a few days late on this one, but Mirotic continued his red-hot April with a solid showing in Game 1 against the Blazers. He double-doubled with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and also added four blocked shots in the road win. Mirotic hadn't blocked four shots in a game since late February, and the double-double was his fourth in his last five games. He's peaked at the exact right time for New Orleans.

Rajon Rondo, Pelicans: Playoff Rondo! Bulls fans remember this version of last year's starting point guard, as he went off for 17 assists and just two turnovers in New Orleans' Game 1 win. He added six points and eight rebounds, but the dimes were the key. He also helped limit Damian Lillard to 18 points on 23 shots. We'd say this is surprising, but after what he did to the Celtics in Boston last year we're really not shocked. The four-headed monster of Davis/Holiday/Mirotic/Rondo could really make noise in the playoffs.

Derrick Rose, Timberwolves: The TimberBulls needed a spark in Game 1 against the Rockets and got it in Rose, who scored 16 points off the bench and added four assists in 24 minutes. His defense on James Harden - and the Rockets as a whole - left plenty to be desired, but it was an inspired performance for Rose, who is back in the postseason.

Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves: He's clearly not 100 percent, as Butler's 13-point performance showed in Game 1. The Timberwolves really don't have much shot at knocking off the top-seeded Rockets, and that's if they were entirely healthy. Butler isn't, but he'll still have an impact on this series at some point.

Marco Belinelli, Sixers: Famous in Bulls postseason history for his, erm, Big Marbles dance in Game 7 against the Nets, Belinelli is showing the postseason gene again with the Sixers. He scored 25 points on 9 of 17 shooting in a Game 1 win over Miami and was solid in the Game 2 loss, scoring 16 points. He's proven to be a critical piece on the second unit for a Sixers offense that can't stop scoring.

E'Twaun Moore, Pelicans: He's been great all year for the Pelicans, but Moore was quiet in Game 1, scoring four points in 27 minutes.

Pau Gasol, Spurs: Gasol really has no value in this series against the Warriors. In two losses he's totalled 18 points and six rebounds in 36 minutes.

Tony Snell, Bucks: The Snelly Cat was nowhere to be found in Game 1 against the Celtics, as he scored two points and grabbed three rebounds in 33 minutes. Clearly they need him to be better moving forward.

Taj Gibson, Timberwolves: Tom Thibodeau is going to rely on Gibson for big minutes. He scored nine points and hauled in six rebounds in 32 minutes in a Game 1 loss.

Kyle Kover, Cavaliers: Expect bigger things from the former Bench Mob member, who played just four minutes and missed all three shots in a Game 1 loss.

Jamal Crawford, Timberwolves: Death, taxes, Jamal Crawford getting buckets. Crawford scored 15 points off the bench in 26 minutes for the Timberwolves in Game 1. Yes, you millenials reading this: Jamal Crawford played for the Bulls from 2000 to 2004. Fred Hoiberg was his teammate.

We won't consider any "Bulls" who were drafted by the team but never played any minutes. So, no Jordan Bell, Jose Calderon, J.R. Smith, LaMarcus Aldridge. Also, we're leaving out Aaron Brooks because he doesn't play. Sorry, Aaron.

More muscle, more money, more confidence: Nikola Mirotic ready to show consistency for Bulls

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More muscle, more money, more confidence: Nikola Mirotic ready to show consistency for Bulls

Nikola Mirotic didn’t exactly lumber over to the media after the Bulls’ first practice, as a new man armed with a two-year, $27 million deal and 22 pounds worth of additional weight from the summer, the first time in which he didn’t play overseas.

He claimed there were no hard feelings from the summerlong impasse with the Bulls, where his restricted free-agent status prevented him from truly getting to the market, and his career inconsistencies also made it tough for the Bulls to give him an extended contract.

“I knew it was going to happen because with me it’s like every time is the last second. I don’t know why,” Mirotic said. “They made me an offer at the beginning of free agency, so I didn’t take that deal.”

So while his saga dragged along after he couldn’t find suitors, he stayed in Chicago for the most part, adding the bulk—although some would say it was stress weight considering it’s believed Mirotic wanted a deal in the $16-17 million range annually.

“Some people thought I was worried with my contract. No, I was very calm, working here until the middle of August,” Mirotic said. “My weight is feeling great and I’m very excited. I’m looking forward to this season, you know.”

“I’m feeling good. I’ve never felt that strong in my legs, feeling better with the rebounding, and I worked all summer in the low post, especially when I play that pick-and-roll and they switch me, so I need to be available to play in the low post against small guys. I was really working on getting stronger down there so I can finish.”

Coming to Chicago with plenty of fanfare, Mirotic has shown flashes but never the consistency many expected. Slow starts were accompanied by strong finishes after the All-Star break and the cycle of “if Niko can get it right” started all over again—only leading to more frustration when expectations weren’t met.

“I know that you guys (media) are very disappointed. I saw that the last two, three years, those reactions to that,” Mirotic said. “It is what it is. I came back just thinking about what happened. I knew what happened. I worked on all my weaknesses this summer. It’s time to change some things. I’m in a place where I can improve and get better.”

This time last year, the Bulls did everything they could to make Mirotic seize the power forward spot in training camp. Too bad Taj Gibson wasn’t notified and outworked everybody to join the first five.

But Gibson was traded in midseason, Jimmy Butler was traded and Dwyane Wade was bought out Sunday night, leaving Mirotic as somewhat an elder statesman on a team that doesn’t carry any playoff expectations for the season.

Now he’ll have to battle rookie Lauri Markkanen and third-year forward Bobby Portis for minutes at power forward, since it doesn’t appear he’ll play any small forward after playing there sparingly his first two seasons.

One can see Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg playing Mirotic and Markkanen together at center and power forward to have two floor-stretchers—although defense and rebounding will be a concern in the pairing.

“Everything's open right now. Lauri obviously had a great summer,” Hoiberg said. “He's got to work himself back into great shape right now. Basically since the European championships have been over, he's taken time off to recover and regroup and recharge his batteries.

“Bobby Portis has had a great summer. He's been around pretty much every day since the summer league.”

Mirotic said he was notified by management in the exit meetings the team would look different, but didn’t foresee Butler being traded on draft night. Now as long as he stays healthy, he’ll be a primary option on offense and until Zach LaVine makes his Chicago debut—which likely won’t take place until mid-December—he’ll have plenty of time to display his versatility in Hoiberg’s free-flowing system.

“It’s great, especially knowing how Fred wants to play this year,” Mirotic said. “They’re going to play fast, there’s no more like holding the ball, playing isolation. Now it’s more free, like when we used to play with Rajon (Rondo) on that second unit. Just play free and share the basketball. This is how it’s going to look.”

Clearly one who’s aware of the prognosticators who’ve said the Bulls will finish at the bottom of the standings, Mirotic added a bit of a bold statement, although it should be taken with a grain of preseason salt.

“I don’t think we’re going to be that bad like people are thinking.’’

How Bulls helped Thunder pull off blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade

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How Bulls helped Thunder pull off blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade

For all the Bulls fans who wanted to see the organization pull off a Carmelo Anthony trade over the years, they just got their wish.

Well, sort of.

According to The Vertical's Shams Charania, the Oklahoma City Thunder and New York Knicks have agreed to a blockbuster trade which will send Anthony to the Thunder for Doug McDermott, Enes Kanter and the Bulls' 2018 second-round pick.

Coincidentally, the Bulls traded a comparable package to what the Thunder just surrendered for the 10-time NBA All-Star.

Just before the NBA's trade deadline last February, the Bulls sent McDermott, Taj Gibson and a 2018 second-round draft choice to the Thunder for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow.

As the Thunder load up for a postseason run in the Western Conference, the Bulls are in the midst of rebuilding year after trading Jimmy Butler earlier this offseason and not having much to show from their previous trade with the Thunder.

The Bulls let Lauvergne and Morrow depart via free agency this offseason, while Payne will start the season on the shelf after undergoing foot surgery.

After the deal becomes official via a league call on Monday, Anthony will join reigning MVP Russell Westbrook and All-Star Paul George in Oklahoma City.

The 33-year-old Anthony averaged 22.4 points and 5.9 rebounds for the Knicks last season.