Bulls

Ask Aggrey: Rose's outburst came as no surprise

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Ask Aggrey: Rose's outburst came as no surprise

ORLANDO -- I know I should be focused on Derrick Rose's health status and how Dwight Howard plays after committing to stay with the Magic, but come on. It's March Madness. I can't say it's been the best NCAA Tournament I've ever seen (perhaps my terrible bracket predictions have clouded my view), but even in the midst of another stellar Bulls regular-season run, I'm consumed with college teams and players. Upsets like Norfolk State over Missouri and Lehigh over Duke were amazing to see -- well, at least bits of pieces of them between quarters of NBA games -- and players like Iowa State's Royce White, as well as Kyle O'Quinn and C.J. McCollum of aforementioned Norfolk State and Lehigh, respectively, have truly opened eyes. The thrill of so-called elite teams getting beat in the one-and-done format is a great respite from the grind of the pro game, even watching from afar, despite my beloved Temple Owls losing to South Florida. Regardless, the remainder of the tournament should be a blast and from players to media, it's a hot topic of conversation in locker rooms around the league as teams enter the stretch run of the regular season. With that, on to this week's mailbag.

Hey Aggrey, why do the Bulls keep signing Scalabrine when they could use that spot for another big? -- Craig T.

Craig, Scal is Thibs' guy. Nothing more needs to be said. Seriously, what Scal lacks in talent, he makes up for with his basketball I.Q. and knowledge of the system. With Kurt Thomas and Keith Bogans jettisoned from last season's squad, it's hard to make the argument that he was re-signed simply for chemistry purposes. However, along with Rip, he's the only Bulls player with championship experience and scoff if you want, but he was a valuable contributor in his younger days with the Nets and Celtics. True, his best days are behind him, but his function as a de facto assistant coach adds value and he's popular in the locker room. Also, even with Mike James' return, the Bulls still only have 14 players on their roster, so Scal's presence doesn't prevent the front office from adding another big man.

Were you surprised to hear Derrick speak out against the refs? -- Scott E.

Scott, in the time I've been around Derrick, I've learned that he's a principled type of guy, as evidenced by his unwillingness to recruit players to Chicago. Thus, while his timing and choice of words could have been better, the fact that he spoke up about something he believed was unfair didn't surprise me in the least. As much as he gets to the line, there are calls that are missed when he drives to the basket, something Thibs attributes to his blend of speed and power. Although Derrick certainly wasn't happy about losing 25,000 to the league, if he and the Bulls benefit from more fouls being called, it would be well worth it. Additionally, people tend to forget that he's 23 years old now. This is no longer the wunderkind from Simeon, but a grown man with lots of responsibilities, so if he feels justified in saying something other than the typical athlete-speak, personally, I welcome it. Some might not appreciate him referring to himself as a "superstar."

Are you surprised how the Dwight Howard saga ended (at least for not)? -- T.J.

T.J., I can't say I'm all that shocked. I've had the chance to sit down with Howard on a couple of occasions and one thing that I took from those interviews is that he likes to make people happy, for better or worse. In the end, I believe the pressure of being a villain was too much for him, but I also think he came to his senses and realized Orlando is the third-best team in the East, something highlighted by the Magic's win over the Heat prior to the trade deadline. Looking at a situation like the Nets, he had to realize that maybe the grass isn't greener elsewhere and although it remains to be seen if Orlando's front office will put the pieces around him to win a championship within the next year, at least they have more time on the clock to do so. As an aside, I wonder when superstars will see the light and realize it's not the best idea to broadcast their future intentions, let alone have a season-long circus counting down their eventual fate. Howard cares about his image and likely realized his drawn-out situation wasn't exactly endearing himself to fans, major market or not.

How's your NCAA Tournament bracket doing? -- Ted G.

Ted, my bracket is pretty much broken, I have to admit. I pride myself on my college hoops acumen and have won a fair share of tournament pools in my life, but I've really struggled this year. Part of it is due to a friend of mine, Anthony Evans, whose Norfolk State team knocked out Missouri in the opening round. Missouri was one of my Final Four picks, but I can't be too disappointed, since my friend's professional success outweighs me winning a pool. However, I can't say the same for Georgetown, a program I've loved since childhood. I acknowledge that I picked the Hoyas to advance to the semifinals -- I think they would have matched up well with a banged-up North Carolina team (even before Kendall Marshall broke his non-shooting wrist, John Henson's injury gave me hope) and I thought they'd get revenge on Kansas for a narrow early-season defeat -- with my heart more than my head, but I never expected them to lose so early in the tournament. After Florida State's loss to Cincinnati (yes, I jumped off the Syracuse bandwagon after Fab Melo was ruled ineligible), I'm down to just one of my Final Four teams, Kentucky. I picked the Wildcats to win it all, so I'll have a bit of redemption if they pull it off. Like the Bulls have said throughout this injury-riddled campaign, no excuses, but due to the condensed NBA schedule, I've watched less college basketball this season than any time in recent memory. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The Heat certainly didn't look good against the Rose-less Bulls. Was it just an off-night for them or do you think the Bulls could be the top team in the East when its all said and done? -- Xander S.

Xander, I would call it more of an off stretch for the Heat, as they were coming off a tough game against Indiana, followed by an overtime loss to the Magic the night before they played the Bulls. Miami seems to have reverted to the buddy-ball style of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade taking turns on offense, which isn't conducive to postseason success, as defensive-minded teams, such as the Bulls, are equipped to subdue the effects of that approach, especially if Chris Bosh is reduced to being a spectator. A lack of size in the middle still hurts them, designated sharpshooter Mike Miller's health status doesn't help the situation, veteran Shane Battier, while still a valuable defender and spot-up shooter, appears to have lost a step, and after a strong start to the season, the point-guard duo of starter Mario Chalmers and rookie backup Norris Cole looks to be pedestrian more often than not. At the same time, they're still the defending Eastern Conference champions, as Thibs likes to remind people, and with three All-Stars, I wouldn't write them off just yet. Both the Bulls and Heat have issues to address, so as of right now, I'd have to say it's a toss-up, even taking the impressive win last week under consideration.

Keep the questions -- whether theyre about the Bulls, the rest of the NBA, other levels of basketball or life in general -- coming. Youll get a much better explanation, though not as instant, than you would via Twitter with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.

NBA Draft: What the Bulls would get in Jarrett Culver

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USA TODAY

NBA Draft: What the Bulls would get in Jarrett Culver

The phrase “getting downhill” became somewhat of a buzzword during Jim Bolyen’s first year at the helm. It may not have elicited the same reactions as his “soul and spirit” comments did, but the Bulls had clear instruction to blitz defenses by getting to spots and attacking the basket. The result was the Bulls leading the NBA in drives per game after Dec. 3, when Boylen took over for Fred Hoiberg. They went from 41.9 last season, to 43.3 under Hoiberg this past season to a whopping 55.9 under Boylen.

Personnel certainly played a part, as Kris Dunn averaged 11.7 drives and played just two games for Hoiberg, while an aggressive Lauri Markkanen in February also helped the cause. No matter how you slice it, Boylen likes his guys attacking the rim. The hope is that it eventually leads to kickouts and open 3-pointers, but the Bulls aren’t quite there yet.

They led the NBA in drives per game but were just 15th in points percentage, netting points on just 55.7% of drives (15th best). Despite their pass percentage being 18th in the NBA (they passed after drives 36.4% of the time) they were 28th in assist percentage, with a drive resulting in an assist just 8.3% of the time.

One could surmise that the Bulls need shooters. Instead, we’ll argue today that they should continue to play the drives game. That means going after Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver. The sophomore put together an outstanding year in Lubbock, Tex., averaging 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals in 38 games. He led the Red Raiders to the NCAA championship game, where they lost in overtime to Virginia.

Culver excelled attacking the rim. Whether it’s using pick-and-rolls, cutting off the ball or using his length in post-up action, Culver was a beast around the rim. Per Synergy Sports, he shot almost 59 percent on 269 attempts around the rim. Though he settles for midrange jumpers at times, he’s got a strong dribble, does a nice job lowering his shoulder and finishes with contact. And again, he plays longer than his listed height. His wingspan will be interesting to see at the Combine as he seemingly hasn’t stopped growing over the last year.

Working in Culver’s favor as far as his NBA prospects are concerned is that he had an excellent season in pick-and-roll action. Though he played 84 percent of his minutes at shooting guard, Culver had 201 pick-and-roll actions. He scored 162 points on those – placing him in the 63rd percentile among all players – and his turnover rate of 14.4% was 18th among the 50 players with 200 or more PnR possessions.

In addition to his ability getting to the basket, Culver is an experienced player who can work off the likes of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. He’s an apt passer, too, averaging the 3.7 assists off the ball.

Then there’s his defense. Wingspan doesn’t equal good defender, but Culver uses it incredibly well. He’s arguably the second best wing defender in the class behind Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter, but he projects as someone who would gibe the Bulls continued versatility to switch. A defense with Wendell Carter, Otto Porter and Culver is a large improvement from 12 months ago.

The Bulls need shooting. Badly. Culver’s outside numbers were ugly, but consider two facts: He shot 38.2 percent from deep as a freshman on nearly the same amount of attempts and his form isn’t broken. He had seven games with three or more 3-pointers, and shot 24 of 45 in those games (53.3%). He’s a smart player and can really get going when he feels it.

If you’ve read to this point, consider Jimmy Butler as an NBA comparison. Not overly fast or athletic, but gets to his spots, is strong attacking the rim, plays solid defense and can catch heat from deep from time to time. The Bulls could use Culver as a sixth man who staggers with Zach LaVine and Otto Porter and gives the Bulls someone to attack on the second unit – Shaq Harrison and Wayne Selden didn’t exactly cut it last season. He’d be a good complement to Chandler Hutchison, too, as another lengthy defender who can play multiple positions.

Culver doesn’t have the ceiling of a Zion, Ja or Barrett. But he’s also got perhaps the highest floor of anyone in the draft. His defense is going to translate and there’s room for a non-point guard who can run pick-and-roll action. He’ll keep the ball moving, which should have him at the top of the Bulls’ draft board. If his 3-point numbers get back to where he was as a freshman, he has All-Star potential. Defenses may sag in on him at the pro level, which could make attacking the rim more difficult. But even if that’s the case, he’ll still work well off the ball as a cutter.

His skills translate as someone who can play right away. That’s what the Bulls need after an injury-riddled 28-win campaign didn’t really move the rebuild forward. It’s time to take a step forward, and Culver gives them the best chance to do so if they aren’t lucky enough to move up in the Lottery.

Edgy Tim: Recruiting news and notes

Edgy Tim: Recruiting news and notes

Nazareth Academy sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) is holding 30 FBS level scholarship offers-- a very impressive total for an underclassman. And his recruiting process continues to skyrocket. Has McCarthy's recruiting process started to becoming overwhelming? 

"I wouldn't say it's been overwhelming but it can be busy at times," McCarthy said. "I try treat everyone well and also treat everyone the same so I try to make sure to spend time talking to as many coaches as I can."

McCarthy is also looking to get out to visit more schools this spring and early summer. 

"I'm set to visit Michigan on May 11. I'm also going to try to get back and visit both Ohio State and Northwestern this spring."

McCarthy is also eyeing a timeframe for giving a school his verbal commitment.

"I feel like this summer will be a good time to make my college decision. I want to be able to commit and then have time to try and help recruit more kids to come play for the school that I chose. I also want to be able to just focus on my upcoming junior season and school without having to deal with recruiting at all."

Northern Illinois head coach Thomas Hammock is hitting the spring recruiting trail hard; the Huskies approach is going beyond the Class of 2020 this spring. So far this week, NIU has extended verbal scholarship offers to Providence Catholic sophomore tight end Jameson Geers (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) along with Prairie Ridge sophomore athlete Carter Evans (6-foot-4, 220 pounds).
 
"Getting my first offer from NIU last Saturday was a huge surprise," Jameson Geers said. "They made an in-school visit a few weeks ago and watched one of our workouts. But outside of that I didn't really have much contact with the NIU coaches until Saturday. I decided to go to the spring game and that's when Coach Tony (Sorrentino) offered me a scholarship."

Carter Evans, who is the younger brother of both the former NIU and Purdue OL Shane Evans, and current Iowa running back and former IHSA Player of the Year Samson Evans,  also was a bit surprised to add his first offer from the NIU Huskies.
 
"It was a nice surprise," according to Evans. "I'm excited that NIU has a new coaching staff, they seem like a good group of coaches. I'm looking forward to get to know them. I also really like their facilities."

IC Catholic Prep junior QB Danny Cronin (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) was able to add his first scholarship offer last Saturday. It came from Eastern Illinois University after he visited the Charleston campus during spring practice. Cronin played for Fenwick last fall before transferring to IC for the spring semester.

"I've known the coaches at Eastern Illinois for a while now including going back to last year when I was still at Fenwick and they were at Northwestern'" Cronin said. "I loved it at EIU. I just love the coaches and they just have a great group. EIU likes me as a quarterback but they also offered me as more of an athlete because they said they just want me to be a part of the team. The coaches also said they will take a hard look at me at quarterback but that they feel I could also play either linebacker or even as a super back for them. Getting my first offer from EIU is pretty special and you'll always remember the first school who offered you."