Bulls

The Bulls get what they need, and then some, in Nikola Mirotic deal

The Bulls get what they need, and then some, in Nikola Mirotic deal

Not that they were ever going to buy, but the Bulls took the next step in their rebuilding phase when they reportedly dealt Nikola Mirotic and a second-round pick to the Pelicans on Thursday.

In exchange they received a first-round pick, a future second rounder, Omer Asik, Tony Allen and Jameer Nelson. The ramifications of the deal aren't league-altering, but they are significant for a Bulls team that just added another asset to what will be an important offseason.

Beginning with the first-round pick, the Pelicans currently sit at 27-23, seventh in the Western Conference and two games clear of the Lottery. Of course, they obtained that record in large part due to DeMarcus Cousins, who suffered a ruptured Achilles' tendon last week - the reason the Pelicans dealt for Mirotic. They've lost two straight since Cousins' injury, and there's no assurance Mirotic will keep them in the playoff hunt. It would certainly help if the Pelicans were able to sign Greg Monroe, who was bought out by Phoenix on Wednesday.

As it stands the Pelicans are slotted to pick No. 17 in the 2018 NBA Draft. With that pick going to Chicago, it's almost a certainty the Bulls will pick somewhere in the 14-20 range in addition to their own first-round selection. This either gives the Bulls a second young player to add to the rotation, or the ability to combine both first-round picks and move into the top of the draft. Then again, the Bulls have lost five straight, will be worst in the short-term without Mirotic and are just three games behind the league-worst Hawks. Should the Bulls deal veterans like Justin Holiday or Robin Lopez to pick up more future assets, there's no reason the Bulls couldn't find themselves in the top-3 on lottery night.

Asik will admittedly be a strain on the Bulls' salary cap, as he's set to make $10.6 million this year, $11.3 million next season and can be bought out in 2019 for $3 million. In case you were wondering, he will be bought out in 2019 for $3 million if he isn't dealt to a team looking to free up future cap space before then.

But that's the cost of a first-round pick these days, and the Bulls don't exactly need the cap space to go out and acquire veteran talent at this stage in the rebuild. Yes, they're ahead of schedule. No, Paul George isn't signing with the Bulls. So while Asik's ugly contract will be on the books the next two seasons, it really doesn't make a difference for the Bulls. Allen will reportedly be bought out, and outside of Nwaba having a mentor it doesn't mean much. Nelson reportedly won't be bought out initially, and could give the Bulls some point guard depth while Kris Dunn works back from his concussion.

As far as X's and O's go, there's also the opportunity for Fred Hoiberg and the Bulls to get an extended look at Bobby Portis. Yes, it seems comical that they still need evaluation time on a player who has appeared in 168 career games, but he's not unlike Taj Gibson in that he's played behind others during his short career. He's only started 17 games, and despite Lauri Markkanen playing like a Rookie of the Year and Nikola Mirotic being among the league leaders in 3-point shooting, Portis hasn't been half bad himself.

In 42 games he's averaging 12.1 points on 48 percent shooting in just 20.5 minutes. And since the Bulls' infamous 3-20 start, Portis has upped those averages to 12.2 points on 49 percent shooting, along with 5.9 rebounds in just 19.6 minutes. He has the Bulls' second best net rating (behind only David Nwaba) and is far and away the Bulls' most efficient rebounder.

Portis was squarely behind Markkanen and Mirotic, and for good reason, but an extended look will give the Bulls some information as to whether they need to address the power forward position in the offseason behind Markkanen and Portis. Portis has only played 129 minutes next to Markkanen - fewer than the 372 he played next to Mirotic - and the numbers are ugly, but perhaps they form more chemistry as the year goes on. The Bulls picked up Portis' fourth-year option days after the incident with Mirotic in October, so clearly they see something in him.

There will also be more shots to go around on the second unit. Mirotic was good, but he was also rather shot-happy. His 17.5 field goal attempts per-36 minutes were on par with Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas. That second unit now gets 12 additional shots per game, with Portis, Denzel Valentine and perhaps even Cristiano Felicio benefiting the most.

Put it all together and this was the perfect deal for a tanking Bulls team. The eight straight wins were fun, and the talk of playoffs - while short-sighted - made the games enjoyable. With Mirotic heading to New Orleans, the focus now shifts to making as many deals as possible to obtain future assets. Player development also takes center stage

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

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AP

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

The Bulls couldn't have known it at the time, but when LeBron James blocked a Derrick Rose 3-point attempt in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, it was the closest those Bulls would ever get to the promised land.

It happened on May 26, 2011, seven long, long, long years ago today.

The game was an ugly one and certainly a fourth quarter the Bulls would love to have back. They took a 12-point lead on a Ronnie Brewer 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining. The Heat closed the game on a 19-4 run, with James' emphatic block on Rose the lasting image of the series.

James finished with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, and added six assists, three steals and two blocks in 46 minutes.

Rose went just 9-for-29, finishing the series shooting 35 percent from the field after being named league MVP over James.

It's probably unfair to say James and James alone shut the Bulls' championship window. Rose's ACL tear the following postseason realistically was the biggest culprit. But these Bulls had won 62 games, had homecourt advantage, had the MVP, the Coach of the Year and all the momentum. And still they couldn't get it done against James.

That win also sent James to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. He's been there every year since, though that could change as he faces the Celtics on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.