Bulls

Finding motivation key for Warriors in three-peat bid

bulls_warriors.jpg
USA TODAY

Finding motivation key for Warriors in three-peat bid

At first glance, everything looks rosy for the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in their bid to become one of the league’s all-time great dynasties. All the key players are back from their title teams, and Steph Curry is off to one of the best starts of his pro career.

Curry set another NBA record on Sunday by making seven three pointers in the Warriors’ win at Brooklyn. That made it seven straight games with at least five made three pointers, breaking the old record set by George McCloud during the 1995-96 season.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant seems to be enjoying all the media attention over his upcoming free agency. Durant poured in 41 points at Madison Square Garden last Friday after patiently answering questions from New York area reporters at the morning shootaround about his possible interest in joining the Knicks.

Draymond Green continues to be a defensive stopper and stat stuffer, dishing out a season-high 13 assists in the win at Brooklyn. But after that, there are a few concerns for Steve Kerr and his coaching staff.

All-Star guard Klay Thompson is off to a slow start while also dealing with questions about his upcoming free agency. Thompson is just 5-36 from the three-point line this season and hasn’t had a 20 point game yet during the Warriors’ 6-1 start. Thompson will come out of his early slump very soon, hopefully not on Monday against the Bulls.

No one’s really sure when free agent addition DeMarcus Cousins will make his debut after Achilles’ tendon surgery last season, and Cousins had to apologize to Kerr after getting thrown out of the game in New York last Friday for arguing with a referee while wearing street clothes.

It will be fascinating to see what kind of fit the temperamental Cousins will turn out to be with such a professional group like the Warriors. Is there a chance “Boogie” could disrupt the air-tight chemistry Kerr has built in the Bay Area?

A bigger short term concern for Kerr will be getting better production from his bench. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston have missed games because of injuries, and both are past their primes. Free agent big man Jonas Jerebko looks like a nice addition, but Golden State could use another athletic wing player in the mold of the departed Patrick McCaw and Ian Clark. Actually, more consistent scoring from any bench player would be welcome.

Jordan Bell, Damian Jones and Kevon Looney will provide rebounding and hustle plays, but only Bell figures to remain in the rotation when Cousins is ready to play again.

Granted, every one of the other 29 teams would love to deal with the minor concerns that Kerr and the Warriors are facing right now. But ask any player who has been a part of three straight NBA championship teams, and he’ll tell you the biggest challenge is finding the motivation to keep striving for excellence during the regular season portion of trying for title No. 3.

Kerr is uniquely qualified to lead this group and you can bet he’ll draw on his experience from playing on that second Bulls’ three-peat team to have the Warriors running at peak efficiency when the playoffs begin next April. Even fighting boredom during the regular season, Golden State shouldn’t have much trouble finishing with the top seed in the West and the NBA’s best overall record.

The Bulls will have one advantage tomorrow night. Golden State could be a little tired playing its third road game in four nights, but the Warriors have such a huge talent advantage that it probably won’t make much difference. With that in mind, here are three ways to try to keep the game close.

1. DEFEND THE THREE-POINT LINE: The Bulls did a much better job in this area during Saturday’s win in Atlanta, and it will be a point of emphasis from the coaching staff throughout the season. Problem is, Golden State has three of the best shooters in NBA history and Curry is in the middle of one of the hottest streaks of his career.

2. ATTACK THE BASKET: Durant has improved tremendously as an interior defender since joining the Warriors, but none of the three players Golden State will use at center have great positional size. Zach LaVine needs to challenge the Warriors’ defense by getting into the paint to draw fouls and set up his teammates for open looks. Who knows, maybe Cam Payne will make seven three-pointers again!

3. POINTS FOR PARKER: Jabari Parker continues to look more comfortable in his role as the facilitator for the Bulls’ reserve group, and he’s also part of the closing fourth quarter unit playing with LaVine. Parker will be guarded at times by Iguodala, and it will be interesting to see if Jabari can get the better of this matchup between two former Illinois high school stars.

Tune in to NBC Sports Chicago Monday night at 6:30 for Bulls Pregame Live from the United Center Atrium. Kendall Gill, Will Perdue and Kelly Crull join me to take you through all the main storylines, and after the game goes final, flip back to NBC Sports Chicago for reaction from both teams on Bulls Postgame Live, followed by Bulls Outsiders. Our pre and post game coverage is also available on the new My Teams by NBC Sports app.

NBA Power Rankings: Heat surging with Jimmy Butler

butler-1118.jpg
USA TODAY

NBA Power Rankings: Heat surging with Jimmy Butler

It’s homecoming week at the United Center with Robin Lopez, Kyle Korver and the Bucks visiting Monday, followed by Derrick Rose, Tony Snell and the Pistons on Wednesday and then Jimmy Butler’s Miami Heat come to town Friday night. 

Miami has been one of the big surprises of the opening month, matching the best start in franchise history with a 9-3 record through 12 games. That’s even more remarkable considering the back-to-back championship teams led by LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh, and those strong Miami teams in the mid-90s led by Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway.

Erik Spoelstra has done an excellent job of juggling his early season rotations, still searching for the best lineup combinations. Miami has been very effective at the offensive end, averaging 111.2 points and 26.3 assists per game, while shooting just under 48% from the field as a team.

Butler has been content to play more of a facilitator role, especially early in games. The four-time All-Star is averaging a career best 7.2 assists per game, setting the tone for the Heat’s unselfish play. But he still can score when needed, as evidenced by a 30-point first half in Phoenix on Nov. 7.

Third-year center Bam Adebayo has come back a much improved offensive player this season, averaging a double-double in points and rebounds, while rookie backcourt players Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro have emerged as instant contributors. 

Miami also has some solid vets to call on in Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk, Meyers Leonard and James Johnson. If the Heat are still among the top four teams in the East at the end of January, don’t be surprised if Pat Riley looks to swing a trade for Chris Paul or some other veteran difference maker.

Where do the Heat rank this week? Check out the latest power rankings here.

Bulls host 17th annual Thanksgiving Dinner

Bulls host 17th annual Thanksgiving Dinner

The Bulls hosted their 17th annual Thanksgiving Dinner on Sunday at the Pacific Garden Mission. Several members of the organization, coaching staff, and players wearing red “Bulls” aprons and clear plastic gloves, scattered throughout the large cafeteria space to serve the community a warm Thanksgiving meal.

The scene was great. as head coach Jim Boylen helped carve one of the four turkeys in the Ceremonial Turkey Carving, while Will Perdue looked like he was vying for his fifth NBA Championship as he balanced almost ten plates on two trays. Perdue then joyfully shuffled through the room with his wife, assisting his game by handing off plates to the seated guests. And Thad Young brought his two sons, Thad Jr. and Taylor, to help him hand out food. 

Aside from Thad Young, among the eight or so players serving at the event was the recently healthy, Chandler Hutchison, who was impressed by the Bulls’ commitment to the community through the annual event, and grateful to be a part of it.   

“The fact that they’ve (The Bulls) done it for 17 years speaks so much to the dedication that they have,” Hutchison said. “I mean, just seeing the look on their face when you’re handing them out food and they're like, ‘Those are actually the people you know that are playing and they're sitting here, helping us out, taking time out of their day.' It makes me feel good inside to be able to do that.” 

Hutchison saw the event as a small way that he was able to show love to others.  

“It just takes an hour, maybe two hours out of our day, but to them it could mean a lot," he said.  

Also present at the event, was Tomáš Satoranský, who is new to the idea of celebrating Thanksgiving. 

“First of all, I come from Europe, so I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving that much,” Satoranský said. “But it was amazing to see how much good stuff they’re making and how much work is behind it, to serve such great food like that.”  

Satoranský is in for a surprise when the Bulls celebrate Thanksgiving on the road in Portland. The Bulls haven’t given him much insight into what it will entail, other than that “the Chicago Bulls always celebrate it ‘Big Time,’ leaving him in anticipation. A team that makes sure his first Thanksgiving celebration is one to remember, among other things, gives Satoranský a lot to be grateful for this season. 

“I’m thankful for being here, being with the team and my new teammates, belonging in a new family, as well as I have a new baby born who's nine months old — that’s what comes to my mind now," he said. 

Hutchison shared several reasons he is thankful to the Bulls’ organization this Thanksgiving, starting with how they drafted him 22nd overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. 

“I mean really, they drafted me, “he said. “So, let’s start there. I’m thankful to be in this situation and playing with and meeting people throughout the organization and on my team, who care about me, people that I am going to be spending a lot of time with — just a good all-around situation."

Hutchison was asked what he brings to the Thanksgiving “table,” so to speak, or Bulls organization.

“I just try to be someone that’s light-hearted and always kind of in a good mood, bringing energy," he said. "Someone who’s just going to show up, work hard, and not just do what’s required, but do extra. For me, that’s something that I feel like I bring to the table.”

Pacific Garden Mission is the oldest, continuously-operating rescue mission in the country, and has been a refuge for the Chicago community since 1877.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You  have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.        

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.