Bulls

Well, that was an ugly ending: Observations from Bulls-Mavericks

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USA TODAY

Well, that was an ugly ending: Observations from Bulls-Mavericks

The Bulls earned a victory on Friday night, and the box score will read that they did it scoring 127 points, shooting 56 percent and making 14 3-pointers.

That's fine, and it came against a Dallas team that had won four straight before barely losing to the Warriors two days earlier. Kris Dunn scored a career-high 32 pioints, Justin Holiday was an efficiency monster scoring 23 points on seven shots, and Nikola Mirotic double-doubled.

So why was it such an ugly victory?

The Bulls led by 10, 114-104, with 1:08 left in the game. They wound up needing Yogi Ferrell to miss a wide open 3-pointer as time expired to avoid overtime. From that point on the Mavericks scored on eight consecutive possessions before Ferrell's missed triple. Dallas got as close as 125-124 with 3.2 seconds to play. In that same span the Bulls missed just one free throw, but Nikola Mirotic had a costly turnover that led to a dunk, and Dallas also grabbed two offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive.

Simply put, it was ugly. Even the Bulls' inbounds were a nightmare down the stretch. It was indicative of a young Bulls team still learning how to close games, so count it as a teaching moment. As for Fred Hoiberg? He and his coaching staff will likely be going to the drawing board on how to close games out.

When it's all said and done the Bulls picked up their first victory of 2018. But despite a packed box score it was ugly as can be down the stretch.

Fun fact from our buddy, Chuck Swirsky:

Wowza indeed.

Kris Dunn dominates Dennis Smith Jr.

If you were to ask anyone during the Las Vegas Summer League (including this author) whether they'd rather have Kris Dunn or Dennis Smith Jr., the consensus would have been Smith. He was the hottest rookie and looked like the steal of the draft after the Mavericks took him 9th overall in June.

Dunn, on the other hand, was struggling mightily. So what's changed since then? Let's look at Friday night. Dunn was everywhere, scoring a career-high 32 points and handing out nine assists in just 32 minutes. He made four of his five triples and grabbed four steals. It was arguably his best game as a pro in a second season that contiues to add superlatives.

Smith was absent most of the evening. He finished with 15 points and seven assists, but 10 of those came in the wacky final 68 seconds (see above). It'd be silly to write off Smith just yet, but for now Dunn looks very much the part of a franchise point guard Smith was being touted as a few months ago.

Justin Holiday boosting his trade value?

We'll begin here by admitting it's unlikely the Bulls find a trade partner for Justin Holiday. He isn't much of a ball handler, and his streaky shot doesn't have much value on a contender's second unit. That being said, he's been excellent the last two weeks and could at least give teams a second thought about dealing for him.

Holiday posted 23 points on just seven shots, going 5-for-7 from the field (5-for-6 from deep) and a perfect 8-for-8 from the line. He had just one turnover in 37 minutes, though he also didn't have an assist and grabbed three rebounds (Andrew Wiggins is blushing somewhere).

But Holiday has turned the calendar over to 2018 and looked like a different players. He's averaging 21.0 points on 59 percent shooting in three January games, and he's doing so while logging his continued heavy minutes (41, 39 and 37 in January). Perhaps he sees the writing on the wall with Zach LaVine's impending return, or he knows minutes and, more importantly, shots might be freeing up if Nikola Mirotic is traded. Either way he's looked the part in January, and maybe the Bulls could get something for him if they want to free up the wing log jam. Just a thought, and a small sample size to think about at that.

Antoine Griezmann professes his love for Derrick Rose after winning World Cup

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USA TODAY

Antoine Griezmann professes his love for Derrick Rose after winning World Cup

Antoine Griezmann, you just won the World Cup, what are you going to do next?

Apparently, profess his love for Derrick Rose.

In the celebrations of France winning the World Cup on Sunday, French forward Griezmann spotted his teammate Paul Pogba getting interviewed by FOX Sports. Recognizing this was the American audience, Griezmann took the mic from FOX's Jenny Taft and had one thing to say:

"I love Derrick Rose."

Griezmann, who scored a goal in France's 4-2 win against Croatia in the final, is a big NBA fan. He has been spotted at multiple games over the years, including Game 5 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and Cavs.

This also isn't the first time he has made a comment about D-Rose. He recently signed a contract extension with his club team, Atletico Madrid, but a year ago said the only way he would leave was to play with Rose.

"I would only leave Atleti to play with Derrick Rose," Griezmann said through translation.

In 2015 he posted an image of himself in a Derrick Rose Bulls jersey to his Instagram.

Later that year he took in a Bulls game and got a photo with Joakim Noah.

Maybe when the 27-year-old is ready to leave Europe, he will join a Major League Soccer team just so he can watch more NBA games.

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

The Bulls ‘rebuild’ seems to be just a one-year experiment after the team signed Chicago native Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40-million dollar deal on Saturday. Although on first look Parker’s contract would seem to restrict what they can do in free agency next summer, the reality is that the 2nd year team option gives the Bulls plenty of flexibility with—or without- Parker next year.  

If the Bulls pick up the option on Parker, they will still be able to sign a max free agent next July if they make the right moves between now and July 1, 2019.

The NBA projects the 2019-20 cap will rise to $109 million, up from $101.9 million for the upcoming season. The league bases a ‘max’ salary on years of service. A 10-year vet like Kevin Durant is eligible for more ($38.2 million) than his teammate Klay Thompson ($32.7 million), an 8-year vet. If the Bulls keep Parker, they’ll enter free agency with approximately $15.4 million next summer—far short of the cap space needed for a player like Durant or Thompson, but that number is misleading. The $15.4 million also includes cap holds (salary slots assigned to a player based on several factors including previous year’s salary). The cap hold is designed to prevent teams from completely circumventing the soft cap model the league uses. The cap holds for Bobby Portis ($7.5 million) and Cameron Payne ($9.8 million) are just theoretical if the Bulls don’t sign either to a contract extension before the October 31, 2018 deadline. 

Let’s say the Bulls are in line to sign a star free agent like Thompson; all they would need to do is rescind any qualifying offer to Payne or Portis, and then renounce them as free agents. This would effectively take the cap holds off the Bulls’ cap sheet and give them approximately $32.7 million in cap space. Coincidently (or perhaps it’s no coincidence), that’s the exact salary a 7-9 year free agent like Thompson would command.

In order to create enough space for Durant and his increased ‘max’ slot, they would need to waive and stretch a player like Cristiano Felicio or incentivize a trade involving a player by attaching another asset in the deal, like a future 1st round pick.

If the Bulls decline the team option on Parker, then they will enter free agency with anywhere between $35 million and $53 million.