Zach LaVine's pretty play all Bulls can take from ugly loss to Kings

Zach LaVine's pretty play all Bulls can take from ugly loss to Kings

Zach LaVine's mammoth dunk over Kings forward JaKarr Sampson will be the talk of Bulls Twitter for the next few days, and rightfully so. But the bigget story might have been another solid showing on both ends for the Bulls' shooting guard, who scored 27 points and showed off a new nice defensive plays. Unfortunately that was about it for a Bulls team that started off hot, then lost their cool, and ultimately couldn't execute down the stretch in a 104-98 loss.

But LaVine looked solid once again. He finished with 27 points, shot 50 percent from the field (9-for-18) and deep (4-for-8) and made all five free throws. He added two assists, though the Bulls had just 20 as a team on the evening. He was a -12 but the Bulls will clearly take 31 healthy minutes, including quick dribbles, good kickouts, solid defense and of course the monster slam.

LaVine has now scored 20 or more points in three straight games and is looking more comfortable with the ball in his hands. Yes, he froze up in a tight game with 2 minutes remaining and dribbled off his foot, but without Kris Dunn the Bulls have little ball movement as is. It can't simply fall on LaVine's shoulders, as much as he's meant to be the Messiah.

The storyline for Friday is Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson returning to Chicago to take on their old team. But it's a reunion for LaVine, too. It'll be his first game against former head coach Tom Thibodeau and teammates Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. You can bet he wants to keep this streak going, and you can bet his teammates and Butler saw his dunk on Sampson. Game on.

- Did Robin Lopez get ejected in his final game with the Bulls?

Chicago Tribune reporter K.C. Johnson wrote yesterday that trade talks involving the Bulls center are heating up. Lopez was certainly heated on Monday, picking up two technical fouls and receiving an ejection after arguing a pair of foul calls in the first half of Tuesday's game.

Lopez has been known to let officials know what he thinks, so this wasn't all that surprising. It also let the Bulls get a longer look at Cris Felicio, for whatever that's worth. Felicio played 18 minutes and had one point, seven rebounds and two assists. Yeah, more of the same from him. 

As for Lopez, the Bulls won't play again until after the trade deadline, so there's a chance Lopez's final game went 13 minutes, 2 points and 1 ejection.

- The tank is on! Though the Bulls lost Monday night, they earned a crucial loss in the tanking department against a team they're chasing. The Mavericks dropped a late lead that hurts in the standings, but as of Monday night and into Tuesday morning here is where the worst teams in the league stand:

1. Atlanta Hawks (16-37) (-)
2. Orlando Magic (16-36) (0.5 GB)
3. Dallas Mavericks (17-36) (1 GB)
4. Sacramento Kings (17-36) (1 GB)
5. Phoenix Suns (18-36) (1.5 GB)
6. Chicago Bulls (18-35) (2 GB)
7. Memphis Grizzlies (18-34) (2.5 GB)
8. Brooklyn Nets (19-35) (2.5 GB)

Yes, the Bulls are right back in the thick of the lottery mix after seven straight losses. With the trade deadline coming up and games against Minnesota, Washington and Toronto coming up...there could be more lottery balls in the Bulls' future.

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 famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch the 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.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.