Bulls

With back pain continuing, Rose will see a specialist

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With back pain continuing, Rose will see a specialist

BOSTON When it first occurred, Derrick Roses lower back spasms were a mild concern, but not something viewed as a long-term situation. Now, its a serious issue.

Its been going on for a couple of games. It started first time I remember it happening was in high school but college, I didnt have it. First couple of years, I didnt have it. Just all of a sudden, it just happened now and hopefully tomorrow, meet with some people and try to figure something out, a downcast Rose said before Sundays contest against the Celtics, which he sat out of. It was the whole trip, but I just played through it. The more I played through it, it tended to get worse after every game. At the time, I was really worried about it, but just tried to stay positive and hopefully Ill be all right.

I dont know the diagnosis. I dont know what to call it, but I just know my back is not right, continued the Eastern Conference All-Star starter, who was seen being stretched out on the sideline during the second game of the Bulls nine-game road trip, in Washington. I dont remember when it started. It just came from out of nowhere, man. Thats the scary thing about it.

Throughout this whole trip, its been bothering me. If you see me during the game or whenever Im out of the game, Im always getting stretched and Im usually not getting stretched at all, unless its before the game. It was getting tight then, but I was able to play through it and it was getting worse the longer I was playing.

Rose will see a specialist Monday when the Bulls return to Chicago, but wouldnt speculate on whether hed play in the teams next game, Tuesday against Sacramento at the United Center.

Probably go see some people tomorrow, have them look at it. But I dont know yet, he said. I cant say Im going to be out. If I feel good tomorrow, Im definitely going to play then, but I dont know yet.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who started C.J. Watson in Roses place, indicated that the organization would be cautious with Rose.

Its not cleared up as much as we would like right now. He still has a little bit of stiffness, so we decided its better to sit him out of this one, he said. Once we get back home, well have a chance to go see a specialist and well go from there.

Well, youre always concerned. Its something that hes had before. He had it when he was in high school, so were hopeful it gets cleared up shortly, but we want to make sure.

Backs are tricky, so thats why hes going to see a specialist tomorrow, he added. Well, theyre always looking at players. We feel real good about C.J. and John Lucas has played extremely well for us, so were confident in him and of course, we have Ronnie, who can go to the point as well. If we act, fine. If not, were good with what we have.

Rose said the injury has been increasingly painful since his last game, Wednesday in New Orleans.

I definitely felt it those games and I thought it was something that would easily go away, but its just been lingering on, he said. Its killing me right now, not being able to play or when I do play, my minutes are definitely down. Not being healthy, its getting to me, especially this game. Just got to stay positive and hope for the best.

I really couldnt move out there, but we won the game against the Hornets. Thats all that matters to me. If Im out there, just try to do anything to make us win, Rose added. I could barely walk. Hopefully I get treatment and it goes away or calms down. Then, Ill be able to play. But if not, take my time.

Rose also detailed the decision-making process as to whether he plays.

Usually, before the game. It goes back and forth, but its really my decision. If I feel good nobody can tell me how I feel but myself so I feel good, Im going to try to go. But during the game, if its hurting or were up, weve got a big lead or something, I can definitely sit out. Now, its just hurting a little bit more, said the reigning league MVP, who has played through injuries in the past. Not being able to move, its a whole other thing.

Its usually up to me if I want to play. If I feel good the morning I wake up or after I get done shooting, or warming up, Ill be able to play, but if not, Ill definitely let them know, but if not, Ill be able to sit down, continued Rose, who has been receiving constant treatment. Its just not going down yet. Ive got to be able to move, get up without hurting, be myself.

Right when I feel theres no pain there anymore, thats when Ill be ready.

Rose wouldnt speculate if he would participate in the Feb. 26 All-Star Game in Orlando.

Thats too far to really think about that. I havent thought about it. It could be tomorrow, where I wake up and it feels good. I remember in high school, I didnt get any treatment or anything. I just knew that I took a couple days off and I was able to play downstate and I didnt feel it. Hopefully its the same thing, said Rose.

While Rose was crestfallen about missing the final game of the Bulls long road swing, he was confident that his teammates could make up for his absence.

I think everybody is definitely important on this team. We have people on this team that dont think that theyre bigger than this team or bigger than this organization. The thing is, we have a deep team. If one of us goes out, the other guy comes in and does the job and thats what makes us a special team, I think. I know that if Im not playing, I dont have to worry about anything because we have C.J. and J. Luke that come in and play a good game, and they play under pressure well. Im not worried about it. I know that the team is not. I know that we should be prepared tonight and I know that when someones down, someone comes up and plays big, he explained. Thats whats really killing me right now, knowing that Im missing this many games. Its killing me not to be out there, but as long as were winning games, Im happy.

The injury doesnt bother me because Im so young, but its my first time missing this many games, period in life, period. It hurts, not being to be out there with my team. I was a guy that was always on the court or if I was injured, miss a game or two and then Id be back, but to miss this many games and knowing that were playing great dont get me wrong, Im loving that were winningbut to not be out there, it hurts, he continued. I think I conditioned myself well, prepared myself well for this season. I wouldnt say its too much the season. I think its just something that just happened. I didnt have any big falls on my back or anything. Its just something that I woke up and my back was tight. Just cant really get rid of it right now.

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

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USA TODAY

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.

The Celtics tied MJ's and the '96 Bulls' record for consecutive home playoff wins

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USA TODAY

The Celtics tied MJ's and the '96 Bulls' record for consecutive home playoff wins

The Boston Celtics have been the surprise of the 2018 NBA Playoffs, and after last night's Game 5 win against LeBron James and the Cavs are one game away from a trip to the NBA Finals.

They've done it with some of the most interesting splits in league history for a team that's advanced this far: they're 10-0 at home and  1-6 on the road.

The six road losses are something else, but with the convincing 96-83 victory over Cleveland, the Celtics tied a record held by the 1996 Bulls for the most consecutive postseason home wins in a season.

Boston earned home wins against the Bucks in Round 1 in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7. They crushed the heavily favored Sixers in five games, earning home wins in Games 1, 2 and 5 (and their only road win in Game 3). They took the first two games of the series from the Cavaliers at home and then again in Game 5. If they can't close the series in Cleveland they'll have a chance to break the record Sunday in a potential Game 7. If they do close the series in Cleveland their next chance will be in Game 3 of the NBA Finals; Boston will be on the road regardless of whether Houston or Golden State comes out of the West.

Jordan's Bulls won 10 consecutive games during their historic 72-10 season. They swept the Heat in Round 1, winning at home by 17 and 31 points. In the second round they knocked off the Knicks in Games 1 and 2 at the United Center, winning by 7 and 11 points. After the Knicks earned a Game 3 win at Madison Square Garden the Bulls won the final two games of that series, including a 13-point win at home to clinch the series and a fifth straight home win.

The conference finals were no problem for the Bulls at home or on the road. They began their eventual sweep of Orlando with a 38-point shellacking in Game 1 at home. A five-point win in Game 2 gave them their seventh consecutive home win and they wouldn't be back at the United Center until Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

They smoked the Sonics by 17 in Game a 1 and held on for a four-point win in Game 2. Seattle took Games 4 and 5 at their place to avoid being swept, but when the series returned to Chicago the Bulls were back to their winning ways, earning a 12-point win - their 10th consecutive in the postseason - and their fourth NBA title.

Yes, the Bulls lost just three times (half as many as the Celtics) and actually won the title. Boston, of course, has plenty to do before they reach that status, and they'll do so with at least six losses. We're not comparing the two teams. Simply pointing out a record.

And if you're wondering, Steph Curry and the Warriors have simply been too good to get to 10 wins. Last year they swept all three rounds of the West playoffs, giving them six straight home wins. Then they only needed five games to beat the Cavaliers in the Finals, with three of those coming at home. So they went 9-0 at Oracle Arena before winning it all. They recently had their streak of 16 consecutive postseason home wins, regardless of year, snapped when the Rockets earned a Game 4 win on Tuesday.