Bulls

With backs against the wall, Bulls loose and focused for Game 6

derrick-rose-tom-thibodeau-bulls-focused-game-6-slide.png

With backs against the wall, Bulls loose and focused for Game 6

Facing potential elimination against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls’ sense of humor is still intact, at the very least.

When asked about the Bulls’ pulse, opening the door for a predictable cliché, the witty Mike Dunleavy had a catchy response.

“We got a good pulse, we're alive, we have one,” Dunleavy said to laughs. “We know what we gotta do. We gotta come out and get off to a good start and play a full 48 minutes.”

[RELATED: Do-or-die time for Bulls' revamped offense to show up]

Putting together a full 48 suitable for framing is a rarity at this stage. Teams are too studied on what the other wants to do, too accustomed to set plays for any one team to dominate the other.

As for emotion, it usually dissipates at this stage, as long as you discount the Taj Gibson-Matthew Dellavedova incident as two teams tired of dealing with each other.

“It usually does. Just gotta stay focused,” said center Joakim Noah, perhaps the most emotional of the Bulls. “It’s an emotional game. We gotta keep our composure and not get frustrated. There’s going to be frustration in the game always and just focus on the next play.

The Bulls, feeling a bit sour after coming up short on the last two games, know the difference between being up 3-2 or in this position is quite minute.

“It's tough. Both teams have great players,” Dunleavy said. “LeBron (James) is a load down the stretch of the game. It's a play here, play there. Last game, it was an offensive rebound.

“Maybe it's a steal, loose ball, it can be anything but it's really, we can be up 4-1 and the series could be over and vice versa. They could be moving on as well. That's the way this thing has gone. It could come down to the last possession.”

Being back home to the United Center certainly helps, as this could not only the last game of the season but the last of an era. Having Pau Gasol back is a confidence boost, even though he’s clearly not 100 percent.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

They hope the scoring droughts of the last two games will come to an end with Gasol's reappearance, and for what he brings they’ll make sure he’s not exploited on the other end.

“Pau doesn't move around like a gazelle, so him at not 100 percent is OK with us,” Dunleavy said. “His size is still huge, he can still knock down shots. If he's a little slow getting up and down the court we can cover for him.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

lavine-and-parker.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."