Bulls

Boozer living up to New Year's resolutions in 2013

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Boozer living up to New Year's resolutions in 2013

Maybe 2013 is Carlos Boozers year.
In the Bulls last three games, all wins, the much-maligned power forward has had outings of 31 points and 11 rebounds, 27 points and 12 rebounds, and 24 points and 11 rebounds. In fact, Boozer has notched double-doubles in his last five contests.
As perhaps the most-criticized player on the Bulls, Boozer is often the target of fans scorn. After signing a five-year, approximately 80-million contract in the summer of 2010, observers expected him to be a dominant, 20-and-10 force on a nightly basis and while that hasnt happened, its easy to overlook the fact that although hes not putting up the same numbers as when he was a two-time Western Conference All-Star in Utah, hes still one of the best players at his position in the league.
Its not like he hasnt done this before. Hes done this throughout his career. Hes played very well for us and I dont think hes gotten the credit that he deserves, but you look at him and at the end of every season, how he measures up to other power forwards, hes always at the top, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau explained. Hes gotten more opportunities right now because people are searching him out and thats what the defense is telling us is open. I think guys have gotten comfortable, the core guys who have been together now for three years, so they know how to play off of each other better and I think Carlos has done a great job for us. Hes unselfish, too. When the second defender comes, hes going to make the right play.
When Boozers statistics are taken in contexthe plays roughly 30 minutes per game; he has a high-level backup in Taj Gibsonthe case can be made that hes delivered up to expectations. And with Bulls center Joakim Noah in the midst of a career season, it can no longer be said that the low-post duo doesnt function well together, an assertion their coach always found humorous.
Ive been laughing all along because Ive been looking at the winning percentage when the two of them have played together. To me, thats how you measure guys. Sometimes I think people get so hung up on individual statistics that they dont look at what the end result is and the end result has been very, very positive from Day 1 and so, that hasnt changed. My thinking on those two hasnt changed one bit, Thibodeau said. Boozer has been a lightning rod from Day 1. But he can handle it. When youre that type of player, usually thats what comes with it. But he handles that part great. No matter what happens the night before, he comes in that next day, hes ready to work and thats all you can ask. Come in, put everything you have into it, get ready for the next game, and keep learning and improving.
Noah added: Its always great to silence your critics, but obviously theres a bigger picture. Its not about just silencing critics who said we couldnt play together. Obviously he wants to win, I want to win. Being in this league, you usually answer those questions at the end of the year. Its not because we played well against Cleveland, because we won a game against Miami during the regular season that were going to silence those critics. Its more about whats going to happen at the end of the year.
I think hes playing his best basketball. He looks very comfortable out there. We kind of understand where he wants the ball, he continued. I think that were playing very unselfish basketball right now. Whoevers open getting the ball. I think thats signs of good things for this team. Ball movement, when somebodys open, get them the ball and Booz is just killing in the paint right now, so were just getting him as many touches as possible.
For the time being, it appears that Boozer is making good on his New Years resolutions to be more efficient and get more wins. If he continues to play the game the way he has as of late, the occasional boos he hears from the United Center crowd will permanently turn to Booz.

Kris Dunn looks to build off Saturday's late-game heroics on Monday against the Thunder

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USA TODAY

Kris Dunn looks to build off Saturday's late-game heroics on Monday against the Thunder

With all the talk about Zach LaVine, Lauri Markannen and Wendell Carter Jr. being foundation pieces for the next Bulls’ playoff team, you really couldn’t blame Kris Dunn for feeling a little left out.

After all, the 6 foot 4 point guard was an All-American at Providence and the fifth player selected in the 2016 draft. No one’s questioning his superior defensive skills, but his outside shooting and availability are still concerns as the Bulls’ front office plans for the future. Dunn only played in 52 games last season because of injuries, and he’s already missed 26 games this season because of a sprained knee. His career shooting averages are 42 percent from the field and 31 percent from the three-point line.

Still, Dunn showed Saturday night in San Antonio why he still could be the Bulls’ starting point guard for many years to come. He scored a team-high 24 points, including the two baskets that sealed the Bulls’ come-from-behind win. Paired with Ryan Arcidiacono in the backcourt because of LaVine’s ankle injury, Dunn played much more aggressively on the offensive end, taking advantage of favorable match-ups to make 11-of-18 shots from the field.

Now, the front office and coaching staff is waiting to see if he can post those numbers on a more consistent basis while also developing chemistry with LaVine as the Bulls’ starting backcourt. Having Dunn step forward as the clear-cut answer at point guard would definitely simplify some of the Bulls’ roster decisions for next summer and beyond.

Dunn will face a major challenge Monday night against former league MVP Russell Westbrook and a highly motivated Oklahoma City Thunder squad. The Bulls snapped OKC’s four-game winning streak back on Dec. 7 in Jim Boylen’s first home game as head coach, 114-112.

Westbrook came on strong in the second half after an indifferent start to post a triple double with 24 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists, but he also turned the ball over 10 times. Paul George missed a wide open three in the closing seconds that would have won it for the Thunder, who are currently battling for one of the top seeds in the closely packed Western Conference.

Bottom line, the Bulls will have zero chance of catching the Thunder looking ahead to their next game. Physical center Steven Adams scored OKC’s first 12 points in the earlier meeting and you can expect Thunder coach Billy Donovan will go to his match-up with Carter early and often, especially given the rookie’s persistent foul problems.

The Bulls will need another big offensive game from Dunn and a return to form from Justin Holiday, who shot 1-of-12 from the field and 1-of-10 from the three-point line Saturday in San Antonio. Holiday scored 20 points against the Thunder earlier this month, making 4-of-6 tries from beyond the arc.

Look for Robin Lopez to get expanded playing time against the mountainous Adams and for Markkanen to take advantage of isolation match-ups against OKC’s undersized power forward Jerami Grant. Markkanen showed off a Dirk Nowitzki-esque step-back jumper agains the Spurs and appears to be finding his rhythm on offense after missing 2 months because of a sprained right elbow.

Boylen has talked about wanting to play at a slower tempo on the road to force opposing teams to defend for all 24 seconds on the shot clock, and of course, limiting possession for the explosive Westbrook is always a solid strategy. Here are a few other keys for keeping this game close.

1. Limit turnovers - The Bulls did a great job in this area on Saturday, only turning it over nine times against the Spurs. Westbrook and George love to play the passing lanes for steals and breakaway dunks which can be back-breakers for a young team playing in a loud arena like Oklahoma City’s.

2. Happy Holiday - Holiday was able to extend his franchise record three point streak to 41 games with his only field goal on Saturday, but the Bulls will need him to heat up from long range to hang with a powerful offensive team like OKC. Dunn’s ability to penetrate and draw help defenders should create some open looks for Holiday, Markkanen and Bobby Portis.

3. Keep Adams from dominating inside - Easier said than done with a player as physically imposing as the New Zealand native, but if the Bulls can win the rebound battle they should be able to stay in the game. Rebounding has been a key stat in just about every one of the Bulls’ seven victories, and it will be a point of emphasis again Monday night.

We invite you to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue and me for Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the MyTeams by NBC Sports app. Then as soon as the game goes final, flip back to NBC Sports Chicago for reaction and analysis on Bulls Postgame Live, followed by the always-entertaining Bulls Outsiders.

Make your plans to join us Monday night.

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Windy City Bulls roundup: JaKarr Sampson

Windy City Bulls roundup: JaKarr Sampson

In this edition of the Windy City roundup we look at JaKarr Sampson, who has been playing well in an intriguing role with the Windy City Bulls.

Sampson, a two-year player at St. John’s University, averaged 13 PPG and 6 RPG on 46 percent in his college career. However, the most impressive part of his college resume were the hustle stats. Over his two seasons in college, Sampson averaged just over two offensive rebounds per game and racked up 125 combined steals/blocks.

That mentality has followed him to the pros, where he has been great at getting to the rim, drawing fouls and blocking shots.

But Sampson hasn’t been spectacular with his finishing in the NBA. And on top of that, the lack of (any) noticeable progress with his shooting stroke makes it hard to find a spot for him, even in the increasingly position-less NBA.

But the Windy City Bulls and head coach Charlie Henry have been using Sampson as a small-ball center, with intriguing results.


Through 6 games in the 2018-19 NBA G League season, Sampson is averaging 21 points, 6 rebounds and shooting 55 percent from the field.

He is one of the tallest players on the team as, Windy City has no players taller than 6-foot 8 on the roster. Despite starting a 6-foot 8 player at center, Windy City has the 2nd best defensive rating in the league (100.6) over the last five games.

And while he has helped the Bulls have a great NBA G League defense, his offensive value also offers upside. Sampson has been able to use his quickness to beat lumbering bigs off the dribble. He has also gotten slightly better at timing his rolls to the basket to receive dump off passes from his guards.

For pretty much the first time in Sampson’s basketball career (even dating back to high school) he is starting to make an earnest attempt to stretch his range out to the 3-point line. He is taking just over two 3-point attempts per game. While he is shooting a poor 28 percent from deep, those couple 3-point attempts per night help Windy City’s offense by dragging opposing bigs out of the paint to contest shots.

Sampson’s aggressiveness is at an all-time high with the Bulls. He has a gargantuan usage rate that is north of 30 percent, impressive considering that he hasn’t had to shoulder a heavy load on offense in quite some time. He is turning the ball over a considerable amount and that is perhaps the one thing knocking down his offensive value.

He has an impressive assist rate from the center spot, so the skill is there and simply needs to be raised a level. That obviously becomes much easier when you play with better teammates.

If Sampson was to play with the Chicago Bulls, he obviously would be a low-usage player. This in turn could make his solid passing ability a huge plus, since the Bulls have some interesting offensive pieces with Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis and Lauri Markkanen all returning to join Zach LaVine in the rotation.

And with Sampson showing that he can be effective against centers who are non-scoring threats, he would be a nice player to give spot minutes to when Wendell Carter Jr. is in foul trouble (especially early in games).

Succeeding at the highest levels in today’s NBA is all about the 3-point shot, lineup versatility and a commitment to the defensive side of the ball. And Sampson checks off two of the three boxes with certainty, making him a solid bet to be one of the next Windy City Bulls players to receive a call up.