Bulls

Boozer should join Noah, Deng as All-Stars

989145.png

Boozer should join Noah, Deng as All-Stars

DEERFIELD, ILL.Some might say Carlos Boozer picked up his game too late to be considered a legitimate All-Star candidate, but his coaches and teammates feel otherwise.

Boozer expressed his joy, via Twitter, in Joakim Noah and Luol Deng being named Eastern Conference All-Star reserves Thursday evening. But after Friday mornings shootaround at the Berto Center, Deng and Noah, as well as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, said that the power forward was also worthy of making the trip to Houston next month.

No question. I feel like I wouldnt be in this position right now if it wasnt for Carlos, especially," Noah said. "Hes somebody who demands so much attention because of how good he is offensively and Im able to get a lot of easy baskets because of Carlos, his passing ability. I feel like hes somebody whos very well-deserving and I feel like weve been through a lot in almost three years now together."

"You want to see all your teammates in the All-Star game," Deng added. "Thats how you feel. And I really mean this: I feel like Carlos Boozer and the way hes playing for us every night, rebounding, scoring his leadership, I really thought he was an All-Star this year. Even though he didnt get in, we know in this locker room he has stepped up his game huge.

RELATED: Noah, Deng excited about All-Star game for Bulls, each other

Thibodeau chimed in and added that he also felt Boozer was deserving of making the roster. The coach suggested that Boozer could make the game as an injury replacement, if that scenario came about.

As Ive said, these things are always tough because there is limited space and theres deserving players. Its a very difficult decision to make, Thibodeau said. I think Carlos has been unbelievable, so I think hes deserving and it would be a great honor.

Boozer was named last weeks Eastern Conference player of the week. Thibodeau equated Boozers situation with that of a player on the team the Bulls host Friday, Golden State point guard Stephen Curry, perceived as this years biggest snub.

One of the biggest perceived All-Star snubs was Golden State point guard Stephen Curry being left off the Western Conference reserves. Teammate David Lee did make the team for the much-improved Warriors, but the omission of Curry, a sharpshooting playmaker, was seen as glaring.

And Boozer is not the only one. I look at Golden State, and David Lee has had a terrific year, but Curry has been terrific as well, and hes very deserving, Thibodeau explained. To me, both of those guys are All-Star players, having All-Star type years, and theyre just not going to play in the game as of right now. That can always change.

Thibodeau impressed by Warriors, Jackson

Led by Curry and West All-Star reserve David Lee, the Warriors have been one of the leagues biggest surprises so far this season. Thibodeau was an assistant coach for the Knicks and Rockets when Golden States current head coach, Mark Jackson, played in New York and Houston toward the end of his long career.

Yeah I did. I had an opportunity to coach him, and a great leader, a great communicator, a lot of toughness, maybe not a great athlete he would probably argue that, but I loved coaching him, and hes a great person, Thibodeau said about the former NBA point guard, one of the leagues all-time assist leaders. Im thrilled for him, hes done a great job there.

Jackson and Thibodeau are both in their infancies in their head-coaching careers, but had vastly different paths, as Jackson, who worked as an NBA television analyst after his playing days, had never coached at any level before being hired by the Warriors. While Golden State struggled in his debut season a year ago, a defensive approach and improved health have made them one of the better teams in the Western Conference, even without the services of center Andrew Bogut.

Its a very deep team, very well put together," Thibodeau said. "I look at the players that they added from a year ago, and its impressive. You look at the impact that Jarrett Jack has had, and Carl Landry. Of course their young guys are guys that you really have to pay attention to, and theyre team guys. I think theyve made their team function extremely well, guys like Draymond Green, and Festus Ezeli, Harrison Barnes, and then all the players that are returning have improved. Curry is healthy, and they still dont have Bogut.

"David Lee has been terrific all year long. Klay Thompson, one of the best two guards in the league. They shoot the ball, they post the ball, they share the ball. They are playing terrific defense. They are very, very impressive."

Noah: A little weird to play with rivals

Joakim Noah, upon learning that he made the All-Star team Thursday evening, pondered playing with the likes of foes, such as Miamis LeBron James, Bostons Kevin Garnett and New Yorks Tyson Chandler, all of whom the Bulls center has had on-court confrontations with.

I thought about it a little bit last night. Its going to be a little weird. Youre competing against all these guys and you kind of see them as the enemy. Now, all of a sudden, youre going to be playing in a game with them, he said. Then, I realized we have a game today, so Im trying to just focus on the task at hand.

Ill probably have some good stories for you, he quipped. Ill be fine.

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

bulls_thunder_schanowski.jpg
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.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

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.