Bulls

Bulls: Attention could shift away from Pau Gasol in Game 2

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Bulls: Attention could shift away from Pau Gasol in Game 2

While Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t agree with the assessment that this year’s offense is better than the team he coached four years ago, he acknowledges he can make modifications to the team’s offensive plan if the Bucks choose to shift their defensive attention.

In 2011, Rose was a threat to score 30 on any given night, while being supported by Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer, who each scored 17 per game.

But the Bulls scored just 98.6 points per game that year, good enough for 20th in the league. Of course, the Bulls won 62 games and rolled to the conference finals but were met by a familiar opponent in LeBron James, who shut Rose down in fourth quarters on the way to a 4-1 series win.

[MORE: Bucks may try to get more physical in Game 2 vs. Bulls]

“It’s hard to say,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t agree with that assessment. So you’re probably asking the wrong guy.”

In this series the Bucks have zeroed in on Pau Gasol since his 46-point, 18-rebound masterpiece early in the season but after Game 1, it was Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler who torched the Bucks, combining for 48 points and 13 assists in the Bulls’ 103-91 win.

“It can. That’s sort of the nature of the league,” Thibodeau said. “When you have three primary scorers like we do, we can go a different way. All three of those guys have the responsibility of when the second defender comes, hit the open man. Make the right play. Make the winning play. We’re fortunate we have three guys willing to do that.”

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Gasol, of course, is a willing passer and the offense has run smoothly when opposing teams run a second defender to him. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see the Bucks switch their strategy and force Gasol to be more of a primary scorer—while hoping to shut down the perimeter players who generated the most offense in Rose, Butler and Aaron Brooks.

In the four other meetings including Game 1, Gasol has averaged 15.2 points per game.

“Every game, you’re making sure you’re making winning plays and playing to win and playing together,” Thibodeau said. “You’re trying to play to each other’s strengths. The challenge is not only bringing the best out of yourself but your teammates as well. That’s how you become a great team. It’s not an individual sport. It’s a team sport.”

Is Wiggins a good fit as Warriors look to return to contending status?

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USA Today

Is Wiggins a good fit as Warriors look to return to contending status?

We continue our look at how NBA teams have been affected by the suspension of regular season play with the Golden State Warriors. Steve Kerr’s team hit rock bottom after losing Kevin Durant in free agency, Klay Thompson to ACL rehab and then Steph Curry to a broken hand after just four games. The Warriors owned the league’s worst record at 15-50 when the schedule was suspended.

Roster Evaluation

Golden State General Manager Bob Myers made a big move at the trade deadline, acquiring the talented but much-maligned Andrew Wiggins from Minnesota after deciding former All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell wouldn’t be a good long-term fit. Wiggins was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, but had underachieved with the Timberwolves. Executives and scouts around the league questioned his willingness to put in the work to improve his all-around game.

Myers and Kerr are hoping the Warriors’ championship culture will have a positive impact on Wiggins, who averaged 19.4 points in 12 games with his new team, shooting 45.7% from the field and 33.9% from 3 point range. At 6’8”, Wiggins has the size to play small forward alongside Curry and Thompson, and the Warriors were hoping to use the final month of the regular season to see how Curry felt playing with the new addition.

Curry returned to action on March 5, scoring 23 points in 27 minutes against Toronto, but then had to sit out the Warriors’ remaining games because of illness. Any evaluation on a potential fit with Wiggins had to be put on hold.

Meanwhile, questions remain about whether Draymond Green can still be an impact player, coming off his second straight season averaging under double figure points. He's missed 22 games in 2019-20 due to a variety of injuries.

Offseason Decisions

If the Warriors wind up with the No. 1 overall pick, they could look to pair that selection with Wiggins in a trade to acquire veteran, All-Star level talent, with hopes of making another deep postseason run. Curry is 32 while Thompson and Green are both 30, meaning the Warriors’ window to add to the three championships they won last decade is limited. You can expect Myers and Kerr to explore all options to add a veteran star when we get close to the draft.

If Golden State decides to use their high lottery pick, adding a defensive minded 7-foot center like James Wiseman could be the way to go. The Warriors potentially have four starting spots set with Curry, Thompson, Green and Wiggins, and they have a definite need at center after trading Willie Carley-Stein to Dallas and seeing veteran Kevon Looney go through an injury-riddled season.

Wiseman only played three games at Memphis before withdrawing from school because of an eligibility fight with the NCAA, but he should be able to play NBA-caliber defense from day one without needing many touches at the offensive end. At 7’1” with explosive jumping ability, Wiseman could feast on the offensive glass and also score off alley-oop passes from Curry.

The Warriors could also decide to roll the dice on 6’7” combo guard LaMelo Ball, who impressed scouts with his playmaking ability during his one injury-shortened season of pro ball in Australia. The thought of Ball creating open shots for the Splash brothers would be terrifying for opposing defenses, but the Warriors will have to decide if Kerr and his assistant coaches can reign in Ball’s playground mentality — and that's without mentioning the tall task of reigning in LaMelo’s outspoken dad, LaVar.

Outlook

No matter how the front office decides to utilize that lottery pick, the Warriors should be a top five team in the West next season. Thompson should be able to pick up where he left off before the ACL injury, coming off screens to knock down 3-pointers, while Curry remains one of the league’s best long range shooters and an underrated passer. Green should also be more effective next season with the two All-Star guards back in the starting lineup.

The biggest decision of the off-season involves whether to keep Wiggins or use him a trade for a veteran who fits better with the talent on hand. The Warriors are hoping the playing time given to youngsters like Eric Paschall, Damion Lee, Jordan Poole and Marquese Chriss will help them become contributing bench players next season.

Check back in this Friday, when we examine the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Signature Air Jordan 1 sneaker turns 35 this month

Signature Air Jordan 1 sneaker turns 35 this month

The shoe that has essentially become every sneakerhead's dream, the iconic Air Jordan 1 sneaker, turns 35 years old today. 

The first signature sneaker of Michael Jordan was released in April of 1985 to create more hype around the then-rookie phenom. Many fans fondly remember the red and black version that was at one time banned by the league, but it was the red, white, and black version that became the most well-known Air Jordan 1 shoe. 

Jordan was wearing the signature Air Jordan 1 sneaker when he dropped 63 points on the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference First Round in 1986. This was the same game in which Larry Bird said postgame, "It’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

The Air Jordan 1 will likely go through many "retro," re-releases, but the initial red, white, and black pair will always have a special place in sneaker lore. 

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.