Bulls capable of highest of highs, lowest of lows


Bulls capable of highest of highs, lowest of lows

MIAMIThe Bulls have had a case of schizophrenia as of late.

Big win against New York at Madison Square Garden, blowout road loss to Atlanta, then the Christmas Day debacle at home to Houston. Back on track with an expected win over the woeful Wizards at home, shocking loss to lowly Charlotte at the United Center.

Then, on their just-completed two-game Florida road trip, they bounced back with a solid win over a competitive Orlando squad, followed by Friday nights inspiring win over the defending-champion Heat. To paraphrase Joakim Noah, this is a team with the ability to beat the best of them, but not above losing to the bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the NBA.

Thats one thing about the league; its so hard. Every team has talent. Its rough to get up for some of the teams that are having a bad season, but its so easy to get up for the guys that are the defending champs, Taj Gibson observed. We just have to turn it around. We understand that were capable of winning a lot of games, but its just a great trip for us. We needed to get away on the road and we got two solid wins, and we need to build on it.

Carlos Boozer concurred: We had a little bit of a lull last week, but since the New Year hit, we all have a conscious effort of trying to play a lot betterrebound, play together, defense, share the ball offensivelyand you guys see in January, were playing a lot betterwe know for us, we want to use this momentum to keep playing well.

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Kirk Hinrich added: This is a big win, big road trip for us. We hadnt been playing as well coming in and its two big wins, and weve just got to keep building to not take any steps back.

They all count the same, but if you can get big wins like this and build on them, and not take steps back, I think they can have big meaning. Im not saying this is it or isnt it, but in any season, I think theres turning points, wins or losses in the season, that can give you momentum.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, in his usual fashion, took all of the emotion out of it. He attributed his teams current two-game winning streak to execution and work ethic.

Our guys, the past couple of games, that balls been hopping. No ones holding on to it, no ones dancing with it and thats what you have to do to win and so, when you get a whole team thats committed to putting everything they have into each and every day, youll improve, he said about the Bulls offensive flow, before turning to the outstanding play of the frontcourt rotation recently. Im pleased that were moving in the right direction, but the challenge is for us to do it each and every day, not only in games, but in practice. We have to understand how important practicing well is and how that leads to improvement, and playing well in games. But our frontline, I think, is playing well very well right now.

Regarding Friday night specifically, Gibson said the teams improved healthhes dealt with nagging ankle issues, Hinrich has had a spate of ailments all season, Noah is coming off a bout with the flu and Luol Deng has played through injuries all seasonhelped matters. However, he also put the onus on the players, citing himself, the recipient of a contract extension at the outset of the season, specifically.

Were just getting healthy right now. Thats the main thing. Weve got a lot of guys that were banged up, injuries. Thibs has stressed that we need to get back on our grind, as far as rebounding the ball, the last two games. We rebounded the ball real well, especially tonight. We really dominated. A lot of close tip-ins, a lot of aggressive, in-traffic, hard-nosed rebounds, he explained. We understand that we have to do our job, especially me. I have to step up, especially with my new contract, and I have to do what I can.

Deng, who made reigning league MVP LeBron James earn all 30 of his points Friday, told CSNChicago.com that the key to the win was the Bulls selflessness.

We were doing so well with executing, dropping the ball inside. I know I didnt shoot well, but I didnt even look to shoot that much. We had to be smart. Weve learned in the past that theyre an over-help team and we could get them inside, he said. Booz was doing great, Taj, Jo. We just kept going with them. Honestly, great team effort and just staying focused with what we were doing. It never got out of hand or anything, stayed focused and got it.

The performance of backup point guard, particularly in the fourth quarter, cant be overlooked. The diminutive scorer poured in 13 key points, but besides his typical instant offense, he took a big charge, got a big steal and was generally a whirling dervish on both ends of the floor.

Just to bring energy, man. Honestly, thats one of my best attributes to the game and to this team, is to fire guys up and play as hard as I can, Robinson said, before the former college football player discussed giving up his body on defense.. Just being in the right spot at the right time. It just shows that weve got each others' back, no matter where we are on the court.

Every game means something and for us, were just trying to play as hard as we can for as long as we can, play together and we did that tonight.

Thibodeau and Noah had different, if similarly appreciative reactions to Robinsons effort.

He was huge, man! Noah exclaimed, discussing one of Robinson's crowd-silencing sequences. "That charge and then the trey ball, it got meI havent been hype like that in a long time.

His more subdued coach chimed in: Nate played very well. He made some shots and we needed it. He competed defensively, he got open on a couple pick-and-roll plays and he knocked some big shots down.

However they want to term the play of Robinson or the entire team, it worked Friday night. Now, if they can put lightning in a bottle and figure out how to muster up that type of consistent effort, regardless of the opponent, on a nightly basis, then all of a sudden, this overlooked Bulls team could develop into the Eastern Conferences best-kept secret.

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career


Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

From the moment Jabari Parker started his local basketball career, he's been a special talent who has produced at every level. Parker's signing with the Chicago Bulls this offseason brings back a lot of memories of his decorated four-year high school career at Simeon.

For Bulls fans who didn't follow Parker before Duke or the NBA, here's some of the notable moments from four years in the Public League.

As a freshman with the Wolverines, Parker was seen as one of three big incoming freshman in the area for the Class of 2013, along with forward Alex Foster and center Tommy Hamilton. Although all three players had the size and skill level to be varsity contributors, it was Parker who was special from his debut game.

Coming off the bench for a top-5 Simeon team against a top-10 Thornton team at Chicago State, Parker had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting with two 3-pointers as the Wolverines went on to win in his first game in high school. Eventually becoming the first Wolverine freshman to start on varsity, Parker piled up high-major scholarship offers and national acclaim, as he was the team's second-leading scorer behind Brandon Spearman.

But Parker was hurt on the eve of the IHSA Class 4A state championship weekend and was on the bench injured as Simeon went on to surprisingly win the state title after some late-season slip-ups. Parker contributed heavily to Simeon winning the state title during his first season, however, as he was leading scorer in six games during that season.

During his sophomore season, Parker blossomed from a prospect into a full-blown star as Simeon once again captured a state title. By this point in his career, Parker was a consensus top-5 national high school prospect in his class as he regularly led a loaded Simeon team in scoring. Parker eventually averaged 15.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as he won ESPN High School 2011 Sophomore of the Year national honors, while also Simeon won a title at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

The summer of 2011 saw Parker become a contender for No. 1 in his class -- and regardless of class at the high school level -- as he dominated the summer circuit against his peers and older players.

Making the 2011 USA Basketball U16 team, Parker won MVP honors at the FIBA Americas U16 Tournament as the USA team captured a gold medal. Parker also had big performances at the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Skill Academies before winning the MVP at the Nike Global Challenge in August against mostly older players.

Before entering his junior season at Simeon, some national scouts believed Parker was the best prospect in either the junior or senior national classes. With Parker garnering so many accomplishments as an underclassman, he had a huge reputation already as Simeon was an established national powerhouse.

Parker helped the Wolverines capture a third straight state title, a city title and another title at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, as they went 33-1. Simeon didn't lose to an Illinois opponent Parker's junior year (they only lost to nationally ranked Findlay Prep) with Parker setting a school record of 40 points in only 21 minutes against Perspectives on Dec. 19. For his junior season, Parker put up 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds per game as he became the first non-senior to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors.

Gatorade also declared Parker the national boys basketball Player of the Year for that high school season as he became only the fourth non-senior to win that award. Sports Illustrated put Parker on its cover and proclaimed him as the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.

Facing an enormous amount of pressure during his senior year, Simeon played a national schedule and went 30-3, winning a fourth consecutive IHSA state title with Parker as he put up 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Becoming the only player besides Sergio McClain to start on four straight IHSA state title teams, Parker secured back-to-back Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors while also making the McDonald's All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit. Parker played all over the country during his senior season, with nationally-televised games and packed crowds filled with fans.

Reclassifications and the emergence of other contenders, coupled with Parker's foot injury before his senior season, dropped Parker below the No. 1 ranking to end his high school career. But he still finished as a consensus top-5 prospect in the class who eventually rose to the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft in 2014.

Now that Parker has signed with the Bulls, he has a chance to resurrect his career in Chicago, the place where he had his most basketball success.

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

According to Bleacher Report, Wendell Carter Jr. would be taken fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies if the NBA were to redraft this year’s class based off of Summer League performances.

It may sound like a crazy concept (and it is), but Carter Jr. averaged the second most points, 14.6, through five July games in Las Vegas. He also averaged 9.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field while averaging 28.8 minutes in his glamorous first-stint with Chicago. Those numbers are even more striking if you consider Carter Jr.’s 42.9 percent shooting from behind the three-point line.

Carter Jr., the real seventh overall pick of this year’s NBA Draft, looked like the all-around player the Bulls were hoping to get this offseason. He made his blocking abilities as a center known from the moment he stepped on the court in Summer League.

In their re-draft, Bleacher Report had Chicago using the No. 7 pick on the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, who was actually taken 36th overall in last month’s Draft.

Robinson, a center, averaged 13 points and 24.8 minutes per game over five Summer League contests. He was the best rebounder on his team with an average of 10.2 in the five games that the Knicks played.

The 20-year-old took the second most shots on the Knicks and had the highest field goal percentage at 67 percent, but Robinson did not have any three-point attempts.  What made his recent production seem even more surprising was the fact that the 7'1'' big man did not play a single minute of college basketball.

But would Robinson fit in the Bulls’ system?

Chicago has taken on an offense-first mentality, so Robinson would not be as great of a fit in the Bulls lineup as Carter Jr., but he would still be an impact player. He can be compared to the Bulls’ current center Robin Lopez, who averaged a similar amount of points per game (11.8 points in 26.4 minutes) last season as Robinson’s Summer League average (13 points in 24.8 minutes). And like Lopez, Robinson will likely be most effective around the basket and in the pick-and-roll.

Robinson would also have to learn the defensive concepts that a veteran like Lopez has mastered over his 10-year career.

Next season, the Bulls will have an exciting scoring trio of Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Carter Jr. in the frontcourt. And the fact that Carter Jr. is getting so much love in the national spotlight is yet another reason for Bulls fans to be excited about this upcoming season.