Bulls

Bulls' Gasol after 1,000th game: 'I'm proud of my career'

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Bulls' Gasol after 1,000th game: 'I'm proud of my career'

Derrick Rose summed up Pau Gasol reaching 1,000 career games played as well as anyone following the Bulls' 102-96 loss to the Hornets on Saturday.

"Oh, wow. That's a lot of games," a shocked Rose said, learning of the feat for the first time. "That's a huge accomplishment, especially in this league and especially for an overseas player. He deserves it with the way he plays, his IQ of the game, the hard work that he put into the game, it shows. I wish him nothing but the best and hopefully one day I can get my 1,000th game under my belt."

[MORE: Slow start, quiet finish doom Bulls in loss to Hornets]

Gasol won't remember his 1,000th regular-season game for the result, and his 13-point, 11-rebound performance was hardly noticeable as the Bulls struggled again offensively in their second home loss. But for the 15-year veteran who has appeared in 115 playoff games, won two titles and medaled twice in the Olympics Games, the soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer reflected on reaching another milestone in his illustrious career.

"It felt good for the most part. I wish we would’ve played a little better and won the game. It was an important game. But otherwise, I’m glad to achieve that milestone, but at the same time, I felt pretty good physically."

Gasol hasn't been able to replicate his All-Star numbers from a year ago, his first season with the Bulls. He entered Saturday's game averaging 14.4 points and 10.8 rebounds, one of nine players in the NBA averaging a double-double and, at age 35, the oldest one by four years. And it's that longevity that has impressed his teammates most; Gasol has played in 78 or more games in seven of his 14 complete seasons, and while the Bulls dealt with the injury bug all of last season Gasol was durable, playing in 78 games.

He's also been a boon for the Bulls' locker room. Though full of veteran leadership before he arrived, the Bulls' locker room added a championship background and attitude in Gasol, who won titles with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010. That's helped the younger players in their pursuit of reaching the same goals.

"It’s been very special. I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s a great leader for us, very vocal guy. It’s pretty cool to be a part of that. Hopefully some day I can get there," said McDermott, who scored 13 points Saturday in his 53rd career game.

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Pau Gasol jersey here]

But where Gasol's longtime friend and teammate Kobe Bryant is coasting down the stretch in his final season before retirement, Gasol has no plans to look that far into the future. Instead, the 35-year-old is focusing on finding his spots in Fred Hoiberg's offense and getting the Bulls back on track as they chase title contention.

"Not many players get to this type of numbers. I’m proud of my career and what I’ve been able to accomplish," said Gasol, who has averaged 18.3 points and 9.4 rebounds in those 1,000 games. "But I look forward always. I’m ambitious and I want to continue to play at a high level, continue to achieve bigger and better things and take advantage of it."

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.