Bulls' late rally disguises an otherwise ugly loss to Bucks

Bulls' late rally disguises an otherwise ugly loss to Bucks

MILWAUKEE—Giannis Antetokounmpo almost drew a technical foul in utter celebration after gliding down the sideline from the bench. Teammate Tony Snell slipped behind a napping Bulls defense for a dunk that put the Milwaukee Bucks up 27 points late in the second quarter.

The officials might have been the only thing to stop the athletic wonder on this night, because the Bulls had no answer for him.

Despite a late and spirited comeback, the Bulls’ lack of effort for most of the night came back to haunt them on the scoreboard as they dropped their second straight on the first night of a road-home back-to-back against the Bucks, 108-97 at the BMO Bradley Center.

Antetokounmpo, the only player in the NBA to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, only did his damage in two categories with 30 points and 14 rebounds, as Milwaukee shot 55 percent from 3 and tallied 32 assists.

Chicago native Jabari Parker scored 28 with five rebounds, three assists and two steals, owning a few of the Bucks’ 19 dunks.

After Fred Hoiberg promised lineup changes with the reserves—with Nikola Mirotic taking a seat in place of Bobby Portis, getting a “DNP-CD” on the scoresheet for the first time in his career, and Denzel Valentine getting some run in Isaiah Canaan’s place—the moves proved to be fruitless as they contributed next to no impact until late and neither did the Bulls’ main players.

“The meetings we had the last two days, I hoped it would’ve been solved,” Hoiberg said. “To play a half game or two-quarter game, in Minnesota it was a quarter-and-a-half. Tonight we played a full quarter the way you have to play a whole game.”

Dwyane Wade was a minus-28 and Rajon Rondo struggled defensively in his return after a one-game absence with a sprained ankle. Taj Gibson scored 19 and Jimmy Butler put in 21, but it was tangible effort that was missing when just a little bit could’ve resulted in a more competitive contest.

Despite falling to 13-12, Wade isn’t pushing the panic button just yet.

“I’m not concerned, I’ve been through everything. You might want to ask someone else that,” Wade said. “It’s my first season here. I’m learning this team, learning the guys. It’s things you see happening you want to correct but you have to go through the process. We’re learning how tough it is to win these games.”

It’s tough when you spot the other team 24 points as the Bulls did with the Bucks. With Wade leading the way, they cut it to 12 midway though the fourth and then to nine on a Doug McDermott triple with 4:13 left.

But being forced to play perfect on the road usually doesn’t bode well, as Butler had two late drives thwarted by blocked shots at the rim, and Matthew Dellavedova turned out the lights with a triple with 1:34 left to put the Bucks up, 108-97.

“They were too comfortable early,” Hoiberg said. “We don’t want to give them dare shots.”

It was an instant replay of the worst kind—as Antekounmpo and Parker replaced Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine on the “we've got athletes, you don’t” meter that inevitably gives the Bulls problems showed up in waves.

“Turnovers,” said Wade of the Bulls problems that began it all. “It’s tough to get back when you have two bulls in Jabari and the Greek Freak (Antetokounmpo). You have turnovers or you shoot long shots and they get it and they’re going.”

Mostly, though, it was the Bulls’ lack of effort that did them in, an attribute that was evident from the tip when the Bucks jumped out to a 16-8 lead in the first few minutes.

“We didn’t do our job early,” Butler said. “The game got out of hand. You love the way we fought back. Guys didn’t give up.”

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Their early disinterest for the night was exploited by Antetokounmpo and Parker, a tough  matchup on a good day, decided to start hitting outside shots in addition to running past and jumping over the Bulls.

“They made eight threes in the first half. That’s not on the scouting report,” Wade said. “They got transition points. They got everything they wanted in the first half.”

The dunks came in waves, as the Bulls looked flat-footed defensively and uninspired offensively, turning the ball over six times in the first quarter and surrendering 10 fast-break points.

“You talk about the things you have to do to survive in a game like this: taking care of the basketball and get back in transition,” Hoiberg said.

The onslaught continued throughout, even though Parker and Antetokounmpo already outscored the Bulls in the first quarter.

Antetokounmpo was too quick for Taj Gibson, Butler or anybody the Bulls have employed currently. Parker hasn’t exactly lived up to his draft billing in his first couple of seasons but this year, he’s started to put it together and Thursday, the Bulls saw the entire package.

The open floor moves, the jumpers and even some explosiveness at the rim as a couple Bulls unfortunately had to experience to believe. It was ugly early and throughout, until the Bulls showed a little pride.

But there’s not much to be proud of when things look like an instant replay—of their last game, of last season.

Report: Bulls sign former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins to two-way contract


Report: Bulls sign former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins to two-way contract

A report on Sunday from Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports indicated that the Bulls have agreed to a two-way contract with former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins. 

The 6'5'' guard was a teammate of Lauri Markkanen on the 2017 Wildcats, and many expected him to be a potential lottery pick after showing off the all-around skill set that also made him the top player in the state of New York in high school.

After going undrafted, Alkins played for the Toronto Raptors Summer League team, where he put up 9 points, 4.67 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. In the six  Las Vegas Summer League games he played in, Alkins shot poor from the field (37 percent) and the free throw line (62.5 percent), but he knocked down his 3-pointers, shooting 43.9 percent on a healthy 3.5 attempts from deep per game. 

There is an obvious fit on the Bulls for a player like Alkins. He was a career 36.5 percent 3-point shooter in his two college seasons, and has the physical profile of a great wing defender at the NBA-level. Alkins has a 6'9'' wingspan, and at a listed 220 lbs., it is easy to see him having the potential to guard four-to-five different positions on the floor. At this stage of the rebuild, the Bulls could really use as many of the coveted "3-and-D" wings as they can get. And there are some, like, The Ringer's Chris Vernon, who think that Alkins has the potential to become a glue guy.

Alkins will be a fan favorite wherever he plays. You want a Marcus Smart, Tony Allen, or P.J. Tucker–type player when you need a big play in a big game. I see that with Alkins.

-The Ringer's Chris Vernon 

The nature of the two-way contract means that Bulls fans will to catch some Windy City Bulls games to see Alkins in action. But much like Antonio Blakeney last season, we could see Alkins make an instant impact in the G League and get a call-up sooner than later, especially if the Bulls decide to move on from veteran Justin Holiday.

Either way, the pick up is a shrewd move by the Bulls front office. Alkins is a well-rounded, defense-first player who will be joining a young roster overstocked with scoring talent, but thin on defenders capable of guarding on the perimeter or executing a switching defense at a high level.

Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago


Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago

Jabari Parker is looking forward to what will surely be an intriguing season for he and the Chicago Bulls.

Parker signed a two-year, $40 million contract, that essentially acts as a tryout for the Bulls. The second year of the contract is a team option, meaning should things not go well, the organization can cut ties with him. But after 183 career games with the Bucks over four seasons, it was clear that Parker was in need of a fresh start. In Chicago, he will slide in as the day one starting small forward, and is already paid like a player who is definitely appreciated by his organization.

But with all of the off the court stuff taken care of for now, Parker's main focus is getting in to the best shape of his life, as he prepares for a full season as a wing player. 

Part of Parker's preparation was a great pickup game in downtown Chicago organized by the Chicago Basketball Club.

For Bulls fans itching to get a look at Parker on the court, the video shows off some flashy passing ability, impressive handles and a flurry of pull-up jumpers from the 23-year old forward. He also finishes well in transition in the video, though that is to be taken with a grain of salt as Parker was easily the biggest player on the court. 

Other players in the pickup game included former Simeon teammate of Parker's, Kendrick Nunn; and NBA free agent and former Marion Catholic star Tyler Ulis (a possible Bulls target?). If Parker looks as dynamic against NBA competition as he did in the pickup game below, the Bulls are going to have one of the more valuable contracts in the league in 2020, and would be likely to lock up Parker to a long-term deal.