Bulls

Bulls look to fend off surprise Warriors on CSN

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Bulls look to fend off surprise Warriors on CSN

When the Bulls glanced at their 2012-'13 schedule, a Jan. 26 meeting against the Warriors at home likely was nothing more than an afterthought. Golden State had gone just 23-43 in the strike-shortened season under first year head coach Marc Jackson the year before, and a roster without much overturn was not expected to do much damage in the deep Western Conference.

But here the Warriors stand at 26-15, fifth in the conference and 4.5 games back of the No. 2 seed Clippers in the Pacific Division, ready to keep their hot streak alive when they square off against the Bulls tonight on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live, hosted by Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill.

Arguably the biggest surprise in the NBA began the year 7-6 but won 10 of 12 during a stretch through the end of November and beginning of December to move to 17-8. The Warriors are 9-7 since Dec. 18, when the streak ended, but are playing their best basketball after home wins against the top two teams in the West -- a Monday win over the Clippers and a Wednesday win over the Thunder -- entering tonight's game.

The Warriors have been led by Stephen Curry, who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder after being perhaps the biggest snub from this year's All-Star game roster. The fourth-year combo guard is enjoying his best statistical season, averaging 20.9 points, 6.6 assists and a league-best 3.2 3-pointers per game, but was passed over on the All-Star roster for guards Tony Parker and James Harden and "wildcards" Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge. Seeing as Curry is on pace to become the first player in NBA history to average 3.0 3-pointers per game and 6.0 assists, combined with the Warriors resurgence this year, made him a likely candidate for the roster.

But the Warriors won't be unrepresented on All-Star weekend, as power forward David Lee was named to his second All-Star appearance when the reserves were announced Thursday evening on TNT. His numbers are close to career-highs -- his 19.6 points and 10.8 rebounds this year are close to his 20.2 point- and 11.7 rebound-averages in 2009-'10 when he was first named an All-Star -- but the Warriors' improved record and rebounding numbers are both indicative of Lee's impressive season.

While Lee has been impressive inside and Curry -- shooting better than 45 percent from beyond the arc -- has been as good as anyone from beyond the arc, the third part of the triple-headed monster is sophomore shooting guard Klay Thompson. The 6-foot-7 Thompson was considered the best shooter in the 2011 NBA Draft and didn't disappoint when he shot 41 percent from 3 after Golden State made him the No. 11 pick. While his percentages are slightly down in his second season, his 2.7 made 3-pointers per game are third in the league. Thompson's game hasn't fully rounded out -- he averages just 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game -- but he is a perfect complement to Curry and has made the Warriors' backcourt one of the most lethal in the West. Interesting to note, Thompson has made 49 of his last 51 free throws (96.1 percent).

Two different styles will clash tonight at the United Center -- Golden State is 8th in the NBA in 3-pointers per game (7.8) and second in percentage (39 percent) and are averaging 100.7 points per game; the Bulls are last in the NBA at 4.7 mad 3-pointers and 11th in percentage, averaging 93.6 points per game -- and the Bulls are looking to win their season-best third game in a row at home. Tune into Comcast SportsNet tonight for all your Bulls' coverage.

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.