Bulls

Bulls: Michael Carter-Williams, relishing opportunity to prove himself, sprains left knee

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Bulls: Michael Carter-Williams, relishing opportunity to prove himself, sprains left knee

There’s a certain kinship developed on draft night, when 19 and 20-year olds convene for a night of uncertainty and excitement upon their entrance into the NBA, embarking on a whole new world when shaking commissioner Adam Silver’s hand.

Little do they know but the clock starts ticking on their career right then and there, as the first three years for first-round draft picks is a proving ground to prepare for their first big contract through restricted free agency.

As Michael Carter-Williams lay writhing in pain on the floor early in the second quarter with a left knee injury that ruled him out of Monday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, one has to wonder if the names of his draftmates ran through his brain.

Guys like Gorgui Dieng, Rudy Gobert, Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo.

They were a few of the 2013 first-round guys who beat the Oct. 31 midnight buzzer with contract extensions with their respective teams, preventing a season of nervousness and likely cementing wealth for their families for generations to come.

Carter-Williams watched reports of the deals come down like everyone else, even though he knows he won’t be one of the recipients and will have to play this season out, heading to restricted free agency next summer.

“You can play the what-if game your whole life,” Carter-Williams said to CSNChicago.com. “But it’s not gonna help me get to where I want to be. The ultimate goal is to be the best player I can be. It takes effort.”

Before the left knee sprain he suffered on Monday - he'll get an MRI on Tuesday - he spoke optimistically of the contracts he saw guys agreeing to, hours before his unfortunate circumstance came into focus.

“It’s great to see people signing deals,” Carter-Williams told CSNChicago.com. “I’m happy for all of them. It’s awesome, everybody reaching their dreams. I’m sure they’re helping their families and friends. It’s nothing better than that.”

Carter-Williams isn’t alone, although every situation is different.

The 2013-14 Rookie of the Year joins the likes of Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Washington’s Otto Porter as lottery picks who didn’t come to agreements, heading into a summer where the salary structure could change drastically due to the expected changes in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. A new CBA could be finalized in the coming weeks, if not sooner.

Carter-Williams doesn’t deny the importance of that type of security, but insists it’s not clouding his mind.

“It’s real important. It’s super important. Your first real big contract,” Carter-Williams said. “Not to say our rookie contracts aren’t big money, but relatively speaking, it’s your first big contract. It’s great.”

If executives would’ve been polled after Carter-Williams’ award-winning rookie campaign, he would’ve been at the top of the list of guys expected to sign a big deal at the first chance.

Given the topsy-turvy nature of his career to date, it’s easy to see if Carter-Williams wonders if people have forgotten the type of production he’s capable of on a nightly basis.

Playing behind Rajon Rondo gives the Bulls insurance and depth at the position, while giving Carter-Williams a chance to slow down and play without the feeling of having to carry a team on his shoulders.

If he’s healthy and able to get back on the floor and produce, his day will come as well.

“I think the biggest thing for me is I’ve done some pretty good things in this league,” Carter-Williams said. “I’ve shown what I can do tin this league. I’ve had some unlucky bumps in the road, traded after winning rookie of the year, going to Milwaukee, which wasn’t the best situation for me.”

Had he been able to truly connect with Bucks coach Jason Kidd, a player many compared Carter-Williams to for their similar abilities as passers and all-around players, he probably would still be in Milwaukee and enjoying some of the fruits of his early labor.

“Yeah for sure. It definitely does sting,” said Carter-Williams of falling out of favor in Milwaukee. “I think when a coach has confidence in you, giving me the ball and letting me play my game, I think I’ve proven that I’m pretty good. I think of different scenarios, if I stayed in Philly would I be signing an extension like a lot of other people are. But that wasn’t the situation for me. God has a plan for me and I gotta stay position. God will provide for me.”

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

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USA TODAY

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

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USA TODAY

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.