Bulls

Bulls notes: Boozer's rough night, Deng's status

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Bulls notes: Boozer's rough night, Deng's status

WASHINGTON Carlos Boozer has been terrific throughout January and although his monster month didnt garner him an All-Star nod, despite being named the Eastern Conference player of the week last week, a double-double performance form the power forward is expected.

In Saturday nights 86-73 loss to the Wizards at the Verizon Center, Boozer, like most of his teammates, struggled, scoring only six points and grabbing two rebounds in over 23 minutes of action.

More significantly, he lost his cool in the third quarter. After being whistled for a flagrant foul after an official review for an apparent elbow to the face of Emeka Okafor while battling for post position on one end, on the subsequent position, he again got tangled up with the Washington center and was hit with a technical foul, along with a personal, his fourth, effectively ending his evening early.

Boozer was unavailable for comment after the contest, but teammate Joakim Noah opined, Its just basketball. Its a back-to-back, both teams are tired. Carlos went for a post-up. He had his hands up. It hit Emeka in the face. They called a flagrant foul. On a post-up. It is what it is, man.

Just frustration. Its part of the process, continued the All-Star center, who had a stellar night in a losing effort, nearly notching a triple-double with nine points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists. Things werent going our way, but I feel like we didnt give up, so I think thats more important than anything.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau added: Who knows? A guy posts up, its a flagrant foul, I guess. I dont know. There was a lot of banging. Their guys are physical, Carlos is a big guy inside. I dont know. I have to see the replay of it. It didnt look like anything other than two guys getting tangled up. I thought the same thing was happening down on our end, but thats the way it goes. The officiating wasnt the problem. We were the problem.

Deng misses fifth consecutive game, hopes to return soon

All-Star small forward Luol Deng was a game-time decision and even warmed up for the Bulls loss to the Wizards, but ultimately didnt suit up.

Still plagued by a strained right hamstring initially suffered in last weeks overtime win in Toronto in which he left the game in the opening period, quickly returned and eventually hit the game-winning shot and re-aggravated in last weekends overtime victory in Boston, Deng missed his fifth straight contest Saturday.

Its a lot better than when I first hurt it. I thought I was going to be able to go today. I went out there to run, had a little trouble, he told CSNChicago.com. I dont know when Ill play. I really thought I was going to be able to go today.

"I went out, ran a little, had a little discomfort and I thought it was just wiser its just one of those injuries I dont want to tweak and be out for longer. Ive already been out long enough. Tomorrow, Ill do more running and hopefully be able to go by Monday.

Bulls newcomer Cook sees meaningful minutes

Early in the fourth quarter, sharpshooter Daequan Cook checked into the contest and was part of the lineup that helped the Bulls trim a 20-point deficit to 10 in the final stanza.

While they couldnt complete the comeback, Cook received his first playing time of substance in a Bulls uniform. He was 0-for-4 from the field, including 0-for-3 from three-point range, but the shooting guard did snatch three rebounds and it was notable that Thibodeau trusted him enough to put him on the floor at a critical juncture of the game, during which the Bulls employed extended defensive pressure.

I felt pretty good. Guys were looking for me and they were giving me open shots. They just didnt go down. They still have faith and trust in me, he told CSNChicago.com. They still gave me opportunities to knock down shots, they still called plays for me, so thats more than enough of a confidence boost, to know that even though you dont make shots, Coach still has the confidence in me to continue to call plays for me, so I felt good out there.

Thibodeau downplayed Cooks minutes.

Well, we were looking for anything, he said. I told all those guys, we were making it difficult for everybody because if youre not running through and youre not wide, and your spacings breaking down after the first option, its easy to guard that, so he didnt get the looks that he should have gotten. Thats why its so important for everybody to do their job because were all counting on each other, so thats something that we have to correct.

Hinrich accepts responsibility for foul-trouble trend

Veteran Kirk Hinrich, whose brief Wizards career occurred when the Bulls traded him to Washington in 2010 along with current Wizards big man Kevin Seraphin discussed his season-long habit of picking up early-game fouls, something more typical of big men than guards.

Hinrich, an aggressive defender, refused to blame NBA officiating, telling CSNChicago.com, Ive got to be smarter. I definitely feel like Im getting a lot of cheap ones.

Hamilton has fond memories of Washington

Rip Hamilton is best known for his days in Detroit, where he was an All-Star and won a title. However, he began his NBA career in Washington and enjoyed the city enough to lay down roots nearby, as he resides in Annapolis, Maryland, during the offseason.

Oh, it was great. It was the team that drafted me. I still live here now, he told CSNChicago.com It was great for me because I was a virgin to the NBA and they were the ones that kind of brought me in. Great city, awesome city, awesome fans. Just a great place."

Why the Bulls should consider drafting the Young Bull, Alabama's Collin Sexton

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AP

Why the Bulls should consider drafting the Young Bull, Alabama's Collin Sexton

Take the best talent available.

It's a tired cliche used far too often in any major sport's draft. But it's also true, and especially true in a sport where only five players are on the court at one time. Position-less basketball (look, another cliche!) is at its peak, and NBA teams are trying to get their best talent together.

And when the Bulls go on the clock at No. 7 in two days' time, there's going to be a special talent waiting for them.

Collin Sexton became a national darling in March, like so many collegiate stars do on the biggest stage. First he hit a buzzer beater floater against Texas A&M that essentially put his Alabama Crimson Tide into the NCAA Tournament. Then he knocked off SEC regular season champ Auburn and went toe-to-toe with Kentucky in an SEC Tournament loss. He disposed of a Virginia Tech team in the NCAA Tournament with a 25-point effort before running into the buzz saw that was Villanova in Round 2, though his 17 points were a valiant effort.

All told Sexton averaged 24.2 points on 53 percent shooting in six postseason games. He made 48 percent of his 3-pointers, averaged 4.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists, and played better than 33 minutes per game.

The lightning-quick point guard was tough, physical, competitive and a bully as he fought to bring the Crimson Tide not only to the NCAA Tournament, but within a game of the second weekend.

Sexton's best attribute, without question, is his pick-and-roll action. Thanks to head coach Avery Johnson, who spent years in the NBA, Alabama deployed an offense more similar to the NBA game than most other programs. Consider that Sexton used 28.8 percent of his scoring possessions in pick-and-roll settings. He scored 180 points on 180 possessions, either blowing by a taller defender or shooting over teams that went under screens. His 0.957 PPP ranked in the 87th percentile, and the 180 possessions were more than Derrick Rose (42), Russell Westbrook (37) and John Wall (66) all had in their respective freshman seasons combined; only Rose's 0.929 PPP came close to Sexton's, but again that was on less than a quarter of the possessions Sexton had.

Sexton also got to the free throw line in bunches. His 252 attempts ranked seventh in the country, just below Trae Young's 274 attempts. Then again, Young's usage rate (38.4%, tops in the country) was higher than Sexton's 32.5% usage. Of the 54 players with a usage rate at or above 30%, Sexton's 57.5% free throw rate was fifth highest, and first among Power 6 schools. His elite quickness and speed allowed him paths to the basket where he drew contact more ofen than not, which will only make him an even better pick-and-roll player at the next level.

But he may have seeked out contact too often. For the attempts he did have, Sexton still was a below-average finisher at the rim. His 0.976 PPP on those attempts ranked in the 27th percentile. He's undersized at 6-foot-1.5 and 183 pounds, though his toughness can't be denied. Whether or not he can withstand an 82-game schedule is another story, and he'll need to be more in control at the rim. He won't get the same foul calls in the NBA that he got in Tuscaloosa.

Sexton shot 36.8 percent from deep in his first 16 games. Then he went through a serious lull, making just 23.5 percent of his 3-point attempts to finish out conference play. The postseason run allowed him to find his stroke again, as he made 48 percent of his 23 attempts. On the year he made 33.6 percent of his attempts, but he's a better shooter than those numbers suggest. His 0.942 PPP on jumpers ranked in just the 54th percentile, but he projects as someone who will have to be respected from deep, even if it isn't his best attribute (think Kemba Walker, a career 36% 3-point shooter).

Sexton's defensive numbers are essentially average across the board. His toughness and intensity can't be taught and will help him at the next level. So, too, will his 6-foot-7.5 wingspan (buzzword alert!). It does say a lot that Alabama's defense was ranked 20th in the country, per Ken Pom. Sexton certainly had a hand in that, and he should benefit from coaching at the next level on how to properly use his quick footwork and frame.

Yes, the Bulls have Kris Dunn. Yes, Dunn showed signs of life last season after getting away from rookie killer Tom Thibodeau. But the Bulls are at a time in their franchise's rebuild where they can't pass up talent to fill a need. Talent is their need. And Sexton, a five-star recruit who has already been under the tutelage of a former NBA coach for a year, has that talent. He'll inject some nastiness into the lineup - his nickname is Young Bull for the way he bullies opponents - he immediately improves the Bulls' lackluster transition game and he solidifies the Bulls' backcourt.

Dunn and Sexton can play off one another, even if it relegates the former to a Marcus Smart-type role: important, useful, just not in the spotlight. Sexton running pick-and-roll/pop with Markkanen only makes both players better, and it allows the Bulls freedom to look at a wing or a big with the 22nd pick. If the Bulls feel Sexton will be there at 10, 11 or 12, perhaps they trade with a team looking to move up for a Michael Porter Jr. or Trae Young. But Sexton's talent supersedes any positional needs for the Bulls. They can fill holes later on needs. When a talent is waiting for them to draft, they've got to take it and run.

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr. grabbed some attention when he remarked that he was "perfect fit for today's NBA game" during an appearance on The Will Cain Show.

The interview went a long way towards showing off the uber-confident nature of Porter, who has consistently talked about being the best player in his class throughout the draft process. Porter also remarked that he was "an immediate impact guy," and that he "doesn't want it to take long to be one of the best players in the NBA."

His hubris has been intruiging considering the mystery surrounding the prospect.

During the interview Porter added that he would be open to doing more workouts for NBA front offices ahead of Thursday's NBA Draft. The only workout he has completed so far was his pro day workout in Chicago, and multiple reports have cited that Porter did look good shooting, though he was in an isolated setting with no defenders.

The one thing Porter has not done much throughout the process is talk about his weaknesses, which is somewhat concerning seeing as he has much to improve on. The general consensus is that a healthy Porter can get buckets at will. But if he can improve his ball-handling, rebounding and passing skills, he will be much more than a go-to scorer. Tightening his ball-handling skills is likely the key, as the ability to grab the rebound and push in transition would be a huge boon for Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg's offense.

The biggest question when it comes to Porter on the Bulls is can he fit with Lauri Markkanen? Despite receiving many favorable Kevin Durant and Paul George comparisons leading up to the draft, there is a rising sentiment that his best position in the NBA may be the power forward spot. It is not yet known if he has the foot speed to stay in front of quicker wings in today's NBA. But at six-feet-ten-inches, it is easy to imagine him having a huge advantage against slower power forwards rather than wings. While Markkanen is not currently built to be a full-time center, playing him at the five with Porter at the four would present Hoiberg with a potentially devastating closing lineup.

Versatility is the name of the game in today's league, and Michael Porter Jr. may be the key to unlocking the full potential of Hoiberg's pace-and-space attack.