Bulls: Pau Gasol questionable for Game 4 vs. Cavs


Bulls: Pau Gasol questionable for Game 4 vs. Cavs

Amid the celebration at the United Center after the Bulls' Game 3 win lies a sense of nervousness for the rest of the series concerning their rock, Pau Gasol.

Gasol didn’t feel a pop, but there was certainly tightness in his left hamstring from the first quarter on, and after a few minutes in the second half he grabbed his hamstring again and was on the bench for the rest of the night.

His MRI revealed a strain and he’s listed as questionable for Game 4.

“Hopefully I’ll wake up tomorrow with not too much soreness,” said Gasol Friday. “And I’ll go to the hospital and do whatever it is they have to do and we’ll go from there.”

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t reveal any gut feeling on the matter, other than saying Gasol didn’t do anything in the Bulls’ walkthrough Saturday.

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“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Thibodeau said. “He’s got some soreness.”

The bulk of Gasol’s minutes went to Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic, as the Bulls had to adjust on the fly with Gasol playing just 21 minutes and scoring six points with four rebounds and four assists.

“First quarter, early in the first quarter,” Gasol said. “Thought it was gonna loosen up, thought I could push through it but the more I pushed through it the worse it got. It is what it is. I just gotta find out tomorrow what’s going on and go from there.”

Gibson could be the next man up if Gasol doesn’t play, but he’s certainly earned minutes based on his Game 3 performance alone. His activity under the basket was a key factor in the Bulls dominating the boards.

“My energy is going to be the same no matter what,” Gibson said. “Be ready to go out there and play however many minutes I play. Just go out there and go hard. Understand that every game is intense. Just have to bring it.’’

After a night of “bringing it" (nine points, nine rebounds), especially against a dump truck named Tristan Thompson, Gibson woke up feeling every bit of his battle with the man who grabbed 13 rebounds in 41 minutes. Despite being on the unfortunate end of Derrick Rose’s game-winner, Thompson is one of the bigger matchup problems the Bulls face because of his activity.

“He's a load, man. He's a load,” Gibson said. “Like I said, it's a man's game. He's real physical down there. I woke up this morning with so many aches I didn't even know I had. It's a real physical game. He's a talented player.”

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Throwing Mirotic and Gibson out there together didn’t prove to be as troublesome as Thibodeau may have expected, as he seemed reticent to do before circumstance forced his hand.

At the start of the fourth, they helped push the Bulls to a 82-77 lead with seven minutes left before Mirotic was subbed for Mike Dunleavy.

“Thibs, you never know what he's going to throw at you,” Gibson said. “You've just got to be ready. I think defense was the main key in that. He felt like our smaller unit could move with their unit. It was one of those quick decisions that coach made.”

Mirotic’s shooting and size gave the Cavs problems, much in the same way the Cavs’ smallish lineup dictated terms in Game 2 in Cleveland. Mirotic had his way with James Jones, who doesn’t have the height or footspeed to keep up, and registered a game-high +19 on the plus-minus side.

“My teammates, they really find me, first play when it goes in,” said Mirotic, who scored 12 while hitting his first shot. “Really trying to share the ball to get the advantage. When I was with Jones (on me), they tried to find me in the low post too. I think we are playing good basketball.”

And if the opportunity for more time comes up, Mirotic will take it. He wants more of that atmosphere and the pressure that comes with a playoff series like this.

“It’s a big difference,” Mirotic said. “I was playing in the second quarter, my legs were really tired. But you know, you need to push yourself mentally too. You need to be ready. But I’m really excited.”


Thad Young pleads Zach LaVine's All-Star case, offers advice to Lauri Markkanen

USA Today

Thad Young pleads Zach LaVine's All-Star case, offers advice to Lauri Markkanen

Before any assorted media had a chance to ask Thad Young a question following Tuesday morning shootaround, he had something to get off his chest.

"Before we start, I just want to say Zach LaVine should be an All-Star. It should be said and done already," Young began, unprompted. "That guy’s been putting on a show for the past couple months. Been doing his thing. He’s been incredible. So Zach LaVine for All-Star. I'm saying it here and now, lets make sure we get this done. Everybody go vote, go do what you gotta do."

Young isn't the first Bull to plead LaVine's case, and he certainly won't be the last. The question, though, is who he is pleading to. Fan voting for All-Star starters ended Jan. 20 at 11:59 p.m. ET, the night before Young's statement.

Perhaps it's a call to coaches. Though the last fan voting returns had LaVine as the sixth-ranked Eastern Conference backcourt player, there remains the possibility of him sneaking in as one of the seven reserves, which coaches vote on.

That pool will be crowded, but LaVine has made a tremendous case for himself with his recent play. This month, LaVine is averaging 30 points (t-6th in the NBA), 5.1 rebounds and 4 assists per game on 49 percent shooting from the field (35.9 percent from 3). He's played 36.8 minutes per night in 11 January games.

"He’s done more than enough, he’s more than capable. He’s shown it time and time again, and he’s been great for us all season long," Young said. "He don’t have to pay me anything [to say this], that was my rook in Minnesota. He’s a great teammate, he’s one of the best ever, he wants to get better each and every day."

But no Young media availability would be complete without imparting a bit of veteran wisdom. When asked what Lauri Markkanen — who's season-long struggles are well-documented — can learn from LaVine's ascension, Young was candid.

"I think the confidence level of Zach and what he’s done can be instilled in Lauri a little bit. Lauri starts to miss shots, sometimes he gets down on himself. Zach misses a shot, Zach’s like, ‘I’m going to shoot the next one. I’m going to be more aggressive. I’m going to try to get to the basket,’" Young said. "And then being able to mix up his game a little bit. Not just, ‘Hey, I’m just going to shoot the 3’ or ‘I’m just going to drive and take it to the basket’ [without] having an in-between game or being able to mix in some post ups here and there."

On Markkanen's ability to do that within the Bulls' system: "Our offense is structured and predicated on 3s and getting to the basket. But coaches are still encouraging him to mix everything up. The coaches are encouraging everybody to mix it up — try to give opposing teams something different, something that they haven’t seen."

Starters and captains for the 2020 All-Star game will be announced Jan. 23, with reserve announcements coming Jan. 30. If LaVine makes it, Bulls fans can look forward to the All-Star draft on Feb. 6.

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Thad Young on trade rumors: 'I’m a Chicago Bull. Whatever happens happens'

USA Today

Thad Young on trade rumors: 'I’m a Chicago Bull. Whatever happens happens'

Last July, when he controlled his free-agency decision, Thad Young chose to sign with the Bulls.

Come the Feb. 6 trade deadline, Young has no control.

“I’m just playing basketball. I’m a Chicago Bull. Whatever happens happens. I understand it’s a business,” Young told NBC Sports Chicago. “If I’m traded, I’m traded and have to go to the next city. If I’m not, then I’m here with my brothers, here with my teammates, and ready to fight.”

Still, given that the first season of his three-year deal hasn’t gone as planned, would Young want a change of address? The Bulls are one of the league’s biggest underachieving stories and Young’s playing time was so low that his camp last month conveyed to management his desire to play more.

“That’s not my focus,” he said. “My focus is on playing for the Bulls and helping us get some wins.”

Young is averaging 9.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in 22.4 minutes per game. While his playing time has increased in light of injuries to Wendell Carter Jr. and Daniel Gafford, he still is playing the second-fewest minutes of his 13-year career.

A league source previously confirmed to NBC Sports Chicago that the Clippers’ interest in Young is legitimate, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times. A Clippers scout attended a recent Bulls game despite the fact the teams don’t meet again until April.

Even if nothing materializes there, Young is the type of plug-and-play veteran that fits on any team making a playoff run. Young has been traded three times in his career, so he knows both how disruptive it can be on a family but also how it sometimes can lead to a better fit.

Befitting his reputation as the consummate professional, Young is ignoring the rumors and focused on his current situation.

“We’re very upset we keep losing games, Young said. “It’s hard to win in this league. We have to understand that as a team. We have to face the hardness of the game and take advantage of the opportunities we do have. We need to play harder than other teams. We can play great for 38-40 minutes. But there’s an 8-minute span that can be detrimental to our team.”

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