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.”


Report: Bulls looking to trade up for Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland


Report: Bulls looking to trade up for Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland

NBA Draft week is filled with rumors that never come to fruition, so take this with a grain of salt.

The Bulls are reportedly interested in trading up to draft Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland.

That report from ESPN's Jonathan Givony comes in the wake of him also reporting that Garland has scheduled a last-minute workout with the New York Knicks, owners of the No. 3 pick.

Other reports mention that the Knicks are bringing Garland in for the private workout just in case they move out of the No. 3 slot on draft night. They're still expected to take Duke's R.J. Barrett after the New Orleans Pelicans select Zion Williamson first overall and the Memphis Grizzlies nab Murray State point guard with the second pick.

For the Bulls, it makes sense. They have an obvious need at point guard - though that shouldn't be their main focus on draft night - and have been enamored with Garland for quite some time. Though Garland played only five games as a freshman before tearing his meniscus, the former 5-star recruit has drawn comparisons to Damian Lillard and Kemba Walker for his outside prowess at the point and his playmaking ability.

Givony also reported that Garland had a private workout with the Bulls - among other teams - and turned heads in it, He's 100 percent recovered after knee surgery in November, too, which is important.

It's unclear what the Bulls would have to give up in a potential deal, but it would be a lot. Of the teams listed as potentially trying to trade up to No. 4, the Hawks (three first-round picks) and the Celtics (three first-round picks) have more assets to offer than the Bulls.

It's difficult to see a scenario where the Bulls part with any of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine or Wendell Carter Jr. in a package for No. 4. In theory, the Bulls could offer up a protected first-round pick in next year's draft, similar to what the Dallas Mavericks did last season in moving up for Luka Doncic. Dallas traded the No. 5 pick and a top-5 protected pick for the No. 3 pick. That pick wound up being No. 10 this season.

For now, it's a rumor and we'll keep an eye on it over the next 48 hours.

Forget needs: The Bulls need to draft the best basketball player on Thursday night


Forget needs: The Bulls need to draft the best basketball player on Thursday night

The Bulls want to upgrade at point guard. In fact, they need to upgrade at point guard. John Paxson made that known in February when discussing the Bulls trading for Otto Porter. He made that known in April at the team’s end-of-the-year press conference. He made it known again in May after the Bulls slipped to 7 on Lottery night.

This hasn’t been just motivation through the media to light a fire under Kris Dunn or posturing from the front office to make a point guard-needy team jump the Bulls on draft night. Paxson has been clear for months that, one year after saying he felt “really good” about Dunn and Cam Payne on the depth chart, the point guard position needs upgrading.

He's not wrong. And it also shouldn’t matter on Thursday night when the Bulls go on the clock.

Filling perceived positional needs should be the least of the their concerns heading into the draft. The Bulls need an upgrade at point guard. That much is true. Here’s what else is true: The Bulls won 22 games last season, had the second worst home net rating in the last 20 years and at one point in late March, played six former G-League players a total of 133 minutes in an NBA regular season game. The Bulls, by the way, lost that game by 23 points. It was only their eighth worst home loss, looking decent compared to the losses of 25, 25, 28, 29, 31, 39 and 56 they suffered at different points in the season.

Do you know what the Bulls need? Good basketball players.

Wayne Selden averaged 22.9 minutes. Ryan Arcidiacono averaged 24.2 minutes. Walt Lemon Jr. finished his season with the Windy City Bulls on March 27 and led the Chicago Bulls in scoring three days later. They’re all great stories of persistence. They’re also all part of a recipe that resulted in 22 wins and a lost season.

There’s no doubt injuries played a part. Only the Cavaliers lost more games to injury than the Bulls last season, and the post-Otto Porter trade Bulls were trending in the right direction with a promising stretch in February. But this team has so far to go until they’re in contention even for a playoff spot in a weak East that “team needs” can’t be part of the discussion.

To Paxson’s and Gar Forman’s credit, it hasn’t come into play the last two drafts. The Bulls selected Lauri Markkanen in 2017 despite having Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis entrenched at power forward. In 2018, they opted for Wendell Carter Jr. despite having Robin Lopez under contract and Cris Felicio committed for three more seasons. Neither of those picks were needs at the time. Had the Bulls drafted for need, they’d probably have Dennis Smith Jr. and Mikal Bridges right now.

Now isn’t the time to change course.

The Bulls need to stay true to their draft board and, in a class where picks 4 through 10 are pretty much on an even playing field, draft for upside. Remember, the Bulls are still playing for 2021. It’s not what fans want to hear about 49 combined wins the last two seasons, but it’s the reality of where they are. Drafting a player they believe will help them most down the line – and not necessarily in October 2019 – has to be not only a priority, but the only line of thinking.

Perhaps Paxson and Forman have North Carolina guard Coby White high on their draft board. Maybe Darius Garland, who they’ve been enamored with for quite some time, is worth moving up and sacrificing future assets. But if not, there’s no use in a short-term fix to sacrifice long-term gains.

It’s OK if the Bulls’ point guard situation isn’t resolved when the sun rises Friday morning.

This is also the deepest free agency class at point guard in some time. If the Bulls want to upgrade there for a short-term fix in free agency, go for it. Just don’t sacrifice the 7th pick to round out your starting lineup. It may seem counter-productive to draft a reserve in the top half of the Lottery, but it’s actually a good problem for the Bulls to have considering the strength of their 2 through 5 positions.

Maybe it really is Texas center Jaxson Hayes. Perhaps Cam Reddish's woeful freshman season at Duke hasn't scared off the Bulls. Maybe Sekou Doumbouya looks like a player who can improve the Bulls' defense and maybe contribute on the other end.

Outside of Zion Williamson, no player in this year’s Lottery is going to move the needle in Year 1. You’re drafting for 5-6 years down the line, not 5-6 months down the line.

Find the most talented prospect on your board at No. 7, consider how he’ll fit in to the structure, dynamic and schemes of the Bulls and figure out where his upside lies based on those factors. It’s all that should matter on draft night.