Bulls

Bulls: Rose puts Game 4 loss on himself after defensive gaffe

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Bulls: Rose puts Game 4 loss on himself after defensive gaffe

Derrick Rose turned his head for a split second, which was all the time the Milwaukee Bucks and Jerryd Bayless needed to slip him underneath the rim, and give Rose 48 hours of kicking himself after 48 minutes of exhilarating but mishap-filled basketball.

The Milwaukee Bucks registered a win in their first-round series with a 92-90 win at the BMO Harris Bradley Center when Bayless slipped by the Bulls point guard for a layup at the buzzer off an inbounds pass with 1.3 seconds left.

“It was honestly trying to beat them backdoor,” said Bayless, a reserve guard who’s gotten into his share of physical scrums in this series, backing down from no one. “We were hoping he was going to bite, and he bit on it. (Jared Dudley) made a spectacular pass and luckily I was able to finish it.”

The misery immediately followed a Rose turnover where Bayless stopped Rose dead in his tracks, forcing the Bulls’ season-high 28th turnover of the night—and although Bayless’ game-winner didn’t register as a turnover, it’s the kind of mental mistake the Bulls can’t afford to give up in this round—or any round.

“I put that all on me. I just wasn’t paying attention to it. Great call from J-Kidd. But if anything, it’s a learning experience,” Rose said. “Knowing we could’ve forced overtime. I missed things up.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the playoffs, Bulls fans!]

After early struggles, Rose had a sterling fourth-quarter before his last two mishaps, including a triple that cut the Bucks’ lead to 90-87 with 1:05 left, followed by feeding Pau Gasol the next possession for a layup and three-point play that tied the game with 38 seconds left. It was the kind of help Jimmy Butler had been begging for all night, as the fourth-leading scorer in the playoffs put up 33 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 40 minutes.

“Jimmy did a great job with holding us up and making sure we were comfortable throughout the game,” Rose said. “I tried to stay out the way here and there, and the times I did, I gotta cut down on my turnovers.”

 They often talk about taking what the “game” gives them, and by way of their carelessness for 48 minutes, the game delivered them a loss when they could’ve kicked their feet up for the next week to rest for Round 2.

“I just told the team this, I’m not going to put it on that last play,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “There were a lot of other plays throughout the course of the game … we didn’t play well. When you turn the ball over like that you’re not going to have success.”

The Bulls treated the ball as if it were diseased, with the third-highest amount of turnovers in a playoff game in the last 25 years.  Their first-quarter turnover issues carried over to the final three, as Rose, Nikola Mirotic and Gasol took center stage for all the wrong reasons.

Rose gave it away eight times while Gasol had five turnovers of his own and Mirotic, who returned from missing Game 3 with a left knee strain, had three turnovers in 20 minutes, leading to 39 Bucks points.

While his teammates were listed as “missing” on a milk carton, Butler did the heavy lifting against a balanced and emotional Bucks team that wouldn’t give the Bulls an inch, literally or figuratively. The animosity from Game 2 returned after a one-game absence, with multiple technical fouls and physical confrontations.

Butler helped rally the Bulls from a 46-34 deficit in the second quarter, scoring or assisting in 18 of the Bulls’ final 20 points of the period. Scoring seven points in the last 28 seconds—including a ridiculous 3-point bank shot at the buzzer—tied the game at 50.

[GOODWILL: Bucks' progression through series should alarm Bulls]

But the Bucks didn’t fold, behind their formidable bench of Bayless, Dudley, John Henson and OJ Mayo, who kept the Bulls at bay with four 3-point daggers and led the Bucks with18 points in 23 minutes.

 Their resolve was somewhat surprising, as Mayo had a 30-foot shot-clock triple called back by review that everyone thought put the Bucks up 90-84 with three minutes remaining.

Before it was reviewed, Butler hit a three that seemed to shift the momentum before Mayo left no doubt the next time down, hitting a long triple with 12 seconds on the shot clock following two offensive rebounds.

Even when luck appeared to be on the Bulls’ side, the Bucks kept fighting it off, giving way for a miracle—as the Bulls will live in misery for 48 hours, starting with their illustrious point guard.

How the Bulls can land a max-salary free agent

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USA TODAY

How the Bulls can land a max-salary free agent

The Bulls will enter free agency with approximately $20 million in cap space. That’s far short of the amount needed to sign a max-salary player, but there is a path for the team to land a star — if one chooses to play in Chicago. With rumors out of Brooklyn that D’Angelo Russell would be on his way out if the Nets sign Kyrie Irving, coupled with the uncertain futures of both Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, Bulls fans are wondering “what if.” I’ll let much wiser people debate if the Bulls should extend an offer to any of these players; I’ll outline how it could happen.

In terms of this discussion, it’s very important to note that not all free agents are eligible for the same max salary. The league has three tiers of max free agents, broken up by years of service. Players with 0-6 years of service are in one tier, 7-9 years in another, and 10+ years of service in the last.

Players in the more experienced tiers can get a much larger contract over players coming off their rookie contracts. The wonderful Larry Coon explains this in detail in his CBA FAQ. The exact 2019-20 salary cap will be announced at the end of the month. It’s currently projected at $109 million, and for this scenario, we use that number. Essentially, tier 1 players can get 25 percent of the cap, tier 2 30 percent and players with 10+ years of experience can get 35 percent of a team’s cap.

Russell would fall into the 0-6 years tier, earning him a first year salary (the one that matters in terms of cap space) of approximately $27.2 million. Klay Thompson has eight seasons of experience and is eligible for a first-year salary of about $32.7 million. His teammate Kevin Durant can sign a max deal starting at $38 million.

Step 1- Get medical waiver on Omer Asik’s $3 million cap hit.

The Bulls will find out by June 30 if the league approves their waiver request on Asik. The former Bulls big has a $3 million cap hit of guaranteed money on the books for the 2019-20 season. The team waived Asik back in October and it looks like his NBA career may be over after dealing with arthritis and Crohn’s Disease. The NBA is likely to approve the Bulls request, and they’ll get that money back in cap space for free agency.

Step 2- Waive and stretch Cristiano Felicio

The league allows teams to waive players and stretch their contracts over several years to lessen the immediate cap hit a team takes. Felicio is owed approximately $15.7 million over the next two seasons. The stretch provision means teams can spread out the cap hit of a waived player twice the years remaining on the deal, plus one. This translates to a cap hit of approximately $3.1 million over the next fives years instead of the amount he’s owed. This means the Bulls would gain an additional $5 million in cap space this summer.

Accomplishing steps 1 and 2 will clear enough cap space for the Bulls to sign a 0-6 year free agent, so if Russell wants to play for the Bulls and the front office feels he’d be a good fit, it would only take these two steps to sign him. It gets more complicated for the more experienced free agents.

Step 3- Trade Kris Dunn for a 2nd round pick.

Dunn is owed $5.3 million for the 2019-20 season. Trading him for a second round pick would net the Bulls a cap saving of $4.4 million. The reason the Bulls don’t get to keep the full amount is that teams have to account for a roster spot against the cap when they go below 12 players. Trading Dunn would get them into the 7-9 years tier and allow them to sign Klay Thompson (or any of the other free agents at that tier).

Step 4A- Trade out of the first round of the 2019 draft

Here is where it gets a lot more difficult for the Bulls if they want to sign a 10+ year free agent. They have to clear about $5 million more in cap space. Let’s safely assume they aren’t going to trade Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter for pennies on the dollar just to clear cap space. Otto Porter’s contract makes him a very unlikely trade candidate as well. Trading the No. 7 pick for a future first nets them another $4.4 million, close enough to get to that max slot with other small moves.

The major flaw with this is the draft is June 20 and free agency starts 10 days later. You’re not going to get a commitment from any superstar worth this amount until June 30, so essentially this option is off the table.

Step 4B- Trade Denzel Valentine and Chandler Hutchison for second round picks

This option is a lot more likely if the Bulls can sign a superstar in the 10+ years tier. Hutchison showed promise in his rookie season, and despite missing all of last season, Valentine should be able to get you something (especially if packaged with Hutchison). I doubt the team wants to punt on Hutchison after one season, but they'd have to, if this was the only thing in the way of signing a franchise changing star.

If you want to dream for the Bulls, our friends at NBC Sports Boston put together a list of the top free agents available. The likelihood is that the Bulls will use their cap space to sign a few veteran free agents to give them some much needed depth, but should they dream big, there is a path to be in play for a star.

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Bulls not a part of Anthony Davis-to-the-Lakers trade, but it could have an effect on the draft

Bulls not a part of Anthony Davis-to-the-Lakers trade, but it could have an effect on the draft

Farewell, Lonzo Ball-to-the-Bulls rumors.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday evening that the Los Angeles Lakers have finally acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, and the deal doesn't include a third team.

In exchange for Davis, a six-time All-Star about to enter his prime, the Pelicans recieved Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and three first round picks, including the No. 4 pick in next week's NBA Draft.

There was some speculation - also reported by Woj - that a third team would need to get involved in order to satisfy what Pelicans GM David Griffin was looking for in a package for Davis.

Though the Bulls were never directly connected in reports as a potential third team, it made sense considering they own the No. 7 pick and have a need at point guard.

There was also some speculation - though, again, never concrete news or reports - that Zach LaVine could have been an option in a deal, with the Bulls acquiring the No. 4 pick.

Alas, the Bulls aren't part of the deal. But it still may have an effect on them.

The Pelicans now own the Nos. 1 and 4 picks in next week's draft. They're obviously going to take Duke forward Zion Williamson with the first pick but now have options at No. 4. Whereas the Lakers had been linked to Vanderbilt poing guard Darius Garland, the Pelicans really don't have a need there with Ball and Jrue Holiday in the backcourt.

That, in theory, could bump Garland down to No. 6 and the Phoenix Suns, which would then free up the Bulls to take North Carolina's Coby White at No. 7.

Wojnarowski also reported that teams are still inquiring about the No. 4 pick from the Pelicans. It's unlikely the Bulls would depart with LaVine though maybe they could put together some sort of package to move up from No. 7.

What's more likely is the Bulls keep their assets intact in such a weak draft class and move forward with the best player available on the board at No. 7.

But it's officially Woj Bomb season, so buckle up. As is the case every NBA offseason, anything can and will happen.