Bulls

Bulls run Pacers out of Chicago for second win

Bulls run Pacers out of Chicago for second win

A streaking Jimmy Butler was on a fly pattern with Rajon Rondo measuring his wide receivers’ speed past Paul George and the two connected for an easy pitch, catch and dunk — a scene that hasn’t been witnessed in quite awhile.

The inherent message from Rondo was clear as he compiled his 11th assist of the first half in the Bulls’ impressive 118-101 win over the Indiana Pacers Saturday night at the United Center: Run and you’ll get the ball.

Run and I’ll find you.

Just run.

“Who doesn’t want the ball? Everybody wants the ball, everybody wants to score,” Rondo said. “We’ve been doing a great job of cleaning up the glass. Our wings are getting out wide and running. We’ve been practicing about 30 days straight. The chemistry is coming along (but) it’s early.”

Fred Hoiberg could only dream of this type of pace and speed to his offense last year, and even though his big guns are more deliberate players, they know a good thing when they see it as the Bulls improved to 2-0 on the year.

One wouldn’t have to hit Hoiberg with truth serum for him to proclaim it was the best performance he’s witnessed as coach, as the Bulls committed just 11 turnovers, shot 52 percent, made 19 of 21 free throws and tallied a whopping 30 fast break points.

“I talked to them and told them if we commit to playing with that type of unselfishness and ball movement, we have a chance to have a good year,” Hoiberg said.

“I loved our intensity out the gate. Our pace the other way was as good as I’ve seen, and our ball movement was off the charts.”

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It began with Rondo and trickled down to the rest of the roster, as a definitive tone has been set — a surprising one for a team so new and not used to playing with one another.

Dwyane Wade dashed to the rim, Michael Carter-Williams forced the action on both ends, Taj Gibson filled the lanes and Rondo maestro’d like very few can in this league.

“He talks in every huddle, ‘run with me, I’ll throw it ahead’,” Hoiberg said of Rondo. “It’s something we work on and stress, getting up."

Rondo was the only starter not in double figures but had 13 assists in 25 minutes, setting the tone and tempo for his teammates to follow. Wade scored 14 on just seven shots in 21 minutes, while Butler scored 16 on nine shots in 26 minutes.

The value of a good point guard cannot be overstated, comparing Rondo to new Pacers point guard Jeff Teague, who struggled for the second straight night.

Teague had eight assists but went scoreless on his seven attempts and was generally frustrated by his lack of flow. He helped Paul George to a degree get his 20 points on just 12 shots, but the Pacers didn’t have any of the rhythm they were advertised to have, as many expected them to challenge for a top spot in the East.

Instead, it’s the Bulls who have surprised in the early going, with impressive wins over two teams they’ll have to beat if they hope to claim a playoff spot in April.

If Saturday was any indication, some good things could be in store.

And they got it while the getting was good, as the Bulls essentially closed the evening relatively early with a 23-4 run in the second quarter, smothering the Pacers defensively as they took advantage of the Pacers trying to play a little too fast after made baskets or in the set offense as a whole.

The turnovers led to a track meet, as the unselfishness was contagious, led by the second unit. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic were going end to end for forays, spot-up threes and easy layups.

“I thought our bench was great tonight, you look across the board,” said Hoiberg, mentioning Carter-Williams and Isaiah Canaan, whose ball pressure ignited fast breaks.

“Carter-Williams I can tell is starting to get more comfortable. He got into the paint and hit a couple floaters for us.”

It led to a 23-point lead after 23 minutes and the Bulls’ 21-point lead at halftime was the largest halftime lead in three seasons.

It continued in the second half as McDermott got going in the way people expect him — as a marksman behind the 3-point line. A recipient of unselfish play across the board as the Bulls tallied 34 assists on 44 field goals, McDermott hit five triples on his way to a game-high 23, almost all on the drive-and-kick or swing-swing variety.

“He was great,” Wade said. “He did what Doug does, he stepped in and just shot his shots. He’s going to have nights like that. He’ll have nights where the defense isn’t going to leave him and he’ll need to be the one to make the extra pass.”

The lead ballooned to 29 before the Pacers scored plenty in garbage time, but the Bulls sent a resounding message of sorts in the opening days of the season.

Even if you run, we’ll find you.

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

This is the first entry in our "8 for 38" series, where will be looking at eight different under-the-radar NBA prospects that the Bulls could snag with their No. 38 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Charles Bassey/ 6’11’’/ 275 lbs./ Freshman/ Western Kentucky  

Bassey is a a well-regarded five-star recruit from Nigeria, who played his college ball at Western Kentucky University. He is a physical force on the court but definitely is a raw prospect at this stage of his development.

Bassey came into the season as an assumed first round talent, however, his stock has dropped after his impressive freshman season still revealed holes in his game that will definitely be exploited at the NBA level. All that being said, he was quite the prospect at WKU.

Strengths:

In his lone season at WKU, Bassey averaged 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game on 62.7 percent shooting from the field. His impressive double double average was built on his insane dominance inside the paint.

He shot an astounding 77.4 percent on shots at the rim and that number is even higher on non-post up shots around the basket. Bassey has a rudimentary hook shot that he can hit over his left shoulder but his postgame isn’t the hub of his offense. He generates most of his points by finishing on pick-and-rolls and using his faceup game.

Bassey’s physicality leads to him setting hard screens, and when he doesn’t set a hard screen, he slips to the basket quickly where he takes advantage with his soft touch when looking to score. It is tough for help defenders to knock Bassey off his path when he is rolling to the rim, as his immense lower body strength allows him to displace smaller players.

When Bassey faces up from 15-feet and in, he uses the aforementioned soft touch to convert on 40.8 percent of his 2-PT jump shots per Hoop-Math.com. On top of that, he generally has the speed to blow by most big men.

Bassey’s biggest strength from day one in the NBA will be his motor. He clearly gets fired up for big matchups, as he showcased when he dominated Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, who ended up winning the 2019 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given by the Basketball Hall of Fame to the country’s best center. In their late December matchup, Bassey helped hold Happ to a very inefficient 20 points on 23 shots.

In that same game Bassey finished with 19 points (7/8 FG, 5/5 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 4 blocks. He has arguably had better games, but the all-around versatility showcased in the stat line above is outstanding.

Bassey has flashed the ability to make nice passes before:

Since Bassey’s NBA offense will be centered around pick-and-roll plays, further developing his decision making on the short-roll will be a boon to whatever team drafts him.

On defense, Bassey already shows the ability to be an asset in the right system. When he is allowed to play in a traditional defensive system that has the center dropping back in pick-and-roll coverage, he swallows up shots with his 7-foot-3 wingspan.

Weaknesses:

The gigantic weakness Bassey showcased this season was an inability to function as a switch defender. He was great when it comes to protecting the rim--he averaged 2.4 blocks per game-- but he was consistently beat off the dribble by guards.

Of course it is rare to find any center--let alone a young one--that has the legitimate ability to function at a high-level when it comes to switching on to smaller, faster players. But that is precisely what makes Bassey the exact type of center you can find easily.

This is why a player of his talent level can slip into the second round.

Another big issue for Bassey is hands, or more specifically, the inability to hold on to passes when diving to the rim. As mentioned above, pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop basketball is how Bassey will carve out a niche in the league. But he occasionally struggled to hold on to the ball on throws that many would not even consider to be “tough passes”.

In the above strengths section it is mentioned how Bassey has some untapped potential as a passer, but he will never cash in on that potential if simply possessing the ball is a difficulty for him. He isn’t as explosive as usual if there are multiple defenders crowding him and raking at the ball, which happens often.

Over 1,067 minutes Basey amassed 24 assists as compared to a whopping 97 turnovers.

Long term outlook:

I believe Bassey will have a long NBA career due to his finishing in the paint and ability to block shots.

Bassey ran roughshod over his mostly Conference USA opposition on the season.

His 62.7 percent shooting from the field and 3.0 blocks per 40 minutes were a few of the many things that showed that Bassey is at least ready for the physicality of the NBA.

But to become much more than a solid journeyman center, Bassey will have to hone his perimeter jump shot to the point that he can become a solid 3-point threat. He shot 45 percent on a very limited 20 attempts from 3-point range and converted on 76.9 percent of his free throws, an enticing set of numbers that show the type of player he could be in the future.

Whether or not Robin Lopez stays, the Bulls will be short on center depth next season.  After Wendell Carter Jr. went down for the remainder of the 2018-19 season, we saw the Bulls play ultra-small lineups that got beat up on the glass often as Jim Boylen was still reluctant to play Felicio more than 15 minutes per game.

Adding a high-upside prospect like Bassey helps Boylen and co. avoid over-using lineups with Lauri Markkanen at center, which helps keep Markkanen fresh and theoretically improves the overall team defense. 

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

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NBC Sports Chicago

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

 

Michael Jordan is no stranger to amazing comebacks.

The man widely agreed upon to be the greatest player of all time, won six NBA Championships, with three of them coming after a full season sabbatical in which he played minor league baseball with the White Sox affiliate. And of course, MJ had his even later comeback with the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003, in which the year 40-year old Jordan averaged 21.2 PPG over two seasons to close out his career.

That is why Jordan’s effusive praise of Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters victory should not be taken lightly in the greater context of sports history.

In an article written by The Athletic’s David Aldridge, Jordan talks about how he holds Woods’ 2019 Masters win in extremely high regard, calling it “the greatest comeback I've ever seen."

Jordan, a famously avid golfer himself and a friend of Woods, stated, “I’ve been a fan for I don’t know how long.....I never thought he’d get back physically.....He didn’t think he’d get back physically.”

Major success had escaped Woods--who only had one victory in 2018--due to a litany of back injuries and subsequent surgeries.

With Woods having a major victory under his belt for the 2019 season, he certainly has momentum rolling in his favor. That momentum could carry Woods to another major run of PGA Tour success, and MJ agreed that Woods’ belief in himself was perhaps the biggest factor in his 2019 Masters win.

“No one expected him to be back the way he is now. He's probably the only person who believed he could get back.”