Bulls Show Signs of Life in Loss to Lakers


Bulls Show Signs of Life in Loss to Lakers

Wednesday, December 16
By Mark Schanowski

Okay, let's start with the premise there are no moral victories in professional sports. But with that being said (apologies to Larry David & Curb Your Enthusiasm), it looks like the Bulls are trying to go back to the defense-first style that helped them get off to a 6-4 start this season. Led by an inspired effort by Joakim Noah, who finished with 11 points, 20 rebounds and 6 blocked shots, the Bulls outrebounded the league's tallest team and outworked them on both ends of the floor. Problem is, the Lakers have Kobe Bryant and the Bulls don't, and there-in lies the fundamental problem for your 2009-2010 Chicago Bulls.

This Bulls' team is offensively challenged. They shoot a low percentage from the field and the three point line, and they don't have a go-to scorer who can create his own shot or get to the free throw line down the stretch of close games. Granted, Derrick Rose is trying. The reigning NBA Rookie of the Year has been much more aggressive over the last few weeks, taking close to 20 shots per game, and his scoring average is climbing steadily. But Derrick still looks at himself as a point guard first, and he just doesn't have that selfish streak you find in so many of the game's great scorers (like Kobe). It was great to see him take the final shot of regulation against Golden State last Friday night. And, even though he missed the shot, it showed he's starting to realize how the Bulls' fortunes are riding on his performance.

Another issue for the Bulls is the puzzling season-long slump of John Salmons. One of the reasons the Bulls decided to let Ben Gordon go in free agency was the outstanding play by Salmons late last season and in the playoff series against Boston. The coaches and front office hoped Salmons would build off his career season, and become a consistent 18 to 20 point scorer while playing 35-plus minutes as the Bulls' starting shooting guard. But 23 games into the season, Salmons is still searching for his shooting stroke. He only played 29 minutes against the Lakers last night, and managed just 2 points on 1-5 shooting from the field. After last Saturday's loss to Boston, Salmons admitted he's struggling to get anything going and he looked devastated while acknowledging his numbers are down in all the key offensive categories. Maybe we were all fooled by his great play at the end of last season. After all, over his 7-plus seasons in the league, he's a 9 point a game scorer, and 44 percent shooter from the field. Now, the danger for the Bulls is that Salmons won't opt out of the final year of his contract, which would put them on the hook for his 6.7 million dollar salary, and prevent the Bulls from having enough cap room to make a maximum salary offer to one of the elite free agents.

But that's a problem for another day. Right now, the Bulls are looking forward to the return of Tyrus Thomas in about 2 weeks, which will give them the fresh legs off the bench they've been looking for during the current slump. During training camp, the coaches thought they were two-deep with quality players at every position, but the injuries to Thomas, Kirk Hinrich and Jannero Pargo have seriously cut into that depth and forced Vinny Del Negro to play his starters for heavy minutes. Now, we're hearing about Joakim Noah's rotator cuff injury, which required a cortisone shot. Noah has been the team's MVP, but the strain of playing big minutes against bulkier centers is obviously taking its toll. Getting Thomas back will allow Del Negro to give Noah more rest, and hopefully keep him healthy for the second half of the season.

Given the woeful state of the Eastern Conference, this season is far from over for the Bulls. They're only 2 games out of the final playoff spot, and judging by last night's effort against the Lakers, it looks like the worst is over. The schedule is much more favorable in the weeks ahead, starting with Thursday's visit by the New York Knicks. I'll see you courtside with Kendall Gill to preview the game during Sportsnite at 6:30, then Neil Funk and Stacey King have the call at 7 on Comcast SportsNet.

As always, your comments and e-mails are welcome. Here's to better Bulls' basketball over the holidays and into the New Year!

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

NBA Power Rankings: NBA Trade season heating up


NBA Power Rankings: NBA Trade season heating up


As the February 7 NBA Trade deadline approaches, front offices are starting to seriously discuss in-season changes they can make to improve their rosters as goals become clearer for teams throughout the league.

We already saw the funniest trade mishap in quite some time, as the Suns, Grizzlies and Wizards had a three-team deal dissolve amid confusion over which “Brooks” was in the trade--MarShon or Dillon.

The trade that ended up going down was the Wizards sending Austin Rivers and Kelly Oubre Jr. to the Suns for Trevor Ariza. Phoenix promptly waived Rivers and the Grizzlies re-entered the fray, picking up Rivers off of waivers.

The Lakers are reportedly still looking for floor-spacing to help out their (already) strong defensive squad. Ariza was linked to them because of his Los Angeles roots but ultimately the Lakers didn’t have enough to entice the Suns. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been linked to the Houston Rockets as they continued their eternal quest to find more 3-and-D wings.

All of the league is keeping an eye on the Warriors and Raptors, teams that are unlikely to make any roster moves but have dominated as of late, and seem destined to meet up in the 2019 NBA Finals. The Nuggets and Bucks are the other teams that has been strong enough to belong in the top tier of the league, with the Sixers being right behind them.

Both Denver and Philadelphia will need to let their rosters get familiar with each other. The Nuggets have important pieces in Isaiah Thomas and rookie Michael Porter Jr. on the shelf, while the Sixers are still building chemistry in their Simmons-Butler-Embiid lineups.

The league is heading for an intriguing week 10, with Celtics-Bucks, Pelicans-Lakers and Raptors-Sixers all being very important matchups.
Check out our latest NBA Power Rankings here.

Robin Lopez shows his terrifying angry face in Bulls-Thunder brawl

Robin Lopez shows his terrifying angry face in Bulls-Thunder brawl

The Bulls were getting blown out in Oklahoma City when the team's frustrations turned into a fight against the Thunder on Monday.

It all started with Russell Westbrook pushing Kris Dunn away after a whistle blew. Dunn then escalated things by aggressively shoving Westbrook. Once Westbrook was involved, it didn't take long for the Thunder to react in numbers.

In the middle of the chaos, Robin Lopez and Thunder forward Jerami Grant locked up with Lopez giving quite the stare while yelling at Grant. Watch the video above to see the full sequence.

It's worth pointing out the hold Bulls coach Jim Boylen puts on Grant to pull him away from the fight (with help from Cam Payne and Bobby Portis).

No players were ejected, but all four of the key players got technical fouls. Lopez later was given his second technical and ejected for dropping a ball on Jerami Grant after Lopez committed a foul on Grant.

This isn't the first time Lopez has been seen angrily pointing a finger during a heated moment.

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