Bulls

Bulls survive scare in Detroit for holiday split

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Bulls survive scare in Detroit for holiday split

Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010
Posted 7:56 PM Updated 10:02 PM
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

AUBURN HILLS, MICH.A day after a disappointing finish to a former heated rival, the Bulls (19-10) took on another ex-foe and in a down-to-the-wire ending, played a game much more fitting of traditional warfare, holding off the Central Division rival Pistons (10-20) in overtime, 95-92, Sunday night.

Possessing a lot of offensive firepower and performing better in their past few games, Detroits offensive attack seemed ready to give the Bulls a challenge in the early going. To counter, Chicago went with a steady diet of Carlos Boozer (31 points, 11 rebounds) in the early going and the power forward delivered.

Boozer used his arsenal of offensive weaponspost moves, powerful finishes and a soft touch from the perimeterto score at will, as well as rebound the ball at a high level.

Carlos, hes such a threat, even when hes not getting the ball. Hes pulling so many people toward him, so often times, that opens up other things that are easy. That might open up a driving seam for Derrick, said Thibodeau. They start leaning one way to keep the ball out of the post and he can hit the paint on the attack without the defense being quite set. As he continues to get more comfortable, I think in transition, we might be able to get him in the paint more, too.

You look at the matchups, you look at how things are going. I thought it was easier for them to maybe double team Carlos going straight post-up, so we tried to spread them out a little bit. They were putting two on Derrick, so we were trying to get Carlos going.

Concurred Boozer: Im starting to feel more comfortable out there. Im feeling the game a little bit quicker. The games slowing down for me, so I can make my moves and at the same time, I can react a little bit quicker.

I just tried to be aggressive, back-to-back nights on the road. Every team looks for guys to feed off of and on this team, they look to me and D-Rose for that. I just tried to be aggressive and make baskets to make it easier for them. I thought we did a good job early of attacking.

Although nobody else was truly proficient scoring the ball, the visitors held a 23-15 advantage after a quarter of play.

Chicagos bench maintained its cushion in the second period, with backup center Omer Asik providing an unexpected lift, including a monstrous dunk over two Pistons, which drew rave reviews from his teammates on the bench. Unfortunately, Asik couldnt sustain the positive effort, but the second unit did its job, holding down the fort until Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau reinserted his regulars.

The starters extended Chicagos winning margin, as Derrick Roses (23 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) jet-quick jaunts to the rim were too much for Detroit to contain. The home team, however, made a brief late-quarter surge, but the Bulls led, 40-34, at the half.

Chicago was on the wrong end of a 7-0 run to open the second half, giving the Pistons the lead. Turnovers, poor shot selection, defensive lapses and generally uninspired play enabled Detroit to seize momentum of the game behind strong play from Tayshaun Prince (17 points, four rebounds, six assists), Richard Hamilton (15 points) and Rodney Stuckey (16 points, five rebounds, four assists).

The thing is, they went small. We had some matchup problems and offensively, I thought we had some good looks. The ball sometimes doesnt go in, but weve got to stay inside-out. I thought we had some drives that maybe we have to drive it a little but harder, I guess, explained Thibodeau.

The visitors snapped out of their malaise, tightening things up on the defensive end and executing better offensively, with a surprise contribution from Keith Boganswho hit a pair of long bombspart of a 17-4 Bulls run that gave Chicago a double-digit lead. While the Bulls didnt necessarily keep their foot on the gas, led by Boozers inside dominance and Roses all-around play, they took a 68-57 lead into the final stanza.

Improved play from Taj Gibson (five points, nine rebounds) and a solid effort from reserve point guard C.J. Watson buoyed Chicagos attack at the outset of the fourth period, but Detroit battled back against a unit of mostly reserves, with former All-Star swingman Tracy McGrady (15 points)now a reserve, but still capable of producing pointsexperiencing a mild flashback, making the deficit it faced more manageable. Upon Thibodeau reinserting Rose into the contest, however, the South Side native took all of the air out of the Palace with multiple moments of individual brilliance, both subtle and flashy.

But the Pistons exhibited qualities of resilience as the games stretch run approached and coupled with either Bulls miscues or misfortunedepending on ones point of viewthe visitors lead gradually dwindled to a too-close-for-comfort margin. McGrady mustered up more heroics, hitting a triple with 1:10 to play, slicing Chicagos lead to four.

Theyre talented. McGradys healthy, so he puts a lot of pressure on you, said Thibodeau, who conferred with McGrady, his former player in Houstonwhere he was a Rockets assistantafter the game. I thought it was a good game for us.

A Rose turnover on the ensuing possession opened the door for Detroit and after Prince followed his own miss with a layup. Rose missed a jumper on the Bulls next trip, the Pistons rebounded the ball with 18.4 seconds remaining.

It was officially a ballgame. After a timeout, Detroit had three cracks at either a win or a tieMcGrady missed a deep two, Hamilton missed a three, then a leanerbut on their third offensive rebound of the possession, forward Charlie Villaneuvas (12 points, 10 rebounds) tip-in with 0.6 seconds on the clock evened the score at 85 to extend the contest past regulation.

Get a rebound! Thibodeau said he told his team afterwards, before overtime started. It was a scramble play. Youve just got to find a way to come up with it, but I have no complaints.

Said Boozer: Obviously we wanted to get that last rebound in regulation and when we missed it, they got a nice layup.

We played much better in overtime.

In the games extra session, Prince and Boozer exchanged jumpers on each teams initial possession. Following a Chicago stop, Boozer picked up a charge on the Bulls subsequent trip, then a foul the next time down on defense, giving him five for the game and the visitors a one-point deficit after a Pistons free throw.

The Alaskan put the play behind him, finding reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer for a layup, then making a steal on the next possession. On Chicagos next trip, Boozer missed a bunny, but it was tipped in by grizzled veteran Kurt Thomas to give the Bulls a 91-88 lead with 1:33 left in the abbreviated period.

Thomas followed that play with by stripping a driving Prince, who avenged his error by subsequently making a steal on Boozer and finding Stuckey in the open court for a layup. Chicago went back to the well, with Rose going to Boozer inside and a strong finish giving the Bulls a 93-90 advantage with 40.8 to go.

Out of a Pistons timeout, Villaneuva scored from point-blank range to cut the lead to a single point. Rose missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, but when Detroit couldnt convert on the other end, Luol Deng secured the rebound at the 4.7-second mark and Chicago called timeout.

Thibodeau put it in a shooter-heavy lineup and after sharpshooter Kyle Korver was fouled, he drained a pair of foul shots to put the Bulls up, 95-92. Villaneuva once again had an opportunity to send extend the game for another five minutes, but was errant on a 3-point attempt.

Well take the win any way we can. It was ugly tonight, but sometimes on the road, youve got to win ugly and we did, said Boozer. On the road, youre not always going to get the calls you get at home. Youre not always going to hit the shots you usually hit.

Sometimes youve got to win ugly, even if it has been a couple on this trip. Well take the win any way we can get it.

Added Thibodeau: I thought we played hard the whole game and things werent going our way. We werent shooting well. We just kept grinding. I thought our defense was good, I thought our rebounding was good.

Well take it. It was a hard-fought game and we hung in there at the end. I thought our rebounding was great all night, until that last one and it was the most important one. We didnt come up with it, but the thing I liked, we didnt hang our head in the overtime. We kept fighting and we did what we had to do to get the win.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

NBA 'promises' to potential draft picks not unusual

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USA TODAY

NBA 'promises' to potential draft picks not unusual

Bulls Twitter went on high alert after last week's national report that the front office had made a "promise" to draft Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison if he was still on the board at No. 22 in the first round. Weren't the Bulls supposed to be interested in SF prospects like Michael Porter Jr., Mikal Bridges and Miles Bridges with their own first round selection? Did a "promise" to Hutchison mean the Bulls would go with Wendell Carter, Trae Young or Collin Sexton at No. 7?

The simple answer is the Bulls haven't made any final decisions on either pick. They still plan to bring the top prospects in for workouts and interviews before June 21 and will continue to take a close look at players likely to be available in the 18-30 range.

And, like any professional sports franchise, the Bulls aren't about to confirm or deny they've made a commitment to Hutchison or any other player. Drafts are fluid, and invariably players will rise and fall throughout the workout/interview process as teams try to get their boards lined up for the big night.

The main reason a team will make a "promise" to a player is to eliminate his incentive to work out for other franchises. In the case of Hutchison, he's obviously received assurances from a team or teams that he will be drafted in the first round. Hutchison cancelled his plans to participate in last week's NBA Draft Combine, and most likely will only work out for teams drafting ahead of the franchise that said they would select him.

Jerry Krause would famously try to hide his interest in players he coveted in a particular year and persuade them not to work out for other teams. The best example came in 1987 when a little known player from Central Arkansas named Scottie Pippen became an obsession for Krause, and the Bulls GM tried everything in his power to keep Pippen under wraps. Problem is, Pippen did attend the scouting combine and quickly became the hot topic among NBA scouts and executives. It took some intense work on Krause's part to arrange for the draft night trade that brought Pippen to Chicago for Olden Polynice. Krause also added Horace Grant later in that same draft, and the foundation was built for the Bulls' first three championship teams.

So, the idea of a team making a "promise" to a player they like is certainly nothing new. What's important to understand is that doesn't guarantee the team will follow through on that promise when they're on the clock. Back in 2013, the Bulls got word to Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng they were interested in taking him with their No. 20 pick in round one. But when the Bulls were on the clock, the front office decided they would rather have New Mexico swingman Tony Snell who was ranked higher on their draft board. The Bulls drafted Snell, much to Dieng and his agent's surprise. Dieng wound up going to Utah with the next pick and was traded to Minnesota. He's still with that franchise today, although in a reduced role after the Timberwolves signed Taj Gibson as a free agent last summer.

With so much uncertainty in this year's draft, it seems unlikely the Bulls would "promise" to select Hutchison five weeks before the selection process was going to begin. Hutchison and his agent most likely received assurances from NBA executives that he would be drafted in the 20-30 range, and that was enough to get him to drop out of the combine. But just like in 2013, if the Bulls see a player ranked higher on their draft board fall to 22, that's the player they're going to take.

Hutchison is a good prospect, a 3-and-D player who would fit well with the team the Bulls are building. But he's also a 22-year-old senior without the upside of some of the younger prospects who might be available with the Bulls' pick late in Round 1. Both Hutchison and the Bulls have to reserve the right to protect their own best interests. Hutchison will most likely agree to work out for teams drafting earlier than 22, and he'll have to understand if the Bulls decide to go a different direction on draft night, no matter what kind of previous discussions his agent may have had with the front office.

At this point in the pre-draft process, a "promise" can only be seen as a team's legitimate interest in a given player and an indicator of how the first round is likely to play out. But a lot can and will change before Phoenix goes on the clock on June 21.

Combine notes

Since most of the projected first round picks do little or nothing at the combine, it's left to the second-round guys to try to improve their draft stock with a strong showing in the scrimmage games. Last year, it was Kyle Kuzma working his way into the first round with a dazzling performance at the combine, and this year, the big winner might be Villanova shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo.

The NCAA Tournament hero impressed everyone with his athleticism on both ends and his ability to knock down open shots. DiVincenzo told me his 31-point performance in the title game against Michigan convinced him he had what it takes to apply for early entry, and his strong showing last week probably convinced him to hire an agent and remain in the draft.

Much like Kuzma, DiVincenzo had been projected as a likely second-round pick before the combine. Now he's looked at as a probable first rounder, going somewhere in the 20-30 range, which means he's likely headed to a good team that can ease his transition to the pro game. Not bad for a guy who came off the bench most of the season for the eventual NCAA champs and probably never imagined he would be leaving early for the NBA until that magical night in San Antonio.

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Other players who improved their draft stock last week include USC combo guard De’Anthony Melton, Maryland swingman Kevin Huerter, Tulane shooting guard Melvin Frazier, Cincinnati swingman Jacob Evans and another Villanova product, point guard Jalen Brunson.

Brunson didn't play in the scrimmages in Chicago, but he showed well in the physical testing, displaying the kind of athleticism every team is looking for at the point guard position. It looks like Brunson will definitely be a first round pick.

Similar story for Evans, who averaged a modest 13 points a game for a top 10 Cincinnati team, but impressed the NBA execs at the combine with his tenacious defensive play and offensive potential. Evans could be a possibility for the Bulls at 22.

Maryland's Huerter showed scouts he's more than just a standstill 3-point shooter. The 6-foot-6 sophomore averaged just under 15 points a game last season, shooting almost 42 percent from 3-point range. Huerter's solid play at the combine gives him a chance to be drafted at the end of Round 1.

Frazier also showed enough in games last week to have his name called among the top 30 picks. At 6-foot-6, he has excellent size at the shooting guard position. Frazier averaged just under 16 points a game during his junior season at Tulane, shooting almost 56 percent from the field.

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But the most interesting story involves Melton, who was held out by USC last season because of his connection to the FBI's investigation of corruption in college basketball. Melton maintained his innocence all along, and said the university was just doing what it had to do, fearing additional trouble with the NCAA over allegations a friend of Melton's had accepted money to try to steer Melton to an agent.

Still, even without playing competitively last season, Melton probably cemented a first round selection with his play at the combine. The 6-foot-4 combo guard flashed on both ends, scoring 15 points in a game last Friday playing alongside DiVincenzo in the backcourt.

Melton told USA Today he compares himself to other two-way standouts like Dwyane Wade, Kawhi Leonard and Avery Bradley. That's some pretty impressive company. Melton might be worth the investment of that No. 22 pick by the Bulls.

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Kudos to all the players who took part in the two days of media interviews last week. Almost all of them came off poised and well prepared. Among the top ten picks, I was especially impressed with Michael Porter Jr., who patiently answered all the questions about his back surgery and confidently said he considered himself the best player in the draft without sounding cocky.

Of course, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Trae Young also proclaimed themselves the best player in the draft, and projected top 10 picks Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr. and Collin Sexton also came across as supremely confident.

The latest Basketball Insiders Mock Draft has the Bulls taking Bamba at 7 and Chandler Hutchison at 22, which would make the front office and a lot of Bulls fans very happy. But just to show you the wide range in how draft experts are evaluating the top prospects, Basketball Insiders currently has Jackson Jr. going 11 to Charlotte, and it's hard for me to imagine him staying on the board past four.

Brace yourself for all kinds of wild speculation over the next four weeks.

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Finally, May 22 turned out to be quite a day for Lauri Markkanen. Not only is Markkanen celebrating his 21st birthday, but he found out he was voted to the NBA's All-Rookie first team after averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Markkanen joined Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and Kyle Kuzma from the extremely talented 2017-18 rookie class.

And the second team isn't bad either with Dennis Smith Jr., Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Given Markkanen's talent and work ethic, it's very easy to see him making multiple All-Star Game appearances down the line. The Bulls can only hope they come up with another foundation player like Markkanen when they draft seventh for the second year in a row.