Butler saves Bulls win after Rose leaves with ankle injury


Butler saves Bulls win after Rose leaves with ankle injury

With Derrick Rose, everything comes with a caveat, even an encouraging, complete offensive performance.

After his most efficient showing of the season, compiling 23 points with six assists on 9-for-18 shooting, one bad step brought the United Center crowd to a murmur when he came up lame after being fouled on a drive by Monta Ellis.

He tried to shake off the left ankle sprain, staying in the game for the next two possessions, but soon went to the bench and to the locker room for the final five minutes of the Bulls’ 96-95 win over the Indiana Pacers.

He walked to the locker room under his own power, showing an evident but not heavy limp. And all could’ve been lost considering the air had been sucked from the Madhouse, feeling more like a sad house until Jimmy Butler stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

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Butler had been chasing around a red-hot Paul George for most of the night, and with 5.1 seconds left George had a chance to complete a late comeback with a fadeaway jumper at the free-throw line.

But George couldn’t increase his 27-point night, due to Butler’s outstretched arm that disrupted the last chance for the Pacers, leaving George on the floor complaining and frustrated, sealing the Bulls’ win.

“Just knowing where it’s coming,” Butler said. “PG’s a hell of a player, a tough guard for anybody in this league. I was right there to contest it.”

Butler, in the argument with George and Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio) for the best two-way player in the game not named LeBron James, didn’t necessarily win the individual battle with George, as George added seven rebounds and five assists to his ledger compared to Butler’s 17 points, four assists and three rebounds.

“Paul made a strong move into the lane and made a great move to get open,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “Butler also made a great play defensively. I don’t think there was a foul, he just made a good defensive play."

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Butler did hit a late jumper to put the Bulls up three with 1:23 left, temporarily holding off the late charge when the Bulls’ free-flowing offense slowed to a crawl late, scoring just 17 in the fourth.

Making just 20 of 32 free throws contributed to the struggles, as well as Rose’s absence.

“We got stagnant,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We had some time of possession errors. I thought our flow was good all night, we had good pace. Just those last eight minutes we shut it down from the paint. We have to push out the lead and continue to do that.”

Rose’s best all-around performance of the season buoyed the Bulls to an early 13-point lead, as he made both of his 3-point attempts, his last in the fourth quarter when the Bulls were reeling.

“His tempo and his shot was really good,” Hoiberg said. “You could tell that first 3 was going in as soon as it left his hands. He’ll keep getting in better shape. I thought he played terrific.”

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Rose was the key to the high-octane, efficient offense, and he displayed his most efficient basketball of the season. He played fast but under control, got to his sweet spots and followed a trend he began in last spring’s playoffs, using the glass on mid-range shots.

After dominating the game early, taking a 13-point lead due to Rose’s aggressiveness in the first quarter, the Pacers climbed back into the game, mostly due to the shooting of C.J. Miles and George.

Miles hit five triples on the way to 19 points, leaving Hoiberg no choice but to sit Nikola Mirotic, Miles' primary defender, after just 19 minutes.

It left a bit of a hole offensively as the game evolved late, but the defense played off some muscle memory when it counted.

“It was a dogfight,” said Taj Gibson (nine points, 11 rebounds), the only player to play the entire fourth quarter on either side. “We had a lot of plays on offense we usually make. A couple of ins and outs, that didn’t deter from my defense. We got some tough stops late, and that’s the ball game.”

The Bulls shot just 32.5 percent in the second half, and were out-rebounded by the smaller Pacers, 26-23, in that span, all playing a part in the comeback along with George and Ellis catching fire. Each scored 14 after the half, and Ellis finished with 20.

But even Rose’s minor injury couldn’t dampen the optimistic spirit afterwards, as the Bulls reminded themselves they still have a defensive mindset that won’t disappear overnight.

Report: Bulls sign former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins to two-way contract


Report: Bulls sign former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins to two-way contract

A report on Sunday from Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports indicated that the Bulls have agreed to a two-way contract with former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins. 

The 6'5'' guard was a teammate of Lauri Markkanen on the 2017 Wildcats, and many expected him to be a potential lottery pick after showing off the all-around skill set that also made him the top player in the state of New York in high school.

After going undrafted, Alkins played for the Toronto Raptors Summer League team, where he put up 9 points, 4.67 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. In the six  Las Vegas Summer League games he played in, Alkins shot poor from the field (37 percent) and the free throw line (62.5 percent), but he knocked down his 3-pointers, shooting 43.9 percent on a healthy 3.5 attempts from deep per game. 

There is an obvious fit on the Bulls for a player like Alkins. He was a career 36.5 percent 3-point shooter in his two college seasons, and has the physical profile of a great wing defender at the NBA-level. Alkins has a 6'9'' wingspan, and at a listed 220 lbs., it is easy to see him having the potential to guard four-to-five different positions on the floor. At this stage of the rebuild, the Bulls could really use as many of the coveted "3-and-D" wings as they can get. And there are some, like, The Ringer's Chris Vernon, who think that Alkins has the potential to become a glue guy.

Alkins will be a fan favorite wherever he plays. You want a Marcus Smart, Tony Allen, or P.J. Tucker–type player when you need a big play in a big game. I see that with Alkins.

-The Ringer's Chris Vernon 

The nature of the two-way contract means that Bulls fans will to catch some Windy City Bulls games to see Alkins in action. But much like Antonio Blakeney last season, we could see Alkins make an instant impact in the G League and get a call-up sooner than later, especially if the Bulls decide to move on from veteran Justin Holiday.

Either way, the pick up is a shrewd move by the Bulls front office. Alkins is a well-rounded, defense-first player who will be joining a young roster overstocked with scoring talent, but thin on defenders capable of guarding on the perimeter or executing a switching defense at a high level.

Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago


Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago

Jabari Parker is looking forward to what will surely be an intriguing season for he and the Chicago Bulls.

Parker signed a two-year, $40 million contract, that essentially acts as a tryout for the Bulls. The second year of the contract is a team option, meaning should things not go well, the organization can cut ties with him. But after 183 career games with the Bucks over four seasons, it was clear that Parker was in need of a fresh start. In Chicago, he will slide in as the day one starting small forward, and is already paid like a player who is definitely appreciated by his organization.

But with all of the off the court stuff taken care of for now, Parker's main focus is getting in to the best shape of his life, as he prepares for a full season as a wing player. 

Part of Parker's preparation was a great pickup game in downtown Chicago organized by the Chicago Basketball Club.

For Bulls fans itching to get a look at Parker on the court, the video shows off some flashy passing ability, impressive handles and a flurry of pull-up jumpers from the 23-year old forward. He also finishes well in transition in the video, though that is to be taken with a grain of salt as Parker was easily the biggest player on the court. 

Other players in the pickup game included former Simeon teammate of Parker's, Kendrick Nunn; and NBA free agent and former Marion Catholic star Tyler Ulis (a possible Bulls target?). If Parker looks as dynamic against NBA competition as he did in the pickup game below, the Bulls are going to have one of the more valuable contracts in the league in 2020, and would be likely to lock up Parker to a long-term deal.