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Carmelo: Chicago is a top three NBA destination

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Carmelo: Chicago is a top three NBA destination

Monday, Nov. 8, 2010
3:09 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Give Carmelo Anthony credit. He didn't completely duck the issue. Surrounded by a swarm of local media Monday morning after Denver's shootaround at Moody Bible Institute, the Nuggets superstar deftly handled questions about his future with his present team, as well as his thoughts on Chicago.

"Maybe if I was a free agent, I would let my mind wander, but I can't do that right now, so I've got to focus on being a Nugget, playing Nuggets basketball. It wouldn't be right if I let my mind wander and think about if I was here in Chicago," said Anthony after the Nuggets shootaround Monday at Moody Bible Institute. "Of course, it's one of the top cities. You want to know a number? Top three."

"Anybody--I don't want to say this the wrong way--but anybody would love to play with a guy like Derrick Rose. A young point guard--young star--gets the ball up and down the court, who's improved his game every year," he added. "You've got a young big man in Joakim Noah. You've got Carlos Boozer, who right now is hurt. But they've got a good team right now."

"They're playing fast. They're playing good right now. I know they've got Boozer hurt; he's supposed to be coming back soon. Derrick Rose is having an outstanding start of the season right now. I'm sure they're excited to be playing for Coach Tom Thibodeau."

Most obviously missing in that equation is Anthony's opinion of Luol Deng, who just happens to play the same position. Anthony characterized Deng as a "hard worker" and a "defender," but a combination of logic and reading between the lines would give the impression that he wouldn't expect Deng to be a member of the Bulls if Chicago became his new residence.

"I am on the opposing team, so I'm pretty sure they won't cheer for me too much, but we'll see. I'm not looking forward to that, though," said Anthony about his prediction on how the United Center crowd receives him Monday evening. "I'm not a real big egotistical type of guy, but it's always good to know that people want you and people would love for you to represent their city, so that was a plus to all the rumors and all the talk that's going on this summer, to know that a city and the fans in that city would want me to represent that."

With the start Denver has gotten off to this season and a positive vibe around the team--no doubt aided by the return to the sidelines of head coach George Karl after his second bout with cancer--Anthony didn't want too much focus to be on his personal situation instead of the team.

"Once I'm inside these walls, it's all about basketball...anything that's being said outside these walls, it is what it is," said Anthony. "Of course what MJ brought to the city, just the city itself--being a big city--the fans out here and just the historic value of basketball here."

"I'm not even thinking about business right now. I'm all about basketball right now, at this very moment," continued Anthony, who indicated that he'd give more consideration to signing the three-year, 65-million contract extension Denver offered if the Nuggets were contenders once again. "Once I came in for media day and sat the team down and told them, 'look, regardless of what's being said, we're here to play basketball. we're going to focus on what's going on right now, which is winning basketball games,' I think everybody locked in after that."

"I wanted to let them know that regardless of what's being said out there, I'm with you guys right now."

For Denver head coach George Karl's part, he's treating his star player no differently than before. With his return to health--Karl is noticeably slimmer, but no less charismatic--he plans to try to get Denver back to the contending ways they experienced two seasons ago, when they put a significant scare into the eventual champion Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. If that occurs, Anthony would have to be a big reason.

"Anthony has been great. I only deal with him basically about basketball. He's had a great camp, he's worked hard. He probably isn't 100 percent on having good practices, but he's been pretty close," said Karl. "You see him play in the games--we're 4-2 with a lot of injuries--so, when you have injuries, the responsibility of winning a game falls on your big-time players a lot more."

A source familiar with Anthony's situation--as well as last season's similar circus surrounding LeBron James--confirmed to CSNChicago.com that not only is Anthony handling the constant speculation better than James did, but he's focused on the Nuggets achieving as much team success while he remains in Denver, however long that happens to be.

"He's a load. He scores so many different ways. That's what I think makes him so hard to guard. He can really shoot the ball, he's very effective in the pick-and-roll, he can post up, he's unselfish, he's very dangerous in transition. He just puts a lot of pressure on your defense," said Thibodeau about Anthony after Sunday's Bulls practice. "For every 100 trades that gets talked about, one happens--maybe not even one--so it's all part of the business. I don't think you even worry about it. You always hear different things. Trades are part of the game. Just focus on what you need to do here."

While they may or may not ever join sides, it seems that both Thibodeau and Anthony have similar-minded approaches to the speculation engulfing the superstar's situation.

"I want the team to do well, so that's why I go out there and do what I've got to do, get everybody on the same page so we can win basketball games. I think my attitude would be totally different if I was here and we were 0-6 right now," said Anthony. "I'm in a good state right now. We're winning basketball games and I'm happy."

Still, he can't stop a city's collective mind from wandering.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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.

New-look Mavs looking to make big jump this season

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USA TODAY

New-look Mavs looking to make big jump this season

Outspoken Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban conceded his team was playing for draft lottery position last season, but insisted it would be a one year only strategy.

Dallas finished tied for the league’s third worst record, but fell to fifth after the lottery.

So, Cuban and the Mavs’ front office decided to make a bold move on draft night, trading their 2019 first round pick to Atlanta to move up two spots for a chance to select international sensation Luka Doncic.

Early in the season, Doncic has more than lived up to the hype, showing the creativity and flair that made him such a fan favorite on the European professional circuit. Through the Mavs’ first two games, Doncic is averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3.5 assists while giving Rick Carlisle’s team a much-needed boost in transition.

Doncic and second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr. will give opposing teams nightmares in the open court all season long. They led the offensive onslaught in the Mavs’ 140-136 win over Minnesota Saturday night, combining for 45 points. Doncic finished with 26 points, while Smith scored 10 of his 19 in the 4th quarter, including a tie-breaking three-point play with six seconds left.

Veteran swing-man Wesley Matthews added 19 against the Timberwolves, and his 3 point shooting helps the Mavs maintain floor balance in half-court sets.

The Mavs also strengthened their front court in the off-season, signing veteran center DeAndre Jordan in free agency. Dallas was overmatched in the middle last season, with future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Powell giving up size in the post, but Jordan will provide rim protection and an alley-oop threat when Doncic, Smith Jr. or veteran point guard J.J. Barea drive to the basket. Jordan had a big game in the home opening win over Minnesota, scoring 22 points, pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking 5 shots.

Nowitzki, starting small forward Harrison Barnes and backup guard Devin Harris all missed Saturday’s game because of injuries, but Barnes and Harris are considered game-time decisions against the Bulls.

Here’s what the Bulls will need to do to get their first victory of the season Monday night.

1. GET BACK ON DEFENSE! Doncic and Smith Jr. are deadly in the open court, capable of making spectacular plays to bring the home crowd to life. The Bulls’ players have to sprint back on defense after missed shots to cut off transition opportunities, or it’s going to be a long night. The Mavs are averaging 128 points through the first two games.

2. CLOSE OUT ON 3-POINT SHOOTERS This will be a familiar theme in my keys until the Bulls start doing a better job of matching up in transition and closing out on three point threats. Detroit’s win at the United Center on Saturday came down to the Pistons’ 18-40 shooting from three-point range, and Dallas has even more players capable of doing damage from beyond the arc.

3. LET DUNN DO IT Getting Kris Dunn back from paternity leave should make a big difference on both ends of the court. Dunn has the athleticism and physicality to match up with either Doncic or Smith Jr., and his defensive skills will be critical in keeping the Mavs from turning this game into a track meet.

On the offensive end, Dunn need to be patient and get the ball into the hands of the Bulls’ top scorers, Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis. Even though Fred Hoiberg wants his team to play at a fast pace, they’ll need to pick their spots on when to run against the explosive Mavs.

As always, turn to NBC Sports Chicago for the very best pre and post-game coverage. Kendall Gill and Will Perdue join me for Bulls Pregame Live at 7 p.m/, and we’ll have expanded post-game analysis when the action goes final in Dallas. You can also stream the shows live on the brand new My Teams by NBC Sports app.

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

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USA TODAY

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”