Bulls

Carmelo's buzzer-beater spoils Bulls comeback

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Carmelo's buzzer-beater spoils Bulls comeback

Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010
Updated 12:51 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

DENVER -- A valiant comeback effort by a short-handed Bulls (8-6) team went in vain, as the Nuggets (9-6) survived Chicago's second-half rally and knocked off the Pepsi Center guests, 98-97, on a Carmelo Anthony (22 points, eight assists, six rebounds) buzzer-beating jumper with no time remaining.

The heroic shot by Anthony spoiled backup point guard C.J. Watson's season-high 33-point outing in place of an injured Derrick Rose and a guarantee of a winning record on the dreaded seven-game circus trip.

It's as if the Bulls believed the 25-6 hole they were in at the outset of Wednesday's double-overtime win wasn't enough of a challenge, with the Nuggets scoring the game's first 11 points on a variety of uncontested jumpers and lightly-contested drives, leading to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau benching power forward Taj Gibson -- who missed Wednesday's game due to a sore right ankle -- for the remainder of the half; the same scenario would play out at the outset of third quarter.

"Gibson is fine. His timing's off. He hasn't practiced in quite a while, so now he's got to work at getting his timing back. They Denver play small and spread you out," added Thibodeau. "You've got to have quick feet out there and you've got to be able to make multiple efforts. We started off the game slowly, we started off the third quarter slowly, so we had to get more energy into the game."

"I'm just a little rusty after sitting out the last game. That's all," Gibson would say later. "He just told me he wanted me to play a little harder. Don't worry about my foot, just play a little harder."

Meanwhile, the visitors were just as futile on offense, going 0-for-4 from the field and turning the ball over twice on their first six possessions.

Obviously missing Rose -- out for the contest due to a neck injury -- hurt the Bulls, but their normally stout defense was nowhere to be found, as Denver center Nene (18 points, seven rebounds, two blocked shots) abused them for 10 quick points, leading to Thibodeau calling timeout and inserting rookie center Omer Asik.

Watson was aggressive in looking for his shot in the opening quarter, as was Luol Deng (24 points, 11 rebounds), the player most responsible for picking up the team's scoring load in the absence of their All-Star. While Deng struggled to find his touch, Watson was more effective, scoring 10 points in helping the Bulls close the period down, 25-20.

Second-year forward James Johnson -- likely given an opportunity because of the team being short-handed and regard of him as an "energy guy" -- saw early minutes, as did recently-acquired point guard John Lucas III, who was signed by the Bulls the same afternoon and flew directly from Houston to Denver to meet the team, who was familiar with him from his training camp and preseason stint this fall.

Chicago's offensive woes continued, as the Nuggets packed in their defense and forced the Bulls into difficult, contested and ultimately errant shots.

A lack of offensive flow was evident, but Chicago somehow managed to stay within relatively close contact, 48-38 at the half, as Joakim Noah (17 points, 16 rebounds) was able to get it going before intermission.

Duplicating their uninspired effort to start the contest, the Bulls were held scoreless for the first two minutes of the third quarter, during which Denver scored eight points.

Forced to play catch-up, Chicago relied on Deng -- who hit seven straight shots after a 1-for-7 start -- to help bring them back, and the small forward responded with more aggressive offensive play to help gradually slice into the now double-digit deficit.

"I don't have an answer for that the team's slow start at the beginning of each half," said Deng. "It's something that we have to do better. We noticed it."

"Our start wasn't that great and the start of the third quarter was pretty bad like usual, so we've got to work on that," added Watson. "If we get that taken care of, we probably would have won the game."

"Low energy," echoed Noah. "We're playing well in spurts, but not for 48 minutes."

A beautiful, back-and-forth fast-break sequence between Deng and Noah -- with Noah finishing an alley-oop pass from Deng, plus the foul -- resulted in a Nuggets timeout.

Solid play from Watson, Deng and Noah -- the latter pair each picked up their fourth foul late in the period -- aided Chicago in cutting the home team's winning margin to just three points -- following an extended 21-7 run over approximately seven minutes -- 76-73, through three quarters of play.

Ragged play to begin the final stanza -- in which Thibodeau elected to keep Noah in the game; Deng would soon join him -- yielded little in the tightly-knit contest, although both squads were a tad more offensively proficient.

The aforementioned trio of Watson, Deng and Noah continued to propel Chicago's offense, while the balanced Nuggets received production from a variety of sources on a relatively quiet night from superstar Carmelo Anthony.

A Watson jumper tied the game for the first time since the game started and sharpshooter Kyle Korver -- struggling through a 2-for-12 shooting night -- gave the Bulls their first lead, 85-82, on a 3-pointer with 6:03 to play.

Denver had no answer for Watson's blend of quick drives and finishes at the basket with degree-of-difficulty outside jumpers, as the offensive-minded backup point guard used his opportunity for extended minutes to showcase his scoring game.

"Just go out there and be aggressive. Try to find my teammates, try to get some easy buckets and just go out there and try to get the win," Watson said of his mindset in replacing Rose for the evening. "Starting and playing extended minutes makes it a lot easier getting into a rhythm.

"I had some turnovers early that I wasn't proud of, but I played well, tried to keep my teammates in it and come out with the win. But it didn't work like that," he continued. "Watson was just doing whatever it takes to win until he gets back. Just trying to hold the fort down."

"C.J. played a great game," concurred Thibodeau. "He ran the team, he scored, played tough defense. He did a great job."

"That's the way C.J. plays. We tell him to play the same way -- we told him to play aggressive; he came out and played aggressive," Rose, who received treatment on his injured neck in the training room during the game, told CSNChicago.com. "That's how he plays in practice. It wasn't a surprise to us. We knew that he was going to play good."

Chicago relinquished its tenuous hold on the lead with approximately three minutes to play on a coast-to-coast driving layup by Anthony. However, the Bulls didn't wilt and a Watson runner with a minute to play put them up, 95-94.

After a Bulls defensive stop, the Las Vegas native cashed in yet again, this time finishing acrobatically at the rim to give the visitors a three-point lead, 97-94.

"If they Denver were showing on the pick-and-roll play Chicago ran, I'd pop it back to Jo or Lu," explained Watson of his thought process on the play. "If not, just try to drive to the basket and get the foul or get the basket."

Following a pair of Anthony free throws to make it a one-point game, Chicago played keep-away until Lucas was fouled with 12.9 seconds to go. In his first regular-season game with the Bulls, the point guard missed both of his attempts, giving the Nuggets another chance with 12.6 left and the score 97-96.

"I knew they weren't going to foul initially. I felt they were going to trap and try to make us pass the ball around, so I wanted guys who could make plays," said Thibodeau, who told reporters he inserted Lucas into the contest at that late juncture in part for his free-throw shooting prowess. "Didn't work out."

"Coach put him in and Coach has faith in him, so I know Coach trusts him in that situation. He just didn't make them and that's how the ball falls sometimes," said Watson, who said Thibodeau indicated he had no preference of players who got to the line on the possession. "They Denver were trying to get a steal instead of fouling right away because there was only one possession."

"It's part of the game and everybody's been in that situation before," added Noah about Lucas. "I'm confident that the next time he'll make it."

On the next possession, Anthony missed a contested fall-away shot, but the rebound bounced off a Chicago player to allow Denver a final attempt with four seconds on the clock.

"You've got to come up with it," said a frustrated Thibodeau. "The game's on the line."

"It was a lot of holding and grabbing," chimed in Watson. "I think we had a chance to get the ball, but we didn't get the ball, so there's nothing to talk about."

Off a baseline inbounds under the Bulls' basket, Anthony caught the ball on the right wing and drilled a mid-range jumper with no time on the clock for the final score.

"Anthony was in a crowd. We wanted to play him one-on-one, take his airspace, make him shoot over the top, but he hit a big shot. The big problem was not coming up with the loose ball on the prior possession," explained Thibodeau of the final sequence, in which he elected not to double team Anthony. "Depends on where the ball is and who has it and situation, but they've got a lot of shooting on the floor. We're not going to let someone drive it to the basket. We're going to get the ball out of their hands."

"When he shot the ball, I thought I contested it well. Not for one second did I think it was going in," said Deng, who guarded Anthony for the majority of the game, including the game-winning shot. "He was catching it at the 3-point line. He's all the way away from the basket and we stopped him the play before. We just couldn't come up with the ball. He just hit a tough shot."

Moving forward, the Bulls still have a chance to finish with a winning record on this brutal seven-game stretch with a win Saturday at Sacramento.

"We're looking forward to tomorrow. We play 'Sac,' then we go home," Rose told CSNChicago.com. "I was getting massaged the whole game and tomorrow, we'll see how it is, but I've got to play."

"We'll bounce back. It's a long season. Disappointed we lost the game that we feel we should have won. It's a lot of little things at the end of the game we could have done better. It hurts, but we've got to play tomorrow. We've got to bounce back and try to get that win," said Deng. "From the start of the year, we said that we feel like we've got a deep team. We believe that. We went out there tonight, we played hard and we put ourselves in a position to win the game. There's a few things that we've got to do better and a good player hit a tough shot.

"We're a resilient team," concluded Noah. "Games like this, they come down to a possession and it hurts because we know we should have won."

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.

So you want the Bulls to trade up in the NBA Draft? Here's what it costs

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AP

So you want the Bulls to trade up in the NBA Draft? Here's what it costs

NBA Draft capital is incredibly expensive these days.

It's never been cheap, but the cost up moving up continues to cost teams a pretty penny without a surefire promise of return on their investment. This proves to be incredibly risky when considering trading in the top 5.

One year ago the Dallas Mavericks, who were picking fifth, wanted Slovenian point guard Luka Doncic. Knowing the Atlanta Hawks were eyeing a point guard, they put together a package that included the No. 5 pick and a top-5 protected first round pick the following season in order to move up two spots. It was a steep price, as the Mavericks wound up with the No. 10 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft that will convey to Atlanta.

Consider two seasons ago, when the Philadelphia 76ers traded the No. 3 pick and the Kings' 2019 first-round pick to move up to No. 1. That Sacramento pick wound up being the No. 14 selection thanks to the Kings' surprise season out West, but at the time it was an incredibly valuable asset that many thought would yield a top-10 pick. The Sixers drafted Markelle Fultz while the Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum. Two years later, Tatum looks like a budding star while the Sixers traded Fultz and his bag of issues to the Magic in February.

In 2009, the Timberwolves traded two key rotation pieces to the Wizards for the No. 5 pick. In hindsight, trading Randy Foye and Mike Miller for a top-5 selection doesn't seem like a lot. But consider that Foye was a 25-year-old coming off a 16.3-point season, while Miller was a 28-year-old with a career mark of 40.1% from beyond the arc and averages of 13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists to his name. The price to move up to No. 5 and draft Ricky Rubio - which they did a day later - was steep.

In 2005, the Utah Jazz held the sixth pick in the draft but desperately wanted to move up to get Illinois point guard Deron Williams. On draft night, they sent the No. 6 pick, the No. 27 pick and a future first round pick (Detroit's in 2006, which wound up being No. 30) to move up three spots to No. 3. They were able to grab Williams, and the rest is history.

So if we take out the 2009 trade that didn't include any picks, here's the history of trades involving top 5 picks:

Get: No. 3 overall
Give: No. 5 overall, No. 10 overall the following season

Get: No. 1 overall
Give: No. 3 overall, No. 14 overall the following season

Get: No. 3 overall
Give: No. 6 overall, No. 27 overall, No. 30 the following season

It's not cheap. And as we can see, the cost to move up is getting pricier. The 2019 NBA Draft won't be any different. We know that picks Nos. 1 and 2 are off the table. The New Orleans Pelicans will select Duke's Zion Williamson and the Memphis Grizzlies will follow a few minutes later by taking Murray State point guard Ja Morant. It's also pretty safe to say that the New York Knicks will draft Duke's R.J. Barrett with the third pick.

It gets pretty fuzzy after that. Picks 4-14 are all pretty much in the same tier, to the point that including assets to move up in a class that will be a major dice roll would be tough to justify. Then again, maybe the price to move up to No. 4 or 5 isn't as substantial because there isn't a sure fire player the other team would be giving up by moving back in the first round. In 2005, it was obvious the Jazz were going hard after Williams or Wake Forest's Chris Paul. The Sixers wanted to move up to No. 1 to get Markelle Fultz, who as funny as it seems now, was the consensus top pick. And the Mavericks were clearly eyeing Luka Doncic after the Kings passed on him for Duke's Marvin Bagley.

This time around? It's tough to say. The Bulls need a point guard in the worst way and Vanderbilt's Darius Garland will likely be gone before the Bulls pick at No. 7. It'd behoove the Bulls to jump in front of Phoenix at No. 6; the Suns have similar needs to the Bulls and are in similar situations as far as their respective rebuild goes. But the Bulls aren't once piece away from contending, and none of the players they would go target at No. 4 or 5 would really move the needle next season. That's critical, because they'd almost certainly be including next year's first-round pick in any deal (let's be real and say Kris Dunn's trade value is essentially zilch). If the Bulls were to attach even a heavily protected first round pick, they'd need to be certain they were going to have on-court improvement in the coming years. This is still a team that won 22 games a season ago.

It's too early in the pre-draft process to consider which teams may move back, and who teams trying to move up would want to target. That will happen in the coming weeks. For now, just realize that moving up in the draft costs a whole lot, and you'd better hit on the pick if you're going to give up assets during a rebuild.

NBA Draft: Cam Reddish out to prove doubters, show he's a total package

NBA Draft: Cam Reddish out to prove doubters, show he's a total package

It's never easy being the third wheel. Ask Chris Bosh and Kevin Love, or more currently Klay Thompson. When Cam Reddish signed his Letter of Intent to play for Coach K at Duke, he was joined by a class that included RJ. Barrett and Cam Reddish. He and Barrett were expected to take on the scoring load and lead a freshman-driven Blue Devils team.

But two months after Reddish, Barrett and Jones signed on officially, Zion Williamson committed to Duke and turned everything on its head. On paper, it made the Blue Devils the No. 1 team in the country. It gave them a fourth five-star prospect and arguably the best player in the country. We all know what happened with Williamson; he turned in one of the greatest seasons in college basketball history and will be selected first overall by the Pelicans in a month. Barrett was excellent, too. The oft-criticized wing was an All-American, led the Blue Devils in scoring and cemented his status as a top-3 pick.

Reddish's freshman campaign couldn't have gone more differently. He was inconsistent throughout, finishing his lone season in Durham averaging 13.5 points on 35.6% shooting and just 33.3% from beyond the arc. Even his 3.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists were a far cry from what was expected of a recruit many had ranked ahead of Williamson when the season began. He showed flashes, to be sure, like his 22-point effort against Kentucky, his game-winner at Florida State and his 27-point outing against North Carolina in the infamous Zion-shoe-blowout game. But those flashes weren't enough to save a subpar season that saw his draft stock tumble throughout the fall and winter.

Then again, Reddish was the third option behind two of the most profilic scorers in the country. Barrett had a 32.2% usage rate - 25th highest in the country - and Williamson was a focal point every night he stepped on the floor. In a sense that should have created more open looks for Reddish as defenses keyed in on those two, but in reality it limited his opportunities and made it difficult for him to project at how he would be used on game-by-game basis.

Reddit wasn't making any excuses for his poor season when he spoke to the media on Thursday at the NBA Draft Combine. But he did say he's looking forward to opportunities in the pre-draft process to show off his entire arsenal that made him a top-5 prospect and a potential top NBA pick coming out of high school.

"I feel like I can do everything. I feel like I was more of a shooter this year (at Duke). I don’t really want to think of myself as a shooter," he said. "So I feel like if I just go out there and play my game, I can do a variety of things."

Two key statistics back up Reddish's claim. First, he was excellent on off-the-dribble jump shots, averaging 0.903 points per possession on 62 attempts. That ranked in the 71st percentile nationally. He also dominated in the small sample size of pick-and-roll actions he induced, averaging 1.114 points per possession (91st percentile nationally). It lends credibility to the notion that Reddish is capable with the ball in his hands. Reddish's usage rate was 15th in the ACC, so it's not as though he never touched the ball. But between the Williamson/Barrett combination and the lead point guard in Jones, he was rarely the main (or second) option.

Playing off the ball was certainly new to Reddish, who like so many NBA prospects deal with a new role in not being the go-to scorer once they arrive in the Association. Reddish got a dose of that as a college freshman and struggled to adjust. He was unguarded on 45 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts and yet ranked in just the 27th percentile nationally at 0.847 points per possession. Worse, he was in the 33rd percentile on spot-up jumpers on 193 possessions. The looks were there. He rarely knocked them down. He also shot just 51 percent at the rim, a troubling number, and that statistic includes freebies in transition that Duke thrived on during the season.

On talent and potential alone, Reddish is still a top-10 pick. He told reporters Thursday that he's hearing he'll fall somewhere in the 3 to 10 range, which sounds about right (though it'd be a shock to see him go before Barrett at No. 3). He still has prototypical NBA wing size - he measured 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-0.5 wingspan - and is an above average ball handler. But there's no denying his good traits combined with his poor showing at Duke make him a swing-for-the-fences, boom-or-bust pick.

For the Bulls, it might be time to pull the trigger on that kind of player. Both Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. fell into their laps at No. 7 the previous two seasons - that's not to say they shouldn't be applauded for the picks, just that they were expected. But in this year's draft class, players in the 4-14 range all fall into a similar tier. In the Lottery, there will be safe routes to take (De'Andre Hunter, Rui Hachimura), selections for need (Darius Garland, Coby White) and there will be high-risk, high-reward options (Reddish, Sekou Doumbouya, Jarrett Culver).

But the Bulls could do worse than coming out of this year's draft with a player who 7 shorts months ago was a potential pick to go No. 1. He'd have lower expectations playing on a second unit and could spread his wings a little behind Zach LaVine and Otto Porter. Having that freedom on a second unit could be what unlocks that untapped potential that was missing at Duke a year ago.