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Carter-Williams steals the spotlight from Rose, Bulls

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Carter-Williams steals the spotlight from Rose, Bulls

Through four games Michael Carter-Williams had been the other guard in the first round playoff series between the Bucks and Bulls.

Storylines, both positive and negative, revolved around Derrick Rose's play in his first postseason appearance in more than three years. The former MVP scored 23 points in Game 1, nearly triple-doubled in Game 2, added a season-high 34 points in Game 3 before committing eight costly turnovers in a Game 4 loss. He, the measuring stick for a Bulls team with championship aspirations, garnered the attention. And heading into a Game 5, the spotlight again was on Rose to close the series out at home and set up a date with LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Instead, it was Carter-Williams who stole the show, earning himself a spot at the postgame podium after handily winning his individual matchup with Rose and helping the Bucks stave off elimination in a 94-88 win in Game 5. Carter-Williams scored 22 points on 10-for-15 shooting, added eight rebounds and nine assists and played stifling defense on Rose and Jimmy Butler in a team-high 38 minutes.

"He looked good, like a veteran point guard," said OJ Mayo. "He really kept his poise, quarterback’d the team, made sure that we understood what we were doing on both ends of the floor. He played like an All-Star point guard tonight."

Carter-Williams was the aggressor from the opening tip, scoring on a layup on the game's first possession, the first of what became a 9-0 run for the Bucks to open the contest. Twice more in the opening frame Carter-Williams attacked Rose and finished inside. It became a trend for the night, the Bucks staying a step ahead of the Bulls' pick-and-roll defense, living in the paint and beating rotations with better ball movement and spacing. All 10 of Carter-Williams' field goal makes came in the paint, with the Bucks scoring nearly half of their 94 points as a team inside.

[RELATED: Bulls still can't close out Bucks at home]

A sprained right ankle forced him to the locker room in the opening minutes of the third quarter but he managed to return at the 2:54 mark of the period and didn't sit the rest of the night. It's when he did his best work, too, scoring eight points and handing out a pair of assists in the final stanza. His most impressive sequence came after the Bulls had used a quick 6-0 run to pull within three points at the 4:45 mark. Carter-Williams calmly cut left, received a pass from Mayo and hoisted a floating bank shot in over Rose to quiet the United Center crowd. The next trip down he blocked Jimmy Butler - one of the eight Bucks blocks in the final 12 minutes - and fed John Henson on a beautiful baseline bounce pass for a layup that pushed the lead back to eight with 3 minutes to play.

"I was just trying to get in the lane and find the open guy," he said after the game. "I was just being patient and that opened up the lane a little bit and I was able to score."

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Carter-Williams' offensive aggressiveness was a welcome sign after he had averaged 12.0 points on 39 percent shooting in the first four games, but he made his mark defensively. Kidd has preached the entire series that the Bucks would be as successful as their defense allowed them to be, and on Monday night it was Carter-Williams leading the charger.

He was credited with three blocks and one steal, but his pressure was felt throughout. Rose shot 5-for-20 and the Bulls committed 13 more turnovers, bringing their five-game total to 89 giveaways. Carter-Williams switched between assignments on Rose and Jimmy Butler (5-for-21), with his 6-foot-6 length giving Kidd options to mix and match between Mayo, Bayless and and Khris Middleton at the other guard position.

It's been a turbulent few months in Milwaukee for Carter-Williams, who was acquired in a three-team deal at the trade deadline that sent All-Star caliber point guard Brandon Knight from the Brew City to Phoenix. The transaction, done with eyes on the future - Knight was a free agent at season's end - was met with scrutiny, and the Bucks struggled most of the way with Carter-Williams at the helm; the Bucks went just 10-15 in games he started after the trade, nearly falling out of the No. 6 spot in the process.

But Carter-Williams has righted the ship and has the defensive-minded Bucks back feeling confident after two straight wins. And while his team's success doesn't hinge on his individual play much like it does for Rose and the Bulls, when that other guard is showing the aggressiveness on both ends of the floor like he did Monday night, the Bucks will be in position to win. The next test is Thursday.

"If that’s what we get form him as a player every night," Henson said, "we’re going to be tough to beat."

7 WNBA players test positive for coronavirus, Indiana Fever's travel delayed

7 WNBA players test positive for coronavirus, Indiana Fever's travel delayed

The WNBA announced Monday that seven of 137 (5.1%) tested players were positive for COVID-19, and that 11 of the league's 12 teams will report to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. for its season start-up by the end of the day.

The one exception in that travel schedule is the Indiana Fever. After sustaining two positive tests in their organization, the Fever's travel will be delayed at least five days "in an abundance of caution due to the CDC’s close contact self-quarantine requirements," according to a statement from the league.

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"Any player who tested positive will remain in self-isolation until she satisfies public health protocols for discontinuing isolation and has been cleared by a physician," the statement said.

That 5.1% positive rate checks in under the NHL (5.8%) and NBA's (7.1%) most recent rounds of testing, and above MLB's (1.2%).

The WNBA's season is expected to tip off at some point in late July in a bubble environment at IMG Academy.

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NBA teams ‘impressed’ by Bulls’ front office hires, monitoring Jim Boylen decision

NBA teams ‘impressed’ by Bulls’ front office hires, monitoring Jim Boylen decision

When the NBA went dark on March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bulls got busy.

A front office overhaul that was first reported as a possibility during All-Star weekend in Chicago kicked into overdrive during the league’s hiatus with the hiring of Arturas Karnisovas as executive vice president of basketball operations and Marc Eversley as general manager, the firing of Gar Forman and the re-assigning of John Paxson to an advisory role. 

It’s the dawn of a new era in Chicago. Energy is palpable throughout the fanbase. Bulls players have expressed enthusiasm for the direction of the franchise, as well.

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And around the league, competitors have taken note. Take it from NBC Sports NBA insider Tom Haberstroh, who stopped by the Bulls Talk Podcast recently to discuss the league’s impending restart, and the state of the Bulls.

“I think it’s a brighter future,” Haberstroh said on the team’s front office changes. “I don’t think any NBA team is happy about what [the Bulls] did, because it means that their lives are going to be a lot harder to win a championship. 

“The Bulls have been in a rough spot over the last several years, just trying to rebuild after the Tom Thibodeau era, and never really quite having an identity. And I think with the change, the identity change with Arturas Karnisovas, he’s shown that he is a people person, he’s a gym rat. He hired Marc Eversley who has a really strong reputation around the league.”

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Indeed, the rebuild catalyzed by the Jimmy Butler trade (which yielded Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn) has yet to fully bloom. The Bulls are just 71-151 since the trade, and poised for a fourth consecutive top-10 draft selection after going just 22-43 in an abbreviated 2019-20 season and being left out of the NBA’s 22-team restart in Orlando, Fla. — a season which began with self-imposed playoff expectations.

That has led to widespread speculation on the future of head coach Jim Boylen. Boylen owns a 39-84 record since taking over for Fred Hoiberg 24 games into the 2018-19 season. He signed a two-year extension in May 2019, and assembled his own staff — headlined by Chris Fleming and Roy Rogers — last offseason.

Haberstroh added that those aforementioned competitors are monitoring the Bulls’ coaching situation closely. For now, as NBC Sports Chicago has reported, Karnisovas is empowering Boylen as coach of the team and withholding final judgements until he is able to observe him in the Bulls’ building and establish a relationship with him. Boylen recently participated in a Juneteenth march alongside Wendell Carter Jr. and other Bulls’ staff, and has been active checking in on players, both individually and on team Zoom calls.

“I think the big question that people around the league are wondering is ‘What is going to happen for Jim Boylen?’” Haberstroh continued. “And I think the head coaching position is going to be a canary in the coal mine for how this is going to be run going forward. 

“If Arturas or Marc believe that they need a new voice running the team and they are met with some reservations from either ownership or from elsewhere, do they have the autonomy to make that decision? Or is it going to be a situation where, ‘Hey, we don’t want to pay another head coach, we already have this deal with Jim Boylen, we don’t want to have to pay another coach to be in here.’ I think that’s going to be an indicator of how things are going to be running going forward. So it will be interesting to see. People around the league are very, very impressed (with the hires) that they’ve made. But I do think they want to see how much autonomy, in reality. They can say all they want now in press conferences, but we’ll see when push comes to shove whether they’re going to have full autonomy making decisions about not just the head coach but just everything in the organization.”

“All indications are that they’re going to have that full autonomy. But I think from around the league that is the big question mark, and they’re watching the head coaching position.”

Listen to the full conversation with Haberstroh here or via the embedded player above.

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