Bulls

Cavaliers stand behind ailing Irving: 'The kid is a warrior'

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Cavaliers stand behind ailing Irving: 'The kid is a warrior'

Struggling to get any kind of acceleration that has made him one of the game's elite, Kyrie Irving went to a few of his teammates during Sunday's Game 4 and asked if they wanted him to continue playing through a strained right foot. Irving had been a shell of his healthy self most of the afternoon, connecting on just 1 of 8 field goals and handing out one assist in 21 first-half minutes. He had been relegated to guarding the Bulls' smallest offensive threat on the floor, at times Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell or Kirk Hinrich. Lingering through the pain, Irving wasn't sure if he was helping or hurting the Cavaliers, who trailed by as many as 11 late in the third quarter.

Forward Tristan Thompson wasn't one of the players Irving consulted, but what his response would have been was also the consensus in the Cleveland locker room.

"I’d tell him, 'Are you crazy? Get your butt out there, boy. You’re one of the best on the court. You gotta be out there. We need you out there,'" he said. "He knows he could never ask me that because I’d look at him like he’s crazy. He gets it done."

[RELATED: JR Smith answers Cavs' call in '9-1-1 situation']

Irving did gut out another performance, playing 41 minutes in the Cavaliers' 86-84 victory that tied the series at two games apiece. It was the second straight game in which Irving has dealt with the foot strain he suffered against the Celtics in Round 1 and that was aggravated in the opening minutes of Game 3 on Friday. His final numbers were pedestrian, at best, finishing with 12 points, four rebounds and two assists. But he played, and though he wasn't able to replicate his performances from Games 1 and 2 the boost he gave his team was instrumental in the win.

"I definitely always want him out there if he can go," said Iman Shumpert, who's dealing with a groin injury of his own. "We’ll be hurt after the season. Right now we’ve got to get wins."

It was clear from the onset that Irving was still dealing with the injury, as he missed his first five shots and rarely matched up with Rose on the defensive end. His lone field goal in the first half came on a botched play from LeBron James, who found Irving on the right baseline for a 10-foot jumper. But Irving stayed aggressiveness enough to earn eight trips to the free-throw line in that first half, connecting on all of them.

He didn't attempt a shot in the fourth quarter, allowing both J.R. Smith and James do the heavy lifting on the offensive end, yet still gutted out 11 minutes in the final stanza. His +7 rating was tied for best on the team, and he also added two steals playing as much help defense as he could.

"It’s a little frustrating, but playing with my brothers and winning a big game like this makes my effort for me - it goes right out the window. I’m going to go out there and compete, space out people as much as possible, make plays when the ball’s in my hands, or go screen or get a couple steals or rebounds,"he said. "So whatever’s needed I can do. I’m going to will myself to do it and I’m just glad the guys still want me out there, even if I’m not 100 percent."

[MORE: LeBron's buzzer-beater evens series with Bulls]

And though the Cavaliers regained home court advantage heading back to Cleveland for Game 5, they'll need more from Irving to earn two more wins. James has been inefficient taking on more of a shooting load in the series, with his 10-for-30 performance Sunday putting him at 37.7 percent shooting on 106 attempts for the series.

Irving will continue to play through the injury, with JR Smith admitting after the game "him at 60 percent is better than most point guards in the league at 100 (percent)." It's tough to find a scenario where Irving can't complement James in the scoring/distributing department and the Cavaliers winning the series. It happened Sunday, thanks in large part to Smith's shooting and James' last-second heroics.

Yet for an afternoon, Irving's presence was enough for the Cavs to steal a win in Chicago, where the Bulls had won 12 of their last 14 games.

"The kid is a warrior," James said. "Just his presence on the floor, no matter if he’s playing on one foot or not you have to account for him because of his ability to make shots, his ability to command things out on the floor. And it goes a long way. It’s not just about basketball, what this kid is doing for our team. And he’s giving us everything that he’s got, and that’s all we can ask for."

Zach LaVine’s parents surprised him with an amazing gift this offseason

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USA TODAY

Zach LaVine’s parents surprised him with an amazing gift this offseason

Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine has had a great and busy offseason. He had some grueling workouts with his father, supported his teammates during NBA Summer League and even took some batting practice with former NL MVP Kris Bryant. But the best part of LaVine’s busy offseason was a very, very cool gift from his parents. 

LaVine’s mom and dad gifted him a 1968 Pontiac LeMans, a rare and very collectible vehicle.

Bulls fans were first exposed to LaVine’s love of classic cars last season when he discussed his infatuation with the stable of classic vehicles owned by Jabari Parker

With his ‘68 Pontiac LeMans now in tow, LaVine is well on his way to amassing his own impressive collection. He has a reputation in league circles for being an extremely hard worker already but there is no doubt that this awesome gift from his parents will serve as a little extra motivation as the 2019-20 season nears. 

Bulls Talk Podcast: Bulls Summer League recap with Ricky O’Donnell

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Bulls Summer League recap with Ricky O’Donnell

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski and Kevin Anderson are joined by SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell

0:50        Ricky on his Top 11 players from NBA Summer League story and why Coby White was 11th

2:45        Realistic expectations for White next season

3:40        Will Kris Dunn be on opening night roster?

4:55        Mark disagrees with Ricky on where White will be in the rotation

7:10        On Chandler Hutchison and his role

9:50        Could LaVine see minutes at the small forward spot?

11:00     On Daniel Gafford and his summer league performance

15:20     On Bulls 2019-20 win total over/under at 30.5

16:55     Which team in the East can the Bulls overtake and make the playoffs?

22:00     Going over the western conference and which teams have realistic championship potential

                Editor’s note: Kevin stated he thinks Portland has the best healthy backcourt in the NBA right now completely forgetting about Russ and Harden. He regrets the error.

29:30     The short list of contenders in the East

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: