Bulls

Cleveland dinner between Gasol, Gibson leads to more vocal Taj

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Cleveland dinner between Gasol, Gibson leads to more vocal Taj

It’s no secret the Bulls have been lacking a certain kind of vocal leadership through this tumultuous stretch, and the team has been begging for someone to take the mantle in some way as a galvanizing force.

Enter Taj Gibson, who admitted he’d already reached his breaking point of frustration long ago. Before the Bulls’ loss to the Cavaliers on Thursday night, Gibson and teammate Pau Gasol dined together in Cleveland, discussing things, charting a course of how they want these last 30 games or so to go.

“We had dinner, we talked. Pau is a guy you talk to and you ask what you can do better, how you can help the team,” Gibson told CSNChicago.com while leaving the locker room. “Think about it: Him and Kobe (Bryant) went to dinner and hung out all the time. I’m just soaking it up.”

Teammates have said Gibson, Gasol and Derrick Rose have been more vocal through this slide, but Gasol could notice Gibson getting more frustrated with his teammates and the state of affairs.

“I took him out, bought him dinner in Cleveland,” Gasol said to CSNChicago.com “Trying to do my job as a veteran on this team, as an NBA champion, share my experience and lead in the right direction.”

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Gibson has watched Joakim Noah and Nazr Mohammed take turns being the vocal player in the locker room. He admits it’s not natural but said when he saw Miami Heat All-Star Chris Bosh uncharacteristically going off on teammates in a game in Chicago last month, he could see that being himself not too long after.

“Losing so much. Seeing how Chris Bosh was cursing them out so much, during the game, ‘Get the bleep over there,'” Gibson said. “He snapped on Gerald Green for not getting somewhere. The coaching staff said, ‘He’s tired of losing! That’s how we gotta be!’”

The feeling hit him in that moment, though it took a few weeks for it to manifest itself as the Bulls dipped closer and closer back to the .500 mark, dangerously close to missing the postseason party.

“I sit there and listen to (Gasol) talk. He talks to Doug (McDermott), he talks to Bobby (Portis),” Gibson said.

E’Twaun Moore chimed in with a smile: “He talks to me.”

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“He talks about championships, it’s something you have to listen to. It’s important right now,” Gibson said. “I’m comfortable with it. I have no choice, I have no choice brother. I want to win, I want to win.”

Gasol has tried to keep a cool head about things, and one would have to admit the two players who’ve been on the trading block for the past week or so, bonding about the investment they feel to the locker room.

“Yeah. It has been frustrating, no question about it,” Gasol said. “When you lose so much 12 of 14 or 15, it should be. It has to hurt. But what are you gonna do about it? We’re just trying to work, continue to work, keep it together and take care of home.”

Gibson has usually been the quiet type, but with all the up and down personalities on the roster, he’s likely someone Fred Hoiberg can count on if he needs a lieutenant in the locker room.

For his part, Gibson doesn’t care about being the bad guy.

“Nope. Because they understand it and respect what I said,” Gibson said. “I’m tired of it.”

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

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USA TODAY

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

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Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.