Bulls

Costly win for Bulls? Hard fall injures Boozer

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Costly win for Bulls? Hard fall injures Boozer

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Posted 8:30 p.m. Updated 10:48 p.m.

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Following two broken hands and a bad thumb that left them short-handed for much of the season, the Chicago Bulls finally got their core healthy and quickly became one of the most feared teams in the NBA.

WATCH: Boozer hurts ankle

Now another injury on a meaningless play at the end of a blowout win has cast more doubt about the Bulls' depth.

The sight of Carlos Boozer limping off the floor with a left ankle injury following Kwame Brown's flagrant foul considerably dimmed Chicago's 101-84 victory over the slumping and undermanned Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.

"X-ray was negative and we'll have to wait and see (Thursday) what type of swelling he has," coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Derrick Rose had 20 points and six assists, and Kyle Korver scored 12 of his 20 points in the decisive fourth quarter for the Bulls, who also got 12 points and 13 rebounds from Joakim Noah in their 11th win in 13 games.

Chicago moved within 1 12 games of Eastern Conference-leading Boston, but there was reason for concern in the locker room.

"Carlos brings a lot to this team," said Noah, who returned Feb. 23 from a thumb injury that sidelined him for 30 games. "His physicality and what he can do offensively."

Boozer, who had 10 points and seven rebounds despite early foul trouble, was going in for a layup as Chicago led by 17 points with less than 5 minutes left when Brown swiped and hit him across the chest. Boozer's left leg bent awkwardly as he tumbled to the floor.

Boozer, who missed 15 games with a broken right hand and three more with a sprained left ankle earlier this season, hobbled to the locker room and didn't return.

"This is the NBA, nobody wants to get embarrassed and nobody is going to let anybody get anything easy," said Taj Gibson, who had 14 points and would be counted on to fill in if Boozer is sidelined. "That was just a basketball play that Kwame made. It was just unfortunate that it hurt Booz in the long run."

The Bobcats, the only sub-.500 team to beat Chicago more than once this season, know all about injuries.

Gerald Henderson had 20 points and eight assists, but got little help as the Bobcats played without top scorer Stephen Jackson (hamstring), sixth man Tyrus Thomas (knee surgery), backup center Joel Przybilla (knee) and reserve guard Matt Carroll (ankle) in their sixth straight loss.

The best part about things for Charlotte is Indiana has been almost as bad of late. Its fifth straight loss Wednesday in Minnesota left the Bobcats still just a game out of the final playoff spot.

"We just kind of ran out of gas, but I thought the guys played hard and played with effort," coach Paul Silas said. "I told them if they play that way and we get our full complement of guys, then I like our chances."

Even with Charlotte having only 10 healthy bodies, it took a while for Chicago to take control.

With former Bulls star and Bobcats owner Michael Jordan sitting courtside, Henderson did a decent impersonation of his boss on a twisting reverse layup along the baseline in a third quarter that saw Charlotte take a 68-67 lead on another hoop by Henderson.

WATCH: Rose leaves Jordan amazed

Then Rose went to work with a nifty fadeaway and 3-pointer to give Chicago a 75-69 lead entering the fourth.

Korver had two big 3-pointers in Chicago's dominant fourth quarter. The first made it 84-72 with 7:13 left and the second put Chicago ahead 92-75 with under 5 minutes to go.

The Bulls shot 51 percent and held an eighth straight opponent to under 90 points as they continue to show the potential to win the East - if they can stay healthy.

"It's going to hurt us but we've still got to go out there and play the game," Rose said of the prospect Boozer could miss games. "We know that it's going to take a lot more energy, a lot more focus going to into games and people are going to have to step up. If he doesn't play, Taj did a great job when he was out."

Notes

Jordan will be in Chicago on Saturday for the 20th anniversary celebration of the Bulls' first championship. ... The Bulls improved to 18-14 on the road, earning one more victory than all of last season.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Assessing Zach LaVine's chances in race for NBA All-Star reserve spot

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USA Today

Assessing Zach LaVine's chances in race for NBA All-Star reserve spot

Zach LaVine is making his All-Star push.

In the Bulls’ past 33 contests, LaVine is averaging 28 points per game on 45.6-40.4-83.5 shooting splits, with historic performances against Charlotte (49 points, 13 3-pointers), Cleveland (44 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists; 42 points, 21 in the fourth quarter) and more. His current stat line of 25.2 points per game on 44.3% shooting, 38.8% from 3-point range and 19.7 field goal attempts per has only been achieved by once over a full season in Bulls franchise history — I’ll let you guess who did it

He's been sensational and has won the Bulls a handful of games near single-handedly. But will it all culminate in an appearance in his first career All-Star nod? That question looms over Chicago with the city set to host All-Star weekend for the first time since 1988. 

We already know LaVine won’t be a starter — that much was decided on Jan. 23, when the East’s top five of Kemba Walker, Trae Young, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pascal Siakam and Joel Embiid was announced. With the rest of the rosters set to be filled out this coming Thursday (Jan. 30), let’s take a realistic look at how LaVine stacks up against a crowded pool of candidates for seven reserve spots (which coaches will ultimately vote on):

The Locks

The guys with pretty much no chance of being excluded from the team. These are worth getting out of the way, so as to pare the competition down to who LaVine supporters should focus their attention on, and also offer a realistic look at how many spots are truly — albeit unofficially — up for grabs:

Ben Simmons, G: Simmons could have easily cracked the starting lineup, and I don’t think anyone would have complained. 16-8-8. Fifth in assists per game. League-leader in steals per game. And the Sixers are 6-3 since Joel Embiid went down in early January (30-17 overall), with wins over the Celtics and Lakers.

Khris Middleton, G: The Bucks are building an argument as one of the best regular season teams of all time with an unprecedented +12.6 point differential and +12.1 net rating. Middleton, averaging 19.4 points and 5.8 rebounds on nearly 50-40-90 splits (49.8-41.9-89.1) is far and away their second best player, and allows them to not just survive, but continue to flourish in non-Giannis minutes. Milwaukee needs two in there, and he’s their Robin.

Jimmy Butler, F: Not Butler’s best shooting season, but he brings All-Defense level intensity every night, is posting 20-7-6 averages and is the unquestioned leader of a Miami Heat team that has surged to a 32-14 record, second in the East. Book it.

Bam Adebayo, F/C: Adebayo has blossomed into a uniquely skilled two-way player this season — he’s currently second among centers in assists per game (4.8) and third in steals (1.1), while also averaging a double-double and 1.1 blocks per contest. He’s a wrecking ball down low and on the perimeter. The numbers are outstanding, yet still don’t do him justice.

The Favorites

With four of seven spots gone before you can say ‘NBA Stats’ we move on to guys that seem likely to nab a spot, but aren’t ‘stake-my-life-on-it’ level locks.

Domantas Sabonis, F/C: If you subscribe to the belief that the great and/or overachieving teams of the league need at least one selection, the Pacers, who are currently 30-17 without Victor Oladipo, certainly qualify. And Sabonis has been their best player; an offensive hub (18.1 ppg, 4.6 ast) and menace on the glass (12.8 reb) of a different era. He should almost certainly be a shoo-in.

Jayson Tatum, F: If Boston (30-15) is to get two All-Stars, Tatum’s case feels more compelling than Jaylen Brown’s. Averages of 21.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals on star volume (and respectable enough efficiency) pass the sniff test when considering the Celtics’ net rating plummets from +11.1 (112.9 ORtg; 101.8 DRtg) to -1.2 (106.3 ORtg; 107.5 DRtg) when he sits.

The Rest

Here’s where LaVine lies, and the competition remains stiff.

Kyle Lowry, G: The defending champion Raptors have hardly skipped a beat since losing Kawhi Leonard and Lowry is among the biggest reasons why. He's playing 37 minutes per game, ranks second on his team in scoring and is the unquestioned leader of a 32-14 squad that would only have one All-Star if he doesn’t make it. It hasn’t been his most efficient shooting season, but his two-way ability and all-around game (7.3 ast, 4.5 reb, 1.2 stl per) set him apart.

Malcolm Brogdon, G: Brogdon is a cool 17 and 7 every night, and a staple to that aforementioned, pleasant-surprise Pacers team. He’s a winning basketball player and is absolutely deserving (as all of these people are, frankly), but with just 33 games played this season, he’s probably a half-step below Lowry, Beal and LaVine.

Bradley Beal, G: Talk about an All-Star push — Beal is averaging 35.8 points and 6.3 assists per game on 59.6% shooting over his last four games, bringing his season averages up to 28.1 points and 6.3 assists on 45.4-31.4-84 splits. Staggering numbers. He’s on a ‘bad team’ (the Wizards are 15-30) but so is LaVine. Beal’s two prior All-Star appearances boost his cache, as well.

Derrick Rose, G: Great story. But at 26.6 minutes per game and on a 17-31 team, he simply doesn’t carry the load or impact winning like some of these guys.

Jaylen Brown, G: He’s been tremendous this season, but 41.9% shooting in January drops him a touch below Tatum as the Celtics’ No. 2. They’re probably not getting three.

Kyrie Irving/Spencer Dinwiddie, G: On here as a formality. Irving has played just 17 games this season, and despite gaudy scoring numbers, coaches likely won’t show out for him the way fans did. Dinwiddie has tapered off since a torrid start to the season — he’d be a good story, but doesn’t stack up. 

Andre Drummond, C: Another formality. Not quite there.

The Verdict

Assuming six of the seven spots are filled by the above locks and favorites, that leaves LaVine to contend for one opening with ‘the rest.’ And of ‘the rest’ the most compelling cases are certainly Lowry, Beal and Brogdon. Here’s how all compare statistically:

Lowry: 1,296 minutes (37 per); 20 points, 7.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals; 40.9% FG, 34.3% 3P; 23.1% usage rate; 4.5 win shares

Beal: 1,347 minutes (35.4 per); 28.1 points, 6.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 1 steals; 45.4% FG, 31.4% 3P; 32.6% usage rate; 2.9 win shares

Brogdon: 994 minutes (30.1 per); 17.1 points, 7.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 0.7 steals; 43.9% FG, 34.3% 3P; 26.4% usage rate; 2.7 win shares

LaVine: 1,677 minutes (34.2 per); 25.2 points, 3.9 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals; 44.3% FG, 38.8% 3P; 31.7% usage rate; 3.8 win shares

Lowry’s case stands out as someone carrying a heavy load on both ends of the floor for a contending team. Brogdon’s minutes disparity looms large. LaVine and Beal’s high usages (LaVine is second in the league in total minutes) and prolific scoring are notable. And in spite of the Bulls’ 19-30 record, it’s hard to say LaVine hasn’t impacted winning — he’s eighth among qualified players in the NBA in fourth quarter scoring (7.1 points per) and fifth in fourth quarter usage (35.7%) without a drop in efficiency shooting the ball.

Still, if I’m being objective (and predictive), Lowry is the call — he profiles simliarly to Butler as a proven player leading a great team with solid enough stats. LaVine vs. Beal is a toss-up, with the hometown advantage working in LaVine’s favor and reputation working in Beal’s. From here, though, the reserves are for the coaches to determine.

The Loophole

If LaVine doesn’t get in straight up (probable, though not definitive), there is always a chance he could squeak in via injury replacement. If any selected players are unable to participate, NBA commissioner Adam Silver selects their understudy.

Tatum is currently batting a groin ailment — he’s missed the Celtics’ last two games and is doubtful for their impending matchup with Miami — but doesn’t yet seem in danger of sitting through the All-Star break. Embiid (torn ligament in left hand) has missed the Sixers’ last nine games, but is now listed as questionable on the team’s injury report, a sign that he is near a return. (That's not to root for anyone's harm, just an update.)

So, while LaVine’s chances at his first All-Star berth are more realistic than some might think, it will still be an uphill battle. Bulls fans can only hope opposing teams’ head coaches are in the mood for a bit of home-cooking this February.

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Remembering Kobe Bryant

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AP

Bulls Talk Podcast: Remembering Kobe Bryant

In a heartfelt and emotional episode of the Bulls Talk podcast, Jason Goff is joined by NBC Sports Bulls insider KC Johnson and Bulls writer Rob Schaefer to discuss and remember the late great Kobe Bryant.

(1:20) - Feelings when the news were confirmed

(14:52) - Favorite memory of Kobe

(28:10) - Kobe and Michael Jordan

(35:50) - We don't get to see the victory lap of Kobe in life

(46:00) - Post NBA Kobe was going to be great

Listen here or in the embedded player below.

Bulls Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.