Could Rodney Stuckey be a fit off the bench for the Bulls?


Could Rodney Stuckey be a fit off the bench for the Bulls?

When the clock strikes midnight on July 1, expect the Bulls to conduct meetings with Jimmy Butler on his restricted free agency, where all the conjecture and rumors will be met with action.

But despite Butler being the first priority, they do have other needs, most notably in the backcourt and perhaps they should give Pacers combo guard Rodney Stuckey a phone call.

According to league sources, Indiana wants him back while Houston and Sacramento are expected to be in the running for Stuckey’s services, while another source said Stuckey would be interested in hearing from the Bulls this summer. The 29-year old guard averaged around 13 points and three assists in 26 minutes last year, shooting a career high 39 percent from 3-point range.

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Backup point guard Aaron Brooks was a godsend during Derrick Rose’s absences, scoring 14 points per game in 21 starts, albeit on 39 percent 3-point shooting (42 percent overall), but he’s a free agent and was largely minimized in the playoffs, playing just 11 minutes per game in 12 appearances.

While the Bulls have a habit of picking up backup point guards the last few years who’ve paid dividends like Brooks, D.J. Augustin and Nate Robinson, Stuckey represents a shift from that thinking.

A bigger guard, at 6-foot-5, he would be tougher to neutralize in the postseason than the more diminutive Augustin and Brooks while being able to play both guard spots.

Stuckey, who essentially played on a make-good veterans minimum deal in Indiana after seven up-and-down years in Detroit, was one of the more consistent Pacers as they dealt with playing the majority of the season without All-Star Paul George.

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He played more shooting guard in the past three seasons but spent the majority of his early years growing into playing the point — making him an ideal option for the Bulls as someone capable of playing starter’s minutes at either guard spot.

Rose would probably welcome playing with Stuckey, considering Stuckey scored a career-high 40 on Rose during Rose’s rookie year, when Stuckey was viewed as one of the up-and-coming young guards in the league.

Times have changed since then, and Stuckey has battled inconsistency through his career but seems to have found it as a reserve the last two years. Aside from making the playoffs with the Pistons the first two years, he hasn’t played in the second season since 2009, which is why he would consider playing in Chicago. Staying in the Midwest after playing in Detroit and Indianapolis seems to appeal to the Seattle-area native, as much as money would.

The Bulls won’t have any cap room, but they’ll be able to use the mini-midlevel exception to try to improve their roster after dealing with Butler, where he’ll likely sign a maximum contract (length to be determined).

Veteran forward Mike Dunleavy is also a top priority, so the Bulls will have to come to the table with a fair offer while attending to other business. They need a perimeter shot creator aside from Butler and Rose, as evidenced to how the Bulls offense bogged down in the playoffs more than once — and at the worst possible time against Cleveland in Game 6 of their second-round series.

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Stuckey clashed with coaches in Detroit, most notably Lawrence Frank in 2011-12 and 12-13. It stained his reputation to where he had to sign for less than his talent dictated once he hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent last July.

But he was a model citizen under Frank Vogel in Indianapolis last season and would seemingly thrive in new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg’s wide-open system. The question is, will the Bulls be interested?

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


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


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.