Bulls

Dwyane Wade's big fourth helps Bulls pull away from Pelicans

Dwyane Wade's big fourth helps Bulls pull away from Pelicans

Taj Gibson didn't want to shoot it, but Dwyane Wade was blocking off two defenders while encouraging the man doing the dirty work to take some scoring glory.

"Shoot it, Taj. Shoot it," Wade said, before Gibson's midrange jumper found net late in the fourth quarter, giving the Bulls an eight-point lead.

Moments later, Wade did the dirty work of his own, spinning in the lane and hitting a one-handed glasser while being pounded by Anthony Davis to put the Bulls up 10—an unlikely occurrence if one saw the first three quarters from Wade.

Wade turned into Mr. Fourth Quarter when the Bulls needed to end their three-game losing streak, going 7-for-10 in the last 12 minutes to help the Bulls to a 107-99 win over the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday afternoon at the United Center.

"I'm happy for him, just as he's happy with me," said Jimmy Butler of Wade. "He wasn't making shots early but he kept with it. Those shots that he take, they're gonna go in, as they did. And we feed the monster on this roster."

Butler looked fresh and rejuvenated despite missing the better part of three games and losing 10 pounds due to the flu that's ravaged the Bulls and the NBA, scoring 28 points with eight rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks in 39 minutes.

"Jimmy was great, he came out aggressive," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Butler looked like a new man from the tip, getting a shooter's bounce on his second shot of the game, hitting two triples in the first quarter and generally being all over the place.

He didn't waste time to work himself into the game.

"Having him back out there really shows how much he means to the team," Hoiberg said. "You can tell how important a player is based on the difference of how we play when he's not out there."

He ceded space for Wade in the fourth after a 15-point second half lead was cut to five at 91-86. With Wade having Sunday's game in Memphis off, he was able to empty his reservoir after a rough start.

"I emptied the clip tonight," Wade joked.

With fadeaway jumpers and slithering his way to the rim, Wade finished with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes, overcoming a two-for-13 start that had Butler probably feeling like he didn't have much help scoring wise.

"He got hot at the right time," Hoiberg said. "He was trying to help us in every way possible. We played through him and Jimmy all through the fourth and it clearly worked for us."

But the Bulls dominated the glass early and often with Gibson's season-high 16 boards (15 points) leading the way. Robin Lopez grabbed 10 and even Doug McDermott had seven as the Bulls outrebounded the Pelicans 62-42—making up for their 43 percent shooting night and unusual 57 percent from the free-throw line performance.

"The biggest thing tonight was the great job our guys did rebounding," Hoiberg said. "It was a physical basketball game. Only shooting 42 percent, we still found a way to win. We won other battles, especially the rebounding one."

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Once leading 63-48 in the third, they had to survive an onslaught by the two players with Chicago ties, as Anthony Davis kept pouring it on and E'Twaun Moore made his return to Chicago for the first time since signing with the Pelicans as a free agent this summer.

Telling by the way he played, the Bulls could probably use his perimeter shooting and savvy as he hit his first five shots from the field and scoring 16 overall.

Four of those makes were from the 3-point line and with the way the Bulls have struggled to hit the perimeter shot this year, hindsight is always 20-20.

Davis continued to be the biggest inside-out problem in the league, showing the Bulls no mercy despite being questionable after getting hurt in their win over the New York Knicks, leading all scorers with 36 points and 14 rebounds.

Moore's 16 off the bench was second for the Pelicans, which probably illustrates the state of affairs for Davis' Pelicans as they seem to have a difficult time building around him.

One could say the Bulls have that issue on a smaller level with Butler, but the afternoon showed how important he is to them, and what they'll need to actually make a push for the playoffs.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.