Bulls

Dwyane Wade's 'perfect storm' makes his debut a dramatic one in Bulls' win

Dwyane Wade's 'perfect storm' makes his debut a dramatic one in Bulls' win

The dream opening was turning into a nightmare as the ball rolled out to Dwyane Wade in the corner with the shot clock headed toward danger zone and the Bulls already living there for the last several minutes.

Three seconds later, Wade was signaling to the United Center crowd that it was okay to exhale after a contested, step-back triple over Avery Bradley with 26.3 seconds left, giving the Bulls a five-point lead in their season-opening 105-99 win over the Boston Celtics Thursday night.

“I saw Jimmy (Butler) going to the basket, I saw he was gonna make the pass but they stripped it and it rolled right to me,” Wade said. “It was like the perfect storm.”

After the clinching thunder clap, Wade strutted up the floor and gave a throat-slashing sign that will likely earn him a trip to the Principal’s office—but he’ll take the fine as long as it comes with the result.

“When I released it, I ain’t gonna say I knew it was going in because anything can happen but I felt very good about the shot,” Wade said. “It was a moment where a lot of emotion ran through me.

“I was excited, man. It’s opening night. It’s my first game back home and to be able to make a shot like that to help us get that win, yes I was very excited.”

Moments later, he trailed Gerald Green down the sideline before the ensuing inbounds pass, telling the Celtic some things he certainly didn’t want to hear before stripping Green of his 3-point attempt and knocking it off Green’s hands to stymie Boston’s last best chance at keeping itself in the game.

It was a small reminder that just in case the Chicago Cubs need some help in the ninth inning Friday night, The Closer can step into the phone booth and save the day as Wade the defensive play capped off his night with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists.

“Gerald, that’s my guy, we played together in Miami last year,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com after the win. “Rondo and Butler wanted me to help off and he knew it, so he started talking back after I said something. I told him he wasn’t gonna get that shot off.”

Green proved Wade’s words to be prophetic as he performed yet another magical act in 32 minutes of run, on a night that began with him on his knees as he was introduced to the crowd for the first time in a game that mattered—in front of his parents, family and friends, an event three decades in the making.

“I took that moment in the introduction, I’ve been waiting on that moment for a long time,” Wade said. “It was special for my family. They’ve been waiting just as long. I took the opportunity to thank God to be here. To have this career that I have, to make this decision on my own. I just took in a moment and then, it was game time.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Wasting no time, Wade hit three triples in the first half—nearly halfway to last year’s season total (seven)—as the Bulls jumped out to a 15-point lead.

“Just tweaking a couple things and not redoing (his shot),” said Bulls coach and de-facto shot doctor Fred Hoiberg. “He’s bought into it. And for a guy that’s been in the league as long as he has, that says a lot about him that he’s willing to work and add an element to his game.”

Wade, Butler and Rondo were a big reason why the Bulls shot a surprising 44 percent from long range, which masked their overall bad shooting night of 39 percent compared to the Celtics making half of their 76 attempts.

Butler led the Bulls with 24 points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes, as the night began with a bang but nearly fizzled after the Bulls blew a 15-point lead—with the Celtics threatening to ruin a festive and hopeful atmosphere.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas lived up to his namesake, nearly becoming a Bulls’ killer with 25 points on just 15 shots, carrying the Celtics’ offense as it rallied to take advantage of a stagnant Bulls’ showing before Wade saved the night.

The Celtics methodically got themselves together in the third quarter, as Thomas’ triple gave them a 69-68 lead with less than five minutes to play. Bradley scored 16 and Jae Crowder scored 14 for the Celtics, as they held Al Horford to just 11 with seven rebounds in 30 minutes.

Taj Gibson and Michael Carter-Williams took turns charging up the Bulls’ offense, particularly Gibson with his 18 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes.

The Bulls had an outsized rebounding advantage, 55-36 with seven players grabbing six rebounds or more to help Gibson and Robin Lopez, with the 18 offensive rebounds leading to more margins for error.

“We know in order for us to make the game so much easier, everybody has to touch the ball, everybody has to have that chance of being guarded,” Butler said. “As long as you move it, it’s probably gonna end up coming to you for a better shot.”

Butler wished the statistician would’ve awarded him with his fourth assist on Wade’s big jumper but isn’t complaining too much.

“He’s done it his entire career, this is just another year for him. I’m just happy he’s doing it for the Chicago Bulls.”

And for the first time, Chicago can cheer its hometown son without conflict.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

nba_power_rankings.jpg
USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.