Bulls

Early playoff exit leaves foul taste for Bulls

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Early playoff exit leaves foul taste for Bulls

PHILADELPHIA After a season like this, would you expect anything less?

Yes, the Bulls lost Game 6 of their first-round playoff series with the 76ers, 79-78, Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, but in the spirit of a campaign in which they continually battled through tremendous adversity, they did so with dignity and heart.

With 2.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Sixers All-Star swingman Andre Iguodala stepped to the line after rebounding Bulls center Omer Asiks missed free throw and pushing it the length of the court, then getting fouled on a layup attempt and with the Bulls up by a point, calmly knocked down a pair of shots from the charity stripe.

It wasnt over yet, however, as Bulls point guard C.J. Watsons last-gasp heave hit the back of the rim at the buzzer, but fell short, concluding a grind-it-out battle between two similar teams.

For the second consecutive game, Luol Deng (19 points, 17 rebounds, two blocked shots) got off to a hot start, opening the games scoring and pouring in eight points in the first period while maintaining an aggressive offensive approach. Rip Hamilton (19 points, eight rebounds) also found his touch in the early going, but perhaps the most surprising moment of the first quarter was Asik (10 points, nine rebounds, two blocks) starting for the third consecutive game, though the injured Joakim Noah was available and dressed on the Bulls bench knocking down a deep jumper.

Philadelphia recovered, led by point guard Jrue Holiday, who drained a pair of three-pointers early, as well as Iguodala (game-high 20 points), whose biggest contribution might have been an inadvertent elbow to the side of Dengs face, drawing blood and causing his All-Star counterpart to temporarily exit the contest the small forward would return in the second period after receiving stitches and slowing down his scoring. Following a Lou Williams jumper in the waning seconds of the first quarter, the Sixers held a 24-22 lead.

Chicagos reserves led the charge early in the second stanza, as John Lucas IIIs scoring and Taj Gibsons (14 points, five rebounds, two blocks) energetic play on both ends, as well as more exploits from Asik fluidly catching a bullet pass and finishing with a dunk, plus the foul, then making the ensuing free throw to complete the traditional three-point play got them a slim cushion. But the Sixers stole the momentum right back, as a technical foul on Gibson, contributions from reserve forward Thaddeus Young, an afterthought in the series as of late, and the hot shooting of guards Holiday and Williams, the Sixth Man of the Year runner-up, bought them some separation.

In all, the hosts went on a 11-0 run, changing the tenor of the game and with it, igniting the home crowd, which came alive and turned the Wells Fargo Center into the hostile environment for road teams Philadelphia audiences have been notorious for over the years. The Bulls eventually quashed the spurt, mostly behind Gibson whose improbable triple off the glass to beat the shot clock would have been the second three-pointer of his career, was ruled to be after the buzzer during the break but the visitors still went into the intermission facing a 48-40 deficit.

The third quarter didnt start well for either squad, but while the Sixers werent exactly offensively proficient, they were better than the Bulls, who didnt record a second-half field goal until nearly five minutes into the period. Most of the visitors scoring struggles could be pinned squarely on Carlos Boozer (three points, 13 rebounds), as the power forward missed 10 of his first 11 shot attempts though, in fairness, he also corralled 13 rebounds during the same span and Philadelphias lead swelled to double digits, as the Sixers like Iguodala got into transition for thunderous fast-break finishes.

But despite the raucous crowd and all of the home teams momentum, the perimeter trio of Deng, Hamilton and Watson (10 assists), who made more of an impact with his playmaking than with his scoring, made the deficit manageable again, aided by the Sixers poor shot selection and general inability to score.

During the 16-4 Bulls run, Deng, taking the role of go-to scorer for the second straight contest, and Hamilton, playing a sidekick role, scored off jumpers, drives, on offensive rebounds and in transition, and with Chicagos stout defense backing them, the game was tied at 63 apiece heading into the final stanza.

The Bulls scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to make it a 20-4 extended run, but it was their defense an incredible stand led by the shot-blocking of Asik and Gibson denied the Sixers a bucket on four point-blank chances during a single possession that was most crucial. Philadelphia didnt fade away, however, and with the crowd on its feet and just under the midway mark in the quarter, Iguodala knocked down a three-pointer to tie the contest at 70.

A long ball from Williams with just over four minutes remaining regained the lead for the Sixers, but it was short-lived, as a Deng layup off a well-drawn inbounds play out of a timeout gave the Bulls a 74-73 advantage, which the Bulls maintainedvia multiple offensive reboundsinto the games stretch run and then extended to a three-point spread after Gibson made a pair of foul shots with 2:03 left.

After seemingly going an eternity without scoring, Philadelphia cut it to a one-point deficit with 43.9 seconds to go, as center Spencer Hawes finished a reverse layup in traffic, but following a timeout, a dunk by Asik, not exactly renowned for having a great set of hands, made it 78-75 in the Bulls favor with 25.8 seconds remaining.

On the ensuing possession, Young scored on a driving layup with 12 seconds on the clock and the Bulls pushed the ball before it again ended up in Asiks hands, and the center was fouled with seven seconds left. The woeful free-throw shooter missed both of his attempts and Iguodala corralled the second shot, drove the ball the distance of the court and was fouled with 2.2 seconds left, setting up the dramatic conclusion.

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

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AP

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

From the moment Jabari Parker started his local basketball career, he's been a special talent who has produced at every level. Parker's signing with the Chicago Bulls this offseason brings back a lot of memories of his decorated four-year high school career at Simeon.

For Bulls fans who didn't follow Parker before Duke or the NBA, here's some of the notable moments from four years in the Public League.

As a freshman with the Wolverines, Parker was seen as one of three big incoming freshman in the area for the Class of 2013, along with forward Alex Foster and center Tommy Hamilton. Although all three players had the size and skill level to be varsity contributors, it was Parker who was special from his debut game.

Coming off the bench for a top-5 Simeon team against a top-10 Thornton team at Chicago State, Parker had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting with two 3-pointers as the Wolverines went on to win in his first game in high school. Eventually becoming the first Wolverine freshman to start on varsity, Parker piled up high-major scholarship offers and national acclaim, as he was the team's second-leading scorer behind Brandon Spearman.

But Parker was hurt on the eve of the IHSA Class 4A state championship weekend and was on the bench injured as Simeon went on to surprisingly win the state title after some late-season slip-ups. Parker contributed heavily to Simeon winning the state title during his first season, however, as he was leading scorer in six games during that season.

During his sophomore season, Parker blossomed from a prospect into a full-blown star as Simeon once again captured a state title. By this point in his career, Parker was a consensus top-5 national high school prospect in his class as he regularly led a loaded Simeon team in scoring. Parker eventually averaged 15.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as he won ESPN High School 2011 Sophomore of the Year national honors, while also Simeon won a title at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

The summer of 2011 saw Parker become a contender for No. 1 in his class -- and regardless of class at the high school level -- as he dominated the summer circuit against his peers and older players.

Making the 2011 USA Basketball U16 team, Parker won MVP honors at the FIBA Americas U16 Tournament as the USA team captured a gold medal. Parker also had big performances at the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Skill Academies before winning the MVP at the Nike Global Challenge in August against mostly older players.

Before entering his junior season at Simeon, some national scouts believed Parker was the best prospect in either the junior or senior national classes. With Parker garnering so many accomplishments as an underclassman, he had a huge reputation already as Simeon was an established national powerhouse.

Parker helped the Wolverines capture a third straight state title, a city title and another title at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, as they went 33-1. Simeon didn't lose to an Illinois opponent Parker's junior year (they only lost to nationally ranked Findlay Prep) with Parker setting a school record of 40 points in only 21 minutes against Perspectives on Dec. 19. For his junior season, Parker put up 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds per game as he became the first non-senior to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors.

Gatorade also declared Parker the national boys basketball Player of the Year for that high school season as he became only the fourth non-senior to win that award. Sports Illustrated put Parker on its cover and proclaimed him as the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.

Facing an enormous amount of pressure during his senior year, Simeon played a national schedule and went 30-3, winning a fourth consecutive IHSA state title with Parker as he put up 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Becoming the only player besides Sergio McClain to start on four straight IHSA state title teams, Parker secured back-to-back Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors while also making the McDonald's All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit. Parker played all over the country during his senior season, with nationally-televised games and packed crowds filled with fans.

Reclassifications and the emergence of other contenders, coupled with Parker's foot injury before his senior season, dropped Parker below the No. 1 ranking to end his high school career. But he still finished as a consensus top-5 prospect in the class who eventually rose to the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft in 2014.

Now that Parker has signed with the Bulls, he has a chance to resurrect his career in Chicago, the place where he had his most basketball success.

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

According to Bleacher Report, Wendell Carter Jr. would be taken fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies if the NBA were to redraft this year’s class based off of Summer League performances.

It may sound like a crazy concept (and it is), but Carter Jr. averaged the second most points, 14.6, through five July games in Las Vegas. He also averaged 9.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field while averaging 28.8 minutes in his glamorous first-stint with Chicago. Those numbers are even more striking if you consider Carter Jr.’s 42.9 percent shooting from behind the three-point line.

Carter Jr., the real seventh overall pick of this year’s NBA Draft, looked like the all-around player the Bulls were hoping to get this offseason. He made his blocking abilities as a center known from the moment he stepped on the court in Summer League.

In their re-draft, Bleacher Report had Chicago using the No. 7 pick on the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, who was actually taken 36th overall in last month’s Draft.

Robinson, a center, averaged 13 points and 24.8 minutes per game over five Summer League contests. He was the best rebounder on his team with an average of 10.2 in the five games that the Knicks played.

The 20-year-old took the second most shots on the Knicks and had the highest field goal percentage at 67 percent, but Robinson did not have any three-point attempts.  What made his recent production seem even more surprising was the fact that the 7'1'' big man did not play a single minute of college basketball.

But would Robinson fit in the Bulls’ system?

Chicago has taken on an offense-first mentality, so Robinson would not be as great of a fit in the Bulls lineup as Carter Jr., but he would still be an impact player. He can be compared to the Bulls’ current center Robin Lopez, who averaged a similar amount of points per game (11.8 points in 26.4 minutes) last season as Robinson’s Summer League average (13 points in 24.8 minutes). And like Lopez, Robinson will likely be most effective around the basket and in the pick-and-roll.

Robinson would also have to learn the defensive concepts that a veteran like Lopez has mastered over his 10-year career.

Next season, the Bulls will have an exciting scoring trio of Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Carter Jr. in the frontcourt. And the fact that Carter Jr. is getting so much love in the national spotlight is yet another reason for Bulls fans to be excited about this upcoming season.