Bulls

Examining Bulls' options with free agency starting

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Examining Bulls' options with free agency starting

Much is still up in the air when it comes to the NBA's delayed, truncated and almost-guaranteed-to-be-hectic free-agency period, which officially begins Friday afternoon, but that hasn't stopped speculation from abounding.

While the majority of the focus continues to be on two members of the 2012 free-agent class--superstars Dwight Howard and Chris Paul--behind the scenes, several of the NBA's middle class are being ardently pursued by teams around the league.

With reports of the Spurs' planning to amnesty Richard Jefferson and Tracy McGrady's next destination being Atlanta, as well as the Heat adding small forward Shane Battier (at least per the player's own Twitter feed Thursday), moves are already being made.

The Bulls have been no exception, as they continue to do their due diligence by contacting candidates in their search for a shooting guard. Only one free agent, Caron Butler, has visited Chicago, and incumbent starter Keith Bogans has been working out at the Berto Center--it would be no surprise if the veteran, popular among teammates and coaches (if not fans), returns to the Bulls--but on the eve of the madness beginning, here's a look at some of the organization's options:

--Arron Afflalo: A strong defender and capable outside shooter, Afflalo would be a great fit in a Bulls uniform, especially when it's considered that he's much younger than most of the other options. However, as a restricted free agent, the Nuggets would be able to match any offer for him--and likely will, given that J.R. Smith, no lock to be back in Denver anyway, is currently stuck in China--and in a shallow market, there's a chance he could command more than the mid-level exception the Bulls are poised to offer a free agent.

--Keith Bogans: While a faction of Bulls fans considered Bogans the weak link in last season's starting lineup, it should be noted that his minutes reflected those of a reserve, as he split playing time with Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver, and very rarely finished games. Although he's not a big scorer, Bogans is a solid outside shooter and tough defender who was a big part of the on and off-court chemistry that was a major reason the Bulls won 62 games a year ago, making it likely that he returns to Chicago, but perhaps in a reserve role this time around.
--Caron Butler: It's been reported that Butler privately considers the Bulls his front-runner (though sources say he was also very positive about meeting with the Clippers and Spurs, who jettisoned Richard Jefferson, possibly to add a natural small forward of Butler's caliber) and if the Racine, Wis., native did end up in Chicago, his toughness, offensive versatility, experience and hunger for a title would pay major dividends. Conversely, his surgically-repaired knees are a major concern, particularly if he needs the lateral quickness to defend shooting guards, and could also pose a problem if he's expected to beat opponents off the dribble as he did earlier in his career.

--Vince Carter: Carter isn't technically a free agent (the Suns are expected to waive him), but being that he's likely to be available, it's worth examining how he'd fit in Chicago. One thing he's always been able to do is score, though his shot selection, ongoing health issues, less-than-stellar defense and perceived selfishness have seemingly run their course, making him frequent trade bait (New Jersey, Orlando and Phoenix in the span of three years) as of late, and at least on paper, a player whose cons outweigh his pros for the Bulls.

--Jamal Crawford: The former Bulls draft pick is obviously familiar with the franchise and vice versa, and has built on his early-career potential by becoming one of the league's best instant-offense scorers, if somewhat of a hired gun. Crawford's ballhandling and playmaking abilities set him apart from most of the other prospective additions, but it comes at the cost of occasional ball-stopping offense and sometimes indifferent defense, not to mention his price tag could be beyond Chicago's desired range, although there's been talk of a sign-and-trade scenario with Atlanta involving Taj Gibson, a high premium to pay.

--Grant Hill: Alternately rumored to be either re-signing with the Suns or on the verge of taking his talents to the Big Apple, the league's second-oldest player (after veteran big man Kurt Thomas, another free agent the Bulls are in discussions with), Hill is now seen as a bit of long shot to relocate to the Windy City. His time spent at Phoenix's fountain of youth has rejuvenated his game in recent years, as he's morphed from one of the game's best all-around players, elite scorers and high-flying athletes into a defensive standout capable of guarding multiple positions, a reliable outside threat and solid secondary ballhandler.

--Josh Howard: Like the aforementioned Butler--ironically one of the players included in the trade that sent him to the Wizards from the Mavericks--Howard has also had knee problems and hasn't regained the form he showed as a promising young player. When healthy, however, Howard offers a nice slashing game, good defensive acumen, the ability to score without needing a lot of offensive touches and some versatility, though he was never known as knockdown three-point shooter.

--Tayshaun Prince: The longtime Pistons veteran is probably in need of a change of scenery after a few tumultuous years in Motown, and his versatility on both ends of the court--the ability to guard a variety of players, an effective post-up game, spot duty as a primary ballhandler, long-range shooting--would be an intriguing addition to the Bulls. Prince, however, has suffered a multitude of injuries as of late after being extremely durable earlier in his career, the stink of last year's mutiny of ousted Detroit head coach John Kuester clings to him and other veterans (such as Rip Hamilton, though Prince's "buffoonery" comment was the highlight of that saga) and he isn't a natural shooting guard.

--Jason Richardson: When it comes to pure shooting guards, Richardson might be the best fit on paper who's actually available, as the veteran has hinted at being willing to take less money (like Chicago's mid-level exception) in exchange for an opportunity to compete for a championship. His perimeter shooting and athleticism would seem to be a good match for the Bulls' roster and style of play, and while he can't be considered an elite defender, he's at least adequate and could thrive under Tom Thibodeau.

--Nick Young: In terms of scorers, Young has the most potential going forward on anyone on the market, and with his youth and athleticism, he could surpass even optimistic expectations. Problem is, he has the classic "good scorer on a bad team" syndrome, where he put up big numbers in a losing situation and neglected other parts of his game, such as defense and passing, although comments he's made indicate he's ready to mature as a player and do what it takes to round out his game, if in a winning environment.

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

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USA TODAY

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

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USA TODAY

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.