Bulls

Former Irish Standout Gets His Shot with Bulls

Former Irish Standout Gets His Shot with Bulls

Sunday, April 11, 2010
3:31 P.M.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

When the Chicago Bulls waived veteran center Jerome James, they signed forward Rob Kurz for the remainder of the regular season. Kurz, who played collegiately at Notre Dame, is a 6-foot-9 forward that brings a dimension to the Bulls that dont presently havea stretch four, or a power forward that makes his living shooting the ball from the outside and stretching out the defense.

Im thrilled about this opportunity, said Kurz. Im really excited to be part of the Bulls and Im grateful to have this chance.

Im obviously a three-point shooter and with Derrick Rose and the other shooters theyve got, I can space the floor and draw another power forwardwd away from the basket, continued Kurz, who played for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (where fellow Bulls reserve Joe Alexander also had a stint earlier this season) of the NBAs Developmental League this season. The way the game is changing, theres a lot of stretch fours in the league and I feel like I can match up with them. From that standpoint, I feel like I can be of value to any offense.

Kurz, a native of the Philadelphia area, is already familiar with two of his new teammatesHakim Warrick and Flip Murrayas all three made the summer-league rounds in their hometown and worked on the their game in the offseason under the same coach, John Hardnett, who has helped numerous players from the city.

Flip and Hakim Warrick are both from Philly, so I see them in the summer and worked out with them since I was younger, said Kurz, whose D-League season ended last Friday.

Rob is one of those kids that throughout his whole basketball career, he was doubted and people felt he would never make it. He was always the first one in the gym and the last one out of the gym. He always put in extra hard work, always knew he could make it, said Hardnett, who also worked with former Bull John Salmons. Hes one of those ballplayers who can play forever because he has the intelligence factor.

Regardless of what occurs between now and the end of the Bulls season, the reality for Kurz is he is likely auditioning for an NBA jobwhether its with Chicago or another team; last season, he enjoyed a stint with Golden State that included extended minutes and even starting several gamesand he knows that with the teams current situation, playing time is likely to be scant.

I think its a good opportunity for me and they can take a look at me for the rest of the season. Hopefully I can be there in the summer working out, said Kurz, whose coach in Fort Wayne was former DePaul coach Joey Meyer. They can get a chance to see me work every day and see my work ethic, get an extended look and see if they want to keep me around.

I understand that theyre in a playoff race, continued Kurz, who worked out for the Boston Celtics on Thursday. Id love to help the team any way that I canwhether thats in practice or a game, Ill do anything they ask.

Going forward, I feel that I can help an NBA team. HopefullyI can show them that I can be an important part of the team.

While Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro doesnt necessarily plan to throw Kurz into the fire immediately and allow him to prove his worth, he does recognize the former Fighting Irishs standouts potential long-term value to Chicago.

He shoots the ball and well get him on our summer-league team. Obviously theres not a lot of practice leftwe have to focus in our games right now, Del Negro told CSNChicago.com. Well take a look at him as we move forward.

Our basketball front-office people liked what he was doing in the D-League, so they gave him an opportunity and got him up there.

NBA power rankings: Antetokounmpo and Bucks keep up 14 game win streak

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USA Today

NBA power rankings: Antetokounmpo and Bucks keep up 14 game win streak

With the NBA season hitting the quarter pole, it’s a good time to check in on how the MVP race is shaping up.

After blowing a two games to none lead against Toronto in last spring’s Eastern Conference Finals, Giannis Antetokounmpo vowed to come back better than ever this season, and he’s done exactly that, improving his averages in points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage and 3-point shooting percentage.

The one knock on Antetokounmpo had been his lack of a consistent outside shot, and while he’s still only shooting 31.6% from beyond the arc, he’s made at least three shots from long distance in three of his last seven games.

The Bucks are currently riding a 14 game winning streak after blowing out a very good Clippers’ team at Fiserv Forum last Friday. Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers even joked about the result, saying, “It was Giannis’ 25th birthday, and we searched all over the city to find a gift, and we couldn’t find one, so we gave him this one. That’s all I can come up with because we were awful.”

Antetokounmpo still has to prove he can get the Bucks to the Finals, but through the first 23 games, he’s clearly the favorite to win his 2nd straight MVP award.

LeBron James’ Lakers are actually a half game ahead of the Bucks for the NBA’s best record at the start of the new week. James leads the NBA in assists, something that hasn’t been done by a player who doesn’t play the guard position since Wilt Chamberlain. James would rank 2nd on my MVP rankings at the quarter pole.

I wrote about Luka Doncic in last week’s power rankings, and after averaging a triple double in November and leading the Mavericks to an unexpected strong start in the West, Luka would be number three, followed by NBA scoring leader James Harden and Toronto’s Pascal Siakam.

Now on to this week’s rankings. Check them out here. 

Without linear growth, the silver linings of Bulls' loss to Heat ring hollow

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USA Today

Without linear growth, the silver linings of Bulls' loss to Heat ring hollow

Trailing the Heat 108-105 with four seconds remaining in overtime, the ball found Lauri Markkanen. He was pinned in the corner and leaning away from the basket, but still, he got a clean 3-point attempt off. If the shot fell, it would have tied the game.

But it didn't. Instead, the high-arching jumper clanged off the side of the rim. And when it did, Coby White — who enjoyed, in many ways, a career performance in this game — slumped over. The response befitted the performance.

"Nobody likes to lose. We're not happy with the loss," Jim Boylen said. "I got a frustrated group of guys in there that want to win."

It's a defeat that, on its face, should be swallowable. In it, the Bulls played one of the league's best teams in the Heat down to the wire, in an arena they haven't lost in this season. 

The silver linings were abundant: The Bulls won the first quarter, an area Boylen has often emphasized. They got standout performances from Markkanen (team-high 22 points), Kris Dunn (16 points, three steals, 6-for-9 shooting) and White (11 points, eight assists, 3-for-7 from 3-point range, closed the fourth quarter and OT). They outshot one of the NBA's most prolific offenses and held Jimmy Butler to 3-for-14 shooting. Sure, he went to the free throw line 21 times, but he also didn't break the Bulls' back with clutch buckets down the stretch.

"It's real hard. But we gave them some game goals, and they accomplished them," Boylen said. "First quarter start. Be more physical. For the most part, our defensive rebounding was really good. Our transition D was really good. Our physicality was good. We moved the ball, we executed. We ran things to get open shots.

"We did a lot of really good thing and that's what I have to look at. Ultimately, you want to win. I cannot take away from the good things we do and the growth we're making. But it hurts."

Yet, something feels especially hollow about this loss. Even sour. But perhaps that's more about what came before tonight. Talk of growth doesn't resonate without assurance that said growth will continue to occur lineally, and that hasn't happened for the Bulls. Just last week, they sparked their first win streak of the season with victories over the Kings and Grizzlies. Steps forward. Then, a massive step back in falling to the 5-19 Warriors on Friday.

The tropes that pervaded the Golden State game reared their head again tonight. Zach LaVine was 1-for-6 between the fourth quarter and overtime. Loose balls found the wrong hands. Crucial defensive lapses late aided Tyler Herro nailing four 3-pointers (including the eventual game-winner) over the game's last six minutes.

"The one that [Herro] put up before the overtime, Shaq actually did a good job on [Butler] defensively and I thought [Butler] was gonna shoot the ball, so I went in there and crashed," Dunn said of the 3-pointer Herro hit to put the Heat up 97-95 with 7.1 seconds left in regulation. "[Butler] made an unselfish play, a great play out to Tyler Herro and he knocked it down... Jimmy does draw a lot of attention, he's a good player, but we have to be defensively sound. And, for me, that last play before the overtime, that was on me."

At 8-16, the Bulls simply can't afford to be happy with an 'encouraging' loss, even if they wish they could be. The balance of finding and taking the positives from this defeat while at the same reconciling that this season is escaping them is a difficult one.

"[Winning] is important, but I have to measure this — third-youngest team in the league, this young group — in other ways than that. I have to. That's what we're building, that's what we're developing," Boylen said.

"Definitely frustrated to lose, but we played well, a lot of guys played well," Dunn said. "Good thing about the NBA, games come quick... Tomorrow, we play Toronto at home so hopefully bring the same intensity and get the win there."

If that win is of the moral variety, the burning issues facing this team aren't like to dissipate soon.

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