Bulls

Game 3 winner could take all

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Game 3 winner could take all

As much as I was shocked by the way the Bulls played in Game 2, I will no longer be shocked if they end up losing this series to Philadelphia based on that performance.

But, I'm not predicting doom here. In fact, on paper I still believe the Bulls should beat the Sixers easily without Derrick Rose. The Bulls are one of the best 'bounce back' teams in the league as evidenced by their streak of 86 games - which was more than a year - without losing two in a row. Tuesday's loss was psychological more than physical. It translated to bad basketball, but I'm more concerned about the root of it than the outcome.

I can talk forever about the X's and O's and what the Bulls need to do to correct their missteps from Game 2. It's a long list. They need to force the Sixers into a halfcourt game, take away the transition buckets, play help defense on Jrue Holliday and for Pete's sake rebound the ball.

Find the open man on offense. Even though, the Sixers did a good job of taking away the Bulls pick and roll, there were times Taj Gibson was open. John Lucas III just didn't see him and settled for jumpers. In fact, the Bulls did a lot of settling on offense, shooting ill-advised shots and going one-on-one.

Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng need to step up and be leaders of this team, picking up the scoring slack.

Etcetera, etcetera...

It doesn't take a basketball expert to point out what the Bulls need to do on the floor as coach Tom Thibodeau declared on Thursday.

"There's no great scoop in reporting that the Bulls need to get back to defense and rebounding," said Thibodeau. "That's the whole key."

No, the scoop is the Bulls haven't showed the mental toughness they need to proceed without Derrick Rose. For all of their talk about having more than enough to win without Rose, it looks like the Bulls need to convince themselves of that rather than selling us on the idea.

They need to take a page of out Evan Turner's book. Turner made himself public enemy number one in Chicago when he made some pre-series comments about preferring to play the Bulls over the Miami Heat. He was booed mercilessly by the United Center crowd, but it didn't bother him.

In fact, Turner's been getting stronger at every turn, blocking out the negative fan reaction as well as he's been blocking Bulls players from scoring. Even his coach admires the kid's attitude.

"Evan feels like he's the best player in the gym," said Doug Collins. "I love that. I know he made some ill-timed comments. He was booed every time he touched the ball. A lot of guys would cower from that. Evan rises to the challenge. I'm not a big guy in doing a lot of talking, but I like the way he's playing."

Wells Fargo arena is going to be filled with hostile fans taunting the Bulls. How will they respond? Will they rise to the challenge?

At Thursday's Bulls practice, Luol Deng said: "I know everyone cares. We have a team of fighters we have to fight our way out." Did he sound convincing? Is it all just rhetoric? Does Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Rip Hamilton think they are the best players in the gym? If they do, the Bulls have a shot at winning this.

Deng went on to say, "We've been through it before. We've been through tougher things that this."

No you haven't. You haven't been through anything tougher than trying to win an NBA championship without your star. Your MVP.

It is gut check time. Only it's going to have to start between the ears and hopefully that will translate to what the Bulls do on the court.

Game 3 will be the defining moment of this series. Will Philadelphia be stopped in its tracks or will the Sixers deliver the knock-out blow?

How former Bull C.J. Watson is working to inspire children through books

How former Bull C.J. Watson is working to inspire children through books

C.J. Watson carved out a 10-year NBA career with not just talent but also an ability to overcome odds and tune out doubters.

So whenever the former Bulls guard encountered skepticism for his latest dream, he’d answer every "Why” with a "Why not?”

That dream? To create children's books. Watson, 36, has now published two titles: "CJ’s Big Dream" and "CJ’s Big Project." The first came out last November, the second in March.

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“It was just a random idea I had to challenge myself and try to push myself,” Watson said in a phone conversation. “I want to try to continue to be an inspiration. Playing in the NBA is an inspiration to kids. But I wanted to continue to offer kids knowledge and tell my story through books.

“Kids are the next generation of leaders. They’re the next entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers. Some kid will grow up to be President. I just wanted to try to share some gems and drops of knowledge. I want to try to propel little boys and girls and let them know it’s OK to shoot for their dreams and to dream big.”

The books were written by author Tamika Newhouse and illustrated by Cameron Wilson based on stories shared by Watson. Watson spent hours on the phone over a six-month period with Newhouse, sharing his stories and his vision for the project, which is scheduled to include at least one more title.

They are based on Watson’s upbringing in Las Vegas, where he first experienced doubts for his NBA dream.

“These are true stories,” Watson said. “I made it to the NBA after growing up in the inner city and not having the same resources or same chances as some. Growing up, seeing graffiti, abandoned houses, drugs, gangs, it can be discouraging. But I had a great support system that kept me focused on my goal.”

The second book focuses on the time Watson received an F on a science project in school. But the teacher offered him a chance to re-do it, which taught him a valuable lesson.

“The second book talks about working hard and the importance of getting good grades to be able to play sports,” he said. “That was the important thing in my household. If we didn’t have good grades, my brother and I couldn’t play sports.”

Watson is the father of two children with one on the way. His parents, Cathy and Charles, stressed education and reading as they raised him and his brother. He majored in psychology at Tennessee, which is in his parents’ hometown of Nashville, Tenn.

“My parents came from an area more poverty-stricken than I did,” Watson said. “You always want better for your kid, right? We might not have lived in the best area, but they always put my brother and me in the best schools to give us the best chance to succeed.

“They also were big on me and my brother doing community service. We’d go feed the homeless. We’d go visit nursing homes to care for the elderly. When I was younger, I always said if I made it that I wanted to give back.”

Watson and his family established his Quiet Storm Foundation in 2009. That foundation established an active presence in Chicago during his two seasons with the Bulls.

Watson is eight years removed from that stint, where he played an important role for a reserve unit so potent that it achieved its own nickname. “The Bench Mob” proved a significant reason the Bulls led the NBA in regular-season victories in consecutive seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

“It was definitely fun. It goes by fast. Chicago was probably some of the best years I had in the NBA,” Watson said. “We could’ve achieved more. We weren’t picked to do much that first year and surprised everybody. Then that second year, D-Rose got hurt.

“I felt like they should’ve kept the team together maybe a couple more years to try to see what could’ve happened. But it’s a business at the end of the day.”

Watson isn’t surprised Rose, who he backed up, is thriving again after a series of knee injuries, surgeries and rehabilitations.

“Definitely a great teammate, probably one of my favorites,” Watson said. “Injuries take a toll on you. He was held up to the MVP standard and some people judged him unfairly. But he has worked so hard. I’m definitely rooting for him and I’m always watching.”

Watson played for Charles Oakley’s team in the Big3 last summer, a 3-on-3 pro league that was canceled this summer because of COVID-19. He isn’t sure if he’ll play again if the league resumes next summer.

“It was fun. But it’s a different league. It’s pretty brutal. They don’t call any fouls. It’s kind of an old man’s game,” Watson said. “My body may have had enough.”

No matter his decision, Watson’s mind remains sharp.

“These books definitely are not a money maker. It’s a passion project,” Watson said. “Unless you’re a big-time children’s author, you probably won’t make a living at this. But I just did it to inspire kids and challenge myself. It’s kind of like the NBA. I never thought I’d make the NBA.  But lo and behold, I worked hard enough and got there.”

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Windy City Bulls standout PJ Dozier secures multi-year deal with Nuggets

Windy City Bulls standout PJ Dozier secures multi-year deal with Nuggets

Since going unselected in the 2017 NBA Draft, PJ Dozier has had his fair share of stops, from brief stints signed to the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, to successive one-year pacts with the Oklahoma City Thunder (2017-18) and Boston Celtics (2018-19). He spent most of the latter two tenures in the G League.

Dozier began the 2019-20 season signed to the Denver Nuggets on a two-way deal, but assigned to the Windy City Bulls, the Bulls' G League affiliate, along with 2019 second-round draftee of the Nuggets Bol Bol. 

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On Tuesday, the Nuggets officially announced they are converting Dozier's two-way deal into a multi-year contract with the team.

It's great news for Dozier, who enjoyed a dominating campaign for Windy City. In 18 games with the team, he averaged 21.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals on 43.8-32.6-74.1 shooting splits. A 6-foot-6 playmaking wing, Dozier flashed plus ball-handling, scoring and facilitating ability at a position of supreme value in the modern game.

He parlayed all of the above into a midseason All-NBA G League selection, but was recently left off the end-of-season all-league teams, presumably due to a limited sample size. He was called up to the Nuggets in mid-January and made an immediate impact, scoring 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting (2-for-4 from 3) in his debut, a win over the Charlotte Hornets. He reset his NBA career high one week later with a 15-point outing against the Houston Rockets.

In the run-up to the NBA pausing its season, Dozier appeared in 21 of 26 games for the Nuggets, averaging 4.1 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He'd appeared in just eight career NBA games before that stretch. 

How much of an imprint will he make on the Nuggets' rotation when the NBA season restarts? It's too soon to say. But it seems the longtime G League standout's breakthrough at the next level could be coming.

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