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?

Report: Bulls will sign Summer League standout Antonio Blakeney to two-year deal

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USA TODAY

Report: Bulls will sign Summer League standout Antonio Blakeney to two-year deal

Antonio Blakeney's past 12 months have landed him a permanent spot on the Bulls, according to Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania.

The signing comes as little surprise for a number of reasons, beginning with Blakeney's play.

He was named the G-League Rookie of the Year after averaging 32.0 points per game for the Windy City Bulls last season. He then fared well alonside Wendell Carter Jr. in the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 21.0 points on 40 percent shooting, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists in five games.

Blakeney, playing on a two-way contract, had a cup of coffee with the Bulls in 2017, averaging 7.9 points on 37 percent shooting in 19 games. He scored a career-high 16 points on two different occasions.

He'll likely take the spot left vacant by wing David Nwaba, a player whose qualifying offer from the Bulls was rescinded in order to free up more cap space to sign Jabari Parker.

Blakeney will battle with Denzel Valentine, Justin Holiday and Chandler Hutchison for minutes on the second unit.

Jabari Parker defends Derrick Rose's legacy in introductory press conference: 'A legend, no matter what'

Jabari Parker defends Derrick Rose's legacy in introductory press conference: 'A legend, no matter what'

Chicago basketball is a brotherhood. Jabari Parker made that much clear during his introductory press conference on Wednesday at the United Center atrium.

When asked by a reporter about what the Chicago native and Simeon alum thought about the "rise and fall" of Derrick Rose's NBA career, Parker took a hard stance defending the former league MVP.

"Derrick had no lows. He didn't, because he still maintained. Derrick is a legend, no matter. I don't like how you explained that," Parker said.

"Injuries is a part of life. Everybody has an injury, either athletics or normal life. But Derrick is one of the best players to ever play the game and one of the best icons in Chicago. So, he accomplished his duty already."

Parker and Rose have more than just Simeon basketball and a Chicago upbringing in common. Both suffered multiple knee injuries early in their careers - Rose's infamous ACL tear in the 2012 playoffs and subsequent MCL tears; Parker tore his ACL in both his rookie and third NBA seasons with the Bucks. - and battled back through them.

And now they both have ties to the Bulls.

Last week Parker agreed to a two-year, $40 million deal with his hometown team. He'll join a young core including Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Wendell Carter Jr. as the Bulls enter Year 2 of their rebuild.

Parker wasn't the only one to stick up for Rose.