Gasol, Bulls respond in Detroit for important road win


Gasol, Bulls respond in Detroit for important road win

The last time the Pistons and Bulls met up, 68 minutes of scintillating, exhausting basketball took place at the United Center, as the Pistons took the second meeting between the two rivals.

And as exhausting as that game was for Pau Gasol, it promised to be just as taxing defending Andre Drummond without the help and assistance of Joakim Noah.

But mammoth challenges presents opportunity, and Gasol showed his value to the Bulls and the league at large with a 31-point, 12-rebound performance, leading the Bulls to a 111-101 win at the Palace Monday afternoon, their first win in three tries.

Derrick Rose’s two drives to the basket on consecutive plays, the last a fading, hooking floater, put seemed to end the Pistons’ threat and send the fans to the exits, giving him 20 with four assists on nine of 17 shooting in just 27 minutes.

“Pau was unbelievable all night long and I thought our guys did a great job of finding him and setting screens on Drummond,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Derrick made a couple nice takes to the basket late.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Gasol’s triple with the shot clock expiring gave the Bulls a 98-88 lead with a little under six minutes to go, and combined with the ejection of perimeter stopper Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, things became more and more likely to roll in the Bulls’ favor.

And without Noah, the Bulls will need more and more performances like this from Gasol, probably just to stay afloat.

“It’s gonna be different on different nights,” Hoiberg said. “He had it going. And plus he does a good job from a size standpoint against Drummond. We’ll look at the schedule and see if there’s opportunity to rest him.”

Without Noah, the dependence will be greater but Rose believes it presents more of an opportunity for others to step forward—and he’s not buying the Bulls being better without Noah, despite the Bulls’ 9-2 record without him.

“I’m not going to say we’re over him or don’t need him. We need him for sure,” Rose said. “We’re professionals, we know that once someone goes down somebody has to step in and do their job. We’re going to see how far this can go.”

Aaron Brooks came off the bench to tally 10 assists, with Butler having nine of his own as the Bulls dished out 28 helpers to just 10 turnovers, reversing what had been an alarming trend, particularly on the road.

“I thought our bench turned around the game for us and they got us back into it,” said Hoiberg, remarking about the second quarter where the Bulls gained control thanks to Brooks’ driving and dishing to the likes of Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic for 3-pointers, as the Pistons defense was slow to recover and allowed guard penetration all game.

 "I thought our guys made the right plays, we made simple plays," Hoiberg said.

[MORE: Jimmy Butler named finalist for 2016 USA Basketball team] 

Drummond had another double-double, but the Bulls, and Gasol, limited his above-the-rim plays and even drew a semi-controversial 3-point shooting foul with 0.3 seconds on the shot clock when the Pistons were making a slight run.

Drummond finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds, and Reggie Jackson scored 19 with six assists—but without the blistering effect he had in their last meeting when he torched the Bulls for 40-plus.

With a tough week ahead, Monday was the start, and the Bulls finally played with the requisite focus, as the Pistons beat the Golden State Warriors Saturday night on their home floor.

It didn’t start out that way, as the Bulls seemed to be in a lethargy that’s usually reserved for games against the Pistons, a team that has turned things around matchup-wise over the last two years or so.

Gasol shooting six for seven from the field kept the Bulls afloat when they didn’t seem interested in competing with the Pistons on the interior. The Pistons took a 13-point lead and it seemed to be on the way to running the Bulls out of the building.

But the Bulls actually played with a little poise, and wouldn’t you know it, held it together long enough for an impressive road win against an above. 500 team.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.