Bulls

Hinrich, Noah game-time decisions tonight in Orlando

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Hinrich, Noah game-time decisions tonight in Orlando

ORLANDOFor their two-game road trip to Florida, the Bulls have four point guards traveling with the team.
One is Derrick Rose, who obviously wont be suiting up. Another is rookie Marquis Teague, whose playing time likely depends on that status of starter Kirk Hinrich, who missed the disappointing New Years Eve loss to the woeful Bobcats, which snapped an 18-game losing streak for Charlotte, with what Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau called a compilation of things, but more specifically is centered around the veterans ailing left knee.
If Hinrich doesnt play, next in the pecking order is backup point guard Nate Robinson, whose contract was guaranteed for the remainder of the season Tuesday, ensuring that 2013 started off on a high note for the diminutive scorer. But Hinrich participated in Wednesday mornings shootaround at the Amway Center and if no complications arise, he expects to play against the Magic in the evening.
Im feeling better, so Im going to go out here and participate in shootaround, and go from there, Hinrich said, adding that he didnt think his minutes would be curtailed due to the nagging injury, which troubled him earlier in the campaign, causing him to miss games against Philadelphia and Brooklyn last month. I think it just depends on how I feel, my comfort level and all that.
Thibodeau chimed in: Kirk, I think, is fine. Well see after the shootaround.
While Hinrich doesnt put up gaudy statistics, it was clear Monday that the Bulls missed his ability to run the offense, be a pesky defender and put his teammates in the right positions, as well as his quiet leadership. While the 19-year-old Teague has potential, hes inexperienced and it appears that Thibodeau is reluctant to trust the offense in his hands, while Robinson, who is a dynamic scorer, is best suited as an energy player off the bench and a change-of-pace option when the Bulls need offensive production, as traditional playmaking has never been his strong suit.
When you look at his plus-minus and how the team functions when hes on the floor, its both offense and defense, Thibodeau explained. Offensively, we play well and defensively, we play well and thats what a point guard has to do, is run the team. Hes played well all season and I think he understands how to run a team and when you look at shot distribution when hes on the floor, the right guys are getting the right shots. Thats a big part of it.
Joakim Noah and Vladimir Radmanovic are also game-time decisions, due to flu-like symptoms, which severely impacted Noah in Mondays defeat.
Jo is still not feeling well, so well see tonight, Thibodeau said.Radmanovic is not feeling well, so those two guys will be game-time decisions.
As for Rose, the former league MVP wasnt made available to the media, but Thibodeau discussed the point guards recent progress, which was first reported by CSNChicago.com after Saturdays home win over Washington.
Hes been around the whole time. You guys dont see him as much as the team does and so, I dont think its that big of a deal. Its the next step in the progression for him. Hes getting up to speed with everything offensively, defensively, his teammates, so its just the next step and hes got to continue to do the things that hes been doing, and the team has to continue to focus on our improvement and our opponent, and then at some point, hell be ready to go. But he still has some time to go. Everyone has to be patient, but its good to have him around, Thibodeau explained. Hes already been in practice and they see him doing his rehab, so that part, it is what it is. Hes still not out on the court and thatll be eventually what we have to do. Hell be part of the group. But right now, everything is good. Our team has to keep working, just focus on the improvement. Derrick has to focus on what he needs to focus on and at some point, hell rejoin the group.
Its when hes ready, so thats not anything that has changed from the start of the season. Its when hes ready. Its not going to be sooner, later, this is the target date. Its just when hes ready, so hes doing practice, the predictable contact in practice. The next step will be regular practice. Then, he has to be able to go through regular practice for a while and then, if everything goes well, then he plays. But theres no time schedule. So, its everything according to plan. Its just the next step. Theres several steps that he has to go through. Theres several more that he has to go through, so everythings going well. Nothing has changed.
Thibodeau is more preoccupied with his struggling team performing well Wednesday night against the overachieving Magic. Under first-year head coach Jacque Vaughn, unheralded Orlando has been competitive something the Bulls know firsthand from their narrow victory at the United Center in November and although theyve been plagued by injuries as of late, the Magic took the defending-champion Heat to overtime New Years Day.
When you look at their personneltheyre down Jameer Nelson and ETwaun Moore the last couple games, but they have good personnel. When you look at Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick and Hedo Turkoglu, those guys have been around and theyve performed well. Glen Davis has gotten hurt for them, but I had Davis in Boston; I know how good he is, Thibodeau said.
The core of their team is very, very good and theyve added some young guys who are very good. Andrew Nicholson is a terrific player, Nikola Vucevic is playing great basketball right now, so the challenge for us is to be ready. But theyre a very talented team, they play hard, they share the ball, theyre skilled, so we have to be ready. Vucevic, 29 rebounds in the last game, so were concerned about that and youre right, they played Miami great. Turkoglu is just coming back right now. Hes been a very talented player, hes got great size and decision-making ability, so they can run their offense through him and were concerned."
He went on to praise Vaughn, saying, I think hes well-prepared, hes got a very good staff, hes got them playing hard, playing together. Very impressive.

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

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USA TODAY

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

Lauri Markkanen doesn't often feel short.

The Bulls forward is 7-feet tall, which even in the land of NBA giants makes him one of the tallest players on the court at all times. So when Markkanen stands next to Yao Ming, it changes perspective quite a bit.

Markkanen posted a photo with him and the 7-foot-6 Chinese Hall of Famer. Markkanen looks like a child.

Makes you wonder if Markkanen pulled some "What's the weather like up there?" jokes just because he otherwise never can.

 

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

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USA TODAY

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

Former Miami Heat two-way player Derrick Walton Jr. is reported to be nearing a deal with the Bulls. In an interview with The Athletic, it was stated: "Walton, 23, says he knows where he’ll play next season. An agreement is in place, but his agent, Mark Bartelstein, is requiring him to sit on the news until next week. All Walton can put out publicly is this: 'Long story short, I’m good. I’m going to a great situation. All I can say.' "

And while it is not yet known if the potential contract will be a two-way deal or not, Walton would provide an intriguing lottery ticket for the Bulls. 

The team mostly ignored looking for a backup point guard on the market. There is obviously a belief in the organization that Cameron Payne will have some internal growth, making him the best option. And the trade of Jerian Grant for essentially nothing, shows even more that Payne is there guy. Retaining Ryan Arcidiacono is a nice move considering the hustle that he showed last season at both the G League and NBA level, but it still leaves the Bulls thin in terms of established backup PGs behind Kris Dunn. And that is where Walton comes into play. 

Walton was a four-year player at the University of Michigan, where he played in some big-time games and showed immense leadership potential. But in terms of strictly on the court skills, there is one thing that he does extremely well: space the floor. 

In his four years at Michigan, Walton took a total of 581 3-point attempts, and knocked them down at a 40.1 percent rate. His elite shooting is enough to make him a legitimate rotation player for Fred Hoiberg. And while Payne still may develop into a better player, his outside shooting is his calling card despite never being elite at that skill at the NBA level. And in fact, when you compare he and Walton’s stats from college, the G League and the NBA, it becomes apparent who is the better shooter right now.

3-point percentage at NCAA level: Payne- 35.9 percent, Walton- 40.1 percent
3-point percentage at G League level: Payne- 33.8 percent, Walton- 37.7 percent
3-point percentage at NBA level: Payne- 34 percent, Walton- 41.2 percent

Now obviously, there is a “small sample size alert” for the NBA level, as Walton has only taken 17 3-pointers at the NBA level in his limited time with the Miami Heat. But these numbers show that even dating back to their freshman years of college, Walton has been the more efficient shooter from 3-point range.

Cameron Payne has the edge when it comes to playmaking, and this is based off of the fact that Payne has maintained an assist rate above 30 percent through all of his G League stints, while also having a low turnover rate (9.9 percent). Walton didn’t come close to Payne in terms of G League assist rate, and his 17.9 percent turnover rate at the G League level shows that his decision-making has yet to catch up to his shooting. 

Ultimately, Walton is going to be most effective as an off-ball guard who can make quick decisions, and knockdown the 3-point shot at a high level. Though if Summer League was any indication, his passing out of the pick-and-roll is getting better. And while Payne certainly is a good shooter, his game is much more predicated on having the ball in his hands, and playing in the pick-and-roll. With so many players on the Bulls who can create their own shot, Walton could end up being the cleanest fit with this constantly evolving Bulls roster.