Bulls

In house that Jordan built, Warriors look capable of hitting Bulls' 72-win mark

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In house that Jordan built, Warriors look capable of hitting Bulls' 72-win mark

Draymond Green and Stephen Curry were finishing their pregame stretches in front of the scorer’s table Wednesday night at the United Center when they heard a familiar sound.

The Bulls’ well-known introduction music, “Sirius” by Alan Parsons Project, began playing as public address announcer Tommy Edwards prepared to reel off the names of the five starting Bulls.

It was then that Curry, getting goosebumps, looked at Green. And Green, with a smile, darted back at Curry.

“I don't know what the song's called. I call it the Jordan song. Every time I hear it I think, 'No. 23, Michael Jordan!' is about to be said. That’s what the song is to me," Green said. "I looked at Steph and I’m just like ‘Yo,’ and he looked back like, ‘Man.’ That song gets me every time."

Only time will tell whether the Golden State Warriors will topple one of the league's most historic records, the 72 wins the 1996 Bulls accomplished that helped make "the Jordan song" recognizable to an entire generation of basketball fans. But Luke Walton and the Warriors aren't concerned with breaking that record. Yet. For the defending champs, every night is a chance to get better, not move one win closer to 73 wins.

On this night they accomplished both, dazzling those in attendance - including more than a fair share wearing No. 30 Curry jerseys - with yet another textbook performance in a 125-94 victory over the Bulls.

As they have done all season, pushing the Warriors to an NBA-best 39-4 record, the usual suspects were at their best. Curry scored in a variety of ways, including his patented 28-footers, contorting layups and pull-up jumpers. Green led the charge on fast breaks, dishing out nine of the Warriors' 38 assists that helped lead to 21 transition points. Klay Thompson drained three 3-pointers and played staunch defense on Jimmy Butler, who scored just four points in the first half. Andrew Bogut grabbed six of the Warriors' 12 offensive rebounds, and the bench scored 49 points.

[MORE: Curry, Warriors embarrass Bulls in measuring stick game]

They exposed mismatches - Pau Gasol had one point on 0-for-8 shooting while being guarded by Green - moved the ball seamlessly - 38 assists were two off their season-high - and lived with allowing Derrick Rose, who scored 29 points, to score without initiating much real offense; Rose finished with two assists.

"The things we said we needed to get back to, we’ve done," Green said. "And we’ve just got to continue to build on them."

At Wednesday's shootaround Gasol admitted that if the Bulls allowed Golden State to "play their game...they could tear us apart."

The Bulls played as the aggressor early, forcing the Warriors into five well-contested 3-pointers that all missed. An early four-point Bulls lead had the United Center crowd of 23,152 - a season-high - buzzing at the thought that perhaps the Warriors had taken the foot off the gas. They were playing their seventh road game in their last nine contests, had reclaimed their title as league's best following a drubbing of LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Cleveland and may have been prone to a letdown.

Not this team.

Curry went toe-to-toe with Rose, who scored 10 of the Bulls' first 12 points, by adding 10 of his own and dishing out six assists for the Warriors, who shot 60 percent despite missing six of their first seven shots. Curry leading the charge began a 20-4 run to close the opening stanza after a Jimmy Butler jumper tied the game at 14 apiece. The offensive flow came as a result of clamped down defense, as the Bulls missed nine of their final 10 shots in the quarter and committed four turnovers, which Golden State turned into eight easy points.

And when Walton, still serving as head coach while Steve Kerr recovers from two offseason back surgeries, went to the bench the production didn't skip a beat. Shaun Livingston took advantage of the smaller Aaron Brooks guarding him and scored six points in the second, as the Warriors pushed the lead to as many as 21 early in the quarter. The Bulls cut into the 19-point halftime deficit in the third quarter, using 10-2 run to pull within 11, which against the Warriors felt like an accomplishment in itself.

The Warriors' lull in the third took another potential downturn when Green was accidentally struck in the face by Taj Gibson and was forced to leave the game. The bench came in to end the third quarter and helped push the lead back up, highlighted by a Leandro Barbosa underhanded alley-oop to Andre Iguodala, who finished in transition with a two-handed slam. The Warriors' bench outscored the Bulls' 49-35, and six of the seven Warriors reserves finished with a positive +/- rating.

"It’s huge because the starters, we built a solid lead but they came in and built on it, which is huge when everybody’s clicking, every line that we have out there," said Curry. "Where they take the energy we set and run with it and really keep the pressure on the opposing team. Just a total team effort."

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Green returned to begin the fourth quarter and handed out four assists in the period, finishing with six points, 10 rebounds and nine helpers. Thompson, who had been quiet through three quarters, scored 11 of his 20 points and Curry sealed the game with a trademark step back 3-pointer, his 25th points of the night to go with 11 assists. Less than two minutes later both teams emptied their benches.

It was another sign that the Warriors, who began the year with an NBA-record 28 straight wins, are fully back on track. Two losses the previous week, to Denver and Detroit, certainly weren't cause for concern. But they also didn't accomplish Green's goal of getting better each night. On the heels of a 34-point win in Cleveland, the Warriors didn't let up on the final game of their road trip and put together one of their most impressive of their 38 wins this season.

And in the house M.J. built, in the building that historic 72-win team set records and won a title, the Warriors looked the part of a team that could accomplish the same.

"We’re a mature team and we kind of have that chip back on our shoulder," Green said. "I think it kind of fell off. We’ve been playing with that the last two games, and it’s exciting because before these last two games, I don’t think the last seven games before that. We weren’t really playing that well. The last two games have been pretty fun."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

Mark Carman, Hub Arkush, Phil Rogers and Will Perdue join Kap on the SportsTalk Live Podcast.

The guys start by discussing Brandon Morrow's injury that he sustained while taking off his pants... what's the craziest cause for an injury the guys can remember?

Plus, should the Bulls move up or down in Thursday's NBA Draft? Does it make sense to take on a bad contract in a potential deal?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

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USA TODAY

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

Over the past several weeks, the Bulls have been heavily rumored to be selecting Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although the 6-foot-7 Hutchison had a stellar four-year career with the Broncos, and was regarded as a top-100 national prospect coming out of high school, his background is relatively unknown compared to many of his first-round counterparts. Not many recruiting gurus watched Hutchison in-depth in high school. The same could be said about draft analysts watching Hutchison's career unfold at Boise State.

Part of the reason Hutchison has flown under the radar for so long, despite being a first-round talent, is his unique basketball upbringing. Many elite high school players opt to transfer to big-time basketball schools while playing in high-exposure shoe-company leagues during the spring and summer. Instead of the normal path, Hutchison chose to stick with the people that he trusted.

Playing for a small, independent grassroots program in high school known as Team Eastbay, Hutchison started showing special gifts as a sophomore in before blossoming into a top-100 national prospect towards the end of high school. Hutchison's trainer and coach with Team Eastbay, Perry Webster, saw that Chandler had the ability to be a big-time player.

"I walked into the gym and saw this 15-year-old kind of gangly kid. And he just moved different than anybody else. I thought he had a chance to be a pretty good player," Webster said of Hutchison.

As Hutchison developed more of a reputation in the Southern California basketball scene, becoming a starter at Mission Viejo High School his junior season, he started to draw more attention from local and national recruiting analysts — including former ESPN recruiting insider Joel Francisco, Scout.com's Josh Gershon and SoCal recruiting analyst Devin Ugland.

"You saw during his junior year that he was a legitimate Division I prospect. During the spring he started blossoming," Francisco said. "He had the ball skills and the prototypical length and things like that. And he was finishing plays. He had a good IQ for the game. It was a matter of strength and he had to fill out to become a more complete player."

By the end of summer going into his senior season, Hutchison had established himself as a potential Pac-12 recruit, as schools like Oregon and USC started to show heavy interest. But it was mid-major programs like Boise State, Saint Mary's and UC-Irvine who had long been involved in Hutchison's recruitment.

Knowing that Hutchison was a unique wing with a high IQ and passing skills, Webster, a former Division I player at Cal State Fullerton himself, advised that his star player take a close look at the programs that would put him in position to succeed right away.

"Every AAU program in Southern California was trying to get him for their team. Free ride this, free shoes. The kid stayed really loyal to me. I was very hard on him," Webster said. "I demanded a lot of him. I screamed at him, I yelled at him. And he looked me in the eye and took it. I realized, this kid is pretty special because he's not running away from what he is. He knows what his limitations are. That's not something he's afraid to address.

"Not everybody was sold on him. Joel [Francisco] was. Joel was one of the proponents of him. But being that he burst on the scene late, and that he didn't play for the big shoe companies, we kind of came to the decision that we wouldn't be so enamored by the Pac-12. He realized he had ability but he still had a long way to go." 

Hutchison eventually decided to sign his National Letter of Intent with Boise State before his senior season started as assistant coach Jeff Linder acted as his lead recruiter. Even though his collegiate future had been decided, Hutchison continued to evolve into a major prospect during senior year as he flourished at Mission Viejo.

Even with his strong senior season, skepticism remained about Hutchison since he hadn't played with and against many of the major names in Southern California. Ranked as the No. 83 overall prospect in ESPN's final Class of 2014 national recruiting rankings, Hutchison was viewed as the seventh best player in his own state. While Francisco pushed for Hutchison to be ranked in the top 50, he had to settle for him being a back-end top-100 talent.

"They're like, hey, he's going to Boise State, he's not on a major shoe company team. How good can he be? But if he can play, he can play. It doesn't matter if he's not on the adidas circuit, he's not in the EYBL," Francisco said.

Francisco wasn't the only major recruiting analyst to take notice of Hutchison's play. Rivals.com's Eric Bossi also labeled Hutchison as a potential breakout player at Boise State. Hutchison was even placed in the Rivals national recruiting rankings, ending up at No. 98 overall, after his senior season. Bossi was on vacation with his family during spring break and he happened to see Hutchison play during his senior season. But Hutchison's strong effort, along with some research, convinced Bossi that he was worthy of a top-100 ranking, even with only one serious viewing. 

"I decided to go watch some regional California high school playoff stuff. And it just so happened to be that Chandler's high school team was one of the teams I was seeing," Bossi said. "I knew he was on the team and committed to Boise State. But then when I watched him play I was like, 'Holy cow, what an incredible get for Boise State. Like, this dude's legit.' He had great size for a wing. He could handle the ball, he could really pass and I thought he could defend multiple positions at the next level when it was all said and done. I thought he was a versatile, well-skilled, well-rounded basketball player. So, based on that, I thought he was top-100. I wish I had seen him more."

Even as a former top-100 national prospect, it took some time for Hutchison to gain traction at Boise State as he didn't put up big numbers during his first two seasons. Although Hutchison played plenty of minutes and started a healthy amount of games, he often took a back seat to talented all-conference players like Anthony Drmic and James Webb III.

When those players eventually moved on from the Broncos, Hutchison was given his chance to shine, as his ascension into all-conference player and future first-round pick came with an intense work ethic that continually developed during workouts in college.

Hutchison also became a consistent three-point threat — something he had been lacking during his development — as he became a hot name in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his unorthodox basketball background.

"He's always been competitive. I think the big thing is reps. And it still will be as he continues to play in the league," Webster said. "He wasn't a bad shooter in high school, but I think the big adjustment for him getting to college, it's hard to put up good percentages in college. I think some of it is mental. But I think he's a good shooter and I think that he'll prove that." 

It's hard to predict if the Bulls will end up with Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night — especially given all of the chaos that can occur on draft night. But if Hutchison does end up in Chicago, he won't be fazed by having to prove himself after already doing so at the high school and college level.