Bulls

Jennings prepared for matchup with Rose

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Jennings prepared for matchup with Rose

MILWAUKEE Brandon Jennings has known Derrick Rose since their high school days, when Rose was the top-rated point guard a year ahead of Jennings, who held the same status in his own class. The two have had some memorable battles, including when Rose led his Simeon Career Academy team to an upset over Jennings No. 1-ranked Oak Hill Academy squad in Jennings junior season.

While Jennings hasnt come out on top much when matched against Rose on the NBA level, his familiarity with the leagues reigning MVP does allow him to provide some insight into facing off with the Chicago native.

With him, youve got to double him early. Youve got to get the ball out of his hands early in the game and just try to make the other guys make plays for their team, Jennings said after the Bucks Wednesday-morning shootaround at the Bradley Center. A lot of guards dont like to try to go back at him, but at the same time, scorers dont like for other people to go at them also, so I think its important that I just stay aggressive and stay on the attack.

It doesnt help matters that a large Chicago contingent made the relatively short trip to Milwaukee to support the Bulls, something that makes Jennings believe that it will be important for the Bucks to get off to a quick start.

Hes one of the best point guards in the NBA, the reigning MVP. Its going to be a great atmosphere in here tonight, especially with the Bulls coming in town. Were just trying to get the win, said Jennings. Ive played in bigger, crazier environments than that, especially playing in Europe. It should be fun. Chicagos not so far away, so a lot of Chicago fans come out to Milwaukee. It should be a crazy atmosphere.

Its going to be real important, just for the fact that theyre bringing down their crowd. Its going to be loud in there and weve been struggling with this team a lot, but right now, I think the team has an uptick and hopefully we can show it tonight, he continued. Its going to take 48 minutes for us to contain the Bulls. Theyre a great team, No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference right now, so its not going to be easy. Were going to have total focus for 48 minutes.

For Roses part, while he frequently acknowledges that opposing point guards are all coming at me, he looks at the Central Division showdown from a team perspective.

Milwaukee, theyre playing great right now, won some big games and playing good basketball, competing every night, he said. Its going to be hard going down there and competing against them.

Added Joakim Noah: Milwaukees going to be tough. Every NBA team is tough and we know that weve got to have the right mindset.

If we come with the right mindset, well have a better chance of winning, so we know that well be focused. Were on a mission right now and we have a lot of fans up there, as well, so were always excited to go out there and play.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was complimentary of both Jennings and the Bucks, who have struggled with injuries to center Andrew Bogut, as a whole.

Each year hes gotten a lot better. I think over the last three games, hes averaging over 30 points a game. Theyve had misfortune and theyve had Bogut being out.
The team is built around Bogut and Jennings, and so, youre missing a significant part, but that being said, this team plays extremely hard, theyre in every game and theyve had some great wins this year, theyre very dangerous, theyre a well-balanced team, they share the ball, they play hard defensively and they have some tough matchups because they have a number of guys who can put it on the floor, he explained.

Although the Bucks wouldnt make the postseason if the playoffs started today, Jennings feels they have a chance to make a push.

Were three or four games out of the playoff race, so hopefully we can get this one tonight and get the Knicks on Friday, he said. That eighth spot is right there. Hopefully the Knicks can keep losing because they did make their run before the All-Star break, so hopefully this is our time to make our run and try to get between the seventh and eighth spot.

One of the more active players during the lockout the third-year point guard, who gained recognition as a rookie for scoring 55 points in a game, played in exhibition games from Washington, D.C., to his hometown of Los Angeles although Jennings missed making the All-Star Game, he believes his active offseason is playing off, despite the Bucks struggles.

"All of it did, man. I think just staying busy and showing that I love the game of basketball, no matter what. Just playing for free, playing for fun and just going to parks, 24-Hour Fitnesses, anything to just try to get hoop in. It was just great for me, said Jennings. I didnt take too much time off. I might have took like a month off, but after that, I just got back going and stayed in the gym the whole time.

Just being more aggressive on the offensive end and also making sure it carries over to the defensive end, and just trying to give the team a spark and just attacking the basket more, he continued. Its been an up-and-down season because of the lockout. No training camp, were just coming in and out, not a lot of practices, guys getting hurt, so its been tough and all the games thats just been on us, back-to-back.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch the series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.