Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose help Bulls deliver Showtime to Los Angeles


Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose help Bulls deliver Showtime to Los Angeles

The stars come out in Los Angeles and the Lakers have played easy fodder for visiting teams, even during Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour.

It took some prodding but the Bulls played 30 minutes of cohesive ball and 90 seconds of devastating play after an extended lull that gave the Lakers hope, concluding matters with a 114-91 win at Staples Center.

Pau Gasol got more cheers than the Lakers’ starting center Roy Hibbert all night, and the crowd’s appreciation belied the fact he was better than any frontcourt player wearing gold, as he toyed with his former team for 21 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in 31 minutes.

Gasol caught his former teammate Bryant on the post on an opening possession and spun on him for a layup, much to the outward delight of both. Bryant had some bright spots but like he has all season, struggled from the field to score 10 points on four of 13 shooting.

The Bulls’ backcourt, who barely combine for half the playing experience of Bryant, played some of the most efficient basketball of the season and did it together, along with the last-second addition of E’Twaun Moore to the starting lineup in place of Tony Snell.

[MORE: Jimmy Butler named to All-Star team while Pau Gasol misses out]

It led to more ball movement and easier shots all around—along with the Lakers’ lackadaisical defense.

“I thought it was important to get off to a good start in the first quarter,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We did that, we had nine deflections. Got some run outs, got some confidence. The ball was moving much better, 29 assists, 11 turnovers. That’s a great sign.”

Derrick Rose, who returned after missing most of Monday’s loss to Miami with hamstring soreness, made his first five shots of the game and scored 16 with seven rebounds and five assists in 29 minutes.

Butler, who was announced as an All-Star reserve earlier in the day, lived up to the billing with 26 points, 10 assists and five rebounds, hitting 11 of 17 shots in 31 minutes and was a game-high +31 while on the floor.

Wherever the Bulls are going to go, if anywhere, come April and May, Rose and Butler will be the driving forces.

One can wonder if the growing chemistry has more room to grow than previously thought.

“It’s always gonna improve. It’s new for me, it’s new for him,” Rose said. “Playing with an elite guard, we’re very young. The way he’s playing is great, I want him to shoot more but I love his shot selection. The way he’s driving and getting to the lane, it’s helping our team all along.”

It’s not a coincidence, it seems, that since Rose’s play and aggressiveness has picked up since Christmas, Butler has played more facilitator, tallying his best assist games in the last three weeks.

“We were talking about it before the game, laughing about it,” Butler said. “Saying the more games we get under our belt, the more comfortable we’re gonna be. I love playing with him, he’s super aggressive, he’s taking great shots. That’s what we need. As long as I follow his lead on that style of play we’ll be good.”

The Bulls lead by 22 late in the second quarter and held the lead for most of the night, even sitting Butler and Gasol as the game seemed secure and the Bulls were laughing it up on the bench in their first game without Nikola Mirotic, who’s out until the All-Star break with acute appendicitis.

“You can tell the way they’re talking to each other, communicating while on the bench,” said Hoiberg of Butler and Rose. “They had a couple lobs in transition, and played off each other beautifully. When those two are playing with that attack mentality, we’re pretty good.”

[SHOP: Buy a Jimmy Butler jersey]

But you couldn’t tell he was missing with the way the Bulls shared the ball better than they had all season, with 29 assists and before their extended lull, one could say they played their most serious ball of the year, given their tendency to play down to their opponent.

Then Nick Young, Jordan Clarkston and Julius Randle turned up the energy enough to cut the lead to 15 and leave Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg perplexed at his team not being able to effectively put the game away.

Then the Bulls couldn’t close out the Lakers and the Lakers couldn’t continue to close in, until Butler and Gasol re-entered the contest with six minutes left and the game stagnant on the scoreboard but the Lakers clearly carrying the pace with their energy.

Then order was restored, with Butler scoring on a backdoor dunk from Gasol followed by Rose going behind the back on a pass to E’Twaun Moore for a layup to push it back to 19 and send Bryant, who emerged to head to the scorer’s table, back to the bench.

“It’s coming to me,” said Rose, almost sheepishly. “The plays I made, I felt like they were necessary. I don’t know, just caught up in the moment.”

It was expected, and it was decisive but it was necessary given the state of affairs.

NBC Sports Chicago launches new show Bulls Outsiders

NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago launches new show Bulls Outsiders

Chicago, IL (October 15, 2018) – NBC Sports Chicago – THE Home of the #AuthenticFan – has announced it will launch Bulls Outsiders, a brand new, live, multi-platform, fan-interactive Bulls program that will provide a fresh take on that evening’s game and much more from three non-conventional sports show hosts.  Bulls Outsiders will make its network debut after the Bulls 2018-19 road/season opener this Thursday, October 18 (approx. 10:00 PM CT) immediately following Bulls Postgame Live presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois on NBC Sports Chicago+, via live stream to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive, and -- on Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago). NOTE: Bulls Outsiders will also re-air on the main NBC Sports Chicago channel on this night at 11:00 PM; the majority of airings will also air live on the main channel location.

Hosted by three, die-hard Bulls enthusiasts – Matt Peck (@Bulls_Peck), David Watson (@bawlsports), and John Sabine (@jsabine214) – Bulls Outsiders will provide viewers with the hottest takes, insightful analysis, and spirited commentary from the fans' perspective. This new half-hour program will immediately follow the network’s dedicated, season-long presentation of Bulls Postgame Live for all 82 Bulls games this season.  

In addition to the lively post-game discussion with the show’s hosts, Bulls Outsiders will also emphasize heavy viewer interaction via fan engagement on a number of the network’s social media platforms including Twitter (@NBCSBulls; fans urged to utilize the Twitter hashtag #BullsOutsiders in their posts) and Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago), which will enable Bulls fans to directly interact with the show’s hosts via comments and questions pertaining to that particular evening’s game, the key topics presented to them that night, or anything else they want to discuss from a league-wide NBA perspective. 

“Our primary goal at NBC Sports Chicago is to super serve our fans and with the introduction of Bulls Outsiders to our multi-platform programming line-up, we are able to continue that mission with a fresh and fun new program that not only speaks to Bulls fans, but one that directly involves them in the dialogue,” said Kevin Cross, Vice President of Content for NBC Sports Chicago. 

In preparation for the hiring of the program’s three primary hosts, NBC Sports Chicago reached out to a number of notable local (and vocal) die-hard Bulls fans who stood out among the vast Bulls social media community. Candidates who responded back with interest were simply asked to shoot a one-minute video on their phone and offer up their take on Chicago native/Simeon Career Academy H.S. grad Jabari Parker joining the Bulls via free agency.  From there, the initial two dozen candidates were narrowed down to eight, who were then all brought in for in-studio auditions. Following the lengthy on-camera process, Cross, along with Bulls content producer Kevin Anderson, finalized their decision and welcomed Peck, Watson, and Sabine to the NBC Sports Chicago family.  

“It was an intricate process in choosing our hosts, but there’s no doubt Matt, David, and John have a great chemistry and solid individual strengths,” added Cross. “I’m also excited about how Bulls Outsiders will take fan interactivity to a brand new level and I couldn’t be more pleased that we will be able to deliver this show to the passionate and undeniably-dedicated Bulls fan base.”

Please note the following Bulls Outsiders host bios:

Matt Peck - Podcast host/writer for ‘Locked On Bulls’

Age: 31

Hometown: Glen Ellyn, IL

Favorite Bull of all time: “MJ, obviously…but Rodman is a very close second.” 

Favorite Current Bull: Lauri Markkanen 

Favorite Bulls moments: 

1st place – “1997 NBA Finals Game 1. MJ hits the game-winner at the buzzer after Karl Malone misses 2 FTs...Mailman doesn't deliver on Sundays."

2nd place – “2011 Eastern Conference Finals Game 1…Bulls blow out the ‘Heatles.’ Taj destroys Dwyane Wade's soul. And has a FILTHY put back dunk late with the route on. The Madhouse goes insane. We all leave that night thinking we were about to win the title.” 

David Watson - Bulls writer/podcast host for BawlSports.com

Age: 39

Hometown: Chicago, IL                            

Favorite Bulls player of all-time: Michael Jordan

Favorite current Bulls player: Lauri Markkanen

Favorite Bulls moment: “Jordan Flu Game in ‘97…Noah dunk on Paul Pierce in ’09 first round Game 6 Triple OT…oh, and that Pippen dunk on Ewing in the ’94 playoffs.”

John Sabine - Actor, copywriter, and improviser…he has performed with The Second City IO and The Improvised Shakespeare Company.

Age: 34

Hometown: Originally from Dallas, TX…has lived in Chicago for the last 11 years

Favorite Bulls player of all-time: “Pippen or Rodman, it's probably Rodman. Is it weird it's Rodman?”

Favorite current Bulls player: “Lauri Markkanen, but really Bobby Portis. I want to be friends with Bobby Portis.” 

Favorite Bulls moment: “Jordan's return from baseball. As a kid I couldn't understand, I said "wait ...he just decided to not play and now he decided to play, but like he has a new number and he's still awesome...what?!’ or…either 2013 Round 1 Game 4 against the Nets 3OT, Nate Robinson. It was a Marvel Movie.” 

REMINDER: NBC Sports Chicago will carry the 2018-19 Bulls HOME OPENER on Saturday, October 20 (Bulls Pregame Live presented by Coors Light at 6:00 PM; Bulls vs. Pistons tip-off at 7:00 PM; Bulls Postgame Live presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois at approx. 9:30 PM, which will immediately be followed by Bulls Outsiders at approx. 10:00 PM).


Re-focused Zach LaVine primed to bounce back: ‘I want to prove to myself what all this hard work is for’

Re-focused Zach LaVine primed to bounce back: ‘I want to prove to myself what all this hard work is for’

Healthy in October for the first time in three seasons, Zach LaVine entered training camp as the $78 million man looking to justify one of the summer’s largest deals that many criticized.

And just a few days into camp, the spotlight homed in on him further when the Bulls lost Lauri Markkanen to an elbow injury.

LaVine responded to both challenges, putting together a preseason performance that not even the most optimistic expectations could have included.

In just 22.3 minutes he averaged 17.8 points on 52 percent shooting, made 44 percent of his triples and got to the free throw line a team best 4.8 times per game. In short, he looked much more like the potential franchise-building piece the Bulls believed they were acquiring 19 months ago.

“I’m my hardest critic, so there’s nothing on the outside that I haven’t told myself of where I want to be at. You want to tell the doubters on the outside I told you so, but it’s mostly coming from a place where I want to prove to myself what all this hard work is for.’’

The fifth-year shooting guard was fluid, attacked in a variety of ways and looked like part of the offense, something that at times was non-existent during last year’s injury-riddled comeback season. Taking shots in rhythm, attacking the rim instead of settling for contested jumpers, running the floor. LaVine looked a lot like the player who shot 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from deep before the ACL injury in 2017.

“I think I found a good rhythm and then just keep that going into the regular season. I think last year still, I was trying to catch my rhythm with the games I played,” LaVine said Monday at the Advocate Center. “I’d play two good games and two bad games. I felt like that up and down was a little bit with the consistency of not playing. Now that I’m back fully I think that’s where I should be.”

The offensive uptick is a sight for sore eyes, especially with Markkanen on the mend. But where LaVine can quiet his harshest critics – including himself – is on the defensive end.

It’s just a five-game sample size, but LaVine’s individual defensive rating of 97.3 was better than the team’s overall 100.2 rating. A year ago, LaVine’s defensive rating was 113.9, the worst on the team, and worse than the team’s overall 110.4 mark. They’re baby steps, but steps nonetheless for a player who knows what the book says about him on that end of the floor.

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” he said. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

The preseason is one hurdle cleared, but they get much taller and difficult to get over when Thursday and the Philadelphia 76ers come around. No matter who starts in the frontcourt – Fred Hoiberg isn’t ready to announce Bobby Portis and Wendell Carter Jr. yet – or if the Bulls get good Jabari Parker instead of preseason Jabari Parker, all eyes will be on LaVine.

It’s the contract. It’s being the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butle trade. It’s how well he played before the injury and how dominant he looked in the preseason. He’s off to a good start and knows now is this time to build on it.

“There are a lot of things you want to reach and get better at every year, and I put a lot of work into this offseason,” he said. “I have a lot of things to prove and want to get better at, and yeah, I feel like it’s just motivation for yourself when you want to accomplish things.’’