Bulls

Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose's return to Chicago a successful one as Bulls fall to Knicks

Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose's return to Chicago a successful one as Bulls fall to Knicks

It can all turn so quickly.

Not that the good vibes are gone, but as evidenced by the smattering of boos given to Derrick Rose in his return to Chicago for the first time as a visitor, things can change in the blink of an eye, in the torque of a leg, in a 48-minute span.

The New York Knicks came into the United Center and treated the building as if it were their own with a 117-104 win Friday night in Rose and Joakim Noah’s return since moving on to the Knicks this offseason.

If the Bulls wanted to show their former mates life has gotten oh-so-much better without them around, they failed to send the message as it was the Knicks who played harmoniously and with savvy in an electric environment, taking an early 22-6 lead and having the Bulls play catch-up all night long.

“They came out and played with great energy,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “They got two guys coming back to a franchise, the only one they played for. I knew they would come out with great energy.”

Rose was cheered and booed through the night, even egging the fans on in the third quarter after a free-throw line jumper, his first field goal outside the paint as he scored 15 with a season-high 11 assists and seven rebounds.

“I don’t know, I probably forgot it. It was probably from someone taunting me,” Rose said. “I love to compete, I’m a competitor. That’s all it was.”

Noah scored in double figures for the first time as a Knick, with 14 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Noah and Rose were the pregame headliners but second-year forward Kristaps Porzingis helped give the Bulls the blues, with 27 points and five rebounds. Rose gushed about Porzingis’ game while chatting with reporters, and it was easy to see why he’s regarded as one of the best young talents the NBA has to offer.

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Hitting triples in transition, feasting off mismatches caused by defensive switches from the Bulls that shouldn’t have occurred, he took full advantage of everything the Bulls allowed—and they allowed just about everything.

“There was just no real urgency coming out of the gate tonight,” Hoiberg said. “We were retreating on our hells all night.”

Despite the start, the Bulls clawed back into the game, going on a 49-27 run to take a six-point lead before the half, as Dwyane Wade launched triple after triple to cut the deficit.

Not surprisingly, the Bulls’ best defensive quarter was when they took control, holding the Knicks to 45.5 percent shooting—the only 12-minute stretch where the Knicks shot below 50 percent.

Wade finished with a season-high 35—his best scoring performance since the 2014-15 season—and Jimmy Butler scored 26. But clearly offense wasn’t the problem, as Wade hit five triples to surpass his season total from a year ago (eight).

“The disappointing thing is we got the lead in the second quarter, then let our foot off the gas and let them come out and set the tone again,” Hoiberg said.

The Knicks spread the ball around freely in the second half, with Rose and Brandon Jennings playing in the backcourt for the fourth quarter as dual playmakers. It set up things for Anthony, Porzingis and Noah, with the Bulls offering little resistance.

It was another sign of the Bulls missing the defensive pressure provided by Michael Carter-Williams, as the starters failed to contain the Knicks’ first five.

“We had 15 assists and 13 turnovers, they had 32 assists and five turnovers,” Hoiberg said. “That tells you everything you need to know.”

Rajon Rondo didn’t have the type of affect on the game as he had in the opening Bulls wins, tallying only four points, five rebounds and five assists.

His counterpart got the last laugh when it counted.

Rose’s 11th assist, a cross-court pass to the corner for an Anthony triple, gave the Knicks a 114-104 lead with 50.6 seconds left. Noah greeted Anthony in the air with a mid-air chest bump that had to be none too pleasing for the Bulls faithful but as satisfying as any win Noah and Rose have had in the last two years.

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 scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that 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.