Bulls

Kidd: Bucks 'learning how to win' as rivalry with Bulls blossoms

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Kidd: Bucks 'learning how to win' as rivalry with Bulls blossoms

When the Milwaukee Bucks met the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs nearly six months ago, the teams had different expectations.

The Bulls, seemingly playing for their coach's future, touted a league MVP, a two-time NBA champion, a Defensive Player of the Year and the reigning Most Improved Player. Championship aspirations were real, with yet another postseason clash with LeBron James looming following the first round.

The Bucks, whose top four leading scorers were 23 or younger and hadn't appeared in a postseason game, won a franchise-worst 15 games the previous year. First-year Bucks head coach Jason Kidd and his team said all the right things in the lead-up to the series, that they were there to win and not just gain a valuable learning experience for down the road.

Yet despite eventually taking what became a chippy series to a surprising six games, Milwaukee was never a true threat to end the Tom Thibodeau Era, which James did two weeks later.

The 2015-16 season might tell a different story.

[MORE BULLS: Bulls launch 39 triples, open Hoiberg Era with preseason win over Bucks]

The Bucks are no longer underdogs. They're no longer the NBA's biggest surprise. No one will miss the Bucks coming like they did a year ago when Milwaukee became the ninth team in NBA history to make a one-year jump from owning the league's worst record to securing a postseason berth.

"For us, we’re still in the process of learning how to win and what it means to play hard every night," Kidd said. "(The Bulls) have done that for some time now. They’ve had MVPs, they’ve gotten to big games in playoffs. So for us, we want to hopefully get to that level here in the next few years."

That process began with the team's first non-losing season in five seasons, and it hastened when the young Bucks didn't back down in the playoffs and won a pair of games, including one in Chicago, in what might have been the start of a budding rivalry in the Central Division. That six-game series included 14 technical fouls, four flagrant fouls and a pair of ejections.

Tuesday night's preseason opener between the two teams didn't feature any rough play — Paul Pierce's absence helped — but the meeting didn't lack for intensity. Free-agency winners Khris Middleton (five years, $70 million) and Jimmy Butler (five years, $95 million) traded jabs midway through the second quarter, with Middleton dunking over Butler in transition and staring down the Bulls' guard. Butler responded with an isolation move past Middleton that resulted in a three-point play. Butler scored 23 points in 25 minutes; Middleton had 10.

The Bucks' other offseason score also made his presence felt. The biggest indicator of Milwaukee's growth as a franchise might have been prized free agent Greg Monroe signing a four-year max deal with the Bucks over the likes of New York, Los Angeles and Portland. Monroe's inside scoring will prove crucial to a Bucks team that averaged fewer than 98 points per game last season, and he looked fresh scoring six points in 17 minutes Tuesday night.

"It just shows that maybe we’re doing something right," Kidd said of Monroe choosing Milwaukee. "As much as sometimes it used to be about the city, (now) it’s about winning."

[MORE BULLS: Bulls staff visited Derrick Rose, Hoiberg said he's 'in great spirits']

Still, for a franchise being built around young talent blossoming, the cream of the crop in the Cream City is yet to be unwrapped. Chicago native Jabari Parker didn't play in Milwaukee's preseason opener, still a couple weeks away from game action after recovering fully from ACL surgery in January. When he does take the floor, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2014 draft will give Kidd another scorer and versatile forward at his disposal.

Parker practiced with the team in full last week and did "everything in training camp," so his return to the Bucks should come sooner than later.

"We want to make sure that when it is time for him to come back it’s not where he’s in and out, and he’s back for the long haul. So again, no rush," Kidd said. "He hasn’t had any setbacks, he’s competing at a high level. You see why he was the No. 2 pick. So we’re excited to have him back."

Excited. It seems to be a word thrown around in Milwaukee these days. Between 20-year-old sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo, who threw down an acrobatic dunk from nearly behind the backboard in the second quarter, rookie Rashad Vaughn (20 points on Tuesday) and John Henson, who signed a $44 million extension last week, the pieces are beginning to come together for the Bucks.

Suddenly the Central Division is no longer just a two-team race between the Bulls and Cavaliers. As they learn to win through the victories they'll now be expected to win this season, those expectations will only heighten. But with a surplus of young talent now holding valuable playoff experience gained through last year's playoff series with the Bulls, Kidd's group will embrace the new expectations they have for themselves.

Antoine Griezmann professes his love for Derrick Rose after winning World Cup

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USA TODAY

Antoine Griezmann professes his love for Derrick Rose after winning World Cup

Antoine Griezmann, you just won the World Cup, what are you going to do next?

Apparently, profess his love for Derrick Rose.

In the celebrations of France winning the World Cup on Sunday, French forward Griezmann spotted his teammate Paul Pogba getting interviewed by FOX Sports. Recognizing this was the American audience, Griezmann took the mic from FOX's Jenny Taft and had one thing to say:

"I love Derrick Rose."

Griezmann, who scored a goal in France's 4-2 win against Croatia in the final, is a big NBA fan. He has been spotted at multiple games over the years, including Game 5 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and Cavs.

This also isn't the first time he has made a comment about D-Rose. He recently signed a contract extension with his club team, Atletico Madrid, but a year ago said the only way he would leave was to play with Rose.

"I would only leave Atleti to play with Derrick Rose," Griezmann said through translation.

In 2015 he posted an image of himself in a Derrick Rose Bulls jersey to his Instagram.

Later that year he took in a Bulls game and got a photo with Joakim Noah.

Maybe when the 27-year-old is ready to leave Europe, he will join a Major League Soccer team just so he can watch more NBA games.

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

The Bulls ‘rebuild’ seems to be just a one-year experiment after the team signed Chicago native Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40-million dollar deal on Saturday. Although on first look Parker’s contract would seem to restrict what they can do in free agency next summer, the reality is that the 2nd year team option gives the Bulls plenty of flexibility with—or without- Parker next year.  

If the Bulls pick up the option on Parker, they will still be able to sign a max free agent next July if they make the right moves between now and July 1, 2019.

The NBA projects the 2019-20 cap will rise to $109 million, up from $101.9 million for the upcoming season. The league bases a ‘max’ salary on years of service. A 10-year vet like Kevin Durant is eligible for more ($38.2 million) than his teammate Klay Thompson ($32.7 million), an 8-year vet. If the Bulls keep Parker, they’ll enter free agency with approximately $15.4 million next summer—far short of the cap space needed for a player like Durant or Thompson, but that number is misleading. The $15.4 million also includes cap holds (salary slots assigned to a player based on several factors including previous year’s salary). The cap hold is designed to prevent teams from completely circumventing the soft cap model the league uses. The cap holds for Bobby Portis ($7.5 million) and Cameron Payne ($9.8 million) are just theoretical if the Bulls don’t sign either to a contract extension before the October 31, 2018 deadline. 

Let’s say the Bulls are in line to sign a star free agent like Thompson; all they would need to do is rescind any qualifying offer to Payne or Portis, and then renounce them as free agents. This would effectively take the cap holds off the Bulls’ cap sheet and give them approximately $32.7 million in cap space. Coincidently (or perhaps it’s no coincidence), that’s the exact salary a 7-9 year free agent like Thompson would command.

In order to create enough space for Durant and his increased ‘max’ slot, they would need to waive and stretch a player like Cristiano Felicio or incentivize a trade involving a player by attaching another asset in the deal, like a future 1st round pick.

If the Bulls decline the team option on Parker, then they will enter free agency with anywhere between $35 million and $53 million.