Bulls

Kidd provides positive outlook on Rose

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Kidd provides positive outlook on Rose

Being that it's Christmas Eve, most people are in a festive mood these days. Even Bulls fans, who started this season in gloom-and-doom mode, due to the absence of Derrick Rose and the team's shaky start, are now more optimistic with the new-look roster finding its stride and notching some impressive wins as of late.
When it comes to Rose's recovery, it seems like there's a new story about his progress every other day. But as secretive as the organization can be, the truth is that nobody but Rose and the medical staff truly can make any ballpark guess as to when he could return.
While it's encouraging that he's doing increasingly more drill work and starting to participate in walk-through sessions, in the grand scheme of things that doesn't mean much. Only he knows how his body feels and only trained medical professionals can accurately gauge his readiness to play again, no matter what Adrian Peterson's potential record-breaking NFL season or anything Ricky Rubio does makes us believe.
But if there's anything to be gleaned from the experiences of other, perhaps a better person than most to ask is future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd. Now playing off the ball for the Knicks, Kidd is one of the greatest playmakers in NBA history and, for those who didn't see him when he was young -- I'm talking about when he was a high school All-American, in college at Cal or during his early days as a pro in Dallas, even before making back-to-back Finals appearances with the Nets, let alone winning the 2011 title in his second stint with the Mavericks -- aside from being a great passer, Kidd was an explosive player with the ability to finish above the rim.
Maybe he wasn't an elite athlete like Rose, but his size and speed, coupled with his legendary court vision, gave him a dimension that opponents found extremely difficult to deal with. Like Rose, Kidd was destined for greatness very early in his career -- and reached his potential as one of the game's greatest point guards -- but they also share similarities in that neither was a great shooter early on (Kidd, now a solid long-distance threat, was often jokingly referred to as "Ason," because he had no "J") and both had serious knee injuries as young players, with Kidd having to have microfracture surgery, then regarded as a potentially career-ending procedure.
Prior to the Bulls' wild win over the Knicks in New York, I briefly caught up with Kidd as he finished his pregame shooting -- he doesn't talk in the locker room before games and given the circumstances of Friday evening, I didn't catch him in time afterwards -- and we discussed Rose's recovery."It's a lot of hard work, especially when you're talking about your knee. You've just got to be patient, but you've got to do all the little things to maintain that strength and I know Derrick is going to do that. From what I'm hearing, he's worked extremely hard. It takes time," Kidd told me. "Sometimes things happen for a reason and maybe now, he'll pay a little more attention to that jump shot. If he gets that, then he's pretty much unguardable because of his athletic ability and his knowledge of the game, so I think it's a good thing."My Christmas gift to you: Kidd's optimism about Derrick.
I hope everybody enjoys the holiday season, hopefully with their loved ones--I have a rare day off tomorrow and won't be at Omer Asik's return to Chicago, though I'll be back in action Wednesday at Indiana.

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.