Bulls

LIVE: Bulls look for 2-0 start to road trip on CSN

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LIVE: Bulls look for 2-0 start to road trip on CSN

Monday, Feb. 28, 2011
11:05 a.m.
Associated Press

With each game Joakim Noah plays, the Chicago Bulls are feeling more comfortable and confident.

Noah and his teammates appear to have one more game to fine-tune their chemistry before the schedule becomes much tougher.

After opening an important five-game road trip with a win, the Central Division-leading Bulls look to hand the lowly Washington Wizards a 15th loss in 17 games when they meet Monday night.

In his third game back following right thumb surgery that kept him sidelined for two months, Noah had eight points and 17 rebounds - including nine on the offensive end - in Saturday's 83-75 win over Milwaukee.

"The more I'm out on the court, the better I feel and the more energy I have," said Noah, who is averaging 13.7 rebounds in the last three games. "The longer we get to play together, I think we are going to find out how good we can be as a team."

Chicago (40-17), which is in a tight race with Boston and Miami for the best record in the Eastern Conference, looks like a title contender when healthy, winning nine of 12 games when Noah, Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer are all on the court.

"We are getting into a nice rhythm now that everyone is back," Rose said. "Noah has come back and really helped us. I think we can get nothing but better as the season goes along."

The Bulls are going to have several opportunities to test themselves against some of the better teams in the East during this road trip. After this game, they visit Atlanta on Wednesday, then play Orlando on Friday before wrapping up the trip in Miami on Sunday.

Before looking too far ahead, Chicago needs to focus on facing a Wizards team that nearly beat one of the league's best its last time out.

Washington (15-43), an NBA-worst 2-14 since Jan. 24, gave Dallas a scare Saturday, storming back from nine points down with four minutes to play to tie the score at 97 on Jordan Crawford's jumper with 1:36 left. The Wizards were unable to pull ahead, though, missing five of their next six shots and losing 105-99.

John Wall keyed the comeback, scoring eight of his 24 points in the final three minutes, but also missed two free throws that cost Washington a chance for the upset. As a team, the Wizards missed 10 of 16 from the foul line.

"We shoot free throws - we win the game," coach Flip Saunders said.

Washington's offense is showing some signs of life, averaging 100.5 points in its four games since the All-Star break with Wall scoring at least 21 in each of the last three, but it could have trouble against Chicago's stout defense.

The Bulls, who allow an average of 92.5 points, limited the Bucks to 38.2 percent shooting and improved to 34-1 when allowing 95 points or fewer. This doesn't bode well for the Wizards, considering they're 3-27 when failing to score more than 95.

Chicago has won the two meetings with Washington this season, and seven of nine in the series since the start of the 2008-09 season.

The Bulls beat the Wizards at the United Center 103-96 on Nov. 13, as Rose had 24 points and Noah added 21 points and nine boards while Boozer was out. They won in Washington 87-80 on Dec. 22 behind Boozer's 30 points and Rose's 25, with Noah sidelined.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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. 

Gar Forman finally comes through on promise

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USA TODAY

Gar Forman finally comes through on promise

"We felt we needed to start getting younger and more athletic..."

It was 2016 when Bulls general manager Gar Forman made this statement, drawing ire from many Bulls fans for what felt like—at the time—a disingenuous statement. A swap of Derrick Rose for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant making you younger and athletic? No one was buying it.

But fast forward to July, 2018, and it is clear that at the very least, Forman has finally made good on his promise. The signing of Jabari Parker has been met with mostly positivity, as a short-term commitment to a former No. 2 overall pick is something that is difficult to hate. But when you factor in the rest of the pieces currently on the roster, it is OK for Bulls fans to be downright giddy over the future.

Lauri Markkanen is 21 years old, Wendell Carter Jr. is 19, Zach LaVine is 23, Jabari Parker is 23 and Kris Dunn is the elder statesmen of the group at 24 years old. If these five become the starting group moving forward, as expected, it would represent one of the youngest starting groups in the league with an average age of 22. 

And athleticism can be checked off the list as well. We know Markkanen has hopsLaVine showed off the explosiveness he was known for last season and Dunn had some dunks last year that legitimately gave fans a Rose flashback

Markkanen and Carter Jr. have both flashed the ability to switch onto guards for a limited amount of time and guard in space, a huge component of any defense that wants to switch a lot. And it also is the type of athleticism that is much more important at their position.

At this stage, Parker represents the biggest question mark athletically speaking. Despite his young age, the two ACL injuries make you wonder if there is any room for him to improve his agility. But at the least, Parker can drive to the basket and finish over the top with authority, even if his defense doesn't catch up.

So, Bulls fans are starting to become intrigued with this roster.

Fred Hoiberg wants his teams to play an up-tempo game, and last season was the first year during Hoiberg's Bulls tenure where the team actually ranked in the top 10 in pace. So if you have followed the Bulls carefully since Thibodeau's departure, you see a front-office that supports their new head coach, yet wasted a couple years to commit fully to his vision, and to a direction for the franchise.

But the point is Forman finally chose a direction.

The Bulls have a young core, and financial flexibility moving forward. And for all the jokes the "GarPax" regime have endured over the years, they have put the team in a position to have sustained success if they hit on all the young players they have acquired. 

And if they are wrong in their assessment of their young talent? 

The Bulls would be able to let Parker go, now that we know the second year of his contract is a team option. LaVine's offensive skill set will allow him to still have trade value years from now, as his contract won't look nearly as bad over time. 

And if the Bulls flurry of moves make the team significantly worse in a year where many expect them to take a step forward, all it would mean is being equipped with a high lottery pick in what is shaping up to be a top-heavy 2019 NBA Draft.

So Gar Forman wanted the team to get younger and more athletic, and though it took longer than it should've, the front-office made good on their promise. That is something that Bulls fans can believe in.