Bulls

McDermott's career night propels Bulls to improbable win over Raptors

mcdermottinsider021916.png

McDermott's career night propels Bulls to improbable win over Raptors

A ball of adrenaline and confidence named Doug McDermott blazed to the corner, clapping for Cristiano Felecio to locate him as he looked to capitalize off precious momentum he created.

Once he was spotted, the ball went up as quickly as he caught it.

Catch, flick, splash.

He repeated that motion a few other times—well, several others, as the Bulls played with a renewed confidence for the better part of three quarters, breaking all types of losing streaks and preventing the Bulls from falling to .500 with an improbable 116-106 win over the Toronto Raptors.

The Bulls previously lost their last five at home and their last five games overall, last winning in Sacramento before the All-Star break.

McDermott, set the crowd afire with a backdoor two-handed dunk that seemed to catch Raptors big man Patrick Patterson off-guard. Then after a turnover he set his feet for one of his four triples and a career-high 30 points.

“He was hunting shots, great cuts slashing to the basket,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s such a good shooter, I know his teammates trust him. He did a little bit of everything, that dunk he had on the baseline was huge.”

McDermott put up 14 of those in the fourth to help keep the Raptors at bay, with two triples and hitting six of eight shots.  A short but pointed talk from Fred Hoiberg after the walkthrough gave McDermott the boost he needed to author the career night.

"Tonight was a good night. We got the first one in, kind of got my energy going on defense," McDermott said. "This is something that can propel me the rest of the season. It felt good."

[REPLAY: Watch McDermott's career night in the Bulls' win over the Raptors]

It was a stark contrast from the guy who looked like he barely belonged on the floor 24 hours previously in Cleveland, and Hoiberg could sense the team’s best shooter was down.

“He could relate to me in some ways, because similar games,” McDermott said. “We’ll have to check if he had a 30-point game. He just gave me confidence tonight.”

Hoiberg said when McDermott is a genuine threat, it makes life easier for Derrick Rose and when he returns, Jimmy Butler.

Rose kept the Bulls in the game early, finding teammates for jumpers and going head up with All-Star Kyle Lowry.

Rose took a beating on both ends but after scoring or assisting on the Bulls’ final three baskets, finished with 26 points and six assists on 12 of 20 shooting. Pau Gasol came an assist short of a triple double, with 18 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in 33 minutes.

“Really good patience, he didn’t force the issue,” said Hoiberg of Rose. “He’s playing good. We’re happy with how he’s playing right now. We really needed it, I guess that’s an understatement.”

The Raptors have taken the Bulls’ place as the next best team not named the Cleveland Cavaliers, and showed why at the start and finish, taking a 13-point early and sapping the life out of the building.

The smell of desperation and panic was all throughout the United Center, as the Bulls’ history of submitting under the first sign of pressure didn’t leave many in a confident frame of mind.

But the Bulls showed some resiliency, as Hoiberg turned to seldom-used Cristiano Felecio in the first half as he searched for energy and Felecio delivered, with good hands and better finishes at the rim, making all three of his field goals to score eight with three rebounds in 14 minutes.

Bobby Portis fired up his team and the crowd late in the first half when the Bulls were behind by double figures, hitting a baseline jumper, a corner triple and getting a breakaway dunk to end the half trailing by just seven.

“Cris was huge. Taj has been playing a lot of minutes, we kept him under 25,” “We’ve been trying to find time for Cris in there. He didn’t go out there and play intimidated. He and Bobby, I thought our young guys were terrific tonight.”

In the past it would’ve been fool’s gold, but the Bulls found some of their own, with Rose scoring 10 of the 37 points as they finally found a crack in the Raptors defense and exploited it.

But it was their energy that kept them alive until Hoiberg’s offense could finally make a mark for the first time in ages. Lowry scored 27 with eight assists in 37 minutes while E’Twaun Moore held Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan to just 6 of 21 shooting, although he finished with 22 points.

All other shot makers were held in check as the defense allowed just 43 percent shooting.

But for the first time in quite awhile, the sinking ship that had been taking on water finally threw some overboard, as McDermott rediscovered what he does best---and allowed his coach to breathe for one night.

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."

Bulls, Bobby Portis value each other greatly despite no deal getting done

44298379_315080225985989_7466543461454315520_n.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls, Bobby Portis value each other greatly despite no deal getting done

Monday's deadline came and went with expected results: Bobby Portis and the Bulls being unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension.

Some 19 hours later all parties involved said the right things, that they value one another and hope to be working together long-term.

But all that will be shelved until July 1, when Portis enters restricted free agency at this coming season's end. The two sides found themselves in position to wait out on an extension.

For Portis, he's improved his game each of his first three seasons in the league posted per-36 numbers on par with some of the game's best big men. Expected to start while Lauri Markkanen recovers from a sprained elbow - and then act as the team's Sixth Man after that - Portis is in line to post career numbers once again.

For the Bulls, nearly all their front office decisions the past three seasons have been with an eye toward the 2019 offseason and having as much cap space as possible. Waiting on a Portis contract allows them to see if any of the top free agents in the class are interested in Chicago, while also having the ability to match any deal Portis gets on the open market.

It's similar to how the Bulls played out the rookie scale contracts of both Jimmy Butler and Zach LaVine.

John Paxson spoke during Tuesday's practice at the Advocate Center and reiterated how much the Bulls value Portis and the work he's put in since they drafted him 22nd overall in 2015.

Portis also spoke with reporters after practice. And what would normally be considered posturing from any other player, Portis' blue-collar mentality was present in his comments.

"I couldn’t see myself in no other jersey. Obviously, I got Bulls DNA," he said. "Me and the city have a love connection somewhere. At the same time, I just enjoy playing for the Bulls.

"I play this game because I love it. Obviously, you want to make as much money as possible to help your family. But I started playing basketball because it’s fun to me and I loved it. I still have that same passion, that same heart every night I go out there."

Still, the opportunity will be there for Portis to make himself significant money in the coming six months. After averaging a modest 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in Year 3, Portis will be called upon to shoulder a scoring load in the absence of Markkanen. And with Jabari Parker's Bulls career off to a shaky start, Portis will be the go-to guy on the second unit once Markkanen is back in the lineup.

"Bobby is a guy that is very confident in himself. He’s confident in his ability. That’s what we love about him," Fred Hoiberg said. "And like I said, he’s going to go out there and play the same way every time he steps on the floor, whether it’s practice, whether it’s a pick-up game in the summer or once we get started on Thursday. He’s a warrior, and he’s just going to go out there and play the right way with great effort.’’

The Bulls will need that with the start of the regular season just two days away. They open on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that went 30-11 at home last season.

Portis will play a significant role in slowing down one of the NBA's best frontcourts. Whether or not this is his last season doing so in Chicago, he knows what the Bulls think of him and won't let the impending negotiations distract him.

"I know how much I’m valued. They tell me a lot. Give it all I got. Kind of the leader of the bunch. Blue-collar worker," he said. "Everybody respects me because I come in every day with a chip on my shoulder, try to push my guys to get better each day. That makes me go."