Bulls

NBA Power Rankings: Wade, Heat proving to be battle-tested

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NBA Power Rankings: Wade, Heat proving to be battle-tested

When Chris Bosh was forced out of action indefinitely with a blood clot in his left leg before the All-Star break, it felt like deja vu.

Bosh missed 30 games the previous season with a blood clot in his lungs, a serious situation that could have cost him his life. At that time, Miami was 22-30, sitting in the No. 8 spot in the East. After Bosh went down, Miami limped to the finish line without their All-Star, going 15-15 and missing out on the postseason by a single game.

This time around, however, Miami hasn't faltered. Since coming out of the All-Star break the Heat are 8-2 and have moved within one-half game of the Boston Celtics for the No. 3 seed in the East.

Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside and newcomer Joe Johnson all have contributed to the cause, while Goran Dragic is improving and Amare Stoudemire has helped fill some of the void left behind by Bosh inside. It's no surprise they're on the move in this week's power rankings. Here's how the rest of the teams shook out:

Previous power rankings: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (1) 55-6 Statistically speaking, Sunday's loss to the Lakers was the biggest upset in NBA history. It just defies logic. Steph, Klay, Draymond and Barnes went 2-for-25 from deep.
(3) 53-9 Have yourself a week, Kawhi Leonard. San Antonio's franchise player averaged 27.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists in three victories. The Spurs are now just two games behind the Warriors for the league's best record.
(5) 44-17 What panic? Cleveland knocks off Indiana, Washington and Boston at home this week, averaging 109.3 points per game in the process. LeBron James averaged 26.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 6.3 assists after resting in Washington.
4 (4) 41-20 Another impressive week north of the border, as the Raptors keep pace with Cleveland after victories over Utah and Portland. They may not catch the Cavs, but there's no question about who's the East's second best team.
5 (3) 43-20 Brutal week for Kevin Durant and the Thunder. They choke away a victory on the road against the Clippers and then take a fourth-quarter lead against the Warriors...only to lose by 15.
6 (6) 40-21 Thursday's improbable come-from-behind victory over the Thunder, that ended in a 26-5 run, may be a turning point in the season for the Clips. How Blake Griffin acclimates when he returns will be interesting to watch.
7 (8) 37-26 Can't say enough about the job Erik Spoelstra has done, keeping the Heat in contention in the East after Chris Bosh was sidelined again. They're fourth in the East and closing fast on Boston.
8 (7) 38-26 The race for the No. 3 seed (and, thus, avoiding the Cavaliers in a potential second round series) will be exciting between the C's and Heat. Boston won three more at home this week but was blown out Saturday in Cleveland.
9 (10) 35-28 Gutsy win against the Clippers on Saturday night. Between that and their near-victory over the Warriors they're proving that hanging on to Al Horford and Jeff Teague at the trade deadline could pay off in the postseason.
10 (9) 33-31 Damian Lillard's encore after his sensational February? A March that began with averages of 33.3 points on 51 percent shooting and 4.3 triples in three games, including a 50-point outing in a loss to the Raptors.
11 (12) 37-25 Winners in six of eight against albeit weak competition, but their home win against the Jazz was an impressive victory. Zach Randolph went for 25 points and eight rebounds in that one.
12 (13) 33-28 Yet another impressive week for Kemba Walker and the Hornets: A 34-point win over the Suns, a 20-point win over the Sixers and a seven-point win over the Pacers. They're now up to No. 6 in the East.
13 (11) 33-30 The Pacers' next six games are against teams with winning records. They get four of those at home, but they've lost three of their last four in Indiana. We'll learn a lot about Paul George and the Pacers the next two weeks.
14 (14) 33-30 Crazy tough schedule upcoming for the Mavs: Nine of their next 10 come against teams at or above .500. That includes two against the Blazers, sandwiched between two against the Warriors. Gut-check time for Dallas.
15 (15) 31-31 The Pistons may look back on Saturday night's ugly loss to the Knicks as one that got away if they fail to make the playoffs. They fell behind the Bulls for the No. 8 seed with the loss.
16 (16) 31-30 Jimmy Butler wasted no time making an impact in his return to the Bulls' lineup. In a win over the Rockets he went for 24 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out. Maybe the two-time All-Star can save the Bulls' playoff chances.
17 (18) 29-33 Derrick Favors' 28 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks helped snap a five-game losing streak. The fight for the No. 8 seed in the West (and the right to get thumped by the Warriors) rages on. Utah's one game behind Houston.
18 (17) 30-32 Bradley Beal bruised his pelvis on Saturday (and it wasn't pretty). If he's forced to miss any time it may prove lethal to Washington's playoff chances. They're now 1.5 games behind the Bulls.
19 (21) 25-36 A silver lining in their rapidly declining record: They now hold the NBA's ninth worst record, two games worse than Orlando (11th). They'll keep their first round pick so long as it stays inside the top 10.
20 (20) 31-32 In Thursday's win over New Orelans, they went 3-for-34 from beyond the arc, an NBA record for outside shooting futility. A victory in Toronto on the second of a back-to-back was maybe the biggest win of the week.
21 (23) 26-37 Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing the best basketball of his young career. In his last seven games he's averaged 20.3 points, 10.6 rebounds and 8.7 assists, including three triple-doubles.
22 (25) 27-34 The good: Beating the Bulls by 13 at home. The (really) bad: Getting blown out at home by the Suns, who had previously lost 17 straight away from Phoenix. They're four games back of the No. 8 seed.
23 (19) 23-38 They have now lost four straight - three to teams below .500 - and Eric Gordon fractured his ring finger again. This season has been a complete and utter mess.
24 (22) 25-38 Emmanuel Mudiay was a stud in a matchup against fellow rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell, going for 22 points and seven assists in Denver's win over the Lakers. He followed it up with 25 against the Nets.
25 (24) 26-38 It's been tough listening to Carmelo Anthony air his frustrations with constant losing, so it was good to see him and the Knicks earn an impressive victory over the Pistons on Saturday. Melo had 24 and 10 in that one.
26 (26) 20-43 A beautiful sign for the future: In Saturday's win over the Nets Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine combined for 75 points on 33-for-44 shooting. Wiggins is the oldest of the three...at 21 years old.
27 (27) 18-45 Thomas Robinson went for 18 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists and four steals in Saturday's loss to the Timberwolves. It's just one game, but it'd be fun to see him finish the season strong. He's still just 24.
28 (29) 13-51 D'Angelo Russell's 39-point outing in a win over the Nets was something to behold. He hit eight triples, added six boards and was a game-high +13 in 35 minutes. He's the real deal.
29 (30) 17-46 Silver lining alert: 19-year-old Devin Booker has two games with 32+ points. The only other players to accomplish that? LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. Good company for the rookie.
30 (28) 8-55 They've now lost 12 straight and have a 3.5-game "lead" on the Lakers for the league's worst record. Incredibly, they've had three 10-game-plus losing streaks this year. Trust the process?

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

'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."