Never in doubt, Bulls demolish Nets


Never in doubt, Bulls demolish Nets

NEWARK, N.J. Even with Derrick Rose playing a mere 11 minutes Monday evening, the overmatched Nets (8-18) were decimated by the Bulls (21-6), 108-87, at the Prudential Center.

The Bulls blitzed their short-handed hosts from the outset, with stifling, turnover-inducing defense and balanced, unselfish offense setting the tone. Carlos Boozer (24 points, six rebounds, five assists) played the role of facilitator in the early going, finding cutters for layups in the halfcourt, while the visitors also got their transition game in gear for more easy offense.

The ball is moving. Theres a lot of quick decisions being made, the extra pass, playing inside-out. I love the way the balls hopping and I thought we ran the floor well early in the game. I thought Carlos got some deep post-ups and that was good, and then we were able to drive and kick some, and everyones sharing the ball, so it was great, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Carlos is a terrific passer and he was deep in the paint, and forced them to help, then kicked out and hit the open man. Also, very good passer off the pick-and-roll," Thibodeau added. "When people are closing hard to him, hes got playmaking ability from that position and Jo does a very good job on the weak side, slashing to the open areas. I thought offensively, he was very, very good.

Added Boozer: Thats what we work on. We work on getting Option A and B, and if the defense is that good, we have Option C and D, too. Weve just been doing a really good job of making the extra pass. I think defenses do a good job of defending the first option because they have scouting reports, they scout you and we do a good job hitting the weak side. Tonight, you saw the ball move from one side of the court to the other. No pressure, we just shoot.

So many guys were open. Every time we did our initial action, the weak side was so open, we would just swing it to the weak side and you had Kyle, Ronnie, whoever, just getting great shots, so were just doing a good job of hitting the open man and swinging it, he continued.

Reserve sharpshooter Kyle Korver chimed in: I think were playing really unselfish basketball and thats the main thing. No ones taking tough shots, the balls moving. Were hitting the first option. The first options taken away the next time, were hitting the second option. Were not turning the ball over a lot and when were doing that, and having the guys that we do, that are able to take on defense when they need to, it makes it really hard to guard.

Even Derrick Roses two quick fouls didnt slow down Chicagos torrid pacebackup point guard C.J. Watson (14 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds) came in and the guests didnt miss a beatas the Bulls made 11 of their first 12 shots.

Just a great team effort. Just tried to go out there and pick the tempo up, play great defense, and we got out and ran, teammates made shots and just tried to fill in for D-Rose and win the game, Watson explained. I just try to go in with the same mindset, be aggressive if I get eight minutes or however many minutes I played tonight, but my mindset doesnt change. If I play longer, I play longer.

While they cooled off, relatively speakingmaybe with the exception of Luol Deng (19 points), who hit all five of his attempts, including a trio from three-point range in his second game back from a left-wrist injuryat the conclusion of the opening period, the Bulls held a commanding 35-14 lead, following a Johan Petro jumper to beat the first-quarter buzzer.

Readiness to play, said Thibodeau. The first quarter, I thought, defensively, offensively, it was very good. then, after the first quarter, I thought we traded baskets with them, but we had built up a big lead and a cushion, so we were playing from the lead.

Echoed Rose: Were learning. Thats a good thing. I think were finally getting the message that Thibs is telling us. In the beginning of games, were putting teams away and were not giving them any confidence is what we always say, and our energys just been great.

Nothing changed at the beginning of the second quarter, as the Bulls remained scorching hot, extending their lead even further behind Watsons typically aggressive scoring and Korvers precise outside marksmanship.

C.J., I thought, was terrific. Running the team, playing very good defense, he did a lot of great things for us, praised Thibodeau. Its a great luxury to have because its not only his ability to play extended minutes. Hes got confidence to start, hes got confidence to play extended minutes, but also his versatility, his ability to play with Derrick. C.J. does a little bit of everything. Hes a scoring point guard, very good pick-and-roll player and he also makes you play with pace, so the game usually picks up.

Observed Watson: I think thats what Thibs wants me to do, especially with the group off the bench. We run a lot more, try to at least. When we score more points, I think were a better team. It just shows the cohesiveness of our team in the second year that were all jelling together and see a lot more things that we didnt see last year.

Rose, initially paired in the backcourt with Watson to match up with smallish New Jersey, returned to the contest, but would leave for good with 2:54 remaining in the period with lower back spasms, though he was unconcerned with leaving the fate of the team in his understudys capable hands.

Played great, man. C.J. comes in and runs the team. We all know he can score the ball and thats what we have him out there for, lauded Rose. It makes me feel good. Were a good team. If I play or if I dont play, I know that were going to go out there and compete, and play hard every single second.

Korver said of his fellow Bench Mob member: C.J. is an excellent point guard. Its tough to always show that throughout the year because when youve got the MVP, the minutes arent always there, but I dont think theres any doubt that if Derrick doesnt play any games, C.J.s not going to get 20 points or not have a great game. We have a lot of confidence in C.J. Obviously wed prefer to have Derrick healthy, but we feel confident that C.J. can handle the point, too.

Added Boozer: Every night. Phenomenal. We had Pooh go down tonight and C.J., like every other game hes had to play, steps in and keeps our offense rolling, makes big plays on defense, does a good job of getting everybody involved.

Boozer switched into scoring mode upon his re-entry to the lopsided affair and took advantage of New Jerseys lack of depth, size, experience and understanding of defensive principles to add more fuel to the fire, mostly via open mid-range jumpers.

Despite floor general Deron Williams (25 points, five assists) acquitting himself well on an individual basis, much-maligned power forward Kris Humphries (10 points, nine rebounds) quietly having a solid first half and Keith Bogans displaying his usual toughness, the Bulls went into the intermission with a 62-37 edge.

After the break, the Bulls created more separation between them and the Nets, pushing it to a 32-point gap between the teams, as Boozer continued to drain jumpers, swingman Ronnie Brewer (12 points) did the same, picking up from where they both left off in the games first 24 minutes, and Joakim Noah (nine points, 12 rebounds, five assists) wreaked havoc inside with his energetic play and rebounding.

Chicago finally dipped below 60-percent shooting for the game, but with the festivities long established as a laugher, it didnt make much of a difference, as the visitors, while a bit sloppy in the third period, entered the final stanza leading, 83-64.

I thought we started the third quarter with good energy, said Thibodeau. Then, we sort of let up at the end of the third.

Agreed Watson: We kind of slacked off in the third and fourth quarters."

Thibodeau, never one to take anything for granted, left starters Deng and Noah in the game for the basically meaningless fourth quarterin actuality, it was good for Dengs conditioning after his layoff, while reasoning for leaving in other regulars could be chalked up to wanting to keep them sharp and show an improved effort from the lackluster previous periodwhich the Bulls predictably dominated against their hapless foes.

It feels great, Deng said about his wrist. You know, the weird thing is Im not tired. It was my wrist, so I did a lot of running while I was off, but conditioning-wise, Im still there. I might be a little bit, but Im not feeling it at all. The first game, my legs did get heavy, but no so much winded. But its been fine.

Thibodeau added: He said hes fine during the game. The concern was what he was going to be like the next day and he said he was fine when he practiced the day after the first game that he played, the Milwaukee game, and he said he felt really good, so that was very encouraging. So, were hopeful that itll continue to be that way.

Outside of Roses back, another Bull was an in-game casualty, as Boozerwho checked back into the game in the final periodsuffered a cut above his eye.

I had to get three or four stitches. The doctor had to get the stitches to bring them back. I would have came back sooner. That might have been a strategicthat might have been a thought plan; Im going to take my timeI would have came back sooner, though, he said. I didnt really see it. They told me I got hit with an elbow. I didnt know it was bleeding so much. I wanted to keep playing. I was hoping I was going to get some free throws, then they told me it wouldnt stop leaking, so we had to come back and get a couple stitches.

The highlight of the game for the apathetic Newark audience was a late-game appearance from deep reserve Brian Scalabrine, a former Net, which drew the biggest cheers of the evening.

Wichita State's Landry Shamet could give Bulls backcourt versatility they desperately need


Wichita State's Landry Shamet could give Bulls backcourt versatility they desperately need

The Bulls are in need of talent. That much is clear after a 27-win campaign in which they finished ranked 28th in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They’ll add a pair of prospects next month, with two selections in the first round, and presumably take the next step in their rebuild. Talent is important, that can’t be overstated. The Bulls should stick to their board and take the best player available nine out of 10 times.

But as much as the Bulls need an influx of talent, versatility in the backcourt might be a close second. And while there isn’t really any player at No. 7 that would fit that bill – they could reach for Collin Sexton – there are a number of versatile guards, in a class dominated at the top by bigs, who could be there when the Bulls are on the clock at No. 22.

Meet Wichita State guard Landry Shamet. That classic NBA buzzword “versatile” is thrown around more often than ever before. The idea that a player can play multiple positions, can defend 1-3 or has the potential to learn two spots at the next level. Then there’s Shamet. He’s actually done it.

He arrived in Wichita as a shooting guard, the Shockers’ highest-rated recruit in nine years. A broken foot cost him all but three games of his freshman season, but he returned in 2016 and made an immediate impact, including a shift to point guard midway through the season; the move went seamlessly, as he led the Shockers in assists (3.3) and was 14th in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.00). He matched Kentucky freshman point guard DeAaron Fox in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, scoring 20 points on 7 of 14 shooting in a loss.

He remained at point guard in his sophomore season and dominated, earning an honorable mention All-American nod while leading the team in points (14.9) assists (5.2), and 3-pointers (2.6) per game for a Shockers team ranked in the top 25 all year, and as high as No. 3 in December.

He had the ball in his hands plenty at Wichita State, but his shooting hardly suffered. A point guard in name, his shooting may be his best attribute. In his final two seasons Shamet shot 44.1 percent from deep on 354 attempts. He was the nation’s best spot-up shooter when Greg Marshall used him off the ball, and made multiple 3-pointers in 23 of 32 games.

His versatility can best be explained as such: He was the only player in the country – and just the 13th since 1992 – to average at least five assists, 2.5 3-pointers per game and shoot 44 percent from deep. The 6-foot-5 guard brings shooting, facilitating and length defensively to the table. It’s no cliché.

“I feel like I can step in and do whatever a coach needs me to do, whether it’s playing on the ball being a facilitator/playmaker/initiating offense, or a guy you’ve got to honor off the ball (as) a spot-up shooter,” Shamet said Friday at the NBA Draft Combine.

He struggled shooting in the 5-on-5 scrimmages over the two-day span, but also noted that he accomplished his main goal of defending well. His 6-foot-7 wingspan will be looked down upon in an era where measurements mean more than ever, but he also had a 39-inch max vertical (12th best) and a 3.11 three-quarters court sprint (10th best).

He admitted he’s more athletic than some give him credit for – as his vertical would suggest – but that his game is more “cerebral” and making the right decisions.

“I feel like I have a high IQ, a cerebral player,” he said. “I’m not going to wow you with crossing people up and doing things that a lot of the guys in the limelight do all the time. I feel like I’m a solid player, pretty steady across the board.”

It’s a skill set the Bulls could use. His numbers and measurements look similar to Denzel Valentine, who has drawn mixed reviews in two NBA seasons and is really the closest thing the Bulls have to a “versatile” guard; Valentine was one of 21 players with 140+ 3-pointers and 240+ assists, 12 of whom were All-Stars.

Shamet also has seven inches of vertical leap and a quicker sprint as far as Combine times are concerned, and he’s a more natural fit as a point guard than Valentine. Shamet said two players whose games he studies include Malcolm Brogdon, a less-than-flashy guard who won 2017 Rookie of the Year making just about every correct play. Brogdon possesses the same sneaky athleticism – ask LeBron James – has shot 40 percent from deep in two NBA seasons and has a 2.62 A/TO ratio.

“You don’t want to step out of your comfort zone and be somebody you’re not, so out here I’m trying to be me, be solid, (and) make the right play all the time,” he said. “I don’t rely on my athleticism, I like to think the game. So I try to just be myself.”

Kris Dunn is cemented as a point guard for the Bulls’ future, and the front office sang Cameron Payne’s praises at season’s end, though he’ll be a free agent after next season. But Dunn, Payne and Jerian Grant combined to shoot 33.6 percent from deep, and even Payne’s 38.5 percent shooting came in a limited, 25-game span.

Shamet wouldn’t be a home-run pick, and certainly not a sexy one. Those picks have burned the Bulls in the past with players like Tony Snell, Doug McDermott and even Valentine. Shamet is 21 years old and has had two major foot surgeries. But the skill set is one the Bulls have needed for some time. And in a draft where the Bulls will be searching for talent, adding a player who fits the bill as a team need as well makes sense.

Versatility is Wendell Carter Jr's calling card

Versatility is Wendell Carter Jr's calling card

Wendell Carter Jr. didn’t come to the NBA Draft Combine with the boastful statements made by his peers, refusing to declare himself the best player in a loaded draft.

But it doesn’t mean he lacks for confidence.

Carter Jr. is one of the more intriguing prospects in next month’s draft, even though he doesn’t come with the heavy fanfare of what many expect to be the top three picks.

One of those top three players was Carter Jr’s teammate at Duke, Marvin Bagley III, relegating Carter Jr. to a supporting role of sorts in his lone collegiate season. He couldn’t turn college basketball upside down as a freshman; He didn’t have the opportunity to, still averaging 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 29.1 minutes last season.

“Bagley's a phenomenal player. He came into college basketball, did what he was supposed to do,” Carter Jr. said. “My role changed a little bit but like I said, I'm a winner and I'll do what it takes to win.”

Like he said, considering it was the fifth time he patted himself on the back, describing his positive attributes. It didn’t come across as obnoxious, but more an affirmation, a reminder that his willingness to sacrifice personal glory shouldn’t overshadow his ability.

“I'm pretty versatile as a player,” Carter Jr. said. “I'd just find a way to fit into the team, buy into the system. I'm a winner. Do whatever it takes to win.”

When asked about his strengths, he didn’t hesitate to say he’s “exceptional” at rebounding and defending, certainly things teams would love to see come to fruition if he’s in their uniform next season.

Playing next to Bagley and not being the first option—or even the second when one considers Grayson Allen being on the perimeter—forced him to mature more in the little things.

“It was (an adjustment) at first,” Carter Jr. said. “I knew what I could do without scoring the ball. I did those things. I did them very exceptional. I found a way to stand out from others without having to put the ball in the basket.”

“I think it did do wonders for me. It definitely helped me out, allowed me to show I can play with great players but still maintain my own.”

If he’s around at the seventh slot, the Bulls will likely take a hard look at how he could potentially fit next to Lauri Markkanen and in the Bulls’ meeting with Carter Jr., the subject was broached.

“Great process. I was just thinking, me and him together playing on the court together would be a killer,” he said with a smile.

“I know they wanna get up and down the court more. The NBA game is changing, there's no more true centers anymore. They wanna have people who can shoot from the outside, it's something I'll have to work on through this draft process.”

An executive from a franchise in the lottery said Carter Jr’s game is more complete than Bagley’s, and that Carter Jr. could be the safer pick even if he isn’t more talented than his teammate.

It’s no surprise Carter Jr. has been told his game reminds them of Celtics big man Al Horford. Horford has helped the Celtics to a commanding 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals over the Cleveland Cavaliers, in no small part due to his inside-outside game and ability to ably defend guards and wings on the perimeter.

Horford doesn’t jump off the screen, but he’s matured into a star in his role after coming into the NBA with a pretty grown game as is. Carter Jr. has shown flashes to validate those comparisons.

“Whatever system I come to, I buy in,” Carter Jr. said. “Coaches just want to win. I want to win too. Whatever they ask me to do. If it's rebounding, blocking shots, setting picks, I'm willing to do that just to win.”

He was also told he compares to Draymond Green and LaMarcus Aldridge, two disparate players but players the Bulls have had a history with in the draft. The Bulls passed on Green in the first round of the 2012 draft to take Marquis Teague, and in Aldridge’s case, picked him second in 2007 before trading him to Portland for Tyrus Thomas.

As one can imagine, neither scenario has been suitable for framing in the Bulls’ front office, but whether they see Carter Jr. as a the next versatile big in an increasingly positionless NBA remains to be seen.

“I definitely buy into that (positionless basketball). I'm a competitor,” Carter Jr. said. “Especially on the defensive end. Working on my lateral quickness, just so I could guard guards on pick and roll actions. Offensively I didn't show much of it at Duke but I'm pretty versatile. I can bring it up the court. Can shoot it from deep, all three levels.”

His versatility has come into play off the floor as well, deftly answering questions about his mother comparing the NCAA’s lack of compensation for athletes to slavery.

Carter Jr’s mother, Kylia Carter, spoke at the Knight Comission on Intercollegiate Athletics recently and made the claim.

“The only system I have ever seen where the laborers are the only people that are not being compensated for the work that they do, while those in charge receive mighty compensation … The only two systems where I’ve known that to be in place is slavery and the prison system, and now I see the NCAA as overseers of a system that is identical to that.”

As if he needed to add context to the statement, Carter Jr. indulged the media members who asked his opinion on the matter—or at least, his opinion of his mother’s opinion.

“A lot of people thought she was saying players were slaves and coaches were slave owners,” Carter Jr. said. “Just the fact, we do go to college, we're not paid for working for someone above us and the person above us is making all the money.”

As sensible as his comment was, as direct as his mother’s statements were, he still finds himself in a position where he has to defend his mother. In some cases, teams asked him about her—but that’s not to say they disagreed with her premise.

“My mom is my mom,” Carter Jr. said. “She has her opinions and doesn't mind sharing them. In some aspects I do agree with her. In others...you'll have to ask her if you want to know more information.”

“I never thought my mom is ever wrong. But I think people do perceive her in the wrong way. Some things she does say...that's my mom. You have to ask her.”

The versatility to handle things out of his control, as well as understanding how his season at Duke prepared him for walking into an NBA locker room should be noted.

There’s no delusions of grandeur, despite his unwavering confidence.

“I'd come in and try to outwork whoever's in front of me,” Carter Jr. said. “That's the beauty of the beast. You come into a system, There's players in front of you 3-4-5 years and know what it takes.”

“I would learn those things and let the best man win.”