Bulls

No clowns on Bulls' pivotal Circus Trip

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No clowns on Bulls' pivotal Circus Trip

Monday, Nov. 15, 2010
11:18 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

The November circus trip is here. Starting Tuesday in Houston, the team will play seven straight road gamesincluding three sets of back-to-back contestsconcluding Nov. 27, with the next game at the friendly confines of the United Center not until Dec. 1, when Orlando visits Chicago.

Success on this annual trip has been fleeting for the squad in recent years, but its understood throughout the organization that its key to perform well, as a disastrous journey could put them behind the eight-ball when jockeying for playoff position in a campaign with high expectations later in the season Facing a murderers row of opponentssuch as the Texas Triangle of Houston (the first game of the trip).

Were just going to take it one game at a time. Were not worried about anybody else on the road trip but Houston. Weve got to focus in and key in on them. They have very good guard play and they have a threat on the insidethats Scola and if Yao plays again, hell be a threat on the insidebut our focus is just on that one game, said Derrick Rose after Saturdays win over Washington. One game at a time. We cant look ahead. We know that were playing against some good teams, but we still have to take it one game at a time, just prepare ourselves and focus in on that one team.

Its really going to help our team. This year we have a lot of good guys that like hanging with each other. Were young, were getting into a little groove, so I think that should help us, our vets, we can relate to them. They have young spirits, were always hanging around them, so I know everybodys going to be hanging with everybody this trip, he continued. I think its all discipline. Were going on the West Coast, of course the weathers going to be different, you want to go out more, so I think its all about discipline. Dedicating yourself and sacrifice by not going out and getting some rest.

This is a new year. Im not worried about last year, last years over with. I know I have a new team, new coaching staff and thats how were looking at it.

Added Taj Gibson: Right now were just focused on one team at a time, the same way we did last year when we went on that awesome winning streak over there. Just one game at a time, you cant focus on the overall thing about games in the past or how our team did in previous years.

If the players sound focused, their coach should get some credit, as the unified message from the team first emanated from Thibodeau immediately after Saturdays win.

All the stuff about the road trip, Im concerned more about our practice and Houston. All the stuff about going on the road, the circus, all that stuff, Im not concerned with that. Im worried about the next game.

And with that, heres a look at the Bulls upcoming slate:

@ Houston-Nov. 16:

Yao Mings shaky health statusand frustrating minute-limithavent exactly been a boon to the Rockets, who have gotten off to a rough start. Although the Rockets have often played spoiler and embraced the role of giant-killer during their centerpieces numerous injury stretches in past seasons, they simply lack firepower with floor general and former Most Improved Player Aaron Brooks sidelined. Houston is getting excellent production out of inside-outside duo Luis Scola and Kevin Martin, and diminutive undrafted point guard Ish Smith is teaming up nicely with backup Kyle Lowry in Brooks absence, but not reaching an agreement with free agent center Erick Dampierwho would have formed a tag-team duo with former Bull Brad Miller behind (or for) Yaohurts them in the paint.

@ San Antonio-Nov. 17:

The Spurs, currently on a seven-game winning streak, have shown signs that they may be gearing up for one last gasp as a true championship contender, reprising the role theyve played for the majority of the last decade and change before the past few good, but not great seasons. Even with future Hall of Famer Tim Duncans numbers taking a slight dip, Tony Parker is healthy again and Manu Ginobili has been quietly superb to start the season. With Richard Jefferson finally settling in after a dismal debut campaign a year ago and a cast of role playersrugged second-year big man DeJuan Blair and 26-year-old rookie sharpshooter Gary Neal, to name a fewcontributing nightly, longtime San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovichs squad certainly wont be an easy out for the Bulls.

@ Dallas-Nov. 19:

During the preseason, the Bulls got two looks at the deep and talented Mavericks, who are touting defensestop if youve heard this before in regards to an early-season Dallas teamas their calling card. With two above-average seven-footers manning the middle in ex-Bull Tyson Chandler and backup Brendan Haywood, the back-line support, defensive presence and rebounding chops to be a long-term threat this season certainly exist. Mavs superstar Dirk Nowitzki is showing no signs of slowing down, Jason Kidd is still a consummate floor general and scorers galoreJason Terry and Caron Butler, not to mention veteran energy guy Shawn Marionalso abound, making the final stop in the Texas Triangle another doozy.

@ Lakers-Nov. 23:

While the Bulls will get some much-needed days off upon their arrival on the West Coast, a formidable challenge in the form of the two-time defending champion Lakers comes with the trip to Los Angeles. Even though the Lakers are no longer undefeated, one can make the argument that they have been the most impressive team in the league at this point in the young season. Kobe Bryant has been better than many observers expected him to be with his litany of nagging injuries, Lamar Odom has been in playoff form after a summer of USA Basketball, Pau Gasol looks like the leagues best big man on most nights and Ron Artest picked up from the high note he left off in June. Additionally, newcomers Steve Blake and Matt Barnes have fit in well and Andrew Bynums absence has hardly been noticed, making for an already-dangerous bunch with a high ceiling for improvement.

@ Phoenix-Nov. 24:

The loss of Amare Stoudemire has been noticeable on a squad that already struggled with interior defense and rebounding. With Steve Nash still running things, however, Phoenix is never out of a gamejust ask the aforementioned Lakers, against whom the Suns hit 22 3-pointers Sundayand with a versatile array of underrated offensive talent around him, this game could be a shootout for the Bulls. Depending on which of last weeks games against run-and-gun opponents Chicago chooses to modelthe ugly loss to New York or the defensively-dominant win over Golden Stateit could either be a pleasant Thanksgiving for the team or a somber holiday in the Rockies.

@ Denver-Nov. 26:

The combination of mile-high altitude, an always-intense Denver home crowd and a chance of post-Turkey lethargy could all be factors in this contest. The Nuggets precarious health situation could give the Bulls a boost, but a revenge-minded team playing in front of their fans might balance things out. Duplicating the defensive effort made against Carmelo Anthony in Chicagosans his explosive third-quarter scoring burstis a tough task, but necessary for a team with big aspirations and a prideful defensive philosophy.

@ Sacramento-Nov. 27:

The weakest opponent on the trip is the final foe, which already sets off a red flag as a potential trap game, even keeping in mind memories of the Tyreke Evans-led 35-point Kings comeback win at the United Center last season. Sacramento, considered a Western Conference sleeper by some entering this season, has experienced issues with inexperience, discipline, chemistry, a porous defense and an off-key offense. Still, its a team with some talentchiefly Evans, fellow second-year player Omri Casspi, blue-collar power forward Carl Landry and high-risk, high-reward rookie big man DeMarcus Cousinsand the anticipation of returning to the Windy City is a dangerous distraction.

Prediction:

Given their difficulties on this trip in the pastand the fact that theyre still without Carlos Boozerfinishing 4-3 would be considered successful for the Bulls. In order to do that, winning two of the three Texas Triangle games will be key; Houston is winnable enough, but beating Dallas or San Antonio will be tough. Even with their lone significant break of the trip taking place in L.A., beating the defending champs will be an uphill battle, so a win in Phoenix the following night will be of the utmost importance with the post-Thanksgiving rematch against Denver looming. Obviously not looking past Sacramento before coming home will be significant, as the team will want to be on an upward swing upon returning to Chicago. A guess: 3-4, which is still respectable and would leave the Bulls relatively unscathed with hopes of Boozers imminent return.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls-Celtics preview: Is Boston still the team to beat in the East?

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USA TODAY

Bulls-Celtics preview: Is Boston still the team to beat in the East?

With former All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward returning from serious injuries to join a group of talented young players that took Cleveland to Game 7 in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, most experts around the league predicted Boston would be the new beasts of the East in a LeBron-less world.

But one month into the season, the Celtics are still searching for consistency. They stand 3rd in the Atlantic Division and 6th in the East with a 7-6 record and well-respected coach Brad Stevens is hinting at line-up changes.

Hayward is still struggling to regain his form after that gruesome ankle injury he suffered on opening night of the 2017-18 season. Watching Celtics’ games early this year, it looks like Hayward is playing at three-quarters speed. He’s being limited to around 25 minutes right now and is averaging 9.9 points a game on .396 shooting from the field and .319 from 3 point range. The Celtics might be better served to bring Hayward off the bench and add more size to the front court with either Marcus Morris or Aron Baynes joining Al Horford in the starting line-up.

Irving looks completely recovered from the knee problems that brought a premature end to his 2017-18 season. He’s averaging 21 points and 5.4 assists on .466 shooting from the field and .405 from beyond the arc. When healthy, Irving is one of league’s most dynamic point guards and arguably one of the top 10 players overall.

Still, something is missing in Boston right now. After their breakout performances in last season’s playoffs, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are still trying to adjust to less touches and shot attempts in half-court sets. Terry Rozier has also been less effective in a reserve role after starting in place of Irving in last season’s playoffs. Marcus Smart is still providing his trademark hustle plays and defense, but his inability to make shots (.328 from the field, .250 on 3’s) makes his a liability in crunch time.

Boston still has plenty of time to get things sorted out and Stevens is considered to be one of the league’s best coaches. Hayward should get better as he regains confidence in his surgically-repaired ankle, and Irving, Horford and Tatum are among the best players at their positions in the East.

Long-term, Boston figures to battle it out with Toronto, Philadelphia and Milwaukee for the conference championship, but the predictions we read about the Celtics dominating the East for the next half dozen years might have been overstated. The Raptors are off to a 12-2 start with Kawhi Leonard happy and healthy again, and the 76’ers will feature an impressive big 3 after their acquisition of former Bulls’ All-Star Jimmy Butler. It’s anyone’s guess which team will come out on top in late May.

So, what will the Bulls need to do to hang with the C’s at TD Garden on Wednesday?

1. GET ZACH SOME HELP.  LaVine stretched his season-opening streak of scoring 20 or more points to 14 games Monday night, but he was visibly exhausted in the post-game locker room after playing 41 tough minutes against a Mavericks’ defense that was designed to stop him. The Bulls desperately need someone from the group of Jabari Parker, Justin Holiday and Wendell Carter Jr. to emerge as a consistent 2nd scoring option.

2. LET CARTER PLAY THE AL HORFORD ROLE.  It seems like every city the Bulls visit around the league, coaches and opposing players are comparing Carter to the Celtics’ multiple time All-Star. Horford is an excellent passer at the high post, and the Bulls might want to try using Carter Jr. in that role to move LaVine off the ball at times to come off screens for catch-and-shoot opportunities. Horford is also an excellent outside shooter, capable of spacing the floor to create driving lanes for Bostons’ athletic wing players. If Carter is able to knock down some mid-range jumpers, there might be less congestion in the paint when LaVine drives to the basket.

3. AVOID THE LONG DRY SPELLS.  The Bulls ran their offense effectively early in Monday’s game against Dallas, but missed a lot of open shots. Then, the Mavericks 2nd unit came in and broke the game open by going on a 27-8 run bridging the 1st and 2nd quarters. Boston has a lot more firepower than Dallas, so the Bulls will have sustain their offensive production throughout the game to keep things close heading into the final quarter.

Don’t forget you can watch Wednesday’s game on NBC Sports Chicago. Kelly Crull is with the team in Boston, and she’ll report live from TD Garden on Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 pm. Adam Amin fills in for Neil Funk on the play by play call alongside Stacey King at 6:30, then Kelly will bring us reaction from Boston plus the expert analysis of Kendall Gill and Will Perdue on Bulls Post-Game Live. We wrap up the night with the fans’ perspective on Bulls Outsiders.

Make your plans to join us Wednesday night.

Has Bobby Portis picked a side in Cubs-White Sox?

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Twitter

Has Bobby Portis picked a side in Cubs-White Sox?

Bobby Portis has thrown a first pitch at both White Sox and Cubs games, but perhaps he is showing his hand on which way he leans between the two Chicago baseball teams.

The Bulls tweeted out a photo of the injured forward boarding a plane for Boston ahead of Wednesday's Bulls-Celtics game. Portis was wearing a Cubs jacket.

On the surface this appears to be a harmless social media post, but this is the kind of stuff that can enflame arguments and trash talk throughout Chicagoland.

Portis threw out the first pitch at a White Sox game in July of 2015, just weeks after he was drafted by the Bulls. This is an easy connection considering Jerry Reinsdorf owns both the Bulls and the White Sox.

However, Portis made the trip to Wrigley Field this April to throw out the first pitch at a Cubs game.

Going against the team that the man who signs your checks owns is a risky play, but maybe Portis is going the Dave Chappelle Pepsi vs. Coke route on this one.

"I've done commercials for Coke and Pepsi," Chappelle said in one of his stand-up specials. "If you want to know the truth, can't even taste the difference. Surprise! All I know is Pepsi paid me most recently so it tastes better."

Portis threw out the first pitch at a Cubs game more recently so they have the advantage for now. Now it's up to the White Sox to invite Portis back so he can sport some White Sox gear for an upcoming Bulls road trip. Portis could be swimming in Chicago baseball schwag if he plays it right.