Bulls

No suspension for Dunleavy, Bulls at full strength vs. Cavs

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No suspension for Dunleavy, Bulls at full strength vs. Cavs

Mike Dunleavy was disciplined by the NBA for his actions against the Milwaukee Bucks, but he wasn’t suspended, his chin-check to Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams was merely upgraded to a flagrant 1 foul.

No word on whether his heart was in his throat when he spoke to the league Saturday morning, considering he had incidents with Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo, as the Bucks forward was suspended for the first game of the regular season next season for his tackle on Dunleavy while the Bulls forward was shooting a 3-pointer.

“I’m not surprised, wasn’t expecting anything to happen. Not surprised on my end,” Dunleavy said. "I talked to the NBA about, there's a bunch of stuff that went on last game. It's part of protocol. You gotta talk to the league. I spoke with them.”

He said no hard feelings to Anteokounmpo, who was retaliating against Dunleavy, nailing him in the face during the same sequence.

“I don't think he should be penalized, he was penalized during the game,” Dunleavy said. “Foul, flagrant foul, ejected, free throws. Ejected. Seems fair to me. I don't think it should be anything worse than that.”

[MORE BULLS: Bulls get what they want in matchup with LeBron, Cavaliers]

Dunleavy’s in, which means the Bulls will play with their starting five for the first time against the Cavaliers in Game 1 on Monday. The irony of the Cavaliers being without Kevin Love and the Bulls being at relative full strength wasn’t lost on the Bulls forward.

“Now that I think about the, the irony there, I guess it's flipped,” Dunleavy said. “I guess there's sympathy or empathy? Empathy because we've been there before. They're a really good team, and they lose a great power forward and fill in with a great power forward when he plays it. They'll be really good.”

The “fill-in” isn’t exactly a backup, but LeBron James, the game’s best player who has made a habit of knocking the Bulls out of the postseason, no matter his address. Whenever the Bulls run up against this No. 23, it’s a cruel reminder of what their former No. 23 used to do to other franchises for nearly a decade.

“He's just a go-getter,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. “There's so many different options. You can play him at the four, play him at the five at times, and he's like a point-forward. He brings the ball up and pushes it hard. He really knows how to create for other guys. He makes his teammates better on every team he's been on.”

[MORE BULLS: Bulls storm into matchup with Cavaliers with laugher in Milwaukee]

Gibson could wind up seeing plenty of time on James when James plays at the power forward. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t tip his hand as to what strategy he’d use guarding James, or by proxy the Cavaliers if they go small. Usually, he tries to keep Jimmy Butler on James, but one has to wonder how realistic is it to expect Butler to carry a considerable offensive load while trying to stop the game’s best player.

“We’ll see how it unfolds,” said Thibodeau with a smile. “We can (match up with James). We’ll see.”

Presumably, that’s where Gibson can play a larger role — if he isn’t preoccupied with keeping the active Tristan Thompson away from the offensive glass

“Taj is always important; that’s the one thing you can’t overlook, what he brings to our team,” Thibodeau said. “His defense, his rebounding, he’s probably our best low-post defender. He’s our best guy at moving his feet.”

[SHOP BULLS: Get a Taj Gibson jersey right here]

Thompson grabbed 12 offensive rebounds in the first meeting of the season between these two teams in late October, a Cavaliers win in overtime. It was one of three Cavaliers wins in the four meetings this season, and James didn’t show any signs of slippage against the Bulls, averaging 28.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists on 48-percent shooting this season.

“Yeah, we were so focused on LeBron,” Gibson said of Thompson’s night. “In the playoffs, it only takes that one guy to put you over the top. He's been shining well.”

However the Cavaliers play the lineups, Gibson will be a huge asset, and his defensive versatility could be key in whether the Bulls can steal one of the first two games in Cleveland.

“I love it, I love it,” Gibson said. “I love the fact that Thibs has confidence in me to guard multiple positions. In Milwaukee he basically let me switch one through five, and it's fun having your coach behind you and your teammates behind you, knowing you can guard multiple positions.”

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

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USA TODAY

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

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USA TODAY

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.