Bulls

Pau Gasol's consistency rewarded with All-NBA second team selection

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Pau Gasol's consistency rewarded with All-NBA second team selection

Tom Thibodeau routinely sang the praises of Pau Gasol, saying the Spaniard was a godsend and believing Gasol was the player he could most depend on.

And Gasol was rewarded for his consistency with his fourth All-NBA selection, being named as a member of the second team, along with Russell Westbrook (OKC), Chris Paul (LAC), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento) and LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland).

LeBron James (Cleveland), MVP Stephen Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston), Anthony Davis (New Orleans) and Gasol’s younger brother, Marc (Memphis), headlines the first team.

[RELATED - Jimmy Butler earns NBA All-Defensive second team honors]

Gasol received 15 first place votes and a total of 242 total points based on a voting scale presented to media. Gasol averaged 18.5 points and a career-high 11.8 rebounds in his 14th season, resulting in his fourth All-Star appearance.

Other than San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, who made the third team, Gasol is the oldest member of the All-NBA teams at 34 years old.

Gasol made the third team in 2008-09 and 2009-10 before making the second team in 2010-11. The first two were in seasons the Lakers won NBA championships after he was acquired from Memphis in 2008.

Coming to Chicago after the Bulls lost out in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes, he was believed to be a complementary piece after two struggling seasons with the Lakers where he and former coach Mike D’Antoni disagreed on how Gasol was to be used.

The Bulls beat out the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs for Gasol’s services, likely because they could offer more than a mid-level exception and also because the Bulls could feature Gasol in the offense.

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And Gasol proved night after night he still had more to offer as a focal point offensively, helping the Bulls absorb injury-induced losses to Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler as well as the health decline of frontcourt mate Joakim Noah.

Gasol gave the Bulls an offensive hub from the block and low post, often starting games off as the first option to get the Bulls to early leads, helping the Bulls to their best offensive season in years.

Intangibly, Gasol spoke out against the Bulls’ lack of urgency, repeatedly saying they couldn’t flip a switch to turn into the team they had visions on being.

Unfortunately, he was right as the Bulls fell short of their goal of getting to the Finals, but Gasol seemed to do his part.

His offensive rating of 112 pointers per 100 possessions was 10 points higher than last season, and his highest rating since 2012. Integrating himself into Thibodeau’s defense-first system resulted in his second-best defensive rating of allowing 101 points per 100 possessions, a marked improvement from giving up 108 and 106 the last two seasons.

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Who knows if Gasol’s 34.4 minutes per game played a part in his hamstring injury slowing him down early in the second round against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as he put together a 21-point, 10-rebound, four-assist masterpiece in the series opening win in Cleveland.

He began to feel tightness in the next game while playing just 21 minutes in their buzzer-beating Game 3 win before missing Games 4 and 5. Gasol returned for Game 6, giving the Bulls an emotional lift early that they couldn’t sustain.

But in a season full of change that will likely lead to more of it in the offseason, Gasol’s steadiness, should he sustain it at age 35 next season, could help stabilize the team next fall.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.