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Rivalry revived? Bulls can't stop Knicks on Xmas

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Rivalry revived? Bulls can't stop Knicks on Xmas

Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010
Posted: 1:36 p.m. Updated: 3:48 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

NEW YORKWith previous Christmas Day contests between the Knicks (18-12) and Bulls (18-10) in mind, the Madison Square Garden matchup between the two formerly fierce Eastern Conference rivals didnt quite live up to prior classics, as a turnover-plagued Chicago effort eventually succumbed to New Yorks offensive-minded approach, 103-95, Saturday.

Chicago got off to quite the inauspicious start, turning the ball over on its first three possessions. Knicks star Amare Stoudemire (20 points, nine rebounds, six blocked shots, seven turnovers) made a big impact from the outset, scoring the initial pair of baskets for the home team, then drilling Derrick Rose (25 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, six steals, seven turnovers)after an initial reach-in foul on forward Wilson Chandler (15 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks)sending the Bulls superstar sprawling.

The games physicality was a persistent pattern throughout, especially as it impacted Rose, who shot only three free throws on the night, despite constant forays to the basket and being on the receiving of numerous knocks from the Knicks.

Im not going to stop coming. One day Im going to get calls, so thats what Im going to continue to do, said Rose. You can look and see how many times I went to the line tonight.

Carlos Boozer concurred, Hes attacking the basket, just like anybodytransition and halfcourt. I thought he could have got a lot more calls going his way. The refs didnt see it that way. Were not going to cry about the referees, but I think he puts as much pressure on the basket as anybody in the NBA and for him to shoot only three free throws is shocking. For D, I just tell him to keep going, keep attacking; hopefully hell get the callsbut he more pressure on the basket than most guys I see, so for him to only shoot three free throws is uncommon, weird. But were not going to cry about that.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau refused to let that be an excuse for the loss.

You dont want to take away from his aggressiveness. I think you want him to attack the rim and then when the second defender is there, make the decision at the rim, so if hes there, now find the open man. Hes going to pull a lot of people with him. We want him to keep going. Hes driving the ball hard and we want him to get to the line more, so were going to encourage him to continue to drive and to drive with force, and hopefully, you can get some calls, said Thibodeau. We didnt have a problem with the officiating. Youre on the road, some calls arent going to usually go your way, so we have to be able to play through those things. We cant allow that to affect the way we play and defensively, I didnt think we played our game. The rebounding was very goodI thought that right from the startbut our defense, thats a big part of it and it wasnt.

After the games uneven beginning, both teams settled into more of a flow, with each preferring up-tempo styles. Rose began to assert his will on the affair; in his trademark swashbuckling fashion, he attacked the rim successfully and was aided by Boozer (26 points, 19 rebounds, seven turnovers) muscling up putbacks on the interior.

Roses aggressiveness led to a cross-match battle of sorts with Stoudemire, who made a clean block at the summit of a Rose transition layup, which the All-Star point guard pointedly acknowledged. On the other end, Stoudemire was perhaps a bit overzealous in forcing his offenseRose balanced his penetration with looking to distribute the ball, as well as knocking down perimeter jumpers and making some football defensive back-type steals of Knicks outlet passesbut due to Chicagos poor shooting and turnover issues, the home team still maintained a 21-20 advantage after the first period.

A disjointed opening of the second quarter for the Garden guests allowed New York to slightly surge, as the Bulls carelessness with the ball persisted. Boozer remained Chicagos focal point early in the period with mixed results, but a quick individual spurt by backup point guard C.J. Watson helped keep the visitors in the game.

Thibodeau briefly opted for a small-ball lineupwith Boozer needing a blow, he briefly went with Watson, starting small forward Luol Deng (15 points, six rebounds), Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korverand the size disadvantage paid dividends for the Knicks, as they went scored five points on one trip down the floor. Thibodeau quickly sent Rose and starting center Kurt Thomas back into the contest.

The adjustments and Korvers marksmanship again made the game a neck-and-neck affair, but New York backup point guard Toney Douglas continued to be the scourge of Chicagothe second-year reserve went for a career-high point total in last months

Knicks win at the United Centergiving his team some scoring punch off the bench in a brief stint.

Underrated rookie Landry Fields (14 points, 11 rebounds) continued a quietly productive outing with his solid all-around play, as did Boozer for Chicago, mostly by virtue of finishing strong on the interior, albeit not as efficiently as he would have liked. With the final seconds in the first half winding down, a Rose drive-and-dish to Boozer for a open 15-footer with no time remaining gave the Bulls a 54-52 lead at intermission.

After a disappointing first half of play, Deng started the third quarter by making the first two Chicago baskets, although that bit of good news was tempered by Thomas picking up his fourth foul.

I thought he had two tough calls, Thibodeau said of the veteran ex-Knick Thomas, who played solid defense against his former Phoenix teammate Stoudemire. Two tough calls put him on the bench.

The game evolved into a back-and-forth affair, with each squad throwing haymakersa Rose runner, plus the foul; two powerful Stoudemire dunksat the other, but even with the game close, the Knicks clearly had the momentum, as point guard Raymond Felton (20 points, 12 assists, five steals) hit a 3-pointer and a layup (sandwiched around a Bulls shot-clock violation) that led to a subsequent Thibodeau timeout to quiet the raucous crowd.

With the entire Garden behind them, New York gradually built a small cushion behind transition play and perimeter shootingsharpshooting forward Danilo Gallinari (15 points) stood out in this departmentits two trademarks under Knicks head coach Mike DAntoni, not to mention Feltons blend of scoring and playmaking.

They spread you out. They play four perimeter players, so you have to trust that your teammates are going to pull in and also get out to that 3-point line. If the trust isnt there, you start inching out towards the 3-point line, now youre going to give up a dunk. If you pull in too much, we dont get back in front of the ball quick enough, then youre going to be vulnerable at the 3-point line, said Thibodeau. Its a multiple-effort type game, so youre going to have to do more than one thing and sometimes you can play good, solid defense for the majority of the shot clock and they still end up with a high-percentage shot because youve got to be able to go to the second and third and fourth effort with them, the way they shoot the ball.

Rose told CSNChicago.com: I think it was our defense. I think that just playing the way that we play normally on the defensive end, with first stopping the ball and our help-side, but it all starts with trusting each other. But it was just one of those games.

The Bulls, however, battled back and capped by consecutive video-game highlights by Roseand in-and-out dribble to a reverse layup, then a nifty spin move in transition for another layup on the subsequent possessionthey briefly regained the lead before, typical of the close-knit affair, the Knicks again surged ahead late in the quarter to head into the final period up, 85-83.

Still playing greyhounds chasing the rabbit early in the fourth quarter, the Bulls were forced to play catch-up with the Knicks and were further hampered by Thomas picking up his fifth foul. The games pace slowed to a crawl, as things got chippyin particular, between Rose and Stoudemire, who was perhaps frustrated by Boozers surprisingly stout one-on-one defense against himbut New York, buoyed by its energetic fans, had momentum on its side midway through the period.

Thats just basketball. Stoudemire was trying to stop me from going to the hole and that was about it, Rose explained about the hits he took from the New York big man, which surprisingly werent called fouls, although they occurred after Rose was first fouled by another Knicks player. Its going to get physical, especially if somebody keeps driving. Hes a big man, thats what hes supposed to do.

It was just a basketball playId get tired of it if another player kept driving to the hole, too, if that was someone else, Rose added, when pressed by reporters to state his opinion on whether he believed Stoudemire took a cheap shot at him. I really dont know. I really didnt pay any attention to that, but both timesuntil I looked backI thought the foul was on him.

It got heated up for a minute, but its nothing more than that, he eventually acknowledged.

Chicago simply couldnt get over the hump and despite neither team seemingly able to make a shot for an extended stretch, the Knicks eked out enough points to add to their advantage. The visitors drought was more severe and combined with the officials calls not going their way and timely New York scoring, things looked bleak for the Bulls heading into the games stretch run.

When the double team is coming quick, which it was, we have to make quick decisions and we have to have great spacing. Now, it should result in easy offense. Anytime you can get two defenders on the ball, thats what you want, and then your ball movement should take over. Your second and third pass, if you move the ball to the weak side, youre going to have long close-outs and you should be able to attack, so we have to do a better job with that, Thibodeau explained about the Bulls offensive lapses. The initial spacings fine, but then we have the ability to sustain the spacing through the second and third option. Then, after the double team occurs, they were coming off the passer on the cut. Weve got to space better.

Added Boozer, We got double teamed. They did a good job of putting us in the trap. We tried to get the ball out to the right spots, but we needed more movement, more guys cutting, more guys helping us out. Consequently, because we didnt have guys moving to the open areas, it put us in a tough position to try to make a play out of a double team.

A Chandler layup off a Felton lob pass gave the Knicks their first double-digit lead as the game approached the two-minute mark gave the Bulls impetus to finally score, but Chandler then answered with another jumper to again increase New Yorks winning margin to 10 points. Chicago would make another push, cutting their deficit to six points with a minute and change to go.

Alas, yet another turnoveron a miscommunication between Rose and Thomascompounded by a Chandler layup on the ensuing possession sealed the Bulls fate. Despite a final last-gasp effort, there would be no Christmas miracle on the 34th St. on this day.

This is a great place to play. Great arena, great fans. Their team is good again, so its alive. Great history in the building. We had a great opportunity today to play on Christmas Day. I thought our effort was there. I just didnt think we played as well as we were capable of, said Thibodeau. I thought we were ready to play. I thought we had a good practice yesterday, I thought walk-through was very good. I just didnt think we executed as well as we would have liked.

Rose lamented the lost opportunity, but in his usual manner, is already looking forward to the next chance to get a win.

We couldnt get a rhythm on the defensive side or the offensive side, said Rose. We just let them come in and do whatever they wanted to do.

The good thing about is we play tomorrow, he continued. We let this one go tonight. We didnt play the way we were supposed to play, but we get the chance to take it out on Detroit. Thats the good thing about it.

But following his teams second loss to the Knicks this season, Rose did leave the famed arena with a message: Were going to get them. Im not worried about that. Were going to get them.

Maybe a revival of the rivalry that was in his heyday when Rose was in grammar schoolcomplete with physical play, superstars on both sides, nationally-televised showcases, postseason-bound teams and allis possible after all.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's 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.

Scottie Pippen's injury history sheds light on what could be ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

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USA TODAY

Scottie Pippen's injury history sheds light on what could be ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

By now you probably know the story of Michael Porter Jr.'s back. Right as his college basketball career was starting—two minutes in to be exact—he had to sit out with back pain, which eventually developed into Porter undergoing a microdiscectomy of the L3-L4 spinal discs. The general consensus has been simple: if Porter's medicals are clean then he is a potential top-five pick, but if there is a lack of medical information or any indication that lingering issues persist, he will be available at picks six through the late lottery. Regardless of how his medical records look, what we do know is that Porter was the top-ranked player in his high school class before the eventual re-classification of Marvin Bagley. With this in mind, any team in need of serious star power—hello Bulls!—should have no problems spending a high pick on Porter, and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen is a big reason why.

In July of 1988, Pippen has disc surgery following a rookie season that was plagued by constant back pain. During that rookie season Pippen played just over 20 minutes a night and played in a total of 79 games.

While the late 80's didn't have the help of NBA Twitter to breathe doubt into fans, there was still a running sentiment that Pippen may not be effective as he was during his initial NBA season. But in his sophomore NBA year, he almost doubled his scoring total while raising his free throw percentage from 57.6 percent to 66.8 percent. On top of this, Pippen also increased his workload by playing 33.1 minutes per game. Altogether he increased his field goal and free throw percentage each of his first four seasons in the league, all following his rookie year back surgery.

This however, should not come as a shock. In an interview with SB Nation, Dr. Charla Fischer, a spine surgeon at NYU Langone Health, stated: "Most patients tell me they feel at least 50 to 80 percent better immediately after the surgery." 

Players typically take two seasons to return to form following herniated disc surgery, and that is right in line with Pippen's first All-Star appearance in 1990, about one and a half seasons following his procedure. When you relate this back to Porter, a clearer picture of what to expect forms. Because Porter has already missed an entire season of basketball (at Missouri), it figures to take about a year for him to totally regain the explosivness that he showcased at the high school level. 

Pippen averaged 14.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, along with a combined 1.9 stl/blks per game in the season following his back procedure. Now it would be unreasonable to expect Porter to come into the NBA performing at that level, but more so because of his lack of all-around polish more than anything else. And that is what makes Porter such a conundrum. He is a player whose game—as of now—is totally based on scoring, and his scoring is directly tied to how close he is to 100 percent. So again, developing the rest of his game in terms of passing and defense will take on everlasting importance, regardless of if he ends up with Chicago or another team. 

And while it is true that Pippen's injury history eventually caught up with him, leading to another back surgery in 1998, this was six NBA championships later. Pip went on to play six more seasons following his 1998 procedure. This included four seasons with Portland where the team routinely won around 50 games, and had a legendary battle with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals.

So no matter what, Porter's first year should be looked at as one very, very long training camp. He will be in the best position to succeed if he is selected by a team willing to look at him as a long-term piece, rather than a 6-foot, 11-inch savior.

 

NBA Buzz: Draft night is almost here

NBA Buzz: Draft night is almost here

With a number of national writers and broadcasters forecasting an active trade market in the hours leading up to Thursday's NBA Draft, the whole idea of a mock draft might just be an exercise in futility at this point. Still, we have learned quite a bit about which players are coveted by teams drafting in the top five after sorting through the smokescreens of the individual workouts.

So, with that in mind, here's my final stab at how Thursday's lottery  picks could play out.

1. Suns: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona.  An absolute no-brainer here. Ayton combines the size and power of an old school center with the athleticism and shooting touch of a new-age "stretch five".

2. Kings: Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke.  Vlade Divac shouldn't risk his good fortune at moving up to the No. 2 slot by taking a risk on Michael Porter Jr.'s health. Remember the Kings already have a rehabbing teenager in one of their first round picks from last season, Duke F Harry Giles. Bagley should be a 20-10 guy in the NBA for the next decade.

3. Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF-C, Michigan St.  This will be the first spot to look for a possible trade. The Hawks reportedly like Trae Young and might consider offers to move down and draft him later in the top 10. If they stay at No. 3, Jackson offers the rim protection and 3-point shooting ability Atlanta desperately needs.

4. Grizzlies: Luka Doncic, G-SF, Slovenia.  The Grizzlies should run to the podium if Doncic is still on the board at No. 4. The 19-year old wunderkind gives Memphis a secondary shot creator to go along with Mike Conley.

5. Mavericks: Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri.  Mark Cuban is looking for his next big star with Dirk Nowitzki entering what is most likely his final season. The Mavs reportedly are also high on Mo Bamba, but Porter's potential as a 20 ppg scorer will probably win the discussion in the war room.

6. Magic: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma.  Good chance of another trade at this spot involving a team that really likes Bamba. Orlando could move down a few spots and still get one of the three top-rated PG's, Young, Collin Sexton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. If the Magic stay at No. 6, Young's quick-strike scoring and box office potential are likely to win the day.

7. BULLS: Mo Bamba, C, Texas.  Yes, John Paxson said the Bulls’ biggest need is a defensive-minded wing, but Bamba's ability to dominate at that end of the court is too great to pass up. Bamba is incredibly raw offensively, but he's been working on his low post skills and shooting form since the college season ended. The Bulls were not a good defensive team last season, and adding a shot-blocking threat like Bamba should improve them immediately.

8. Cavs: Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky.  Knox is one of the big risers after the individual workout season, impressing teams with his combination of athleticism and shooting ability. Knox can play both forward spots and could develop into a big-time scorer, replacing you-know-who as the Cavs start to build for an uncertain future.

9. Knicks: Wendell Carter Jr., PF-C, Duke.  The Knicks will be thrilled to add a versatile big like Carter, especially considering Kristaps Porzingis could miss most or all of next season rehabbing an ACL tear. Eventually, Porzingis and Carter could form a nice inside-outside tandem as the Knicks try to build toward playoff contention.

10. 76ers: Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova.  Another perfect fit for a team on the rise. Bridges' defense-first mentality and improving offensive game should blend in well on a Sixers team that's looking to take the next step after losing to Boston in the conference semi-finals. And, his mom already works for the franchise in the human relations department!

11. Hornets: Miles Bridges, F, Michigan St.  Charlotte whiffed on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the 2nd overall pick a few years ago, and Nic Batum has battled injuries since coming over from Portland. Miles Bridges is another combo forward who should thrive in the pro game with his ability to run the court and finish with authority at the rim.

12. Clippers: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama.  The Clippers will be thrilled if Sexton falls this far, giving them a dynamic young option at point guard to go along with veterans Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic. Sexton could go as high as No. 6 to Orlando or No. 8 to the Cavs. He'll be one of the interesting names to watch on draft night.

13. Clippers: Robert Williams, PF-C, Texas A&M.  The Clippers are still waiting to see if DeAndre Jordan exercises his player option for next season, but if he decides to test the free agent market, Williams would be a perfect replacement. The athletic 6-foot 10-inch big man is a classic rim runner who should be able to finish off alley-oop passes just like Jordan.

14. Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, Kentucky.  Don't be surprised if Gilgeous-Alexander goes even higher than this after a strong finish to his freshman season. Scouts love his 6-foot 6-inch frame and ability to get to the basket. In Denver, he could come off the bench initially behind young guards Jamal Murray and Gary Harris.

22. BULLS: Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise St.  So, the Bulls may or may not have made a "promise" to select Hutchison with the No. 22 pick they acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade with New Orleans. Either way, if the Bulls get Bamba at No. 7, Hutchison would be a great addition as the "3-and-D" small forward Paxson talked about in his end of the season news conference. The 6-foot 7-inch swingman improved his 3-point shooting during his senior season at Boise St., and is considered to be an excellent wing defender. Personally, I'd love to see to Bulls draft NCAA tournament hero Donte DiVincenzo of Villanova if he's still on the board at No. 22. 

Around the Association:

While we wait for the draft drama to unfold, NBA Twitter has already been taken over by speculation over where the next super team will be formed. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have been plotting for over a year on how to restore the Lakers' franchise to its past glory, and it looks like they'll be swinging for the fences this summer.

If the Lakers are able to find a taker for Luol Deng's contract or renounce the rights to restricted free agent Julius Randle, they should be able to create two max contract slots once the free agent market opens for business on July 1st. The obvious targets are LeBron James and Paul George, but Magic doesn't plan on stopping there. He's hoping to find a way to convince the Spurs to trade unhappy All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard to the Lakers as well, giving L.A. a super-team that will rival what James put together in Miami.

The Lakers have the assets to get a Leonard trade done with draft picks and young players on rookie contracts (Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart), but would Gregg Popovich actually make a deal with one of his long-time rivals? 

You can bet Pop will do everything he can to convince Leonard to accept a five-year, $219 million super max contract extension this summer and spend his prime years in San Antonio. But if that face-to-face meeting goes sour, Pop will make the deal that's best for the Spurs, preferably to an Eastern conference team he'll only have to face twice a season.

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Initial reports out of Houston indicate that free agent point guard Chris Paul plans to re-sign with the Rockets and will do everything in his power to recruit good friend LeBron James. Problem is, Houston has no cap space, so they would have to get the Cavaliers to agree to a trade. And in order to make the money work, the Rockets would want to include high-salaried players like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, neither of which would hold much interest for Cleveland with the team in rebuild mode.

Rockets' general manager Daryl Morey is one of the league's most creative executives, but trying to find a way to fit James into his bloated payroll will be the biggest challenge he's ever faced. Morey also has to deal with the restricted free agency of breakout center Clint Capela, who could draw a big offer sheet from another team.

Chris Paul and LeBron might be good friends, but the logistics could make it next to impossible to join forces in Houston.