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Rose, Bulls soar over Howard-less Magic

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Rose, Bulls soar over Howard-less Magic

Sunday, April 10, 2011Posted: 2:40 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

ORLANDOIt was a much closer call than expected, but the Bulls held off a short-handed Magic team, 102-99, Sunday afternoon at the Amway Center.

Yet another stellar performance by MVP frontrunner Derrick Rose led the way for Chicago (60-20), who remains in the hunt for the NBAs top record and home-court advantage throughout the upcoming playoffs.

Our defense wasnt very good, our rebounding was below average and we didnt take care of the ball. We were fortunate to win, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team shot 60 percent from the field, but committed 21 turnovers and allowed the Magic to compete on the glass without All-Star center Dwight Howard. Youre starting earlier and theyre down Dwight. You know theyre going to play hardOrlando always plays hardyou know theyre going to play unselfishly and if youre not guarding the three-point line, youre going to be in trouble.

After getting off to a 9-2 start, it appeared as if the Bulls would run the short-handed Magic out of their own building. Orlando (50-30), however, had its own ideas and behind a combination of long-range bombing and varied scoring from center Ryan Anderson (28 points, 10 assists, 4-for-8 three-point shooting)starting in place of the suspended Howardthe Magic kept the game tight in the early going.

A win is a win, observed Rose. In this league, its hard to win, even when the best players on the other teams dont play, some of the other players that come off the bench are playing for their opportunity.
READ: Bulls gunning for that No. 1 spot

Although Magic shooting guard Jason Richardson complemented Andersons offense with efficient scoring of his own, Rose (39 points on 12-for-16 field-goal shooting and 10-for-10 free-throw shooting), got to the rim at will, keeping the Bulls ahead of their hosts.

With Rose keeping his foot on gas throughout the first quarter and Carlos Boozer (12 points, six rebounds, six assists, three steals) also contributing with his polished low-post game, the Bulls extended their lead to 32-24 at the conclusion of the opening period, propelled by 70 percent shooting from the floor.

The two squads exchanged 6-0 runs to start the second quarter, but the Bulls Bench Mob seized the games momentum with their typically hard-nosed defense and up-tempo offensive style, led by Taj Gibsons (nine points, 11 rebounds) relentless inside play.

Taj has been playing terrific, whatever role you put him in. You play him at the four, you play him at the five, praised Thibodeau. He plays defense, he challenges shots, he blocks shots, he sets great screens, hes playing with a lot of energy.

Orlando again rallied, however, and even after Thibodeau filtered his regulars back into the contest, the Magic drew closer.

The inspired interior play of undersized big man Brandon Bass, along with timely scoring from Richardson and fellow wing Hedo Turkoglu, brought the home team all the way back, tying the contest at 46 apiece with 1:31 remaining in the first half.

The Bulls closed the period strong, scoring a pair of baskets to give themselves some breathing room, which was taken away by a Jameer Nelson prayer from just inside halfcourt at the halftime buzzer, giving the visitors a slim 50-49 advantage at the intermission.

Orlando capitalized off Chicago turnovers in the second half, hustled for offensive boards and kept up its torrid three-point shooting, but the Bulls' collective lack of timing, general offensive futilityoutside of Rose and Luol Deng (15 points, five rebounds, five assists)and up-and-down level of energy allowed the Magic to stay in the game even without their superstar big man.

Chicago tried to pull away from its hosts down the stretch of the third quarter, but with tight officiating and Magic marksmanship acting as deterrents, the tight-knit nature of the affair persisted. Through three periods of play, the Bulls clung to an 80-77 lead.

Explained Thibodeau: If you dont go into this game with a multiple-effort mentality because of their ability to execute the pick-and-roll and then spread you out with four shootersyoure not closing out hard and youre not blocking out, and youre not fighting for the balltheyre going to hurt you, either with the three or the second shot. In this case, they hurt us with both.

The final stanza didnt get off to the start the Bulls desired, as the second unit was unable to string together productive possessions on offense, forcing Thibodeau to reinsert Rose earlier than usual to counter the strong showing from Orlando counterpart Nelson. The Chicago native responded immediately, but the Magic kept coming, aided by surprising contributions from the likes of former Bulls guard Chris Duhon.

Critical calls by the game officials factored into the tight game as the contests stretch run approached, but where the Bulls became disjointed, the Magic seized the moment, making clutch plays to give the home team the lead in crunch time, further inciting an already raucous Amway Center crowd.

Rose continued to be the Bulls primary optioneven more than usualand after both teams rapidly exchanged steals, the floor generals transition dunk gave the visitors a 95-94 lead with approximately two minutes to play.

After Anderson and Boozer knocked down a pair of free throws each on the subsequent two trips, both teams made defensive stops in which two official video reviews were needed to determine possession.

On the ensuing possession, Rose blew by Nelson and dished off to Gibson, who was fouled while attempting a dunk with 14.2 seconds remaining. Gibson hit the first attempt and although he missed the second, Deng corralled the offensive rebound and the ball eventually got to Rose, who knocked down two foul shots to give the Bulls a 100-96 lead with 9.9 seconds to go.

Derrick was Derrick. You cant ask anything more of him, said Thibodeau. Hes being trapped, he still was able to make a lot of good plays, make shots. He carried us.

WATCH: Sam Smith weighs in on the NBA MVP Debate

Orlando didnt give up, however, and with 2.7 seconds left, Richardson knocked down a three-pointer to make it a one-point game. On the ensuing inbounds, Boozer was fouled with two seconds on the clock. After he hit both of his attempts from the line, Orlando called a timeout and Nelson threw up another miracle three-point attempt, but the potential game-tying basket was ruled after the buzzer.

We dodged a bullet in the end, said Thibodeau. We got lucky.

Added Rose: We had them. We should have easily put them away, but we continue to let teams come back. Its going to hurt us if we continue to do this, but were definitely happy with the win.

Box Score

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.