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Rose, Bulls take out anger on Wizards

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Rose, Bulls take out anger on Wizards

Updated: Monday, Jan. 30 at 10:43 p.m.
WASHINGTON Its often said in NBA circles that the best cure for what ails a team is to play, well, a bad team.

While Tom Thibodeau can claim that even a bottom-of-the-barrel squad is legitimately capable of beating the leagues elite and to his point the Wizards (4-16) made a fourth-quarter run, perhaps preying upon the Bulls (18-5) complacency a trip to the Verizon Center, resulting in a 98-88 win Monday night, was in many ways, the ideal bounce-back game from the Bulls emotional loss in Miami Sunday.

The visitors attacked the Wizards athletic, but inexperienced young big men at the outset, with Carlos Boozer (18 points, eight rebounds) using his savvy to produce in the early going and Joakim Noah (14 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists) exhibiting his typical high activity level.

However, the game quickly shaped into a point-guard duel between John Calipari protgs Derrick Rose (35 points, eight assists) and second-year Washington speedster John Wall (20 points, six assists), who carried the offensive load for the home team.When I woke up this morning, Sundays game was out of my mind. I just wanted to come out here, play aggressive. They have a good young team, where theyre great in transition and everyone just tried to learn the game plan, said Rose. Im just playing my game, man. Thats me being aggressive. Thibs always tells me just to play my game and everybody will follow.Explained Noah: Hes the ultimate competitor and he came to play tonight. He always does and we win and lose by that guy.
While Rose was complimentary of Wall prior to the game, he also spoke of trying to go crazy in an extensive, candid pregame interview and delivered on that claim, dropping in a variety of floaters and executing dynamic dribble moves, as well as managing to distribute the ball. He set the tone and hes been doing that. I think hes feeling a lot better. When he comes out like that, its his will. He imposes his will on everybody. He made us very aggressive, said Thibodeau. To me and you guys have seen him, you see him all the time every aspect of the game; he got to the line 15 times, hes in the paint, hes making plays, hes playing really good defense, running the team. I suppose, if you want to nit-pick, he could have had a couple of rebounds. Hes playing at a very, very high level right now.I thought, as a team, everybody did a good job being ready to play, which I thought would be critical for this game and playing from a lead was so important for us because we had to withstand that rush at the end. Because we had that cushion, it allowed us to take the hit and still be able to finish the game, and win.

Though missing injured starters Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver (17 points) started in their place the short-handed Bulls ended the opening period with a comfortable 26-16 advantage.Right now, were good. Were down a couple players. We definitely miss them, but theres no excuses when youre in the NBA, Rose said. Weve still got to go out there and play these games, and were just playing team basketball.
A modified Bench Mob featuring an early appearance from rookie swingman Jimmy Butler, as well as the return to the lineup of backup point guard C.J. Watson, who had missed the teams two previous contests with a right wrist injury started the second quarter for Chicago and maintained the squads double-digit edge.

Washington received effective play from talented, yet often inconsistent center JaVale McGee (16 points, nine rebounds), who showed flashes offensively (including an old-school sky hook) and was his usual shot-blocking presence on the defensive end.

The pesky Wizards, while at times revealing why theyve been so hapless this season, were opportunistic when the Bulls made self-inflicted miscues and prevented their guests from opening up an even wider gap. However, with Korver truly breaking out of his slump to ensure the Bulls breathing room was never truly threatened and they went into the break with a 51-40 lead, following a Rose jumper with a second remaining in the first half.It was nice to be out there for a good period of time. I think its good when you know youre going to have more time, said Korver, who jokingly acknowledged that its back to the bench when Deng returns from injury. Youre not worried that, I might only get three, four shots, so youre able to be a little bit more patient. Got some good looks, probably should have made a few that I missed.Added Thibodeau: He was great. He had a tough matchup, too. He gave up a lot of size to Wizards forward Rashard Lewis and I thought he battled. I thought his defense was excellent and hitting threes I believe he had five tonight thats huge. It just spreads the floor. The three-point shot, for Derrick, is critical. It opens up floor and Derrick, in the pick-and-roll, I thought was sensational.
After the intermission, the Bulls gradually extended their lead, as Roses continued relentlessness, Korvers shooting and contributions from Brewer led the way, helping the separation between the teams grow to more than 20 points. Rose was the catalyst of the visitors push to extinguish the hosts, as he predominately stuck to using his mid-range floater, but mixed in the occasional long bomb, finish at the rim and timely assist.Im very comfortable shooting that shot, but Im just taking what the defense is giving me. Im sick and tired of getting hit, and not getting the call or getting hit and falling on the floor. Thats an easy shot for me, so why not take it? explained Rose, who picked up a second-quarter technical foul for arguing a call. I felt like I had to get that one. I didnt mean to get it the way that I got it, but I felt like I had to say something.I felt like at the time, it changed. It actually changed the way that they were playing, he continued. Plays like that can definitely give a team confidence and thats what I was trying not to do.
Meanwhile, Chicago suffocated the Wizards offense, quashing any semblance of rhythm or quality shots for their young counterparts though undersized power forward Trevor Booker (14 points, nine rebounds) and instant-offense shooting guard Jordan Crawford (10 points) were sparks off the bench not exactly the most difficult task to perform against a team struggling chemistry and a recent coaching change. Just wanted to stay aggressive. We thought the first five minutes of the third, it was a critical point of the game because they actually were creeping back a little bit at the end of the second, so we didnt like the way we closed out the half, Thibodeau explained. We thought the start of the third, we wanted to set the tone with aggressiveness at both ends and for the most part, I thought we did and I give them a lot of credit. They hung tough and they battled back.Chimed in Rose: Staying aggressive, thats the biggest thing. I think were learning from it. Usually, in the third quarter, we tend to back off. This game, we kept going, tried to make the game easy and thats how we got the win.
Rose was subbed out in the waning moments of his efficient, 18-point period, with the Bulls leading, 76-59, prompting a small portion of the Verizon Center crowd to head for the exits, as they didnt anticipate the man they chanted M-V-P for returning to the contest.

The final stanza at first appeared to be following a familiar theme, with the Bulls using the quarter as extended garbage time and Boozer using the time to get himself into rhythm. Washington, however, had different plans, rewriting the script and cutting the deficit to single digits behind dogged defense and balanced play from a unit featuring Wall, McGee, Booker, Crawford and gunner Nick Young (17 points).Knocking down shots, being a veteran like he is, one of the leaders on the team, Rose said of Boozer. We hold everybody accountable when were on the floor and thats what we always when we step out there.

Boozers combination of powerful finishing and short jumpers, as well as Noahs playmaking the center, one of the rare players at his position in the league able to handle the ball and create for others, served as a playmaker when Rose was doubled in the backcourt; as Boozer explained, At the end of the game, they put two on D-Rose because he was out of control, to say the least were the visitors saving grace, staving off the Wizards and their pressure defense. Joakim, thats him. Hes one of the bigs in the league that can actually run the fast break, making great decisions. It was kind of weird. There were guys who were absolutely open. He had to make the right decision. I think he did great, said Rose. I think that teams are looking at that trapping him, but I think with Joakim being in the middle, its definitely going to make the game easy. We call it easy offense, so why not pass it to him and he makes the decisions?Echoed Thibodeau: The value of Jo some teams try to early blitz Derrick on the high pick-and-roll and Jo is very good in the middle of the floor, with his decision-making, his ability to put it down and create easy offense for us, so I thought that we had to get our spacing right first and once we did that, I thought it created easy offense for us.Joakim did a good job making plays in the fourth quarter. I thought we had solid contributions from a number of guys. I think Carlos, late in the game, was very good, he added.
Although a Chicago win was never really in doubt, the lackluster ending to the affair wasnt necessarily quite the satisfying conclusion the Bulls had hoped for. Still, the fact that they overcame the potential malaise from a heart-breaking defeat was enough to feel a sense of accomplishment afterwards.Said Boozer: Were driven. We have a lot of drive, we have a lot of focus and we have a goal in mind, and were all hungry to achieve it. Tonights game had just as much weight as last nights game. As bad as we wanted to win last night, we wanted to win tonight bad, too.We go into each game with the end in mind. We want to be a championship team and weve got to bring it every night to be there, he continued. We talked about how much we put into Sundays game and to come up short was disappointing, but we talked about the carry-over. A championship team will be able to dust Sundays game off and be ready for tonights game, and I think we did a great job of that.

Finding homes for Thad Young, Denzel Valentine if Bulls' season goes south

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USA Today

Finding homes for Thad Young, Denzel Valentine if Bulls' season goes south

The NBA’s Feb. 6 trade deadline is fast approaching, and the Bulls have decisions to make.

Their quandary isn’t an enviable one. With just over half of their games played, the Bulls have underwhelmed relative to preseason expectations in almost every phase. Yet, somehow, at 16-28, the playoffs are not yet an impossibility — even if the team’s current 1-17 record against teams with above-.500 records makes it seem so.

Thus, the Bulls aren’t likely headed for a big splash at the deadline. They simply aren’t yet competitive enough to risk parting with potentially valuable draft capital in pursuit of ‘one last piece’ to make a playoff push, but they’re also not quite out of it enough to sell off portions of their core, especially given how much the organization has recently invested in Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any movement at all. 

Based on how each of their seasons have played out so far, it’s fair to wonder about Thad Young and Denzel Valentine’s long-term fits with the Bulls. Young was brought in on a three year, $41 million deal in the offseason for his veteran leadership and two-way versatility, but through 43 games, he’s averaging the second-lowest minutes total of his career (22.3) and shooting more than eight points below his career field goal percentage (41.7%). Valentine started the year out of the rotation after missing all of 2018-19 with an ankle injury, then re-entered for about a month with Chandler Hutchison sidelined, but has logged three DNP-CDs in a row. He hasn’t played more than three minutes in a game since Jan. 2. 

To be clear: This is no Dewayne Dedmon scenario. Young and Valentine have remained professional through the ups and downs and no trade requests have been publicly filed (though Young has spoken about his desire for more playing time). But both also might benefit from a change of scenery and certainly have the potential to help a contender if the Bulls' season goes south.

The Clippers, as an example, have been repeatedly linked to Young, and a framework built around Moe Harkless makes as much sense as any hypothetical deal out there. Even with Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell in tow, recent reporting from Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report indicates the Clips might be on the hunt for a defensive-minded big to add to their rotation that wouldn’t sacrifice their offensive versatility. Understandable with the Lakers (with LeBron James and Anthony Davis), Nuggets (Nikola Jokic) and Jazz (Rudy Gobert) surrounding them atop the West.

(via TradeNBA)

If one or two second rounders, or a project like Jerome Robinson, in place of that first is more amicable, so be it. Harkless is a tough, switchable, solid-rebounding wing that would help the Bulls on both ends of the floor — especially if the team continues its recent endeavor into small-ball. Plus, he’s on an expiring deal. 

The two guaranteed years remaining on Young’s current contract might be a hurdle for the Bulls to clear, but if the playoff dreams melt away, it could ratchet up the motivation to move him for both sides. Young has been inconsistent this season, but perhaps a jolt of energy in a winning situation with more talent around him would be just what the doctor ordered. He certainly profiles as exactly what the Clippers could be reportedly seeking in a deal.

The Nuggets, Celtics and Miami Heat could make sense as candidates for Young’s services, too, all being contenders with need on the interior. But marrying salaries and value becomes tricky with them.

Valentine’s value league-wide is tougher to gauge, given his sporadic playing time with the Bulls. But with him set to enter restricted free agency this summer, it would behoove the Bulls to avoid potentially losing him — a former lottery pick — for nothing if his days of consistent playing time are done. 

Teams short bench scoring such as the Rockets or 76ers make a modicum of sense, and Valentines $3.3 million salary is simple enough to match:

(The Rockets could absorb Valentine’s salary using a trade exception created when they traded Brandon Knight to the Cavaliers last February)

Bring back Tyson Chandler! The second round pick would be the real haul, but if this move was made in contingency with a Young deal, Chandler slides nicely into a mentoring role for Carter and Daniel Gafford.

Not the most exciting swap (Bolden and Milton are also projects), but perhaps the Sixers (35.3% from three as a team, 17th in NBA) could use Valentine’s shotmaking (39.2% from three this season) and playmaking off the bench. Philadelphia ranks 27th in the league in bench scoring, getting only 29 points per game from their reserves. The Rockets bench is dead last with 26 points per contest.

The Bulls have eight games remaining before the deadline, beginning with the Bucks tomorrow. Three of those are against winning teams (Bucks, Pacers, Raptors), with two others (Spurs, Nets) against technically sub-.500 squads with the ability to play above that level on a given night.

That stretch is sure to, once and for all, instruct us on what to expect from this season. If it’s an unfavorable one, transactions on the fringes of the roster may begin.

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Zach LaVine continues All-Star push with historic outing against Cavaliers

Zach LaVine continues All-Star push with historic outing against Cavaliers

Forget statement games, Zach LaVine is having a statement month. 

In 10 January games, the Bulls’ 6-foot-6 messiah is the fourth-leading scorer in the NBA, averaging 30.6 points on 50% shooting (22.8 attempts). 

To borrow a word from Jim Boylen, his latest installment — 42 points on 19-for-31 shooting in a game the Bulls clawed back from down 19 in the second half to topple the Cavaliers 118-116 — was “herculean.”

“If that's not an all-star performance I don't know what is,” Boylen said. “He’s been a monster, man. He’s been a monster.”

To LaVine, there isn’t much supernatural about these types of nights; he’s been preaching his confidence and readiness to carry this team since day one. LaVine scored 21 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter, and on a night he conceded his legs were a tad worn, he attempted only six 3-pointers, instead finding most of his offense in the midrange and at the rim.

“Make or break time, we're not gonna get back in the game by just playing nicely. So I'm gonna attack their body, try to make them make a call. Had some tough finishes, made some tough shots, but I take that upon myself,” LaVine said. 

“Just playing the right way,” he added of his recent torrid streak. “I expect to. I put the work in for it.”

But All-Star berths and widespread acclaim aren’t dolled out based on individual point totals, alone, regardless of how effortless LaVine’s prolificity looks at times. And LaVine knows that. Casting the 42 points aside, he also finished the night with a team-high six rebounds, five steals and three assists. He was all-encompassing. Michael Jordan is the only player in Bulls history to post a line with those minimums in a game.

His contributions to a tightly clamped Bulls defense in the fourth were note-worthy for a player that's often advertised his motivation to grow as a two-way, all-around player. And most importantly, the game ended in victory.

“He [LaVine] wants to win. And he knows in order to win you gotta do multiple things in this league and I feel like he did that tonight,” Kris Dunn said. “He was guarding today, scoring the ball, getting rebounds, getting guys involved. We need that from him.”

LaVine lauded the Bulls’ new-look closing lineup of he, Dunn, Tomas Satoransky, Chandler Hutchison and Lauri Markkanen. The Bulls ventured to switch pick-and-rolls with that lineup late, as opposed to their usual blitzing, and outscored the Cavaliers 31-14 in the final period while forcing 10 turnovers.

“We made a lot of defensive stops, we got in transition. Chandler [Hutchison] came in and made some really big plays. Kris Dunn on the defensive end was incredible,” LaVine said. “And that helped me even recently get in some passing lanes. We put it together in the fourth.”

Tonight marked LaVine’s third 40-point game of the season and tenth straight with more than 20. His 31 field goal attempts were a season-high, three more than he hoisted in his record smashing 49-point night in Charlotte. Night in, night out, the on-court production and responsibility acceptance is there. But behind the scenes, he’s ever-improving, as well.

“He's been talking in the huddles, he's been chattering, he's been locked in,” Boylen said. “He's bouncing back from maybe a poor moment or a bad stretch. He's bouncing back now, he's not playing backward at all. And that's what the great ones do.”

“I stepped into this year from the get-go using my voice more, and you know, I've never been a real vocal person but you know, when I say something I think my voice carries weight,” LaVine added.

LaVine isn’t getting ahead of himself. He called this win — however exhilarating — an “ugly” one and lamented the familiar lackluster play that dug the Bulls their 18-point halftime deficit to begin with. Miracle comebacks shouldn't be necessary to beat a now 12-30 Cavaliers team on their last game of a six-game road trip.

Still, the statements are piling up. If his overall outing wasn’t enough, LaVine offered another one to the United Center crowd after his final bucket of the evening, an and-one finish through Collin Sexton with 16 seconds remaining to put him over 40 points and the Bulls ahead by four.

What did he say?

“You want the explicit version or the PG-13?” LaVine said with a chuckle. “This my stuff.” 

Continuing to stuff stat sheets, as he has been, is going to make All-Star jurors’ lives that much more difficult.

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