Bulls

Rose, Bulls win battle of point guard wizardry

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Rose, Bulls win battle of point guard wizardry

Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010
Updated 12:37 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

What was expected to be a docile opponent, a tune-up for more formidable foes and a brief respite before an arduous road trip ended up becoming more of a battle than the Bulls anticipated. A mostly uninspired affair, Chicago outlasted the visiting Washington Wizards, 103-96, Saturday evening at the United Center.

All the stuff about the road trip, Im concerned more about our practice and Houston. All the stuff about going on the road, the circus, all that stuff Im not concerned with that. Im worried about the next game, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. In this league, I dont think you can ever relax. Washington, theyre a talented team.

When the ball was on the board, we werent blocking out or making contact, they were jumping over us, he continued. Thats something that we have to improve upon. Weve been a very good rebounding team all year. I would say give them credit. I would also say our concentration wasnt what it should have been.

Washingtons porous interior defense was exposed immediately, as Chicago looked to force feed touches to Joakim Noah (21 points, nine rebounds) and Taj Gibson for point-blank attempts early. That tact worked out successfully for the most part, although Wizards center JaVale McGee sent back a couple Bulls shots in a display of the Windy City natives tremendous athleticism.

Keith Bogans (11 points) maintained his hot hand from the teams previous victory, knocking down a pair of three-pointers consecutively, as he demonstrated good chemistry with Derrick Rose (team-high 24 points, eight assists) in drive-and-kick scenarios.

The live-bodied and occasionally undisciplined enigmatic forward Andray Blatche picked up an early technical for briefly berating an official Wizards, however, didnt go away. No. 1 overall draft pick John Walls (16 points, six assists) game-changing speed it was virtually indistinguishable from Roses; yes, the rookie is equally fast allowed Washington to get into transition, permitting some of their high-flying athletes to get scoring opportunities out of the constraints of a more deliberate half-court set.

In addition, veteran reserve guard Gilbert Arenas (game-high 30 points) who was mildly booed upon his entrance to the game by the United Center crowd, which, moments before had shown their appreciation for his teammate, ex-Bull Kirk Hinrich (six assists) gave the visitors an added perimeter threat with his still-deadly outside-shooting ability. An unlikely suspect in the form of extremely active backup big man Hilton Armstrong (game-high 10 rebounds) provided yet another weapon for Washington, giving them much-needed offensive continuity to go along with a zone defense that proved to be somewhat effective.

If Chicagos defense wasnt up to par, the teams offense wasnt far behind. Rose couldnt find his touch (1-for-8 shooting in the first period), untimely turnovers occurred and the players as a whole appeared hesitant, leading to a one-point 25-24 deficit after a quarter, with Noahs typically strong inside play the biggest positive.

The disjointed play of the home team didnt instantly cease in the second period, but a concerted effort by Luol Deng (20 points, nine rebounds, six assists) to carry Chicagos offensive load at least erased the Wizards lead early in the quarter. Deng was countered by Arenas own aggressive offensive stance, which wasnt necessarily productive to Washingtons cause.

The games pace suited neither team and the atmosphere in the arena didnt accurately reflect the close-knit contest, although the affairs sloppy nature was a prime contributor. A play from the United Centers guests a vicious alley-oop dunk (plus the foul) by McGee from Wall over Kyle Korver after McGee blocked a Rose layup attempt on the previous possession was actually the catalyst that seemingly inspired Chicago (and the fans), as the Bulls would open up a slight cushion in its aftermath. Chicago showed much more of a sense of urgency, with Taj Gibson blocking multiple shots, Rose pushing the tempo and the lead ballooning to 50-42 at intermission in the Bulls favor.

After seeing your teammate take a tough foul, the way he Korver played, he just went after it. That was a hustle play, it was a great play for him. We dont really care about him getting dunked on. Its going to happen. But after that, just showing how much courage he had, Gibson told CSNChicago.com It makes guys even more hungry. Plus, when the other team talks, you want to be behind your teammate 100 percent.

Added Rose: We knew that we had to change the momentum of the game. That dunk could have definitely changed the game, but we kept it simple, made simple plays, guys made hustle plays.

While the Bulls werent exactly proficient offensively to begin the second half, they were able to shut down the oppositions attack, with Washington held scoreless from the 1:31 mark in the second quarter until 7:35 in the third, an 11-0 extended run (spanning the intermission) for Chicago. Rose finally began to get into the groove offensively the Bulls picked up the effort on the defensive end, allowing him to set the pace with his dangerous transition abilities and the ever-consistent Gibson was also impactful, knocking down his patented baseline jumper with precision.

When we were coming in, we knew we had to pick it up when Thibs put us back in the game. Usually he wants a lot of energy, he wants us to be focused, just keying in on things and just push the ball and go inside-out, whether thats hitting the post, drive and kicking out and he wants everybody to be aggressive and take shots that they usually take, said Rose.

The moment of urgency was fleeting, however, and the uninspired play of both teams continued through the end of the quarter, with Chicago holding a 72-58 advantage.

In the final stanza, the Bulls would attempt to turn things up a notch and put the Wizards away, but their opponents despite injuries to Wall and forward Yi Jianlian werent ready to lay down without putting up a fight. Noahs energetic interior efforts, Dengs in-the-flow scoring and balanced play from Chicago in general went head-to-head with scoring outbursts from the Washington perimeter trio of Arenas, Hinrich and talented reserve swingman Nick Young (11 points). All of a sudden, neither team wanted to give the game away any longer

Arenas is a great, phenomenal player. Coming off the bench, nobody really took him lightly. We understand he can put up 30 any given night. What more can I say? Hes a great player and he showed it tonight in the second half, Gibson told CSNChicago.com about Arenas, who hit four of his game-high seven three-pointers in the final stanza.

Arenas was shooting shots where we were in his face, falling down, shooting from halfcourt he was hitting everything, concurred Rose.

That was the funny thing. I was like, Man, Id rather shoot from the three-point line than get inside, explained Arenas. I think with the ankle injury, it was hard for me to go in and start pushing off. Now that its getting better, Im feeling more comfortable getting in there.

Urgency was back in the picture for the Wizards, as Wall returned and Arenas maintained his hot hand from the outside, giving the semi-antagonistic fans a glimpse of his past All-Star capabilities. For the Bulls, the games stretch run became about survival; not an ideal approach, but one that left them with the ideal ending after it became clear the Wizards had run out of gas.

Ill say it started from shootaround, where we werent that focused and Thibs was getting on us and it carried over into the game, so we could basically tell what kind of game it was going to be from shootaround, said Rose. The same things that he was telling us in practice that we needed to do, we didnt do it in the game and thats make them run off the 3-point line.

Were playing with fire. We gave up 38 points in the fourth. We didnt cover the three-point line. You cant do that. They were maybe one or two possessions away from the game being really close down the stretch. I give them credit, they fought the whole game. We got loose, said Thibodeau. The fourth quarters supposed to be your best quarter. We were careless with the ball, we closed short. Theyre the type of team, they knock a few in from three especially Arenas it doesnt take much to get them going. For him, hes still a heck of a player.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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.

The Bulls make one aspect of rebuild clear: They’re constructing the roster around the face of the franchise in Lauri Markkanen

The Bulls make one aspect of rebuild clear: They’re constructing the roster around the face of the franchise in Lauri Markkanen

The Bulls had a decision to make Thursday night at No. 7.

Staring them in the face was Michael Porter Jr., undoubtedly the biggest risk in the draft but also one of the most talented, and a fan favorite to boot. Both Villanova’s Mikal Bridges and Kentucky’s Kevin Knox presented options who would fill needs on the wing for a Bulls team desperate for a perimeter threat. The team was also reportedly interested in Alabama point guard Collin Sexton during the pre-draft process, and the potential to trade up for a Luka Doncic or Mo Bamba at 3 or 4 was on the table.

Instead the Bulls opted against going high upside, high risk. They passed on filling one of their glaring needs. They didn’t mortgage future assets to move up in a draft they felt was already deep enough. What the Bulls did on Thursday night in selecting Duke center Wendell Carter was make clear one aspect of their rebuild: Lauri Markkanen is the face of the franchise and the man they’re constructing this roster around.

Everything that makes the 19-year-old Carter a great prospect is what detractors felt might hold Markkanen back at the next level. Carter was built to thrive in the paint, an energetic center who posted a better offensive rebounding rate (the percentage of rebounds a player grabs while on the floor) than Texas’ Mo Bamba and his 7-foot-10 wingspan. Carter was one of the best players in the country at scoring off those offensive rebounds, and he did all this while playing alongside Marvin Bagley, the No. 2 pick to Sacramento and the ACC’s leading rebounder.

But Carter is more than just a young Tristan Thompson. Though he rarely had to use it on a Duke team littered with perimeter threats, Carter showed a solid touch in making 41 percent of his 46 3-point attempts. He looks comfortable at 15 to 17 feet, and he passed well from those areas, too. That shooting will come as an added bonus; Carter was the anchor a Duke defense that transformed to zone midway through the season, and the Blue Devils defense was nearly 6 points per 100 possessions better with Carter on the floor.

It's not surprising that the Bulls were reportedly interested in moving up with centers Jaren Jackson and Bamba on the table, more defensive-minded complements to Markkanen, and not Doncic or Porter. It felt as though the Bulls were drafting at 7 not only to grab the best player available, but to maximize Markkanen's potential.

What Carter will be asked to do, at least in the early going with this roster’s makeup – is much of what he was asked to do at Duke. He played second fiddle in the frontcourt to Bagley, who led the Blue Devils in all major offensive categories and won ACC Player of the Year. Carter posted modest 13.5-point and 9.0-rebound averages while doing the dirty work on defense. His 7.6 percent block rate (percentage of shot attempts he blocked while on the court) was impressive considering how often Duke played zone.

“The young man sacrificed a lot in order to be a good teammate. A lot of it speaks to who he is,” Forman said. “We think in really studying his game is, if you look long-term, is a guy that can fit with Lauri and obviously Lauri is a huge part of what we’re trying to build here."

The Bulls are rolling the dice that Markkanen can be the face of franchise. A year ago LaVine was far and away the core piece of the Jimmy Butler trade, and that was while he was rehabbing from ACL surgery. Markkanen was a question mark and a project, and Kris Dunn was a 23-year-old rookie who posted awful numbers in Minnesota. Questions about LaVine's future in Chicago with restricted free agency this summer now linger, and Dunn is going on 24 years old with 50 career starts.

It's Markkanen's spotlight, and the Bulls know it. He showed he was for real as a rookie; he was not, however, Donovan Mitchell or Ben Simmons, a can't-miss, sure-fire star. Yes, he joined LeBron James and Dario Saric as the only members of the 1,000-point, 500-rebound, 140-3-pointer club last year. He put up shooting numbers for a 7-footer matched only by Hall of Fame center Dirk Nowitzki. Questions persist on whether he can make a leap to stardom, but adding pieces like Carter to complement him and cover some weaknesses are a step in that direction.

"You hope you draft players that become stars," Paxson said. "We believe that last year, in drafting Lauri, he has that potential. He has a long way to go, but we believe he has that potential."

That could be part of the reason the Bulls opted against moving up in the draft, like Dallas did in dealing No. 5 and a future first-round pick to grab Luka Doncic at No. 3. Paxson and Forman both hinted at the Bulls being in a state of the rebuild where giving up future assets to attain something greater didn't provide a positive net worth. They're happy and comfortable with where they stand at this stage in the rebuild, with Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis and an enormous amount of cap space.

Now they can add Carter and No. 22 pick Chandler Hutchison to that list. The 6-foot-7 Boise State forward was yet another complementary piece to the roster. Like Carter, Hutchison projects as a high floor, low(er) ceiling player. Hutchinson is a four-year senior compared to Carter being a year removed from high school, but the two are similar. Hutchison will provide a physical presence on the wing the Bulls have lacked, and he can cover defensive weaknesses of players like Denzel Valentine, LaVine and even Markkanen.

"We feel these two players complement the team and the roster that we have very well," Paxson said. "One year later we feel like we’ve added five really good young core pieces to build and that's important to us. We’re excited about the future, the direction we’re headed."

The Bulls didn’t need to roll the dice with their 7th pick on Thursday night. They rolled the dice with the same selection one year ago and hit on it. Taking Carter midway through the Lottery is a complement and a compliment to what the Bulls believe Markkanen is and what he will be for a franchise looking to get back in contention.

It's a lot to ask for a 21-year-old Finnish stretch forward. But superstars win in the NBA and the Bulls believe they have one budding at the power forward position. Thursday's decision to play it safe and draft a complementary piece in Carter, one who played a role in college he'll be asked to play in Chicago, only cements that belief.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Bulls draft night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Bulls draft night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, and Vincent Goodwill react to the Bulls taking Wendell Carter and Chandler Hutchison on draft night. They’ll discuss if the Carter- Carlos Boozer comparison is fair, and how the drafting of Hutchison will impact what the team does in free agency. Kendall and Will share what they expect from Carter offensively and how he’ll mesh with Lauri Markkanen. They’ll also explain Markkanen’s offseason transformation and why adding too much muscle could be a bad thing.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below