Bulls

Rose takes contact, isn't held back in practice

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Rose takes contact, isn't held back in practice

With an eye toward returning in Thursdays home game against the Celtics, Derrick Rose has ramped up the rehabilitation process for his strained right groin. The All-Star point guard was a full participant in Wednesday afternoons practice at the Berto Center, taking contact for the first time since the injury, which occurred 11 games prior.

I really dont know. I felt good, but me playing tomorrow, I dont know. Im able to run a little bit more, but not at my top speed, said Rose after practice. I really cant explain, unless youve had the injury.

I definitely feel better. Im running, able to move a little bit more, so Im getting healthy, he continued. Ive taken three weeks off or two weeks off, however many Ive taken off my conditioning is definitely a worry, but in basketball, you should be able to fight through it.

Its my first time ever having this injury. Usually people, after they have it, they usually dont have it anymore, but my biggest thing is coming back too quick and re-injuring it again.

According to a source familiar with the situation, Rose has been increasingly active in past days and while he looked good shooting the ball in a voluntary workout session Tuesday, but while he looked OK in Wednesdays practice, he was tentative and not in playing shape, things that should be expected after such a long absence. Still, just having Rose back in practice was a positive for the Bulls, coming off their first two-game losing streak of the season.

It was a good day at practice. Everyone went, so thats good, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who noted that Rose went through everything Wednesday. It was good because coming off a day off, we had the opportunity to do a lot of stuff.

You know, Im an optimist. I always believe it could happen. Thats the way I think. I get around you guys, then I think it wont happen, continued a sarcastic Thibodeau quipped when asked about Roses status for Thursdays game. Well see how he feels tomorrow. His speed and quickness looked very good, so I thought it was very encouraging.

Rip Hamilton, Roses backcourt partner who just returned from a long absence due to injury himself, was similarly optimistic about how Rose appeared Wednesday.

On Derricks bad days, hes still a 10 in terms of explosiveness, on a scale of 1-10. He possesses all the attributes, so when hes 100 percent, hes way over 10. Him not full speed is still faster than probably 98 percent of the league, he said. The first time in a long time to have everybody practicing in a long time. Its a good thing that we were all on the floor at the same time.

With this season, its hard to do a whole lot of scrimmaging. It was the same thing for me when I came back. I didnt get an opportunity to scrimmage, so the first five-on-five was in a game, so we just try to stay conditioned, take little bumps during practice.

Hamilton believes the Bulls will be much improved with their full cast on hand after Rose returns to the lineup.

I definitely think so. Guys have done a great job stepping in and doing what theyve been doing Ronnie, Kyle, C.J., John those guys have been excellent the whole season. I think when we come back, everybody gets their rhythm, everybody gets back into their comfort zone, what theyre used to doing, well be great, the veteran explained. He does so many great things on the floor that can get me so many wide-open baskets. I think in the past and pretty much my whole career, just working so hard, my team looked at me to lead the team in scoring every game and now Im in a situation where I can just get to spots. Derricks going to create, Derricks going to make plays to make my job a lot easier, so I can get a lot of easy wide-open shots.

Thibodeau tacitly admitted that the dual absences of Rose and Hamilton have put additional pressure on Bulls reserves, such as C.J. Watson, who has endured both significant and nagging injuries throughout the season himself.

One of C.J.s strengths is the way he shoots the ball. Hes played through some nicks, hes banged up a little bit, but hes got a lot of mental toughness and hes done a great job going in for Derrick or when Derricks been out. Overall, C.J.s had a terrific year for us, he said. I think this time of the year, you have to strike that balance of the rest and playing. We also want him to be in rhythm down the road, so I think just step by step. The way the schedule is this month, if we need to sit him out of some practices, well probably do thatgive him an opportunity to rest therebut hes done a good job overall for us. Hes had a great year.

Meanwhile, Thibodeau praised Roses positive outlook during a trying time.

Hes been patient. Hes done a great job with his rehab. Each day, hes done more and more. Hes feeling better and better, and so, well see how he feels tomorrow. He did quite a bit yesterday and he did more today, so its very encouraging, but well see where he is tomorrow, he said. Hes approached it great. His attitude has been great. Fred Tedeschi, our trainer, and Bulls assistant trainer Jeff Tanaka have done a great job with him. Our medical staff, theyve taken him through it step by step. Hes been diligent with the rehab, twice a day. I think he knows what he is. Hell be fine.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

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

NBA 'promises' to potential draft picks not unusual

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USA TODAY

NBA 'promises' to potential draft picks not unusual

Bulls Twitter went on high alert after last week's national report that the front office had made a "promise" to draft Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison if he was still on the board at No. 22 in the first round. Weren't the Bulls supposed to be interested in SF prospects like Michael Porter Jr., Mikal Bridges and Miles Bridges with their own first round selection? Did a "promise" to Hutchison mean the Bulls would go with Wendell Carter, Trae Young or Collin Sexton at No. 7?

The simple answer is the Bulls haven't made any final decisions on either pick. They still plan to bring the top prospects in for workouts and interviews before June 21 and will continue to take a close look at players likely to be available in the 18-30 range.

And, like any professional sports franchise, the Bulls aren't about to confirm or deny they've made a commitment to Hutchison or any other player. Drafts are fluid, and invariably players will rise and fall throughout the workout/interview process as teams try to get their boards lined up for the big night.

The main reason a team will make a "promise" to a player is to eliminate his incentive to work out for other franchises. In the case of Hutchison, he's obviously received assurances from a team or teams that he will be drafted in the first round. Hutchison cancelled his plans to participate in last week's NBA Draft Combine, and most likely will only work out for teams drafting ahead of the franchise that said they would select him.

Jerry Krause would famously try to hide his interest in players he coveted in a particular year and persuade them not to work out for other teams. The best example came in 1987 when a little known player from Central Arkansas named Scottie Pippen became an obsession for Krause, and the Bulls GM tried everything in his power to keep Pippen under wraps. Problem is, Pippen did attend the scouting combine and quickly became the hot topic among NBA scouts and executives. It took some intense work on Krause's part to arrange for the draft night trade that brought Pippen to Chicago for Olden Polynice. Krause also added Horace Grant later in that same draft, and the foundation was built for the Bulls' first three championship teams.

So, the idea of a team making a "promise" to a player they like is certainly nothing new. What's important to understand is that doesn't guarantee the team will follow through on that promise when they're on the clock. Back in 2013, the Bulls got word to Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng they were interested in taking him with their No. 20 pick in round one. But when the Bulls were on the clock, the front office decided they would rather have New Mexico swingman Tony Snell who was ranked higher on their draft board. The Bulls drafted Snell, much to Dieng and his agent's surprise. Dieng wound up going to Utah with the next pick and was traded to Minnesota. He's still with that franchise today, although in a reduced role after the Timberwolves signed Taj Gibson as a free agent last summer.

With so much uncertainty in this year's draft, it seems unlikely the Bulls would "promise" to select Hutchison five weeks before the selection process was going to begin. Hutchison and his agent most likely received assurances from NBA executives that he would be drafted in the 20-30 range, and that was enough to get him to drop out of the combine. But just like in 2013, if the Bulls see a player ranked higher on their draft board fall to 22, that's the player they're going to take.

Hutchison is a good prospect, a 3-and-D player who would fit well with the team the Bulls are building. But he's also a 22-year-old senior without the upside of some of the younger prospects who might be available with the Bulls' pick late in Round 1. Both Hutchison and the Bulls have to reserve the right to protect their own best interests. Hutchison will most likely agree to work out for teams drafting earlier than 22, and he'll have to understand if the Bulls decide to go a different direction on draft night, no matter what kind of previous discussions his agent may have had with the front office.

At this point in the pre-draft process, a "promise" can only be seen as a team's legitimate interest in a given player and an indicator of how the first round is likely to play out. But a lot can and will change before Phoenix goes on the clock on June 21.

Combine notes

Since most of the projected first round picks do little or nothing at the combine, it's left to the second-round guys to try to improve their draft stock with a strong showing in the scrimmage games. Last year, it was Kyle Kuzma working his way into the first round with a dazzling performance at the combine, and this year, the big winner might be Villanova shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo.

The NCAA Tournament hero impressed everyone with his athleticism on both ends and his ability to knock down open shots. DiVincenzo told me his 31-point performance in the title game against Michigan convinced him he had what it takes to apply for early entry, and his strong showing last week probably convinced him to hire an agent and remain in the draft.

Much like Kuzma, DiVincenzo had been projected as a likely second-round pick before the combine. Now he's looked at as a probable first rounder, going somewhere in the 20-30 range, which means he's likely headed to a good team that can ease his transition to the pro game. Not bad for a guy who came off the bench most of the season for the eventual NCAA champs and probably never imagined he would be leaving early for the NBA until that magical night in San Antonio.

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Other players who improved their draft stock last week include USC combo guard De’Anthony Melton, Maryland swingman Kevin Huerter, Tulane shooting guard Melvin Frazier, Cincinnati swingman Jacob Evans and another Villanova product, point guard Jalen Brunson.

Brunson didn't play in the scrimmages in Chicago, but he showed well in the physical testing, displaying the kind of athleticism every team is looking for at the point guard position. It looks like Brunson will definitely be a first round pick.

Similar story for Evans, who averaged a modest 13 points a game for a top 10 Cincinnati team, but impressed the NBA execs at the combine with his tenacious defensive play and offensive potential. Evans could be a possibility for the Bulls at 22.

Maryland's Huerter showed scouts he's more than just a standstill 3-point shooter. The 6-foot-6 sophomore averaged just under 15 points a game last season, shooting almost 42 percent from 3-point range. Huerter's solid play at the combine gives him a chance to be drafted at the end of Round 1.

Frazier also showed enough in games last week to have his name called among the top 30 picks. At 6-foot-6, he has excellent size at the shooting guard position. Frazier averaged just under 16 points a game during his junior season at Tulane, shooting almost 56 percent from the field.

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But the most interesting story involves Melton, who was held out by USC last season because of his connection to the FBI's investigation of corruption in college basketball. Melton maintained his innocence all along, and said the university was just doing what it had to do, fearing additional trouble with the NCAA over allegations a friend of Melton's had accepted money to try to steer Melton to an agent.

Still, even without playing competitively last season, Melton probably cemented a first round selection with his play at the combine. The 6-foot-4 combo guard flashed on both ends, scoring 15 points in a game last Friday playing alongside DiVincenzo in the backcourt.

Melton told USA Today he compares himself to other two-way standouts like Dwyane Wade, Kawhi Leonard and Avery Bradley. That's some pretty impressive company. Melton might be worth the investment of that No. 22 pick by the Bulls.

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Kudos to all the players who took part in the two days of media interviews last week. Almost all of them came off poised and well prepared. Among the top ten picks, I was especially impressed with Michael Porter Jr., who patiently answered all the questions about his back surgery and confidently said he considered himself the best player in the draft without sounding cocky.

Of course, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Trae Young also proclaimed themselves the best player in the draft, and projected top 10 picks Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr. and Collin Sexton also came across as supremely confident.

The latest Basketball Insiders Mock Draft has the Bulls taking Bamba at 7 and Chandler Hutchison at 22, which would make the front office and a lot of Bulls fans very happy. But just to show you the wide range in how draft experts are evaluating the top prospects, Basketball Insiders currently has Jackson Jr. going 11 to Charlotte, and it's hard for me to imagine him staying on the board past four.

Brace yourself for all kinds of wild speculation over the next four weeks.

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Finally, May 22 turned out to be quite a day for Lauri Markkanen. Not only is Markkanen celebrating his 21st birthday, but he found out he was voted to the NBA's All-Rookie first team after averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Markkanen joined Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and Kyle Kuzma from the extremely talented 2017-18 rookie class.

And the second team isn't bad either with Dennis Smith Jr., Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Given Markkanen's talent and work ethic, it's very easy to see him making multiple All-Star Game appearances down the line. The Bulls can only hope they come up with another foundation player like Markkanen when they draft seventh for the second year in a row.