Bulls

Schanowski: Bulls Bracing for Gordon's Return

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Schanowski: Bulls Bracing for Gordon's Return

Tuesday, December 1st

by Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

I know, I know, it's too easy to blame the Bulls' slow start on the loss of Ben Gordon in free agency, but honestly, don't you think the Bulls' 6-9 record would be 9-6 or better if they still had Gordon's quick strike scoring ability? The biggest issue so far has been the lack of consistent offense because of terrible shooting from the field. Gordon led the Bulls in scoring each of the last 4 seasons, averaging almost 21 points a game a year ago. His ability to score points in bunches is exactly what the Bulls are missing right now.

What it came down to for the Bulls' front office is basically this, Do you re-sign Ben Gordon at an average of 12 million dollars a season, or roll the dice on possibly replacing him with an all-star guard like Dwyane Wade or Joe Johnson in the summer of 2010? The Bulls obviously decided on the latter option, and they will do everything possible to free up enough money to make a max offer once the clock strikes midnight on June 30th of next year. The thought of Wade, Johnson or (do we even dream!) LeBron wearing Bulls colors next season should have fans legitimately excited, but it doesn't do much for anyone this season.

Which brings us back to Gordon, who makes his return to the United Center Wednesday night. Gordon rolled his left ankle last week, and is listed as questionable for the game, but you have to think he'll try to play against his former team. Detroit has been one of the league's early season disappointments after signing Gordon and Charlie Villaneuva as free agents last summer. They're currently in last place in the Central Divison, but their 6-11 record can be blamed more on injuries to Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince than a lack of talent on the roster. Former Bulls' free agent bust Ben Wallace is actually trying again in Detroit, and has given the Pistons some solid defense and rebounding in the post. Once Detroit gets all its players healthy, they'll most likely be one of the teams battling for the final 2 or 3 playoff spots in the East.

The Bulls figure to be in that mix of teams as well, along with Milwaukee, Toronto, Washington, Charlotte and Indiana. Really, at this early stage of the season, only the Nets and Knicks are definitely out of playoff contention in the East. The Bulls should benefit from playing 11 of their 15 games at home in December, and they also have a very favorable schedule for the first half of January. But the larger issues of poor outside shooting, and a suspect interior defense won't go away overnight. Getting Tyrus Thomas and his shot blocking ability back in the line-up will certainly help shore up the defense in the paint, and Kirk HInrich should return from his thumb injury within a week or so. But where is the scoring going to come from?

Luol Deng has been pretty consistent, especially lately, and that's a welcome sign for the Bulls' coaching staff. Derrick Rose has picked up his scoring, plus even more importantly, his trademark quickness is back after a slow recovery from that pre-season ankle injury. But, John Salmons has struggled trying to replace Gordon. Salmons is shooting 37 percent from the field, and looks really tentative at times trying to figure out whether to drive to the basket or settle for another long jumper. Hinrich has been an inconsistent shooter his whole career, and the Bulls really can't expect to get much offense in the post from Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson.

So, barring a trade, the Bulls pretty much are what we think they are (apologies to Denny Green). They will struggle to score at times, and have trouble defending teams with dominant low post scorers. But Rose will continue to get better, and eventually Salmons and Hinrich should improve their shooting percentages. The heavy dose of home games should allow the Bulls to get above the .500 mark by New Year's Day, then it's a question of how well they can compete in head to head games against the other playoff contenders in the East.

How many games do you think the Bulls will win in December? And, are you okay with waiting until next summer for the big roster move(s)? Please post your comments in the space below or send me an e-mail with your thoughts.

I'll see you Wednesday night from the United Center with Kendall Gill during SportsNite at 6:30. And, don't worry, I'll be sure to tell Ben Gordon how much Bulls' fans miss him!

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre and post game studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson only played one season together with the Bulls. But oh, what a memorable campaign it was.

And it produced a friendship that still lasts to this day. Cupcakes and snacks will do just that.

Boozer retold a story to NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday of Robinson and his daughter, Navyi, baking cupcakes for Bulls players on road trips.

"We had so much fun. Me and Nate hit it off right away," Boozer said. "We're both very animated, we're both very loud, we talk a lot, we're great teammates. We love playing passionately, we compete.

"Nate is one of the best teammates I ever had. I played my whole life, I've been playing a long time and he's the only teammate that would bring snacks to every flight. And we'd travel on the road, he would bake us cupcakes for every road game. I never had that before.

"Him and his daughter, Navyi, would bake the cupcakes before every road game. So every road game we'd get to the plane and Nate would hook us up with cupcakes.

"Just a great teammate. He'd go through a brick wall for you, never complained, practice every day, play every day, ready to come and give it his best."

Boozer and Robinson will face off against each other during the Big3 Tournament, which begins this weekend in Houston. The league will travel to Chicago and the United Center on June 29.

"I'm looking forward to being in Chicago," Boozer said. "We've got a lot of great fans out there. I miss the (United Center), miss that Chicagotime summer weather and looking forward to getting back out there in a couple weeks."

Boozer's Ghost Ballers and Robinson's Tri-State team won't square off against one another until Week 5 in Miami. But it's sure to be a fun matchup for the two friends and snack buddies.

"He's one of my brothers, one of my closest friends," Boozer said. "Nate has been training like an animal and he's gonna use this platform to show everybody how much skills he has, also to get back into the NBA. Nate's a great talent and I'm looking forward to seeing him get down."

Boozer's team includes co-captains Mike Bibby and Ricky Davis, which gives them a pretty solid trio heading into the event. But no teammate, NBA or Big3, can match Nate Rob and his cupcakes.

Check out more on the Big3 right here.

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.