Bulls

Shorthanded Bulls fall to Wizards on John Wall's late jumper

Shorthanded Bulls fall to Wizards on John Wall's late jumper

WASHINGTON, D.C.—It wasn’t exactly a wasted effort by the Chicago Bulls, as they learned a couple valuable lessons in their 101-99 loss to the Washington Wizards once Doug McDermott's fifth triple try wound up like all the rest: Not getting to the bottom of the net.

"I just gotta make that shot," McDermott said, going through the shooting motion in the Verizon Center hallway, wishing he could have come off his opposite shoulder, believing had he been just as open, the Bulls would have pulled off the improbable upset as opposed to licking their wounds after blowing a surprising 61-43 first half lead.

McDermott's confidence in himself and Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg's confidence in him was evident, as the play was drawn up for McDermott to win the game late—a position many didn't predict the Bulls to be in with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Nikola Mirotic out.

Another position many didn't expect the Bulls to be in was the re-emergence of Rajon Rondo, who apparently earned himself an opportunity to play with the attrition of the existing personnel, and did enough in 27 minutes to make Hoiberg say he'll play Thursday in New York against the Knicks.

Rondo was a whirling dervish at times, playing with as much energy as some of the wide-eyed youngsters who finally got off the pine, playing without looking over their shoulders.

Defending well, getting three steals and pushing the pace, Rondo scored 12 points with six assists and four rebounds, making six of his 13 shots after being the first substitution off the bench, helping the Bulls storm a Wizards team that was obviously disappointed to be playing against something other than top-flight competition.

"I thought Rondo was really good," Hoiberg said. "I thought our pace, especially in the first half, was excellent. When he was in the game, it was good to see him aggressive, looking to score. He gave us a real lift."

Rondo didn't seem too impressed with his play one way or the other, preferring to heap praise on the younger players, like Denzel Valentine.

"He put the ball in the hole. Given an opportunity, a little bit more freedom today," Rondo said. "I was just trying to bring energy off the bench and push the pace. It's what I do."

Another lesson is that Valentine and Bobby Portis proved they belonged on an NBA court, displaying the verve and moxie that usually doesn't come with just playing a handful of games three months into an NBA season.

Portis hit shot 5-for-8 in 17 minutes, including three triples to score 13 points with seven rebounds. He played the way that hasn't been seen since his rookie year when filling in for Joakim Noah in the early going.

Valentine did his best to make up for what McDermott lacked at the 3-point line, hitting five triples on his way to 19 points in 30 minutes, hitting 7 of 11 overall. Spot-up shots and step-in triples, he didn't seem fazed by the task of going against more seasoned players in John Wall and Bradley Beal.

"I had a big first half, I shot it well, did some good things," Valentine said. "I probably could've made a couple more plays down the stretch but credit to them. They turned it up."

The Bulls offense came back to earth after a sterling first half, as they hit just 2 of 17 in the second half from the 3-point line when trying to keep the Wizards at bay.

"We had some good looks that didn't go down," Hoiberg said. "It wasn't because of lack of effort that we lost the game. We went out there and fought them to the end."

Six Bulls scored in double figures despite shooting just 40 percent from the field, and turning it over 18 times didn’t help matters, but the Wizards gave it away 21 times for 28 Bulls points.

After Valentine hit a triple to put the Bulls up 92-85 with seven minutes left in the fourth, he did a bit of a shimmy on the Wizards' end of the floor, filled with adrenaline and positive reinforcement.

Unfortunately, he learned a rookie lesson because Wizards All-Star guard John Wall was watching and used that little dance as motivation. Wall took over down the stretch, hitting a free-throw line jumper to tie the game and then another mid-range shot with 5 seconds left to give the Wizards a 101-99 lead.

It put a finishing touch on Wall's 26-point, 14-assist night and he passed on a message to Valentine before the final part of the onslaught.

"I play with a lot of emotion just like him," Wall told CSNMA.com's J.Michael. "I understand where he's coming from. I just said, 'Don't celebrate this early. You're a rookie. You haven't earned those stripes yet.' I told him, 'That's how you feel? You woke up a monster.' I just went on a scoring spree."

Usually, it's the Bulls who have their closer handling business down the stretch. For a night, they got to see what life was like on the other side—with a little drama and intrigue on their end, because that's seemingly what they do best.

Bears now tied for best odds to reach Super Bowl from NFC

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USA TODAY

Bears now tied for best odds to reach Super Bowl from NFC

The Bears haven’t shown what their 2019 starters can do yet this preseason, but the oddsmakers in Las Vegas seem to be on board with Matt Nagy’s plans for the upcoming season.

The money is coming in on Chicago to win the Super Bowl, and the most popular sportsbooks shifted the odds for the Bears to win the conference.

They’re now tied for the best chances to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC at both MGM and Westgate, according to CBS Sports.

Both books see the Bears and Saints as favorites at 5/1 odds, while Westgate views the Rams and Eagles as equally likely.

MGM is much higher on the Packers’ chances, and both have the Vikings in the top seven.

The path to a Super Bowl berth is never easy, and Chicago will have as difficult a path as any team with two other contenders in the division.

Every single team on the odds list appears on the Bears 2019 regular-season schedule.

Taj Gibson signed with Knicks to be closer to father recovering from heart transplant

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USA TODAY

Taj Gibson signed with Knicks to be closer to father recovering from heart transplant

For as long as he's been in the league, Taj Gibson has been considered one of the ultimate good guys.

That reputation won't be diminished in the slightest considering his reasoning for signing with the New York Knicks this summer.

Many expected the Bulls to make a run at Gibson to back up Lauri Markkanen at power forward. But as it turns out, the Knicks were going to be difficult to beat as a landing spot.

Via Marc Berman of the New York Post, Gibson decided to return home - he grew up in Brooklyn - to be closer to his father who recently underwent a heart transplant.

Gibson said he spent a large portion of June - in the lead-up to free agency - in New York as his father awaited a new heart. Gibson agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the Knicks on the first day of free agency, just a few weeks after Wilbert Gibson had successful surgery in June.

The entire article is worth a read, but let us also add an anecdote Gibson shared about one of the first calls he received from a familiar voice.

Gibson knew lots of winning in seven seasons in Chicago — mostly with ex-Knicks assistant Tom Thibodeau. A known taskmaster, Thibodeau brought Gibson to the T’Wolves and knew of Gibson’s dream to one day be a Knick.

“Once I signed with New York, one of the first phone calls I got was from Thibs,” Gibson said. “That’s all we ever talked about throughout my time with Thibs — we always talked about New York.

“For it to finally happen, being able to say I was finally a New York Knick was a crazy feeling. We laughed for a minute. Then he was serious. He was like, ‘If anyone is capable of playing in New York, you’re a New York-style player.’ He knows me that I will play hard every night.”