Bulls

Signs of optimism after Wednesday's meetings?

571410.jpg

Signs of optimism after Wednesday's meetings?

Don't get your hopes up just yet, but as representatives of the league and the players' association resumed labor negotiations Wednesday in New York, various media reports are suddenly showing signs of optimism in regards to a potential end to the NBA lockout.

A league source, on the condition of anonymity, confirmed to CSNChicago.com that progress was made in talks between the league and the union.

It was widely expected that the NBA would announce the cancellation of another two weeks of regular-season games Tuesday. Instead, in addition to talks continuing, various players--including league MVP Derrick Rose and LeBron James--reportedly opted to not participate in the star-studded World All-Star Classic, scheduled to begin Sunday in Puerto Rico. Some observers are interpreting the decisions as a sign that an end to the lockout is somewhat imminent.

At the same time, a New York Times report revealed that two arenas--Chicago's United Center and Los Angeles' Staples Center--have scheduled events on dates previously earmarked for NBA games, although assurances were reportedly made that the games can be rescheduled if and when the lockout ends.

With the cancellation of the first two weeks of the season, the NBA schedule would have to be reworked and certain dates," said, in part, a statement released by the league and published in the Orange County Register, a Southern California newspaper. "Including Dec. 13 for a Lakers game at Staples Centerwould not be part of any revised schedule."

In both cities, the dates will now accommodate concert dates for rapper Jay-Z and Windy City native Kanye West. The Chicago stop of the tour will take place Nov. 30, a night when the Bulls would have hosted the San Antonio Spurs.

Meanwhile Rose, who is currently in Hawaii on a USO-sponsored "Hoops for Troops" tour, continued his recent trend of speaking out about labor issues, this time tackling the salary cap.

"I wish it was back like where it was in the old days where there wasn't a cap," the Bulls All-Star point guard told reporters Tuesday. "Back in the day, they were giving guys coming out of college with multimillion-dollar contracts, so why stop it now? The game is growing. There's no need to stop it."

An outspoken Rose again expressed his take on the ongoing work stoppage, echoing comments he made in Chicago during events related to the release of his new signature sneaker.

"Greed is not on our the players' side," he said. "We're not greedy. What they're the owners trying to do to us is dead wrong.

"The most difficult part is, every day you wake up and you see games canceled," he continued. "The fans are fiending for it. I know we're itching to play. And I know that it'll hurt the game because our fans are loyal and for us not to be playing, I think it'll hurt them more.

"I put a lot of work into my game. I take my basketball life very serious. That's just my life," the youngest MVP in NBA history went on to say. "For people to still talk negative about you, I think that's just life, period. You just go with it. But I feed off of it."

Rose also commented on his experience with the troops in Hawaii.

"They're around my age and younger than I am," he said. "Just seeing that they're fighting for us, I just let them know we're not taking them for granted.

"Supporting our nations military community has always been important to me. Whether I am extending my thanks to our troops on the front lines, visiting military families back at home, playing ball with wounded warriors, or participating on USO tours like this that are designed to uplift the spirits of those stationed around the globe, it is an honor for me anytime I am able to give."

Bulls provide more head-scratching moments down stretch of winnable game

lavine_look.jpg
USA Today

Bulls provide more head-scratching moments down stretch of winnable game

The Warriors still have a dynasty when they play the Bulls. Forty percent of their victories are against coach Steve Kerr’s former employer.

And with a chance to win three games for the first time since February of last season, the Bulls came up small in the big moments yet again.

They failed to score a field goal the final 3 minutes, 35 seconds of a head-scratching 100-98 loss to the Warriors, managing just 15 points while getting outscored by eight in the final period.

On a night Zach LaVine did plenty right, the uber-confident guard made an unconventional decision at the end. With the Bulls down two, he waved off a Wendell Carter Jr. screen and went for the win, missing a 3-pointer that he rose to take with 3.3 seconds left.

Both LaVine and coach Jim Boylen offered plausible explanations for the isolation, saying they didn’t want perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate Draymond Green switching on to LaVine in a pick-and-roll. However, Boylen did concede “the timing of it maybe could be better” since most teams try to give themselves a chance at a tip-in or putback off a miss in those situations.

A defiantly confident LaVine didn’t even concede that. The Warriors’ first contact with the eventually secured defensive rebound came with 0.6 left on the clock.

“I just wish I made it,” LaVine said when asked if he would’ve liked to take the shot earlier. “I think I got a good look at it. I’ll take it again. I think I’ll make it too.”

Boylen defended LaVine through several questions about the shot.

“I like the fact that the ball is in Zach’s hands. I believe in Zach at the end of the game. He can make that shot. He has made it before,” Boylen said. “The timing of it maybe could be better. It’s a rhythm thing. It’s how you feel. He has done a good job of that. I believe in him in that situation. And [Friday night] it just didn’t go down.”

The missed shot obscured LaVine’s positives. While he did have five turnovers, he had early assists without trying to force offense, not scoring until 1:27 left in the first half.

Then came one of those patented LaVine scoring outbursts. He scored 21 of his 22 points in 7:39 and finished with six assists and six rebounds.

“Obviously, I didn’t want to give them another possession. I was either going to take it to the hoop and try to get fouled or go for the game,” LaVine said of the final sequence. “It was supposed to be me and Lauri in the pick-and-roll but Draymond was being that guy to switch and I didn’t want to deal with him in the pick-and-roll. I rejected it. I looked at the clock and it was three seconds I think. I had a good look. I thought it was good.”

The final points of the game came on a Green alley-oop to Glenn Robinson III for a dunk with 63 seconds left. The Bulls blitzed D’Angelo Russell, who slipped a pass to Green through the double team.

“That’s what we felt was the best situation for us,” Boylen said. “Get the ball out of DLo’s hands and make someone else make a play.”

Dunn posted his league-high eighth game with three or more steals and had been hounding Russell all game, helping limit him to seven points.

Boylen used a five-man substitution — don’t worry; four of the incoming players were starters — with 8:32 left and the Bulls up four. Coby White and Denzel Valentine had been rolling, which is why Boylen fielded a question about his decision.

“I just wanted to get my starters back in the game and close the game out,” Boylen said.

Boylen drew criticism in the home collapse against the Lakers for not bringing his starters back. Ultimately, most coaches live and die with their starters. And they’re the ones who coughed up the four-point lead.

Valentine actually even got ejected from the bench 42 seconds later for drawing his second technical foul.

“I had it rolling, but Coach made a sub. I wish I would’ve been available. I watched the fourth and I think I could’ve been useful the rest of the fourth,” Valentine said. “I just have to learn from these types of things and just move on.”

Valentine said it’s the first time he has been ejected from a game in any sport at any level. He drew his first technical foul in a double-technical situation while jawing with Omari Spellman. An animated Valentine scored in double figures for just his second time this season and is clearly relishing reappearing in the rotation.

“Two hard teams playing basketball, and it got a little carried away,” Valentine said. “My passion has been taken to the next level because I was out for a year. I literally live for basketball. This is what I love to do.”

Boylen adamantly pointed to progress with ball movement, and cited work ethic in practice and care factor for why he believes longer stretches of consistency will follow.

The painful fourth quarter offered a counter argument. In those moments, the Bulls looked like a young team that doesn't know how to close out games.

“I think we beat ourselves,” LaVine said.

He wouldn’t get much argument there.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Four observations: Bulls falter down the stretch, lose season series to Warriors

lavine_look.jpg
USA TODAY

Four observations: Bulls falter down the stretch, lose season series to Warriors

The Bulls have been swept by the league-worst (by record) Golden State Warriors after losing 100-98 on their home floor, Friday night. Observations from a tough loss:

Flashes of Lauri the Leader

The Bulls phased in and out of funks on both sides of the court for most of the first half, yet led 51-50 at the break. Credit Lauri Markkanen in large part for that.

Every time the game appeared to be slipping, it was Markkanen who snapped the Bulls back to attention. Trailing by four early in the first quarter, he had two strong drives and finishes to draw the game even. Then, after the Warriors began the second on a 16-5 run, Markkanen scored eight straight Bulls points to draw the game level. That’s leadership.

He finished the first quarter having taken seven shots, and the first half 7-for-11 (3-for-5 from three) and with a game-high 17 points. His teammates were clearly looking for him, and he thrived cutting and popping off on screen-and-roll. 

The second half wasn’t as fruitful — he went almost two full quarters without scoring after a cutting dunk to knot the game at 41 midway through the second period. So has been his season. 

In the fourth, he stroked a critical catch-and-shoot three to tie the game at 97 with just under four minutes left. Then, he turned the ball over on a travel and bricked a forced and contested 3-pointer. 

Unusual Zach LaVine performance, and a stilted offense

LaVine didn’t get his first bucket until an and-one layup with 1:27 left in the second quarter. Then, he ripped off 21 in a seven-minute run spanning the end of that period and the beginning of the third. Then, he didn’t score again. 

His most meaningful attempts of the game were two bricked iso jumpers in the final minute, one with the game tied, one at the buzzer that would have one the game.

His six assists were a team-high, but that will be overshadowed by those late-game possessions and night-long inconsistency.

This was his first time in three games not eclipsing 10 free throw attempts. As a team, the Bulls attempted only five all night. The bench was up (Denzel Valentine, Coby White) and down (Luke Kornet, Ryan Arcidiacono). Wendell Carter and Tomas Satoransky combined for only 12 points on 12 attempts. That offensive passivity will be a storyline, as well.

The Bulls do the Warriors some favors, and the Warriors do just enough

The Bulls led the Warriors for most of this one — in the second half, Golden State didn’t lead until the 5:30 mark of the fourth. 

But they did just enough to win — out-rebounding the Bulls 39-37, outshooting them on 17 less field goal attempts and going to the foul line a whopping 17 more times. Draymond Green was a beast defensively, and the difference-maker in the game. The Bulls defense generated some sparkplug turnovers early in the game — and got 20, by the end — but the stretch run was littered with defensive fouls, fumbled balls and more traveling violations.

The Bulls did them some favors, late. Boylen rolled entirely with the starters down the stretch and the offense stagnated. Questions there will start and end with LaVine, who waved off a Carter screen on the final possession. After a run of great fourth-quarter execution, a 17-point period tonight is dour. 

Obligatory silver lining: Coby White delivered the full Coby White experience

There was a couple of fun Coby White mini-runs in this one that livened up the United Center. 

In the first quarter, White had eight points by way of two threes (one a near buzzer-beater to end the period) and a turbo-charged drive past Kevon Looney on a mismatch for a finger-roll finish.

He then opened the second with a miss on a contested step-back jumper and a(nother) failed poster-dunk attempt. He hasn’t punched one of those home yet, but Bulls fans seem to appreciate the gumption, regardless. Then, in the last two minutes of the third, he had two 3-pointers over the course of an 8-0 run to pull the Bulls ahead after a Warriors surge. The UC was buzzing.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.