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Starting Five: Game 3 Pregame News and Notes

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Starting Five: Game 3 Pregame News and Notes

Thursday, April 22, 20101:12 PM

1. After Wednesday's practice at the Berto Center, Bulls head coachVinny Del Negro talked about the teams much-improved performance fromGame 1 to Game 2.

Well, we lost so thats not encouraging, but I felt we respondedwell, said Del Negro. Obviously LeBron James got going in thefourth a little bit, but overall I thought that we were focused, we hadgreat energy, guys were making plays. I thought Derrick, Luol andJoakim had very solid games, Flip was solid off the bench, Taj,everyone contributed. So overall it was a good team effort, we didntlike the final result. Now were back at home. They did what we have todo. We have to step up tonight and play well in order to win thegame."

Del Negro hopes that playing at the United Center will give Chicago aboost, but acknowledged that a better offensive outing will be key togetting a win.

The games emotional, the guys are into it, the atmospheres great,said Del Negro. Tonight were at home, were going to come out with alot of energy. Just because were home doesnt mean all of a sudden,were going to play that much better, but were going to have to playsmarter, be efficient and in the fourth quarter, were going to have toget stops and put the ball in the basket. We have to shoot a little bitbetter and make some open shots to put some pressure on them and gettheir field-goal percentage down. When asked about Joakim Noahs warof words with the city of Cleveland, Del Negro supported his center.

Jo has a free spirit. You have to manage his personality, but hebrings energy all the time, great spirit and wants to get better, wantsto win, so hes got all the right stuff," Del Negro said. "Hes justgot to continually concentrate on what we want to execute and bringthat energy because guys feed off that.

2. Del Negro also addressed criticism of All-Star point guard DerrickRose taking team-highs of 28 and 24 shot attempts, respectively, in thefirst two games of the series.

If he takes 24 shots and makes 20 of them, well then everybody wouldsay, Why didnt he take 30 of them? Theres a balance there, saidDel Negro. We need Derrick to score, but also get his assists and beefficient, and I feel like hes doing that.

3. Del Negro also discussed the 40-point effort of Cavaliers superstarJames in Game 2, and how the Bulls could possibly limit him tonight.

Their record is what their record is because they have depth and whenthe games close, you go to your star player, said Del Negro. Weguarded him well last game and he was still able to make difficultshots -- fadeaways, hes so explosive getting to the basket -- you justhave to pick your spots to make it difficult for him like any greatplayer.

When LeBrons hitting fadeaways and floaters and holding the ball, andwere coming on the double and hes fading away on you, it makes ithardthats what star players do. Weve just got to mix it in on him,weve got to keep him off balance, keep him guessing with the double,play him in single coverage, force him a certain waytheyve seen itall. Were not inventing the wheel here.

Del Negro later invoked the name of another No. 23 familiar to Bullsfans, unwittingly inviting reporters to ask him to make a comparison.

People in Chicago know," he said. "You had a guy here who was pretty good for along time that wore 23. You know how that is. You can have all thegreat defenses you want, but some guys just can make plays over the topof you, whether you bring one, two, three guys. So were just going tohave to get into him, make it as hard as possible and just be effectivein the areas we need to.

Theyre different. Thats animpossible thing to answer obviously. Michael right now, just becauseof his legacy, what he did in the game, to evolve the gameMichael tookit to another level. Im not a big guy on comparing guys because Idont think its fair. In terms of comparing anybody to Michael rightnow is not fair, just because of the MVPs and championships, all thethings he accomplished. And LeBrons at a stage where hes only 25, hehas a long career left and staying healthy and being consistent and allof those things.

4. Rose was absent from Wednesdays practice. Hedidnt participate because of personal reasons -- a family emergency -- butis expected to play in tonights Game 3.

5. Although tonights game is being broadcast nationally, many Bulls fansmay prefer to stick with the insights of the local broadcast duo -- thatknows the team the best -- of Stacey King and Neil Funk. Comcast SportsNet will have the game, as well as Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gillhosting Bulls Pregame Live before the contest and Bulls PostgameLive afterwards. In addition, CSNChicago.com continues to offer afree, live-stream broadcast of the game, including the postgame pressconferences.

The Sixth Man: Dont forget to follow me on Twitter @CSNBullsInsider

-- Aggrey Sam

Finding homes for Thad Young, Denzel Valentine if Bulls' season goes south

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USA Today

Finding homes for Thad Young, Denzel Valentine if Bulls' season goes south

The NBA’s Feb. 6 trade deadline is fast approaching, and the Bulls have decisions to make.

Their quandary isn’t an enviable one. With just over half of their games played, the Bulls have underwhelmed relative to preseason expectations in almost every phase. Yet, somehow, at 16-28, the playoffs are not yet an impossibility — even if the team’s current 1-17 record against teams with above-.500 records makes it seem so.

Thus, the Bulls aren’t likely headed for a big splash at the deadline. They simply aren’t yet competitive enough to risk parting with potentially valuable draft capital in pursuit of ‘one last piece’ to make a playoff push, but they’re also not quite out of it enough to sell off portions of their core, especially given how much the organization has recently invested in Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any movement at all. 

Based on how each of their seasons have played out so far, it’s fair to wonder about Thad Young and Denzel Valentine’s long-term fits with the Bulls. Young was brought in on a three year, $41 million deal in the offseason for his veteran leadership and two-way versatility, but through 43 games, he’s averaging the second-lowest minutes total of his career (22.3) and shooting more than eight points below his career field goal percentage (41.7%). Valentine started the year out of the rotation after missing all of 2018-19 with an ankle injury, then re-entered for about a month with Chandler Hutchison sidelined, but has logged three DNP-CDs in a row. He hasn’t played more than three minutes in a game since Jan. 2. 

To be clear: This is no Dewayne Dedmon scenario. Young and Valentine have remained professional through the ups and downs and no trade requests have been publicly filed (though Young has spoken about his desire for more playing time). But both also might benefit from a change of scenery and certainly have the potential to help a contender if the Bulls' season goes south.

The Clippers, as an example, have been repeatedly linked to Young, and a framework built around Moe Harkless makes as much sense as any hypothetical deal out there. Even with Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell in tow, recent reporting from Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report indicates the Clips might be on the hunt for a defensive-minded big to add to their rotation that wouldn’t sacrifice their offensive versatility. Understandable with the Lakers (with LeBron James and Anthony Davis), Nuggets (Nikola Jokic) and Jazz (Rudy Gobert) surrounding them atop the West.

(via TradeNBA)

If one or two second rounders, or a project like Jerome Robinson, in place of that first is more amicable, so be it. Harkless is a tough, switchable, solid-rebounding wing that would help the Bulls on both ends of the floor — especially if the team continues its recent endeavor into small-ball. Plus, he’s on an expiring deal. 

The two guaranteed years remaining on Young’s current contract might be a hurdle for the Bulls to clear, but if the playoff dreams melt away, it could ratchet up the motivation to move him for both sides. Young has been inconsistent this season, but perhaps a jolt of energy in a winning situation with more talent around him would be just what the doctor ordered. He certainly profiles as exactly what the Clippers could be reportedly seeking in a deal.

The Nuggets, Celtics and Miami Heat could make sense as candidates for Young’s services, too, all being contenders with need on the interior. But marrying salaries and value becomes tricky with them.

Valentine’s value league-wide is tougher to gauge, given his sporadic playing time with the Bulls. But with him set to enter restricted free agency this summer, it would behoove the Bulls to avoid potentially losing him — a former lottery pick — for nothing if his days of consistent playing time are done. 

Teams short bench scoring such as the Rockets or 76ers make a modicum of sense, and Valentines $3.3 million salary is simple enough to match:

(The Rockets could absorb Valentine’s salary using a trade exception created when they traded Brandon Knight to the Cavaliers last February)

Bring back Tyson Chandler! The second round pick would be the real haul, but if this move was made in contingency with a Young deal, Chandler slides nicely into a mentoring role for Carter and Daniel Gafford.

Not the most exciting swap (Bolden and Milton are also projects), but perhaps the Sixers (35.3% from three as a team, 17th in NBA) could use Valentine’s shotmaking (39.2% from three this season) and playmaking off the bench. Philadelphia ranks 27th in the league in bench scoring, getting only 29 points per game from their reserves. The Rockets bench is dead last with 26 points per contest.

The Bulls have eight games remaining before the deadline, beginning with the Bucks tomorrow. Three of those are against winning teams (Bucks, Pacers, Raptors), with two others (Spurs, Nets) against technically sub-.500 squads with the ability to play above that level on a given night.

That stretch is sure to, once and for all, instruct us on what to expect from this season. If it’s an unfavorable one, transactions on the fringes of the roster may begin.

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Zach LaVine continues All-Star push with historic outing against Cavaliers

Zach LaVine continues All-Star push with historic outing against Cavaliers

Forget statement games, Zach LaVine is having a statement month. 

In 10 January games, the Bulls’ 6-foot-6 messiah is the fourth-leading scorer in the NBA, averaging 30.6 points on 50% shooting (22.8 attempts). 

To borrow a word from Jim Boylen, his latest installment — 42 points on 19-for-31 shooting in a game the Bulls clawed back from down 19 in the second half to topple the Cavaliers 118-116 — was “herculean.”

“If that's not an all-star performance I don't know what is,” Boylen said. “He’s been a monster, man. He’s been a monster.”

To LaVine, there isn’t much supernatural about these types of nights; he’s been preaching his confidence and readiness to carry this team since day one. LaVine scored 21 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter, and on a night he conceded his legs were a tad worn, he attempted only six 3-pointers, instead finding most of his offense in the midrange and at the rim.

“Make or break time, we're not gonna get back in the game by just playing nicely. So I'm gonna attack their body, try to make them make a call. Had some tough finishes, made some tough shots, but I take that upon myself,” LaVine said. 

“Just playing the right way,” he added of his recent torrid streak. “I expect to. I put the work in for it.”

But All-Star berths and widespread acclaim aren’t dolled out based on individual point totals, alone, regardless of how effortless LaVine’s prolificity looks at times. And LaVine knows that. Casting the 42 points aside, he also finished the night with a team-high six rebounds, five steals and three assists. He was all-encompassing. Michael Jordan is the only player in Bulls history to post a line with those minimums in a game.

His contributions to a tightly clamped Bulls defense in the fourth were note-worthy for a player that's often advertised his motivation to grow as a two-way, all-around player. And most importantly, the game ended in victory.

“He [LaVine] wants to win. And he knows in order to win you gotta do multiple things in this league and I feel like he did that tonight,” Kris Dunn said. “He was guarding today, scoring the ball, getting rebounds, getting guys involved. We need that from him.”

LaVine lauded the Bulls’ new-look closing lineup of he, Dunn, Tomas Satoransky, Chandler Hutchison and Lauri Markkanen. The Bulls ventured to switch pick-and-rolls with that lineup late, as opposed to their usual blitzing, and outscored the Cavaliers 31-14 in the final period while forcing 10 turnovers.

“We made a lot of defensive stops, we got in transition. Chandler [Hutchison] came in and made some really big plays. Kris Dunn on the defensive end was incredible,” LaVine said. “And that helped me even recently get in some passing lanes. We put it together in the fourth.”

Tonight marked LaVine’s third 40-point game of the season and tenth straight with more than 20. His 31 field goal attempts were a season-high, three more than he hoisted in his record smashing 49-point night in Charlotte. Night in, night out, the on-court production and responsibility acceptance is there. But behind the scenes, he’s ever-improving, as well.

“He's been talking in the huddles, he's been chattering, he's been locked in,” Boylen said. “He's bouncing back from maybe a poor moment or a bad stretch. He's bouncing back now, he's not playing backward at all. And that's what the great ones do.”

“I stepped into this year from the get-go using my voice more, and you know, I've never been a real vocal person but you know, when I say something I think my voice carries weight,” LaVine added.

LaVine isn’t getting ahead of himself. He called this win — however exhilarating — an “ugly” one and lamented the familiar lackluster play that dug the Bulls their 18-point halftime deficit to begin with. Miracle comebacks shouldn't be necessary to beat a now 12-30 Cavaliers team on their last game of a six-game road trip.

Still, the statements are piling up. If his overall outing wasn’t enough, LaVine offered another one to the United Center crowd after his final bucket of the evening, an and-one finish through Collin Sexton with 16 seconds remaining to put him over 40 points and the Bulls ahead by four.

What did he say?

“You want the explicit version or the PG-13?” LaVine said with a chuckle. “This my stuff.” 

Continuing to stuff stat sheets, as he has been, is going to make All-Star jurors’ lives that much more difficult.

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

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