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Taj Gibson's ejection controversial and costly in Bulls' loss

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Taj Gibson's ejection controversial and costly in Bulls' loss

Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different story.

The Cleveland Cavaliers feign ignorance, that their scrappy backup point guard would never do anything to provoke the actions of one Taj Gibson in an altercation that resulted in Gibson’s ejection.

Gibson swears Dellavedova locked his foot when the two got tangled after Aaron Brooks scored on a layup, and replays appear to support that. When Gibson tried to untangle his foot from Dellavedova’s leg grip, he said Dellavedova tried to keep it locked, so he applied more force and it appeared Gibson kicked Dellavedova in the backside.

Tempers were already flaring, so players from both teams convened under the basket and officials had to break things up before it escalated. Gibson was ejected with a flagrant-2 foul and Dellavedova, who appeared to initiate the confrontation, didn’t receive a technical foul for his actions.

[MORE BULLS: Bulls fight but come up short in series-turning loss to Cavs]

“Taj kicked Matthew Dellavedova,” Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson said. “He made a decision to do what he had to do. It’s in the hands of the league and whatnot, but as long as Delly’s all right we’re not going to let guys come around here and hit us or kick us.”

Thompson, J.R. Smith and LeBron James all took Dellavedova’s side of things of course, and Dellavedova, an irritant if there ever was one, acted as if he didn’t know what was going on in the play.

“I was trying to box (Gibson) out, and he just pushed me in the back and then we got tangled up,” Dellavedova said. “I was just trying to get up, and it was a bit of a push and shove.”

It cost the Bulls dearly, even after they made a comeback to make a game of things late, being without one of their best rebounders when the Cavaliers sealed the win with an offensive rebound with 19 seconds remaining.

[MORE BULLS: Kyrie Irving overcomes limitations to kickstart Cavaliers]

“I didn't kick (Dellavedova) at all. He just leg locked me,” Gibson said. “It got chippy at the end of course. They didn't call a foul. ... I tried to pull my leg back. It looked like I kicked him from the way of the force I was pulling my leg out, but I have to deal with the consequences they ejected me. I have to deal with whatever the league has to say, but I didn't kick him at all.”

Gibson was subjected to the Cavaliers fans throwing objects and towels at him on the way out, the second time a Bulls player has had to deal with such treatment upon walking off the floor in Cleveland this series.

"That's what happens when you're in Cleveland,” Gibson said. “(That's the) second time in a row they threw stuff at us. It's classless, but we're here to play basketball. I can't focus on that kind of stuff.”

Very calmly, Gibson spoke about the incident, seemingly upset with himself that he got caught into anything of the sort. Even if both had been ejected, Gibson’s much more valuable to the Bulls than Dellavedova is to the Cavaliers, especially with Pau Gasol out with a hamstring injury.

[SHOP BULLS: Get a Taj Gibson jersey right here]

“I gave him a look like, 'What are you doing? This is basketball. This (isn't) wrestling, but it got chippy,'” Gibson said. “Both teams kind of swarmed the situation and made it bigger than what it was, but nobody threw any punches. I'm just sad that I couldn't finish the game and help my team.”

The scrum likely made the officials overreact as opposed to perhaps issuing double technical fouls, even after review. But the NBA will review all altercations to ensure no player stepped off the bench for either side, which is an automatic one-game suspension, and to see if the call for a flagrant-2 was correct.

“I really didn’t see it,” said Derrick Rose, who was on the bench during the play. “I didn’t see Dellavedova, what he did to make Taj do that. That’s out of his character, so I know he wouldn’t just do that. Heat of the moment, you just gotta stay focused and know that his teammates will be there.”

Gibson could be suspended for Game 6 upon review, but perhaps the ejection will soften the league’s stance on further disciplinary action.

“Hmm, I really don’t know, I don’t think it’s flagrant-2 worthy,” Jimmy Butler said. “But Taj still can’t let that happen. Stay cool and move onto the next play.”

By the way, you can bet some of the old NBA players from decades past looked at the altercation and said "child's play."

Shaquille Harrison could improve the efficiency of Bulls bottom five defense

Shaquille Harrison could improve the efficiency of Bulls bottom five defense

The Phoenix Suns released guard Shaquille Harrison last week, and although it is not a move that will send shockwaves through the league, the Bulls picking up Harrison could be the exact type of move to help solve what ails them.

At 6-foot, 4-inches and with a long wingspan, Harrison would step in and likely be at least the second-best perimeter defender on the team behind Kris Dunn. And he is the type of player, when combined with a talent like Wendell Carter Jr. and/or Dunn, could help form the type of lineup that could have a transformative effect on the overall team defense.

Last season Harrison had a defensive rating of 109, this despite the fact that the Sun—as a team—had a defensive rating of 113.51, over four points worse than when Harrison was on the floor.

His best skill is his ability to “get skinny” around a screener, meaning that on defense, Harrison is adept at angling his body to get around players trying to screen him off his man:


The Bulls need more players who show Harrison’s effort level when navigating screens on defense, not just because it will make life easier on their rim protectors, but because they also need to make sure they continue adding players who lead by example on that end of the floor. A team as young as the Bulls needs to collect young talent who pride themselves on defense, and Harrison fits the part.

When it comes to offense, Harrison doesn’t have the most impressive profile, but his play on that end of the floor is similar to former Bull David Nwaba. Harrison is not even an average 3-point shooter  (23.1 percent from 3-point range), but he makes up for it in other ways.

His rebounding is an area of strength, and fitting in with his preference to bring physicality to his matchup, he is adept at getting to the free throw line.

Last year Harrison’s 30.6 percent free throw attempt rate would’ve been a top-five mark on the Bulls. But his low usage rate (18 percent) will likely be lower in Chicago, so the free throw numbers may fall. But with so many score-first players on the roster, Harrison will still be able to crash the glass against the many guards who forget to box out their man.

Offensive rebounding will be less of a focus for a Bulls team that wants to preach getting back on transition defense, but Harrison gives Fred Hoiberg a special player that can do both. Harrison will run back on defense to help create the “shell” that the best teams create to cut off easy forays to the rim, and then when his team gets the ball back and is on the fastbreak, he brings value as the “trailer” (trailing man on a fastbreak) even without shooting ability:

This signing could end up being a big one for the Bulls, however small it may seem now.

Around the league, more and more teams are starting to invest resources in multiple ball-handler offenses that negate the differences between point guard and shooting guard, making versatile back court defenders a must.

This will be evident when the Bulls take on the Dallas Mavericks in game No. 3 of the regular season, as Rick Carlisle's Mavericks feature Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic in an explosive offense that doesn't have a defined "lead" guard.

The Bulls will continue to attempt to curtail offense with a high-scoring back court duo when they take on the Charlotte Hornets in a back-to-back on October 26 and 27. If Harrison is worked into the rotation by then, expect to see Harrison and Dunn on the floor together to match up with Doncic and Smith respectively, but have the flexibility to switch defensive assignments on the fly. If Chicago's perimeter defense starts to offer significantly more resistance, it will allow quicker improvement from Carter and the rest of the Bulls bigs on the interior.

With Zach LaVine currently in the top-five in the NBA in points per game, Dunn returning and Lauri Markkanen getting healthy, the Bulls front office is slowly approaching the point where their team has enough players who are considered possible focal points of an offense.

To become a championship contender, you need to have that one player who is unequivocally a superstar capable of a heavy workload, and only time will tell if the Bulls already have that player or need to acquire him. But the other important factor in building a championship roster is having the elite-level role players who do the little things that make life easier for their teammates in all phases of the game, and Shaq Harrison is excellent prospect who fits that exact mold.

New-look Mavs looking to make big jump this season

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USA TODAY

New-look Mavs looking to make big jump this season

Outspoken Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban conceded his team was playing for draft lottery position last season, but insisted it would be a one year only strategy.

Dallas finished tied for the league’s third worst record, but fell to fifth after the lottery.

So, Cuban and the Mavs’ front office decided to make a bold move on draft night, trading their 2019 first round pick to Atlanta to move up two spots for a chance to select international sensation Luka Doncic.

Early in the season, Doncic has more than lived up to the hype, showing the creativity and flair that made him such a fan favorite on the European professional circuit. Through the Mavs’ first two games, Doncic is averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3.5 assists while giving Rick Carlisle’s team a much-needed boost in transition.

Doncic and second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr. will give opposing teams nightmares in the open court all season long. They led the offensive onslaught in the Mavs’ 140-136 win over Minnesota Saturday night, combining for 45 points. Doncic finished with 26 points, while Smith scored 10 of his 19 in the 4th quarter, including a tie-breaking three-point play with six seconds left.

Veteran swing-man Wesley Matthews added 19 against the Timberwolves, and his 3 point shooting helps the Mavs maintain floor balance in half-court sets.

The Mavs also strengthened their front court in the off-season, signing veteran center DeAndre Jordan in free agency. Dallas was overmatched in the middle last season, with future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Powell giving up size in the post, but Jordan will provide rim protection and an alley-oop threat when Doncic, Smith Jr. or veteran point guard J.J. Barea drive to the basket. Jordan had a big game in the home opening win over Minnesota, scoring 22 points, pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking 5 shots.

Nowitzki, starting small forward Harrison Barnes and backup guard Devin Harris all missed Saturday’s game because of injuries, but Barnes and Harris are considered game-time decisions against the Bulls.

Here’s what the Bulls will need to do to get their first victory of the season Monday night.

1. GET BACK ON DEFENSE! Doncic and Smith Jr. are deadly in the open court, capable of making spectacular plays to bring the home crowd to life. The Bulls’ players have to sprint back on defense after missed shots to cut off transition opportunities, or it’s going to be a long night. The Mavs are averaging 128 points through the first two games.

2. CLOSE OUT ON 3-POINT SHOOTERS This will be a familiar theme in my keys until the Bulls start doing a better job of matching up in transition and closing out on three point threats. Detroit’s win at the United Center on Saturday came down to the Pistons’ 18-40 shooting from three-point range, and Dallas has even more players capable of doing damage from beyond the arc.

3. LET DUNN DO IT Getting Kris Dunn back from paternity leave should make a big difference on both ends of the court. Dunn has the athleticism and physicality to match up with either Doncic or Smith Jr., and his defensive skills will be critical in keeping the Mavs from turning this game into a track meet.

On the offensive end, Dunn need to be patient and get the ball into the hands of the Bulls’ top scorers, Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis. Even though Fred Hoiberg wants his team to play at a fast pace, they’ll need to pick their spots on when to run against the explosive Mavs.

As always, turn to NBC Sports Chicago for the very best pre and post-game coverage. Kendall Gill and Will Perdue join me for Bulls Pregame Live at 7 p.m/, and we’ll have expanded post-game analysis when the action goes final in Dallas. You can also stream the shows live on the brand new My Teams by NBC Sports app.