Bulls

Time for Bulls to fight

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Time for Bulls to fight

I took in the sights of Philadelphia Saturday during my down time. Having never been to the city, I thought a trip through the historical district would help take my mind off the Bulls playoff predicament. It did.

But then I decided to run up the steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The same steps Sylvester Stallone famously conquered in the movie Rocky. I was immediately taken back to the Bulls. Never, has the symbol of Rocky seemed more appropriate as the Bulls face an uphill climb in their series against the Sixers, down 2-1 and having to play without Derrick Rose and now Joakim Noah who sprained his ankle in Game 3.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said Noah was 'most likely' out for Sunday's Game 4, but any one who's seen enough ankle sprains like this in basketball knows he's probably out for the season. Noah hobbled through the lobby of the team hotel Saturday needing assistance from his mother to get up the stairs. He declined to talk to the media, but the pained expression on his face said it all.

Now, the Bulls are without their best rebounder, best interior defender and best big man playmaker. That's on top of losing their best scorer and all around playmaker in Derrick Rose. Don't forget, Rose and Noah were the emotional leaders of the team, as well.

It's like asking Rocky to beat Apollo Creed with one arm tied behind his back.

Is it doable? It depends on whether or not Thibodeau will finally recognize the dire nature of the circumstances. Show his players a compassionate side so he can re-ignite their fighting spirit. Thibs reminds me of the Drago-like machine, repeating the same mantra in robotic fashion.

"When one guy goes down, another guy steps up," says Thibodeau. "We have more than enough to win."

I must break him.

The problem is players are human beings with different strengths, weaknesses and levels of mental toughness. You have to be able to motivate from a psychological stand point as well as from an X's and O's stand point. It's what made Phil Jackson so effective. It's the whole premise of the movie. Physical training or preparedness isn't the only factor in success.

It worries me when Thibs says 'it's not about their mood' when asked about the team's state of mind after Game 3. He softened a bit when asked again and responded with a different mantra, one Bulls fans want to hear.

"We have an opportunity rise and that's what we all have to do. Obviously, there's always disappointment when you lose. That's a good thing. It tells you you have the right players. The big thing is how we respond to have the determination tomorrow to get the job done. I want us to have great fight tomorrow."

Yes, fight Rocky-style. The No. 1 seed has become the underdog in this series. They've been hit hard, but they have to get up. They have to be unafraid of the moment.

The players say they're not feeling sorry for themselves, now they just have to play like it.

Otto Porter Jr. suffered an injury setback, where could the Bulls look for wing help?

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Otto Porter Jr. suffered an injury setback, where could the Bulls look for wing help?

The Bulls are in a dire spot in terms of their wing depth and that was something that was true before Otto Porter Jr. suffered another injury setback

Chandler Hutchison and the then returning from injury-Denzel Valentine served as the Bulls only real small forwards behind Porter on the depth chart, and Bulls head coach Jim Boylen did not make Valentine a significant part of the rotation until early December. Now, with Porter out and Hutchison still out nursing his persistent shoulder injury, the Bulls are starting guard Kris Dunn at the three with Valentine as his backup. 

Starting the 6-foot-3 Dunn at small forward is quite a tough ask for a Bulls team that has struggled heavily rebounding all season long (Bulls currently rank 29th in the league in rebound percentage). So with the 8-17 Bulls looking nothing like the Eastern Conference playoff contender that they expected themselves to be, they will need to string together a sustained stretch of good basketball to prevent themselves from becoming a clear-cut lottery-bound team (yet again).

The Bulls haven't announced any intentions to make a roster move, but with the buyers and sellers starting to become clear, who are some wings that could potentially help the Bulls and are reportedly available?:

Robert Covington 

Robert Covington is the least likely option for the Bulls in terms of available wing help. It was reported by The Ringer's Kevin O' Connor that title-contending NBA teams have been monitoring the Minnesota Timberwolves and Covington, who has long been one of the league's premier 3-and-D forwards. This season Covington is averaging 12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game while shooting 36.9% from 3-point range. Covington is shooting 5.5 attempts per game from 3-point range and is hitting a career-best 90.2% of his free throws. 

Covington has been heavily linked to the Houston Rockets which makes a ton of sense considering that he started his career there and would be able to play a familiar role, acting as a catch-and-shoot specialist next to James Harden. Though Covington makes the most sense on a contending team, he would have value to the Bulls. Covington's contract has two more seasons on it at a reasonable amount (around $11 to $12 million per year) and even once Porter returns, he would be an amazing addition to a Bulls bench that has already been outperforming the starters on a regular basis

Danilo Gallinari 

It was correctly assumed that when the Oklahoma City Thunder made their franchise-changing trades for Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Danilo Gallinari, they would be open to moving the players for the right trade offer. It has been reported that the Thunder are indeed open to trading Gallinari (and others).

The Bulls aren't in desperation mode, but that is OK in regards to Gallinari, as he is an asset that may be able to be acquired at a reasonable price. The Thunder came into Tuesday with an 11-12 record, good for the No. 7 seed in the West, but they may not care as much about making the postseason considering their long-term goal is to collect as many valuable assets as possible.

The Thunder may not necessarily enter "tank mode" but if the 31-year old Gallinari—who is on an expiring deal—is not a part of their plans for next season or beyond, he could be had for a reasonable price despite currently averaging a solid 18.3 points per game. The Bulls have their own draft picks, plus the Thunder reportedly are open to taking back salary, so any combination of Bulls players could work to get a deal done. 

DeMar DeRozan

Despite being in clear need of help on the wings, DeMar DeRozan doesn't exactly fit this year's Bulls but hey, beggars can't be choosers. The Bulls would be lucky to an All-Star talent to their roster in a buy-low move, and DeRozan potentially presents the opportunity to do just that. 

The four-time All-Star has a 2020 player option, which is likely to be accepted and represents the last year on his deal. Depending on who the Bulls gave up in a potential deal for DeRozan, they would be able to pair his proficiency as a scorer (especially in the pick-and-roll, where he is averaging 0.92 points per possession) with Lauri Markkanen and/or  Zach LaVine's abilities as 3-point shooters. 

The Spurs look to be on the cusp of missing the postseason for the first time since 1997 and could be more open to making an in-season trade than they have in the past. He is by no means a great fit in Chicago but there are a few things he does well that could make a difference. DeRozan's 5.8 free throw attempts per game would lead the Bulls and his 57.1% true shooting would be better than any Chicago wing outside of Valentine. If the Spurs and Bulls both continue to slide in the standings, even starting discussions on such a trade could become more of a reality.

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The wait for Otto Porter Jr. continues after another injury setback

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The wait for Otto Porter Jr. continues after another injury setback

The wait for Otto Porter Jr. continues---and continues to lengthen.

Porter, who has been out since Nov. 6, now will be reassessed in four weeks after visiting Dr. Bob Anderson, a noted foot and ankle specialist, Monday in Green Bay, Wis. In a release, the Bulls said Anderson confirmed Porter’s bone injury in his left foot. The team also said the “healing response (is) consistent with a small fracture that has become more clearly defined with repeated imaging over the last five weeks.”

Porter will remain in his walking boot for now. And the Bulls’ depth at small forward, which also currently features Chandler Hutchison out with a bruised shoulder, will continue to be tested.

Kris Dunn will remain in a starting role until Hutchison returns. Denzel Valentine also has taken advantage of his opportunity created by these injuries.

However, Porter’s absence is significant. He's a reliable two-way player who adds shooting, leadership and versatility at both ends. Though he got off to a slow start this season, he had started to play impactful minutes just before he got injured.

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