Bulls

Veteran backcourt of Hamilton, Hinrich play subtle role in victory

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Veteran backcourt of Hamilton, Hinrich play subtle role in victory

ORLANDOOver the course of their respective careers, the veteran starting backcourt of Kirk Hinrich and Rip Hamilton have seen it all. No longer in their individual primes, the veterans are still effective players, even when theyre not putting up gaudy scoring numbers.

Wednesday nights Bulls win was a prime example of that, as Hinrichs return to the lineup from a left-knee injury galvanized the team on both ends of the floor, while Hamilton, who jokingly said he had a John Stockton game, exceeded the minutes limit hed been restricted to since returning from a months absence and showcased his playmaking ability. More significantly, they made winning plays in a game where the Bulls needed it.

I thought Kirk battled the whole game, I thought he ran the team great, we had great shot distribution, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau explained. I thought Rip made a number of good plays, but our primary scorers got their shots.

The starting frontcourt of Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson combined for 75 points against the Magic, while Hamilton and Hinrich combined for 17 assists. Hinrichs value was obvious, as the Bulls seemed much less disjointed on offense and although Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson went for a game-high 32 points, Hinrich made him work all game, including when Nelson attempted a game-tying shot near the end.

Jameer was rolling. He had been hurt, but hes been shooting the ball really well for them, so if you give him any airspace right now, hes knocking that three in. Youve got to have the mental toughness to stay into him, Thibodeau said. Youve got to have toughness. Youve got to win games different ways.

Hinrich added: Didnt want him to get a three off, got up on him, took a dribble, shot-faked and just missed the shot.

Offensively, we were good tonight. Weve still got to get back to who we are, defense and rebounding. But I thought all night, we kind of had a good attitude, we stayed together, we tried to do the right things, he continued. We havent been playing well and weve got guys out, we knew we had to pick each other up tonight. We knew times in the game, things arent going to go well, but if things go our way sometimes or not, we knew it was super-important tonight to pick each other up and just stay the course.

Longtime teammate Luol Deng chimed in: Kirk is great. Plays hard, runs the team out thereyoure going to get your lookshes getting everyone in their spots, he just does a good job of just making sure that were getting good looks and executing, and everything.

Hinrich, who has had five separate injuries this season, experienced a scare when he slipped on a wet spot during the game, but said afterwards that he was fine.

Its been that kind of year for me, I guess. It seems like everywhere I go, somethings going to happen to me out there, he quipped. My knee felt much better tonight, so I was happy about that.

Hamilton has had injury issues of his own and while Thibodeau claimed hed only play the veteran 15 to 20 minutes a night as he returned from a torn plantar fascia, he broke his own promise by inserting the shooting guard into the game late, as the Bulls struggled offensively.

I know, right? I thought that I was actually done, but as the game was going, we couldnt score and he put me back in, and we went up by 10, but we gave it right back. It was just one of those things where I had to stay ready, said Hamilton, who noted that his foot felt fine. A lot of times when you play against teams, they try to take me away early and then, if Im making the right pass, they kind of switch it up. Tonight, they just stuck with it the whole night and it just made the game easier for my teammates. Booz had a great game, Taj had a great game, Lu and that was my goal tonight. Just saying, It might not be my night to score the ball, but if I can get those guys easy baskets to get a win, that would be great.

Thibodeau explained: I just liked the way he was playmaking. I felt we were really struggling to score, so I wanted to get him back on to the floor. But Im still very concerned about his minutes, so we have to watch that closely.

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

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USA TODAY

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

Jimmy Butler is in hot water with the Wades ... again.

Maybe not really, but the two former Bulls teammates exchanged pleasantries on Instagram after Butler commented on a photo Dwyane Wade's wife Gabrielle Union posted poolside, saying: "WELL DAMN!!"

Wade, a three-time all-defensive second team, came to his wife's defense when Butler posted a video the next day with the caption: "The good, the bad, and the ugly...", prompting Wade to respond: "Put well damn in caps on my wife photo again and you're gonna see what the good, the bad and the ugly is like."

*Mic drop*

It appears this won't affect Butler getting an invite to the next get together. Or so he hopes...

"Well that escalated quickly," Butler responded to Wade. "Point noted.. I'm still coming to the bbq tho 😂😂😂"

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

Lauri Markkanen has been making headlines this offseason, mostly for bulking up considerably, and making appearances around Chicago at Nike camps and Jabari Parker’s camp, but as the season nears, his on-the-court exploits are starting to come up as well. On Thursday, Sports Illustrated put Lauri Markkanen on their list of five breakout candidates for the 2018-19 season

SI writer Michael Shapiro had this to say about Markkanen:


Markkanen has all the tools to be a future All-Star, and it looks as though he has the mindset, too. He seemed to take his matchup with Porzingis personally in early January, demanding the ball down the stretch en route to a career-high 33 points in a road victory. The Bulls enter 2018-19 on the outside of the East playoff picture, but Chicago is now home to the NBA’s newest unicorn.

High praise indeed for Markkanen, and well-deserved praise considering that he finished with a usage rate lower with the Bulls than his college stint at Arizona, yet still was able to have an impact on the Bulls. Shapiro mentioned Markkanen’s burgeoning off-the-dribble game as the skill that most stood out, and speaks to the Finnish big man’s All-Star potential. 

While the 21-year-old’s threes lived up to the hype, it was his prowess of the bounce that made the biggest impression. Markkanen showed a deft handle and array of canny fakes in the post, adding a mean streak to boot. The Finnisher lived up to his nickname, unafraid of contact and eager to fight for position in the post. The stereotype of the soft European big man doesn’t apply here.

The numbers back this up. 

Among the Bulls top 10 players in drives per game last season, Markkanen finished second in field percentage (on drives) at 46.1 percent. If that numbers rises, or more likely, Markkanen drives to the basket more, his scoring total will increase. And when it came to finishing around the paint in general, he shot  67.6 percent on shots from zero-to-three feet, making him the third best in that range out of the Bulls top nine rotation players last season. Yet among the same group of players, Markkanen ranked sixth in shot attempts from zero-to-three feet. With the presence of Wendell Carter Jr., and another year of internal growth from Bobby Portis- bigs that can stretch the floor -Markkanen should be the recipient of more plays putting him in a position to score around the basket.

On a roster that will surely give big minutes to Parker, Kris Dunn, Carter, Chandler Hutchison and a working-his-way-back to form Zach LaVine, Markkanen may be surest 3-point shooter on the floor. This means defenses will key in on his outside shot. If players are routinely closing out hard on Markkanen- as they should -this will open up more driving opportunities for the nimble seven-footer. 

The third or fourth season is usually when young players take the leap from good to great, but Markkanen will be playing with the most talented group of teammates he has ever been surrounded with. How he handles playing with this group will go a long way towards establishing what kind of player he will be in the future, specifically if he is an All-Star caliber talent. On the 2018-19 Bulls, someone will have to hover around a 20 percent usage rate, making them a clear third-option, whoever that player is, his last name should not be Markkanen.