Bulls

Wade in Bulls jersey: same material, different reality

Wade in Bulls jersey: same material, different reality

Media Day has become old hat for Dwyane Wade, so much so that he could go through the motions, interviews and promotional shots in Miami with his eyes closed.

But he looked like a wide-eyed rookie at times going through everything in the Advocate Center Monday, including the white-and-red jersey that was draped over his chest.

“It's really not the jersey. It's the same material so it feels the same,” he said. “It's a different environment. I was somewhere for so long, I knew where to go, I can walk backwards and get anywhere I want to go. It's just different, but different is not a bad thing.”

Comparing himself to the “new kid” in school, it won’t be long before Wade finds himself being the cool kid in class that everybody gravitates to and follows as an example, being a three-time champion and sure-fire Hall of Famer—at least that’s what the Bulls brass expects to happen.

“If I were a young player on this roster and I saw Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Taj Gibson, Robin (Lopez), I would soak up what they bring,” Bulls Vice-President John Paxson said. “As a young player you want to have longevity and success in this league and there's success right in front of them.”

Wade’s successes came in Miami, which makes Wade’s statement about things being different that much more pronounced—and before he can lead, he must adjust to the Bulls, and they to him.

His usage and his on-court role isn’t clear, as the Bulls are well-aware of the maintenance that comes with a player at his age—a player who was still pretty effective despite decline in the last few years.

“Our medical team and our athletic-performance team, we’ve visited some with him,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “But that’s going to be fluid. I don’t know that any definitive have come from that yet, but it’s obviously something that we’ll watch in regards to Dwyane being a little bit older but really to a number of our players.”

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Adjusting to his body, adjusting to a new city and even to a social conscience that has emerged since signing with the Bulls has been the theme of his summer.

His life—and the lives of many people close to him have changed in recent months and even days. From watching former teammate LeBron James bring home a title to Cleveland to his own departure from Miami after 13 years to sadly, watching Chris Bosh struggle with the news of his basketball mortality meeting up with the threat of his actual life, it’s been one after another after another.

“This news about basketball is unfortunate, and it was not nothing that he wanted to hear I'm sure, and nothing I wanted to hear for him and no one that loves Chris or is around him,” said Wade in reference to Bosh not being cleared by the Heat due to blood-clotting issues that ended Bosh’s last two seasons at the All-Star break. “It's another bump in the road in life that, from a basketball standpoint, Chris Bosh will figure out what he wants to do in life.”

“For Chris, it's a bump in the road for him in life. He's 31 years old, he's got a long life to live. Hopefully he'll get back on a basketball court. In a perfect world. But if not, for me, I'm just happy that we're able to be friends and enjoy life as friends and see him be healthy in that way.”

And oh yeah, he also stood in front of a nationally-televised audience at the ESPY awards two months ago, challenging his fellow athletes to take stock of what’s going on around them and more specifically, the ails plaguing people of color in this country.

It wasn’t so much a stand as much as it was a statement, and others have taken the baton to make waves that will be felt around the NBA.

His battle, he believes, is different from the one Colin Kaepernick is drawing attention to, as Wade sees the endless violence in Chicago and has jumped in feet first to make his presence known.

“I think Kaepernick educated a lot of us on things we didn't know, things we wasn't aware of. I think for me, things in this city that I've seen, we have a different kind of battle here in Chicago, a different focus,” Wade said. “That's what my focus is on. My focus is on this city and what am I capable of doing to help our youth in this city in a bigger way. That's where my focus is.”

“But what (Kaepernick) is doing is great because it's what he wants to do, it's what he believes in and he's using his voice for that cause.”

And as Wade turns the corner, a fresh start after a surprising divorce, the new old kid in town reiterated Chicago is the place for him—even as he adjusts.

“I'm figuring it all out,” he said. “Like I said, I'm happy to be here. At this time in my career, this is where I want to be.”

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

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USA TODAY

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

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USA TODAY

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

Denzel Valentine’s troublesome left ankle is going to keep him on the sideline for at least the next two weeks. Fred Hoiberg said Saturday before the Bulls’ home opener against the Detroit Pistons that Valentine is suffering from a bone bruise in the ankle he sprained on the second day of training camp. Valentine will be evaluated in two weeks.

“It sucks because of all the work I put in this summer and being around the guys you want to be out there so bad,” he said. “Things happen for a reason, and now that we know what’s going on I at least have a time frame and be patient with it; it’s bad news but good news at the same time as it gives me time to get ready.”

Valentine had been practicing earlier in the week and appeared close to a return after spraining the ankle on Sept. 25. But the third year wing complained of discomfort in the ankle and missed practice on Friday. A scan of the left ankle revealed the bone bruise, and Hoiberg wouldn’t speculate on when exactly Valentine might return.

It’s the same ankle Valentine had surgery on in May 2017. Valentine also missed the last two weeks of last season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. The injury couldn’t come at a worse time for Valentine or the Bulls, who are in desparate need of help both in the backcourt and on the wing.

Though Valentine isn’t a true point guard, he averaged 3.2 assists per game off the bench last season. The Bulls could use that kind of production when Kris Dunn returns on Monday, as Cameron Payne and Ryan Arcidiacono haven’t exactly showed promise in the early going.

Instead, Valentine is on the mend and it’s unclear when he might return. Given he’s had surgery on the same ankle before, the Bulls will be cautious upon his return.

“I’m a fighter, I’m not going to quit; just deal with the hand dealt," Valentine said. "I can’t sit here and be negative, I just got to fight, stay mentally strong and this will be bittersweet when I come back and have a great year.”