Bulls

Will league discipline Dunleavy for incidents against Bucks?

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Will league discipline Dunleavy for incidents against Bucks?

Mike Dunleavy’s importance to the Bulls cannot be understated, illustrated by his lights-out performance in the Game 6 clincher against the Milwaukee Bucks, where he hit everything in sight.

Unfortunately, he also hit a few players wearing Bucks uniforms, and you wonder if the NBA will take a look at his actions against Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo, which prompted retaliation from both and an ejection from Antetokounmpo.

It appeared as if Dunleavy gave Carter-Williams a shot to the neck when Carter-Williams drove the lane in the first quarter, followed by the second-year guard leaving the game for a short while with injury before returning. It also looked like he gave Antetokounmpo a shot near the face area later in the first half. On the same possession as Dunleavy was spotting up for a transition triple, Antetokounmpo was measuring Dunleavy, charging into him as Dunleavy unleashed a triple and sending the veteran forward sprawling into the stands for a four-point play.

“I don't wanna comment on it. It's a physical game, there's a lot going on,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau when asked about the possibility of losing Dunleavy, adding he didn't see the plays he was being asked about.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the Cavs series, Bulls fans!]

Considering the hard look the NBA took at incidents in the Celtics-Cavaliers series in the first round, where things nearly got out of hand in the form of a Kevin Love injury and two-game J.R. Smith suspension, one has to wonder if the league will take action against Dunleavy before Game 1 of the highly-anticipated Bulls-Cavaliers series, which begins Monday in Cleveland.

With Smith out, the Bulls have a huge chance to steal one or both games in Cleveland, as the Cavaliers are adjusting to losing around 35 points in offensive production. If he’s available, Dunleavy’s shooting would be a big part of that.

Aside from his donut in Game 5, Dunleavy was red-hot in the first round against the Bucks, shooting 17-for-29 from 3-point range in the other five games. With the amount of attention Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler will draw against a Cavaliers defense that isn’t nearly as dynamic as the Bucks, Dunleavy’s availability to crack open things from the perimeter will be crucial.

As every hour passes by without hearing from the league office between now and Monday, the Bulls breathe an extra sigh of relief in hopes they won’t be a man down for the series opener.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.