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Without Rose, Bulls could be in some trouble

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Without Rose, Bulls could be in some trouble

From Comcast SportsNet
CHICAGO (AP) -- The fans gave Derrick Rose a standing ovation before the game. There wasn't much for them to cheer about in the end. Jrue Holiday scored 26 points, Lou Williams added 20 and the Philadelphia 76ers beat Chicago 109-92 on Tuesday night to even their first-round series in the Bulls' first game since Rose's season-ending knee injury. The superstar point guard received a standing ovation and waved to the crowd as he limped onto the court to present the game ball, then watched from a suite as the 76ers simply blitzed the Bulls in the third quarter. They outscored Chicago 36-14 in the period, turning an eight-point deficit into an 83-69 lead, and pulled even with the league's top-seeded team. Game 3 is Friday in Philadelphia. "This game we caught fire and it was pretty hard to put it out," Holiday said. All the Bulls could do was shake their heads and vow to do better. "Disappointed," Chicago's Joakim Noah said. "Disappointing effort overall. We didn't play well defensively. We didn't play well offensively." Holiday was 11 of 15 from the field, and the Sixers shot 59 percent overall. Williams came up big, going 8 of 13 after hitting just 1 of 6 shots in the opener, and Chicago product Evan Turner chipped in with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Noah led the Bulls with 21 points and eight rebounds. John Lucas III scored 15 points, but Carlos Boozer scored just nine and Luol Deng finished with eight. More alarming, the Bulls simply couldn't stop the Sixers, particularly in the third quarter. Turner scored 11 points in the period, and Philadelphia wiped out a 55-47 deficit. "That third quarter we played tonight was as good a quarter as I ever seen our team play as long as I've been with them," Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. "We were active." For the Bulls, that was about as bad as it gets. They were unable to make any stops, and they couldn't find a rhythm on offense, either. "We kind of let our offense affect our defense," Richard Hamilton said. The Sixers were leading 68-61 midway through the quarter after a 12-0 run that Elton Brand started with a foul-line jumper. Then, after a basket by C.J. Watson, Andre Iguodala threw down a thunderous one-handed dunk over Deng for a three-point play that drew plenty of oohs, aahs and groans from a crowd that felt this one slipping away. Things didn't get much better for Chicago after that. The 76ers continued to pour it on, with Iguodala delivering another vicious dunk late in the quarter and then hitting Williams with an alley-oop pass that made it 83-69 heading into the fourth. "For the first time in a long time our defense dictated our offense," Iguodala said. "We rebounded the ball. Evan and myself pushed it out on the break and we finished pretty well. It started with that in the third quarter." It added up to a rough night for the Bulls, who were in a familiar spot with Rose sidelined again -- this time after tearing the ACL in his left knee late in Game 1. He missed 27 games during the regular season because of a variety of ailments, and the Bulls did just fine, going 18-9. Throw in injuries to Hamilton and Deng, and they were able to go with their projected starting five just 15 times, yet they still captured homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs for the second straight season. That's why they insist they can still make a run, even with Rose out. They won without him before. They insist their championship hopes didn't die when he went down. "It's different (without Rose)," Noah said. "There's no excuses, though. We know we can play better. It's disappointing, but you know what? We live to fight another day. There's a lot of basketball to play." Notes: The Sixers shuffled their lineup from Game 1, with Turner starting for Jodie Meeks and C Spencer Hawes for Lavoy Allen. ... Scottie Pippen says the Bulls still are the team to beat even without Rose. In an open letter to the team posted Tuesday on the Bulls' website, Pippen wrote, "You're still the best team in the NBA until an opponent proves otherwise." The Hall of Famer also compared the loss of Rose to Michael Jordan's first retirement and pointed out the 1993-94 team won 55 games. Pippen said the Bulls "believed in ourselves" and never "felt sorry for ourselves." ... Chicago's Tom Thibodeau finished second in the Coach of the Year voting to San Antonio's Gregg Popovich after winning the award last season.

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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