Rare blowout defeat has Bulls' full attention

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Rare blowout defeat has Bulls' full attention

LOS ANGELESSaturday nights 21-point blowout defeat was an aberration for the Bulls. Very rarely during the Tom Thibodeau era are they on the losing end of such a thrashing, a contest in which it wasnt even a game after the first quarter and there was nothing they could do about it.

The lopsided affair started out innocently enough, with the Bulls aiming to make it one of their patented defensive struggles. But very quickly, sloppy play with the ball allowed the Clippers to break out their Lob City routine and with arguably the deepest team in the NBA, the Bulls, putting out a defensive effort far below their usual standards, with an inefficient offensive performance to boot, were getting run out of the building.

The second quarter was the difference in the game. The first quarter was pretty good. We gave up 35 points in the second quarter. The tone of the game changed. We put them in the open floor. I think we had 12 turnovers in the first half and many of those ended up being layups, dunks and then, the second half, not much better. Our turnovers and their blocked shots got us, Thibodeau explained. They were quicker to the ball and thats a big part of the game, your reaction to the ball. Your turnovers that lead to their fast breaks and their second shots, even though in the first half, they only had five, but they had five for 11 points, so when you add that on to what they got off the turnovers, youre just digging too big of a hole, particularly on the road and we could never get it back inside 10. So, we really gave ourselves no chance.

Said Joakim Noah: We got out-scrapped tonight. We got out-competed. Thats disappointing. I think we took a couple steps back today. They were denying everything with their switching and we just didnt finish well around the rim. We know were capable of playing a lot better basketball.

Chimed in Carlos Boozer, who had a solid night in a losing effort: It was tough, man. This ones hard to let go. We felt like we didnt have enough juice. We didnt do our stuff hard enough to make it a better game.

Theyre a very good team. They use each other very well. They protect the rim very well. They share the ball. A lot of isolations, a lot of pick-and-roll. Give them credit, man. They played a great game tonight, he continued. Our concentration wasnt as good as it could have been. What I mean by that is their guys got to what they wanted to get to and usually, we take stuff away that they like to do and make them play to their weaknesses. Again, give them credit, man. They played well.

A familiar face, ex-Bull Jamal Crawford, was the Clippers catalyst, scoring 22 points off the bench the former Sixth Man of the Year, an early-season favorite to win the award again, is the teams leading scorer after signing as a free agent over the summer and confounding his former team with an array of shots, both difficult and uncontested.

Observed Thibodeau: Hes a tough cover and youve got to give him credit, but you cant allow a guy to play his strengths. If hes beating you, its got to be doing something that he doesnt want to do and I thought we let him get to what he wanted. We played him with a cushion, which you cant do and when you do that, when he gets going, hes got a lot of confidence. Now, its a lot harder to slow him down. We didnt play well, so thats something that has to be corrected.

Concurred Boozer: Crawford had a hell of a game, man. He came in and was very aggressive. He hit some amazing shots. I thought we played good defense on a few of his shots, but he got them to go in, like that bank shot in the second half. He had a leaner in the first half. Hes a tough cover, though. Hes got a lot of handles. Hes got a good package on him. We didnt do a good enough job of shutting him down, didnt do a good enough job of helping, trying to make other guys score. But give him credit. He played a great game.

But the most worrisome aspect of the game was the Bulls turnovers, which totaled 16 Thibodeau has said on several occasions that their nightly goal is 13 or fewer miscues an evening which is significant for not just the number, but how they occurred. On a team lacking a dynamic shot creator, great outside shooting and a bench that has been hit-and-miss thus far, the Bulls cant afford to beat themselves, especially against a team with the high-flying firepower of the Clippers.

We turned the ball over too much and you cant turn the ball over against a team like this. Theyre too athletic and they get on the break, and thats their strength. Theyre probably the best at getting out on the break in the NBA, so turnovers hurt us, Joakim Noah said. I think its definitely us. They gamble a lot, but its not an excuse. We didnt play good basketball that night.

Deadpanned Thibodeau: We prefer not to turn it over.

It was probably a compilation of a lot of things. Chris Paul is very good at making plays on the ball, Eric Bledsoe is a very good pressure guy. If you turn your back on them, theyre always going to make a play on the ball, if the balls exposed at all. Theyre going to get it. You have to execute. The start of the game was okay not great, but okay and then, the next three quarters, weve got to do a lot better.

Added Boozer: I thought the second half, we did a better job, but the first half they pressured us. We didnt use our press releases very good. They got their hands on a lot of tipped balls, loose balls. Honestly, it seemed like they got every loose ball. Thats what it felt like. They did a good job of being in the passing lanes.

Just be a lot little smarter. I think we can take care of the ball better obviously. We usually dont turn the ball over like that. But at the same time, weve got to make their guys miss shots. Were a good rebounding team when we make them miss. They hit some crazy shots, though, again. Jamal hit some crazy shots, but well be better Sunday night, I think.

And thats the silver lining for the Bulls. A team that doesnt lose many back-to-back affairs, Sunday night they play in Portland, a place theyve struggled in recent seasons, against a young Trail Blazers squad that doesnt have the size, talent or title hopes of the Clippers, but does possess talent.

The truth is, the only good thing about this game is weve got one Sunday night to play better, Boozer said. Sunday is going to be a big game for us. Portlands a good team. Theyre scoring a lot of points. Theyve got a really good rookie point guard. Theyve got an All-Star in LaMarcus Aldridge and a lot of good guys around those two. And the kid Nicolas Batum I heard is putting up a lot of crazy numbers, so he may be our big matchup Sunday, try to do a good job of shutting him down. But hes playing well, their team is playing well. Obviously they play well in the Rose Garden and its a big game for us Sunday night.

Thibodeau expressed a similar sentiment: Youve got to learn from it youve got to understand why you win or why you lose learn from it, move on, get ready for Portland. Youve got to approach it youre on the road things should never change, your attitude or your approach to how you prepare never changes, but we know weve got to go in there. Theyre a team that can score a ton on you. You have to have a defensive mindset, so we know the things that we have to do. We just have to be ready to go.

Concluded Noah: Its disappointing, but weve got to bounce back, you know? We dont have any time to mope or anything like that. Weve got to come ready to go. Im ready to play tomorrow. Theres no question about that.

Reports: Joakim Noah likely to join Derrick Rose, sign with Knicks

Reports: Joakim Noah likely to join Derrick Rose, sign with Knicks

Multiple reports indicated that former Bulls center Joakim Noah will join Derrick Rose and sign with the New York Knicks.

Both the Washington Post and ESPN report that Noah is very likely to sign in New York, his hometown. ESPN's Marc Stein went so far as to say that other teams have already accepted that Noah is all but a done deal to sign with the Knicks.

And according to Tim Bontemps from the Washington Post, Noah's deal with the Knicks will have "a starting salary somewhere in the $18 million per year range," a large but not insane number considering the league's salary cap explosion this summer.

The Vertical's Shams Charania added that Noah will meet with Phil Jackson and the Knicks when free agency begins Friday night.

Noah would fill a void at center left by the Knicks' trade for Rose, which shipped center Robin Lopez back to Chicago. Noah averaged 4.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 29 games last season before season-ending shoulder surgery in January. Noah spent the first nine seasons of his NBA career with the Bulls and was named Defensive Player of the Year just three short years ago.

But he fell out of grace with Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg, who opted to bring Noah off the bench for the first time in his career. It was largely assumed that both Noah and Pau Gasol would not return to a Bulls team that missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

Teams can start negotiating with free agents on July 1, and can sign free agents beginning July 6.

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields received his first standing ovation of the season at U.S. Cellular Field as he headed to the dugout on Wednesday night.

The White Sox starter settled in after another shaky start and his offense kicked it into high gear in a 9-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 18,571. Shields limited the Twins to a leadoff solo homer in the first inning and pitched into the seventh to earn his first win for the White Sox.

Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino and Todd Frazier all homered for the White Sox, who had to pitch themselves out of trouble in a wild ninth to win for the sixth time in nine games. Nate Jones earned a one-out save after Matt Purke and Dan Jennings combined to allow five runs. Purke was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. A corresponding move will be announced on Thursday morning.

“(Shields) got back into a rhythm,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think this is the best that he looked as far as just feeling comfortable. He was getting ahead. He started really using his fastball and he located it. I think after that, there was some offspeed stuff and he got guys swinging through it. This was a nice little thing to see. I'm sure it's a breath of fresh air for him.”

For a second it looked as if another stinker was in the cards.

Two pitches into the contest, Shields trailed by a run when Eduardo Nunez ripped an 0-1 changeup for a solo homer.

Shields, who had a 21.81 ERA in his first three starts with the White Sox, two of which resulted in him being booed off the mound at home, found even more trouble. He recorded a pair of outs, but walked Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe singled him to third. But similar to his last start in Boston, Shields took another big step forward and got out of trouble.

Two innings later, Shields made his biggest pitch of the night when he induced a double play off Joe Mauer’s bat after allowing consecutive singles to start the third. Dozier’s bunt attempt resulted in a comebacker and Shields escaped unharmed.

Adam Eaton assisted Shields in a big way in the fifth inning when he easily threw out Kurt Suzuki at home. Suzuki, who started the play on first, was forced home as Nunez nearly caught him speeding into third after hitting a liner off the right-field fence.

But Shields stranded Nunez in scoring position as well as another runner in the sixth. He recorded two more outs before giving way after a Byron Buxton double.

“We know what type of pitcher he is and he went out and did what he’s supposed to do,” Eaton said. “I think the proof is in the pudding. He goes out and throws well. We hit and we are going to be pretty good.”

As he exited, Shields was showered with applause from the appreciative crowd.

He allowed a run and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking one. Shields threw strikes on 61 of 93 pitches to earn his first victory since May 12th.

“It feels good,” Shields said. “It’s something to build off of.

“It was a tough stretch. It’s nice to get off the schneid there and get a win, but I don’t really focus on that kind of stuff. I’ve been around this game for a long time. My main focus is to win games for this team right now.”

One night after they couldn’t provide for Jose Quintana, the White Sox offense went overboard for Shields. Lawrie’s opposite-field solo homer with two outs in the second inning off Ricky Nolasco tied the game at 1. J.B. Shuck then singled, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Avisail Garcia.

The White Sox never looked back as Saladino’s solo shot in the fifth made it a 3-1 game.

Frazier started a five-run sixth inning with a solo homer -- the team’s 13th consecutive solo homer. Saladino singled in a run with two outs to chase Nolasco and make it 5-1. Tim Anderson’s two-run single made it a blowout and Eaton singled him in to make it 8-1. Shuck added a sac fly in the seventh for the White Sox, who went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“It was nice,” Frazier said. “It was a little different. (Shields) got out there not worrying about anything. Gave up the homer in the first batter. Nothing really fazed him after that. He has to understand, he’s going to give up runs here and there, and just relax from whatever happens from there. He pitched an exceptional game today.”

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

The Bulls are undergoing a "retooling" in their backcourt after dealing Derrick Rose to the Knicks, drafting Denzel Valentine and attempting to re-sign E'Twaun Moore in free agency.

That, combined with Jimmy Butler, the addition of Jerian Grant and an already versatile frontcourt will give Fred Hoiberg plenty of options that Valentine believes will make the Bulls "dangerous" in 2016-17.

"I think that's going to make us so dangerous this year, is we are versatile with our guards," He said on Wednesday night's White Sox broadcast. "And in those three positions I feel like we're going to be able to guard and do a lot of things offensively and throw a lot at you when we're coming down on offense. And the defensive end, too.

"I think we're going to have a really good team this year with all that we have, and I'm glad to be part of the building year, or whatever you want to call it."

On paper the Bulls will have more versatility than a year ago. Valentine is capable of playing either wing position and can handle the ball, though he doesn't project as a point guard. Butler can play and defend four positions, and Grant is capable of playing either guard spot. Bringing back E'Twaun Moore would benefit that versatility greatly, as he's capable of playing on or off the ball.

In the frontcourt, the Bulls will need to replace Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, neither of whom provided much versatility. Robin Lopez is entrenched at center, which will give the Bulls' stretch forwards Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis more room to roam the perimeter.

Wherever Valentine plays, and however Hoiberg uses him in Year 1, the Michigan State rookie said he's ready to do what's asked of him from a franchise known for winning.

"My job is to just come in, do what I can do best and just work on my game and try to lead as best as I can," he said on SportsTalk Live (in the video above). "I'm not coming in to step on anybody's toes but I'm going to do what I can to lead and be a good teammate and try to win some games."