The Starting Five: Bulls vs. Raptors

The Starting Five: Bulls vs. Raptors

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
12:33 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam

1. Talk about a quick turnaround. A day after trading James Johnson to the Raptors, the Bulls will be reunited with their former teammate. They have high expectations for the second-year forward in Toronto. JJ is a good player. Good young player, didnt have enough time to play because of who we have on our team, said Rose after Thursdays shootaround. I think that hes going to be a good player in this leagueJohnson brings a lot of energy, athleticism to the game. A guy that can run one, two and three, and four sometimes. Hes very versatile on the court. Chimed in Joakim Noah: JJs the man. I think hes somebody who works really hard, who has a lot of talent and I think Raptors fans are going to be really excited with JJ. Hes somebody whose talent hasnt really been seen yet. He really hasnt had too much playing time. I wish him nothing but the best. Hes a great teammate. Although Thibodeau seemed to keep Johnson on a short leash early in the season, then relegate him to strictly late-game, blowout situations, the coach had positive praise for the Wake Forest product. He was terrific for us. We didnt a whole lot of minutes for him. His attitude was great, he worked extremely hard, hes athletic. he can play the three, the four, he can play some two and I think its a good move for the Raptors. I also think its a good move for us because it gives us some flexibility going forward.

2. At 15-41, the lowly Raptors arent exactly a playoff contender, but Johnson should fit in nicely to a young, rebuilding and athletic squad, fitting in with the likes of emerging second-year swingman DeMar DeRozan and similarly athletic wing Sonny Weems. If Johnson is afforded the immediate playing time, he should provide Toronto with more size and versatility on the perimeter. While he hasnt seen much action as of late, Johnsons encouraging D-League stint and flashes of potentialin key situationsearly in the season (not to mention his rookie year, in which he started 11 games for Vinny Del Negro) show that he has something to offer. Unfortunately, that opportunity wasnt there for him in Chicago.

3. With the NBA trade deadline Thursday afternoon, theres been rampant speculation that the Bulls arent done making moves, particularly to address their supposed deficiency at shooting guard. Houstons Courtney Lee is a name thats been bandied around with frequency, although reports indicate the Rockets want sizespecifically Omer Asikin return. With the 2011 first-round pick acquired from Toronto in the Johnson trade, however, the Bulls could not only sweeten the pot in a potential deal for Lee (the organization reportedly previously offered one first-rounder and were rebuffed), but for another candidate whose name got a lot of traction earlier in the season: Memphis O.J. Mayo. Two veterans, sharpshooter Rasual Butler of the Clippers and Naperville, Ill., native Anthony Parker of the Cavaliers, could also be in the mix, while Detroits Richard Hamilton is a long shot, although theres a slim chance the disgruntled Rip could be bought out by the Pistons after the deadline and signed later in the season.

4. When evaluating the aforementioned players, obviously Lee and Mayo have youth on their side, as they are both third-year players. Lee was a rookie starter on an NBA Finals team in Orlando, but was traded to an almost historically-bad Nets squad the following offseason before landing in Houston in another offseason deal last summer. The Indianapolis native and former Western Kentucky star is considered low maintenance on and off the court, an efficient scorer, tough defender and solid outside shooter. Mayo might have the most talent of the bunch, but also comes with the highest risk factor, after a well-publicized incident surrounding a card game with teammate and Chicago native Tony Allen on the team plane. Hes a more than capable scorer, but like Lee, he now comes off the bench (a move reportedly made for a more balanced second unit, but tellingly hasnt seemed to affect the Grizzlies chemistry or record) and although he can shoot the ball, hes more of a volume scorer, needs the ball in his hands to be truly effective and hasnt proven to be the type of defender that would do well under Thibodeau. As for the veterans, Butler would probably be the best fit because of his long-range marksmanship, while Parkers toughness and versatility would seem to be a natural fit and although Hamilton is more of a mid-range shooter than a long-ball specialist, his ability to play off the ball and championship pedigree would give a somewhat inexperienced team (only Thomas has been to the Finals) some valuable leadership come playoff time.

5. Dont forget to follow me on Twitter at @CSNBullsInsider.

Aggrey Sam is's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Flames: Same old story on the penalty kill

Five Things from Blackhawks-Flames: Same old story on the penalty kill

Here we go again.

Listen, it’s been one of those nights for everyone, including the Blackhawks. So let’s just save ourselves some time and get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames.

1. Good and bad about the penalty kill. OK, let’s start with the good. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill was successful on their last three penalties, including Tyler Motte’s double-minor high-sticking. The bad news is they allowed goals on their first two kills and have now given up 14 in seven games. So what worked on the three late penalty kills? "We just kept our feet moving. We were working. Our shifts were 20 to 30 seconds tops. When you go that short you have the energy to outwork the power play and make up for being down one man," captain Jonathan Toews said. "Yeah, I mean, I think that’s the key right there, and I think our systems fall into place when we’re all moving and we’re all skating the right way."

2. Puck possession. When the Blackhawks are playing at their best, they are dominant in this department. They looked discombobulated in this one from the start and had very little possession, especially early. "Our identity in the past was fast and having the puck. Now we don’t have quite the four-line rotation or the puck enough to get that precision we look for, that identity we’re accustomed to having," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We’re not playing as fast because we’re defending a lot more than we’re used to."

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3. Forsling hurt. Blackhawks rookie defenseman Gustav Forsling was injured in the second period and did not return. Forsling took a big hit from Lance Bouma along the glass between the two benches. Quenneville said Forsling is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. The Blackhawks have better depth at defense this season. Now, with Trevor van Riemsdyk out for a few weeks and Forsling potentially missing some time, they’ll need all of it.

4. Corey Crawford doing just fine. Yes, he’s part of the Blackhawks’ penalty kill that is not doing much of anything right now. But he’s also been stellar at 5-on-5, where he’s allowed just three goals this season. If not for Crawford tonight, the Blackhawks aren’t in striking distance when the third period begins and they probably don’t earn that overtime point.

5. Brian Elliott just a little better. Elliott stymied the Blackhawks in Game 7 of their first-round series last spring, and he aggravated them again on Monday night. Richard Panik nearly had the winner on Elliott until the Flames goaltender stopped his shot with his right skate. Elliott was also good in overtime (6-for-6), when the Blackhawks had a 4-on-3 power play. The Elliott of Monday night is the Elliott the Flames were hoping for when they traded for him this offseason.

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