Bulls look to recover in Orlando on CSN

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Bulls look to recover in Orlando on CSN

The Bulls are hoping not to be on the wrong end of a team snapping a long losing streak when they travel to Orlando to take on the Magic tonight. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. followed by Bulls Postgame Live with Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill.
Tom Thibodeau's group ended 2012 on a sour note on Monday in a loss to the Bobcats, 91-81, to help Charlotte break an 18-game losing streak that dated back to Nov. 24. During that streak, opponents scored 100 or more points 15 times, yet the Bulls could only muster 81 points on a dreadful 35 percent shooting.
The Bulls' performance should give the Magic, losers of six straight, some added confidence heading into tonight's matchup. That, and the same day the Bulls had their hiccup against Charlotte, Orlando went down to the wire against the defending champion Miami Heat.
Related: Bulls play down to competition in Charlotte loss
The Magic led by as many as 11 points in the second half and seven in the fourth quarter, but LeBron James and company came back to win, 112-110, in overtime. But behind the late collapse was a career performance from center Nikola Vucevic, who went for 20 points and 29 rebounds against the Heat's weak interior.
Considered, more or less, as a throw-in as part of the four-team deal that sent Dwight Howard to Los Angeles and Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia, the 22-year-old Vucevic has been a force inside through the season's first two months.
Starting all 31 games, Vucevic is averaging 10.8 points and 10.5 rebounds, the latter of which ranks seventh in the NBA. He's also improved since Glen Davis was sidelined with a shoulder injury, averaging 14.5 points 14.3 rebounds over the last six games. He went for 16 points and 10 rebounds in his first meeting with the Bulls on Nov. 6. It will be a tough task for Joakim Noah, if he's able to play -- Noah is still sick and is a game-time decision with flu-like symptoms, as is Vladimir Radmanovic.
Vucevic will be at the forefront of the Bulls' gameplan tonight, along with another newcomer leading the Magic in scoring in 2012-'13.
Related: Orlando's Davis says Bulls will be fine without Rose
Shooting guard Arron Afflalo was also a part of the Magic's deal involving Howard, coming from the overcrowded small forward position in Denver, and has thrived in his increased role in Orlando. Now in his sixth season, Afflalo scored 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting in the Magic's 99-93 loss in Chicago on Nov. 6, and has averaged 21.3 points during Orlando's losing streak.
Not to be forgotten behind Afflalo is sixth man J.J. Redick, who is also enjoying a career year in the wake of the All-Star Howard's departure. He has started just four games but is fourth on the team in minutes per game, averaging 14.4 points, 2.0 3-pointers, 2.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists, all of which are career-highs.
He may be a potential target for the Bulls at the trade deadline, as reported by CSN Bay Area's Ric Bucher. Starter Rip Hamilton has returned to the lineup, and Marco Belinelli was improved in December, but the Bulls could be looking to shore up the position by acquiring another shooter; Redick would certainly fill that role.
Related: Could Bulls be players for Redick at deadline?
Afflalo and Redick have picked up the scoring load with Davis and Jameer Nelson (hip) out, but Nelson will return to the lineup tonight. They're coming off a solid performance against the Heat, and the Bulls are coming off their worst loss in the Tom Thibodeau era, so it could go either way tonight in Orlando. Tune into Comcast SportsNet all evening for your Bulls coverage, beginning at 6 p.m.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

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USA TODAY

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Spurs tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com, the only place where you can get the hometown call from Neil and Stacey.

Coverage begins at 8 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Attempting to end perfection. The Spurs have been absolutely electric outside of San Antonio this season, winning each of their first 13 road games to begin the year. That's the second longest streak in NBA history, and the Bulls have actually lost two of three at home. The Bulls will be home underdogs as the Spurs look to make it 14 in a row. The good news is the Bulls have defeated the Spurs at home each of the last two seasons.

2. Battle of the two-way studs. There's a real argument to be made that Thursday's matchup will tout the two best two-way players in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having his best offensive season to date, averaging 24.5 points on 46 percent shooting, 1.9 triples, and averaging nearly 91 percent from the free-throw line. Expect Jimmy Butler and Leonard to be on each other's rear most of the night in what should be one of the most fun 1-on-1 matchups in the NBA.

3. Questions at the point. For the Spurs, Tony Parker is questionable to play with a knee injury. If he can't go, it would be Nico Laprovittola and Patty Mills running the point. For the Bulls, Rajon Rondo is coming off a pair of ugly performances in Bulls' losses to the Mavericks and Pistons (and his suspension against the Blazers). Someone needs to step up at the point, and it could decide Thursday night's winner.

4. Pau returns to the UC. Though it didn't result in much success, Pau Gasol enjoyed two highly successful seasons in Chicago. The stat-stuffer was named an All-Star in both seasons, averaging 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 150 games. He's now in San Antonio, filling Tim Duncan's role in the starting lineup. And though his numvers are down from a year ago, he's still capable of putting up numbers, especially against a Bulls' interior that has struggled of late.

5. Getting Doug McDermott back. Dougie McBuckets has been activated to the Bulls roster, and not a moment too soon. Since McDermott suffered a concussion on Nov. 12, the Bulls bench ranks 26th in 3-pointers per game (2.5) and 30th in 3-point field-goal percentage (23.5 percent). Getting McDermott back, even in a small role as he gets his legs under him, will be a major factor against a Spurs team whose offense continues to heat up in December.

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Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

AUBURN HILLS, MICH—Rajon Rondo almost made it to the quarter mark of the season without incident, but his frustrations got the better of him in Dallas last weekend in a situation with Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen.

He returned from his one-game suspension in a light mood, but didn’t take things lightly when addressing questions from the media after the Bulls’ 102-91 loss to Detroit.

Rondo admitted that he feels so strongly about things that he doesn’t let them go as easily as he should, which could have been the case with Boylen. Rondo threw a towel after an exchange with Boylen during the Bulls’ blowout loss to the Mavericks.

“That’s a good way to put it. Me as a player, a point guard, I have to handle a situation better,” Rondo said. “But when I feel a certain way, I’m gonna speak on it. My whole thing is always for the betterment of the team.

“If it comes off wrong or a certain way I’ll try to work on that. But for the most part I’m not a selfish individual, I try to do what’s best for the team, try to watch film with my teammates. That’s just part of the game, who I am.”

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When asked if he actually threw a towel at Boylen, Rondo quipped, “You gotta look at the film,” and tried to downplay the situation as best he could, noting the timing of the event in question.

He apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates and believes there won’t be lasting effects, although the Bulls are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

“Hopefully it’ll be the last three-game losing streak,” Rondo said. “It’s about how you handle adversity. We usually handle it well as far as bouncing back.”

Calling the incident “part of the game,” Rondo didn’t want to address specifics but given his history of instances such as these in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento, this one makes it a little harder to shake the reputation of being difficult to deal with.

“I have a good relationship with my team and I take pride in being a great teammate,” Rondo said. “I think we’re still on the same page. When you lose, things get blown out of proportion. When you win, it covers everything up. So we have to get back to winning basketball.”

His teammates have been supportive both behind the scenes and publicly, and were happy to have him back despite not being able to quell the losing streak.

“It was good. That's our starting point guard. We need veteran guys on this team,” Bulls guard Dwyane Wade said. “We need our bodies. He's our leader today so when we got down early he was the one who kept talking to us defensively. He's so smart out there on the floor, takes certain things away, get out in open transition. The reason we got back in the game, he did a good job of leading us in those moments.”