Boozer-less Bulls bow to Bobcats once again

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Boozer-less Bulls bow to Bobcats once again

Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011Posted: 9:40 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

A second bite at the apple wasnt enough for the Bulls (28-14) to overcome the Bobcats (16-24), even at home, as visiting Charlotte defeated Chicago, 83-82, Tuesday evening at the United Center, despite Derrick Roses 33 points. For once, Rose couldnt muster any last-second heroics, failing to hit a game-winner for the Bulls and giving the Bobcats their second win over the Bulls in a less than a week.

Thats a great accomplishment for us because this team has not been known to win against winning teams and as a matter of fact, theyve been getting blown out," said Bobcats head coach Paul Silas, a midseason hire. "Tonight was just the opposite. We hung in there and gave ourselves a chance to win. Weve been doing that the last few ballgames, but tonight was very special because they are a very, very good team. Im not going to say weve got their number, but were playing them well and thats what counts.

An active Taj Gibson (nine points, nine rebounds, six blovked shots) helped Chicago get off the marks in a positive fashion, but Bobcats point guard D.J. Augustin (15 points, five assists), power forward Boris Diaw (12 points) and center Kwame Brownthe first-quarter scourge of the Bulls last week in Charlotteprovided the visitors with scoring balance. Despite Roses (33 points, five rebounds, four assists) scoring punch, the United Centers efficient-shooting guests from the Tar Heel State erased the Bulls early winning margin and overtook their hosts to take a 27-24 lead into the second quarter.

In the first quarter, I thought our defense was very poor and then I thought it caused us to start pressing, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team committed 14 turnovers, in addition to shooting a season-low 39 percent from the field. Youve got to make simple plays against this team. You try to thread the needle and you try to go too much one-on-one, that doesnt work against this team.

You cant turn the ball over against this team, he continued. We created our own problems. Another big first quarter for them, similar to the game down there. You cant win like that.

After reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer (12 points, five rebounds) began the subsequent period with two consecutive jumpers, Chicagos offense got stagnant, as the recently reliable second unit couldnt manufacture offense consistently. With the reinsertion of Rose, that changed.

Sharpshooter Kyle Korver knocked down his first shot attempt, then found Brewer on a nifty backdoor feed for a running, one-handed reverse dunk baseline. Korver maintained his hot handperhaps carried over from his prolific scoring afternoon in Memphis the day beforeto hit a triple, prompting new Bobcats head coach to call a timeout with the home team making up ground swiftly.

Although the Bulls clearly had momentum, the end of the half didnt go in their favoran apparent Augustin travel was missed by the officials, much to the fans displeasureand they trailed, 47-44, at intermission.

Rose, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, went on one of his trademark individual spurts, almost singlehandedly lifting Chicago past the visitors to start the third quarter. Following the Bulls initial pushthey started the quarter on a 13-4 runthings werent as one-sided, as Charlotte recovered, putting its fate in Augustins hands.

In the battle of floor generals and close off-court friends, Rose struck the quarters final blow, draining a 3-pointer just before the period ended, to give Chicago a 66-64 advantage heading into the final stanza.

Bulls head coach Thibodeau kept his rotation short on this eveningGibson, starting in place of injured starting power forward Carlos Boozer, played nearly the entire contest and responded with a second consecutive big defensive outingand by starting Rose in the fourth quarter (instead of backup point guard C.J. Watson, who typically enters the contest at that juncture), the message that he wasnt taking any chances with the games outcome was sent, despite sending in Watson to give him a brief rest.

Without Rose in the contest for the time being, the Bulls maintained their slim advantage through solid defensive play and timely scoring from the likes of Brewer and veteran Kurt Thomas (six points, 10 rebounds, two blocks), who combined with Gibson and Luol Deng (10 points, eight rebounds, four assists) to give the home team an edge on the boards.

An interesting off-the-ball sequence in which Thomas and former Bull Tyrus Thomas antagonized each other until the latter was finally assessed a foul was followed by a bizarre incident where Brewer and Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace (13 points, 16 rebounds, four assists) got tangled up. Brewer upended Wallace, causing Wallace to apparently tweak his ankle, then kick Brewer in retaliation, drawing a technical foul.

At the end of the game, Wallace got going, observed Deng. He was crashing, getting second-chance looks, but thats the kind of player he is. Youve got to take that away from him."

Added Silas: Gerald, he was just terrific tonight, offensively and defensively. Thats what hes got to do all the time.

Wallace responded with his play, throwing down a monstrous follow-up dunk over Korver on the subsequent Charlotte possession. This was followed by a typically exciting Rose lightning-quick drive and finish, after which Wallace, now in attack mode offensively, went directly at Korver, drawing a foul.

The events basically repeated themselves, with Rose hitting a floater and Wallace responding on the other end with a tough finish, plus the foul for a three-point play, giving the Bobcats a one-point lead. After a timeout, Rose got a layup rejected, but gathered the ball and finished his next attempt.

With 47.5 seconds remaining, Bobcats swingman Stephen Jackson (12 points, five rebounds, three assists) answered, hitting a turnaround to give the visitors an 81-80 lead. Following a timeout, Rose found Brewer under the basket and he kicked it out to Deng, who missed an open 3-pointer.

I thought we had good looks. I had the best lookwide-open at the 3-point lineI thought when it left my hand, it was good, said Deng. Nothing went our way.

Added Brewer: When D-Rose threw me the ballas a basketball player, you always try to be aware of your surroundingsand when I had it, I knew Gerald Wallace is an above-average shot-blocker.

I felt him coming down aggressively, so I tried to pivot and I saw Lu wide open on the 3-point line. Thats kind of his bread-and-butter shot and it was a good look.

Jackson corralled the rebound and was fouled with 36.3 seconds left. He nailed both free throws and on the ensuing trip, Rose dropped in a floater.

Charlotte milked precious time off the clock before calling timeout with 10.3 seconds to go.

Explained Gibson: "Weve been in that situationand we fouled too quickly, so we wanted to just trust our defense first, let our defense sort it out.

Watson deflected the Bobcats inbounds pass and after initially being ruled Charlottes possession, an official review reversed the call, giving it to the Bulls with 8.2 seconds on the clock.

Charlottes Thomas blocked a Korver layup attempt out of bounds with 3.1 seconds left, giving Chicago one final chance underneath their own basket. The inbounds came to Rose, but his closely-guarded, fading jumper from the top of the key fell short with no time remaining.

When I came off, I was just trying to get to the middle as quick as I could and just try to get something off, but it was short, Rose explained afterwards. It was a good look, but short. Just learn from it. Next time Im in that position, Ill just shoot it as high as I can.

It was a lack of energy tonight. We didnt play that hard. This is whats going to happen if you dont go out there playing aggressive and with intensity.

Added Thibodeau: There were a few different options off of it. We knew Derrick would get a lot of attention on the play. They made a good play.

Derrick was the first option on the play, he continued. What happened is, on the back pick, they had two go with Derrick and Kyle was wide open. It was the right play and they made a good reaction from the weak side and got the block.

In the end, when you lose a game by a point, theres a lot of plays that lead up to it. Hey, weve got to do better.

Concluded Deng: Honestly, its one of those games. I dont know what it is. I dont want to take anything away from them. I just think were better than we played against them twice. At the same time, I just think theyre athletic, they play hard...it wasnt really one of our best games, for whatever reason it is. I thought we played great with a lot of energy. Today, just the little things werent going our way.

It was just one of those nights. We tried to get it going; nothing was going.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com'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.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

On the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Kevin Anderson, Vincent Goodwill and Kendall Gill welcome in SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell to discuss the Celtics' motivation to trade for Jimmy Butler. 

The guys also break down whether the league is undervaluing the Bulls All-Star. 

Later, they debate the contant Lebron James vs. Michael Jordan comparison and ask if it's fair after the King's poor showing in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. O'Donnell also analyzes the NBA Draft. He believes Terrance Ferguson is the right pick for GarPax. 

Finally, a behind the scenes look at Goodwill vs. Kendall on the court, and Kendall on the right way to parent a young athlete. 

Listen to the Bulls Talk Podcast below. 

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

Watching LeBron James tear through the Eastern Conference playoffs the way Michael Jordan used to do in his prime, it's become increasingly apparent other teams in the East will be chasing James and the Cavaliers for the next 3-5 years.

With that in mind, you have to wonder what kind of conversations are going on inside the walls of the Advocate Center as the Bulls' front office prepares for the June 22nd draft and the start of free agency on July 1st. 

Jimmy Butler earned third-team All-NBA honors on Thursday, putting him in position to earn the Designated Veteran Player Extension with another All-NBA selection in either 2018 or 2019. Under terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, that could mean a contract starting at $42 million in 2019-20 with a total five-year value of over $246 million.

Are the Bulls prepared to pay that kind of money to a player who has logged big minutes over his career and will turn 30 just before the 2019-20 season?

If not, the best time to deal Butler would be right now. Butler is coming off the best season of his NBA career, including a starting spot for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game. Plus, he still has two more guaranteed years on his contract at far below market value for one of the top 15 players in the league.

Tuesday's draft lottery pretty much eliminated Boston from a potential Butler trade. Celtics' GM Danny Ainge loves Washington point guard Markelle Fultz and is locked in to drafting him with the number one pick. Boston's future couldn't look brighter after finishing with the best regular season record in the East, advancing to the Conference Finals, and winning the lottery.

The Celtics will add Fultz and still have enough cap room to offer a max deal to free agent swingman Gordon Hayward, who played collegiately for Boston coach Brad Stevens at Butler. How does a starting line-up of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Hayward, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley sound, with a second unit of Fultz, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk? It might not be good enough to take down the Cavs or Warriors, but should position the Celtics for a long run as a serious contender.

So, if the Celtics are out, where would the Bulls look for a possible Butler deal? Phoenix probably holds the best combination of assets, starting with the No. 4 overall pick. If point guards Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox go 1-2-3, the Bulls could grab Kansas forward Josh Jackson, an Andrew Wiggins-clone who could wind up being the best player in this draft.

The Suns also have a pair of intriguing young power forwards in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, both top 10 picks a year ago. Plus, Phoenix could include 23-year-old small forward T.J. Warren and Chicago native Tyler Ulis in the package going back to the Bulls.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough is reportedly under pressure to show significant improvement next season after winning just 47 games combined over the last two years. Adding another young player to the roster isn't the best way to improve the team immediately, so don't be surprised if the Suns make a pitch to acquire Butler in the days leading up to the draft.

Similar story in Philadelphia, where the Sixers own the third overall pick next month. Under former GM Sam Hinkie, the "trust the process" approach led to a roster purge and the acquisition of lottery picks. Right now, the Sixers are overloaded with young players like Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Justin Anderson and Nik Stauskas.

Would current GM Bryan Colangelo be willing to trade the pick, along with Okafor and Anderson in a package for Butler? The Bulls could choose between Jackson and Kentucky's lightning-quick point guard Fox with the draft pick they’d acquire, potentially adding three young starters to a new-look line-up. 

Given all the trade rumors surrounding Butler in the past, you can expect a number of teams will be calling the Bulls leading up to the draft, including Tom Thibodeau's Timberwolves, coming off a disappointing season with assets to offer like Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh overall pick. 

Ultimately, it comes down to which direction the Bulls' front office wants to go. Try to build a contender around Butler, or use him as the trade asset to start a full re-build. We should get our answer in the days leading up to the draft.

Around the Association

Thursday's All-NBA announcement could lead to a pair of All-Star forwards changing teams this summer. We already mentioned Hayward's situation in Utah. Without the designated veteran player extension, he might be seriously tempted to join his old college coach in Boston. 

Hayward could sign a one year contract with a player option for a second season in Utah with hopes of earning the DVPE next summer, but if Hayward hits the open market, it's clear he'll be the number one target for the Celtics this off-season. 

Paul George also could be in play after failing to make one of the three All-NBA teams. The Pacers were hoping to sign their All-Star forward to a max five-year extension at over $200 million, but George isn't eligible now. George still could sign an extension with Indiana, but not at the dollars he would have received had he made All-NBA. 

Rumors of George's desire to join his home-state Lakers in free agency after the 2017-18 season continue to grow, especially with Magic Johnson likely to add dynamic point guard Lonzo Ball in next month's draft. The Pacers might be forced to trade George to get some assets now, rather than let him walk away for nothing in free agency next summer.

Back to the Bulls, who will bring in dozens of prospects to Chicago to work out at the Advocate Center before the draft. Unless they make a major trade to move up, the front office almost has to go "best player available" with their picks at Nos. 16 and 38. Look for them to focus on an athletic wing in the first round with Louisville's Donovan Mitchell, Indiana's OG Anunoby, Duke's Harry Giles and Australian pro Terrance Ferguson among the likely options. 

But if the team decides to part company with restricted free agent Niko Mirotic, that could open the door for the Bulls to select a power forward like Cal's Ivan Rabb, Wake Forest's John Collins, Utah's Kyle Kuzma or UCLA's T.J. Leaf. They could even draft an athletic young center like Jarrett Allen of Texas, Creighton's Justin Patton or UCLA's Ike Anigbogu.

In Round 2, the Bulls might look to add another young point guard to the mix like Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans, Iowa State's Monte Morris, Villanova's Josh Hart, Gonzaga's Nigel Williams Goss or Big 12 Player of the Year Frank Mason from Kansas.

Quotes of the Week

The Celtics might have edged Cleveland out for the top seed in the East during the regular season, but after watching Game 1 Wednesday night, it's clear Brad Stevens’ team will be lucky to get a win in the series.

This from Stevens about the NBA's version of Benjamin Button, LeBron James. "It's hard to believe, but he's better than when I got into the league. A lot better."

Still, Celtics' star Isaiah Thomas isn't about to concede the series just yet, saying, "We're not afraid of Cleveland. They're not the Monstars."  

Well, Thomas might be right about the rest of the Cavs. But if you remember the movie "Space Jam", I'm pretty sure James would be a good fit in that Monstars line-up. And the Celtics don't have Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny or Bill Murray!