Bulls host Nets in season finale on CSN

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Bulls host Nets in season finale on CSN

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Posted: 11:12 a.m.

Associated Press

After going 35-5 at the United Center, the Chicago Bulls have proven how dominant they can be at home.

With a chance to finish with the NBA's best record and potentially earn home-court advantage throughout the postseason, the Chicago Bulls play host to the New Jersey Nets in Wednesday night's season finale.

Chicago (61-20) recorded its season high-tying eighth consecutive win by defeating the Knicks 103-90 on Tuesday in New York. Combined with Western Conference-leading San Antonio losing 102-93 to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Bulls and Spurs are tied for the best record in the league.

Since tiebreakers are all even, a random drawing would be held if the Bulls were to finish with an identical record as the Spurs. San Antonio closes its regular season at Phoenix later on Wednesday.

"That's something special. It's definitely something that we want, but we have to look at the bigger picture," Bulls forward Joakim Noah said. "For us it's all about improvement and just focusing on the next opponent and the results will take care of themselves."

Carlos Boozer scored 14 points on 5 of 19 shooting Tuesday, but recorded a season-best 22 rebounds while Luol Deng had 23 points and 10 boards.

After a 39-point effort in Sunday's 102-99 win at Orlando, Derrick Rose scored 26. The MVP favorite is shooting 63.9 percent over his last two games.

"Rose is amazing. His athletic ability is ridiculous. He's come farther, quicker, faster than anyone expected," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He's playing at a level that not many people play."

Chicago, which hasn't won nine straight since March 19-April 2, 2005, came under some scrutiny after coach Tom Thibodeau decided to stick with his regular rotation despite locking up the East's top spot Friday.

That decision may come back to haunt Thibodeau, as reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer left Tuesday with a sprained left thumb. His status is unknown.

The Bulls have limited teams to 89.2 points during a 20-2 stretch. New Jersey is 3-30 when scoring 90 points or less.

The Nets (24-57) suffered their fourth straight loss and 14th in 16 games with a 105-103 defeat to Charlotte on Monday.

Sasha Vujacic, averaging 16.8 points over his last five games, hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 10.9 seconds remaining but D.J. Augustin's jumper with 1.1 seconds to go gave the Bobcats the win.

"We had a great effort, " said Brook Lopez, who scored 31 points. "It's a shame we couldn't get one more here, because the fans showed us a lot of support this season and tonight. I just want to thank them for their support. It hasn't been easy. I thought we played the best we possibly could."

Lopez is averaging 32.4 points - 12.0 above his season mark - on 59.6 percent shooting over his last five games. The 7-footer, though, is averaging just 13.0 points on 27.3 percent shooting in his last two games in Chicago.

The Nets, who are allowing an average of 108.1 points on 51.8 percent shooting during a 1-10 stretch, have been outscored by an average of 10.7 points during a six-game road losing streak.

New Jersey has been outscored by 13.6 points per game during its last seven trips to Chicago, losing six.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Fred Hoiberg's message to Bulls at trade deadline: Control what you can control

Fred Hoiberg's message to Bulls at trade deadline: Control what you can control

Jimmy Butler was the lone member of the Bulls not at practice Wednesday night at the Advocate Center. But the three-time All-Star wasn't on his way to Boston as part of a blockbuster trade. Instead, he was simply receiving an extra day of rest after a busy weekend in New Orleans.

With a little more than 12 hours remaining until the NBA trade deadline - Thursday at 2 p.m. CT - the Bulls' roster remains intact. Butler continues to be linked to the Boston Celtics - although multiple reports have stated that the two sides remain far off on a potential deal - and the likes of Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Robin Lopez all have popped up in various trade rumors over the past week. Even Fred Hoiberg said "Jimmy's obviously been great for us and we thinkn that will obviously continue to happen" when asked if the team's leadeing scorer might be dealt.

The latest report came Wednesday evening when The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Bulls are continuing their pursuit of Chicago native and Sixers center Jahlil Okafor, with Mirotic as a potential part of the package going back to Philadelphia.

 

Fred Hoiberg, who's been in a front office role at the deadline with the Minnesota Timberwolves, said he understands the trade deadline process of needing to "listen to everything and see if there's something that can help out without jeopardizing the future." But Hoiberg, as he's done when asked about the deadline the last few weeks, reiterated that "99 percent of the things that you hear and read don't transpire."

Still, as a former player he's aware of the strain the trade deadline can put on players, specifically players of a team in selling mode. He's implored his team to not read too much into reports and sources that pop up on social media and to focus on the task at hand, a Friday night matchup against the Suns.

"I don't think it's affected us at all. I think our guys have done a great job. Again, there's so many rumors that get thrown against the wall and that's what most of them are, they're rumors," Hoiberg said. "Our guys have done a good job ignoring that and going out and trying to work through and control what they can control, and that's going out and competing."

Butler has strung together another career year and started Sunday's All-Star Game for the first time in his career. But as the Bulls internally discuss whether to begin their rebuild - which would come in the form of dealing Butler to the Celtics for young assets - Dwyane Wade, who is expected to play through his wrist injury Friday against the Suns, understands that every rumor, report and eventual trade is fair game this time of the year.

"It's a business. every organization has a job to do to try to make their orgnaizatioon the way that they see fit. and as players you can't get sensitive about that at all," Wade said. "Trade deadline is more talk than anything, normally, but it's exciting for the fans to see what the team is gonna do or don't do and all this and that. But a lot of it is just talk."

For the Bulls, all talk remained just that at last year's deadline. They find themselves in a similar position as they did last season, although wins over contenders in Toronto and Boston have produced some optimism for the seventh-seeded Bulls. The schedule doesn't get much easier in March, with the Bulls facing off against 11 current playoff teams in their next 14 games.

And they'll know a lot more about where they stand when the clock strikes 2 p.m. on Thursday.

"I think it's always a relief for anybody that's in this business once that trade deadline comes and goes," Hoiberg admitted. "Then you can just focus on what you need to work on and not have to worry about all the things that are being thrown around and all the rumors that are out there. Just worry about getting your guys ready to play the stretch run and again hopefully play well."

Woj: Bulls still pushing for Jahlil Okafor trade with Philadelphia 76ers

Woj: Bulls still pushing for Jahlil Okafor trade with Philadelphia 76ers

According to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bulls are continuing to go after Chicago native and Sixers center Jahlil Okafor.

According to Wojnarowski, the Bulls are trying to persuade the Sixers to entertain Nikola Mirotic as part of the pacage they would send to Philadelphia.

Okafor has been linked to the Bulls dating back to last month, when CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill reported that the Bulls were going after the 21-year-old center.