Chicago Bulls

Bulls Roundup: Boozer's playmaker skills on display

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Bulls Roundup: Boozer's playmaker skills on display

Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010
2:46 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

WASHINGTONWhile the Bulls defense was the key to Wednesdays blue-collar win over the Wizardsand the teams turnover issues were the bane of head coach Tom Thibodeaus existencea dominant 30-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist effort by power forward Carlos Boozer was a significant reason Chicago triumphed in the sloppy affair.

Boozer was always expected to produce as a scorer and rebounder, but despite Thibodeaus insistence that the former All-Star was an excellent passer, it was not until Wednesday that his skills as a playmaker were truly on display. In fact, a week after it was learned that Joakim Noah would miss eight to 10 weeks of action following surgery on his right thumb, Boozerwho repeatedly tells reporters that Noahs diverse range of skills cant be replicatedhas shown that the Bulls will still be able to facilitate offense for the whole team by playing through the post.

If you cut and youre open, hes going to pass it to you without hesitation. Hes got great vision, so we think we can play through him quite a bit, which weve done, and we can generate a lot of high-quality shots from that, Thibodeau said Wednesday. As long as the balls getting into the paint first, whether its through his post-up or Derricks dribble penetration, thats how we want to play, inside-out.

Boozer was obviously a major scoring presence against Washington, using his power and smarts to fluster the Wizards inexperienced frontline. When Wizards head coach Flip Saunders sent double teams at him, Boozer was able to set up his teammates for easy opportunities.

They brought a lot of players at me. They double-teamed me a little bit more and I just tried to find an open guy. I turned the ball over a little bit trying to get it to him, but for the most part, I thought we did a good job of moving when they double-teamed me. I tried to do a good job of finding the open man, said Boozer. When we have Taj and Jo in the game, the pressures still going to be on me and D-Rose to score the ball. Thats our jobs out there, but even more now without Jo and Taj out there. Me and him are used to that. Were used to having the ball in our hands and having the pressure on us to put the ball in the basket. Its everybody else.

Now you see Kurt Thomas hitting wide-open jump shots. Ronnie Brewers getting more shots. Well draw attention to uswell get double teamsand our job is to make the right play. Thats why I had seven assists because they put two people on me and I just tried to find the right man that was open. Thats part of playing basketball.

Rose indicated that while his on-court chemistry with Boozer hasnt peaked yet, he enjoys the fact that the power forward takes some pressure off him as a playmaker.

Its great. Of course, my shot wasnt falling tonight. My legs were gone. But his passing, finding people on the open cut, doing things like that, it helped us out tonight, said Rose. Right now, were still feeling each other out. Certain plays, were still not there yet, but were going to get to the point where, in clutch situations like that, were already going to know what to do, so I cant wait until that moment.

Boozer, always quick to praise his teammates, knows that in Noahs absence, it will take an overall team effort to maintain Chicagos recent winning ways.

You see how good Kurt Thomas has been playing. Hes been playing his butt off, stepping up and taking that challenge. Taj Gibson will do the same thing when he gets over his concussion. Big Omer Asik right here next to me has been playing phenomenal. As time moves along, well figure out more and more ways to win. We cant replace Joakim Noah. Let me make that clear. But were trying to find ways to win without him.

Rose enjoys matchup with former backcourt mate

After the win, Derrick Rose discussed matching up with Kirk Hinrich, who started at point guard for the Wizards with No. 1 overall pick John Wall sidelined with a knee injury.

It was fun. It was going to be challenging, especially somebody thatI was his rookie a couple of years agoso just playing against him was bringing back memories, said Rose. But I wanted this win."

The battle between the pair was more even than perhaps some expected, with Hinrich going for 19 points and nine assists to Roses 25 and five, as the veteran attempted to attackalmost literally, Rose jokedon both ends.

You know Kirk is a hack? To let you all know, he is a hack, first of all, Rose quipped. It was great playing against him. If anything, it made me better.

Gibson ready to go, but agrees with Thibodeaus caution

Taj Gibson played less than a minute at the end of Wednesdays gameall at the end of the first half, spelling the foul-riddled Boozerdespite being cleared to play before the contest after working out with coaches both Wednesday afternoon and during pregame warm-ups. However, Gibson, who missed Tuesdays win over Philadelphia in the aftermath of suffering a concussion in Saturdays loss to the Clippers, wasnt disgruntled about his lack of playing time.

I felt capable, but its different when youre on the road. You need contact. I said the same thing to myself before the game. I was like, Im ready to go out and play, and help my team, Gibson told CSNChicago.com Wednesday. At the same time, a practice under my belt would be good because coming in this morning, doing the drills and running up and down, I was fatigued a little bit, trying to figure out how to keep myself motivated and keep my energy going.

Thibodeau discussed his reasoning for Gibsons scant action after the game.

That was a tricky one because he hasnt practiced and I think going against Fred Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi is a little different than going against an NBA player. We needed him for the short period that he did go in, but I didnt feel comfortable with him being out of so many practices, to put him in. But if the need was there, I was going to put him in again and actually, I thought about it in the fourth quarter at the end, Thibodeau explained. I wanted to see him practice first, so hes comfortable, too. Normally, when a guy comes back from injury, not that he has to have a lot of practices, but I generally believe at least oneand hopefully you can have more than onebut at a minimum. But hes been out for a while.

Rookie Asiks comfort level gradually improving

Although he only played six minutes in Wednesdays win, backup center Omer Asik was active, scoring two points, grabbing four rebounds and blocking two shots. In fact, his productivity made it seem odd to observers when Thibodeau refused to substitute either Boozer or center Kurt Thomas when they each picked up their fifth foul in the fourth quarter. But you wont hear the soft-spoken Asik complaining.

I just try to do my job to help the team. When I get minutes, I just play hard. I just try to help the team to win the games, thats it, Asik, whose limitedbut understandable and ever-improvingEnglish makes him reluctant to talk to the media on the record, told CSNChicago.com.

In his last three gamesthe teams first three without NoahAsik is averaging 4.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per night, up from his rookie-year season averages of 2.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.7 blocks. Asik played heavy minutes in the preseason and even saw regular minutes during Boozers early-season absence, but has lost time in the rotation since the Alaskans return to the lineup this month.

The 24-year-old native of Turkey, selected in the same draft as Rose, believes that despite some ups and downshes often been a force on the boards and defensive end, but has struggled to finish strong on offense, with foul trouble and making free throwsin his debut campaign, hes constantly developing.

My development is going better than the beginning of the season, Asik told CSNChicago.com. Every game, I learn one more thing about basketball. Every game, Im getting better.

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.

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

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USA TODAY

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

2018 draft class is loaded at the top

Quietly, you can bet Bulls' front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman had a little celebration after hearing that prep star Marvin Bagley III was going to graduate from high school early and enroll at Duke for the 2017-18 season, making him eligible for the 2018 draft.

Bagley, a 6'11 power forward from Los Angeles, is being compared to longtime NBA star Chris Bosh, right down to his smooth left-handed shooting touch. Bagley averaged 24.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and two blocked shots during his junior season for Sierra Canyon H.S. He's also fared well against NBA competition at the highly-regarded Drew League in L.A. this summer. Bagley’s physical tools are off the charts, and you can count on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski preparing him well for life in the NBA.

Most NBA scouts and execs expect the No. 1 overall pick to come down to either Bagley or Michael Porter Jr., who will play his one season of college basketball at Missouri. The 6'10 Porter averaged an amazing 34.8 points and 13.8 rebounds last season against Seattle high school competition. He's considered a more dynamic scorer than Bagley with more range on his jump shot. Some scouts believe he could quickly develop into one of the league's elite players with Kevin Durant-type length and shooting ability at the small forward position.

International swingman Luka Doncic is also highly coveted by NBA teams. The 6'8 swingman has excellent shooting range, and is also capable of creating his own shot with outstanding ball-handling ability. Forget the stereotype of European players being mechanical and unable to compete athletically, Doncic is capable of being an 18-20 point scorer in the NBA and should go in the top five next June. He's considered one of the best international prospects in the last decade.

Two 7-footers also will hear their names called early on draft night 2018. University of Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton averaged 19.8 points and 12 rebounds in high school last season, while Texas freshman center Mohamed Bomba has an incredible 7-foot-9 wingspan. Sure, the NBA has moved away from the traditional low post center, but teams are still looking to acquire agile big men like Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside. Depending on how they fare against top level college competition, Ayton and Bomba could round out the top five.

Other names to watch in the lottery portion of next year's draft include Texas A&M power forward Robert Williams, Michigan State's forward duo of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., and the latest one-and-dones from John Calipari's Kentucky program, center Nick Richards and small forward Jarred Vanderbilt.

In case you missed it, ESPN released its preseason win total expectations for the Eastern Conference on Wednesday, and the Bulls were dead last with a projected record of 26-56. Now, I'm not sure a team with veterans Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez and the three young players acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade with Minnesota will be quite that bad, but if you're going to rebuild, the idea is to get the best draft pick possible, and the Bulls appear to be on course for a top-five selection depending on how the lottery falls.

If the Bulls are able to land an elite talent like Porter Jr., Bagley III or Doncic in the draft, then use their $40-50 million in cap space to land a couple of quality free agents, the rebuild might not be as painful as some fans are fearing.

Last dance for LeBron in Cleveland?

Well-connected NBA writer Chris Sheridan dropped this bomb on Twitter Wednesday, quoting an NBA source, "This will be LeBron's final season in Cleveland. He is 100 percent leaving. Relationship with owners beyond repair." Don’t forget, Sheridan was the first national writer to report James was going to leave Miami to go back to Cleveland in 2014, so his reports definitely warrant a little extra attention.

Okay, we've already heard countless rumors about James planning to join the Lakers after next season. He's built a mansion in Brentwood, is close with Magic Johnson and will be able to bring another superstar with him to L.A. like Paul George or Russell Westbrook. Plus, the Lakers have a number of talented young players in place like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. and a promising coach in Luke Walton.

Add in the likelihood Kyrie Irving will be traded before training camp opens and LeBron's long-standing poor relationship with Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert, and you have the perfect formula for another James' free agent decision next July. Although, I'm not sure why LeBron would want to go West, where Golden State is positioned to dominate the league for another five seasons, with strong challengers like the Rockets and Spurs still in place. 

But if we've learned anything from watching James over the years, he's clearly a man who wants to align the odds in his favor. So don't rule out anything when it comes to James' free agent decision. If the Cavs make a home run trade for Irving, maybe LeBron decided to plays out his career in his home state. If not, look for him to find a team with the cap space to bring in another top star to run with him.

Back in 2010, the Bulls carved out the cap space to add two max contract stars, but lost out to Pat Riley in Miami. This time around they won't be on James' July travel itinerary.

One thing we know for sure. Where LeBron plays in 2018 will be the number one story throughout the NBA season.

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade's homecoming may not last much longer. 

According to Nick Friedell's ESPN report, the Bulls are expected to reach a buyout agreement with the 12-time NBA All-Star "at some point in the next few months." 

The news comes two months after Wade picked up his player option, choosing $24 million over earning less on a more competitive team. 

If Gar Forman and John Paxson indeed decide to buy D-Wade out, the "Three Alphas," which consisted of Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo, would all be out just one season after coming together. 

The buyout may also mean more ping-pong balls in next year's stacked draft