Chicago Bulls

Bulls' top guns spark victory in Nation's Capital

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Bulls' top guns spark victory in Nation's Capital

Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010
Posted 8:44 PM Updated 11:24 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

WASHINGTON Anybody with raised expectations after Tuesdays drubbing of Philadelphia would be disappointed, but in the end, the Bulls got the same result Wednesday, outlasting the Wizards, 87-80, in a cover-your-eyes ugly affair.

However, as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau opened his postgame comments, A win is a win, no matter what.

It wasnt a repeat of the previous nights flawless start for the Bulls, as the hapless Wizards proved competitive early, with swingman Nick Young (22 points) keeping the home team within striking distance with his scoring prowess.

The visitors were balanced at the games outset, with veteran Kurt Thomas proving his performance Tuesday was no fluke, Carlos Boozer (30 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) having his way with Washingtons frontline and Derrick Rose (25 points, five assists) attacking former backcourt partner Kirk Hinrich (19 points, nine assists).

Captain Kirk, however, using insight into his old squad, proved to be a thorn in Chicagos side in the early going, using his trademark pesky defense and scrappy all-around play to buoy his new team.

Although Luol Deng also contributed positively for the Bulls, Hinrich-led Washington aided by a successful debut Wizards appearance for newly-acquired forward Rashard Lewis led, 33-29, after a quarter.

A ragged style of play actually benefited the Wizards, who possessed the athleticism and talent to succeed in a sloppy, foul-plagued contest without much structure or cohesiveness, especially with Chicago turning the ball over like there was no tomorrow. Still, the Bulls managed to stay in the game due to the ineptitude of their inferior opponent.

A scoreboard malfunction causing a slight delay on the court was fitting, as the Bulls were unable to slip out of their malaise, enabling the Wizards to extend their slim cushion, with Youngs continued scoring and the Hinrich-Rose back-and-forth actually more even than expected. Heading into intermission, Chicago trailed, 50-46.

The visitors uninspired play persisted after halftime, but Washingtons equal lack of sharpness gave way to a 13-0 Bulls run, allowing Chicago to surge back ahead. Boozers effectiveness inside and Roses always-dangerous penetration ability keyed the extended push, changing the tenor of the game to a more familiar one for Washington.

Toward the end of the period, however, the Wizards once again made it a neck-and-neck affair, with the starting backcourt of Young and Hinrich propelling the home teams effort, along with Lewis and swingman Josh Howard (13 points) providing boosts off the bench. Chicago clung to a 73-70 advantage after three quarters.

Boozer, who was in the midst of an excellent all-around game particularly passing the ball, probably the most underrated aspect of his skill set carried the Bulls early in the final stanza, as Chicago gradually widened its winning margin.

Its amazing that hes doing what hes doing. I still think hes working himself into shape and his legs arent under him yet. His timing. Hes in great shape, but not great basketball shape and theres a difference between the two. But you can see what great instincts he has to score 30 points, and every night, he knows how to find seams around the basket and the way hes rebounding the ball, its a testament to his ability and I think hell just continue to get better and better, said Thibodeau.

Chimed in Boozer: I just had a good matchup going, tried to be aggressive, tried to get to the line a little bit and just keep playing. Joakim Noah is out, so everybodys got to step up a little bit, including myself.

The festival of fouls on both ends resumed and became significant on the Bulls side when Boozer picked up his fifth personal on a charge with 6:57 remaining; Thibodeau would leave him in the game, as he did with Thomas after the veteran drew his fifth shortly thereafter.

Were both vets, weve been around the block, weve been in a lot of playoff games, played a lot of games where weve had five fouls with Thibs and against Thibs. We knew what to do. Play solid defense. Even Kurts sixth foul was a smart play, said Boozer. At that point in the game, you cant. Youve just got to keep playing because otherwise, you may be in a position where you lose if you dont play hard or dont do the right things. At that point, youve got to trust in yourself and trust in your principles and trust what weve been taught to continue to keep playing the way were been playing because its win or lose at that point.

Added Thibodeau: It was at around the six-minute mark when they both had five and the question is, do you take one out? Usually, with five, they go back at the five-minute mark but with the way it was going, I thought wed take a chance. We were probably a little more cautious than we would have liked. It was a strange sort of game for us. We were grinding away, grinding away and trying to be in position at the end.

Neither team appeared much inclined to score the basketball or play with any type of flow, for that matter for a crucial stretch, which eventually benefited the Wizards, who inched closer to Chicago as the games conclusion approached.

There were a lot of calls. It had a weird rhythm to it. It wasnt a fluid fourth quarter. A lot of free throws, a lot calls being made, a lot of physical play. Thats part of it, though. Some quarters are going to be like that. This game, it just happened to be the fourth quarter, Boozer observed.

Despite the Bulls multiple attempts to leave the door open for Washington, the home team simply couldnt convert and a Boozer basket with 35.2 seconds left effectively shut the door on any comeback hopes.

We made it hard ourselves because of the turnovers, particularly with their team. Putting them in the open floor is something you dont want to do, particularly on the road. I thought the first quarter giving up 33 points and the high percentage I was concerned about that, Thibodeau recounted, referring periodically to his teams 21 turnovers. But I liked the second quarter. I thought we changed our mindset. I thought we started to defend. I thought we established the paint. We got the ball into Carlos to start the second quarter and I thought that helped us get control of the game, where we felt, Okay, if we do these things, we should have a chance.

Then, the second half, I thought we attacked. We got some calls, we got to the line in the third quarter. The fourth quarter, I thought the defense was terrific.

Concurred Boozer: As you can see from the course of the game, the way it went, we gave up 33 in the first quarter. In the fourth quarter, we gave up 10. So, as the game progressed, our defense got more like the Chicago Bulls defense. They only had 80 points total, but they did have 33 in the first quarter. Grind-out win. Well take it and keep moving.

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