Former Irish Standout Gets His Shot with Bulls

Former Irish Standout Gets His Shot with Bulls

Sunday, April 11, 2010
3:31 P.M.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

When the Chicago Bulls waived veteran center Jerome James, they signed forward Rob Kurz for the remainder of the regular season. Kurz, who played collegiately at Notre Dame, is a 6-foot-9 forward that brings a dimension to the Bulls that dont presently havea stretch four, or a power forward that makes his living shooting the ball from the outside and stretching out the defense.

Im thrilled about this opportunity, said Kurz. Im really excited to be part of the Bulls and Im grateful to have this chance.

Im obviously a three-point shooter and with Derrick Rose and the other shooters theyve got, I can space the floor and draw another power forwardwd away from the basket, continued Kurz, who played for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (where fellow Bulls reserve Joe Alexander also had a stint earlier this season) of the NBAs Developmental League this season. The way the game is changing, theres a lot of stretch fours in the league and I feel like I can match up with them. From that standpoint, I feel like I can be of value to any offense.

Kurz, a native of the Philadelphia area, is already familiar with two of his new teammatesHakim Warrick and Flip Murrayas all three made the summer-league rounds in their hometown and worked on the their game in the offseason under the same coach, John Hardnett, who has helped numerous players from the city.

Flip and Hakim Warrick are both from Philly, so I see them in the summer and worked out with them since I was younger, said Kurz, whose D-League season ended last Friday.

Rob is one of those kids that throughout his whole basketball career, he was doubted and people felt he would never make it. He was always the first one in the gym and the last one out of the gym. He always put in extra hard work, always knew he could make it, said Hardnett, who also worked with former Bull John Salmons. Hes one of those ballplayers who can play forever because he has the intelligence factor.

Regardless of what occurs between now and the end of the Bulls season, the reality for Kurz is he is likely auditioning for an NBA jobwhether its with Chicago or another team; last season, he enjoyed a stint with Golden State that included extended minutes and even starting several gamesand he knows that with the teams current situation, playing time is likely to be scant.

I think its a good opportunity for me and they can take a look at me for the rest of the season. Hopefully I can be there in the summer working out, said Kurz, whose coach in Fort Wayne was former DePaul coach Joey Meyer. They can get a chance to see me work every day and see my work ethic, get an extended look and see if they want to keep me around.

I understand that theyre in a playoff race, continued Kurz, who worked out for the Boston Celtics on Thursday. Id love to help the team any way that I canwhether thats in practice or a game, Ill do anything they ask.

Going forward, I feel that I can help an NBA team. HopefullyI can show them that I can be an important part of the team.

While Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro doesnt necessarily plan to throw Kurz into the fire immediately and allow him to prove his worth, he does recognize the former Fighting Irishs standouts potential long-term value to Chicago.

He shoots the ball and well get him on our summer-league team. Obviously theres not a lot of practice leftwe have to focus in our games right now, Del Negro told CSNChicago.com. Well take a look at him as we move forward.

Our basketball front-office people liked what he was doing in the D-League, so they gave him an opportunity and got him up there.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it's probably a little too late in the season for that, they'll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They'll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They'll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

"The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We're going to have to match that. We're going to have to come out and play physical basketball."

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it's just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

"I did, actually," said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he's scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside's tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg — although one can imagine how animated he must've been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

"It is what it is," Hoiberg said. "You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there's nothing you can do about that. You've got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute."

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn't seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls' success over LeBron James' Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

"Against big teams, we play much better," Mirotic said. "I don't know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It's on us. We just have to prove it."

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who've just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

"Sure, we understand," Mirotic said. "We've been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy."