Chicago Bulls

Game 4 roundup: Bulls have work to do

452943.jpg

Game 4 roundup: Bulls have work to do

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Posted: 12:30 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLISLike any team that loses a close game, the Bulls lamented a few issuesbesides their failed final possessionafter losing Game 4. Some were individual plays, but they mostly focused on various themes.

For example, Derrick Rose was disappointed in the teams lack of urgency and execution early in the contest compared to their lackluster first three quarters.

At the end of the game, when we got things going, it got pretty easy. But weve just got to do what we do at the end of the game at the beginning and find people, make the game very simple because theyre putting two on me, where the big doesnt leave until I pass the ball, so just look at more film and try to get things right, said Rose, who noted that the hole the Bulls dug themselves was simply too big this time around. Weve just got to put them away, take their confidence and I think it should be an easy game after that.

READ: Rose won't blame poor shooting on ankle.
Chimed in Carlos Boozer: We feel like we havent played our best game in the series yet. That being said, even though were up 3-1, were looking forward to the next one so that we can play better.

When asked if they lost their composure at times, Luol Deng was candid in his response.

We might have. A lot of things happened throughout the game, said Deng. I thought we stuck together to make that comeback. We just couldnt finish it.

Kyle Korver found some humor in one particular playhis early fourth-quarter three-pointer to beat the shot clock, which was waved off after an official review several plays and minutes laterthat could have been the difference for the Bulls.

Technology these days, huh? quipped Korver. Couple of years ago, we would have won, but Im sure its the right call if they looked at it on the replay.

Boozer still trying to find his rhythm

While his 15-point, 13-rebound outing was an upgrade from his subpar Game 3 performance, its clear that Boozer is still out of sync. Once again, foul trouble was an issue for the two-time All-Star and it seemed to affect other aspects of his game, as he wasnt as assertive as needed throughout the contest.

Im not going to keep whining about getting in foul trouble. Im just going to keep playing my game. I tried to adjust to the refs as the game went along, said Boozer. I got the two early ones again, but listenweve got guys in here that can play; weve guys that can come in and have been playing great all season for usso if I get two, I know whoevers coming in behind me is going to do a great job.
WATCH: Boozer says they have to come out better next game.

While backups Taj Gibson and Kurt Thomas are more than capable of filling in if necessary, Boozer being off the court for an extended period of time isnt ideal. Korver, his longtime teammate, rationalized the power forwards struggles.

Hes been in foul trouble a lot and I think hes trying to be aggressive, but theyre trying to take charges, theyre trying to flop, theyre trying to get him in foul trouble and hes got to realize he cant go at the middle of their chest. Hes got to go at their shoulders. But hell figure that out.
Bulls rebounding dominance ceases
For once, the Bulls didnt own the boards, as the Pacers competed on the boards, snatching 45 rebounds to the visitors 46.

They went after it. The more you go, the more you get and they went after it, they fought hard, they got to loose balls. You cant just jump against these guys; youve got to hit, said coach Tom Thibodeau. Youve got to block out. Youve got to block out and youve got to fight, and if you think youre just going to out-jump them, its not going to happen. Theyre physical, try to ram you under the basket and theyre going after it. Weve got to play a lot tougher.

Added Boozer: Weve got to do a little bit better job of getting into guys bodies and boxing them out, and grabbing the rebound. Well work on the mistakes that we made and hopefully be better the next game.
READ: Sharpshooter Korver emerges as clutch performer.

A major reason for the Pacers solid work on the glass was Pacers big man Jeff Foster, who corralled seven offensive boards.

Foster, he plays really aggressive. He doesnt necessarily get the ball, but he tips to someone, said Korver. Weve got to do a better job of hitting him first and not just waiting for the ball to come to us. But thats something where we usually have the advantage.

Observed Deng:I know they got a lot from Foster tipping out. I dont know how many offensive rebounds he had, but he seemed to get them at the times when we needed them.

The self-critical Rose put some of the onus on the backcourt.

Weve got to rebound the ball. They were doing a lot of tip-backs, where Foster was just hitting the ball back out. As a guard, youve got to get those and that could easily start a fast break, so next game, if he tries that, Im definitely going to be looking for it.

Prior to the game, Pacers interim head coach Frank Vogel commented on the NBA upgrading two of the longtime Indiana big mans hard fouls from Game 3 to flagrant fouls.

No reaction. Happens in the league, foreshadowed the coach. Ive seen it happen before. Its not going to change anything we do.

Joakim Noah, while he wasnt a fan of Foster going after his teammates, acknowledged, Its just the name of the game right now. The game is physical.
Chicago fans invade Indy

If one were dropped off in Conseco Fieldhouse without knowing the location, it would reasonable to assume the arena was in Chicago. Even at a Pacers home game, Bulls fans flooded the arena, making it seem like at least a 50-50 split between the two factions, if the majority wasnt supporting the Windy City squad.

Rose stuck to his usual reasoning that the fans support the team on the road because of the franchises legacyIts because of the players before us, said the man that had seemingly half of Indianapolis chanting MVP, not only in the arena, but on the street, as the teams bus left its downtown hotel for the gamebut its obviously more than that.

Surprisingly, weve got a good following on the road most of the season. You guys media that have been with us throughout the year know weve been fortunate to have a lot of fans come on the road for us and support us. Its great to see them out there, said Boozer. Maybe the support is a little surprising, but I guess it shouldnt after the way the seasons been. Weve had a lot of fans almost everywhere we go, which is great. We love seeing our guys out there. Usually, theyre chanting MVP most of the game and its good to have that support on the road.

WATCH: Noah: "It's a tough loss but the playoffs have to go through Chi-Town and we're excited about that."

Noah concurred: The love for the Chicago Bulls is crazy right now and we love it, thrive off that and were excited to go home. We get a lot of love out there, too, when we go back home. Its good, it gives us confidence, but we know its on us to really put in the work and make them happy.

Young Pacers have confident leader
Although Vogel predicted a win before the game, it would be unfair to call him prophetic, as the rookie head coach has been confident his team would be successful the entire series.

We believe fully that it can happen and believe it starts with winning one game. Our guys were shocked that they did not win on their home court last game. They were shocked, they were devastated. We expect to win here. Were going to win Game 4 and go from there, said Vogel. Were standing toe-to-toe with a championship contender. Ive told them all year that theyre one of the best teams in the NBA and they are one of the best teams in the NBA; theyre playing as well as anybody in the league, right now. We hit our stride towards the end of the year and were getting better by the game. We dont have wins to show for it, which is frustrating, but were one of the best teams in the NBA right now. Our future is bright.

Our young guys have a lot of guts. Big onions, as college basketball television analyst Bill Raftery used to say. Its very, very encouraging to the future of this franchise, to see guys compete the way theyre competing when its on the line, continued the 37-year-old. They had to go through some stuff, I think. They had to learn and every win, every positive experience that they went through, every accomplishment, every achievement, we just reinforced it with them, showed them that they can, that theyre doing it, theyre improving, theyre getting better and I dont think they necessarily believed it right away, but as the season went on, I think that they are one of the best teams in the league.

Its been a great learning experience. Its been fun playing the chess match that goes into it, making the game adjustments, watching Coach Thibodeau make adjustments. Just a learning experience. Its been fun.

Pacers veteran stopper talks guarding Rose

Jones, who has shared the defensive assignment of guarding Rose the past two games with starting rookie shooting guard Paul George after not playing in Game 1 and Game 2, talked to CSNChicago.com about his duties.

We just tried to make him take some tough shots, picked him up, tried to make his day a little more stressful, just put a different look on him, he explained. Vogel has a game plan and he has things in mind. His job is to create strategy and I had to go with it. I did what he thought was best and I just stayed ready on the bench, tried to help my guys out and wait until my number was called.

Dahntay Jones also discussed how his young teammates have grown up during the series, a process in which Vogel has played an integral part.

Im proud of them. These guys are playing extremely hard and scrappy, playing with no fear and thats how its supposed to be in the playoffs. Theyre getting their experience on the run, but theyre playing extremely well, said Jones. Coach Vogel, hes been a positive coach. Hes been helping the young guys out, just instilling confidence in them and trying to play to their strengths, instead of knocking of them down for their weaknesses. Hes done a good job of that.

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

michaelporter.jpg
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