Indy exhibition game gives fans their money's worth

Indy exhibition game gives fans their money's worth

Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011Posted: 9:30 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Follow @CSNBullsInsider
INDIANAPOLIS--The lineup wasn't as star-studded as Sunday's "Battle of I-95" in Philadelphia--especially with no-shows that included NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, Chicago native Will Bynum, hometown product George Hill, Caron Butler and others--but the Washington, D.C.-based Goodman League and the Indy Pro-Am squad (consisting solely of locally-bred talent; Indy Pro-Am participants from this summer, local college heroes and even Pacers hailing from out of town played for the guests) put on a show Saturday night for fans at the University of Indianapolis, who were also treated to an extended postgame autograph session.

Instead of engaging in the absurdity of breaking down a glorified pickup game sans defense--by the way, the visitors held on for a 170-167 win--here's a look at how the NBA participants (no disrespect to the trio of Goodman League replacement players) fared in the contest:

John Wall (Goodman), Washington Wizards, 41 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds: Wall continued his strong summer with a triple-double, playing every minute of the contest, maintaining competitiveness and intensity throughout, while giving the audience its money's worth with his aesthetically-pleasing combination of aerial acrobatics and blazing speed.

Eric Gordon (Indy), Los Angeles Clippers, 40 points, nine assists: One of the marquee names for the hometown squad, the rising star was his usual dominant self in terms of scoring, showcased some point-guard ability and overall versatility but couldn't quite complete the comeback down the stretch for the hosts.

Jeff Green (Goodman), Boston Celtics, 35 points, 12 rebounds: Somewhat of a forgotten man after being traded from Oklahoma City last season, the native Washingtonian did a little bit of everything for the squad from his hometown, as the versatile forward displayed smooth ballhandling, touch on deep jumpers and finished strong above the rim.

DeMarcus Cousins (Goodman), Sacramento Kings, 33 points, 15 rebounds: Coming off an up-and-down rookie campaign, the big man with a mean streak showed signs of his infamous attitude on occasion, but mostly displayed his undeniable talent, providing a low-post presence and flashing uncanny perimeter skills for a player of his size.
Mike Conley (Indy), Memphis Grizzlies, 25 points, five assists: Noticeably stronger following a campaign in which he led his team to a surprise postseason run (after harsh criticism for receiving a lucrative contract extension), the young floor general looked polished and his perimeter jumper, formerly a weakness, was crisp.

JaJuan Johnson (Indy), Boston Celtics, 25 points, five rebounds: The Purdue University product was one of the best players in the college game a year ago and is expected to eventually provide some relief for Kevin Garnett, but while doubts about whether his slender frame can withstand the pounding of the pro level remain, his skilled post-up game looks to be ready for the NBA.

Paul George (Goodman), Indiana Pacers, 24 points, 11 rebounds: The swingman earned a reputation as a strong defender in his rookie campaign--particularly against league MVP Derrick Rose in the first round of the playoffs--but displayed his fantastic athletic ability in this contest, soaring to make high degree of difficulty dunks seem routine, as well as showing some offensive polish.

Zach Randolph (Indy), Memphis Grizzlies, 21 points, 10 rebounds: The game's elder statesman isn't exactly built for a speed game, but held his own--and occasionally held opponents, such as Cousins; good-naturedly, of course--after a late arrival, although he mostly deferred to his younger, less vertically-challenged teammates, as he seemed mostly happy to participate.

Gordon Hayward (Indy), Utah Jazz, 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists: Arguably the people's choice among the local fans, the former local college hero--he led Butler to the 2010 NCAA national championship game--probably functions better in a more structured environment, but his efficiency, subtle contributions and versatily ultimately led to solid production.
Lance Stephenson (Goodman), Indiana Pacers, 16 points: Defense and on-court maturity (he earned the game's only technical foul) are still issues, but the New York City product's playground background served him well and his blend of natural scoring instincts, size for either backcourt position and yo-yo handle--perhaps more impressive than even Wall's--were perfect for this setting.

Shelvin Mack (Goodman), Washington Wizards, 15 points: Like his former college teammate Hayward, the second-round draft pick's businesslike game wasn't the most eye-catching, but his pro-ready frame, understanding of the game and solid all-around skills should translate to a long, if not spectacular NBA career.

Jeff Teague (Indy), Atlanta Hawks, 13 points, eight assists: After his breakout second-round playoff performance against the Bulls, the young floor general showed his postseason flashes of talent was no fluke, engaging in a mini-duel with Wall, demonstrating some skillful dribble moves, showing off deep range and skying for impressive dunks and blocked shots.

D.J. White (Indy), Charlotte Bobcats, 12 points, six rebounds: A role player on the pro level, the former Indiana Hoosier was relegated to the same status with high level of talent on the floor, but managed to make the most of his limited opportunities.
Josh McRoberts (Indy), Indiana Pacers, 11 points, eight rebounds: The up-and-down, guard-oriented setting wasn't ideal for a post player, but the homegrown big man--a Pacer, born and raised in Indiana--showed off his athleticism with a handful of high-flying dunks and even some surprising ballhandling ability, exciting a crowd supportive of his efforts.

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.

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

The big red button was pressed and Jimmy Butler was ejected from the Chicago Bulls’ present and future as they finally made the decision to rebuild after two years of resisting.

Trading Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the ability to draft Lauri Markkanen represents the Bulls committing to the draft lottery and fully going in on the Fred Hoiberg experience for the foreseeable future, as the prospect of trying to improve through shrewd moves in the East while also facing the likelihood of Butler commanding a $200 million contract wasn’t palatable to their pocketbook or their sensibilities.

On one hand, making a decision — any decision — can be applauded on some levels after years of their relationship with Butler being complicated at best. But the idea of rebuilding and the application of it are often two separate ideals, because the evaluation of a rebuild can often be as murky as the land the Bulls just left.

“What we’ve done tonight is set a direction,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’ve gone to the past where we make the playoffs, but not at the level we wanted to. You know in this league, success is not determined that way. We’ve decided to make the change and rebuild this roster.”

“We’re gonna remain patient and disciplined. The development of our young players is important. The coaching staff has done a phenomenal job. We’re gonna continue down that path. We’re not gonna throw huge money at people.”

The Bulls aren’t exclusive to this territory, the land in which they’ve inhibited for the last couple seasons, which makes the Butler trade about more than one thing.

Not equal parts but part basketball, part fiscal, part narrative and finally, masking some mistakes that have been made over the years but are not as easily rectified. Trading Butler seemed to be the easiest vessel used as an elixir to wash away missteps. Trading a star in Butler is also the easiest way to get heat off a coach or front office in today’s NBA, because few franchises like to make wholesale changes midstream or early in it.

Trading Butler — along with shipping their second-round pick in a box marked for the Bay Area — was also financial, considering many felt if he made it through the tumultuous evening that he would finish his career as a Bull, raking in a hefty sum of cash on the back end.

It’s because of these factors that the evaluation of this trade and subsequently, a painful rebuild, cannot be in a vacuum. (Note: No rebuild is painless, it’s the size of the migraine a team can endure that determines the type of aspirin necessary).

Just taking a look at the players the Bulls got back in the Butler trade illustrates the gray area they’ve now immersed themselves into. The Bulls fell in love with Dunn before he came to the NBA, and aren’t as bothered by him being a 23-year old second-year player who struggled mightily in his rookie year.

Zach LaVine is an explosive athlete who can put up 20 every night — when he’s on the floor. Recovering from an ACL injury is no given, as evidenced by a young phenom who once graced the United Center hardwood before his body betrayed him.

And Lauri Markkanen is a rookie with promise, but nobody can make any promises on what type of career he’ll have, or if he’ll fulfill that promise with this franchise in the requisite time.

“There’s always risk in anything,” Paxson said. “But here’s a guy that’s 22 years old and averages 20 a game (LaVine). He can score the basketball, he can run. He can shoot the basketball. He shot over 40 percent from three. That’s an area we’re deficient in. Markkanen shot over 40 from three in college. Again, it’s an area where we’re deficient. It’s trying to find the type of player that fits the way that we want to play going forward.”

[RELATED: Jimmy Butler bids emotional farewell to Chicago]

General Manager Gar Forman stated after the announcement of the trade that the Bulls would have to hit on their next few draft picks to stop this rebuild from being elongated, but even then there’s no guarantee.

The Sacramento Kings drafted a rookie of the year, then two future max contract players in the same year, followed by another player who’ll command close to max money very soon. But nobody remembers Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside and Isaiah Thomas leading the Kings from the wilderness and into glory, unless recent memory has been scrubbed away from everyone.

Inconsistencies in organizational structure combined with multiple coaching changes and an inability to develop the right young players kept the Kings on the dais of the draft lottery every April.

The Timberwolves, heck, nobody could say they missed when selecting LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and getting Andrew Wiggins in a trade for Kevin Love. It’s because it takes more than the right draft picks, or in the Sacramento Kings’ case, the right infrastructure and environment, to foster an atmosphere of winning.

The Bulls were ready, despite their claims that this was a decision that came across their table right before the draft, because common sense has to be applied. No team makes knee-jerk, franchise-altering decisions that will have reverberations for years to come on the whim of a trade offer from Tom Thibodeau. This was likely decided when the Bulls went out with a whimper in the first-round after shocking the NBA world in the first two games against the Boston Celtics, when their fortunes changed on the trifle of Rajon Rondo’s broken wrist.

It was decided that Hoiberg, the man who endured chants calling for his firing in the second half of the decisive Game 6 loss, needed to have the right type of roster to be accurately judged as a successful hire or failure, and Butler couldn’t be part of those plans.

And just as Hoiberg has been dealt an uneven hand, Butler wasn’t given the type of roster that would accurately judge how he could flourish as a leader, max player and face of the franchise — and probably had less time to show one way or the other relative to his coach.

The longer Butler stayed, the more empowered he would become as his individual accomplishments would rack up because of the dedication he applied to game, the drive he had to place himself in the upper echelon of NBA players.

The better Butler got, the more pressure Hoiberg would be under to mix and match his roster and to foster a relationship with Butler he might’ve been ill-suited to fix. The better Butler got, the more pressure the front office would be under to maximize a prime it didn’t see coming, a prime they can’t truly figure when there’s an expiration date on given Butler’s unlikely rise to stardom.

So getting rid of Butler was the solution and the Bulls have now chosen their path, definitively and with confidence. Emerging from a ball of confusion to parts unknown, from one land of uncertainty to another.

Watch some of new Bull Zach LaVine's best dunks

Watch some of new Bull Zach LaVine's best dunks

Zach LaVine quickly made a name for himself as a prolific, epic dunker.

The recently acquired Bull won both the 2015 and 2016 Slam Dunk Contests and has plenty of awe-inspiring in-game dunks as well.

The video above has a few of LaVine's best efforts.

His signature dunks in the dunk contests were the 2015 dazzler when he caught the ball from behind the backboard and went through his legs before slamming it and the through the legs from just inside the free throw line dunk in 2016.

For in-game dunks, the time he posterized Alex Len in November was an instant-classic. It's not everyday a 7-footer gets dismissed with such authority.

Of course, LaVine's ability to dunk at this prodigious level is in question after he tore his ACL this past season. If LaVine can come back to anywhere near full strength, look for some impressive highlights from the former dunk champ in a Bulls uniform.