Chicago Bulls

LIVE: Bulls hope to stay hot in Milwaukee

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LIVE: Bulls hope to stay hot in Milwaukee

Saturday, March 26, 2011
CSNChicago.comAssociated Press

(AP) -- The Milwaukee Bucks are trying their best to move into playoff position. Their first victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls this season would certainly help that cause.

Looking for their fourth win in five games, the Bucks try to avoid being swept in the season series by the surging Bulls on Saturday night at the Bradley Center.

Milwaukee (29-42) has not been to the playoffs in consecutive seasons 2003 and 2004, and still has some work left to do while trying to accomplish that feat once again. Though the Bucks are tied with Charlotte for ninth in the East, they're just two games behind Indiana for the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Bucks bounced back from a miserable home loss to lowly Sacramento on Wednesday with a 102-96 win at New York on Friday. Brandon Jennings scored a season-high 37 points and Andrew Bogut added 21 with 17 rebounds as the NBA's worst-shooting team (42.9 percent) made 50.6-percent of their shots, and held the struggling Knicks to 40.0 percent from the field.

"We've just got to stay with it," swingman John Salmons told the Bucks' official website.

That means finding a way to beat the Bulls (52-19), who have won 11 of 12 and own a two-game lead over Boston in the East.

Though the Bucks have held Chicago to 88.3 points per contest in the previous three meetings in 2010-11, they have also shown why they are the NBA's lowest-scoring team by averaging just 78.3 percent on 38.6 percent shooting in the season series.

Milwaukee has not been swept in a season series by the Bulls since 2006-07, and Chicago held the Bucks to their lowest point total at home this season in an 83-75 win Feb. 26.

"Their defense is unbelievable this year," Milwaukee guard Earl Boykins said of the Bulls, who rank among the league leaders holding opponents to 91.2 points on 42.9 percent shooting.

Jennings was limited to four points on 2-of-6 shooting in his only appearance against the Bulls this season during the February home defeat, while Bogut finished with six but pulled down 16 rebounds. Bogut has totaled just 18 points on 8-of-33 shooting versus Chicago in 2010-11.

The Bulls used another solid defensive effort to overcome a 41.5-percent shooting effort and beat Memphis 99-96 at home Friday for their third straight win. Though the Grizzlies shot 49.3 percent from the field, the Bulls held them to 2 of 15 from 3-point range and owned a 45-32 rebounding advantage.

"There is no space right now," MVP hopeful Derrick Rose said. "We're just trying to win every game. Even if it's by one or two points, we'll take it."

Averaging a career-high 24.8 points, Rose scored 24, including Chicago's final six points and added seven assists Friday.

"MVP. He's my MVP," Memphis star Zach Randolph said of Rose, who has averaged 19.4 points in five career games at Milwaukee.

Winners in five of six on the road, Chicago has not won consecutive games in Milwaukee since the 2006-07 season.

Bucks guard Michael Redd could be in uniform Saturday for the first time since tearing ligaments in his left knee on Jan. 10, 2010.

If the Bulls buy out Dwyane Wade, the Heat seem like they'd welcome him back

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USA TODAY

If the Bulls buy out Dwyane Wade, the Heat seem like they'd welcome him back

The Bulls are in complete rebuild mode, and that means they have little use for 35-year-old Dwyane Wade.

ESPN's Nick Friedell reported last week that it's a matter of when - not if - the Bulls will buy out Wade. The future Hall of Famer is due $24 million this upcoming season, but how much Wade receives in a potential buyout could hold things up in the short-term.

The question then becomes: where would Wade land after he passes through waivers and becomes a free agent?

A potential destination is joining good friend LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Wade could also consider going back to the Miami Heat, where he spent the first 13 years of his NBA career.

And if he did, budding star Hassan Whiteside says the team would welcome back Wade with open arms.

"It'd be great," Whiteside told the Sun Sentinel. "It's a three-time NBA champion coming back, coming in and really helping a team out. It would be great."

Stay tuned, but it seems like a Wade-to-Miami reunion is a real possibility.

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.