Chicago Bulls

LIVE: Bulls look for 2-0 start to road trip on CSN

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LIVE: Bulls look for 2-0 start to road trip on CSN

Monday, Feb. 28, 2011
11:05 a.m.
Associated Press

With each game Joakim Noah plays, the Chicago Bulls are feeling more comfortable and confident.

Noah and his teammates appear to have one more game to fine-tune their chemistry before the schedule becomes much tougher.

After opening an important five-game road trip with a win, the Central Division-leading Bulls look to hand the lowly Washington Wizards a 15th loss in 17 games when they meet Monday night.

In his third game back following right thumb surgery that kept him sidelined for two months, Noah had eight points and 17 rebounds - including nine on the offensive end - in Saturday's 83-75 win over Milwaukee.

"The more I'm out on the court, the better I feel and the more energy I have," said Noah, who is averaging 13.7 rebounds in the last three games. "The longer we get to play together, I think we are going to find out how good we can be as a team."

Chicago (40-17), which is in a tight race with Boston and Miami for the best record in the Eastern Conference, looks like a title contender when healthy, winning nine of 12 games when Noah, Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer are all on the court.

"We are getting into a nice rhythm now that everyone is back," Rose said. "Noah has come back and really helped us. I think we can get nothing but better as the season goes along."

The Bulls are going to have several opportunities to test themselves against some of the better teams in the East during this road trip. After this game, they visit Atlanta on Wednesday, then play Orlando on Friday before wrapping up the trip in Miami on Sunday.

Before looking too far ahead, Chicago needs to focus on facing a Wizards team that nearly beat one of the league's best its last time out.

Washington (15-43), an NBA-worst 2-14 since Jan. 24, gave Dallas a scare Saturday, storming back from nine points down with four minutes to play to tie the score at 97 on Jordan Crawford's jumper with 1:36 left. The Wizards were unable to pull ahead, though, missing five of their next six shots and losing 105-99.

John Wall keyed the comeback, scoring eight of his 24 points in the final three minutes, but also missed two free throws that cost Washington a chance for the upset. As a team, the Wizards missed 10 of 16 from the foul line.

"We shoot free throws - we win the game," coach Flip Saunders said.

Washington's offense is showing some signs of life, averaging 100.5 points in its four games since the All-Star break with Wall scoring at least 21 in each of the last three, but it could have trouble against Chicago's stout defense.

The Bulls, who allow an average of 92.5 points, limited the Bucks to 38.2 percent shooting and improved to 34-1 when allowing 95 points or fewer. This doesn't bode well for the Wizards, considering they're 3-27 when failing to score more than 95.

Chicago has won the two meetings with Washington this season, and seven of nine in the series since the start of the 2008-09 season.

The Bulls beat the Wizards at the United Center 103-96 on Nov. 13, as Rose had 24 points and Noah added 21 points and nine boards while Boozer was out. They won in Washington 87-80 on Dec. 22 behind Boozer's 30 points and Rose's 25, with Noah sidelined.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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.