Chicago Bulls

LIVE: Bulls look to extend East lead vs. Raptors

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LIVE: Bulls look to extend East lead vs. Raptors

Saturday, April 2, 2011
Posted: 10:49 a.m.
Associated Press
While many believe Derrick Rose is assured the MVP award, the Chicago Bulls likely need more victories to obtain the Eastern Conference's top seed in the postseason.

A visit from the struggling Toronto Raptors may help boost their chances.

Chicago looks to extend its lead atop the conference Saturday night when it hosts last-place Toronto.

With a victory, the Bulls (55-20) can pick up one-half game on Miami and Boston, which are both idle. They lead the second-place Heat by 2 12 games and the Celtics by three after beating Detroit 101-96 on Friday.

"Destiny is in our hands," Rose said. "We're just trying to finish the season strong."

Rose, who once again received chants of "M-V-P" throughout the game, scored a team-high 27 points and added seven assists. Rose is averaging 27.8 points and 9.8 assists over his last four games and has helped the Bulls win 14 of 16.

Chicago had won 14 in a row at home before a 97-85 loss to Philadelphia on Monday.

Carlos Boozer, who scored 22 points Friday, had a season-high 34 points and 12 rebounds Dec. 15 in a 110-93 win at Toronto.

"Carlos was outstanding," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "When he's getting into the post, Derrick is getting shots off the dribble and we have the pick and roll, we've got a lot of ways to get easy offense."

Boozer missed the most recent meeting with an ankle injury as Toronto overcame Rose's 32 points for a surprising 118-113 victory Feb. 23 - one of only four losses for the Bulls since Feb. 9.

However, the Raptors have won only four times since that victory.

Toronto (20-54) has lost 12 of 16 since beating Chicago and is limping toward the finish of its disappointing season. The Raptors lost point guard Jose Calderon to a strained hamstring Wednesday during their fifth straight loss, 104-98 to visiting Milwaukee.

Calderon won't travel to Chicago and is doubtful for Sunday's game against Orlando, giving backup Jerryd Bayless an opportunity to earn more playing time as the starter.

Bayless is averaging 14.4 points and 7.4 assists in seven starts for the Raptors this season compared to 6.6 and 3.0 in 56 games coming off the bench, which includes 11 games with New Orleans. Bayless came over in a trade Nov. 20.

"You know you're going to play and you're going to play a lot freer," Bayless said after practice Friday. "It's just different. I've been happy here whether it's starting or coming off the bench but I think anybody's going to play a little bit better when they're starting."

Andrea Bargnani returned to the lineup and scored 22 points after missing last Saturday's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers with a right ankle injury. Bargnani, averaging a career-high 21.8 points this season, scored 24 in the most recent win against the Bulls.

DeMar DeRozan, who scored 20 points Wednesday against the Bucks, also added 24 in the victory over Chicago.

The Bulls can tie San Antonio atop the league with their 33rd home victory, but Toronto has had some recent success at the United Center. The Raptors have won five of the last seven meetings in Chicago.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

NBA economic reality could speed up Bulls rebuild

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USA TODAY

NBA economic reality could speed up Bulls rebuild

In case you missed it this morning, ESPN's Tim McMahon and Bobby Marks collaborated on an excellent piece detailing how the irresponsible spending by NBA teams last summer could impact a star-studded free agent class in 2018.

Which is music to the ears of Bulls' front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman, who are hoping to be a major player on the free agent market next year.

The ESPN report projected only nine teams having cap space to bid on a free agent class that could include Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Paul, Isaiah Thomas, Carmelo Anthony, DeAndre Jordan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Avery Bradley, Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wilson Chandler, Danny Green, Enes Kanter and Greg Monroe, along with restricted free agents like Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic, Marcus Smart, Rodney Hood, Julius Randle, Dante Exum, Aaron Gordon and Clint Capela.

Bad summer not to have any spending money.

But that's exactly what Paxson and Forman were anticipating when they chose not to get involved in the reckless spending triggered by the league's new TV deal last summer. We all know about some of the terrible contracts handed out including a four-year, $72 million deal to Joakim Noah, four years, $64 million for Timofey Mozgov and Portland spending almost $150 million to lock up reserves Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner for four years.

The Bulls signed Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Isaiah Canaan last summer, but avoided any salary commitment beyond two years. Both Rondo and Canaan were bought out of the team options the Bulls held for next season.

Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers are now in such a deep luxury tax hole that they basically gave Crabbe away in a trade with Brooklyn earlier this week, immediately waiving the player they got back, power forward Andrew Nicholson, under the league's stretch provision. Portland figures to be one of at least 10 teams paying the luxury tax for the 2018-19 season.

I know what many of you are thinking, "Why will 2018 free agency be any different than in years past?" Yes, the Bulls missed out on primary targets James, Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010, and they failed to land Anthony in 2014. But with so many teams capped out, the Bulls will face less competition in pursuing the players they want most next summer.

We've all heard the rumors about James wanting to finish his career in L.A., and it's unlikely Durant, Westbrook, George or Paul would have any interest in coming to Chicago. But the Bulls could get significantly better right away in a weakened Eastern Conference by adding one or two players from a list of unrestricted free agents that could be looking for a new situation, including Cousins, Jordan, Bradley, Thomas, Caldwell-Pope, Kanter, Chandler and Green. They also could use their cap space to make a massive cap offer to a restricted free agent whose team is already in the luxury tax.

Of course, the Bulls have decisions to make with their own roster as well. They still haven't re-signed Niko Mirotic, and any contract beyond one season will reduce their cap space next summer. Plus, the key player coming back in the Jimmy Butler deal, shooting guard Zach LaVine, will be a restricted free agent next summer, and if he comes back 100 percent from ACL surgery, could command a multi-year contract starting at $20 million or more.

The Bulls have contract options on the rookie deals of Bobby Portis, Kris Dunn, Cam Payne, Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine and Lauri Markkanen, while Paul Zipser's $1.5 million salary is not guaranteed for 2018-19.

Paxson said the Bulls are committed to re-building through the draft, and the hope is they'll wind up with a top 3 pick after next year's lottery to grab a franchise changing talent like Missouri's Michael Porter, Jr., International star Luka Doncic and 7-footers DeAndre Ayton of Arizona and Mohamed Bamba of Texas.

Looking at the big picture, if LaVine comes back 100 percent, Dunn emerges as a legit starting point guard and Markkanen shows potential as a stretch 4, the Bulls rebuild could move quickly. Adding one of the top players in next year's draft would be the first step, then Paxson and Forman would be armed with somewhere between $40-50 million dollars in cap space to pursue an impact free agent or two.

Bulls fans remember how long it took to re-build the team after the end of the Jordan era in 1998. Jerry Krause couldn't land a major free agent, and the Tyson Chandler-Eddy Curry experiment failed badly.

Let's hope Paxson and Forman have more luck this time around. At least they'll have a built-in advantage when the 2018 free agent market opens for business next July with the Bulls projected to have more cap space available than any other team in the league.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Why Bulls fans should not feel like they 'missed out' on trading for Kyrie Irving

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Why Bulls fans should not feel like they 'missed out' on trading for Kyrie Irving

On the latest Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson break down the Kyrie Irving trade rumors, Derrick Rose’s move to Cleveland, and Kendall’s appearance in the ‘Big 3’.

Kendall shares what it was like when he wanted out of Charlotte, and how Rose to the Cavs only works if Kyrie is gone.

The trio also explains why Bulls fans should not feel like they ‘missed out’ on trading for Irving. Plus behind-the-scenes of KG’s hometown return to the court.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: