Chicago Bulls

No letdown, Bulls win laugher for fifth straight

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No letdown, Bulls win laugher for fifth straight

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
Updated 12:17 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Fears of a letdown the night after a huge win over the defending champion Lakers were unfounded, as Chicago (14-8) avoided the dreaded trap game phenomenon and easily dispatched visiting Minnesota (6-18), 113-82, Saturday evening. Led by a career-high five 3-pointers from Derrick Rose and tremendous offensive balance, the Bulls cruised to their fifth consecutive victory.

From the start of the season, were trying to build the right habits and we were talking about being ready for each game and how important that isyou want to be consistent in your approach. You want to do the same things and I think its important not to look ahead or look behind. You want to learn from each game and correct the things you need to improve upon and prepare for the next opponent. In this league, all the teams are talented, so if youre not ready to play, every team is capable of beating you, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards.

After Timberwolves small forward Michael Beasley (16 points, six rebounds) got off to a quick startalthough not reviving the past debate about whether he or Rose (21 points, seven assists) should have been the top pick in the 2007 NBA Drafthis Bulls counterpart, Luol Deng (19 points, four rebounds, three assists), fueled the home teams early surge by hitting his four shots. Dengs offensive effort was complemented by a balanced attackRose, Carlos Boozer (17 points, seven rebounds) and Joakim Noah (nine points, 10 rebounds, six blocked shots) all contributed in the opening minutesthat allowed Chicago to build a double-digit cushion over the visitors.

I thought we got off to a good start, remarked Thibodeau. I thought our team defense was very good and I thought our rebounding was terrific.

Added Deng before the game: I think the Cleveland gamenothing against Cleveland, but we werent at our bestand after beating such a good team, its so easy to let up, but I expect we learned from last time to just go out there and be aggressive early, especially the starting five.

The ever-energetic Noah shared his thoughts on the Bulls avoiding the proverbial trap game against the lowly Timberwolves.

Theres not much you can do. I think its a mindset thing. Youve just got to come out and understand whats at stake. Energys a funny thing. Its easy to come up for a game like the Lakers because you know the energy and the crowds going to get you going, said Noah. I think we have a great crowd. Were lucky. They dont really let you be down too much because theyll get on you and thats a good thing.

A subplot: Noah and Minnesotas Kevin Love (23 points, 15 rebounds) lived up to their billing as the leagues two leading rebounders, as Noah snatched six in the period, while Love grabbed eight caroms.

When we rebound well, we have a better chance of winning. I dont know what the numbers were, but I think we rebounded the ball pretty well as a team, said Noah, who led the Bulls to a 53-36 edge on the glass. Love is a handful. Hes not the highest jumper or anything, but hes somebody whos mastered the craft. That might be an understatement. Hes very good at what he does.

Added Thibodeau: I think, overalland the way Love has been rebounding is incrediblebut I thought our team rebounding was excellent. I thought our help was very good and when someone left Love, I thought our weak side filled in and we were on his body and he still got a lot of rebounds, but I thought our gang rebounding was very good.

Following a Rose buzzer-beater to end the period, the Bulls held a 27-18 advantage.

Chicagos bench apparently wasnt in the mood for a letdown performance, as it extended the winning margin left by the starters after Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went with an all-reserve unit in the second quarter. A particularly aggressive Taj Gibson (12 points, 10 rebounds, three assists)the second-year power forward had been a solid contributor as a rebounder and defender off the bench, but struggled as a scorer as of lateand swingman Ronnie Brewer (eight points, five rebounds) were the main catalysts during this stretch.

Having maintained the lead, Thibodeau came back with his starterswith the exception of sharpshooter Kyle Korver (12 points)midway through the period and with Boozer finding his groove, the Bulls lead became as swollen as the inflatable Benny the Bull mascots that raced on the United Center floor during television timeouts.

First of all, when you add a player like Boozer, who hasnt really played in the system defensively, just integrating him into what we were doing and he was hurt in the preseason, so he was just thrown into the action right away. He was there, but the game goes at a different pace when youre playing out there compared to watching and playing in practice, explained Noah. I think that hes understanding the schemes a lot better and as a team, I think that were shrinking the floor a lot better in pick-and-rolls. I think our help side is coming along better than it used to. Weve still got a ways to go and thats a very good thing.

Thibodeau concurred: Hes still not 100 percent, but what he does for offense is give us an opportunity to establish an inside game through the post. Hes a very unselfish passer, excellent in the pick-and-roll and he has great instincts; he knows how to find seams. Defensively, I think hes still finding his way. Theres some parts he does extremely well. His rebounding is still not where his ability ishes proven to be a great rebounder in this league; hes done it throughout his careerso as he gets his legs under him, I think his rebounding will continue to improve also.

Propelled by a strong close to the half by Rose, Chicago took a 58-37 advantage into the intermission.

A Minnesota surge keyed by Love to start the third quarter snapped the Bulls out of their reverie, as an 8-0 run rectified things, as Chicago quickly dug the Timberwolves a 22-point hole to climb out of by virtue of offensive efficiency and stout defense.

Were moving in the right direction, said Rose of the teams defensive effort. Guys are hustling, were closing down the paintmaking sure that somebodys right therebut I think we have to take more charges and block more shots.

Even according to the high standards of Thibodeau, The defense is coming around. I think our ball pressure has improved, our weak side has improved, but we still have a long way to go. Theres a lot of areas we can improve upon.

Rose hit three long bombs (he was 5-for-6 from deep and 8-for-10 from the field in the game) to keep the Bulls ahead by a healthy amount. Chicagos offensive balance and adequate effort on the other end of the floor allowed them to coast to an 87-65 lead through three quarters.

I was just taking what they give me and right now, theyre giving me time to shoot, said Rose afterwards. Whatever the game tells me to do, Im going to do it and my man was sagging and they left me wide open to take the shot theyre giving me forever to shoot, so Im just shooting it.

Going off picks, they have to chase me over now and thats my whole key to this yearsomebody like Steve Nash, you cant go under on him or hell shoot, so right when I get that down, I think Ill be more of a threat, he explained further. Im trying to show everybody what Ive been working on. You want to show opponents new things, so that they know its going to be a hard night. They were leaving me wide open on the shots, I was just taking my time, my teammates were passing me the ball when I was open, and I was just shooting.

The way I worked on it this summer, I have a lot of confidence in my shot and Im going to shoot it, no matter what or how many shots I miss. As you can tell, as many games where Ive been missing early, Im going to continue to shoot, continued Rose, who credited Bulls assistant Ron Adams for diligently making sure he performs daily maintenance on his shot. I know thats a big part of my game now, being able to hit a consistent jump shotespecially from behind the arcand Im grateful that Im hitting all these shots.

I told you before the season started, somebody in the low post like that, sometimes youve got to double team him or if the guard even takes an inch, Ive got to be able to spot up, so as long as they keep double-teaming Los Boozer and leaving me wide open, Im going to shoot.

Opined Thibodeau: Hes put a lot of work into it. He gets there early, he stays late and he does it year-round. His commitment to the team and to the game is very unique and special.

Noah chimed in: Hes gaining more and more confidence on his three-ball. Its a scary thing.

Korvers marksmanship, Brewers all-around play and Gibsons energy paced the Bulls early in the final stanza. As in every Bulls blowout win, the games biggest drama became whennot ifChicago would crack the 100-point barrier, which led to free Big Macs for the loyal home crowd, as the Bulls cruised to the eventual triumph with the starters sitting out the entire period.

I dont know if theyll be upset with me or not, but it was a good chance for our bench and I think our bench has been playing very well, said Thibodeau. I thought they helped us get the Lakers game turned around and theyre playing really good defense, theyre moving the ball and theyre playing with energy, so it was good to see them play an entire fourth quarter.

Games like this are lovely, where we put away a team, everybody played well and thats what were supposed to do, added Rose. Everybody came out focused and ready to play.

I think we had a good shootaround, he continued. We came out aggressive and attacking them.

Added Noah: When we play with an edge to us for 48-minutes, were going to be tough to beat.

Thats the only thing that matters, not getting too caught up in the hype. Theres definitely a little buzz going on right now about the Chicago Bulls. It feels good to win five in a row, but weve just got to stay hungry, stay humble and stay driven. Weve still got a lot of work to do to become the team that we want to be and we want to be one of the elite teams in the East.

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.

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.

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