No magic for Bulls in Boozer's debut

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No magic for Bulls in Boozer's debut

Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010
Updated 12:16 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Sometimes one team just has anothers number. Sometimes numbers tell the story. Sometimes the storys even simpler than it seems.

In Carlos Boozers Chicago debut, the Bulls (9-7) were shellacked by the Magic (14-4), 107-78, mirroring the vicious beating they took in Orlando during the preseason.

While not reflected from the very outset, the Bulls low energy, regressed defensive and shockingly poor rebounding were seized upon by the visitors.

They beat us in every facet of the game, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, speaking without a podium, as if the blowout defeat meant he was stripped of the privilege. You cant allow a team like this to get off to a start like they did.

We dont want to make any excuses. We thought the start of the game led to our demise, continued Thibodeau, who listed a litany of his teams flaws on the evening, including defense of the pick-and-roll, post and perimeter varieties rebounding and stagnant offense. Theyre a heck of a team, a well-balanced team."

But Thibodeau was reluctant to blame the teams poor play on the team incorporating Boozer into the system.

Its hard to say, said Thibodeau. We were low energy, we played without pace, so we didnt get any scoring opportunities and we didnt make quick decisions, which you have to do against this team.

We had 21 rebounds as a team so I thought we werent reacting the way we would like, he continued. They did a good job. They were into us. Weve got to fight a lot harder.

As for Boozer himself, the two-time All-Star power forward finished with five points and two rebounds in over 21 minutes of play. While disappointed in his own performance, Boozers energy was to be commended, although the results werent there yet.

I would say the first four or five minutes, the games were a lot faster than our practices were for me, so it took me a little bit of time to adjust to it. But I did a better job of adjusting to it as time went on in the game, said Boozer, who said he felt no ill effects to his injured right hand afterwards.

Looking back on it, you feel rusty now, but I didnt feel bad out there. My legs were good, my wind was good. I just didnt do too many good things out there, didnt get a lot of rebounds, didnt play good enough defense. As a team, we didnt play our best game tonight.

That was to be expected. It was his first game, added Thibodeau. I liked his energy and itll only get better. I thought he had some good catches in the paint and those were shots that he normally makes.

It feels great to have him back, but this is a process and weve just got to keep grinding and keep getting better. He hasnt played in a while, but I think that as a team, its not about one player on this team, chimed in Joakim Noah, who scored 16 points but was amazingly held to zero rebounds. It never has been. As a whole, weve got to control what we can control and we definitely have to rebound the ball better.

Rebounding was certainly a central theme, as the Bulls a premier team on the backboards in the league corralled only 21 rebounds to Orlandos 44.

Although Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard is an elite interior player the visitors concerted effort to get him the ball in the early going led to them being able to pick apart Chicago with penetration from point guard Jameer Nelson and swingman Vince Carter, not to mention deep shooting from their legion of marksmen the Bulls typical gang-rebounding approach usually is enough to stave off inferior rebounding squads.

Not on this night.

Its frustrating to lose the way we lost. I feel like were obviously a better team than we showed tonight. We got outrebounded by a lot, opined Noah. It just shows weve got a long way to go.

Thats my job, to rebound the basketball, and I wasnt able to do that tonight, so Ive got to a better job of that. Come in tomorrow, work hard and get ready for the next one, added the always-tough self-critic. Howard is obviously a load to handle, but theres no excuses in this league. Hes obviously one of the best for a reasonIve got to do a better job rebounding the basketball.

In Boozers mind, the Magics outside shooting the United Center guests shot 10-for-21 from long range was Chicagos major issue.

The biggest thing was their threes. They had 10 threes. After the first maybe five or six minutes, they gave it into Dwight every time. We started collapsing in the paint, Jameer started driving, we started sinking in a little bit, leaving their shooters wide open. By the time we got back to their shooters, the shot was already up and in the air, he said.

Added Derrick Rose: They did a good job with putting the ball inside and making us work on digging and getting out to their shooters, and thats their type of game.

To Rose, however, the circumstances surrounding the game played a part in the teams less-than-inspired showing.

Of course, games like this are always going to be rough first game back from a long road trip but weve just got to get used to playing with each other. I knew it wasnt going to be pretty or anything, but when we get our connection going, I think well be all right, said Rose, who scored 15 points and four assists. The first game back from a road trip usually is kind of hard. Weve just got to find it and not put our head down.

Rose expects the chemistry and cohesion with Boozer to develop in time and finds it understandable that an immediate connection isnt there yet.

He took a long time off, where he didnt touch a ball for a while. When he did, his timing wasnt right there. But we already know what type of player he is and hell get his game back pretty soon, explained Rose. Time will tell. Hes a basketball player and the only thing he needs is a couple of days or so, a couple games, and hes going to be back.

Added Thibodeau: The normal progression will be tomorrow, practice. I think hell get more comfortable and hell settle down. As his conditioning and timing comes around, hell get better and better.

The rookie head coach doesnt expect Boozer to be his old self right away. Rather, it sounds as if he just wants him to fit into the teams scheme for the time being.

To me, it starts with a defensive mindset. Rebound the ball, get us into the open floor, get some easy scoring opportunities. Hes great with execution, sets a great screen, very good pick-and-roll player, so I think thatll help. When hes catching in the paint, hes got great hands, said Thibodeau. When he gets going, that gives us another weapon where we can attack inside.

Boozer himself boils it down to a much simpler strategy after a debacle like this: The good thing is weve got practice tomorrow and weve got a chance to get back at it on Friday.

See? Simple.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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 Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

On the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Kevin Anderson, Vincent Goodwill and Kendall Gill welcome in SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell to discuss the Celtics' motivation to trade for Jimmy Butler. 

The guys also break down whether the league is undervaluing the Bulls All-Star. 

Later, they debate the contant Lebron James vs. Michael Jordan comparison and ask if it's fair after the King's poor showing in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. O'Donnell also analyzes the NBA Draft. He believes Terrance Ferguson is the right pick for GarPax. 

Finally, a behind the scenes look at Goodwill vs. Kendall on the court, and Kendall on the right way to parent a young athlete. 

Listen to the Bulls Talk Podcast below. 

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

Watching LeBron James tear through the Eastern Conference playoffs the way Michael Jordan used to do in his prime, it's become increasingly apparent other teams in the East will be chasing James and the Cavaliers for the next 3-5 years.

With that in mind, you have to wonder what kind of conversations are going on inside the walls of the Advocate Center as the Bulls' front office prepares for the June 22nd draft and the start of free agency on July 1st. 

Jimmy Butler earned third-team All-NBA honors on Thursday, putting him in position to earn the Designated Veteran Player Extension with another All-NBA selection in either 2018 or 2019. Under terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, that could mean a contract starting at $42 million in 2019-20 with a total five-year value of over $246 million.

Are the Bulls prepared to pay that kind of money to a player who has logged big minutes over his career and will turn 30 just before the 2019-20 season?

If not, the best time to deal Butler would be right now. Butler is coming off the best season of his NBA career, including a starting spot for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game. Plus, he still has two more guaranteed years on his contract at far below market value for one of the top 15 players in the league.

Tuesday's draft lottery pretty much eliminated Boston from a potential Butler trade. Celtics' GM Danny Ainge loves Washington point guard Markelle Fultz and is locked in to drafting him with the number one pick. Boston's future couldn't look brighter after finishing with the best regular season record in the East, advancing to the Conference Finals, and winning the lottery.

The Celtics will add Fultz and still have enough cap room to offer a max deal to free agent swingman Gordon Hayward, who played collegiately for Boston coach Brad Stevens at Butler. How does a starting line-up of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Hayward, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley sound, with a second unit of Fultz, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk? It might not be good enough to take down the Cavs or Warriors, but should position the Celtics for a long run as a serious contender.

So, if the Celtics are out, where would the Bulls look for a possible Butler deal? Phoenix probably holds the best combination of assets, starting with the No. 4 overall pick. If point guards Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox go 1-2-3, the Bulls could grab Kansas forward Josh Jackson, an Andrew Wiggins-clone who could wind up being the best player in this draft.

The Suns also have a pair of intriguing young power forwards in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, both top 10 picks a year ago. Plus, Phoenix could include 23-year-old small forward T.J. Warren and Chicago native Tyler Ulis in the package going back to the Bulls.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough is reportedly under pressure to show significant improvement next season after winning just 47 games combined over the last two years. Adding another young player to the roster isn't the best way to improve the team immediately, so don't be surprised if the Suns make a pitch to acquire Butler in the days leading up to the draft.

Similar story in Philadelphia, where the Sixers own the third overall pick next month. Under former GM Sam Hinkie, the "trust the process" approach led to a roster purge and the acquisition of lottery picks. Right now, the Sixers are overloaded with young players like Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Justin Anderson and Nik Stauskas.

Would current GM Bryan Colangelo be willing to trade the pick, along with Okafor and Anderson in a package for Butler? The Bulls could choose between Jackson and Kentucky's lightning-quick point guard Fox with the draft pick they’d acquire, potentially adding three young starters to a new-look line-up. 

Given all the trade rumors surrounding Butler in the past, you can expect a number of teams will be calling the Bulls leading up to the draft, including Tom Thibodeau's Timberwolves, coming off a disappointing season with assets to offer like Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh overall pick. 

Ultimately, it comes down to which direction the Bulls' front office wants to go. Try to build a contender around Butler, or use him as the trade asset to start a full re-build. We should get our answer in the days leading up to the draft.

Around the Association

Thursday's All-NBA announcement could lead to a pair of All-Star forwards changing teams this summer. We already mentioned Hayward's situation in Utah. Without the designated veteran player extension, he might be seriously tempted to join his old college coach in Boston. 

Hayward could sign a one year contract with a player option for a second season in Utah with hopes of earning the DVPE next summer, but if Hayward hits the open market, it's clear he'll be the number one target for the Celtics this off-season. 

Paul George also could be in play after failing to make one of the three All-NBA teams. The Pacers were hoping to sign their All-Star forward to a max five-year extension at over $200 million, but George isn't eligible now. George still could sign an extension with Indiana, but not at the dollars he would have received had he made All-NBA. 

Rumors of George's desire to join his home-state Lakers in free agency after the 2017-18 season continue to grow, especially with Magic Johnson likely to add dynamic point guard Lonzo Ball in next month's draft. The Pacers might be forced to trade George to get some assets now, rather than let him walk away for nothing in free agency next summer.

Back to the Bulls, who will bring in dozens of prospects to Chicago to work out at the Advocate Center before the draft. Unless they make a major trade to move up, the front office almost has to go "best player available" with their picks at Nos. 16 and 38. Look for them to focus on an athletic wing in the first round with Louisville's Donovan Mitchell, Indiana's OG Anunoby, Duke's Harry Giles and Australian pro Terrance Ferguson among the likely options. 

But if the team decides to part company with restricted free agent Niko Mirotic, that could open the door for the Bulls to select a power forward like Cal's Ivan Rabb, Wake Forest's John Collins, Utah's Kyle Kuzma or UCLA's T.J. Leaf. They could even draft an athletic young center like Jarrett Allen of Texas, Creighton's Justin Patton or UCLA's Ike Anigbogu.

In Round 2, the Bulls might look to add another young point guard to the mix like Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans, Iowa State's Monte Morris, Villanova's Josh Hart, Gonzaga's Nigel Williams Goss or Big 12 Player of the Year Frank Mason from Kansas.

Quotes of the Week

The Celtics might have edged Cleveland out for the top seed in the East during the regular season, but after watching Game 1 Wednesday night, it's clear Brad Stevens’ team will be lucky to get a win in the series.

This from Stevens about the NBA's version of Benjamin Button, LeBron James. "It's hard to believe, but he's better than when I got into the league. A lot better."

Still, Celtics' star Isaiah Thomas isn't about to concede the series just yet, saying, "We're not afraid of Cleveland. They're not the Monstars."  

Well, Thomas might be right about the rest of the Cavs. But if you remember the movie "Space Jam", I'm pretty sure James would be a good fit in that Monstars line-up. And the Celtics don't have Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny or Bill Murray!