Chicago Bulls

Rondo, Celtics pick apart road-weary Bulls

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Rondo, Celtics pick apart road-weary Bulls

Friday, Dec. 3, 2010
Updated 11:56 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

BOSTON Derrick Rose isnt known for being the most verbose person in the world, but his postgame summary of what ails the Bulls was as accurate as they come.

Were out of sync right now, the Bulls All-Star point guard told CSNChicago.com. Were making the game harder than what it is and we need to change it.

In a matchup many regarded as a measuring stick of Chicagos progress with the much-anticipated addition of Carlos Boozer on his second trial run the Bulls (9-8) fell to the Celtics (15-4), 104-92, Friday evening.

Forget measuring up to the leagues elites Chicago couldnt get out of its own way as poor shot selection, lackluster defense, below-average rebounding, low energy and what is now becoming trademark slow starts to the game and following intermission plagued the Bulls in the loss.

Those negative aspects were compounded by Bostons crisp offensive execution, stout team defense, the top-flight playmaking ability of point guard Rajon Rondo and a vintage night from venerable veteran Kevin Garnett.

Although Rose (20 points, eight assists) got off to a quick and aggressive start, a balanced Boston attack put the Bulls in an early hole, as all five Celtics starters were on the board by midway through the first quarter.

An early positive sign for the visitors was Boozers (12 points) outside touch, as the power forward knocked down two mid-range jumpers albeit uncovered showing hed make more of an impact in his second game back from injury.

On a more disappointing note, the Celtics were able to get easy transition opportunities seemingly at will Ray Allen (14 points), in particular, more noted as a sharpshooter, was a beneficiary as well as deep post position that led to point-blank baskets from Garnett (20 points, 17 rebounds, six assists) and Shaquille ONeal (12 points, five rebounds).

Adding to the Bulls woes was their own poor shot selection and errant marksmanship, which allowed Boston to further widen the gap

Theyre a quality team, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. I thought we had some good shots in the first quarter. We missed. We came back and defensively, were hanging a little bit and we cant do that. We cant allow our offense to affect us defensively.

I thought we played low energy defensively instead of having greater fight down there and theyre a great shooting team. Youve got to challenge their shots. Theyre also posting the ball a lot more and weve got to fight harder, keep the ball out of the paint. I didnt think we did that. I thought defensively, we gave them too much.

Taj Gibson (10 points, eight rebounds), now in a reserve role, gave the Bulls a nice spark off the bench, enabling the Garden guests to quickly close on the home team.

Backup point guard C.J. Watson and reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer in addition to starters Joakim Noah (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Luol Deng (15 points, six rebounds, four assists) clicked effectively, as Chicago went on an extended 18-3 run, dating back to Dengs jumper toward the end of the previous period to tie the game at 34 apiece.

However, a stellar first-half performance by Garnett who, along with Noah, was issued a double technical foul, as the pair continued their war of words ensured Chicago wouldnt overtake the Celtics.

Hes active, hes rebounding above the rim, hes going to get rebounds out of his area, hes shooting the ball great, hes elevating on his shot, getting deep post position and hes always had great vision, always been very unselfish, said Thibodeau, going down a laundry list of Garnetts strong suits. When you look at the passing of that team, they share the ball, they move the ball, they execute and they play defense.

Chicagos defensive lapses perhaps partly due to Boozers gradual assimilation into the teams defensive scheme once again permitted Boston to surge, reeling off bucket after bucket to give the Celtics a double-digit winning margin.

The floor generalship of Rondo (12 points, 19 assists, six rebounds) was masterful, as he evenly distributed the basketball to the many weapons at his disposal the slender point guards pinpoint passing was the catalyst for a vintage Garnett stat line often getting the best available shot on each Celtics possession.

Were struggling defensively, said Thibodeau. Playing from behind, dug a big hole and against quality opponents, you cant do that. We fought hard to get back in the second quarter, but then in the third quarter, the same thing. Right back in the hole.

I think our first and third have been a problem for us all season, no matter who was out there. The first quarter, we dig ourselves a hole, the third quarter we dig ourselves a hole and weve been worse in some games, but the majority of games in the NBA, when you get behind to a very good team, youre not going to climb back, added Boozer, who played without the protective brace for his hand that he wore in Wednesdays debut, stating Id rather not wear it afterwards.

Weve got to have a better focus out thereon that circus trip, we got lucky. We were able to fight back in some games, but weve got to do a better job of that as we move forward.

Chicagos lack of offensive flow also plagued the team in the games final period. Instead of quality possessions and solid execution, Bostons defense yielded mostly awkward forces and end-of-shot-clock heaves, demonstrating the Bulls lack of cohesion and inability to push the tempo in transition, not to mention more meager than usual offensive rebounding.

Still, it was mostly Chicagos defensive effort that stuck with the team in the aftermath of its second consecutive ugly defeat.

Terrible. Thats the reason why were losing. Blown coverages, not doing the right thing, but like I said, well get a chance to play tomorrow, Rose told CSNChicago.com. Weve just got to step it up on the defensive side. We didnt stop anybody the last two games. Thats why were getting blown out. Hopefully we can change it.

Explained Thibodeau: Weve got to do a better job of containing the ball. Our weak side has to be a lot more alert. We have to have better body position on the cuts. All facets of our defense. Right now, its hard to judge because we have to do it with greater intensity.

One thing we can do is we can play a lot harder and again, when we make them missand rebounding was a problem alsoand thats preventing us from getting us out into the open floor and getting us some easy baskets, the coach continued.

When youre making them miss and youre rebounding well, then you get Derrick into the open floor, thats where you get your easy baskets. Everything is a grind right now because were playing out of the halfcourt so much.The Bulls couldn't stop Kevin Garnett (20 points, 17 rebounds, six assists Friday night) and realize they are struggling defensively in the last few games. (AP)

Deng concurred: Weve been winning because of our defense, so weve got to get back to that. Try to get easy baskets, try to get stops and get out and run.

We get a lot of looks when we get stops. When we slow down, right now, were not running our stuff the way we should be. I think eventually we will, but where were at right now, were more of a running team that gets stops and runs, he added. I know we play tomorrow, so weve got to make a quick switch and get back to that defensive mentality. Weve got a lot of guys that can score and its going to be spread out, but every night the defense has got to be there.

The home crowds persistent chants of Scalabrine (for the Bulls reserve forward; he would eventually enter the contest with the game out of reach) obscured Chicagos attempt to get back into the contest, as the foregone conclusion that the Celtics would coast to victory was reached the previous quarter.

Fighting hard but making up little ground, the Bulls simply couldnt overcome Rondos top-flight playmaking, Bostons offensive execution All-Star swingman Paul Pierce (18 points) became more of a factor as time wore on and stout team defense, and frankly, their own unforced errors.

Rationalized Thibodeau: The games keep coming. Weve gotten into this together; weve got to get out of it together. Weve got to fight a lot harder. Were capable, well play better, but weve got to put more into it.

Rose summarized things in a similar vein.

Weve got to change a lot of things, so hopefully tomorrow youll see a whole other team, the All-Star told CSNChicago.com.

Hosting a Houston squad likely eager for revenge at the United Center Saturday evening, theyll have to make a quick turnaround.

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.

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