Chicago Bulls

Rose takes charge, leads Bulls over Celtics

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Rose takes charge, leads Bulls over Celtics

Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011
11:45 PM

By Chris Cason
CSNChicago.com

It was the effort they had been lacking during the two-game losing streak as the Chicago Bulls (24-12) defeated the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics (28-8) 90-79 Saturday at the United Center.

The win improved the Bulls to a 16-3 record at home and prevented the first three-game losing streak of the season.

Derrick Rose scored 36 points with a career-high in both free throws made and attempted, going 15-for-19 from the charity stripe. Carlos Boozer finished with 22 points to go along with a game-high 10 rebounds.

In road losses against New Jersey and Philadelphia, the offense wasn't as much a concern as the defense had been.

"The big thing is it's not any one particular guy right now," head coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game about the issues on the defensive end in the prior two games. "You can point the finger at this guy and that guy but it's our entire group right now. Every aspect of our defense requires five people being tied together. Whether it's defense in transition, low post defense, pick and roll defense, catch and shoot defense -- if two or three guys aren't doing their job, it's going to show. We have to get back to being tied together with all five and we have to be able to sustain it for 48 minutes."

The Bulls held Boston to 5-of-17 shooting in the fourth quarter, holding Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to only one field goal attempt between the two of them. Chicago blocked five shots in the period, highlighted by Taj Gibson's four as he was a defensive presence around the rim.

"I thought Taj had a huge impact on the game," said Thibodeau. "His activity was great. He had four blocks in 20 minutes, but he altered a lot of shots."

While the defense was finally able to put together a consistent effort through a full game, as Chicago held Boston to 37 percent shooting for the game, it was Rose getting inside the teeth of the Celtics defense and not eluding contact, as his trademark forays to the hole display, but looking to initiate it.

"From the start of the game, to the end of the game, he was aggressive," said Thibodeau." When he plays like that, because he is generating speed, if there is contact, he will get more calls. He was taking the contact tonight and he was getting the calls."

Another issue of concern during the two losses was the energy in the third quarter. In both road games, the Bulls were outscored 32-18, leading to them playing from behind in the fourth.

While the Celtics did win the third quarter, scoring 22 to Chicago's 21, Rose went 7-for-10 from the free throw line, and kept the game at the Bulls pace. Chicago went into the fourth with 67-64 lead and its defense was able to close the game and keep the ball away from Boston's closers.

It was Thibodeau's first win against the team he spent three years with. His knowledge of what the Celtics ran was instrumental in holding them to just 37 points in the second half.

"As soon as they called it, we were calling it out," Boozer said on knowing Boston's sets. "Thibs does a great job of preparing us for every team but he knows this team through and through. He had us prepared again tonight. We knew what they were going to run because he was there however many years he was there. When you have the insight -- we also had former Celtic Brian Scalabrine. Scal helped us a lot tonight too, by talking to us about what they were trying to do, how they were trying to play defense, their offensive schemes and we just ran with what they told us and we did a great job of executing our game plan.

"They're a great defensive and very good offensive team. They execute very well and we held them to 79 points. That speaks volumes for all the guys in this locker room, having a tough road trip and coming in tonight and putting in the effort in that we had. Moving forward, we have to have this same effort every night."

After avoiding a three-game losing streak, the Bulls will try to use this as motivation going forward to Monday's game against the Pistons.

"It's definitely a momentum-builder," said Ronnie Brewer, who contributed 10 points and some crucial defensive plays in the fourth. "We had some let downs on the road. You have to give it to the teams that we played because they played really well. They fought every possession and got wins. For us, to play well at home against a team like the Celtics, it definitely is a statement-maker for us and we're just trying to build off this win and go into the next game with this momentum."

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