Chicago Bulls

Sam: Bulls React to Game 3 Win Over Cavaliers

Sam: Bulls React to Game 3 Win Over Cavaliers

Friday, April 23, 2010
1:40 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Referring to Joakim Noah as Chicagos heart and soul is now an overused clich, but with his 10 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and immeasurable non-statistical impact tonight, the charismatic center proved his value, backing up his so-called disparaging remarks about the city of Cleveland with not only a tremendous individual outing (as was also the case in the Bulls Game 2 loss), but a victory in front of an appreciative United Center audience. Sometimes I say things and sometimes it gets a little blown out of proportion, but I dont want people to think that Im some kind of circus freak, said Noah in his postgame press conference. Im going out there and playing my heart and my soul out, giving it everything Ive got out there on the court. Just because I say things like, Cleveland sucks, doesnt mean Im not going out there on the court and giving it everything Ive got. Thats why I didnt talk to you guys the media, following Bulls practice on Wednesday.

Noah also noted that he cant wait to go back to Cleveland for Game 5 of the series on Tuesday, but while he acknowledged Cavaliers star LeBron James talent, he was hesitant to praise the likely MVP too much. Hes very good. I dont want to give him too much credit, we do have to play them again, but he is very good.

Derrick Rose shied away from any comparisons between himself and the aforementioned James, although he relished their matchup when James was switched onto him late in the contest. It surprised me a little bit, but it was fun out there, Ill tell you, said Rose in his postgame press conference, before delving into his strategy against James. Just get him off balance. My speed usually gets people off balance. Hes big, but hes got the same quickness as Ive got, so its kind of hard, but I think I took a layup on him, but the rest were jump shots. I was just trying to keep pressure on him so he could get exhausted on the other end. Rose scored 31 points and dished out seven assistsa frighteningly normal performance for the precocious budding superstarbut he was most proud of his zero-turnover outing. "Bulls assistant coach Randy Brown usually tells me that after every game. Hes more excited than I am about turnovers. Thats a big part of the game, especially in my game. I tend to turn the ball over a little bit, but Ive been working on it, observed Rose. Ive been making smarter decisions and delivering the ball where its supposed to be. Rose, who missed Wednesdays practice and subsequently lost his uncle later in the day, was dismissivein his typically humble fashionof Chicago fans chanting, M-V-P, when he was at the foul line tonight. Dont listen to them, man. Do not listen to them. I almost passed out, joked Rose. Hopefully one day, but not this year. Im just worried about winning games right now. Rose had another humorous comment about notably slow-footed teammate Brad Miller, saying, Brad Millerwe tell him to shoot the ball every timethe slowest guy in the NBA and he wants to drive.

In light of James monster numbersthe Cavaliers franchise player finished with 39 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks on the eveningLuol Dengs stout defensive effort against him will likely again go under appreciated, but not only did the Bulls small forward make his Cleveland counterpart and former high school summer rival work hard for everything he got on the offensive end, Deng had two key playsa gorgeous behind-the-back move that left James grasping air and a key late-game charge in the waning moments of the contestdirectly against James.

"As far as the charge, I kind of felt like he was going to go to the basket. At that time, he was driving a lot. If he pulled up for the jump shot, he probably would have had it. I just wanted to get in front of him, said Deng, who had 20 points in tonights affair. The refs took a while. I was on the floor and I was like, I hope this is not another and-one.I was really happy to see the refs point the other way. Describing his offensive move, Deng said, Honestly, its not something I had in mind. It just happenedit was just a reaction. I tried to drive middle and he jumped in front of me, took away the middle and I put it behind the back and went to the basket.

LeBron James individual effort was obviously fantastic, but the Cleveland star expressed some concern about his squads overall performance tonight. We came into the game a little bit too lax, I dont know why. Not a sense of urgency to start the game and allowed them to get in a real comfort zone, said James. We didnt have a lot of energy to start the game and as much as we crawled back in the second half, it didnt matter. James commented on the crucial aforementioned charge taken by Deng, a call he disagreed with. What did I see? I saw me and Luol, and I see him backpedaling. Me, as a driver, Im watching the defenders feet and Im seeing if hes stationary or hes still moving. To me, I see hes still backpedaling. As soon as I see him backpedaling, thats when I decided to take off. They called a charge. I havent seen a replay, but I know exactly what I saw on the court with the defender right in front of me.

James also discussed his late-game switch onto Rose, foreshadowing perhaps that matchup again later in the series. He does a lot of ball handling, so we dont want to put me on him for a long period of time. But in a game like this, where we had an opportunity to win and he was playing particularly well, I wanted to match up with, said James, who noted, I put myself on him. Tremendous player, great game by him. Great game by their team, but well see as the series goes on if I do move on to him a lot or if I dont.

With the lack of production by Cavaliers starting center Shaquille ONeal (who tailed off significantly from his Game 1 showing), James was questioned about Clevelands success with a smaller lineup. I think thats something were going to look at in the next couple days, James said. Weve been really, really good this year when weve played small. We become more athletic, we become faster.

It doesnt take away from our big lineup because we can also go big, he continued. Its a really effective lineup for us. About ONeal specifically, James said, Im not concerned about himwe need him to pick up his play and he knows that also. No matter who you areif youre the best player in the worldif you take an eight-week layoff, it definitely takes a toll on you. Were looking for him to try to be as productive as he can with that layoff, be a force on the interior and helps us win these games, and help us win Game 4 because thats the most important game.

Dont forget to follow me on Twitter @CSNBullsInsider.

--Aggrey Sam

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

michaelporter.jpg
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