Schanowski: Anxious times for Bulls fans


Schanowski: Anxious times for Bulls fans

Monday, June 28, 2010
8:45 PM
By Mark Schanowski

As the hours tick down towards the start of NBA free agency, how are you feeling about the Bulls prospects? Post your comments to relieve some of that anxiety in the section below.

Everything sounded good on Sunday when the New York Times ran a story quoting an unnamed NBA executive saying LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Chicago was pretty much a done deal. But then on Monday, long-time NBA writer Stephen A. Smith reported James and Bosh were a lock to go to Miami, according to his well-placed source. Appearing on a Chicago sports radio show, Smith even made the bold statement his information was factual, not just a rumor. And, if he was wrong, he would come back on the radio station to eat crow. Smith is a shameless self-promoter, but he is well-connected in NBA circles. So, it wouldnt be a good idea to dismiss his report out of hand. But if LeBron plans to follow through with his meetings with the five NBA teams with the salary cap room to offer maximum deals, youve got to believe hell listen to what they have to say before making his final decision.

So, where does that leave the Bulls? Can they convince the King hed be better off playing with an unselfish, humble point guard like Derrick Rose rather than with a former scoring champion who dominates the ball like Dwyane Wade? Can they demonstrate how his marketing opportunities in sports-crazy Chicago will be a lot more lucrative than what hell find in South Beach? And, can they sell him on supporting players like Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng being able to help him get to championship status, instead of a gutted Heat roster filled with over the hill veterans and undrafted rookies playing on minimum contracts?

Lets hope Rose will be part of the Bulls traveling party for their audience with the King in Akron. LeBron has the utmost respect for Roses game, and he even phoned Derrick to talk about the possibility of playing together a short time after the Cavs were eliminated from the playoffs by Boston. Im sure Rose could describe the passion for winning that exists within the Bulls core of young players. Noah has been a winner throughout his career with two national titles at the University of Florida, and his willingness to challenge LeBron for his on-court antics in Cleveland was just another sign of his willingness to go to battle with anyone in the league. Jerry Reinsdorf, John Paxson and Gar Forman can do a great job selling the history of the franchise and the plans for the future, but I think having Derrick with them could make a real difference in trying to recruit LeBron.

But back to the initial point, who should we believe with all the rumors and informed guesses of where James is headed? It seems like everyone has an opinion, but the final decision is up to LeBron. Weve heard talk over the last couple years that teammates from the 2008 U.S. Olympic team spent time in Beijing speculating what it would be like to play together. But now that the time to choose is almost here, will James, Wade and Chris Bosh be willing to give up money and shot attempts to form a mini All-Star team in Miami? Wade told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that no final decisions have been made, and indicated he could be setting up meetings with the Bulls, Knicks and Dallas Mavericks to protect himself in case Miami isnt able to pull off the dream scenario of landing LeBron and Bosh. Various media reports have all of the top free agents penciling in visits with teams that have the most cap room, so is everyone waiting on LeBron, or will someone else get things rolling with an early commitment?

Weve heard reports Atlantas All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson is particularly interested in joining the Bulls, but now comes word Knicks General Manager Donnie Walsh and Coach Mike DAntoni plan to visit Johnson in Los Angeles when the clock strikes midnight in the East on June 30th. The Knicks also plan to meet with All-Star power forward Amare Stoudemire during their brief time in L.A. before heading east for their audience with LeBron Thursday afternoon. DAntoni coached both players in Phoenix, and his fast-paced style is very appealing to most NBA players. What if the Knicks get early commitments from Johnson and Stoudemire and Miami is able to land the superstar trio of James, Wade and Bosh? Thats a terrifying thought for the Bulls front office, which would leave them sifting through the likes of Carlos Boozer and David Lee with their war-chest of free agent money.

Bottom line, the Bulls need to get an early read on where James stands and be prepared to move on with their contingency plans if it becomes clear hes headed to Miami. Last weeks bold trade of Kirk Hinrich to Washington for additional cap room put the organization in a great position to become instant title contenders. Well be hearing all kinds of rumors in the next few days, but you can count on Paxson and Forman to do a great job of selling the organization to James and the other top players. Then, its just a matter of seeing what really matters to this class of free agents. If James, Wade and Bosh decide they want to try to re-create their Olympic success over an 82 game regular season schedule, plus the playoffs, theres really not much anyone can do to convince them that it might not work.

Comcast SportsNet and will have expanded coverage of all the free agent developments. We invite you to join us Thursday, July 1st at 10:30 p.m. for a half-hour SportsNite special, featuring our expert analyst, Kendall Gill. Weve waited a long time to see where all the top free agents would land. That time is almost here!

Michael Carter-Williams learns on the fly, thrives in Bulls debut

Michael Carter-Williams learns on the fly, thrives in Bulls debut

Ten days ago Michael Carter-Williams was the starting point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Circumstances can change quickly in the NBA, as the 2013 Rookie of the Year found out when he was traded two weeks ago for the second time in his four-year NBA career. But Carter-Williams also realized just as quickly the value in carving out a role, and he made a great first impression on his coaches and teammates Thursday night in the Bulls’ 105-99 win over the Celtics.

The 6-foot-6 guard played a crucial role in the second half in slowing down a potent Celtics offense, and he provided an offensive jolt midway through the fourth quarter that helped push the Bulls to their first win of the season.

His numbers in 17 minutes won’t jump off the score sheet – he tallied five points, six rebounds and three assists – but his impact on the game was felt on both ends, and in his three stints he cemented himself as a key part of the Bulls’ rotation moving forward.

Carter-Williamas was thrown into unfamiliar territory late in the second quarter. Isaiah Canaan was the first guard off the bench for Fred Hoiberg, but after he missed all three of his 3-point attempts and the Celtics reeled off a 14-4 run to pull within three, 43-40, Hoiberg deployed Carter-Williams alongside starting point guard Rajon Rondo.

In the 10 days since Carter-Williams had joined the Bulls, his time in practice had been spent learning the point guard position. But with Rajon Rondo playing well in the first half, Hoiberg kept his starter in and substituted in Carter-Williams, a natural point guard, into a three-guard lineup with Rondo and Jimmy Butler.

Having Rondo next to him, Carter-Williams said, helped him ease into the Bulls’ offensive sets that wound up making a difference in the fourth quarter.

“He definitely helps me out a lot,” he said of Rondo. “He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever talked to about basketball, he knows everybody’s position, he’s a great point guard and I’m glad I get to learn from someone like him.”

Carter-Williams’ impact was felt immediately. The Celtics missed their next four shots, with their only points coming off free throws after Nikola Mirotic fouled Jae Crowder on a 3-point attempt. The Bulls pushed their second-quarter lead back to nine by the end of the half as Carter-Williams defended both Avery Bradley and Gerald Green.

That same substitution pattern followed late in the third quarter after the Celtics used a 14-5 run to pull within a possession of the Bulls. The Celtics took their first and only lead of the night on an Isaiah Thomas 3-pointer, but with Carter-Williams again playing next to Rondo the Bulls reeled off seven straight points to push the lead back to six, 75-69.

Carter-Williams opened the fourth quarter on the floor without Rondo, though Wade initiated most of the offense. Playing off the ball, Carter-Williams continued to press defensively while waiting for his opportunity to contribute on the other end.

And when he got his chance, he made the most of it. After missing his first four attempts, Carter-Williams was left alone on the left wing for a 3-pointer that he connected on. Butler then stole an Avery Bradley pass in transition and found Carter-Williams, whose floater in the lane pushed the Bulls’ lead back 12, 93-81, with less than 8 minutes to play.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

When Thomas reeled off five quick points to pull the Celtics within five Hoiberg pulled Carter-Williams for Wade, who assisted on two consecutive Taj Gibson baskets before connecting on a 3-pointer with 26 seconds left to seal the Bulls’ home opener victory.

It was as successful a debut as a reserve point guard could have, with Carter-Williams logging the only positive rating (+3) among the five players who came off the bench for the Bulls. A 30-point first quarter allowed Hoiberg to play Carter-Williams alongside Rondo in the second and third quarters, and the results were evident, even with Carter-Williams playing a “new” position.

“I think it was tough for me because when I was first in there I was with Rondo, and so when he’s in there he runs the 1 and I play the 2,” he said after the game. “So a lot of times in practice I was learning the 1, and it’s pretty hard to learn everybody’s position in one week. So I was just looking for anybody to tell me where to go, what to do, and just try to make the best of it.”

Despite the unfamiliar spot on the floor, Carter-Williams did make the best of it. In nine minutes alongside Rondo, the Bulls’ defensive rating (points per 100 possessions allowed) was 99.1, an improvement from the 103.6 rating the team logged on the night. Carter-Williams’ individual defensive rating was 95.1, the second best number among guards behind Wade (89.8).

The numbers weren’t as solid on the offensive end, with Rondo and Carter-Williams together managing just 93.5 points per 100 possessions. But the Bulls’ surprisingly hot night from beyond the arc – 11-for-25 – allowed Hoiberg to focus more on the defensive end, where the Bulls wound up holding the Celtics to 99 points a night after they tallied 122 against the Nets.

And Carter-Williams still came up with two key passes late in the third quarter as the Celtics threatened. First he found Mirotic open for an 18-foot jumper on the left baseline. Then he grabbed a missed Wade layup and kicked it back out to Mirotic, who buried a 3-pointer in the final minute of the third quarter to push the Bulls’ lead to six heading into the fourth quarter.

“I love Michael’s game. He had a couple times where he had no idea what he was doing when I called the play, but that’s going to happen. He’s only been around the team a few days. But he played with a lot of poise,” Hoiberg said. “I like how he can get into the paint. He can get downhill. That’s something that every team wants.”

It’s an important year for Carter-Williams. In addition to him learning a new system on the fly, he’s in a contract year and said it’s a personal goal of his to cement himself as the backup behind Rondo.

With Jerian Grant inactive and Canaan sitting the final three quarters, Thursday night may have done just that. And whatever his playing time looks like going forward, or who he’s playing with, Carter-Williams is hoping to make the same impact he did Thursday night.

“I think I can really lead us no matter who’s on the court,” he said. “Whatever Fred thinks is best he’s going to do, and of course it’s a personal goal of mine to just be on the floor as much as I can.

“I was able to find my rhythm a little bit (in the second half) and just try to help the team. Defensively, whether it’s rebounding, getting steals; offensively, scoring or making the right pass or the right play.”

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