Chicago Bulls

Starting Five: Game 3 Pregame News and Notes

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Starting Five: Game 3 Pregame News and Notes

Thursday, April 22, 20101:12 PM

1. After Wednesday's practice at the Berto Center, Bulls head coachVinny Del Negro talked about the teams much-improved performance fromGame 1 to Game 2.

Well, we lost so thats not encouraging, but I felt we respondedwell, said Del Negro. Obviously LeBron James got going in thefourth a little bit, but overall I thought that we were focused, we hadgreat energy, guys were making plays. I thought Derrick, Luol andJoakim had very solid games, Flip was solid off the bench, Taj,everyone contributed. So overall it was a good team effort, we didntlike the final result. Now were back at home. They did what we have todo. We have to step up tonight and play well in order to win thegame."

Del Negro hopes that playing at the United Center will give Chicago aboost, but acknowledged that a better offensive outing will be key togetting a win.

The games emotional, the guys are into it, the atmospheres great,said Del Negro. Tonight were at home, were going to come out with alot of energy. Just because were home doesnt mean all of a sudden,were going to play that much better, but were going to have to playsmarter, be efficient and in the fourth quarter, were going to have toget stops and put the ball in the basket. We have to shoot a little bitbetter and make some open shots to put some pressure on them and gettheir field-goal percentage down. When asked about Joakim Noahs warof words with the city of Cleveland, Del Negro supported his center.

Jo has a free spirit. You have to manage his personality, but hebrings energy all the time, great spirit and wants to get better, wantsto win, so hes got all the right stuff," Del Negro said. "Hes justgot to continually concentrate on what we want to execute and bringthat energy because guys feed off that.

2. Del Negro also addressed criticism of All-Star point guard DerrickRose taking team-highs of 28 and 24 shot attempts, respectively, in thefirst two games of the series.

If he takes 24 shots and makes 20 of them, well then everybody wouldsay, Why didnt he take 30 of them? Theres a balance there, saidDel Negro. We need Derrick to score, but also get his assists and beefficient, and I feel like hes doing that.

3. Del Negro also discussed the 40-point effort of Cavaliers superstarJames in Game 2, and how the Bulls could possibly limit him tonight.

Their record is what their record is because they have depth and whenthe games close, you go to your star player, said Del Negro. Weguarded him well last game and he was still able to make difficultshots -- fadeaways, hes so explosive getting to the basket -- you justhave to pick your spots to make it difficult for him like any greatplayer.

When LeBrons hitting fadeaways and floaters and holding the ball, andwere coming on the double and hes fading away on you, it makes ithardthats what star players do. Weve just got to mix it in on him,weve got to keep him off balance, keep him guessing with the double,play him in single coverage, force him a certain waytheyve seen itall. Were not inventing the wheel here.

Del Negro later invoked the name of another No. 23 familiar to Bullsfans, unwittingly inviting reporters to ask him to make a comparison.

People in Chicago know," he said. "You had a guy here who was pretty good for along time that wore 23. You know how that is. You can have all thegreat defenses you want, but some guys just can make plays over the topof you, whether you bring one, two, three guys. So were just going tohave to get into him, make it as hard as possible and just be effectivein the areas we need to.

Theyre different. Thats animpossible thing to answer obviously. Michael right now, just becauseof his legacy, what he did in the game, to evolve the gameMichael tookit to another level. Im not a big guy on comparing guys because Idont think its fair. In terms of comparing anybody to Michael rightnow is not fair, just because of the MVPs and championships, all thethings he accomplished. And LeBrons at a stage where hes only 25, hehas a long career left and staying healthy and being consistent and allof those things.

4. Rose was absent from Wednesdays practice. Hedidnt participate because of personal reasons -- a family emergency -- butis expected to play in tonights Game 3.

5. Although tonights game is being broadcast nationally, many Bulls fansmay prefer to stick with the insights of the local broadcast duo -- thatknows the team the best -- of Stacey King and Neil Funk. Comcast SportsNet will have the game, as well as Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gillhosting Bulls Pregame Live before the contest and Bulls PostgameLive afterwards. In addition, CSNChicago.com continues to offer afree, live-stream broadcast of the game, including the postgame pressconferences.

The Sixth Man: Dont forget to follow me on Twitter @CSNBullsInsider

-- Aggrey Sam

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