Chicago Bulls

Surging Bulls host Chris Paul-less Hornets

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Surging Bulls host Chris Paul-less Hornets

Monday, March 7, 2011
10:23 a.m.

Associated Press

(AP) -- Even at close to full strength, New Orleans likely would have a hard time beating the surging Chicago Bulls. Minus All-Star guard Chris Paul, that challenge becomes much more difficult.

After a frightening injury, the Hornets will be without Paul on Monday night when they try to avoid a sixth consecutive loss to the Bulls, who are seeking their ninth straight home win.

Paul suffered a concussion and left the court on a stretcher in the third quarter of Sunday's 96-81 victory at Cleveland. Averaging 15.9 points and 9.6 assists, Paul hit his forehead on the shoulder of Cleveland's Ramon Sessions while trying to retrieve a loose ball.

WATCH: Top 5 Bulls Plays of Last Week

Paul, who stayed on the floor as trainers from both teams attended to him, moved his legs and feet and was responsive on his way to the hospital. He rejoined the Hornets in Cleveland and accompanied them on their flight to Chicago.

"He is in good spirits, talking and cracking jokes in the background," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "He was ready to get out of the hospital, as most of us hate being in hospitals."

The Hornets (37-28), who have won two in a row since losing 12 of 16, likely can't afford to be without the four-time All-Star for long, especially with starting swingman Trevor Ariza nursing a strained groin and in danger of missing a third straight game.

New Orleans forward David West is back healthy. He scored 23 points Sunday, two nights after he sprained his ankle during a 98-91 victory at Memphis.

West hasn't been impressive in seven career games at Chicago, averaging 10.6 points on 39.7 percent shooting. Without Paul or Ariza, West will need plenty of help against a Chicago team that is coming off a 4-1 road trip.

Two days after beating a tired Orlando club 89-81, the Bulls (43-18) swept their three-game season series against Miami with an 87-86 victory Sunday. In doing so, Chicago passed the Heat for second place in the Eastern Conference.

WATCH: Rose pleased with Bulls' team effort vs. Heat

"We're just taking it for what it is," said All-Star Derrick Rose, who scored 27 points. "We're just trying to win games, play hard and play aggressive on both ends."

The Bulls did just that on their recent road trip, especially on the defensive end, where they gave up 80.4 points per game.

"Our defense is really improving," forward Joakim Noah said. "We're just trying to play the best we can. I think we still have a long way to go and we can get a lot better. That's what is so exciting about this team."

It would seem hard for the Bulls to get much better at the United Center, where they are 26-4 and have won 16 of 17. Chicago has not won nine straight at home since a 10-game run Feb. 28-April 11, 1998, during its last championship season.

New Orleans has lost two straight at Chicago and four of its last five visits there, averaging 87.8 points in those meetings.

Rose had 23 points with six assists while Paul finished with 15 and six assists in the Bulls' 97-88 win at New Orleans on Feb. 12. Rose, however, has totaled 18 points on 9-of-29 shooting in two career home games versus the Hornets.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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