Woeful: Portland painful for struggling Bulls

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Woeful: Portland painful for struggling Bulls

Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011Posted: Feb. 7, 11:47 p.m. Updated: 1:57 a.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

PORTLANDThe effort was there, Derrick Rose bounced back, but a career night from All-Star snub LaMarcus Aldridge and another departure from the suffocating defense that has propelled the Bulls (34-16) to their much-ballyhooed start to the season doomed them in Portland, as the Trail Blazers (28-24) triumphed, 109-103, Monday night at the Rose Garden.

This is two games in a row that we put ourselves in a bad position because were not guarding, said a clearly frustrated Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. We werent able to take anything away from them, so it was an easy game for them offensively.

Theres not one aspect of our defense were doing well right now, from defensive transition to post defense to pick-and-roll defense to catch-and-shoot defense. Once we correct that, well give ourselves a chance to win, he continued. Tonight, we came out and again, we let them to get going early, big scoring first quarter. They get their confidence early in the game, now its much harder to slow people down.

The visitors didnt let an inauspicious startPortland small forward Nicolas Batum (12 points, five rebounds, three assists) scored the Trail Blazers first four points, including two free throws after drawing a foul on Luol Deng (15 points) on the games first possession; the play was delayed but upheldderail them, as All-Star point guard Rose (36 points, six assists) didnt bide his time in impacting the game. Rose hit his first three shots (all pull-up jumpers) and totaled eight points by the midway mark of the first quarter.

On the Trail Blazers end of things, veteran point guard Andre Miller (27 points, 11 assists, six rebounds) was his typically deceptive self, mesmerizing the Bulls defense on an uncontested drive and layup, then suckering Rose into a foul off a head-and-shoulders fake down low.

I think our offense is there, but defensively, were terrible right now, said Rose afterwards. It seemed like we were just going point for point with them, especially at the beginning of the game. Thats where it started, then it just continued through the whole gameits killing us.

Rose also acknowledged, I did a terrible job with Millerjumping in the air, stupid fouls.

Speaking of fouls, Dengs first one was significant; he picked up a second in the early going and was forced to the pine.

The first foul, I tried to run him off the line and he made a good play. The second foul, he just bumped into me, but its still a foul, said Deng, whos rarely in foul trouble. The third one (which he picked up in the second quarter), he the referee came up to me at halftime and said he missed that one.

Do I get one back? he quipped. Hows it work?

Carlos Boozer (17 points, 11 rebounds) used a high activity level and precise shot-making to put his stamp on the opening period, while power forward counterpart Aldridge (career-high 42 points, eight rebounds)the erstwhile Bulls draft prospectgave Portlands guests fits on the other end of the floor. Reserve sharpshooter Kyle Korver (11 points, six rebounds) came off the bench to give Chicago a boost late in the quarter, but the Bulls still trailed, 28-26, after the initial frame, a logical conclusion when allowing the opposing team to shoot 78.6 percent (11-for-14) from the floor.

Korvers hot hand carried over to the second quarter and with fellow reserves Ronnie Brewer, Taj Gibson, backup point guard C.J. Watson and rookie center Omer Asik (nine points, five rebounds) playing with energy, Chicagos second unit separated themselves from the Blazers, despite not having the scoring presence of Deng, who usually stays on with the Bulls reserves to start the period. A missed wide-open transition by Brewer, however, snuffed out the visitors momentum for the time being and when Portland climbed back to within three points, Thibodeau called timeout to halt the proceedings.

The home team continued to surge, eventually overtaking their guests behind the play of Aldridge, versatile swingman Batum and instant-offense reserve Rudy Fernandez (18 points), putting the Bulls on their heels. Portlands gaudy shooting numbers (from the free-throw line, too) persisted, as they appeared to get uncontested drives on almost every other possession and were aided by Chicagos occasionally ragged play.

I dont know what they shot, but it felt like we didnt put stops together. They got what they wanted, said Deng. Portland is a very good team, but we could play a lot better defensively.

Still, the Bulls managed to survive the Blazers push and the game remained a taut, neck-and-neck affair leading up to the intermission, at which point the two teams were knotted up at 50 points apiece.

Rose asserted himself offensively to begin the third quarter, but so did Aldridgewidely regarded as an All-Star snubwho was the main reason Portland jumped out to a slim cushion. Defensive lapses and inefficient offense marked this stretch for the Bulls, and after Aldridge corralled two of his own misses before throwing down a dunk in traffic, Thibodeau called timeout to make adjustments.

Aldridge is tough because of his skill set. Hes a knockdown from 17, 18 feet, hes got a terrific post game, hes got a high release, its very difficult to get to his shot, praised Thibodeau.

Added Boozer: I think he just got a lot of easy ones. He ran the floor. We didnt do a good job of getting back. A lot of spin-out lobs. He might have had 15, 16 points running the floor and spinning out for lobs. And he shot a lot of free throws.

Chicago didnt allow the Blazers lead to swell to double figures, but they also were unable to significantly chip away at the deficit, as the home teams momentumbuoyed by the roaring Rose Garden spectatorswas simply too much to overcome in one fell swoop. There were too many miscues, blown assignments and moments when the Bulls got out-hustled by Portland, but a late-period push enabled the visitors to close to within 75-72 through three quarters.

The beginning of the final stanza was a tenuous portion of the contest for Chicago, which managed to stay afloat with its second-unit players, but couldnt remove the contest from the Blazers grasp. Eventually, the Bulls reserves pulled to within a point, prompting a timeout from Portland head coach Nate McMillan in an attempt to regain what was working for the home team earlier in the game.

Thibodeau filtered in his regulars midway through the quarter, but an untimely foul against his superstarRose fouled Fernandez on a three-point attempt; the Spaniard hit all three free throwsseemingly gave the Blazers new life and made Chicagos uphill battle even more difficult. Rose atoned for his sins soon afterwards with his patented two-hand, cock-back dunkin trafficthat silenced the loud audience and sent a buzz throughout the arena.

Thibodeau was faced with a dilemma as McMillan employed Portlands small-ball lineup: Boozer, not known as the strongest defender was forced to guard either Aldridge or Batum as the games stretch run approached. Aldridge was certainly the Blazers primary option, but Boozer guarding the perimeter-oriented Batum was a mismatch. And even with Gibson, a better defender guarding Aldridge, the Blazers power forward was able to spin for a alley-oop lob pass that brought down the house, leading to a Bulls timeout.

Chicago fought back valiantly, Portlandand especially Aldridgewas just too much in the end.

Our team effort on defense definitely has to improve. Teams shooting over 50 percent, thats not Bulls basketball, said veteran big man Kurt Thomas. Weve got to quit giving up so many fast-break points, wide-open jump shots. Weve just been breaking down defensively.

Opined Korver: I think its a combination of a lot of small things. Weve got to talk better, I think firstcommunication is key. Our pick-and-roll defense has kind of slipped a little bit and thats a whole lot of the NBA.

Concluded Thibodeau: We have to make some changes. We have to do a much better job. Our intensity has to be greater, our concentration has to be greater and weve got to challenge shots. If were not challenging shots, were not very good.

Things in this league change quickly, so you can go from playing well to playing poorly very quickly and you can change it from bad to good also. Were not playing our defense, so we have to make the necessary changes to our defense to correct the problems, he continued. If we keep doing the same things, were going to end up with the same results. Until we change our approach, the defense isnt going to change and we cant win unless we play defense.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

NBA offseason gone wild as league executives go into overdrive to compete with Golden State

NBA offseason gone wild as league executives go into overdrive to compete with Golden State

NBA free agency doesn't officially begin until 11 p.m. Chicago time on Friday, but league executives have already gone into overdrive in their race to create the next super-team to compete with the Golden State Warriors.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey hinted he had a big move up his sleeve last week, suggesting the Warriors "aren't unbeatable." Well, Morey unveiled that big move on Wednesday, rounding up a bunch of non-guaranteed contracts from all over the league to help him acquire Clippers' All-Star point guard Chris Paul before free agency even begins.

Paul met with Clippers officials on Tuesday, and basically told Doc Rivers he was going to sign with Houston as a free agent, so if the Clippers wanted to get anything for him, they better work out a trade right away. The return L.A. got in the 7-for-1 deal was hardly overwhelming, headlined by Chicago native Patrick Beverley and super-sub Lou Williams, and it showed once again how league executives are powerless if a star player decides he wants a chance of scenery.

Paul and James Harden wanted to play together, and Morey and his staff came up with a creative way to get it done. And, by all reports, Morey isn't done yet. The Rockets are hoping to swing a deal for either Paul George or Carmelo Anthony as a third star in the frontcourt, giving them a shooter's chance against the champion Warriors.

George is one of the biggest chess pieces being moved around boards in executive offices all around the league. Ever since George informed Pacers management he isn't interested in re-signing with the team, GM Kevin Pritchard has been searching for the best possible deal.

The Cavaliers would love to add George as the new third star on their super-team with LeBron and Kyrie Irving and send Kevin Love to the Pacers or to a third team that would provide Indiana with young players and/or draft picks.

Boston is hoping to trade some of Danny Ainge's treasure-trove of draft picks to bring George in, but only after they make a free agent run at Utah All-Star swingman Gordon Hayward, who played his college ball for Celtics coach Brad Stevens at Butler. Remember, making a trade for George carries a lot of risk, since he's eligible to become a free agent next summer and could wind up being a one-year rental.

George has told anyone who will listen he plans to sign on with the Lakers in the summer of 2018, but will new Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson get antsy with all the trade interest in George and try to bring him in now? Is it worth it for Magic to give up young players like Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson if he can just wait a year and sign George without giving up any assets?

We're already hearing reports of George trying to recruit Warriors sharp-shooter Klay Thompson to join him on the Lakers when Klay becomes a free agent in 2019. And, speculation continues about LeBron heading west to join the Lakers if the Cavs come up short of a championship again next season.

So many questions as we approach the start of free agency. Where will Derrick Rose end up after a fourth knee surgery? Will the Clippers be interested in bringing Rose in to play with Blake Griffin and keep Lob City going? And what about veterans like Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Serge Ibaka, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala, Kyle Korver, J.J. Redick, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, George Hill, Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague? What kind of market will they find with fewer teams having the kind of cap space we saw last summer?

And, where will Carmelo Anthony wind up now that Phil Jackson is out as Knicks President? Jackson might be the greatest coach in NBA history after winning 11 championships with the Bulls and Lakers, but it was clear the Zen Master was overmatched as a front office executive. Phil didn't want to travel to scout top college prospects, didn't stay on top of day to day roster moves around the league, and insisted on saddling his coaches with running an offense that didn't translate in today's game.

Maybe now Jeff Hornacek will be able to run his up-tempo offense that had some success in Phoenix instead of Phil's beloved triangle. But don't count on Anthony being a part of next season's Knicks team. Reports out of New York suggest the organization is still intent on dealing Melo, problem is that nasty no-trade clause that Phil gave Anthony on top of a $127 million contract back in 2014.

In the coming weeks, you can count on hearing all kinds of Anthony-related rumors. Maybe a trade to Houston, Boston or even Philadelphia. And, if Melo is able to convince the Knicks to buy out the remainder of his contract, look for him to join forces with LeBron in Cleveland for a shot at that elusive championship ring.

The Knicks may have rid themselves of Phil’s front office mismanagement, but their roster is still a mess with no easy solutions in sight.

The great thing for NBA fans is the buzz created by all the speculation. NBA offseasons are the most impactful of any sport since the acquisition of a star player can cause a major shift in any team's fortunes. Unfortunately here in Chicago, don't expect any free agent buzz this year, unless you're excited about the possibility of a Dwyane Wade buyout.

Bulls Executive VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson made it clear the Bulls are going in a new direction and will be patient and disciplined in their rebuild. That means no spending on veterans this summer as the front office keeps its power dry for some time in the future when the Bulls are closer to being a playoff contender again.

Player development will be the focus of the next couple seasons as Fred Hoiberg and his staff try to find out exactly what they have in young players like Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Cameron Payne, Paul Zipser, Jerian Grant, Cris Felicio and Niko Mirotic.

Ideally, the Bulls will lose enough games next season to put themselves into position to land a top-3 pick in next year's top-heavy draft. Paxson talked about building a contending team through the draft, and that will require a lot of patience from everyone involved. Adding a Michael Porter, Jr. or Luka Doncic to a young backcourt of Dunn and Zach LaVine and a promising "stretch 4" in Markkanen could be the foundation of the next Bulls playoff team.

So, while the league's top teams engage in a massive arms race to try to close the gap on the Warriors over the next few weeks, all will be quiet in the city of Chicago. The buzzword for Bulls fans for the foreseeable future is PATIENCE.

Bulls Talk Podcast: An NBA gone wild and Zach LaVine sit down interview

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: An NBA gone wild and Zach LaVine sit down interview

On the latest BullsTalk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Vincent Goodwill delve into the blockbuster news of Chris Paul being traded to the Rockets. Will any other teams try to go all-in?

With Phil Jackson parting ways with the Knicks, Goodwill shares the behind-the-scenes story of how James Dolan hired Jackson to run his franchise. 

Then, Schanowski sits down with the newest Bull Zach LaVine to discuss recovering from his ACL tear, his love of Space Jam and moving to Chicago.

Plus, the guys break down their first impressions of LaVine and his potential in a Bulls uniform, and how the new CBA is actually leading to teams getting rid of their stars rather than keeping them.

Finally, what will the Bulls do with Dwyane Wade, and where will Derrick Rose end up?

Check out the latest Bulls Talk Podcast right here: