The Starting Five: Bulls vs. Raptors

The Starting Five: Bulls vs. Raptors

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
12:33 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

1. Talk about a quick turnaround. A day after trading James Johnson to the Raptors, the Bulls will be reunited with their former teammate. They have high expectations for the second-year forward in Toronto. JJ is a good player. Good young player, didnt have enough time to play because of who we have on our team, said Rose after Thursdays shootaround. I think that hes going to be a good player in this leagueJohnson brings a lot of energy, athleticism to the game. A guy that can run one, two and three, and four sometimes. Hes very versatile on the court. Chimed in Joakim Noah: JJs the man. I think hes somebody who works really hard, who has a lot of talent and I think Raptors fans are going to be really excited with JJ. Hes somebody whose talent hasnt really been seen yet. He really hasnt had too much playing time. I wish him nothing but the best. Hes a great teammate. Although Thibodeau seemed to keep Johnson on a short leash early in the season, then relegate him to strictly late-game, blowout situations, the coach had positive praise for the Wake Forest product. He was terrific for us. We didnt a whole lot of minutes for him. His attitude was great, he worked extremely hard, hes athletic. he can play the three, the four, he can play some two and I think its a good move for the Raptors. I also think its a good move for us because it gives us some flexibility going forward.

2. At 15-41, the lowly Raptors arent exactly a playoff contender, but Johnson should fit in nicely to a young, rebuilding and athletic squad, fitting in with the likes of emerging second-year swingman DeMar DeRozan and similarly athletic wing Sonny Weems. If Johnson is afforded the immediate playing time, he should provide Toronto with more size and versatility on the perimeter. While he hasnt seen much action as of late, Johnsons encouraging D-League stint and flashes of potentialin key situationsearly in the season (not to mention his rookie year, in which he started 11 games for Vinny Del Negro) show that he has something to offer. Unfortunately, that opportunity wasnt there for him in Chicago.

3. With the NBA trade deadline Thursday afternoon, theres been rampant speculation that the Bulls arent done making moves, particularly to address their supposed deficiency at shooting guard. Houstons Courtney Lee is a name thats been bandied around with frequency, although reports indicate the Rockets want sizespecifically Omer Asikin return. With the 2011 first-round pick acquired from Toronto in the Johnson trade, however, the Bulls could not only sweeten the pot in a potential deal for Lee (the organization reportedly previously offered one first-rounder and were rebuffed), but for another candidate whose name got a lot of traction earlier in the season: Memphis O.J. Mayo. Two veterans, sharpshooter Rasual Butler of the Clippers and Naperville, Ill., native Anthony Parker of the Cavaliers, could also be in the mix, while Detroits Richard Hamilton is a long shot, although theres a slim chance the disgruntled Rip could be bought out by the Pistons after the deadline and signed later in the season.

4. When evaluating the aforementioned players, obviously Lee and Mayo have youth on their side, as they are both third-year players. Lee was a rookie starter on an NBA Finals team in Orlando, but was traded to an almost historically-bad Nets squad the following offseason before landing in Houston in another offseason deal last summer. The Indianapolis native and former Western Kentucky star is considered low maintenance on and off the court, an efficient scorer, tough defender and solid outside shooter. Mayo might have the most talent of the bunch, but also comes with the highest risk factor, after a well-publicized incident surrounding a card game with teammate and Chicago native Tony Allen on the team plane. Hes a more than capable scorer, but like Lee, he now comes off the bench (a move reportedly made for a more balanced second unit, but tellingly hasnt seemed to affect the Grizzlies chemistry or record) and although he can shoot the ball, hes more of a volume scorer, needs the ball in his hands to be truly effective and hasnt proven to be the type of defender that would do well under Thibodeau. As for the veterans, Butler would probably be the best fit because of his long-range marksmanship, while Parkers toughness and versatility would seem to be a natural fit and although Hamilton is more of a mid-range shooter than a long-ball specialist, his ability to play off the ball and championship pedigree would give a somewhat inexperienced team (only Thomas has been to the Finals) some valuable leadership come playoff time.

5. Dont forget to follow me on Twitter at @CSNBullsInsider.

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.

Would the Bears consider selecting Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer?

Would the Bears consider selecting Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer?

Would the Bears consider selecting DeShone Kizer with the No. 3 pick in the upcoming draft?

At what point in the draft should they consider taking a signal caller?

Does it make sense for Ryan Pace and the Bears to take at least one quarterback in every draft?

We answer those questions in the video above in the latest SportsTalk Live segment.

Michigan's magical March ends in one-point loss to Oregon in Sweet Sixteen

zak-irvin-0323.jpg
USA TODAY

Michigan's magical March ends in one-point loss to Oregon in Sweet Sixteen

Michigan's March magic finally ran out.

The guy who's been so fantastic throughout his senior season, point guard Derrick Walton Jr., missed a game-winning 3-point try at the buzzer, and the Wolverines fell to the Oregon Ducks by a 69-68 final score in the Sweet Sixteen.

It was an incredibly competitive game between the Big Ten Tournament champs and the Pac-12 regular-season champs, with neither side ever leading by more than six.

But Moe Wagner, who scored a career-high 26 points in Michigan's second-round win over Louisville, was pretty much a non-factor in this one, scoring just seven points on 3-for-10 shooting.

Still, seniors Walton and Zak Irvin kept an unusually cold-shooting group of Wolverines alive with a combined 39 points, 23 of which came after halftime. D.J. Wilson also scored in double figures with 12, all coming on 3-pointers.

But Michigan, which had been on fire offensively for much of the last month, shot just 43.1 percent from the field and missed 20 of its 31 shots from behind the arc.

The Wolverines actually shot under 40 percent over the opening 20 minutes as the two defenses did good work for these typically high-scoring squads. Michigan turned the ball over seven times before the break but trailed by just two as it went to the locker room.

The tit-for-tat nature of the game continued at the outset of the second half before Oregon reached its game-high six-point lead, but Michigan responded with seven straight and grabbed its first lead of the second half around the 11-minute mark. The Ducks answered that mini surge with six straight of their own, part of a larger 10-4 spurt, before Wilson and Walton hit back-to-back triples to once again give the Wolverines a narrow advantage, this time with a little more than four minutes remaining.

Oregon and Irvin traded buckets from there, and a Walton jumper was Michigan's sixth straight make from the field, putting the Wolverines up three with under two minutes to play. But Michigan didn't score again, and Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey got back-to-back layups, the latter the game-winning one ahead of Walton's missed 3-point attempt as time ran out.

Dorsey was fantastic for the Ducks, scoring 20 points, his sixth straight game with at least 20 points. Bell had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Oregon advanced to its second straight Elite Eight with the win.

Michigan's entertaining end-of-season run is over. Entering Thursday night's game in Kansas City, the Wolverines had won seven straight and 10 of their last 12. Those two losses came by a combined seven points. Add this loss in and just eight points separated Michigan from 13 consecutive wins.

Certainly this group of Wolverines will be remembered for its sensational four wins in four days at the Big Ten Tournament after that horrifying aborted takeoff, as well as for reaching the third Sweet Sixteen in the last five seasons under John Beilein.