Bulls fall to George, Pacers after late no-call

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Bulls fall to George, Pacers after late no-call

As hotly contested as the Bulls-Pacers rivalry has been over the past few seasons, its no surprise that Tuesday nights game at the United Center came down to the wire. In a low-scoring affair, the Bulls (8-8) withstood an offensive onslaught from Pacers (9-9) swingman Paul George and had a chance to send the game into overtime late, but a controversial no-call on a Luol Deng drive to the basket was a crucial part of how the hosts dropped the 80-76 contest.
As usual when these two teams face off, it was a close-knit affair from the outset, with the emphasis on defense or at least not a lot of offensive productivity. For the Pacers, George (34 points, nine rebounds) came out firing, showing off both his vast potential and diverse scoring repertoire.
The Bulls were sparked by another strong effort from the frontcourt trio of Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, all of whom were active from the early going and asserted themselves as scorers. However, propelled by the play of George, the Bulls trailed, 20-18, at the conclusion of the opening period.
Deng carried over his aggressive play to the second quarter and with support from the second unit, the Bulls eventually overtook their guests. Nate Robinson, in particular, filling in for a foul-burdened Kirk Hinrich, provided a boost with his instant-offense game.
Behind George and point guard George Hill, the visitors stayed within close contact with the hosts in the choppy, whistle-plagued contest. At the intermission, though, the Bulls held a 37-25 advantage.
After the break, Hinrichs playmaking and the scoring of Duke products Deng (17 points, seven rebounds) and Boozer were the primary catalysts for the Bulls. But Indiana, led by Georgehis stellar play was expected by many observers prior to the season, but the athletic wing has had some uneven performances in the wake of sidelined star Danny Grangers knee injurywho got ample help from center Roy Hibbert (10 points, 11 rebounds).
Suddenly, the Bulls found themselves in a hole, creeping toward a double-digit margin, and the Pacers maintained separation from their hosts as the period waned on. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls narrowed the gap a bit, but they were still on the wrong end of a 60-55 score.
Reserves Robinson and Jimmy Butler breathed life into the previously dormant United Center crowd. Butler got a steal and subsequent dunk in transition to start things off, followed by Robinson (19 points) going on a personal 7-0 runhe hit a triple to beat the shot clock, made a fast-break layup and concluded his spurt with a floaterbefore George knocked down a long-distance shot of his own to silence the partisan audience.
The damage was done, however, as the Bulls seized control of both the lead and the game, heading into the contests stretch run, but George refused to relent, carrying the Pacers on his back to ensure the visitors wouldnt be run out of the building until it was officially time for them to go. George was unconscious, hitting shots from every angle with one of the leagues top defenders in Deng, draped all over him and in this slugfest, his contested jumper to make it 76-74 in Indianas favor with 2:06 remaining had the effect of a last-second dagger.
Bulls miscues, whether unforced or simply bad bounces, plagued the hosts late and after Lance Stephenson converted a layupon which he was fouled, but missed the ensuing free throwwith 45.5 seconds left, it looked to be a done deal. Boozer (14 points, 10 rebounds) had a chance to cut it to a one-point deficit with a three-point play opportunity of his own with 37.2 seconds to go, but like Stephenson, he also missed the foul shot.
Down two points, the Bulls got a big defensive stop and after Taj Gibson secured the rebound with 14.1 seconds on the clock, they called a timeout before a chance to tie the game at 78 apiece or even go ahead for the win. After the inbounds pass, Noah got the ball to a cutting Deng on the baseline and though he drew contact from Hibbertthe center had his arms outstretched, but it was a controversial decision, as evidenced by the home fans displeasureno call was made and after a pair of David West (10 points, nine rebounds, five assists) free throws with 5.2 seconds to play, it was all academic.

Bulls finalize training camp roster

Bulls finalize training camp roster

The Bulls finalized their training camp roster on Monday morning, in the lead-up to the start of the team's official media day.

The team will carry 19 players into the preseason before cutting that number down a maximum of 15 in late October.

No. 0 Isaiah Canaan, guard: Signed to a two-year, $2.2 million deal in July, Canaan will compete with Spencer Dinwiddie and Jerian Grant for minutes behind Rajon Rondo.

No. 2 Jerian Grant, guard: The combo guard will get a fresh start in Chicago after an inconsistent rookie season with the Knicks.

No. 3 Dwyane Wade, guard: The three-time NBA champion and future Hall of Famer begins the next chapter of his famed career after 13 seasons in Miami.

No. 5 Bobby Portis, forward: After showing flashes of potential in his rookie season, the 6-foot-11 Portis will be in line for an extended role following Joakim Noah's and Pau Gasol's departures.

No. 6 Cristiano Felicio, center: The Brazilian impressed plenty in last season's final month, and he should see significant minutes behind Robin Lopez.

No. 7 D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, guard: The undrafted rookie averaged 14.8 points per game in his senior season at Georgetown.

No. 8 Robin Lopez, center: One of the league's most underrated centers, Lopez was one of five players to average 10 points, 7 rebounds and play in all 82 games a year ago.

No. 9 Rajon Rondo, guard: The veteran point guard led the NBA in assists last season, but playing on his fourth team in three seasons means his best days may be behind him.

No. 11 Doug McDermott, forward: The sharpshooter showed significant improvement from Year 1 to Year 2, finishing sixth in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage. Now about the defense...

No. 15 Thomas Walkup, guard: The All-American honorable mention went for 33 points in No. 14 Stephen F. Austin's opening-round upset win over No. 3 West Virginia.

No. 16 Paul Zipser, forward: The Bulls' 2016 second-round pick can do a bit of everything, and at 22 years old he could be ready to contribute sooner than later.

No. 20 Tony Snell, forward: It may be difficult for the former first-rounder to crack the rotation after a forgettable third season.

No. 21 Jimmy Butler, guard: An All-Star in each of the last two seasons, the 27-year-old Butler is poised for yet another career year.

No. 22 Taj Gibson, forward: The 31-year-old veteran is in a contract year, and should see an even more expanded role after starting 55 games last season - even if Nikola Mirotic replaces him in the starting lineup.

No. 24 Vince Hunter, forward: The 6-foot-8 Hunter averaged 21.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for the Reno Bighorns last season as rookie.

No. 25 Spencer Dinwiddie, guard: A casuality of the Pistons' crowded backcourt, Dinwiddie has a chance to carve out a role in Chicago behind Rajon Rondo.

No 31 J.J. Avila, forward: A standout at Colorado State who graduated in 2015, Avila appeared in four Summer League games for the Knicks, averaging 1.2 points and 1.5 rebounds.

No. 44 Nikola Mirotic, forward: The Bulls will be relying on Mirotic's outside shot, which improved mightily in his second season from 31.6 percent to 39 percent.

No. 45 Denzel Valentine, guard: The jack-of-all-trades will need some time to find his role, but he's an apt passer and outside shooter with good size on the wing.

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

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USA Today Sports Images

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

All the new guys: Last October, the Bulls entered camp with essentially the same roster that lost to Cleveland in the second round of the 2015 playoffs, save for then-rookie Bobby Portis. This time, there’s no Derrick Rose, no Joakim Noah, no Pau Gasol, no Mike Dunleavy, and no E’Twaun Moore.

That’s four starters (essentially) whose performances or presence has been counted on in some way, even through some of the uncertainty that surrounded a few of these guys.

Conceivably, the Bulls can have around five new players in the actual rotation who weren’t thought of this time last year, although last year’s product left a lot to be desired.

The adjustment time and chemistry building starts Tuesday.

Who starts at power forward: All other positions in the first five are set, especially with the new faces. But the pivotal decision for Fred Hoiberg, if it hasn’t been made already, is who will start alongside Robin Lopez at center. It could be Nikola Mirotic, or Taj Gibson or even Bobby Portis, depending on Hoiberg’s sensibilities.

Smart money says it’ll probably be Mirotic considering he’s the best perimeter shooter of the three and actually a decent defensive rebounder. Gibson being a great screener, finisher and defender makes him intriguing as an option, but offensive space will be limited if he’s out there with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. As for Portis, is he ready to take a step toward consistency in year 2?

The point guard: Rajon Rondo’s basketball intelligence is genius level, where he can master a gameplan and probably even devise one of his own that rivals his coaches. The man can counter a play before the opposing defense initiates an adjustment. That said, how will he and Hoiberg mesh this season? He clashed with Doc Rivers, had knock-down battles with Rick Carlisle in Dallas and George Karl didn’t have it in him to fight anybody in Sacramento, let alone Rondo.

Rondo likes playing the game at his speed, with his own feel and rhythm. Hoiberg will have to tailor his style for the new personnel he has, and luckily for him, isn’t a “my way or the highway” type of fellow that’s sure to rub Rondo the wrong way. Will Rondo embrace Hoiberg’s system and become an extension of the coach, or will Hoiberg give Rondo enough rope to explore Rondo’s intelligence to find a middle ground?

Will that even be enough?

The backup point guard: Just as intriguing as the starting power forward battle will be who backs up Rondo at point guard, although it’s likely that player won’t have to fill the traditional role of doing anything aside from walking the ball up and letting either Butler or Wade initiate the offense.

It’s likely Hoiberg will change his substitution patterns to have either Wade or Butler anchor second units in the second quarter, as a way to maximize the time he has with both while not having them invade each other’s space in the halfcourt. So who plays backup point could be more about who fits best next to the best player on the floor as opposed to who the best player is.

It seems to open the door for rookie Denzel Valentine since he can play three positions (although defense will be a task), along with Jerian Grant, Isaiah Canaan and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Grant was a first-rounder in 2015 who wants to show he’s worth that status, while Dinwiddie was projected as a lottery pick three years ago before tearing his ACL at Colorado.

It’s certainly not the most stressful decision Hoiberg will have to make, but a curious one.

Developing an identity: Does it happen in training camp? Who knows, but tones are often set as to what type of squad a team will be. Last season, Hoiberg believed he was building on a solid foundation after Tom Thibodeau’s defense first mentality, but signs of things crumbling began to show very early in the preseason.

This season, with so many new pieces, moving parts and overall uncertainty, there’s question as to what kind of team the Bulls will be. It’s intriguing, to say the least. But what will the Bulls hang their hats on come late October?