Ugly but exciting, Bulls come from 19 down to beat Hawks

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There were moments in the second quarter — when at one point the Bulls were 1-of-12 shooting and the Hawks 3-for-13 — when this contest made you want to weep for the game of basketball. The art of shooting felt like it had been set back 50 years.

Then the ending redeemed all that is great about the game. Well, unless you’re a Hawks fan, then it was just frustrating.

Chicago stormed from 19 down in the third quarter to pull out a dramatic 76-74 win — on a game winning basket where Derrick Rose set the pick and was the decoy and Luol Deng slid open for a layup. Watch it for yourself.

First, we must talk about the ugliness. The Chicago Bulls started out just ice cold — there were 8-of-33 at one point in the second quarter with eight turnovers. When you have as many turnovers as baskets, you know things are going poorly. Chicago also started 0-9 from three and like they had against the Heat the night before, the Hawks looked pretty good on defense.

It got so bad the Bulls were booed by the home town faithful.

Which is unfair. In a season with barely any training camp and a condensed schedule that reduces practices we are going to see more of these off nights. We’ve already seen this before multiple times this season, where a team looks brilliant one night and a mess two nights later. Coaches are experimenting with lineups still, players are adjusting and there are inevitably sloppy nights for every team.

What mattered for the Bulls is they fought through it and turned it around.

Rose, who finished with 30, led the way scoring 17 of those in the fourth quarter. The Bulls went on a 20-6 run to start the quarter as they did it with a lineup of Rose, Deng, Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver and Omer Asik. For the whole quarter. Carlos Boozer never saw the floor, nor did Ronnie Brewer, and Joakim Noah came in just for his passing on the final play (which worked out, he got the assist to Deng on the game winner).

For the Hawks, they started to come apart under a combination of tired legs from having to play the Heat and Bulls back-to-back, then getting out of the flow of their offense. When things got tough the Hawks too often resorted to their traditional late game offense Joe Johnson pounding the ball for a while then a pull up jumper. Johnson finished the game with 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting (we told you parts of this game was ugly).

What kept the Hawks in it at the end were rainbow jumpers from Josh Smith — but when he is taking those and not attacking you live with it. Eventually he missed a couple. Meanwhile Rose kept attacking the rim all night.

Which is why the last play worked. Everyone in the building thought Rose would get the ball, so when he was the screener on Deng everyone stayed with him and by the time the pass was made and the Hawks reacted, it was too late.

Bulls win. Ugly, but that’s how good teams win some times. And it can be a lot of fun.

Frustrated Kyrie Irving on another ring: “And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

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Since the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not looked like a championship team. They have been in a malaise going 8-10 with the second-worst defense in the NBA during that stretch. The Cavs like a team that is just waiting for the games to have meaning again in the playoffs. It makes one tempted to say this will come back to bite them in the postseason, but which team in the East is going to beat them?

The Cavaliers players are frustrated with their play of late, too.  Kyrie Irving vented about it after practice, as reported by Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Obviously it was just a frustrating game and there have been a few frustrating games for all of us,” Irving said. “Just getting back to what we do, having fun with one another and being truthful with one another — we’ll be good…

And then Irving said: “You can’t rely on just thinking that one championship is enough. It’s natural for human beings to just get comfortable. To rely on just having won a championship. But if you a (competitor) you want two, you want three, you want four. And if you dedicate yourself more like you say you do, then you want more. And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

Injuries have had key players, most recently Kevin Love and J.R. Smith out of the rotation of late, and working them back in has not gone smoothly. Still, this is the same core from the team that won the title last season, it shouldn’t be that difficult to get back into a groove.

Cleveland is acting like a team that thinks it can flip the switch.

Maybe they can, but there are some powerful teams out West who seemed to have flipped theirs long ago.

 

Rumor: Bulls ready to move on from Jimmy Butler this summer

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Predicting what the Chicago Bulls front office will do this summer is a game of roulette — the ball can land anywhere and it wouldn’t be a surprise. Is Dwyane Wade coming back? Is Nikola Mirotic part of the future? Fred Hoiberg? What kind of team are the Bulls trying to build, anyway?

Then there is the biggest one: Is Jimmy Butler still part of the long-term plan? Or is he going to be moved to facilitate a rebuilding process?

Last summer when the Bulls had the chance to trade him, they kept Butler to build around him… then made some interesting choices in trying to do that. They didn’t get enough shooting, players didn’t fit well, and others didn’t develop, and the Bulls are struggling to even make the postseason.

So what do the Bulls do this summer? One exec told Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Bulls were going to move Butler.

Paul George and Jimmy Butler were involved in trade rumors at the deadline, and all indications are that those conversations will resume this offseason. One front-office source told me recently that Butler is “as good as gone,” while George sounds like a player who wants out.”

Paul George wanting to contend (or if not, be in Los Angeles) is not news, but whether the Pacers decide to be serious about trading him this summer depends on a number of factors that we’re not going to get into here. This article is about Butler.

Do the Bulls want to trade Butler? Some in the front office do, some don’t. There were reports the Bulls wanted an All-Star level player for him so the team did not take a step back, but nobody was giving that up. Everyone in Chicago from ownership through management is not on the same page, which helps explain some of the stop-gap team building moves by the team. Chicago needs to decide if it wants to go for the full rebuild, which is what happens if they trade Butler. The playoffs are out of the questions for a few years if they do, but that’s not a bad thing if they draft well and commit to the plan. However, there is a sense that ownership thinks “this is Chicago, we don’t rebuild.”

All of which is to say, if the Bulls trade Butler it’s not a huge surprise. If they keep him, it’s not a huge surprise. But other teams — hello Boston — may be prepping for him to come back on the trade market around the draft.

PBT Podcast: Future of Isaiah Thomas, Ricky Rubio, also award talk with Dan Feldman

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We asked for your questions on Twitter and Facebook, and you gave myself and Dan Feldman got some fascinating discussion points:

If the Celtics land a top two pick, what does that mean for the future of Isaiah Thomas in Boston?

Is Ricky Rubio‘s run of strong play mean he remains the point guard of the future in Minnesota?

How good is Devin Booker?

We discuss all of that plus the NBA end of season awards that we are still looking at and trying to make up our minds about.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Rumor: Dell Demps out, Joe Dumars in with Pelicans?

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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is on shaky ground.

What about New Orleans general manager Dell Demps?

A long-swirling rumor is getting renewed.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.

The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.

League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.

Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.

But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.

Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?

He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.

Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.

Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.

But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.