Author: Kurt Helin

Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol

Joakim Noah with sweet bounce pass to Pau Gasol for dunk (VIDEO)


There were stretches Thursday night where the Bulls played energized, exciting basketball. The problem was those only came when their backs were against the wall and it never lasted, which is why the Lakers — who played aggressively all night — won in double overtime.

This came during one of the Bulls good stretches.

When Wayne Ellington saved the ball and took himself out of the play doing so, Jimmy Butler got the “pass” and quickly fed Joakim Noah who was diving to the basket. Then Noah made a fantastic behind-the-back bounce pass to Pau Gasol for the dunk. That’s a great pass from the big man.

Gasol finished with 20 and 10 on his return to Staples Center. It just wasn’t enough.

Three Things We Learned in NBA Thursday: The All-Star Rosters need to be expanded

Washington Wizards v Portland Trail Blazers

If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while hearing how the Denver Broncos almost traded a young John Elway

1) The All-Star rosters need to be expanded so we don’t have more Cousins/Lillard situations. Yes, DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Lillard got screwed by not being put on the All-Star team. They deserved a spot. The problem is in the West, who do you replace? Tim Duncan? He’s putting up 14 and 10 plus is in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year. If you think this is a lifetime achievement award you need to watch more Spurs games. And at guard, you want to remove Chris Paul? Then you’re taking him for granted because he’s right at his career average numbers — 17.5 points a game, plus 9.7 assists to just 2.2 turnovers a night.

The problem is there are more deserving players than spots — so why not add more spots? Bump the roster to 15 players. The game is an exhibition, so you cut a few minutes to make room for some other deserving guys, the fans aren’t going to complain. They want a show, they want to see the world’s best players, why not make sure they are all there?

2) Bulls don’t bother against another sub .500 team and lose. Again. The Chicago Bulls have 18 losses on the season and half of them have come against sub-.500 teams. This is a team that for years under Tom Thibodeau had a clear identity — they would play physical defense and just out work the opponent. This season the offense is clicking but Chicago is 12th in the league in defensive efficiency — they are inconsistent with their effort. A couple nights after playing maybe their best game of the season to beat Golden State the Bulls mentally took the night off. The Lakers opened the game on a 6-0 run, were up 11 after the first quarter and led by double digits most of the first half.

“We started the game with low energy, we were badly out rebounded,” Thibodeau said after the game. “They started out shooting 60 percent in the first half and any team that you give confidence too like that, it’s hard to shut them off.

Led by Joakim Noah the Bulls played 90 seconds of defense to end the game, and that was enough to make up nine points, tie the game and send it to overtime. Then double overtime. As it has been all season, the Bulls played a few minutes of good defense then stopped again. To a man the players say they know about the problem and it’s just a matter of effort at the start of games. Maybe so, but we need to see it from them.

3) Zach Randolph can still put up numbers. Maybe not making the All-Star team motivated Randolph, but whatever the reason he put up a quality line against Denver — 15 points and 17 rebounds — as the Grizzlies just rolled the Nuggets Thursday. Randolph is still just a load down on the low block and he may be a third offensive option some nights (behind Marc Gasol and Mike Conley) he can still cause defenses nightmares.

One day after having surgery, Kobe Bryant came to see Pau Gasol


LOS ANGELES — Thursday night the Lakers were paying tribute to Pau Gasol, a thank you to a man without whom the Lakers would not have their last two titles. A man unceremoniously left dangling in trade talks for the better part of two seasons before he left as a free agent last summer.

Kobe Bryant is as big a Gasol fan as there is in Los Angeles and wanted to be there for the tribute — and he wasn’t going to let a little thing like surgery the day before get in his way.

The two men spoke before the game briefly, Gasol said after his Bulls fell in double overtime to the Lakers. While the original plan had been for Gasol and Bryant to address the Lakers fans before the game, Kobe understandably was not up for that.

“I really appreciate him coming, I didn’t expect it at all,” Gasol said. “I know he just had surgery, I think it’s just an incredible gesture on his part to want to come and say hello….

“He just had surgery, he was in pain, I told him to go rest, get out of here. It was a great surprise to see him. We’ll talk.”

The Lakers passed out “Thanks Pau” shirts and showed a video tribute to a man who played seven seasons with the Lakers. The fans gave Gasol a standing ovation, and he came out to acknowledge them for it.

“I was a bit overwhelmed,” Gasol said. “I didn’t know exactly what to expect, so it was emotional. You always have a welcome appreciation for that kind of support and love. I’m very thankful to the fans that I played in front of for so many years. We went through so much here.”

Gasol had 20 points and 10 rebounds, plus had a key tip in to send the game to overtime. But the inconsistent Bulls defense could not slow the Lakers who won 123-118 in double OT.