Tag Archives: paul pierce

The NBA’s Mariano Rivera returns to Chicago

Joe Dumars, the Detroit Pistons general manager, calls them the Team Mariano Rivera guys.
They’re the players who come into the game to close out your win, in basketball to shut down the opponents by making the big shots down the stretch.
“It’s who can make that Mariano Rivera team,” said Dumars. “I don’t know how many others are out there. I know Kobe’s (Bryant) on there. I know Paul Pierce is on there, and I can name some other guys. But he’s on there, too. He’s proven he’s a closer.”
That’s former Bull Ben Gordon, who was in Chicago Wednesday for his first return as a member of the Pistons after leaving the Bulls as a free agent last summer. Gordon remained uncertain about playing coming into Wednesday’s game after missing the previous two Pistons games with a sprained ankle.
And while the Pistons, without injured Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Charlie Villanueva, would miss Gordon, who is averaging  19.8 points per game for 16th in the league, it’s become apparent the Bulls are missing Gordon as well.
Or at least what Gordon did, which was make big shots at the end of games, if not always the last one, and create pressure for the defense, which opened teammates for presumably better shots.
Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro in preseason talked about the end of games where the team might miss Gordon most, and that has developed, though to sign Gordon without trading anyone would have taken the Bulls out of competing for the possible 2010 free agency class.
An example was the end of the Bulls loss to the Bucks Monday, and not because Brad Miller missed the last shot on the pass from Derrick Rose. It was the correct play with Rose trapped and Miller open. And guys miss last shots, as Gordon did often as well.
But in the last two minutes among those attempting field goals for the Bulls were Miller, Lindsey Hunter and Joakim Noah. None of them scored.
It’s remained an issue for the Bulls, one they’ve pretty much been unable to address in the first month of the season, finding that scorer to make and take the big shots down the stretch.
Gordon, without rancor and in his usual matter-of-fact manner, said he has watched some Bulls games and doesn’t think they’ve replaced him. Gordon made a point to commend his former teammates, but he said:
“I watched a few games and at the end it was basically, with the addition of D. Rose a year ago, there were two guys who could make big shots. Now it looks like it’s only him. John (Salmons) can make big shots and Luol (Deng) can make big shots, but I think last season the team relied on me and D. Rose to make plays down the stretch. It looks like it’s just him right now, but I’m sure they’ll be fine with the guys they have.”
Gordon’s point is there are shots and there are shots. They all count toward the total, but there’s a mindset to finishing, to being the ninth inning last out guy versus the setup man or even the starter.
“I think it’s important to have guys who not only are capable of making big shots, but who actually welcome big shots,” said Dumars. “He’s proven that’s who he is. He’s a closer. He’s done that here in Chicago for, I don’t know, four, five years from the time he got here. As a rookie, he closed out games. That definitely appealed to me.
“He’s made them when they count,” said Dumars. “That’s a commodity that if you have a chance to acquire you do. I don’t think there are a lot of guys like that you can just name and say, ‘These guys are closers.’”
Though Gordon insisted the return to Chicago didn’t mean that much to him as friends and reporters mentioned it more than he thought of it. Though he did say he’d hoped to be at full health.
“It’s frustrating being hurt,” Gordon said after Pistons shootaround Wednesday morning at the United Center. “I pride myself on not missing games. I’m frustrated because I don’t know if I’ll be able to play or not. I like to be 100 percent coming here the first time.
“Chicago is a great city,” Gordon said. “I had great times here. There’s definitely things about the city I’ve missed. I’m happy about where I am now and I feel I made the right decision.”
Gordon said he pretty much expected the result once a deal wasn’t agreed on in the summer of 2008 and he had to sign the qualifying offer for one year.
“Just moving my stuff was the hardest part,” laughed Gordon. “It’s like a family (in Detroit). They made me feel right at home right away. (But) Chicago has a lot of good players. So I didn’t have any bad feelings about (being let go). It is what it is.”
And it’s understandable given Gordon declined $50 million contracts two consecutive summers and the Bulls committed to trying for a potentially higher level free agent.
But in being near the bottom of the NBA in scoring, the Bulls have to feel the effect of losing Gordon.
“I think Chicago misses him a little bit,” said Darrell Walker, the native Chicagoan and former Bull who is now a Pistons assistant. “They’re my team to scout so I‘ve watched them. They don’t really have a guy to go to, to close a game. Derrick’s a good player, but in my opinion he’s not a closer yet.
“For all Ben’s fault, what people thought he had, that he was too short, can’t guard, whatever, he can close a game,” said Walker. “That’s important. As an NBA coach you’ve got to have guy you can go to and know he can close and he is a closer. That’s what Chicago is missing, I feel.
“He’s been great for us,” said Walker. “It’s a new system for him. He’s trying to fit in. But he’s playing good basketball. Ben also creates a lot of stuff for teammates. He’s coming off screens, guys are trying to hedge out and he’ll make that little pocket pass to a big for layups
“I like Salmons a lot,” Walker continued. “He’s no Ben Gordon. Nothing personal. I like Salmons a lot, but he’s not Ben. It’s too bad he couldn’t stay here. But we got him. He’s a professional. If I’m a team paying a guy, this is a guy you don’t have to worry about. He’s going to be in the gym. He takes care of his body. He does the right things. He doesn’t get in trouble. It’s what you want.”

Celtics send message to Bulls: Not this time!

You are not supposed to be able to send messages this early in an NBA season. But it seemed the Boston Celtics air mailed one to the Bulls Friday in Boston’s bruising 118-90 stampede over the Bulls.
Having had to listen for almost six months about how evenly the Bulls played the Celtics in last spring’s memorable opening round, overtime filled series, the Celtics’ play spoke eloquently that things are different now and you kids are not quite ready.
Forget overtime. This one was over before anyone had much time to sit down.
“They played intense defense tonight,” said Derrick Rose, who had a quiet 10 points and two assists, reported a modicum of ankle soreness in what looks like an ongoing watch and was dominated by Rajon Rondo.  “I’m happy this is early in the season so we can come back and learn from it. It took a long tome for us to get in a groove.  I’m still trying to find my groove out there.”
Joakim Noah led the Bulls with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and the Bulls did have five players scoring in double figures. But the game in no way resembled the spirited opening win over the San Antonio Spurs.
“Not to use the easy excuse, but we just didn’t play the same way as we did in the opener,” agreed Kirk Hinrich.  “Defensively, we weren’t helping each other.  It just didn’t seem like the intensity was there.  Offensively, we didn’t play together.  We tended to go off on our own and we struggled as a result of it.  Hopefully we can take this as a learning tool and go down to Miami (Sunday) and play better.”
Sure, you can bring out the excuses, like playing the second of a back to back, arriving late in Boston and then being awakened in the wee hours by a fire alarm in the team hotel.
I’d say Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were bigger warning bells as it was such a complete domination that you were reminded more of a boxing match being stopped early. Like the beaten boxer pleaded, “Would someone answer the door!”
The Bulls managed to get through the first round. But they were being counted out before the second was over.
“I didn’t think it started bad,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro of the Celtics 21-17 first quarter lead.
Though I’d disagree since the Bulls shot five for 20 in the first quarter with John Salmons zero for four and now five for 29 through two games.
Someone give him an eye test.
“I thought we were alright in the first quarter,” said Del Negro. “We just couldn’t make shots, but I liked some of the things we did. I didn’t like our physicality tonight. We were a step slow on our shows defensively, and then we couldn’t do anything offensively and put any pressure on them. And then once they got on a little bit of a roll–that’s what good teams do—it’s hard to stop.”
We’ll get into it more, but it was pretty much over less than four minutes into the second quarter when the Celtics scored eight straight to take a 29-19 lead and basically led by double digits the rest of the game, mostly close to 30 and at one point by 31.
And while Thursday’s home win over the Spurs raised notions that the Bulls were better off without Ben Gordon given their fluid ball movement, balanced scoring and improved defense, Friday’s loss shouted for someone to shoot the ball as Salmons was two of 14 and Luol Deng two of 8, though in just under 20 minutes played.
It raised for the Bulls the classic backup quarterback situation: Where’s Derrick Byars now that we need him!
Byars was the rookie shooting guard recently released, though he’d hardly be playing ahead of Salmons and Kirk Hinrich, the latter with 10 points, though zero for five on threes. Fourth guard Jannero Pargo was six of 12 for 13 points. Plus, Gordon never had much success against Boston until last season’s playoffs as they usually played him with a big, stronger guard. Other than playoffs, Gordon has scored more than 20 points against the Celtics just once in his career.
The bigger issue was the guys who were there, and that they certainly aren’t at the level of the Celtics. It’s hardly an indictment as perhaps only one or two other teams in the NBA are for now.
But you’d like to make a better showing.
The Celtics were ready even as the Bulls players sought to downplay the first meeting since the playoffs. The Celtics staff had watched carefully Thursday’s win and saw the Bulls crashing the offensive boards against the Spurs. That left opportunities to run as long as the Celtics rebounded, and they did, catching the Bulls late in transition too often.
Rookie Taj Gibson got a lesson from Garnett, who had 16 points in just under 25 minutes. Gibson got caught out of position trying to help, giving Garnett open looks. Fellow rookie James Johnson got his first playing time late when the game was decided and doesn’t look ready to contribute as he seems uncertain of what to do when he’s in the game.
Noah did his best to fight off Kendrick Perkins, who was getting deep position, and lost his cool on one occasion and drew a technical foul trying to slam the ball out of Perkins hands after Perkins had backed him deep with force. Noah also continues to have trouble setting a screen as he again was caught moving for an offensive foul.
But overall Noah was probably the Bulls best player on the floor. He fought on the boards, sneaking a few lefty hooks by the Celtics and even hit another perimeter jumper with his whirling tornado ball. When I asked him about hitting a jumper after Thursday’s win, Noah brightened excitedly and declared, “You saw it!”
He extended a fist, which I realized after a few seconds was an invitation for a neo five. I know he’s skinny, but I still back off when a seven footer offers a fist toward me.
Hinrich had 10 points and a team high seven assists, but was taken advantage of by the taller Marquis Daniels in the post when the Celtics opened up the game in the second quarter.
Tyrus Thomas had a distracted night with 10 points, eight rebounds and five missed free throws in 24 minutes. He continues to spend way too much time complaining about fouls after every miss, and when the Celtics blew away the Bulls in the third quarter he was back arguing as Pierce ran ahead and got wide open for a second consecutive three with the defense scrambling to find five players with four bodies.
Though Miller did get a bit of revenge against Rondo when he bashed Rondo with an elbow setting a screen about eight minutes into the game. It clearly was a foul, though it wasn’t called and Garnett actually was called for a foul on the collision and Miller got two free throws to bring the Bulls within 15-13.
Yes, that was the highlight of the game for the Bulls. The Celtics with their precision offense were executing the Bulls to death: Salmons followed Pierce over a Perkins screen and Noah was caught in the middle leaving Pierce wide open for a free throw line jumper. Eddie House, with 22 and a series of daggers in that Game 7 Boston win last spring, repeately got open off weak side screens with the Bulls collapsing toward the lane as the Bulls did a terrible job identifying the shooters.
The Celtics led 50-35 at halftime as the Bulls were 12 of 19 on free throws and 11 of 38 on field goals, including  one of eight on threes. They’re now five of 31 on threes through two games, and they’re just going to have to…practice.  Salmons isn’t a knock down three point marksman, but his career average is a respectable 36 percent and 41.7 percent last season. He can shoot. Hinrich is a career 38 percent three point shooter and 40.8 percent last season. Pargo is a career 36.5 percent three point shooter. They can make them. I’d keep trying.
Yes, I’ve been avoiding it, but there’s no avoiding that third quarter in which the Celtics were virtually perfect. Actually, the Bulls were pretty good in the third. They shot 54.5 percent and had eight assists on 12 field goals.
And ended up being blown away.
Because the Celtics were amazing.
“Paul said when we came into the locker room (at halftime), ‘Lets open up the third real big and lets be aggressive,’” related Garnett
It started badly for the Bulls and never stopped.
Rondo, who had two points, eight rebounds and 16 assists and was magnificent, grabbed offensive rebounds on the first two Celtics shots, the second setting up a Pierce three. Deng then missed badly, Rondo rebounded and got it to Pierce for a jumper and-boom!—the Bulls were down 20.
The Bulls actually ran several nice plays then, a Noah high low assist on a nice Rose baseline cut, Noah inside on a pass from Hinrich and Noah bulling it up lefthanded. Though when this was going on Allen, who had 20 points, was hitting a pair of threes as he lost Hinrich on a back door cut and then on a screen. So the Bulls scored three straight times and now were down 23.
It was then that Thomas got caught arguing, and he was fouled. But you don’t always get the calls. The Bulls began sagging inside  to try to contain Rondo.
“Rondo did a great job getting into the lane and we did a good job making the extra pass,” said Pierce, who was seven of seven in the third for 20 of his 22 points. “I just was converting on them. I made a couple and then, as a scorer, when you make one or two in a row, you feel like you’re on fire. Rondo getting to the lane, finding me in the third quarter and we was able to break the game open.” 
So Pierce got wide open on top for a pair of his five threes in the third, sending the Bulls into a timeout with 6:50 left and trailing 72-45.
This would have been my talk in the huddle: “Anyone got that guy!”
Last season, the Bulls after a home opening win were blown out in Boston in Game 2. The Bulls would take it again if they were playing a seventh game in the playoffs against the Celtics.
“It was an early season test for us,” said Del Negro, “and we didn’t respond real well.”

How some see the Bulls and NBA this season

So what’s the view of the Bulls from the outside coming into this season? It seems actually a bit more optimistic from the Vegas guys than it does from the NBA guys. Which I actually think is a good thing for the Bulls as the Vegas guys’ jobs depend on paying closer attention to all the teams.
The NBA released its annual survey from its general managers last week and earlier this week I received a look at the odds from Bodog.com.
Bodog.com analyzed each team and is suggesting, at least on the Bulls, that no one exactly replaces Ben Gordon, but that Derrick Rose is the leading scorer at 18 points and with seven assists followed by John Salmons at 17 points. Sort of the scoring being made up across the board. The odds service listed those numbers for an over/under figure and listed other Bulls as follows: Luol Deng, 15.7; Tyrus Thomas 11.8 points and 7.5 rebounds; Joakim Noah at 7.4 points and eight rebounds.
Like the general managers, the bodog folks had the Lakers the favorites to win the championship followed by the Cavs and then Celtics and Spurs.
The Bodog.com estimates had the Bulls at 45-1 to win the title, tied for 11th with the Pistons, Hawks and Heat. That would have the Bulls in chances tied for fourth in the East, and I think they’d take that today if they could. The odds listed the Wizards, Raptors and 76ers just behind the Bulls. After the Spurs and before the Bulls’ group were the Magic, Nuggets, Trailblazers, Jazz, Mavericks and Hornets.
The estimate had the Bulls regular season win total at 41.5, though I assume that rounds up. In wins, that put the Bulls tied for fifth in the East with Washington, which, at this point, I think the Bulls also would take. The oddsmakers had Atlanta better with 44.5 wins, but Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and Toronto just behind at 40.5.
That seemed relatively positive for the Bulls as a fifth spot in the East gives a team a good chance to make it to the second round of the playoffs.
The GM’s didn’t seem as sanguine about the Bulls.
There were some 60 categories and the Bulls and their players barely registered.
The only recognized Bull in the regular voting was Derrick Rose, fourth behind Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Aaron Brooks as fastest with the ball.
There were “others receiving votes” in most categories. Tyrus Thomas got into that list for Most Athletic, which was led by LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Josh Smith. The only other Bull mentioned was in the “others” category as well with John Salmons in the Doing the Most with Least. The leaders were Mehmet Okur, Matt Bonner, Chuck Hayes, David Lee, Luis Scola and Hedo Turkoglu.
Here are some other leaders according to the GM’s
Toughest: Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade.
Highest IQ: Steve Nash, Bryant, Garnett and Jason Kidd.
Taking the Last Shot: Bryant, Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony
Head Coach: Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich and Jerry Sloan.
Most Improved Teams: Wizards, Clippers, Thunder, Raptors
Biggest Offseason Impact: Vince Carter, Ron Artest, Richard Jefferson, Shaquille O’Neal, Rasheed Wallace
Most Underrated Moves: Anthony Parker, Antonio McDyess, Rashed Wallace, Trevor Ariza, Brandon Bass, Shawn Marion.
Best Leader: Chauncey Billups, Bryant, Tim Duncan, Garnett, Kidd, Nash, Paul.
Best Finisher: James, Wade, Howard, Bryant.
Best Passer: Nash, Paul, Kidd.
Best at Getting Own Shot: Bryant, James, Wade.
Moving without the Ball: Richard Hamilton, Manu Ginobili, Ray Allen, Kevin Martin.
Best Shooter: Ray Allen, Jason Kopono. Also receiving votes were Joe Johnson, Kyle Korver, Rashard Lewis, Kevin Martin, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and J.R. Smith.
Best Home Court Advantage: Cleveland, Utah, Lakers, Portland
Most Fun to Watch: Lakers, Orlando, Denver, Cleveland, Golden State, New York.
Player to Start Franchise with Today: James, Howard, Bryant.
Most Likely Breakout: Kevin Durant, Anthony Randolph, Russell Westbrook, Louis Williams.
Best Point Guard: Paul, Deron Williams, Steve Nash.
Best Power Forward: Duncan, Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki
Best Center: Howard, Duncan.
Best Shooting Guard: Bryant.
Best Small Forward: James, Anthony.

Bulls Rookies Look Good Despite Summer League Loss

LAS VEGAS — So who is he? Someone suggested James Johnson is like Lamar Odom. Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro mentioned fellow former Wake Forest star Rodney Rogers. I heard Paul Pierce. In any case, as the Bulls opened their Summer League schedule Tuesday with a 95-83 loss to the Golden State Warriors, it seemed clear Bulls No. 1 draft pick Johnson has some very special talents.
“I like what Taj (Gibson) and James did in their first game,” said Del Negro, who watched from the stands on the UNLV campus as assistant Bob Ociepka coached the team. “Taj, I liked his activity. He kept a lot of basketballs alive. Had (a team high) seven offensive rebounds. (For Johnson), a guy with that much bulk and weight, the way he can move and handle the ball, his agility is impressive for a guy his size. We’ve got to get a little weight off him. He knows that. But he can do some things you can’t teach. He’s unselfish, he’ll pass. Guys will enjoy playing with him. (Johnson) has a feel. He has those easy, soft passes you can catch. He can block a shot, rebound, take it off the glass, start your break for you. He can fill the lane. He can finish. You saw him off the dribble on the break cross a guy over, finish at the rim. With the versatility you get from that it opens things up for other guys.”
Johnson finished with 21 points on nine of 13 shooting with eight rebounds to tie James Augustine for scoring honors. Gibson finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds in the kind of workmanlike effort you are often going to see. His energy and effort level is virtually constant as he appears always in motion. He had a perfectly timed face up block on center Jamal Sampson he wasn’t credited for (it’s Summer League) and some nice hustle plays and effort follows around the basket. He also ran down forwards who had leaked out and at least kept them from easy scores as they had to restart the offense because of his hustle. Plus, he was impressive for a rookie trapping and disrupting some pick and rolls to give the guard time to recover.
The Warriors Anthony Randolph dominated the Bulls inside and had a Summer League equaling record 42 points. Yes, they keep records of this stuff, too. Let’s say the defensive system may not be fully implemented yet. Randolph tied the record held by Von Wafer and Marcus Banks, so it’s not exactly a ticket to Springfield.
“I’m just going to go out and supply energy off the bench,” said Gibson. “It was tough out there. They were calling fouls every time you touched him. (Randolph shot 21 free throws while Gibson was called for nine fouls as there aren’t foul outs after six). Randolph’s a phenomenal player. I learned a lot playing against him. Coach Del Negro told us to go out and have fun and play, learn one thing at a time and try to master it. I just tried put in a lot of effort and help the team. Unfortunately we had a tough loss. But I look for a turnaround tomorrow.”
Johnson expressed disappointment as well about losing, though the game got away with some poor guard play and forced shots after the Bulls had gotten within a point midway through the third after a shaky start from the rookies. Starting guards DeMarcus Nelson and Anthony Roberson were a combined seven for 25, though Warriors rookie Stephen Curry offset that with three of 15. The Bulls bench combined to shoot 0-11, scoring two points and committing 12 fouls.
Though the players always give lip service to the result, Summer League isn’t about that. It’s about seeing if guys will compete, how their skills manifest in an NBA setting, even if there aren’t many high level players yet.
Johnson was impressive. You could see the Bulls brass watching having to muffle smiles of satisfaction given it was just the first game. But Johnson showed he can fill up the box score. He had a block and a few steals, though credited with one. His defense was shaky at times and he got caught a few times a bit straight up with the ball and had it stripped. But he showed he can make plays, and it’s what the game is about.
He came out a bit tentative and it was Augustine, the veteran from the U. of lllinois, who was impressive early in hitting the boards and scooping up loose balls and scoring. Augustine hit 10 of 11 shots, including a pair of nice top of the key jumpers not usually in his repertoire, along with seven rebounds.
The Warriors took a quick 22-13 lead and Johnson got himself going with a pull up from about 18 feet. Johnson has an unusually high arc on his shot, somewhat like Carlos Boozer, still rumored with the Bulls as Boozer was on WMVP radio Tuesday talking about how he’d like to play for the Bulls. My sense is it remains a long shot, though the Jazz continue to talk with numerous teams, including the Bulls. And on some level after watching Johnson, I’m not sure I’d want a playing-for-a-contract Boozer monopolizing the offense to get his 20 points.
“I don’t want to shoot it like a string,” Johnson said. “I like to shoot high arc so I have a better chance to bounce in if I miss.”
Johnson also hit a three pointer and once he got into the game showed the ability to score from a variety of places. I can see him playing a lot of small forward with Luol Deng at power forward in a more athletic, versatile lineup.
Johnson teamed with Gibson on a nice hi-lo with Johnson scoring. Johnson liked to take the ball in the backcourt and attack, once finding guard Nelson running the wing for a layup. Johnson broke up a pick and roll nicely for one of his steals and was quick to begin the break, scoring on a drive and slam dunk, a nice spin out of the post and a scoop on the drive around a few jumpers.
Though the Bulls couldn’t do much to stop Randolph and only got within six late.
“I’m definitely not satisfied with my performance and I’m going to work hard and bring it harder tomorrow,” said Johnson. “I didn’t want to start my day losing. We’ll talk it out and hopefully we can leave the summer league with a winning record.”
Johnson doesn’t seem yet to talk about himself much, though Augustine was impressed.
“Johnson has a great game,” he said. “He can post up, play outside, go to the basket, handle the ball on the fast break, guard bigger guys with that bigger body.”
Augustine also was impressive and I can see him being that extra big the team has been considering adding. I’d rather have a motivated, hard working guy than some older veteran, like a Mikki Moore, in a role in which he won’t play that often.
Augustine was on that 2005 Final Four Illini team before being drafted in the second round by the Magic and playing little. Losing confidence he went to play in Spain last season and says he’s returned with a new game and a new attitude.
“I scored, but that’s’ not what I’m known for,” said Augustine. “I’m going to try to rebound, try to play good defense. Do what it takes to help the team win. I made the decision last year to go to Spain and work on all aspects of my game and I wanted to come back here to hopefully show all the teams no matter who it is that I’m here to play and I have a new game and I’m here to show them that.
“My mental aspect was the thing held me back the most,” Augustine conceded. “It was something coach (Stan) Van Gundy told me, that I had the talent to play in the league but I had to have faith in myself. That’s the main reason I went to Spain. To have the faith to take the open jumper, have the faith to use my skills. Maybe a year or two ago I would have thought about (not shooting the jumper) and passed to someone else. That’s what I’ve been working on, my mental game. Go out there and play and show my skills and that I can play at this level.”
I believe he can and I’m certain Gibson and Johnson can. It was an impressive debut for the two No. 1 draft picks. The Bulls continue Summer League play Wednesday afternoon against the Bucks, whose rookie point guard Brandon Jennings has been impressive here.
Meanwhile, in case you missed it, the Boozer saga continued Tuesday as Boozer was on WMVP radio and said the Jazz told him he’d be traded and Boozer suggested he could be a drawing card for what he claims is his good buddy Dwyane Wade. Boozer also said despite being a free agent he’d be interested in signing a long term deal with the Bulls. My guess is it’s Golden State radio next. And then maybe Miami and Detroit.
“I definitely heard a little rumbling about it,” Boozer said about being traded to the Bulls. “Whether it will go down or not, that’s kind of between the Jazz and Chicago. But obviously if I did get traded to Chicago, I’d love to be a part of the Bulls. (The Bulls are a) great organization, top notch from top to bottom. They do things very professionally there. At the same time, they have a good group of talent there. Obviously with Derrick Rose at the helm and being rookie of the year last year and having some very good talent around him. Very good team. If I was able to come there, I’d bring a lot, especially in the low post and being a leader as well. We’ll see what happens. Me and D-Wade are very close. We talk quite a bit, but that’s a decision he has to make with himself and obviously if I did come to the Bulls, I’d love to have D-Wade play for us. At the same time, D-Wade is like me and wants to win a championship bad. If I was able to go to the Bulls and get D-Wade to come, we’d be right there at the top.”
The feeling around the NBA is the Jazz will match Portland’s offer sheet for Paul Millsap, and then have to trade Boozer. Though the luxury tax consequences don’t kick in until after the February trading deadline. There is no hurry. The notion is the Jazz would want Boozer out. I still cannot see the Bulls, even if the Jazz wanted just expiring contracts and made a deal with the Bulls, keeping Boozer beyond this season. I doubt the Bulls are about to give up two players to get a look at Boozer coming off a surgery, and unless they do, they would not be able to pay Boozer and go after another free agent. I personally don’t see how you win with an undersized, oft-injured forward like Boozer. Plus, Boozer is a notoriously poor defender and would it be worth it for the next season to allow Boozer to push up his numbers at the expense of playing Johnson and Gibson, who look like they can be nice pieces? As I’ve written before, I think it’s doubtful. But I have been waiting and the Bulls are not seeking my advice on this.

How to Become an NBA General Manager

So you want to be an NBA general manager. How do you get that job if you are not a former NBA player and star?
You could do what I do and propose trades. Of course, the guys who actually make them then say to me, “And you are? Sorry, I forget the name.”
Or you could do what Gar Forman did, a guy like you and just about all of us with little or no real athletic talent but just a dream and the work ethic to back it up.
“I loved the game,” Forman said Thursday after a press conference at the Berto Center announcing his promotion. “I knew from when I was a junior in high school I wanted basketball to be my career. It didn’t take long to figure out it wasn’t going to be as a player. I knew I wanted to coach.
“If you’ve got the passion for it and you are willing to persevere and go wherever you need to go and do whatever you have to do to get your foot in the door (you can succeed),” says Forman, whose highlight as a player was as a reserve for Lassen Junior College. “My first seven years coaching I never made as much as $10,000. I moved wherever I had to, Logan (Utah), Palm Desert, Pomona, wherever I could go to get experience.”
It culminated Thursday as Forman was introduced as the Bulls General Manager in the team’s long expected reorganization. John Paxson will retain the senior role as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.
But Paxson will be a less visible public figure with Forman and coach Vinny Del Negro playing more public roles. The fun of the job isn’t in submitting to interviews with people like us in the media and engaging in negotiations with mostly venal agents. Paxson wants to concentrate on basketball and basketball decisions, and who can blame him.
Yes, Forman now gets to be the guy who tries to keep from rolling his eyes at the questions from reporters and talk show hosts.
And goofy trade ideas from columnists.
Forman was introduced by Paxson at Thursday’s press conference, and Bulls.com has audio of the Forman press conference and an interview by Bulls broadcaster Chuck Swirsky with Paxson. There wasn’t much team news from the press conference other than Forman said it is the Bulls intention to resign Ben Gordon and he believes it is Gordon’s intention to remain with the Bulls.
At this point with trades not permitted until after the Finals has concluded and teams just beginning draft workouts, there’s little direction to read for the Bulls.
They have the Nos. 16 and 26 picks in the first round. They have the expiring contracts of Brad Miller, Jerome James and Tim Thomas totaling about $25 million. Those could be used in trade this summer to teams looking to dump long term contracts or held until the summer of 2010 to go into the free agent market. There are sign and trade possibilities regarding Gordon and trade possibilities for Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich, which have previously been discussed.
The Bulls are beginning draft workouts Friday with Taj Gibson of USC, Mac Koshwal of DePaul, Leo Lyons of Missouri, B.J. Mullens of Ohio State, Luke Nevill of Utah and Scott Vandermeer of Illinois/Chicago.
Though there shouldn’t be much read into any of that.
The NBA this season is starting group team workouts. When teams have workouts and invite another team, the workouts must be opened to all teams. So Bulls’ staffers will be attending numerous workouts at the facilities of other teams and easily could be drafting or targeting someone they see at another team’s facility. There’s the draft camp in Chicago the end of next week and then a big workout in Minnesota with numerous teams attending that will kick off many of these workouts. It wouldn’t be a surprise for the Bulls to see some 50 or 60 players, especially given the likelihood that so many teams in the top 10 will make their picks available given the general weakness of this draft after No. 1 pick Blake Griffin.
So Forman comes in at perhaps one of the most crucial times in franchise history.
The Bulls have a potential young star in Derrick Rose and considerable expectations now after going seven games in the opening playoff round with the Boston Celtics. No, they didn’t have Kevin Garnett. But Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are both probably top 15 players in the NBA with good supporting talent.
Plus, the Bulls have to decide whether to pursue a potentially high risk/reward option of looking toward 2010 free agency, or try to cash in their assets now and perhaps make a major deal this summer while deciding whether they can afford or afford to lose their leading scorer for the last four seasons. The only players in franchise history to lead the team in scoring four consecutive seasons were Michael Jordan and Bob Love. And both have their jerseys retired.
But Forman does know the hard way.
He was the kid who worked hard and it never was going to matter.
“I just loved the game,” Forman recalled. “I worked on my shot 12 hours a day seven days a week.”
It got him as far as two years at Lassen in Northern California near where he was raised and then at a small San Francisco area private school, the College of Notre Dame, now known as Notre Dame de Namur. It had Division 2 non scholarship sports.
“I always like to kid with John that we both played at Notre Dame,” Forman laughs.
Forman’s coach at Lassen had a friend at Utah State, who helped Forman hook on as a graduate assistant and jv coach. That meant working with the guys like Forman who weren’t going anywhere. So then you make yourself available, apply for every job that comes up and take what you can get with no basketball playing portfolio. So Forman went to places you never knew had basketball or even where they were.
College of the Desert. What Desert? Pomona. I think that was from a Peanuts comic strip. Eventually, Forman hooked on doing some recruiting and assisting at New Mexico State and somehow—even he doesn’t know for sure—someone who knoew someone who liked him mentioned him to Tim Floyd.
Forman was at a Final Four and out of nowhere Floyd, whom he didn’t know, said he was in line for an SEC job and if it came through was Forman interested in joining his staff. Sure. It didn’t, and Forman didn’t hear from Floyd again.
“Then one day I’m watching ESPN and there’s a report Tim was getting the Iowa State job,” Forman recalled. “My wife (Leslie) says, ‘I wonder if Tim will call? Maybe you should call him.’ I’m not comfortable with that. I said, ‘If he wants to call he will. He knows what he wants.’
“So at 1 a.m., the phone rings, and it’s Tim,” laughs Forman. “Tim is like that. I wake up and answer the phone and he offers me a job to go with him to Iowa State.”
Tim, as we know, got to know Jerry Krause, and became Krause’s choice to succeed Phil Jackson in 1998. Forman came along as a scout in personnel and did what he always did: Kept his head down, worked and worked, didn’t look for credit or publicity and did whatever he could.
You can become an NBA general manager by being a nine-time All Star. But then you need guys like Gar Forman to help you do the job. There’s always a place for hard work, passion, commitment and sacrifice. If you have a goal, try that. If Gar Forman can get there, so can you. No offense, Gar. It’s a good teaching tool for us all.

Bulls Season Over with Game 7 Loss

BOSTON–The Bulls first round playoff series with the Boston Celtics was a great story with a lame ending, a thriller with twists and turns, high drama and great theater. And then the butler did it.In the end, this conclusion didn’t match the buildup. The Celtics won 109-99 in Game 7 here Saturday thanks to 16 points and four three pointers off the bench from Eddie House and eight points and a pair of three pointers from Jackie Moon, who looks like Brian Scalabrine.In the series with five of the first six games going down to the last possession of regulation, four overtime games and seven overtime periods, 170 ties or lead changes, there were two lead changes in the game and zero ties.The Celtics took control with a 22-2 run over the last 7:39 of the second quarter. That gave the Celtics a 52-38 halftime lead, and though the Bulls got within three midway through the fourth quarter, Ben Gordon had a three blocked and the Celtics continued to play an NFL like prevent defense, falling back into a shell like zone to protect the paint and encourage jump shots. It was two staggering fighters trying to hold one another up until the final bell.You almost expected both teams to collapse into one another arms in relief and resignation.“I definitely think it was one of the best series ever,” said free agent to be Ben Gordon, who could have played his final game in a Bulls uniform. “If it was any other round it could be the best ever. I’m not going to go that far and say it was the best ever. It was definitely right up there with one of the most competitive series. I’m really proud of the way my team gave it a great effort against the defending champs.”I’m really happy with the (young players’) development, confidence they had in themselves and energy they are bringing on a consistent basis,” Gordon said. “That’s not something we always had at the beginning of the year. Ray (Allen said to me after the game),’We did our school proud.’ He told me to rally the young guys together and we can be a really good team.“We gave, I thought, our best effort against a really good team and in the end that’s all you can ask,” said Gordon. “That team has a lot more experience than us. Most people wouldn’t have expected us to go to a Game 7. I think we did all we could. Like a lot of other games in this series, we had our chances to win. But they made more plays. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. We had some good looks. Things just didn’t go our way. Just didn’t make shots. Simple as that. No excuses. I’ll remember the way we fought as a team. We never gave up. Every game we had a chance to win except for Game 3. I honestly believe we could have won this series. But we didn’t.”Neither Boston star, Paul Pierce nor Allen, was particularly sharp. Allen led with 23 points on six of 14 shooting and Pierce had 20 on six of 17 shooting.They were gassed after all this, and they knew it. Everyone, really, was.“Definitely the toughest (playoff series) I’ve been a part of,” said Allen. “They gave us everything that we could handle. I told (Rajon) Rondo after the game, ‘They were probably the toughest match up that we’ve had.’ If I go back to even last year. Because they have guys that, one, two, three, are capable of scoring 40 a night and it definitely put a crunch on our defense.”Gordon led the Bulls with 33 points, but was one of nine in the fourth quarter and two of 14 overall in the second half. Derrick Rose added 18 points, but was scoreless in the fourth quarter with just one shot attempt.“I’m still the point guard,” said Rose. “I can’t come down and shoot five, seven shots in a row. I’ve still got to look at people, get people open. After I got my shots off, I made sure my teammates can shoot. It’s heartbreaking knowing we can’t move on. We took them to Game 7 and it was fun.”Asked what he’d work on, Rose said: “Becoming a leader. I’ve got to lead the team. Got to control the game a little more as a point guard.”It didn’t happen as the Bulls never could put much together. Fatigue? Pressure of the situation? Inexperience?After that brilliant effort in the Game 6 triple overtime, John Salmons was three of 12 for 12 points. Tyrus Thomas played just 17 minutes and had four points as the Bulls played small often. Joakim Noah had a game high 15 rebounds, though he and Brad Miller fouled out. Both did deliver hard hits on Rondo. The Bulls shot 39 percent, and in being outscored 29-11 in the second quarter they committed nine turnovers and spent too much time after that going one-on-one and firing jumpers.They also were betrayed once again by the lack of a cohesive defensive system as their switching and doubling and rotations seemed inconsistent. It’s got to be a priority for next season.“I felt like we had a really good first quarter, but the second quarter we got very stagnant with our ball movement, too many turnovers,” noted Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. “We only had six assists at the half and against a team like Boston who loads up on that strong side so well on your penetration you got to move the basketball better then we did. I thought we played more physical a lot tougher in the second half, tried to spread them out with a smaller line-up, but we just couldn’t make enough shots to put any real pressure on them. I’m really just proud of the way my players fought. They played hard and I think as a coach, what you’re looking for first are guys that are going to play hard. They care and so I couldn’t be happier, prouder with that. I feel like the team made a lot of strides this year. We had our opportunities in this series but give the Celtics a lot of credit. They made plays down the stretch. They’re a veteran team that’s why they’re the defending world champs.”It doesn’t seem like for long, though the Celtics could get by the Orlando Magic in the second round. They don’t seem much of a match for the Cleveland Cavaliers and should be out on their feet by then with the Celtics insisting Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe won’t return in these playoffs.“Tip my hat off to the Bulls because you really didn’t expect them to come in and play the way they did throughout the whole seven games,” said Pierce.  “We expected them to play hard. But they really pushed us to the limit, and this was a great, great series. Thank goodness we were battle-tested and we were able to pull this out in seven games.  Next year, as I was able to tell some of their guys, if they can bring their team back, and get Luol Deng healthy, they’re going to be tough to beat.”The Bulls were easy to beat in Game 3 back in Chicago, and they looked like they might be tough to beat even in Game 7.They scored on eight of their first nine possessions with Gordon and Rose each hitting their first two jumpers and driving the ball at the Celtics and already beginning to put them in foul trouble, Glen Davis going out less than five minutes in with two fouls.Rose made a spectacular block from behind on Scalabrine, who seemed to be going in alone for a breakaway dunk. The Bulls were pushing the pace, getting the game quicker as they preferred. They led 27-23 after one quarter. The home crowd wasn’t quite boisterous anymore. The Bulls seemingly had lost a point as a Gordon three was called a two. But that finally was caught in the fourth quarter and the point added back to the Bulls score.And then depression set in, to quote Bill Murray from Stripes, one of those films with a wonderful start and disappointing ending.After Tyrus Thomas hit a jumper to make it 36-30 with eight minutes left in the first half, the mistakes began: A Thomas turnover, a shot clock violation, a Noah turnover, a Gordon turnover after a Rose miss, four turnovers in five possessions. The Celtics trapped Gordon and pressured, dropping off the Bulls interior players and Gordon gave another one up. Miller c

ommitted an offensive foul. Hinrich came in and turned one over and then Miller dribbled around too much. The Bulls wouldn’t get a field goal after that Thomas jumper.“I think we tired them out,” said Allen. “We just ran in transition (14-5 edge in Celtics fast breaks). Defensively, we just put hands in their face and we didn’t foul as much and send them to the free throw line, but consistently we made them take tougher shots and they didn’t make them, a lot of those shots they’ve been hitting all series.”In the meantime, the Celtics bench, pathetic for six games, arrived just in time to save the day. Especially their Mighty Mouse, House, who rained in a pair of threes during that 22-2 run.  House has a mouth that roars as well and he picked up a technical for taunting the Bulls bench when he hit a three in front.“We hadn’t used our bench much,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers (House was the bench’s leading scorer at four per game).  Eddie House, Mikki Moore comes in and gets four points and a charge. Scalabrine was phenomenal.  Rondo didn’t feel great at the beginning of the game. I don’t know if he ate something, I don’t know what it was, but you could see it.  In a series that our bench hadn’t given us much, they were phenomenal.”It wasn’t artful, but the Bulls did come back.Noah even drew the same chant Rondo was getting in Chicago for taking down Rondo in the third.“I don’t think it was a flagrant foul,” said Noah. “It was a hard foul. I think the refs made the right call. I did exactly what they were doing to us.” The Bulls opened the second half with scores on six of their first eight possessions behind Rose, who did step into the background in the fourth quarter. A message to the others to step up?“Derrick’s so darn good he can be as good as he wants to be,” said Hinrich. “As time goes on leadership, will come more naturally for him. Obviously, he’s going to be the leader of this team. Everyone is excited about his future. Derrick can be one of the best players of all time.”The Bulls were scoring, but couldn’t stop the Celtics as the Bulls rotations were awful, especially late in the third quarter when Glen Davis and Pierce had multiple scores either rolling or driving to the basket. A Gordon three cut the Celtics lead to 78-71 after three quarters, and then the Bulls got going. The Celtics helped with four free throw misses in five attempts.Hinrich began making shots, and then when Gordon, constantly trapped, hit Salmons for an easy score and Gordon converted two free throws (he was 15 of 15 for the game), the Bulls were within 89-86 with 5:39 left.Another miracle? Another overtime?“I’m not going to lie,” said Hinrich. “There’s a point in time this year we didn’t know we had this in us, to fight like this and play at a high level, actually from the All Star break on, but especially in this series. We definitely felt we were still in it. We needed a few breaks. It didn’t happen.  When things weren’t going good for us we went to one-on-one basketball. Everyone tried to do a little too much. Which is natural. We didn’t really have something working for us we could go to and settle us down offensively. We were a little bit frantic offensively tonight.”The Bulls knew the way the Celtics played, so called loading to the ball. They would form sort of a human wall in front of the ball and you had to move side to side quickly to negate it. Plus, Boston was collapsing back to close the lane. So you had to swing the ball and then attack. It worked better earlier in the series when the Bulls actually tried it.Still, they got down to that three-point deficit midway through the fourth.Gordon’s attempt to tie was blocked and Kendrick Perkins, with 14 points and 13 rebounds, rolled and put in a Pierce assist. Salmons took most of the clock and missed, then missed an open three and took his eye off a pass for a turnover.The Bulls were down 93-86, but again fought back with a pair of Gordon drives for four free throws, a Hinrich three and a Gordon floater. But the Bulls couldn’t get that defensive stop as Gordon flew by House and House reset for a three, Perkins got a Pierce miss and was fouled and made both and Allen with the Bulls in the penalty the last nine minutes drove and was fouled twice and made four free throws.Finally, with the Bulls down 102-97 with 42.3 seconds left, Allen leaked out and ran ahead for a score and was fouled by Miller to seemingly end it. But Hinrich, of all guys, tipped in a Gordon miss and then stole the inbounds. But Gordon missed a jumper.It was impressive to watch, if not always effective. The Bulls developed this rare never-give-up quality they had a few years back when they had the Wizards on the ropes and lost and then swept the Heat and took the Pistons to a sixth game. Though there’s still place for improvement. They’ve still never won a Game 7 on the road, though I did think they’d get this one the way they played the last three games.“This game could take nothing away from our courage, our heart, how much effort we put in to trying to win the series,” said Salmons.  “It was a great series. We just couldn’t come out with the win.”

Let the Gordon/Hinrich Debate Begin

BOSTON–Ben Gordon led the Bulls with 33 points, though shooting just seven of 23 from the field in the Bulls 109-99 Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics Saturday in this NBA playoff opener.Kirk Hinrich finished with 16 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter as the Bulls tried to rally for the comeback win and actually got within three with 5:39 left when Hinrich hit Gordon for a pullup three to tie which was blocked by Paul Pierce. The Bulls never were closer than five after that.Gordon is a an unrestricted free agent while Hinrich has three years left on a five-year $47.5 million contract. It ends after the 2011-12 season. It’s likely, though not certain, that only one of them will return to the team the next season. That’s because with Derrick Rose the starting point guard for the future, it’s questionable whether the team’s salary structure could support a new deal for Gordon and Hinrich’s contract. John Salmons has just one year left on his contract at about $5.5 million. He has an opt-out after next season he’s likely to take and the Bulls figure to want to bring him back. It seems unlikely they could satisfy all three with finances and playing situations.“I really don’t know (what will happen),” said Gordon. “I’m just going to have to wait and see what my options are. See what the Bulls want to do and go from there. I’d like to be here. I wanted to be here the last two summers, too, and it didn’t happen. So you never know.”Gordon turned down a five-year $50 million offer before the 2007-08 season when both he and Luol Deng were seeking bigger deals. Deng accepted a $71 million, six-year extension (though much was deferred) before this season. Gordon rejected an estimated $54 million, six-year offer before this season. Gordon said he later had changed his mind, though the Bulls had pulled the offer by then.“I think this team has a lot of potential,” said Gordon. “If the whole team is back it will give us a full year to really gel and we’ll continue get better and we’ll have a way better season than we did this year. My goal is I want to win. That’s what’s going to be my motivating factor. There’s the business side, though.“I think we’re a lot better now,” Gordon said. “We really got a boost when those two guys (Brad Miler and John Salmons) came. I think they fit in perfectly with what we’re trying to do here. If we have Luol back and helping us we’ll definitely be one of the best teams in the East.“It’s up to my agent now,” said Gordon. “I can’t do anything until July 1. Just got to see what happens from here.”Asked about the bitter negotiations the past two summers, Gordon said:“At the end of the day, it’s a business. I’m able to put my feelings aside. If there’s animosity the organization needs to be able to do the same thing. This is not kids in the playground arguing. This is a business. They need to sit down and figure something about. If there’s nothing to figure out, just move on and do something else.” As for Hinrich, he’s heard plenty of trade rumors and said: “I don’t know what’s going to happen this summer. I’d love to play my whole career with Chicago. I grew up a Bulls fan. I love it here. I absolutely love the town. But I don’t know if that’s realistic. We’ll see what happens.”

Game 7 recap: Celtics 109, Bulls 99

The Chicago Bulls made it interesting during Game 7 in Boston, climbing back from 14 points down to get within five under a minute to go, but in the end it was the defending world champions holding on for the win, 109-99, and a 4-3 victory in what many consider the best-ever series in NBA postseason history.The Bulls started out strong, leading 28-23 through one quarter of play. Ben Gordon scored 17 points in the first 13 minutes of the game, but it was the second frame that ultimately doomed Chicago. The Celtics took advantage turnovers and dominated the offensive glass, outscoring the Bulls 29-11 in the period and claiming a 52-38 lead at the intermission.Although a 33-point third quarter helped Chicago cut the deficit, it was again Ray Allen (23 points, seven rebounds) and Paul Pierce (20 points, nine boards) who made enough plays down the stretch to help Boston advance, where it will face Orlando in the second round.Ben Gordon scored 33 points to lead the Bulls, while Derrick Rose chipped in with 18 and Joakim Noah grabbed 15 boards to go with seven points. Kirk Hinrich added 16 points, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter.In a hard fought series that saw 106 lead changes in it’s first six games (none in Game 3), only two took place in Game 7, one of the three non-overtime games in the series.

Game 7, the ultimate; what will the Bulls do?

So now it’s Game 7 in this amazing NBA first round playoff series between the Bulls and Boston Celtics that no one really wants to see end.But it will late Saturday night, and one team will be counting the what ifs and could have beens and the other trying to catch their breath and get ready for a quick turnaround with the Orlando Magic.There is no edge in a Game 7.The Boston Celtics will talk about the old standbys of veteran experience and having played all those tough games all season to get that deciding game at home.“I don’t think we’re going to be a group that’s shaky or nervous. We’ve played numbers of Game 7’s,” said Paul Pierce. “And we’re on our home court and we haven’t lost a Game 7 on our court. You got to show up and play the game. It doesn’t mean anything just because we’ve been there. We’ve got to show up and play.”The Bulls will offer that pressure relief thing, that everything is on the Celtics now. They’re the defending champions and expected to win and the Bulls have already accomplished more than anyone predicted.“Now most of the pressure is one them,” Ben Gordon said. “They probably didn’t expect it to go this long. I think this team has a lot of confidence the way we played in their building. Every game was an opportunity to win.”There have been 100 Game 7’s in NBA history with the road team winning 20. The Celtics are 16-3 in their Game 7’s at home. Just numbers now.Really, few want to play a Game 7. It is a lot of pressure and demanding. You want to get these series over as soon as you can, and if the last one comes down to a final game, well so be it. But in the first round? Not really. Though with this series it could not have gone any other way.Even for the great teams, Game 7’s are tough.They were even some of the hardest for Michael Jordan’s dynasty Bulls teams of the 1990’s. They had just two, and both were anxious times.The most difficult was 1998, the conference finals seven gamer with the Indiana Pacers. The Bulls lost all three games Indiana, two by two points and Game 6 by three points. Then it was back to Chicago for Game 7, where the Pacers battled all game until a crucial jump ball went the Bulls way late and the Bulls went on to escape with a brutal 88-83 victory.The only other seven gamer in the Bulls championship years was in the 1992 conference semifinals against the Knicks. Pat Riley had just arrived and was putting together his batch of thugs and role players around Patrick Ewing. It was the series Xavier McDaniel was knocking Bulls all over the place and ended up face to face with Jordan. There were one John Starks clothesline takedown foul on Scottie Pippen that would have resulted in long suspensions now, but were just fouls then. Starks was fined $5,000 despite then league disciplinary czar Ron Thorn at the game. The Knicks were far less talented and had been swept by the Bulls in the opening round the previous season. But they slowed the Bulls into that physical, ugly, grind it out game that haunted the NBA in the mid 1990’s. But they were worn out by Game 7, and Jordan, having discussed strategy with his father, James, came out more aggressively than usual and had a big first half that blew open the game on the way to a 110-81 breather.The Bulls have played eight playoff Game 7’s in franchise history. They are 3-5 in those seventh games. They have won the three at home and lost all five Game 7’s they’ve played on the road.Here’s a look at those Game 7’s:1. April 6, 1971. That first great Bulls team that never quite made it had just come together and got Wilt and the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals. It was a wild series with coach Dick Motta getting fined $1,500 (big in those days) for alleging referee and league bias against the Bulls. Yes, it always has gone on. Wilt had a big 33 rebound game to get the Lakers there and the Lakers had a reasonably easy time of it back in L.A. with a 109-98 victory.2. April 15, 1973. That’s the one, along with 1975, the guys from that team most remember and still talk about to this day. They had the Lakers on the ropes with a five-point lead in the last two minutes and seven with under three minutes on a Chet Walker junper to make it 90-83 when, as Bob Love remembers it, “Motta gave us the kiss of death. He had us hold the ball.” The Bulls failed to get a shot on four straight possessions and Wilt blocked a Norm Van Lier shot in the last seconds with the Bulls still ahead 92-91. Gail Goodrich turned it into a layup and the Lakers won that Western Conference semifinals 95-92.3. April 13, 1974. It was the first great Bulls/Pistons rivalry. The Pistons had Bob Lanier and Dave Bing going at the Bulls in that Western Conference semifinal. Jerry Sloan couldn’t play that final game with a tear in his foot. The Bulls had blown a big lead in Game 6 in Detroit, but hung on in Game 7 back home for a 96-94 victory. They would be swept by Kareem and the Bucks in the next round.4. May 14, 1975. It came a game after the famed Mother’s Day Massacre in the Western Conference finals when the Bulls had taken a 3-2 lead on Golden State and were coming home. Sloan to this day often mentions it as his most memorable game. Typical of Sloan, he remembers the loss the most. This was that team’s last run. They’d won at least 50 the previous four seasons and started slow due to contract holdouts by Love and Van Lier. They went on to win 47 games and were finishing strong. The Warriors would go on to sweep the Bullets in the Finals, and the Bulls had a stronger team as the Warriors were a bunch of role players around Rick Barry. Barry had 36 in that Game 6 and Cliff Ray, traded that season to Golden State for Nate Thurmond, shut down Thurmond and Tom Boerwinkle and the Warriors won by 14. Ray is now a Celtics assistant. The teams went back to Golden State and the Bulls led most of the game. But Barry got hot late with guys like George Johnson making key plays and the Warriors pulled out an 83-79 victory.5. June 3, 1990. It was Bulls/Pistons Part II in that Eastern Conference finals. The Bulls were coming, perhaps a bit like now, and the Pistons were hanging on, going for their second straight title but aging. The Bulls had the young legs and pushed the Pistons. They knew every game they could get above 100 they’d win. They scored 107, 108 and 109 in the three wins in Chicago. Back in Detroit for Game 7, that was the famous Scottie Pippen migrane headache with the notorious picture of Pippen on the bench before the game with a towel draped over his head. Pippen would play 40 minutes, and the game was close most of the first half. But the Pistons then pulled away for a 93-74 victory. The Bulls would sweep the Pistons in the conference finals the next season.6. May 17, 1992. That was the nasty Knicks with Jordan finishing them off easily in Game 7 back home.7. May 22, 1994. The Eastern Conference semifinals and the famous Hue Hollins call on Pippen in Game 5 in New York well after Hubert Davis’ shot had left his hand. Davis’ free throws won the game 87-86. Little recalled was Hollins was one of the refs the previous year in the Game 5 with the missed Charles Smith layup the Knicks felt the refs missed. The Bulls won Game 6 back home easily, but had to return to New York. It was a shocking series with the famous Pippen 1.8-second boycott, Toni Kukoc hitting the winner and the brawl with JoJo English and Derek Harper that spilled into the stands where commissioner David Stern was sitting. Current Bulls assistant Pete Myers was in the Bulls backcourt that day, replacing the retired Michael Jordan as the Bulls had been on the verge of one of the most remarkable seasons ever by perhaps returning to the Finals without Jordan. But New York pulled away late for a 10-point victory and lost in a seventh game to Houston in the Finals.8. May 31, 1998. It was to be the end of the dynasty, but not yet. Phil Jackson w

as leaving and so was Jordan. The Pacers were stubborn, but the Bulls had enough to get by and set up that dramatic Finals last moment in Utah.The Bulls also had a few deciding games in five game series and the old best of three. The best one probably was in 1977 when the Bulls and Artis Gilmore had Bill Walton’s eventual champion Trailblazers on the ropes after a classic 107-104 win at home but lost 106-98 in Portland. Walton called that opening rounder the toughest for the Trailblazers champions that season.Two of the best deciding fifth games were in 1988 and 1989 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The one in 1989, of course, was the famous Jordan shot in Cleveland to win the series at the buzzer, the only time the franchise had a deciding series win on the road. The previous season, the Bulls went to the deciding fifth game in Chicago with what was Pippen’s coming out. He got his first start for Brad Sellers in that fifth game and even overshadowed Jordan in the six point win.Will this be a classic 7th Game?Bill Woten, an author who wrote a book on NBA game 7’s, rated the top 10 with that Willie Reed 1970 Knicks-Lakers game No. 1.He then had the 2006 Spurs-Mavs conference finals, the 1988 Hawks-Celtics Bird/Dominique shootout, the 1988 Lakers-Pistons Finals with Isiah Thomas’ 25 point quarter on a badly injured ankle, the 1957 Celtics/St. Louis Hawks double overtime Finals Game 7, the 1981 Celtics-76ers, the 2002 Lakers-Kings, the 1965 Celtics-76ers, the 1984 Lakers-Celtics and the 2000 Lakers-Trailblazers with Portland’s 15-point fourth quarter lead.The Celtics insist Kevin Garnett will not make that inspirational Willis Reed-esque return for Game 7. No one can tell you they saw any of this coming, which also means no one knows what will happen in Game 7. I think it may come down to whether the Celtics believe they can go very far in the playoffs or whether the young Bulls have exposed them without Garnett and they are wounded and ready to go. Everyone knows how competitive and exciting this series has been, more than 170 combined lead changes and ties in the six games.The Celtics are shooting 44.9 percent and the Bulls 44.8 percent. Boston is 40.7 percent on threes and the Bulls 39.6 percent. The Bulls have 279 rebounds to 272 for Boston. The Bulls have been called for 143 fouls and the Celtics for 142. The Celtics are averaging 113.2 points per game and the Bulls 109.8.Four Celtics, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen—who, by the way had the greatest shooting exhibition I ever have seen in that Game 6 loss—Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis are averaging more than 40 minutes per game. For the Bulls, Ben Gordon, Derrick Rose and John Salmons are averaging more than 40 minutes per game with Joakim Noah at 39.8.Pierce, Allen and Rondo all are averaging more than 21 per game. No one coming off the Celtics bench is averaging more than four. Rose and Gordon are averaging at least 20 and Salmons 19.2. Seven Bulls, basically the entire rotation, is averaging in double figures.The Bulls have led the last two games by double figures in the fourth quarter, each time giving up the lead. Lack of experience? The Celtics have dragged to the finish. Age and fatigue?Predictions are worthless in this series. I had Celtics in seven before it began. I like the Bulls now.But perhaps more than that, the Bulls have opened the eyes of the NBA world. Last season’s collapse is forgotten. The Bulls are players again with a combination of youth and savvy knowhow and a potential star in Rose. Going into next season, assuming the offseason can produce some form of upgrade, they’ll be considered a possible top four team as they were before last season.“They have a great upside,” said Pierce. “They have a lot of good young players. Obviously, you start with Derrick Rose as a rookie and then with solid veterans in Salmons and Miller and it balances out their roster. They’re starting to look like the young, potential Bulls team we expected to be at this level three or four years ago. They’re going to fight and they’ve done a great job putting themselves in this position.”Tip it up. Let’s go!

Bulls Even Up The Greatest Series Ever Played

It couldn’t have happened. Not again! But it did. The Bulls and defending NBA champion Boston Celtics Thursday played yet another emotionally wrenching overtime game in this amazing, wonderful, thrilling, history making first round playoff series that is now headed to Game 7 in Boston Saturday after the fourth overtime game of the series, a 128-127 triple overtime Bulls win.

With seven overtime periods in the six games, this is heading to the first eight-game playoff in NBA history. Stop asking. There never has been anything like this. No NBA playoff series has ever seen more than four overtime periods, and the last one to have that many was 52 years ago. No NBA playoff series has had more than two overtime games. Nothing, really, even comes close to this.
“You're numb to being tired,” said John Salmons, who led the Bulls with 35 points, though was just a part of the story.  “Your whole body is numb to aches and pains because it's bigger than aches and pains.  It's bigger than being tired.  That's what wanting to win real bad is all about, just being numb to all those other things.  It doesn't matter. As tired as I am,  I probably won’t be able to sleep tonight. I’ll be up all night thinking about the game.
“It’s got to be the greatest series ever,” said Salmons. “Can’t expect no less in Game 7.”
Yes, Game 7, the ultimate in sports.
Hardly anyone thought the .500 Bulls would get there, yet they have a chance to win this series. Now, it’s all past. Home court, momentum, veteran experience. Forget it. Each team has won on the other’s court. Each team has won and lost with big shots, smart and dumb plays, coughed up leads and grabbed them away when it seemed impossible.
It’s one game to declare yourself the winner of arguably the best, definitely the most exciting, series the NBA ever has seen.
“I don’t even know what to say about this series,” said Paul Pierce, who supported Ray Allen’s uncanny 51 points with 22 points and nine rebounds. “It’s been a phenomenal series. If I have to sit back and I wasn’t a player, I’d say this is great for fans. Everyone’s getting their money’s worth. It’s Game 7 and we’ll be ready.
“Right now,” said Pierce, “it just comes down to who has more toughness, who has the most heart. Game 7, at this point, we know what they’re trying to do. They know what we're trying to do. The team with the most heart and toughness is going to win Game 7.”
You couldn’t measure that in this series, and you really hate to see a loser. Though Bulls fans after the controversial finish to Game 5 in Boston with Rajon Rondo’s hard and seeming flagrant foul on Brad Miller decisive made their feelings known with game long nasty chants aimed at Rondo all game.
But that seemed forgotten—and perhaps it was some poetic justice—when Rondo’s 12-foot attempt at a game winner with 7.9 seconds left was blocked by Derrick Rose.
A few seconds later, Rose was fouled and missed both free throws. But the Celtics, this time, were the ones out of time outs and all they could do was watch Rondo heave up a half court miss, and then watch the Bulls and an arena take a deep breath.
Joakim Noah, who’d just made perhaps the play of the game with a steal from Pierce and slam dunk for a 126-123 lead with 35.5 seconds left in the third overtime, then began the celebration with a victory lap around the United Center floor slapping hands with fans.
Noah then grabbed the microphone from post game host Steve Kashul and bellowed, “Woooooooo! I really don’t even know what happened,” Noah screamed to the fans. “But I’m so happy.”
So I’ll remind him. This era of sports is filled with top 10 lists of the best plays (well, 12 in this case). So maybe that’s the best way to deal with this one. I actually made a point after the game of going around to the players in the locker room and asking them the biggest moment or play or what they remember most vividly.
Not one could give me an answer. They were all so caught up, as Salmons would say, “in the moment,” that most just shrugged and looked puzzled.
Brad Miller, who got his redemption and revenge the right way by making plays and hitting big shots and free throws, joked about being able to make free throws (five of five, all in the overtimes) when not woozy.
Kirk Hinrich talked about being glad his missed open layup with 21.9 seconds left in the third overtime and the Bulls up one (when Rondo seemed to have interfered with the ball in the cylinder without a call) didn’t cost the game. Ben Gordon, who fouled out late in the first overtime, said he thought he was having an anxiety attack on the bench.
“It was mind boggling some of the stuff happening out there,” Gordon said. “Guys were hitting amazing shots. Guys were making really big plays. It seemed like every play down the stretch, we’d get up by three and they kept getting open and making big plays. It probably happened 50 or 60 times. I thought we’d steal the game or lose the game and something else ended up happened. It was nerve racking.
“If they didn’t know (about us) before the series,” said Gordon. “They definitely know now.”
So here are your plays of the game:
1.   Noah’s steal, full court breakaway dunk and foul to draw Pierce’s sixth and free throw for that three-point lead with 35.5 seconds left in the third overtime.
“Once I got the steal, I thought I would get fouled right away,” said Noah, who had nine points and a game-high 15 rebounds. “But I just dribbled it down the court.  The foul never came.  I just dunked it in.”
Said Miller: “I didn’t know if (Joakim) was going to dribble it off his foot or if he’d make it all the way. I saw the hair moving fast. These young guys with the athleticism. They are making plays.”
2.   Rose’s block on Rondo. Why Rondo didn’t find Allen was curious as Rondo lined up to shoot with 7.9 seconds left when he was four of 16 at the time. Rose got it going up with his left hand.
“Derrick Rose made a great play,” said Allen.
“It was a one on one deal,” said Rose. “I just was trying to get a stop or trying to get him to take a bad shot.”
3. Ray Allen’s three in the first overtime to tie the game at 118 with 7.6 seconds left. The Bulls never got a shot off afterward as Miller fumbled the inbounds pass. Allen was amazing with 18 of 32 and nine of 18 threes.
“I’ve seen enough of Ray Allen’s threes with less than five seconds to last a lifetime,” said Miller.
Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said the play was to foul Allen to avoid a three.
“We tried to foul him,” said Del Negro.  I told Lindsey (Hunter) to foul him right in front of our bench.  They didn’t call it.  If you foul him too hard, that's not good.  But we wanted to foul with the three point lead and put him on the line.  We just did not execute it well and Ray hit a great shot with a hand in his face.  That is what great players do.”
Said Allen: “It was a lot of opportunities I had I was kicking myself. I had 50 or 51 and I was thinking how much more it could have been and we could have won and how I let so many easy ones slip away, the opportunities we had as a team. It’s very bittersweet. There’s nothing to talk about. We lost and you have that agony that it wasn’t enough.”
4. Brad Miller’s three from on top with 1:06 left in regulation to bring the Bulls within 101-99 after they’d trailed by eight with under three minutes left. And after Tony Allen missing for a second straight time, Miller faking Kendrick Perkins and driving past for a layup to tie the game at 101 with 29.7 seconds left in regulation. Miller would finish with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
This time—and throughout the game—the Bulls doubled and trapped on Pierce, who missed a 16 footer and Gordon couldn’t make a winner as the game went into the first overtime.
“I thought Brad Miller was the savior for them,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “We gave up the three and then the drive and that was the difference. Miller was the savior.”
5. Salmons’ driving layup to tie the game at 109 in the first overtime with 23.5 seconds left. And then Pierce futile in trying to get off a 15 footer with Hinrich, Salmons and Rose all coverging.
“For me it’s the significance of the game,” said Salmons. Maybe the shot in overtime. Being in the moment. Winning a game we had to win. It showed how much character both teams had. They kept making shots. We kept making shots.”
Salmons also starred in the second overtime with a three with Allen up tight on him and then a drive and switching hands to go up lefty and get fouled for a three-point play with two minutes left to give the Bulls a 116-113 lead.
Allen then hit a jumper from the right corner in which he barely was touching the three-point line and it was ruled a two. The referees replayed it and agreed with 20 seconds left. Miller then hit two free throws, opening it for Allen’s three to tie.
6. Rose’s driving layup with 2:48 left in regulation to get the Bulls within 99-93. This game was over. The Bulls had led 88-76 with just over 10 minutes left in the game when they stopped moving the ball and fell into their one-on-one play and went more than six minutes without scoring. Boston led 99-91 on a Pierce three and it looked like Rondo could wrap it up as he was fouled on the next possession by Miller. But he gagged both free throws, and then Rose refused to yield and put his head down and scored. Rondo then forced up a miss at the shot clock as the Celtics began to sit on the ball, and Salmons drove and scored and was fouled by Perkins and suddenly the Bulls trailed 99-96 with 2:08 left.
“We gave up a couple of uncontested shots for three and the three point play and next thing you looked up and the game was tied up and we were like, ‘Man, still time on the clock,’” said Pierce. “When you have a team on the ropes like that and you’re on the road you’ve got to take it from them. We definitely had our opportunities those last couple of minutes. We should have been a lot more aggressive instead of letting time run out.”
7. Glen Davis’ 10-footer with 40 seconds left in the first overtime to give Boston a 109-107 lead. The Bulls were aggressively overplaying both Pierce and Allen, and Davis hit some big shots, including a three-point play to give Boston its first lead in the third overtime and the Celtics’ first two scores of the second overtime. He finished with 23 on 10 of 18 shooting, but fouled out along with Perkins and Pierce.
8. Perkins’ block of Salmons’ three with the Bulls down five with four minutes left in regulation, and then his rebound of an Allen miss and pass out to Pierce for the three to give Boston the eight-point lead with 3:38 left.
“We were down in the fourth and game back and took the lead and we stopped playing,” said Rivers. “We tried to hold on and that's not how we got the lead. Overtimes are overtime. Guys foul out and things like that but you've got an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter and we just stopped playing. Give them credit. With an eight point lead if you are a good defensive team you literally don't have to score again.”
9. Pierce’s pump fakes for fouls and four free throws, which brought the Celtics back from a 107-103 deficit with under two minutes left in the first overtime. Rose then committed his fifth turnover and the Celtics went on to take a brief lead before Salmons tied it. Rose, though, opened the third overtime fast with a 20 footer and he then scooped up a rebound the Celtics had but lost amidst three guys and was there to pick it up and score, the kind of opportunistic plays Rose was making all game to finish with 28 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
“I thought Derrick was solid all game,” said Del Negro.  “In the fourth quarter and overtime he tried some passes in the paint a little tight.  But everyone contributed.”
10. Noah’s offensive rebounds in the third quarter. With Boston coming hard after halftime as they’ve done most of this series and scoring on their first seven possessions to take a lead, Noah rebounded his own miss and scored and then a Tyrus Thomas miss and scored again to keep the Bulls within 71-70. The Bulls then closed the third with threes from Salmons, a celebrating Miller and Hinrich and no one had any idea how much more there was to play.
“Words can't really describe it right now,” said Noah.  “It's emotional, but at the same time I understand that we haven't accomplished anything yet.  I'm just really excited that we're still alive.  We were really close to death today.  I feel like every game is like that.  It's such a roller coaster but I'm having so much fun out there.  I really feel blessed to be in this situation. It's special to be part of this series that people will be talking about for a long time.”
11. Salmons’ hot start. He scored 16 points in the first quarter to take the attention off all the hard foul stuff and give the Bulls a 30-18 lead. More importantly, it pushed the pace on the Celtics, who have abandoned much pretext of being a great defensive team. All and Pierce combined for 19 in the quarter and took turns going at Gordon, whom Del Negro lifted early this time for Hinrich and better defense. Hinrich played 43 minutes, and Gordon was also in foul trouble and shot just four of 14.
“Ben did not have his usual pop and speed,” said Del Negro.  “He was fighting through a lot of picks chasing Ray Allen around the floor.  Whenever Ben is on the floor he is a threat.  We are going to need him for Game seven in Boston.  Ben has made so many great plays of us and then Kirk stepped in and was great.  We are going to have to play the best game of the series.  There is no pressure on us.  The pressure is all on them.  They are at home, they are the defending champions.“
12 . The inevitable near fight. That was late in the first when Rondo and Hinrich tangled with Rondo throwing Hinrich off him and Hinrich coming back in what initially looked like it could mean ejections. Tyrus Thomas and Mikki Moore also briefly went at one another in the melee before everyone was separated after some yelling. Rondo was assessed a flagrant foul and Hinrich a technical foul and both remained.
“I got up and shoved (Rondo)," said Hinrich. "I don’t know who stepped between us. I don’t think he threw a punch at me. It was one of those things where you get caught up in the moment and you just try to bring yourself back down. We’re competing hard and there’s a lot of stuff going on between the teams. Just trying to get the better of one another. I thought it would be what called. I think the ruling unless you take a swing you don’t get ejected. It was a basic scuffle and it was treated that way. I was just trying to box him out. I guess he thought I was doing too much. He threw me away and I went back and pushed him and that was it.”
No, one more. And it no longer seems enough.