Chicago Bulls: D.J. Augustin

Bulls player reviews: D.J. Augustin

May, 6, 2014
May 6
9:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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D.J. AugustinAP Photo/John RaouxD.J. Augustin often brought the spark the Bulls needed after they signed him in December.

D.J. Augustin

2013-14 salary: $650,215 | Age: 26 | Season stats: 13.1 PPG, 4.4 APG.

Season recap: Augustin was described many times as a "season-saver" by Chicago Bulls teammates and coaches after being picked up off waivers from the Toronto Raptors in December. He was the offensive spark plug the Bulls needed after losing Derrick Rose to another knee injury. Chicago leaned on Augustin offensively throughout the regular season, and he usually delivered down the stretch.

Season highlight: The diminutive point guard scored a career-high 33 points, 15 in the fourth quarter, in a victory over the Boston Celtics on March 30.

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Season lowlight: Aside from a solid stretch in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Washington Wizards, Augustin was a non-factor in the series. He did not hit shots and was bothered by the Wizards' size. Taking out his 10-for-22 performance in Game 2, Augustin was just 11-for-50 in the rest of the series.

Final grade: A-minus.

Notes: Augustin fit in well with his new teammates and thrived in a system where he was given confidence again. As Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said many times throughout the season, Augustin and the Bulls found each other at the right time.

Quotes: "He's been great," Noah said of Augustin in late March. "I'm really happy that he's part of this team. As soon as he came in he fit in right away. He's a laid-back guy, quiet guy, but he's a hell of a competitor. Plays well in the big moment. We wouldn't be in this position right now if it wasn't for him."

What's next? Augustin reiterated last week that he wants to stay in Chicago next season. The question will be whether he priced himself out of the Bulls' range. Chicago general manager Gar Forman acknowledged how much the organization likes Augustin -- but the Bulls aren't going to break the bank to sign him. If he wants big money, he'll probably have to look elsewhere.

Augustin hopes to be back with Bulls

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
4:45
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls point guard D.J. Augustin says he would like to return to the team next season.

"They told me that they wanted me back," Augustin said after Wednesday's team meetings. "And I really want to be back so we'll see how everything works out."

Augustin
Augustin isn't sure how the financial figures will work out, but he has made it clear that he would like to come back.

"Yeah I mean, it's a business, you know," he said when asked about a potential hometown discount. "They definitely gave me an opportunity. I owe them a lot, and like I said, it's not always about the money. It's where you feel comfortable or where you fit in. I definitely want to be here and hopefully everything works out."

Picked up off waivers from the Toronto Raptors in December, Augustin gave the Bulls the playmaker they needed after Derrick Rose went down with a knee injury in November. Augustin averaged 14.9 points and 5 assists, mostly off the bench.

"We like D.J.," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. "Again, had a really good meeting with him a little while ago. I think D.J.'s a fit. He's been a fit as far as his makeup and character, how he fit with our other guys and I think his game is a fit because of his ability to create and to score. But those are things, again, that will happen in July [when free agency begins]. We're hopeful we'll be in a position that D.J. will consider coming back and that we're in a position to have him back."

Forman didn't want to speculate if Augustin had priced himself out of the Bulls' price range and also wouldn't rule out the possibility of bringing back both fellow free agent Kirk Hinrich and Augustin.

"There are so many different ways this summer can go, depending on some of the decisions we make," Forman said. "It could be that we have just a little bit of flexibility, but there are different scenarios where we could have a lot of flexibility. I wouldn't want to completely rule that out by any means. We value Kirk and Kirk's been a big part of what we've done over the last nine or 10 years. So it would be our goal that we have Kirk back, also."

Augustin said he would like the chance to play alongside Rose next season.

"He can create and he can get people open shots, and I can create and get people open shots, so I think it will be good for us as a team and each other," Augustin said.

Rapid Reaction: Wizards 75, Bulls 69

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
9:41
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Washington Wizards eliminated the Chicago Bullswith a 75-69 win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at the United Center on Tuesday night. The Wizards won the series 4-1.

How it happened: John Wall had a big game for the Wizards, going off for 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists as Washington did just enough to knock out a battered Bulls squad. Nene had another productive night for the Wizards, scoring 20 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out four assists. Kirk Hinrich paced the Bulls with 16 points and four assists -- but it wasn't enough, as the Bulls simply lost to a better team.

What it means: The story remains the same for the Bulls year after year: They show plenty of heart and toughness throughout the regular season but, once the playoffs begin, they don't have enough talent to reach their ultimate goal and run out of gas. The Bulls just couldn't score in this series -- or this season, for that matter -- and it continues to be the single biggest issue for this organization. The hope is that Derrick Rose will come back next season and be at full strength. But this team needs more than a healthy Rose to proceed in the playoffs. They need to find scorers who have the ability to create offensively and open space for their teammates. Until the Bulls' front office does that, the end of the playoffs will always look like it did on Tuesday night.

Hits: Playing on a bad leg, Joakim Noah hobbled around the floor and still managed to put up six points, grab 18 rebounds and dish out seven assists.

Misses: D.J. Augustin was just 1-for-10 from the field.

Stat of the night: The Bulls shot 33.3 percent from the field.

What's next: The focus for the Bulls now revolves around Carmelo Anthony. Will they be able to convince him to come to Chicago over the summer?

Thibodeau to Bulls: Stop getting bullied

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
9:22
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Joakim NoahChuck Myers/MCT via Getty ImagesThe Wizards have set the tone early through four games against Joakim Noah and the Bulls.
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- As the Chicago Bulls get set for what could be their last stand of the season Tuesday night in Game 5 against the Washington Wizards, Tom Thibodeau's message to his players was clear as they fight for their playoff lives.

Stop getting bullied. Fight back.

Over the first four games of this series, the Wizards have been the team setting the tone on both ends of the floor most of the time. It's a reality the Bulls coach doesn't want his players dealing with anymore.

"They're trying to be a bully to us," Bulls guard D.J. Augustin said after Monday's practice. "Come out and punch us in the mouth early. So we've got to come out and jump on them early. When we do that we usually win games."

When the Bulls don't do that, they end up in the kind of situation they're in right now -- on the brink of the end of their season. For all the "fight" and "edge" Thibodeau and his players always talk about, they fell flat in a major way during Game 4. Once again, they were outplayed from the beginning and couldn't catch up. The problem for the Bulls is that they don't seem to have an answer for why they keep getting punched in the mouth by the Wizards.

"I don't know," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "I really don't know. I'm on the bench looking just like you. We cut [the Wizards' lead] to like six [in Game 4], but when you drain so much energy just fighting out of that big hole early, it's kind of hard to come out. We just need a really good, strong start."

The Bulls are saying all the right things when it comes to getting back on track, they just aren't following through on them when the game begins. They look and sound like a mentally and physically drained group, which is exactly why what they say should be taken with a grain of salt.

"Just pick up our energy level," Gibson said. "Come out with the right kind of spunk. We're giving them too much confidence early and a team like that, you can't give them confidence. You've got to try and slow them down any kind of way."

The one thing the Bulls can usually rely upon is their toughness. It's the main characteristic that has pushed them to so many victories over the past four years under Thibodeau. But to have the kind of toughness the Bulls usually display, they need energy, and that's a resource that's in short supply for them. They are getting beaten by a better team in this series, a younger and quicker team. To find a way back, Thibodeau must call upon all the pride his players have and convince them to keep pushing.

They've done it in the past, but not under these circumstances.

"I've been around our team," Thibodeau said. "This team's been up against it for two years. So all we're thinking about [Tuesday] is win the game. Win the game. Take it step by step. Don't get wrapped up in doomsday or any of that stuff, just think about what we have to do to win."

3 Points: Build around Wall or Rose?

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
4:45
PM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
Derrick Rose and John WallUSA Today Sports, Getty Images When healthy, Derrick Rose and John Wall are two of the quickest players in the NBA.
Every week, Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.

1. Who would you rather build your team around right now, Derrick Rose or John Wall?


Friedell: Even the most ardent Rose supporter would probably have to admit that Wall is the better option right now. That's because Wall is an All-Star who has recently proven that he can stay on the floor. Rose has only played 50 games in the past three seasons, and nobody is quite sure what kind of player he'll be when he does return. Wall is still getting better, and nobody knows if Rose will ever reach the MVP level he was at before his first knee injury.

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Who would you rather build your team around right now?

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Jon Greenberg, ESPNChicago.com columnist: It's easy to say Wall because he's on the floor right now. Rose's injury spell has drastically altered his reputation. As Thibs would say, it's a make-or-miss league. When you miss this much time, people forget. So I'd still stick with Derrick. Maybe I'm stubborn like Rose and Thibodeau, but I still think he has another six or seven years of top-flight basketball left. Maybe more. In his brief return to action, Rose showed he still had that nasty first step and could still explode toward the rim. The timing hadn't come back all the way, but you were getting a sense it was close. Rose's most recent knee injury isn't anywhere near as serious as the ACL tear. He'll be back to normal much quicker. Wall is a very, very good point guard, but I just don't think he has Rose's ceiling. Then again, he's out there playing, so maybe that's good enough.

Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist: Wall is the easy choice to say right now since we haven't seen Derrick play at peak level in 2 ½ years. I don't know if it's fair or possible to answer that question "accurately" without being a prisoner of the moment. But for the sake of conversation, I'll say Rose. Whereas Wall is a great, soon-to-be elite player in the league, Derrick (when healthy) is special. Like, LeBron/KD special.


2. What's happened to Joakim Noah's defense in this series?


Friedell: Noah has always had a problem against big centers. Notably, Dwight Howard and Roy Hibbert. Nene fits that mold, but the difference early in this series is that Nene has been able to knock down jumpers and bang down low. The reality for the Bulls is that this just isn't a good matchup for him, but I do expect him to play better.

[+] EnlargeJoakim Noah
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsDefensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah has struggled to contain the Wizards' Nene through two games.
Greenberg: Well, Nene is a tough cover. He can shoot, and he can muscle inside. Marcin Gortat can get baskets, too. Noah is uniquely valuable because he can switch on screens and disrupt pick-and-rolls. But when the Wizards are making midrange jumpers, what can you do? Noah deserved his award because it was emblematic of the team's defensive success. But he's not a one-man lockdown defender. He's just the captain of a very mobile, very frustrating defense. That defense is simply getting worked by the multifaceted Wizards offense.

Jackson: It's still there, it's just under the microscope because we are focusing on his "matchup" with Nene as opposed to what he's doing overall inside of the team's defense. Noah is not a shut-down defender, he's a team defender. He roams, and he is one of the best help-defenders in the league, as witnessed on his contest of the Bradley Beal shot that could have won the game in regulation for the Wizards. Judging Jo's defense on his individual matchup (he honestly should be guarding center Gortat, not power forward Nene) is not a true indication of how he's playing D or if his D has disappeared.


3. What should the Bulls do about their struggles to score in the fourth quarter?


Friedell: The sad part for Thibodeau is he doesn't have many choices. D.J. Augustin can score, but once Trevor Ariza switched onto him, he was a non-factor. The only other move Thibodeau could make is to play Mike Dunleavy more down the stretch. Obviously, he doesn't trust him as much defensively, but Dunleavy is a solid defender and can hit shots. It's time for Thibodeau to try something different in the final few minutes.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Boozer
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesWould Carlos Boozer in the fourth quarter make a difference for the Bulls?
Greenberg: Score more points? Seriously, the only options are either try to insert Dunleavy for Kirk Hinrich/Jimmy Butler or figure out a way to free Augustin from Trevor Ariza, or any other bigger defender the Wizards stick on him. The first is problematic because the Bulls need Hinrich to run the point when Augustin is getting dogged by big defenders, and they need Butler to defend Bradley Beal or Ariza. Carlos Boozer is a more popular option, given his ability to get buckets. Do you sub out Taj Gibson or Noah then? Maybe for a few minutes just to see if Boozer is feeling it. Perhaps Thibodeau can just do some offense/defense substitutions late in the game. Or maybe the answer is subbing out Butler, who played the entire 53 minutes last game, or Augustin before crunch time so they can be a little fresher in the last five or six minutes. With Nene in his grill, Noah can't run his point-center offense. Hinrich isn't a takeover scorer late in the game. Maybe the answer is there are no easy solutions with a limited roster.

Jackson: Make Butler shoot. Make Dunleavy shoot. Run plays for Tony Snell. Use Jimmer Fredette. Put Boozer in, put him on the blocks and let him either score, get to the line or create double teams to kick the rock out to shooters. Anything. Yes, the Bulls are at times an offensively challenged team, but we can't sit here and act as though they don't have options to score. I know it is hard for coaches to break out of their mental cycles in playoff series, but every team has 12 players for a reason. Sometimes you just gotta use them.

Thibodeau goes on defense about rotation

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
1:30
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Tom Thibodeau's reign as coach of the Chicago Bulls has been defined by consistency. No matter who is on the floor, no matter who is injured, no matter what the circumstances are, his teams usually find a way to win.

[+] EnlargeTom Thibodeau
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastIs Tom Thibodeau stubborn or just committed to his game plan?
He and his players have created a standard within the organization to demand more success. Thibodeau's approach doesn't change; he plays his cards close to the vest, and he usually plays the same cards over and over again until he gets a winner.

The relentlessness that has set him apart from other coaches around the league is being viewed differently after the Bulls dropped their first two games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to the Washington Wizards. The narrative regarding Thibodeau's passion has changed; now he's just being viewed as stubborn.

After watching the Bulls' inept late-game offense struggle again in Tuesday night's Game 2 loss -- to the tune of four made field goals in the final 12:16 of the game -- Thibodeau's frustration finally boiled to the surface. He chafed at the suggestion that he might consider rotation changes immediately after Game 2, and he balked again when the topic of Carlos Boozer's minutes came up after Wednesday's practice.

"The group that's in there, Taj [Gibson] is playing well," Thibodeau said. "Whenever you say, put someone else in, you're taking someone else out. Who you taking out? Joakim [Noah]? Who you taking out? Taj? Everyone has a job to do. Just do your job."

The interesting part of Thibodeau's exchange is that he rarely allows that frustration to become public. He is very aware of what media members say and write about what he does during the season, but he usually keeps those opinions to himself. He doesn't let his guard down.

(Read full post)

Augustin goes from hot to cold in loss

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
1:39
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- D.J. Augustin was rolling.

With 8:08 left in regulation Tuesday's Game 2, the Chicago Bulls' diminutive point guard knocked down a 21-foot jump shot that gave him 25 points on the night. The jumper gave the Bulls an eight-point lead and they appeared to be on their way to evening up their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series with the Washington Wizards.

[+] EnlargeD.J. Augustin
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesD.J. Augustin had a rough finish to Game 2 after the Wizards made a defensive switch and held him scoreless down the stretch.
But that's when things went downhill for Augustin. It's also when things also went south for the Bulls. While there were plenty of reasons the Bulls couldn't close yet again late in a game, one of the single biggest reasons is that Wizards coach Randy Wittman switched veteran Trevor Ariza to defend Augustin.

Augustin didn't hit another shot the rest of the game -- a total of 13 minutes, 8 seconds that crushed the Bulls' offense.

"It was tough to score on him because he's 6-8," said Augustin, who stands just 6-foot. "He's long so it was tough to score on him, even to get open. I think it was a good strategy by them and we tried to counter it by going to other people, so we just got to be ready next game."

The reality that the Bulls' offense was shut down -- in large part -- due to the fact a long and athletic swingman switched onto a smaller point guard is going to give coach Tom Thibodeau and his staff nightmares as they prepare for Game 3. It's the same strategy that the Miami Heat have used in recent years to derail Thibodeau's offense. In the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, it was Miami's LeBron James who switched on to Derrick Rose and shut him down late in games. In the 2013 Eastern Conference semifinals, it was James who switched on to Nate Robinson and did the same thing.

Now it's Ariza who has provided the perfect antidote to defending a Bulls' offense that was rolling along behind Augustin. As has been the case in years past, once Augustin or Robinson or Rose stop scoring, the Bulls' offense stops working. The Bulls made only four field goals in the final 12 minutes, 16 seconds.

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Late chances off the mark for Hinrich

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
1:24
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – With the season hanging in the balance Tuesday at United Center, Chicago Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich first couldn’t muster any heroics, and then he couldn’t handle the basics.

Late in regulation, Hinrich had two looks at long-range jumpers that wouldn’t fall for a Bulls team struggling to score in the final quarter. A 10-point lead with seven minutes remaining melted away, sending the game into overtime.

[+] EnlargeKirk Hinrich
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty ImagesWith the game on the line, Kirk Hinrich went to the free throw line with a chance to tie -- and left empty-handed.
In the extra period, Hinrich found himself in the spotlight again. With the Bulls trailing by two, Hinrich missed a layup in traffic, but a foul sent him to the free throw line with a chance to extend the game into a second overtime.

But Hinrich missed the first free throw, intentionally missed the second, and the Washington Wizards grabbed the rebound along with the commanding 2-0 series lead after a 101-99 victory.

“Yeah, I mean I was upset. I felt I should have made the layup to be honest,” Hinrich said. “But I just wasn’t able to do it. I thought maybe I shot it a little quick, thinking about it now in my mind. But you have to move on and just stay confident.”

Hinrich isn’t the Bulls' No. 1 offensive option by any means, but without a primary scorer, his selections are limited while running the offense. D.J. Augustin led the Bulls with 25 points, but he had his own issues down the stretch in regulation, missing three shots in the final 3 minutes, 16 seconds.

Asked if he was satisfied with the long-range jumpers late in regulation, Hinrich shrugged.

“Well, I mean I got a good look, but I wasn’t satisfied,” he said. “I need to knock them down. Late in games, you have to be able to knock shots down. I missed a couple of good looks late.”

It’s the missed free throw that will be remembered most. The Bulls appeared destined to head into a second overtime but had the rug pulled out from underneath them.

And just as suddenly, they find themselves looking at the prospect of a quick elimination, instead of establishing themselves in the series.

A late jump shot or a pair of clutch free throws could have helped to get the Bulls into the thick of things, but Hinrich’s teammates weren’t about to turn on their veteran leader.

“I think it's all part of the process,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said. “I love Kirk to death. He's one of the best teammates I ever had, college, pros, whatever. That's our captain, I love him to death. Things like that happen in this game. We just got to move on from it and I got his back 150 percent.”

Taj Gibson, who supplied energy during his 36 minutes off the bench, not to mention 22 points and 10 rebounds, echoed Noah’s sentiment.

“Yeah, I was surprised. Things like that are going to happen,” Gibson said of Hinrich’s missed first free throw. “He’s a tremendous player. He’s been great for us all year long, been in that situation many times. If that happened in that time again, I would still go with Kirk. He’s one of the captains on this team, one of the veterans on this team. I was just a little shocked when he missed, but it happens like that, he’s human.”

Now it will take something close to superhuman for the Bulls to get back in the series that shifts to Washington for Games 3 and 4.


“Both games we’ve given up [with] fourth-quarter leads, so we have to do a better job,” Hinrich said. “Give them credit, though. They’re playing well, and they’ve been resilient these two games. We have to bounce back strong.”

Rapid Reaction: Wizards 101, Bulls 99 (OT)

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
11:46
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Washington Wizards earned a 101-99 overtime win over the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The Wizards lead the series 2-0.

How it happened: Bradley Beal had a game-high 26 points to lead the Wizards back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Nene Hilario had another solid outing for the Wizards, chipping in with 17 points and seven rebounds. D.J. Augustin had a nice bounce-back game for the Bulls with a team-high 25 points and seven assists. Taj Gibson added 22 points and 10 rebounds, but the Bulls will kick themselves for not closing this one out. Kirk Hinrich had a chance to tie the game with 2 seconds left but missed two free throws (the second one on purpose).

What it means: The Bulls melted down in this one. They had plenty of chances to close the game down but they couldn't make shots. It has been their Achilles' heel all season and it burned them in Game 1 as well. They didn't have an answer when they needed to make a big shot. The Bulls played better defense down the stretch in this game, but head coach Tom Thibodeau is going to have a sleepless nights after watching all the shots his team missed late. Jimmy Butler, Carlos Boozer and Hinrich combined to go just 9-for-28 from the field. The Bulls are learning the hard way that they can't win playoff games by simply trying harder than other teams -- everybody tries hard in the playoffs. At some point, Thibodeau has to be able to count on somebody to take over late. He doesn't have that luxury right now.

Hits: The Bulls outscored the Wizards 44-22 in the paint.

Misses: The Wizards were just 16-for-28 from the free throw line -- and still won.

Stat of the night: The Bulls made just four field goals in the final 12:16.

What's next: Game 3 is Friday night in Washington.

Augustin: Game 2 is must-win for Bulls

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
11:51
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- D.J. Augustin knows how important Game 2 against the Washington Wizards is for the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night. After falling into a 1-0 hole, Augustin is hopeful that his team will be able to turn things around.

[+] EnlargeD.J. Augustin
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty ImagesD.J. Augustin struggled to find his shooting stroke from the floor in Game 1 against the Wizards.
"Definitely a must-win," he said after Tuesday's shootaround. "We're not looking forward to D.C. yet so we have to get tonight. We're real hungry. We can't go into D.C. without a win tonight so it's very important for us."

Every game is important to Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, but he's not willing to call Game 2 a "must-win."

"It's the next game," Thibodeau said. "You see all different situations. Just focus in on this game, don't get wrapped in the 'what ifs,' just understand what goes into winning. Go out there and do your job."

Augustin struggled with his shot in Game 1, connecting on just 3-of-15 attempts from the floor, but he hit all 10 of his free throws, finishing with 16 points.

Noah backs Boozer: Carlos Boozer has been vocal about his desire to play more in the fourth quarter of games, but Bulls center Joakim Noah appreciates the fact that he hasn't let that desire hurt his play when he has been on the floor.

"'Los' is huge for us," Noah said. "We need everybody. This isn't one of those teams where one or two guys can play well. Everybody has to be on the same page, play well. You got to give Carlos a lot of credit. With everything that's gone on with him, he's dealt with a lot of adversity this year.

"He's been pretty vocal about his situation, but he's been as selfless as they come. Just being ready for these moments -- he could have easily been one of those guys who said 'You know what? I'm not happy.' But he didn't do that so you got to give 'Los' a lot of credit."

Thibs happy for Pop: Thibodeau has repeatedly praised the San Antonio Spurs as being the "gold standard" in the NBA. His respect for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is easy to see, as well. That's one of the reasons why Thibodeau seemed genuinely happy when told Popovich won the 2013-14 NBA Coach of the Year award Tuesday.

"I'm happy for him," Thibodeau said. "You know how I feel about him. I think he's an all-time great. He's won at such a high level for so long, and he's done it in a first-class manner. He's a great example for all coaches. So I'm very happy for him."

Bulls' chief flaw reappears in Game 1 loss

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
10:35
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler didn't have an answer to the question the Chicago Bulls needed to figure out most late in Sunday night's loss the Washington Wizards.

The young swingman sat patiently in front of his locker trying to figure what had happened to his team's offense in the final 12 minutes of Game 1. Was it the ball movement, or lack thereof, that caused the Bulls to score just 18 points in the final frame? Was it a lack of confidence?

[+] EnlargeBulls
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhFrom left, Augustin, Hinrich, Butler, Gibson and Noah each scored between 10 and 16 points, but the Bulls still lack a pure scorer to generate consistent offense.
"I don't know," Butler said. "It's a good question."

The Bulls' defensive woes will keep coach Tom Thibodeau up at night, but it's the offense that could prove to be a bigger issue as this series rolls along. The Bulls had nowhere to turn late in the game and no answers for a Wizards squad that tightened things up on the defensive end.

"A little bit of both probably," Butler continued. "But we missed some shots and we'll fix it. It's not like we can't score in the fourth quarter -- we didn't tonight. [It's] easily correctable. Turn it around easily."

The problem for Butler and his teammates is that it's easier said than done. Sunday's game was close to a worst-case scenario for a Bulls team that has hidden its weaknesses very well since Jan. 1, the biggest weakness being that they can't always find easy ways to score. It has been an issue for the Bulls all season -- and it appeared at the worst possible time again on Sunday as the Bulls went through long droughts during which they couldn't buy a basket.

"We just couldn't hit any shots," Bulls guard D.J. Augustin said. "I felt like we were trying to get open, but they did a good job of denying us and taking us out of our offense. So we have to make some adjustments next game, and I think we'll do that … we just have to come up with some counters for our plays because we know they're trying to take us out of everything."

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Paxson lauds Augustin's 'special' season

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
4:57
PM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
D.J. AugustinAP Photo/The Canadian Press/Chris YoungD.J. Augustin rejuvenated his NBA career at just the right time for the Bulls.
When Derrick Rose went down for a second straight season in November with a knee injury, luck certainly didn't appear to be on the Chicago Bulls' side.

As the Bulls tried to regain their balance in the wake of another devastating loss of their franchise player, D.J. Augustin was sitting on the bench in Toronto, a former lottery pick in 2008 unable to crack the Raptors' rotation. He appeared in just 10 games with the Raptors, averaging just 8.2 minutes a game before being released Dec. 9.

But his release turned out to be a stroke of luck for Augustin and the Bulls. Looking for depth at guard with Rose lost for another season, the 8-12 Bulls signed Augustin on Dec. 13. Now the Bulls, who went 40-22 since he signed, begin the playoffs Sunday against the Washington Wizards as one of the NBA's hottest teams. And Augustin, who just four months ago appeared to be bound for journeyman status, has played a major role.

"We knew D.J. was a pro," Bulls executive vice president John Paxson said Friday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "He had two really good years in Charlotte, averaging double figures, that type of thing. But somehow, and it happens with players sometimes in this league, they go to different teams and they kind of get lost in the shuffle. The stars kind of aligned for him and us with Derrick's injury and him not playing any minutes in Toronto and them letting him go, we were in a position to sell to him that he would have an opportunity to play significant minutes."

He only started nine games, but Augustin proved to be the playmaker the Bulls needed, leading the team in scoring at 14.9 points a game and was second in assists with 5.0 a game.

"Much like Nate Robinson last year, D.J. has won us a ton of games and in many ways made this season what it is," Paxson said. "It's a credit to him as an individual player to come here, accept and embrace the opportunity and then to respond and to perform and his performance has been terrific. You always like guys that are fearless, and he's that way. He'll take big shots, he'll make them, you can put the ball in his hands and most times he's going to make the right decision.

"When you look back on it, he did start some games when Kirk was out for a little bit," Paxson said, "but for the most part he's been coming off the bench, playing about 25-30 minutes a game and he's averaging almost 15 points a game in that role for us. It's been a special year for him and we wouldn't be where we are without him."

As lucky as both parties were to find each other in December, the fortune likely will change for the Bulls in the offseason when it comes to Augustin. Playing on a one-year deal, Augustin, like Robinson last summer, should be in demand as a free agent and might have priced himself out of the Bulls' budget with his comeback season.

"We hope so certainly that we can sign him, but he's not under contract next year and there will be a market for him," Paxson said. "He's had a spectacular year."

Three keys for Bulls vs. Wizards

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
9:36
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Joakim NoahGeoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsJoakim Noah's Bulls face a young and talented team in the Wizards in the first round.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Taj Gibson and his Chicago Bulls teammates didn't try to sugarcoat how difficult a matchup they believe they have in front of them against the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals that start Sunday night at the United Center.

"Tough team, man," Gibson said after Wednesday night's loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. "Tough, tough team. They gave us so many problems in the regular season. Great shooters. They've got some great bigs in Nene and [Marcin] Gortat. John Wall is playing some phenomenal basketball. Bradley Beal is playing great basketball, too. Their bench is even loaded up. I don't know. It's going to be tough, man."

The Bulls respect the Wizards, but they still believe they can beat them.

Let's take a look at a few of the keys in this series:

1. Slowing down Wall


Wall
John Wall is in the midst of the best season of his career, averaging almost 20 points a game with almost nine assists. The job of defending Wall will fall to the point guard duo of Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin. Hinrich spent some time playing with Wall during his rookie year and doesn't seem surprised he has become so good.

"When he came into the league he was very talented," Hinrich said. "A good player, and just kind of the natural maturation [of a player]. He's gotten to an All-Star level; he's a great player and a great guy so I'm happy for him."

Hinrich's job over the last two weeks will be to make Wall miserable, though. The question for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is how many extra minutes he'll be willing to use Hinrich in the playoffs. After spending the past few years battling various injuries, Hinrich has stayed relatively healthy by playing between 25-30 minutes this season. Thibodeau is going to have to decide how far he wants to push Hinrich because the veteran is clearly his best defensive option.

2. The battle on the blocks


No matter which Bulls player talks about the Wizards, usually one of the of the first things they mention is the big man duo of Nene and Marcin Gortat. The pair has given the Bulls trouble in the past, and it's worth noting the one game the Bulls beat the Wizards in this season was when Nene didn't play because of an injury. In order to win this series, the Bulls must find a way to control the battle between the big men. It will be up to Joakim Noah and Gibson to hold down the fort.

"They got a very tough frontcourt in Nene and (Marcin) Gortat," Noah said. "So we have to be ready for that. They have a great backcourt as well with Wall and (Bradley) Beal. They have a lot of talent so they're definitely a tough matchup. It's not going to be easy. Every game's going to be a tough battle, but I think we're a team that's battle-tested. We know what it takes and this is exciting. You never know what's going to happen in the playoffs. I just can't wait to compete."

3. Butler takes center stage


Since Luol Deng was traded to Cleveland, Jimmy Butler has filled in on the defensive end without missing a beat. The question for him now becomes after a full season of playing 40-plus minutes a night, will he be able to withstand the pressure of the playoffs on both ends of the floor. Butler will be asked to guard Beal and will be looked upon to provide an offensive punch. It's a tall order for the 24-year-old, but one that he's willing to embrace. His teammates believe in him, and he continues to gain more confidence in himself.

"I think we did well," Butler said of the season. "We did what we were supposed to do -- make it to the playoffs. Now it's time to win 16 games and bring the chip home."

Augustin rejoins Bulls after birth of his son

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
3:59
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHARLOTTE -- D.J. Augustin is happy to be back with the Chicago Bulls after missing Monday's game against the Orlando Magic to be with his wife as she gave birth to a baby boy, Trey.

Augustin
Augustin proudly rattled off the details of the newest member of the family after Wednesday morning's shootaround.

"He was 7 pounds, 2 ounces and he was 18 inches, so that was pretty big for 37 weeks," Augustin said. "If he'd have stayed in 40 weeks, he would have been eight pounds, nine pounds, something like that."

Augustin joked that he thought about naming the baby after Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau given how much success he's had with his new team since December.

"I thought about Thibs," he joked. "I thought about Gar, (for Bulls general manager Gar Forman). Jimmy (Butler's) been asking me to name him Jimmy. I gave them all consideration, but I had to go with Darryl. ... He's going to be Trey. I never went by Darryl growing up. I was always went with D.J., so he's going to be Trey."

Augustin said mother and baby, the couple's second, are doing well. He hopes his new son will turn out to be a basketball player just like his dad.

"Yeah, definitely," Augustin said. "He's going to be a player. I don't know how tall he's going to be, but that's all right. We can work on his floater."

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 106, Pistons 98

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
9:36
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Bulls’ 106-98 win over the Detroit Pistons at the United Center on Friday.

How it happened: The Bulls erased an 18-point halftime lead to rally for the win. The Bulls trimmed the Pistons’ lead down to eight after the third quarter and opened the fourth quarter on a 20-3 run to get their first lead since being up 2-0 to start the game. The Bulls outscored the Pistons 36-18 in the fourth quarter. Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson combined for 46 points for the Bulls in the second half. D.J. Augustin led with the Bulls with 24 points. The Bulls had five players in double figures. Pistons center Andre Drummond had 26 points and 26 rebounds. Rodney Stuckey had 22 points for the Pistons.

What it means: The Bulls overtook the Toronto Raptors for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls improved to 47-32. The Raptors fell to 46-33 with a 108-100 loss to the New York Knicks on Friday. The Bulls also clinched home-court advantage for the first round.

Hits: Bulls center Joakim Noah became the ninth player in NBA history to record 400 assists and 100 blocks in a season Friday. Noah had 6 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks in the win.

Misses: Drummond outrebounded the Bulls 19-17 in the first half.

Stat of the game: The Bulls were 21-of-23 at the free throw line, while the Pistons were 13-of-23.

What’s next: The Bulls will travel to play the Knicks on Sunday and return home to face the Orlando Magic on Monday.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5