GAME NIGHT FROM THE UNITED CENTER.Orlando (11-20, 5-12 on the road) at Bulls ( 9-20, 6-8 at home).</p)
TV: NBC Sports Chicago: Neil Funk and Stacey King. 7PM CT tipoff
RADIO: WLS 890 AM: Chuck Swirsky, Bill Wennington, Steve Kashul.
LEADING SCORERS: Bulls: Mirotic 20 ppg. Orlando: Fournier 18 ppg., Gordon: 18ppg.
LEADING REBOUNDERS: Bulls: Markkanen: 8. Orlando: Vucevic: 9.
LEADING ASSISTS: Bulls: Dunn and Grant each with 5. Orlando: Payton: 6.
CCI UPDATE: The Bulls are on a roll and have captured the attention of the NBA world. Seriously. Is this Bulls team the Miami Heat storyline of a year ago? Miami started the 2016-17 campaign on a horrendous 11-30 note. They finished 30-11 and missed out on the eighth seed on the last game of the season by virtue of a Bulls win over a watered down Nets roster. Up next for the streaking Bulls, unbeaten in their last six games, is a slumping Orlando team.
CCI 24 SECONDS COMMENTARY: The Magic have been reserving rooms in New Jersey at the NBA lottery studio for a while now , and yes, Aaron Gordon has shown what he can do with an impressive 18 points 8 rebounds start but he will miss tonight's game. That's not good for a struggling team. The Magic have little to show for with lottery picks such as Mario Hezonja ( unrestricted at the end of the season) and Elfrid Payton who is an intriguing player, but I'm growing impatient. First round pick Jonathan Issac just returned to action after missing seventeen consecutive games with an ankle injury. The Magic took Issac one pick ahead of Lauri Markkanen. The Magic enter the United Center having dropped 16 out of their last 19 games. They're also dealing with numerous injuries in addition to Gordon, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross and Aaron Affalo. Unless Orlando can quickly turn things around, that seat in NJ is waiting or them, again.
OFF SEASON PAYS DIVIDENDS: I'm a big believer that in the off season a player needs to rest his mind , body and soul. Get away from it all so to speak , then resume workouts at the appropriate time. A player simply gets better in the off season than the regular season.
A number of players began workouts in Chicago this spring and summer and it shows. Bobby Portis was in the gym and he's become an impact player. His low post game is better. He's always had the confidence but his skill set is much improved. He's had four double-double games to date, two straight, and is scoring in double figures in four of the last five games. In eight December games, Portis is shooting 52% fg, 44% 3pt fg, 78%FT, averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds. This doesn't happen overnight.
Niko Mirotic put on twenty pounds in the off season and he's no longer just a wing shooter. His game has expanded and he clearly is improved. If players don't make adjustments they're in for a shock . The NBA scouting is too good and opposing players want it just as badly as the next guy. Don't kid yourself. Players want to be paid, want longevity , want stardom , want to compete , want to be a part of a winning culture and want to be respected by fellow players, coaches and management. It's a great life. You have to put the work in. Don't believe me? Ask Kris Dunn, David Nawaba, and the rest of the players.
The Bulls placed Kay Felder on waivers and in his brief time with the Bulls he was always accessible and professional to me which I appreciate. I wish him all the best as his hoops journey continues.
NBA NEWS AND NOTES
Loved the Bucks-Cavs game. It was an outstanding NBA game. Milwaukee wins 119-116. Snapping Cleveland's five game win streak. Giannis with 27-13-8. Bledsoe-26. LeBron went off for 39-7 assists- 7 turnovers ( 5th time this season 7 or more turnovers in a game)... Ok, I'm too critical. Cavs take their 23-9 record into Thursday's home game against the Bulls. Giannis has scored 20 or more points in 20 straight games.
No Joel Embiid in back to back games and the 76ers come away with back to back losses. Sacramento 101-95. For the Kings, only their ninth win of the season.Philly has lost seven out of their last eight.
In a wacky game , Washington had a big lead (25 points) and blew a big lead ( 25 points) but survived to beat the Pelicans 116-106.. Anthony Davis with a 37 points 9 rebounds game.
The Golden State Warriors are about to start a seven game house stand and they'll continue to play without Steph Curry who has missed the last five games with an ankle injury. He will be re-evaluated in a week which means Curry will not play against the Cavs Christmas Day.
Detroit's Avery Bradley will miss at least a week with a groin injury.
The Lakers lost Brook Lopez with a moderate ankle sprain for at least three weeks.
Thanks for reading CCI. E mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @ctsbulls.
Always a pleasure!