It was an interesting day for the Bulls. They traded for Carmelo Anthony, Wendell Carter Jr. had his thumb surgery and, as a bonus, they snapped their 10-game losing streak in Cleveland.
Anthony is not expected to play for the Bulls. They simply agreed to take his minimum contract off Houston’s hands for some cash compensation. When the deal becomes official Tuesday, Anthony could be waived and then free to find a new team. It’s also possible the Bulls will hang on to him and entertain trade possibilities.
The bulk of Anthony’s salary this season is being paid by Atlanta, which made a trade with Oklahoma City and then agreed to a buyout before the season. The Houston Chronicle reported the Bulls will make a $900,000 profit in this transaction, which also involves a swap of draft rights to international players.
There was some irony in an Anthony trade since the Bulls tried and failed to sign him as a free agent in 2014 at the urging of head coach Tom Thibodeau, who was fired a year later.
Carter’s news was expected. He had the ulnar collateral ligament repaired on his left thumb in Chicago on Monday morning and was given an 8-12 week recovery. The rookie center is likely done for the year, but since it’s his off hand, there’s a possibility he returns for the end of the season.
Meanwhile, the schedule made a positive turn for the Bulls and they took advantage with a 104-88 victory over the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena.
At the start of the day, this was a battle of teams with the two-worst records in the league, but the victory lifted the Bulls ahead of New York. So they now have the third-worst record. The bottom three teams all get a 14-percent chance at the top pick in the new anti-tanking draft lottery format.
The Bulls (11-36) never trailed in this one and opened a 15-point lead in the first quarter. Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 25 points, while Bobby Portis scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half. Kris Dunn finished with 13 points and 9 assists, with Lauri Markkanen contributing 13 points and 8 rebounds.
On Saturday against Miami, the Bulls were noticeably trying to push the pace and get the ball up the court quickly. After the win in Cleveland, Dunn told reporters he plans to make that a constant in his game.
“I told my guys, and I did it last game too, I’m going to push the pace even more,” Dunn said. “I feel like we’ve got some good athletes out there, Zach, Hutch. Especially when Hutch is running the floor, he opens up a lot of things. So I’m going to push the pace now.”
Dunn was referring to rookie forward Chandler Hutchison, who added 8 points and 9 rebounds. Since Jim Boylen took over as head coach on Dec. 3, the Bulls have been playing mostly at a slow pace and have the league’s lowest-scoring offense to show for it.
“I think we can play a little bit of both,” Dunn said. “Push the ball when we can and understand score and clock. Slow it down sometimes, get us into our good set and get us a good shot.”
Another stat that was slightly out of character was the Bulls made 15 of 30 shots from 3-point range. Since Boylen took the job, the Bulls have averaged 24 3-point attempts per game, lowest in the league.
“I thought the ball was moving pretty well,” Boylen told reporters after the game. “I thought we were finding the open guy. “What we’re talking about it making good decisions. I thought the open man got the ball and I thought we took good looks and took good 3s. They don’t always go. Some went tonight and we’re thankful for that.”
Eight different Bulls knocked down a 3-point basket, led by LaVine, Markkanen and Portis with 3 each. The Bulls are now 3-0 against the Cavs and still undefeated against the other bottom-five teams in the standings.
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