Bulls

Easy formula for Bulls point guards is to get ball to Lauri Markkanen

Easy formula for Bulls point guards is to get ball to Lauri Markkanen

The Bulls haven’t quite sent out a flare signal for a point guard, but since trading Derrick Rose it’s been a revolving door that doesn’t look to stop moving anytime soon.

The dreaded phrase “point guard of the future” has been uttered four times in the last year or so, and if the old adage about quarterbacks applies to point guards (“if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have any”) the Bulls are in deep manure.

It doesn’t take the perfect point guard to fit Fred Hoiberg’s system but of the vague job description one requirement is circled with a big red marker.

“Get the ball to Lauri Markkanen.”

The rookie surprise was the invisible man in the Bulls’ embarrassing loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday night, only getting three shots before halftime after making his first two very early in the first quarter.

Hoiberg tacitly declared the point guard position open, having intimated as much after Kris Dunn’s finger injury started to heal. Jerian Grant has led the Bulls in assists in every game and averages nearly seven in the first five but is shooting 33 percent from the field and six percent from 3-point range.

Dunn, the most recent apple of the Bulls’ eye at that position, struggled in his early minutes Saturday but became productive later — albeit after the Bulls were being waxed by the Thunder.

“They’ll go out and show us. I anticipate Jerian bouncing back,” Hoiberg said. “What I saw the other night was we weren’t making shots, including Jerian in that group. So, yeah, it’s an important 48 hours and we’ll see how it plays out.”

One had better cozy up for Mr. Markkanen, who’s scoring nearly 16 points on only 11.6 shots.

“Especially with the pick and rolls and what we run, it's an easy assist,” said Justin Holiday, who leads the Bulls in scoring at 15.8 points per game. “I think the way our offense is made up, a lot of guys can be your best friend but the way Lauri is shooting it right now and how everything is working, the pick and pops, the screen downs, he gets an open shot. Why not?”

Hoiberg’s offense is designed to have plenty of ball movement and player movement, so it’s easy to spot when it drags or the ball is sticking to one side. But with the way things have gone and this year admittedly being a development year, it would be wise for the Bulls to let Markkanen work out his mistakes now, even if it’s a few bad shots here and there.

“I mean, you just know it in the game if it's a bad shot or not,” Markkanen said. “Obviously, I've got to get more aggressive and demand the ball more. I don't want to make stupid plays like turnovers or things like that.”

The Bulls missed Markkanen plenty of times Saturday, leading to wondering if the rookie should speak up to demand the ball.

It doesn’t seem to be in his nature, at least not so far. Holiday said he missed Markkanen being open once and the rookie told him he was open. Holiday said it wasn’t outrageous or anything, but the statement was noted.

“I don't really think he has to,” Holiday said. “We just have to continue to play the game we have, when he's open, that's what basketball is made to do. The ball is supposed to find where it needs to go. If he's open, give him the ball. I don't think he'll have to demand it. If he's open, give it to him.”

Hoiberg planned on adding more actions to get Markkanen opportunities since it seems like he can’t fully trust his point guards to find Markkanen instinctively. And since most of this is largely surprising, Hoiberg probably wasn’t prepared to initiate.

“We do have to have better recognition. We missed him standing all by himself on a couple occasions,” Hoiberg said. “That can’t happen, especially when he’s the guy knocking down shots for us out there. But we do need to add more actions for him. “He was thrust in a role that wasn’t going to happen initially with the incident that happened right before the opener. Now it’s about adding after seeing what he can do on the floor. He has been so good.”

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.  

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

There's not often hype surrounding a game between two of the NBA's worst teams, but Tuesday's Bulls-Lakers matchup was intriguing to many because it offered a chance to see a pair of top rookies compete. 

Oh, but you didn't think we meant Lonzo Ball and Lauri Markkanen, did you?

Nah, it was two different, less-touted first-year players that ended up stealing the spotlight at the Staples Center. 

Kyle Kuzma and Antonio Blakeney may not be household names, but they sure played like they were in the Bulls' 103-94 loss. 

Kuzma, the Lakers rook drafted 27th overall, has been a spark for Luke Walton's squad all season long. Boasting a terrific scoring arsenal, the Utah product carried the load for the Lakers' offense in the first half, dropping 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He finished the game as L.A.'s leading scorer with 22 in 40 minutes. But if you still need a more in-depth scouting report on Kuzma, just let Lonzo break it down:  

More importantly for Bulls fans, though, was the play of their undrafted guard who's signed to a two-way deal. 

Blakeney, the unofficial Summer League MVP, came off the bench on Tuesday and immediately left his mark on the game. The 21-year-old out of LSU posted 15 in the first half, finishing through contact as well as connecting on outside jumpers. 

Blakeney's shooting isn't reliable quite yet, but his energy has clearly influenced Hoiberg's rotation. The guard went from playing one NBA minute in the Bulls' first 11 games to playing 75 in the last four. Given that his two-way deal allows him to only spend 45 days with the team, it'll be fascinating to see how creative Gar Forman and John Paxson will get with his contract if this type of production continues. 

In a season that's obviously going to have its share of rough moments, an offseason flyer hitting is a huge plus for the rebuild. 

As for the recognized rookies, Lonzo's shooting woes persisted and Markkanen had maybe his worst offensive performance of his young Bulls career. Combined, they finished 7-for-30 with 21 points. Not ideal.