Bulls

Observations from Bulls-Cavs: Lauri Markkanen shows he belongs

Observations from Bulls-Cavs: Lauri Markkanen shows he belongs

The game was pretty simple for Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen.

Catch.

Shoot.

Rinse, repeat.

After struggling a bit in his preseason opener Sunday night, Markkanen showed he belonged, at least to this point, in a smooth performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Guarding LeBron James is a herculean task for just about anybody, so being overwhelmed wasn’t news. But his well-talked about ability to shoot was finally on display and not just urban legend from Fred Hoiberg.

He got to the open spots in the offense and unleashed four triples on his way to 18 points, and even ran the floor to finish a fast break with a one-handed dunk in the second half as the Bulls pulled away.

Markkanen’s shooting is why the Bulls drafted him seventh, as they believe he’ll be a matchup problem for years to come in Hoiberg’s movement-based system. His jumper was fluid, confident, smooth and most importantly, high—as in his release point.

There were times he had a matchup advantage against a smaller guard and the Bulls didn’t track him to take advantage, which can be as much of a function of what he can’t yet do as much as his teammates not giving him the ball.

But as his game evolves and the Bulls will wait on him through the years, being a deadeye shooter will keep him on the floor in the meantime.

Justin Holiday: Holiday continues to impress, solidifying a place in the rotation even when Zach LaVine returns and nailing down the shooting guard spot in the meantime.

With a nose for the ball on both ends, Holiday brings an element of movement that is necessary for this offense to work. On defense, he’s aggressive and handsy without getting himself into too much trouble with fouls or being out of position.

You’ll take the six turnovers as long as he can have nights where he’ll score 28, matching Markkanen’s four-for-seven mark from 3-point range. He added 11 rebounds and played with a gear of speed consistently through the night.

Taking nearly half of the Bulls’ 17 free-throws, Holiday had one against the Eastern Conference champs, looking far more confident than the player the Bulls acquired at the trade deadline in 2016.

He can thank a more consistent jumper for that.

Derrick Rose: Who knows where things stood with the Bulls and Derrick Rose concerning his so-called reluctance to recruit free agents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010.

But he cleared the air with reporters in the morning shootaround, claiming he did make a video to the top free agents at the time and that the Bulls made sure it got to James, Wade and Bosh.

“Like people always said I didn’t recruit. I tried to recruit. I put out a video but it wasn’t for me to say that,” Rose said. “I felt like the organization was supposed to say that and they didn’t. I put out a video for him [Wade], Chris Bosh and LeBron.”

“(The Bulls organization) they didn’t say anything about it. They sent it. I don’t know if they really actually looked at it or played the video, but I made a video. At the time it wasn’t for me to say that.”

One could say the belief Rose wouldn’t welcome James, Wade or Bosh, or some combination of the trio was a factor in some of the negative perceptions about Rose, even though he won MVP in 2011.

But the fact it took this long should give folks pause about how easy it is to take a negative viewpoint of Rose, who said he never spoke up for himself in the talk about him recruiting or not recruiting, “to see who had my back”.

Pause, indeed.

Wash this one away: Although the Cavaliers were as close to full strength as they’ll be until Isaiah Thomas gets back from his hip injury, take nothing from the 14-point spread as far as the Bulls being better than you think, or that they’ll be better than a bottom-feeder in the Eastern Conference.

Why?

Because they don’t wanna be. We’re one preseason game away from an 82-game march to the Porter-Bagler-Doncic sweepstakes.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

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.