Some days the rebuild is going to look like it did in the Bulls' 39-point loss to the Spurs

Some days the rebuild is going to look like it did in the Bulls' 39-point loss to the Spurs

The Bulls have been competitve at times in this the first season of their post-Jimmy Butler rebuild.

They've taken the 7-6 New Orelans Pelicans to overtime. They were up one on the Cavaliers heading into the fourth quarter last month. Furious comebacks against the Spurs and Raptors came up just short.

Yes, the Bulls are 2-9 but have looked better than that at times.

Saturday night in San Antonio was not one of those times.

The Bulls allowed the Spurs to shoot 60 percent, make 18 3-pointers and assist on 33 baskets in their 133-94 loss. This was a Spurs team playing without the following players: Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

Yes, Gregg Popovich is a wizard and could throw any five players in Spurs uniforms and win 50 games. But it was more so about the total lack of effort the Bulls showed.

They trailed 22-6 midway through the first quarter and then 37-15 after the full quarter. The Spurs had the Bulls doubled up in points 17 minutes into the game (50-25).

A solid Bulls comeback saw that lead trickle down to 10, at 55-45. But that was the end of the fun. The Spurs ended the quarter on a 7-2 run and finished the third quarter with a 27-point lead. Their reserves outscored the Bulls by 12 in the final quarter, and a meaningless Kris Dunn jumper from the right baseline was all that kept the Bulls from a 40-point L.

Some days the rebuild is going to look like this. The Bulls simply had no answer, and the Spurs offense was humming. It's too bad, too, considering the offense actually looked solid at times. The Bulls finished shooting 46 percent from the floor, Bobby Portis scored 17 points and Cris Felicio looked decent for the first time all year.

Then again, the Bulls also had some of the worst turnovers of the year, including Portis traveling right before he handed the ball off to the Spurs. So, at least it wasn't of the live-ball variety.

Some days it's simply not going to be enough. And it wasn't nearly enough against an angry Spurs team that had lost to the Bucks at home the night before. Toss this one away and get ready for the next opportunity to grow.

Lauri Markkanen sprains ankle, misses second half

Adding injury to insult, rookie Lauri Markkanen missed the entire second half after spraining his ankle in the closing seconds of the second quarter.

Markkanen slipped on the floor while defending a Rudy Gay layup attempt and was seen limping around after the play. He limped his way to the locker room and was ruled out shortly after halftime.

There's obviously no real reason to rush Markkanen back, as getting him healthy with no potential for re-injury should be the Bulls' top priority. His status for Wednesday is unknown, but it's nice that he'll have three rest days to get better. Slipping on the floor has resulted in nasty injuries over the years, so it looks like Markkanen dodged a bullet in some respect.

He finished with 6 points and 2 rebounds. It was the first time in his young NBA career he hadn't recorded double-digit points or a 3-pointer in a game.

Bobby Portis looks the part again

OK, so he was a -23 in 30 minutes. But then again, no Bulls player who finished the game was better than a -11, so we won't fault him there.

But if you want a positive from Saturday night's beatdown, Bobby Portis put together another nice performance.

He shot just 5-for-11 from the field, but that included a pair of 3-point makes and he also got to the free throw line five times (he made all five). Portis also grabbed six rebounds, and while he did have three turnovers it was another solid showing for him.

In three game Portis is now averaging 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 19.8 minutes. The 30 minutes were a season-high, and a number he reached only five times last season. It's clear Fred Hoiberg is going to give Portis serious run this season, and if Markkanen needs to miss any time recovering from his sprained ankle Portis could be in line for some serious minutes and shot attempts.

No one played well for the read team tonight, but at least Portis showed some production in the raw numbers department.

Jabari Parker has bounce and perseverance, but what's in the Chicago native's future?


Jabari Parker has bounce and perseverance, but what's in the Chicago native's future?

Jabari Parker still has bounce.

Either that or he’s gained it after two ACL surgeries that have stalled his once promising career, evidenced by his devastating drive down the middle of the Bulls defense for an unexpected dunk.

Or his flash on the break, finishing with a one-handed slam from Brandon Jennings in the second quarter.

But what does it mean for his future?

Parker played in his first game back in his hometown after returning from injury, his first start of the season came in the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ franchise player.

In 30 minutes, he was three for 10 from the field for six points, four assists and three rebounds in his 20th game of the season as the Bucks held off the Bulls for a 118-105 win at the United Center. For the season, Parker is averaging 11.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in 21.7 minutes while shooting a career-high 51 percent in a contract year as restricted free agency is looming.

Outwardly the Bucks say they’ve been pleased with his play, but the rumors persist this marriage won’t last long.

“(He’s) very good, for someone who’s gone through that twice,” Bucks interim coach Joe Prunty said. “His demeanor, his approach, is very good. He’s worked extremely hard to get back in that position he’s in. Each night we ask a lot of him that we do of everybody else. Scoring is one thing. We need him to rebound. We know he can playmake. Defend. He can play inside, he can play outside. He’s a versatile player.”

Hard to remember, it was Parker who was supposed to be that guy for the Bucks when he was drafted second in 2014, as the argument going into that draft was about Parker or Andrew Wiggins as the best player.

The Chicagoan has had to endure stops and starts since his NBA career began, tearing his ACL 25 games into his rookie campaign. He returned to play 75 games the next season before appearing to blossom even more last year, averaging 20.1 points in the first 50 games.

Then he tore it again right before the All-Star break, halting the Bucks’ vision of having three versatile wings that could cause havoc in Antetokounmpo, Parker and Khris Middleton, an underrated star.

Not only that, it made for awkward contract negotiations as Parker was recovering from surgery before the October deadline and the Bucks reportedly offered a three-year deal around $18 million annually that Parker turned down in the expectation of getting a max deal.

With Antetokounmpo taking yet another step into superstardom, it’s difficult for the Bucks to commit financially that way, especially when Parker doesn’t seem like a natural fit next to Antetokounmpo.

Parker, like many others from his draft class including the Bulls’ Zach LaVine, face an uncertain future with restricted free agency this summer. At least in LaVine’s case, the Bulls have called him one of their building blocks after the Jimmy Butler trade.

For Parker, it’s been reported he was shopped around the trade deadline and nearly moved—which coincided with his season debut Feb. 2. As if he had enough to worry about in terms of getting his body in order and trying to prove where he fit within his own team’s hierarchy, the business of the NBA reared its ugly head.

For the Bucks, their No. 1 priority is Antetokounmpo, as it should be. Parker finding his way amongst the circumstances just made things murkier, just recently crossing the 30-minute threshold against the Clippers where he scored a season-high 20 points.

“With the minute restrictions it’s hard to play,” Prunty said. “Actually I think for him, we’ve struggled with scoring off our bench. He gives us scoring off our bench.”

Friday was only the second time this month where Parker didn’t score in double figures, so even if the future is on his mind, it’s not turning into selfish play—at least offensively.

You can see the missed rotations on defense and note how well the team plays when the ball moves from side to side—a common tacit note of criticism with players like Parker and Carmelo Anthony, guys who need the ball and space on the floor to score.

“Just trying to make it happen,” Parker said. “Coming off the bench, or I’m starting, just trying to do what I can.”

Middleton is a more natural fit next to Antetokounmpo, because of the economy of space he uses when he gets the ball. He rarely uses more than the space around his shadow and has found a way to be efficient around Antetokounmpo.

Parker is more naturally gifted, though, and at least while he’s in Milwaukee, finding ways to play within that simple construct is his best bet.

“This last stretch of games will be important going into the playoffs,” Jennings said. “Finding his rhythm. Me being out there with him, I’m trying to get him going, get him into a better rhythm and things like that. Make the game easier for him.”

Jennings is in his second stint with the Bucks and was in a similar position before his restricted free agency. He and the Bucks couldn’t come to terms, and he wound up being traded to Detroit in a package, which involved sending Middleton among others to Milwaukee.

He knows how thought of the future can play into someone’s mind, let alone the double task of returning from another serious injury.

“It shouldn’t. At my age now (28), I would say it shouldn’t,” Jennings said. “But I know at that age it did for me. From me to him, he gotta look at the big picture. We’re going to the playoffs. We have a chance to get out the first round. You can’t worry about that. That takes care of itself. Once you win, sky’s the limit.”

For his part, Parker and the Bucks are saying the right things, knowing the summer awaits where the true feelings for all will be shown and a future path will be decided.

“No, I don’t think it was. I don’t think it has. My play dictates (this summer),” Parker said. “I think I’ve been doing good so far. I don’t have anything to worry about.”

Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history


Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history

We're trying to figure out the best season in Bulls franchise history, and we want your help in deciding.

Because the Bulls tout the greatest player in basketball history, who could have made up this list by himself, we're giving Michael Jordan his own side of the bracket. But the other side of the bracket is also filled with some pretty memorable and remarkable campaigns.

So read up on each matchup and then have your voice heard by voting on our Twitter page here. Check out the entire bracket in the graphic above.

The Jordan Region

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96) vs. No. 8 Michael Jordan (1990-91)

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96): Jordan was on a mission in his first full season back from retirement. He led the Bulls to a then-record 72 wins with a regular-season MVP award, All-Star MVP and romp through the NBA playoffs, where the Bulls went 15-3 en route to their fourth NBA title. Jordan won his eighth straight scoring title at 30.4 points a game, with nine games where he put up 40 or more. He saved his best for Detroit, scoring 53 with 11 rebounds and six steals in early March. To prove Jordan was getting better as he aged, he shot a career-high 43 percent from 3-point range at age 33.

No. 2 Michael Jordan (1990-91): 1990-91: Jordan's second MVP came with his first NBA title, as he was at the peak of his powers physically combined with the ultimate team success, with the Bulls finally getting past Detroit before defeating the Lakers in the Finals. He shot a career-high 54 percent from the field while averaging 31.5 points, six rebounds and 5.5 assists as he began to fully embrace the triangle offense in Phil Jackson's second season. Jordan had 57 games where he shot better than 50 percent from the field, and was among the league leaders in steals at 2.7 per game while earning his fourth straight All-Defensive First Team honor.

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11) vs. No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94)

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11): Where to begin? The youngest MVP in league history took the league by storm, averaging 25.0 points and 7.7 assists while leading the Bulls to a league-best 62 wins. Rose had been named an All-Star the previous season but took his game to new heights in Year 3, appearing in 81 games, making 128 3-pointers (after making a combined 32 his first two seasons) while helping the Bulls rank first in defensive efficiency under first year head coach Tom Thibodeau. Rose and the Bulls lost in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat, with Rose shooting a paltry 35 percent on 24 attempts per game. But his historic season will always go down as one of the franchise’s best, and the only non-Jordan MVP.

No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94): Yeah, well what would Scottie be without MJ? We found out that answer in 1993-94, when Pippen took the reins of the franchise as Jordan rode the Birmingham bus as a minor-league baseball player. Pippen responded with a sensational season, averaging 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He averaged 2.9 steals, shot 49 percent from the field and became a 3-point threat for the first time in his career. He was named First Team All-NBA and All-NBA Defensive First Team, and finished third to Hakeem and The Admiral in MVP voting. He averaged 22.8/8.3/4.6 in the postseason but ultimately proved it was easier to win in the spring with MJ by his side. Still, this individual season was one of the franchise’s best, if not the best. Hardware isn’t everything.