Bulls

After brief hiatus, Griffin returns to Bulls' staff

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After brief hiatus, Griffin returns to Bulls' staff

At 37 years old, Adrian Griffin walked away from a plum position as an NBA assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls, the team with the NBA's best regular-season record last season, in early July, citing responsibilities to his family and an interest in pursuing a career in the ministry.

Only a few months later, Griffin, known for his determination, toughness and defensive acumen during his playing career, is back on the Bulls coaching staff.

"I just needed a little time to take care of what's really important and that's family and getting everybody on the same page," Griffin told CSNChicago.com Wednesday at Herbert Elementary School on the West Side, where he joined other Bulls employees in a pep rally, in which the organization donated school supplies to an auditorium full of appreciative students.

"The Bulls were great about giving me some time to attend to my family and everything worked out, and I'm back to work and it's like I never left, so I'm just excited. I know things will work out for the better."

Griffin admitted that stepping down was a difficult decision, but the religious Wichita, Kan., native never questioned his thought process.

"It was, but at the end of the day, you have to put your priorities in line," Griffin explained. "It worked out where I'm able to be back at work and do the thing that I do love, and that's to coach. I do have aspirations of eventually being a head coach, but at the end of the day, your family's important and you just have to make sure that everything's OK on that end."

Griffin said the organization welcomed him back with open arms.

"Oh yeah, they were great. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, general manager Gar Forman and the entire coaching staff, they were very supportive," said Griffin, who played a key role in the successful season of one-time teammate, small forward Luol Deng. "We're a close-knit group and it was just good to have their support."

The transition was perhaps eased by the ongoing NBA lockout, as the Bulls didn't have any pressure to immediately hire a replacement or promote from within, although Griffin couldn't himself comment on the work stoppage, per league rules.

"I went right back to work," said Griffin, in a nod to Thibodeau, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year's relentless work ethic. "It was fun and I was looking forward to it after being off so long."

Griffin was joined at Wednesday's Kia Motors-sponsored event by fellow former Bulls players Scottie Pippen, Bob Love, Sidney Green and Randy Brown, as well as play-by-play announcer Chuck Swirsky and mascot Benny the Bull.

"It really puts things in perspective. This is what life is all about," reflected Griffin. "We were all here at one point, little kids wondering what we wanted to do with our lives."

Potential top pick in 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter Jr. will likely miss entire freshman season

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USA TODAY

Potential top pick in 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter Jr. will likely miss entire freshman season

The Bulls will be keeping a close eye on the best young talent the loaded 2018 NBA Draft will have to offer. But they likely won't be seeing much of Missouri's Michael Porter Jr.

The school announced Tuesday that their freshman forward, the top recruit in the country, will miss the remainder of his freshman season.

Porter played all of 100 minutes for the Tigers, amassing 2 pioints and 2 rebounds in the Tigers' win over Iowa State.

The injury isn't to say Porter won't declare for the 2018 NBA Draft, or that it will affect his stock at all. He's still considered a legitimate franchise player and certainly someone all teams drafting in the top 5 will have their eye on.

But there will be competition. Players like Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley, DeAndre Ayton and Mo Bamba make up what could be one of the best draft classes in recent memory.

For now the Bulls will have to wait until the spring or summer to see Porter Jr. work out, while doing due diligence on the rest of the class.

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

It'd be a stretch to say that any rookie is having a better or more impactful season than Philadelphia's Ben Simmons. The Sixers are 9-7, and Simmons looks like a 10-year veteran with his decision making, athleticism and all-around feel for the game. He's the frontrunner for MVP, but there are two other rookies vying to catch Simmons and win that title. And they'll face each other tomorrow night in Los Angeles.

Lonzo Ball was the second pick in June's NBA Draft, and fellow Pac-12 freshman standout Lauri Markkanen went five picks later to the Bulls, who had traded up as part of the Jimmy Butler trade. Both players were drafted to rebuilding franchises - the Lakers still working out the kinks in the post-Kobe era, and the Bulls beginning their rebuild after dealing Butler - and were expected to make immediate impacts on their franchises.

Ball's was more pronounced, as the Lakers dealt D'Angelo Russell to the Nets on draft night to free up space at the point for their prized No. 2 pick. Markkanen's came more abruptly, as the 20-year-old was thrust into the starting lineup after Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic's fight put Mirotic in the hospital and Portis on paid leave. However they got there, both players have been impressive in their early NBA careers.

Starting with Markkanen, the Bulls knew the 7-foot stretch forward was a perfect build for the modern NBA. He set freshman 3-point and rebounding records that, since 1992, only some guy named Kevin Durant had reached. After a successful summer in Eurobasket he was set for a large role with the Bulls, and he's succeeded in just about every aspect. His 15.6 points per game are third only to Simmons and the other Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, and his 8.1 rebounds are second to Simmons. And his 2.6 made 3-pointers per game are most among rookies, and well past No. 2 on the list (Utah's Donovan Mitchell, 1.9 per game).

In fact, Markkanen would become the only rookie in NBA history to average at least 8.0 rebounds and 2.5 3-pointers per game. The 2.5 3-pointers would break a rookie record currently held by Damian Lillard (2.3 per game). The closest a rookie has ever come to reaching those marks was Stephen Curry, who averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 3-pointers per game as a rookie. Allen Iverson also met the 4/2 threshold, but that's a far cry from Markkanen's 8/2.5 mark. Paul Pierce's rookie season saw him average 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 3-pointers.

But that's not all. If he kept those averages up he would be just the fifth player EVER to accomplish those thresholds. The others are James Harden, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Antonie Walker, who naturally did it twice.

So, yeah, Markkanen is having quite a rookie year.

So, too, is Ball. While he's had some real issues with efficiency, slashing .313/.228/.462 and has committed 2.6 turnovers per game, his counting stats have been outstanding. Ball is averaging 8.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists, and that puts him in equally impressive company.

Simmons has reached those numbers this season, too, averaging 18.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists. You may have heard of the other two players, named Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.

The two future Hall of Famers averaged these numbers:

Robertson: 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 9.7 assists (missing averaging a triple-double for the season by 20 assists)

Johnson: 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists

Ball is also averaging 0.9 blocks, and no other rookie guard has ever accomplished that. It might not always look pretty for Markkanen and Ball as they feel their way out in the NBA, but just remember watching these two that they're in the midst of making history in the new era of the NBA.