Bulls

Bulls have revenge on their minds vs. Milwaukee

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Bulls have revenge on their minds vs. Milwaukee

DEERFIELD, ILL. After surrendering a 27-point lead late in the third quarter in a late-November home loss to the Bucks, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau shouldnt have to do too much motivating when Milwaukee comes visits the United Center for a rematch Wednesday night.
I think we all remember it. He doesnt have to remind us, Jimmy Butler asserted after the teams morning shootaround at the Berto Center. We know what we did that game wrong, so we know what we have to go out there and do tonight. We all talk about it, not letting it happen, and it definitely happened that game, so we know how to prevent it.
Thibodeaus focus on the present wont allow him to revisit that gameafterwards, a mild controversy about him underutilizing his bench developed, though that game was somewhat of an aberration, as only Luol Deng and Joakim Noah regularly play heavy minute totals among the startersin which Milwaukees bench improbably outplayed the Bulls starters.
Theyre an explosive team, Thibodeau said. That was a home-and-home, so you can never let your guard down against anybody in this league. That was in the past; weve got to be ready for them now. They played very well last night.
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In their first game after the organization and ex-Bulls head coach Scott Skiles mutually parted ways, the Bucks topped Phoenix, but even with interim head coach Jim Boylana former Bulls assistant for whom this must be dj vu, as he took over for Skiles back in the 2007-08 seasonMilwaukees emphasis remains the same, as the high-scoring backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are complemented by defensive-oriented role players.
I think great players always figure out how to play with each other and I think when you look at how those two Ellis and Jennings play together, they have great chemistry. But I think the thing thats overlooked with them is they have young, athletic bigs. They lead the league in shot-blocking. Theyre quick, so the blocked shots can lead to open-floor opportunities. They anticipate quite well, play passing lanes, so they have shot-blocking to protect them if they miss and if they come up with steals, again, youre putting them into the open floor, and their speed and quickness comes into play, Thibodeau explained.
Theyre well-balanced. Their defense has been real solid. Larry Sanders is a tremendous shot-blocker, so he protects the rim for them. John Hensons a young, long, athletic guy. Ersan Ilyasova spreads you out defensively. Luc Mbah a Moute is one of the premier defenders in the league; hes back. Mike Dunleavys solid. Its a deep team. They have quality depth.
Butler chimed in: I feel like they play extremely hard, try to get up and down in transition, go for steals, block shots, get up and down, and make you run with them. If we play that type of basketball game, who knows what its going to be, but if we get back and make them play in the halfcourt, I think well be okay.

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. 

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

The Zach LaVine comeback is one step closer as the shooting guard was cleared for contact practice after checking with his doctors in California. 

LaVine will go through a step by step process over the next few weeks and the Bulls will gauge his progress to see when the best time for his return will be. 

But, given the nine-month process from his ACL injury he suffered in February, he's right on track and there doesn't appear to be any setbacks. 

"There’s no real timeframe, I guess," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said at practice Monday. "It’s really going to be on how he feels. We’ll try to do a little more every day with him. We did a little bit, got him some light contact today just to get the process started.

"He’ll be able to play a little two-on-two with not a lot of practice time these next 10 days. But we’ll throw him out there and continue to try to get him feeling better. There’s going to be a mental hurdle that he’s going to have to clear as well. I know he’s excited. His teammates are excited and the coaches are obviously excited as well."

LaVine's recovery has gone as planned since his arrival in Chicago from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night. Targeting a mid-December return seems realistic but of course, the Bulls will take every precaution to make sure he's healthy for the long term, both for LaVine and the franchise, as he's a restricted free agent this summer--and they have no plans on letting him walk. 

LaVine told NBC Sports Chicago recently that he wants to get on the floor immediately but the Bulls know they'll have to protect him from himself in the meantime. 

"He’s going to have to string together a lot of really good days, and he knows that," Hoiberg said. "He understands that. The important thing is he’s right on track from where it was said after the injury. He’s been doing a great job with his rehab. He’s on time. He’s doing everything that’s asked of him. His strength numbers are where they’re supposed to be. I’m confident he’s going to keep making progress. But we’ll absolutely monitor it daily and hopefully it’ll just continue to get better."

The Bulls aren't sure if they'll send LaVine to the G-League but it's certain they have plans on not only how to use him when he steps on the floor but also a regimen they've stuck to, to ensure there are no real setbacks. 

Hoiberg has been salivating over having a true scorer at that position since trading for him, and LaVine has been eager since his arrival to prove to the Bulls and fans that he is a franchise player. 

Prudence in the moment of progression, though, appears to be the approach taken by both sides.