Bulls

How will the Bulls season end?

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How will the Bulls season end?

Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010
10:34 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.

19. How will the Bulls' season end?

Heading into the season, there are certainly some unknowns for the Bulls, many of which have been covered recently in this very space. Some of these variables can be predicted to an extent, but others--such as new head coach Tom Thibodeau's performance and team chemistry after an offseason roster overhaul--cannot.

There will obviously be an adjustment to Thibodeau's system, which will surely prioritize defense. Some of the Bulls--namely Carlos Boozer and Derrick Rose--will have to make a shift in their mentality, as the defensive end is perceived to be among their main shortcomings. Boozer, in particular (Rose, 21, is still a very malleable player), will have to work to change his reputation as a poor defender, as sources with knowledge of Thibodeau's thinking tell CSNChicago.com that the coach doesn't plan to double team opposing post players.

The issue of chemistry will also be an ongoing plot line to be observed in the season's early going. None of the Bulls--whether holdovers or newcomers--are specifically known for being a selfish players; rather, the question of a set pecking order and perhaps who will be willing to take a backseat is more pertinent.

After entering last season as the team's go-to scorer, Luol Deng will likely be the team's third option on offense, behind Rose and Boozer. While this may make him a more dangerous threat and be better for the team as a whole, every player has somewhat of an ego and a more-limited role may initially be tough for Deng to swallow.

While Joakim Noah doesn't necessarily require a lot of shots or set plays run for him to be effective (although Noah, an underrated passer, not getting a lot of touches would be a mistake) and the team's supporting cast seemingly having defined roles to play, it will take some time before everybody is comfortable with each other. Furthermore, Thibodeau, despite all of his experience, is still a novice as an NBA head coach (he did have a stint as a college head coach over 20 years ago) and will need to balance his lauded work ethic with delegating to others on his staff.

That said, the Bulls are a fairly balanced and deep group with a lot of weapons and besides outside shooting, not a lot of weaknesses. The holdovers from last season--including Taj Gibson and James Johnson, along with Rose, Noah and Deng--all have playoff experience, as do the majority of the offseason acquisitions.

A so-so start wouldn't be completely unexpected, but as the season goes on, the Bulls should get stronger, find their groove and enter the postseason as a squad to be feared. Becoming a true contender may be too much of a leap, but a five-game increase from last season's win total--in a much tougher Eastern Conference--isn't an impossibility.

As was written in an earlier edition of this series, Milwaukee should be favored to win the Central Division based on success last season, overall team depth, and not having to deviate much from how they played a year ago. Chicago, however, should be in a two-team Central race until the end, garnering a decent playoff seed--if not the top-four East finish many observers expect--and potentially playing spoiler to a higher-seeded team in the first round of the postseason before bowing out in the conference semifinals.

That might not sound satisfying to fans, but with so many variables going into this season, a marked improvement from the 2009-10 campaign bodes well for the future. After all, it's always necessary to crawl before walking.

Chicago Bulls predicted finish: 46-36, fifth in the Eastern Conference (second in the Central Division), second round of the playoffs

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

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USA TODAY

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

Only an errant punch that missed the face of Serge Ibaka prevented Robin Lopez from suiting up for the Bulls since arriving in the summer of 2016, but his availability streak will come to an abrupt end as the Bulls are sitting and Justin Holiday for the foreseeable future.

Lopez didn’t dress for the Bulls’ game against the 76ers, as he and Holiday were replaced by Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba. Although he was jovial, cracking a few jokes when meeting with the media in pregame, it was clear he was disappointed.

“It was rough for me. I get it. I understand it,” Lopez said. “I always want to be out there playing on the court. That’s what I enjoy, especially playing with these guys. But I’m excited to watch these guys give it a go from the bench.”

With the Bulls being eighth in the lottery standings, Lopez understands the long-term objectives of the organization and said the conversation with the front office went as expected.

“I think pretty much what everybody else has heard,” Lopez said. “I was pulled aside. They told me they wanted to evaluate a few other guys, a few of the young guys. So I get it.”

Starting 138 of 139 games makes his streak ending a bit tougher to stomach, especially considering he didn’t find out about his certain inactivity until right before leaving for the United Center.

“I suppose that’s a little selfish of me, but a little bit,” said Lopez of sadness concerning the streak. “I looked in my closet today and thought I would have a glut of jackets. And I only found two. I didn’t realize this was an issue until about 5 minutes before I had to leave. So I got kind of a ragtag outfit for tonight but hopefully I’ll be better prepared in the games to come.”

Not only will he be armed with better wardrobe but he’ll be bringing a positive disposition to the sidelines that made him loved amongst his teammates.

“All my teammates, whether they’ve been playing with me or sitting on the bench and not dressing, they’ve all supported me,” Lopez said. “I don’t think I’d be too good a person if I didn’t do at least the bare minimum of the same.”

Lopez represented stability and veteran leadership in a tumultuous season, a solid performer when losing was the early norm and upheaval has been constant. It was a reason the Bulls hoped he would garner some interest in the trade market but after hitting for a draft pick in the Nikola Mirotic deal, they had no such luck with Lopez.

Naturally, he was asked about the prospect of being traded over sitting as a healthy scratch.

“That’s hard for me to talk about because I don’t know what situation I could have potentially been in once I had been traded,” Lopez said. “Yeah, it’s … I want to be playing obviously, but we’ve got a great group of guys right here.”

Considering how uncertain things will be for the future, it isn’t a guarantee Lopez won’t be around for the 2018-19 season.

“Yeah. It seems like they still like me. How could they not?,” he joked.

He’s due $14.3 million next season, the last of a four-year deal he signed with the Knicks in 2015. Averaging 12.3 points and shooting 53 percent from the field, he’s productive and valuable on the floor. He’s easy to dismiss with the hoopla surrounding the youth on the roster and the way things clicked when Mirotic stepped on the floor, but seven footers like Lopez aren’t easy to find—even as the game changes.

“I’m a team player. I like to think my play is tied to how the team plays,” Lopez said. “I think we had some really great stretches. The young guys really developed and found a rhythm once we all got healthy. I think we played pretty well.”

With 25 games remaining, he’s unsure of how long his inactivity will last but it’s hard to see him missing the remainder of the season. It would be a bad look for the Bulls and the league to have a healthy player miss two whole months, and Lopez claims no knowledge about that ugly “T” word.

“I’m not familiar with military artillery,” he said.

At least he’s keeping his sense of humor.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

On today’s edition of STL Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by Mark Schanowski, Nick Friedell and Vincent Goodwill to talk all things Bulls. Will the Bulls complete “The Process” as well as the visiting 76ers have so far? Our panel discusses the tank watch, recaps the epic Women’s Hockey Gold Medal game and much, much more.