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.

Zach LaVine not daunted by chasing ‘Black Jesus’

Zach LaVine not daunted by chasing ‘Black Jesus’

The statue doesn’t sit out front of the United Center anymore, but the statute remains the same for any player good enough to be on the marquee for the Chicago Bulls.

Zach LaVine, while awed by the specter of Michael Jordan, isn’t spooked by chasing a ghost. Weeks away from a debut as a Bull—returning from ACL surgery—LaVine is aware of the standard set by the man who called himself “Black Jesus”.

“Black Jesus played here for so long. I’m not putting myself in that category,” LaVine said, unaware Jordan gave himself that nickname as a young player in Chicago. “He lived up to it. They (fans) want to get back to that pinnacle.”

He hears the hopes and wishes of fans when he walks off the United Center floor two hours before every home game after getting shots up as part of his rehab. LaVine knows what’s expected from him—what’s more, he expects that from himself.

He’s a two-time slam dunk champion, certainly, but the Seattle area native wants to be known as a complete player, someone a franchise can build around.

And if it’s Black Jesus’ franchise, so be it.

“You try not to let it mess with you,” LaVine said. “I feel like I’m strong minded, I’m confident in myself. Everybody is gonna have their own opinions. All that matters is how you feel about yourself.”

Not that he’s not holding himself to the standard set by the standard bearer himself, but he’s aware the responsibility that comes with playing at Jordan’s position for a franchise still largely synonymous with Jordan—even though this spring will mark 20 years since Jordan actually wore Bulls red.

“No one’s trying to compare you to him, that’s out there,” LaVine said. “You’re just trying to be the best you, coming into this situation. You have the opportunity to be the face of the franchise. To be that guy. You want to embrace that. You want everybody to know you’re prepared and capable of doing that.”

Simply being identified as a player a franchise will commit to building around as opposed to the third wheel, as he was believed to be in Minnesota behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, is warming for him.

Derrick Rose believed he was up for the challenge until his body betrayed him. Jimmy Butler wanted it, but the Bulls thought otherwise leading to the chain of events that brought LaVine to Chicago.

In the first season of a full-fledged rebuild, LaVine knows the prevailing belief is that the next franchise carrier is more likely in the coming draft than on the Bulls roster.

“People gonna put a name on everything. I’m gonna hoop, do what I do,” LaVine said. “I know I’m talented, I think the Bulls organization knows I’m talented. Whatever we do with the pick or free agency, that’s their side of basketball operations. I’m gonna do what I do. I put in the work.”

He’ll return to full contact practice next week and if one had to guess, finally be introduced as an active player in the middle of December once he works the kinks out and gains confidence in taking real contact.

But then again, confidence has never been a problem for LaVine. Whether it was instilled in him by a vocal father who had him chart every shot he took as a high schooler or simply innate, LaVine isn’t shying away from the challenge.

“He had a plan, for sure,” LaVine said of his father, Paul, who once played linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks. “I have binders of shots. I was doing workouts the day before games. I was doing professional workouts before (college). I embraced being a hard worker.”

Whether it’s the rehab or a road that’s had plenty of twists and turns for him to be 22, he’s experienced enough not to be naïve but young enough to have admirable wide-eyed optimism.

“You put in that much hard work, it can’t fail. It can’t.”

The Bulls first quarter was historically terrible

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USA TODAY

The Bulls first quarter was historically terrible

Rebuilds can be ugly, but the first quarter of Wednesday's Bulls-Thunder game was downright disgusting. 

The Bulls scored single digits(!) in the historically awful opening 12 minutes. Here's a closer look at the numbers: 

7 - Amount of points scored. That's the worst opening quarter in franchise history and just one point better than the worst overall quarter. 

8 - Number of turnovers, which included three shot clock violations. 

13 - The Bulls shot 13 percent from the field. Woof. 

2 - Consecutive games Fred Hoiberg's squad has trailed by 20 after the first. 

3 - Carmelo Anthony outscored the Bulls by three points in the opening quarter (10-7). 

It's safe to assume that the lineup of Jerian Grant, Kris Dunn, Quincy Pondexter, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez was not ready to play.