Bulls

New tone set in Bulls training camp marked by role adjustments

New tone set in Bulls training camp marked by role adjustments

With eight new players and likely three new starters for the Bulls, an adjustment period of roles has started to take place in the opening days of camp.

Shot creators turn into shot makers.

Full-time ball handlers revert back to being part-time dominators.

First-time leaders are supplemented by experienced leaders who bring an instant credibility and speak with a bluntness that wasn’t as present last year—even from the coach.

A new tone of sorts was set when Dwyane Wade didn’t give the stock “nobody cares what happened last year” spiel after being asked if he wondered about what went wrong on the floor and off with the Bulls.

“You ask the guys that were here last year, how rotten it was,” Wade said. “You want to hear from their perspective, whatever it was last year from the standpoint of losing. You don't do that. I come from a different place and a different culture. Things are done differently different places. So I sat down and listened to guys.

“But the thing is, some of the things they talked about I know are not going to take place. Not while I'm here, not while (Rajon) Rondo's here, not while Jimmy (Butler) continues to grow as a leader.”

It adds light to some of the thoughts that Butler expressed after Tuesday’s first practice, and what anyone with a set of eyes could see last season when the Bulls looked like a fractured group that didn’t enjoy playing with each other anymore.

There wasn’t outright disdain, but some of the damaged relationships were never repaired as the season went on. Putting that into an alphabet soup with losing, bad habits and injuries and it spelled out “something’s gotta give.”

“You definitely gotta like each other. If you don’t, and you can say this doesn’t happen, but I feel like if you don’t like a guy you’re not going to pass him the ball,” said Butler, who had some rocky moments last season as a leader. “I think there’s a lot of liking on this team. Like I said, everybody wants everybody to be successful. Do we like each other too much? I hope so.”

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Refreshing honesty is a change at the Advocate Center, with Wade and Rondo being the adults in the room. The two have the latitude from Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to stop practice to get on guys, and they did so Tuesday.

“You just want to cut down all the chatter; it’s early,” Rondo said. “Only a couple of guys should be talking in practice. As far as disrupting when they do stop practice, coach has the voice then assistant coach has the voice and then the older players.”

It’s not a surprise given Hoiberg won’t be one change his ways overnight, and having a player-run team are often the most successful, assuming everyone is on the same page.

It sort of speaks to Bulls vice president John Paxson’s statement on media day about the Bulls’ rebuilding their culture from the ground level.

“You talk about last year, but at the same time, last year doesn't matter,” Wade said. “We have a different core, and I think our culture is fairly different. We have guys now, Rondo's won a championship, I've won championships, we demand respect on the court. But we've got a lot of young guys as well, so they'll listen.”

Wade and Rondo have both said the Bulls are Butler’s team, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be wallflowers if they see things they don’t like. Wade has been a vocal leader in some form for the last decade and Rondo has rarely, if ever, held his tongue.

Rondo, along with being a primary facilitator for Butler to make scoring easier, imparted some wisdom to help Butler in his ever-evolving role as a leader.

“Not doing it with my mouth but with my actions, being consistent; I told Jimmy a leader can’t pick and choose when he wants to lead,” Rondo said. “He has to come out every day, every practice; we’re having two a days. If you are down, need something to get your head right, you have to bring it every day, every day.”

Hoiberg said there has to be a mutual respect amongst the team, which can lead to chemistry and camaraderie.

“It takes a lot of those moments when we all make mistakes and the coach is on us, that's when we come together,” Wade said. “In the locker room, when we're in there talking about anything, talking about whatever. it takes a lot of being on the road, traveling together. You're on a road trip, you go out dinner together. It's going to take a lot of moments to get the chemistry that we need.”

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

Los Angeles—Lauri Markkanen called himself “The Finnisher” when asked what the movie of his life would be called.

Apparently, that moniker didn’t apply to the All-Star Skills challenge as he took down the best big men but couldn’t close against a former Bull, Spencer Dinwiddie, in the final.

The contest highlights players’ ability to dribble around cones shaped like NBA logos, throwing a chest pass into a net while having to complete a layup and then 3-pointer before their opponent does.

Markkanen took down Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid before facing off with Dinwiddie. He held a pose after hitting a triple to beat the uber confident Embiid, in what will likely be used as a memorable gif following the weekend.

His confidence doesn’t come across as blatantly as Embiid’s, but that snapshot shows he’s no humble star in the making. He didn’t even practice for the contest, by his own admission.

“I heard some of the guys did,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t do much, just before the competition, I did a little warm-up.”

Missing on the first pass attempt into the circular net in the final, it gave Dinwiddie the advantage he wouldn’t relinquish, hitting on his second 3-point attempt before Markkanen could make it downcourt to contest.

“It’s a lot harder than I’ve seen,” Markkanen said. “I thought it was gonna be super easy but it was kind of tough. Maybe I need to hold my follow through (on the pass).”

“I saw he missed (the first shot) and I started going. I thought he would’ve missed it too. I think I would’ve gotten it on the third shot.”

Being one of the multi-dimensional big men in today’s game who can be adept on the perimeter as well as the interior, it almost seems like the contest was made for Markkanen. Although he doesn’t do much handling in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, it’s clearly a skill he will develop as time goes on.

The last two winners of the skills challenge were Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and Markkanen was well aware of the recent trend.

“The last two years the bigs have won,” Markkanen said. “I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t keep the streak going after (those two). I think there’s a lot of guys who can do that now, it’s why they changed the format to bigs versus smalls.”

For Dinwiddie, who was discarded by the Bulls last season after a promising start in the preseason so they could pick up R.J. Hunter, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity with Brooklyn.

“I think for Chicago it was just another series of unfortunate events,” he said. “They were in win-now mode. I was an unproven guard on a non-guaranteed contract and they felt Michael Carter-Williams gave them a better shot to win.”

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-4544-23, and 22-6.

5. Jordan wins fourth title and finishes greatest individual season ever, June 16, 1996

It’s hard to comprehend just how much Jordan accomplished during the 1995-96 season. We’ll try:He won his fourth championship, was named NBA Finals MVP for a record fourth time, won All-Star Game MVP, won a record 72 games, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, was the league’s leading scorer and became the Bulls’ all-time leader in games played. So when he dropped a casual 22 points in Game 6, it marked the end of one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Oh, and Space Jam came out a few months later.
 
4. Jordan hits six triples, scores 35 points in first half against Blazers, June 3, 1992

During the 1991-92 regular season, Jordan never made more than three 3-pointers in a single game. In fact, the most 3-pointers he had in any two-game stretch that year was four. So when he began burying triple after triple in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, even Jordan couldn’t believe it, giving a shrug toward the NBC announcers as if to say, “I don’t know, either.” Jordan finished the first half with six triples and scored an NBA-record 35 points. The Bulls cruised in the second half, so Jordan finished with only 39, but his shrug remains one of the most iconic NBA Finals moments in history.
 
3. Jordan battles the flu, scores 38 in Game 5 on his way to fifth title, June 11, 1997

The Flu Game. Jordan was battling a nasty illness in the lead-up to a pivotal Game 5 in Utah, and there were concerns about whether he would even suit up. Hours before tip Jordan got out of bed and made his way to the arena, looking to halt Utah’s momentum after it had taken Games 3 and 4 to tie the series. The Jazz came out red-hot while Jordan looked sluggish, but he responded with 17 points in the second quarter alone to give the Bulls a halftime lead. Jordan then keyed a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to erase a Jazz lead, and he hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls a three-point lead. The Bulls hung on, and Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen’s arms walking off the floor. His final line? 38 points, 13 of 27 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Two days later the Bulls won the title in front of a sellout Chicago crowd.

2. Jordan scores 63 points against Celtics in playoff loss, April 20, 1986

Jordan had just turned 23 years old when he took to the Boston Garden floor to face Larry Bird in his prime and the Celtics. These Celtics had gone 40-1 at home, led the NBA in field goal percentage defense, started FOUR future Hall of Famers and had a fifth come off the bench. They would ultimately go down as one of the all-time greatest teams, and Jordan made them look absolutely silly. He played 50 minutes in the double-overtime thriller, shooting 22 of 41 from the field and making 19 of 21 free throws, including the last two with no time on the clock and the Bulls trailing by two at the end of regulation. He scored 54 in regulation, added five in the first overtime and four in the second. He also led the Bulls with six assists. It still stands as the NBA record for most points in any playoff game. Twenty-three years old. Twenty. Three.

1. Jordan scores 45 in final game with the Bulls, securing sixth championship, June 14, 1998

Jordan’s final game with the Bulls was iconic. Like so many of these moments, die hards know exactly where they were. The 45 points were majestic, and while he only had one rebound and one assist he affected just about every possession on both ends. But what we’ll remember most is the final 37 seconds. Jordan drove to the basket for layup that cut Utah’s lead to one, then stripped Karl Malone from behind on the next trip down. That gave the ball back to the Bulls with 20 seconds left. Jordan let the clock tick down to around 9 seconds before making his move from the left wing, driving right on Bryon Russell, (maybe pushing off) and pulling up for a jumper at the foul line. The shot was good with 5.2 seconds remaining, and John Stockton’s ensuing 3-pointer was off the mark. It gave Jordan and the Bulls their sixth NBA title, and marked the perfect ending to his Bulls career: getting it done on both ends, in the clutch, and finishing with a victory. Because it encapsulated so much of his 14-year career in Chicago, it’s our top Michael Jordan moment.