Bulls

Thibodeau, Mavs' Carlisle express appreciation for each other's teams

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Thibodeau, Mavs' Carlisle express appreciation for each other's teams

Dont include Rick Carlisle in the sector of observers who believe that after Thursdays loss at Miami, the Bulls are somehow no longer a contender. The Mavericks head coach, who won a championship last season, shared his high opinion of the team that defeated his short-handed squad following Saturdays game.

I dont know whos saying that. I saw a few highlights from that game, said Carlisle. Theres 220 possessions in an NBA game. Its easy for people on TV to sensationalize one or two plays, but over the course of a regular season, theres 15 or 20,000 possessions.

I look at their body of work over two years, I look at the coaching job that Thibodeau has done here and this team brings it every night, he continued. Thats why theyve got the best record.

It seems theres a mutual-admiration society between the two coaches, as Thibodeau waxed poetic about the Maverickswho lost defensive linchpin Tyson Chandler in the offseason, acquired Lamar Odom via trade and dealt with the subsequent drama that led to last seasons Sixth Man of the Year Award winner and reality-show star effectively being sent home on a paid vacation recentlya team that clinched a playoff berth this week, but chose to rest veteran guards Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, despite not being in position to host a first-round series.

When youre dealing with Nowitzki, it puts a lot of pressure on your defense and theyre unique because they invert their offense, said the Bulls head coach. Theyre the defending champion. Youre talking about a team with championship experience, so its a good test for usI dont think they get enough credit for their defense. Theyre very good defensively.

Theyre a well-balanced team. Carlisle does a great job with them, theyre deep, they have a lot of weapons, theyre skilled and they can hurt you in the pick-and-roll, post, catch-and-shoot. They can invert their offense and Nowitzki, because of his skill setyou have a seven-footer with a high releaseits very difficult to get to, and he and Terry are two very big fourth-quarter players for them. I didnt even talk about Kidd, he continued. They were sort of under the radar and I believe they won 57 or 58 games last year, and there was a sequence during that time where, I believe Nowitzki wasnt playing. He missed, I believe, seven or eight games, so if you factor in if he plays during that stretch, theyre probably a 60-win team and they were healthy, and playing well at the right time. which you have to be.

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.