Matt Peck

The Pecking Order: Coby White's break out game

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NBC Sports Chicago

The Pecking Order: Coby White's break out game

What’s up, Bulls fans? Now that we’ve seen a couple of wins – and I had a delightful sojourn down to Houston to spend time with my adorable nieces – I’m in a much better place than I was after that disappointing loss to the Lakers last week. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still livid about that one. But I’ll do my best to follow Pumba’s advice and put my behind in the past.

So, for the sake of my blood pressure, I figured I’d ride with the happiest story in Bulls Nation this week: Coby “Don’t Call Me Alec” White.

Here are some thoughts I have on the Bulls’ 2019 lottery pick after his second electrifying performance of the season sealed a win over the New York Knicks on Tuesday night. It’s the Pecking Order.

1) Thank you, Coby.

Bulls fans needed this. As my fellow Outsider John Sabine said in our episode following Tuesday’s win, “We didn’t just need the win. We needed a moment and a memory.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

As I watched the final moments of Coby’s dazzling fourth quarter performance – one that set a franchise record for most made three pointers in a single quarter – I witnessed something I hadn’t seen in a long time: this fanbase falling in love. Not to belittle any of the impressive games and runs we’ve witnessed from other Bulls players in recent years, but can you remember the last time fans at the United Center serenaded a player with loving chants? (Sorry, Kendall and all you Rose Stans out there, but chanting “MVP” to Derrick Rose while he’s wearing a Detroit Pistons jersey doesn’t count.)

I honestly couldn’t recall the last time something like that happened. Hearing chants of “Co-by! Co-by! Co-by!” rain down from the rafters at the Madhouse – on the same night when crowd noise at tipoff was slightly quieter than Mitch Trubisky defenders on Twitter – reminded my heart what it feels like to love something about this team. Because let’s be honest, what has there been to love over the past three or four years?

Bulls fans, especially skeptical grumps like me, needed something to believe in and something to love after another ugly start to what was supposed to be a promising season. Ja(h)coby provides.

2) Speaking of Jacoby, did you see the column our Bulls Insider K.C. Johnson wrote about Coby’s real full name? 

Perhaps because I’m more concerned about his game than this name, I wasn’t even aware that Coby’s full name is Alec Jacoby White. But I don’t feel guilty, because neither did some of his teammates. “Your name is what?!” asked fellow rookie and locker buddy Daniel Gafford.

I like the name Alec, but I think Mr. Baldwin already owns the tag of “most famous Alec.” Even Coby’s dagger threes aren’t colder than the icy delivery of Baldwin’s character Jack Donaghy as he puts down various subordinates on “30 Rock.” Shoutout NBC sitcoms! You’re the best! (wink wink)

The nickname “Sub-Zero” is a good one, and Coby certainly proved he has ice in his veins during his shooting barrage against the Knicks. On the other hand, John thinks the nickname is counterintuitive for someone on a hot shooting streak. How can you be on fire and sub-zero at the same time? Don’t ask me, I’m not a scientist.

Personally, I think we need to adopt Coby’s full middle name and call him Jacoby. Why? Because it’s a great way to remind everyone that the Bulls got the better Ja among guards drafted in the 2019 lottery! We’ve already seen Coby outperform Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, who went #2 overall, in the Bulls’ victory over Memphis. I think we should take the Ja away from Morant and give it to Coby. If Coby ever gets a start, the announcer at the United Center could introduce him as “JAAAAAAcoby White!” And it would be awesome. Just don’t tell my guy Big Dave. He’s a huge Morant fan.

3) About that whole “Coby should start” idea…

I’m still not sold. I think his best role is as a bench scorer, at least for now. He still needs to mature as a decision-maker with the ball. We see him make mistakes in transition – he made two early in the Knicks game before his shooting spree – as well as overdribble and ignore mismatches in the post. He’ll get better in that department as he develops.

Coby also isn’t a reliable shooter yet. Sure, the seven bombs in one quarter was fun, but it was the exception to the rule in the early season returns of his shooting numbers. If you remove Coby’s two best shooting performances of the season (against Memphis and New York) he’s shooting just 15.9% from downtown in the other nine games. Yikes.

I believe that Coby’s skill and work ethic have him on track to be a starter in the NBA someday — and maybe sooner than later — but he’s not ready yet. And given the scoring struggles of Bulls’ second unit in most games thus far, he needs to stay where he is.

4) How crazy is it that my fellow Outsiders and I were the first “members” of Chicago sports media to interview Coby after the Bulls selected him on draft night?

True story. We couldn’t believe it when our boss told us we’d get a few minutes on the line with Coby after he got off the stage at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Utter nonsense. But I’ll tell my grandkids about that when I’m old and grey and Coby’s number 0 hangs in the United Center rafters along with a few more championship banners he helped deliver. (Aside No. 1: Uh oh, did I just sound too much like See Red Fred there? Aside No. 2: Yes, Ma, I know I need a wife before I have grandkids. I’m working on it. Kind of.)

5) Roy Williams needs to come to more Bulls games.

Coby said so. Honestly, though, it is interesting that the two best performances of Coby’s young NBA career have come on nights with extra motivation. As previously mentioned, he outdueled Ja Morant in the Grizzlies game. Perhaps there was a chip on Coby’s shoulder, stemming from so many draft pundits declaring with complete certainty that Ja was the best backcourt prospect in the 2019 class? Then, he pours in 23 of his career-high 27 points in the 4th quarter of a big win with his college coach and mentor in attendance.

Somebody needs to make cardboard cutouts of Ja Morant and Roy Williams and put them in courtside seats of every Bulls game. So stupid it just might work!

6) I do believe that Coby still needs to develop his decision-making skills on the floor, but... 

My favorite play of his impressive fourth quarter against New York demonstrated that his basketball IQ is on its way. Late in the quarter, after already drilling six three pointers, Coby got the ball on the right side of the court well behind the three-point line. Instead of relying on his hot streak and jacking up another three, he recognized that the oversized Julius Randle was guarding him on the perimeter. Coby sprinted past the slower Randle and finished at the rim with a beautiful scoop layup off the glass. Smart balling from a kid whose coach describes him as a “baller.” Indeed.

7) If he can improve the consistency of his long ball and continue to play with this level of aggressiveness on offense, Coby is going to get lots of votes for Rookie of the Year. 

And might be a dark horse to win it. We’re still waiting on the regular season debut of Zion Williamson, currently sidelined with a knee injury. He was crowned the odds-on favorite to win the award as soon as the Pelicans drafted him No. 1 last summer. But if he misses a third of the season…

Many rookies have impressed early in Zion’s absence, notably Morant, No. 3 overall pick R.J. Barrett, Miami’s Kendrick Nunn (who saw that coming?) and Washington’s Rui Hachimura. But if Coby’s strong games keep leading to Bulls wins – as his two best games so far have done – then those who get to vote won’t be able to ignore his impact. His averages of 12.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 24 minutes per game are respectable. The shooting percentages (36.8 FG%, 28.6 3P%) must get better for Coby to steal ROY honors. It would also help if the Bulls won more games than their current pace of a 29-53 record.

8) Coby won’t turn 20 until February 16, 2020.

He wasn’t born until after the Y2K scare. If you asked him, he probably wouldn’t even know what Y2K means. Oh gross, that makes me feel old. But it’s a good reminder for some impatient Bulls fans (can those clamoring for Zach LaVine and/or Lauri Markkanen to be traded take a chill pill or twelve?) that this is still a VERY young team. At a median age of 24.4, the Bulls are the second youngest team in the league behind Phoenix. Sure, the Suns stunned everyone with their hot start, but they’ll likely level off. Young teams tend not to win in the NBA and that will almost assuredly continue to be the norm.

Wendell Carter Jr. can’t legally drink until next April. Lauri won’t turn 23 until sometime around the draft lottery next spring. (Hopefully he won’t be there representing the Bulls for another disappointing seventh pick.) Zach seems older, perhaps because this is his sixth NBA season, but he’s still only 24. None of the Bulls’ core players have reached their prime. Rebuilds take time.

Random thought: It would be hard for Coby to find a convincing fake I.D. with that hairdo. But he’s too busy punching Jim Boylen’s clock to go to the clubs anyway, right?

9) Going back to the “should Coby start?” conundrum from earlier... 

It’s not necessarily about starting. It’s about putting Coby in the best possible situations to succeed and allowing him to get his touches. Think about this: Coby’s usage rate so far this season (25.2%) is higher than the rookie season usage rates of his teammates LaVine (22.0%), Markkanen (21.9%) and Carter (19.1%). LaVine started 40 of 77 games his rookie year. Lauri started all 68 of his rookie appearances. Wendell started all 44 of his. Would Coby’s usage rate be that high – i.e., would he be as involved in the offense – if he were sharing the ball with other starters? Not likely. For now, at least, Coby getting the bulk of opportunities with secondary units is a good thing for his development.

10) Coby & Shaq > Kobe & Shaq.

You can’t convince me or Boylen otherwise. Although Shaq Harrison hasn’t managed to crack Jim’s rotation – we’ve only seen him in garbage time so far – I think it’s safe to say we’ll see him get into that rotation long before Denzel Valentine ever does. Why? Because I said so. *shrug emoji*

Thanks for reading. Here’s to many more nights of shouting “Co-by! Co-by!” at the UC. It sounded weird the first time, so we should probably do it several more times until we’re used to it. Go get ’em, kid. And don’t worry, Y2K wasn’t even a thing. Hakuna Matata.

Till next time. See red, be good. - Peck

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The Pecking Order: Spooky Season for Bulls Fans

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NBC Sports Chicago

The Pecking Order: Spooky Season for Bulls Fans

Happy Halloween, Bulls fans!  As I sit writing this on Halloween morning, snow is falling in Chicago. At least some things are consistently reliable around here. Makes me think of my childhood in the suburbs, trick-or-treating with my friends as a “___ in a winter coat.” But when it comes to this 1-4 start to the season, it’s not just snow that’s falling outside the United Center on the final day of October. The sky is falling with it.

Some of the more optimistic fans must be shook by this dreadful start. It’s hard to believe this team can make the playoff leap this season when you lose games to supposed bottom feeders like Charlotte, New York and Cleveland. Even as someone who didn’t see the playoffs as a reality this season, I can’t help but think of a popular meme: “Our expectations for you were low, but holy ****.”

So, for a Halloween edition of this weekly column, I thought I’d rattle off a few things that scared me more than ghouls and goblins and snow in October. It’s The Pecking Order.

1. Jim Boylen isn’t going anywhere.

When asked about Boylen’s job security in his most recent “Ask K.C.” mailbag column, our Bulls Insider K.C. Johnson answered with the following:

“Not only did the Bulls extend Boylen’s contract during the offseason, but ownership and management are also fully convinced he’s the right man for the job. In fact, I’ve rarely seen a coach as organizationally aligned as Boylen is. And I’ve covered a few Bulls coaches. Boylen isn’t going anywhere.” 

Yikes. And K.C. is being modest there. It’s more than a few coaches he’s covered in his time on this beat dating back to the second three-peat in the 1990s. To hear that ownership and management are so convinced Boylen is their guy is truly terrifying.

Look, I like Boylen. He’s a very nice guy. And I do believe he cares deeply for his players and wants to help them succeed. But it’s possible for that to be true, AND for it to be true that this guy is in way over his head. He can’t manage his timeouts. He can’t construct proper rotations. His calling card – the defense – is a disaster, currently 25th in the NBA despite playing a bunch of bad offensive teams.  And his inability to make in-game adjustments is the biggest reason the Bulls have coughed up THREE double digit leads and lost THREE winnable games to subpar opponents.  He’s routinely getting outcoached as the games progress. The only people who appear to be unaware of (or apathetic about) that are his bosses. Did Jim actually let Kris Dunn take a jump ball against 6’9 Larry Nance Jr. when 7-foot Lauri Markkanen was on the court? Would love to hear John Paxson spin Jim out of that one. I assume it would have something to do with grit and toughness and believing in yourself. Maybe they’re still trying to come up with different ways to raise Dunn’s trade value. I give up.    

BRB, going to a haunted house to calm my nerves before I can continue…

2. The LaVine-Lauri duo is really struggling.

Through five games, we have seen only one dominant performance each from Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine. This is the pair the front office sold us as the future. They’re banking this rebuild and their jobs (haha, jk about the jobs) on one or both guys turning into star caliber players. The offseason moves they made focused on bringing in complimentary players who could help them shine. Thus far, the returns are scary.

We knew coming into this season that Lauri and Zach are both defensively challenged. Zach even took offense, saying recently that he was tired of “people talking sh*t” about his defense.  Well, he got cooked on a Collin Sexton back cut last night as the Cavaliers made a run to steal the game. Other than his 17-rebound game against Charlotte, Lauri has looked lost in help defense and soft defending the paint. Together, they’re regularly getting exposed by mediocre opponents running pick-and-roll action. At one point last night, Zach even ran over Lauri as the Cavs picked apart their blitzing double of the pick-and-roll.  Spookfest, indeed.

I still think both guys can turn around their poor starts. It seems almost impossible that Lauri will continue to shoot just 21.2% from downtown. But will he assert himself inside the arc? We haven’t seen much of that since the first game of the season. And can Zach become the closer this team desperately needs? In the games that have slipped away, the Bulls offense has completely faltered down the stretch. Zach going iso and playing hero ball in crunch time didn’t work out all that well last season, and it’s not looking great thus far this season.

The biggest concern – one that makes me wonder if Jim should start staggering Zach and Lauri a lot more – is their ratings when they share the floor. Per stats.nba.com, LaVine and Markkanen have an offensive rating of 102.2 and a defensive rating of 115.8.  That adds up to a -13.6 rating when they’re on the floor together. Talk about goosebumps. And not the good kind. The R.L. Stine kind.

3. The rebounds, man!  Where are the rebounds?!

In their past two losses to New York and Cleveland, the Bulls have been outrebounded by 40. FORTY. “F. O. R. T. WHY? Because they GOTTA!” (Shout-out to those of you who got that reference from The Mask.) Jim Boylen has been preaching all offseason and into the season about physical and mental toughness. About playing harder than your opponent to give yourself an edge regardless of talent. You know where that kind of talk should be backed up? On the boards. So far, it’s not there.

This team isn’t good enough to give their opponents the advantage in second chance points every night. And yes, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson are a handful on the glass. But it wasn’t just the loss in Cleveland. Through five games, their defensive rebounding percentage of 68.6% ranks dead last in the NBA. Boo! …Urns? “I was saying Boo-urns.” Nah, I wasn’t. I was booing their rebounding effort.

4. The three-guard lineup with Kris Dunn, Coby White and Ryan Arcidiacono.

That’s it. It’s a thing that scares me. Maybe also nauseates me? It needs to end. Will Chandler Hutchison’s return to availability from a hamstring injury mark the end of Boylen using this lineup for way too many minutes every game? We’ll find out Friday night. Am I convinced that putting Hutch in there instead will be a marked improvement? No. Am I still terrified of his inability to shoot? Yes. Trading one scary thing for another, I suppose. As Lil Wayne says, “What’s a goon to a goblin?”

5. Jim Boylen closed with Thad Young over Lauri in the 4th quarter.

After Lauri got a midrange bucket and two free throws in the first minutes of the final quarter, Jim subbed him out for Thad Young. Markkanen didn’t return. I understand that Lauri wasn’t having a dynamite game (just 4-for-12 shooting) but he looked like he might be getting in an aggressive groove right as Boylen took him out. I also understand that Young is one of this teams more reliable defenders, and Lauri was getting cooked and outmuscled by Love and Thompson. But what does it say about one of your supposed franchise cornerstones – or his coach – that the coach would rather play him bridging the third and fourth quarters than have him close the game? Scary.

6. Otto Porter Jr. doesn’t look like himself.

In unquestionably his best game of the season, Otto contributed 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists against the Cavs.  He shot 50% from the field, including going 1-for-2 behind the three-point line. That, at the very least, is what we were expecting from the Bulls starting wing based on what we saw in his short stint after the trade last season.

But something about Otto still doesn’t look right. He’s not moving as swiftly and smoothly as he did last year. His shot isn’t falling regularly. Could it be that his oftentimes problematic hip is giving him issues? Is there a different injury we don’t know about? As the season began, I repeated myself several times when expressing my belief that Otto staying healthy and playing well would be vital to this team’s success. I’m scared.

7. Here are some Jim Boylen quotes from his postgame press conferences following the loss to Cleveland:

“I’m seeing a lot of growth. Hell yeah, I have.” Where?

“The ball’s moving.” Not enough.

“Guys are playing with confidence.” Really? Who?

“I think we won the first two quarters.” They did. “I think we lost the third and lost the fourth. The other night, we won the first two quarters and lost the third and lost the fourth.”

All true. In the second halves of losses to New York and Cleveland, the Bulls were outscored 130-104. What’s even scarier is that most of that disparity came in the fourth quarters, where the Bulls were outscored 70-47.

And here’s Boylen’s final thought on that: “That’s where we gotta grow. We got to get more mentally prepared to play the second half.”

Do the players need to be more mentally prepared to play the second half, or does Boylen need to do a much better job coaching in the second half? I’m too scared to answer my own question.

8. Have you looked at the Bulls’ November schedule?

Don’t. It’s frightening. If the Bulls can only manage one win between the Hornets, Grizzlies, Raptors, Knicks and Cavs…Yeah. Don’t look at their upcoming schedule. Woof.

9. Wendell Carter Jr.’s thumb isn’t fully healed.

After a slow start, Wendell has looked much better in his last two games. He had his first career 20 and 10 game against the Knicks and played well Wednesday night, despite starting the day with inflammation in both eyes. (Maybe Felicio should lend him his goggles? He’s definitely not using them.) On a night when the rest of Boylen’s “grit and toughness” group appeared to lack any semblance of grit or toughness, Wendell kept battling. Not only that, his postgame comments rang truest of any. This 20-year-old kid appears to have the most poise and awareness of anybody in that locker room. That’s not necessarily a good thing.

Unfortunately, we also got a scary update on Wendell’s thumb injury.  In his column breaking down the Bulls’ 1-4 start, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic mentioned that Wendell doesn’t expect his thumb to fully heal for another six weeks. Wendell is wearing a brace on that left hand and has appeared to struggle handling the ball and cleanly receiving passes. If he’s trying to show Boylen his grit and toughness by playing with a still-injured thumb, and injures it further? Hoooo boy…

10. Derrick Rose returns to the United Center on Friday.

Why is this scary, you ask? Because if Rose has a good game – which is possible, if not likely, based on his play so far this season – we’ll have to listen to Kendall Gill and so many others on Bulls Twitter talk about how they should have brought him back this offseason. Hell hath no fury like a Rose Stan scorned. Cue me rolling my eyes out of my head. It’s over. Let it go.

Hope ya’ll enjoyed a fun and safe Halloween. You and your trick-or-treaters might have been scared to go out in this classic Chicago fall weather, but that's nothing compared to the fear Bulls fans should be feeling after five games. That was truly the stuff of nightmares. Let’s hope they turn it around, and fast. Otherwise, we’ll be left with nothing to give thanks for in a few weeks.

Thanks for reading.  See red, be good. - Peck

The Pecking Order: Season Opener

The Pecking Order: Season Opener

Well that was a let down. So much hype and optimism coming into a fresh Bulls season, and a seemingly cake matchup in their season opener against Michael Jordan’s directionless Hornets. I looked at Charlotte’s starting lineup an hour before tipoff and thought, “Wow. We better beat this junior varsity squad by at least ten points.”

If the game had ended at the 06:19 mark of the fourth quarter, the Bulls would’ve done just that.  A Zach LaVine three – his first bucket of a bad night – capped a big run that built the Bulls’ lead to ten. Unfortunately, everything that happened after that served as a reminder that this team, despite the newfound optimism, still has little room for error. Defensive breakdowns, lack of offensive execution and questionable rotation decisions by Jim Boylen led to an embarrassing collapse. But hey, at least Lauri Markkanen balled out, right?

Here are my biggest takeaways from the Bulls season opener. It’s The Pecking Order.

1)  We found The Finnisher.

Oh my goodness, Lauri Markkanen. THAT is what Bulls fans were waiting to see as we watched a passive Lauri contently shoot threes and do little else through four preseason games. There was plenty of talk all offseason about whether Lauri was ready to take a big step in his third season, really assert himself, and use his physical tools and full arsenal of skills to round into a bucket-getting machine. Maybe Lauri was just saving the good stuff for the games that count. 

We saw everything in Game 1. The unguardable drag-step that he patented last season.  Establishing post position when he had mismatch advantages. Finishing in a variety of ways.  He backed down smaller defenders. He drove baseline. He hit running sky-hooks over shorter defenders. He sank a beautiful floater running down the lane. He hit a Dirk-esque midrange stepback. He flushed a couple of nasty dunks on great off-ball cuts. He muscled for offensive rebounds and putbacks. He got to the foul line, making 8 of 10 free throws. Oh, and he pulled down 17 rebounds to compliment his career high 35 points.

The biggest surprise, however, is that Lauri poured in those 35 points despite going 1-of-7 from behind the three-point line. There will be nights when Lauri’s three ball is the most efficient part of his game, and that’s okay. But I wasn’t loving his ratio of inside and outside attempts in the preseason. I’ll take 35 points with only one make from deep any night of the week. The threes will come around. Seeing Lauri establish his interior scoring Wednesday night was way more important. I might owe Lauri an apology for worrying about his preseason games.

2)  What the hell, Hornets?

A franchise record 23 made threes? On a night the Bulls struggled beyond the arc (9-30), the Hornets were chucking threes in like a perfectly buzzed barfly setting a new high score on the pop-a-shot game. Yes, some of this was unexpected, and unlucky for the Bulls. Did Jim Boylen have Marvin Williams, Devonte’ Graham and PJ Washington combining to go 18-of-25 from downtown on his scouting report? Probably not. The Hornets won’t have a shooting night like that again for a long time.

But the Bulls’ inability to close out on shooters burned them all night. Their poor rotations on defense burned them all night. It wasn’t expected for the Hornets to make 52.3% of their threes, but the Bulls must do better in limiting their opponents’ looks from deep. Even allowing 44 three point attempts, including 39 “open” attempts and 20 “wide open” attempts per league metrics, is unacceptable. (Kudos to the wonderful Mark Strotman on that stat. *Pours one out for our NBC Bulls teammate off to bigger and better things.*) Boylen talks a big game about improving this team’s defense, but it was bad on Wednesday night. Very bad. 

3)  Speaking of which: transition defense. Yikes.

If the Bulls are going to play at a faster pace and shoot more threes this season, they must be ready for the consequences on nights when shots aren’t falling. Boylen wants this team to be the best-conditioned team in the league. That would theoretically include being able to get back on defense. Some of it is poor communication, too. From start to finish, the Hornets made the Bulls pay with their transition offense. Did Cody Zeller really have THREE poster dunks? Ew.

4)  Zach LaVine had a bad night.

He had three fouls before he scored a single point. He uncharacteristically missed a lot of close looks when easily getting to the rim. He over-dribbled down the stretch as the Bulls lead disappeared. He probably should’ve taken a three instead of the layup on that final possession, given the circumstances. This is all forgivable, and I’m not worried about Zach at all. Bulls fans roasting him based on this game need to chill.

5)  Jim Boylen needs to learn how to use timeouts.

*Checks notes, confirms that Jim is in fact a head coach in the NBA. Thinks to self, “Did I really just type that? Woof.”* Continuing a trend from last season, Boylen never seems to take timeouts when he should AND never has a timeout when he needs one. How are both of those things possible? It boggles the mind. 

While watching the game last night, our new pre and post anchor Jason Goff called for Boylen to take a timeout multiple times when the Hornets started rolling on the Bulls. The rest of us agreed. But not Boylen, apparently. The worst offense, to me, was not calling a timeout to make an adjustment and instruct his guys on how to close the game as the Bulls lead was slipping late in the fourth quarter. Then, suddenly, when he needs a timeout to advance the ball in a final seconds situation, he doesn’t have one. Where did the timeouts go if they weren’t used wisely earlier in the game? Did they get sucked into the Upside Down? Did they find Barb yet? When does Season 4 of Stranger Things come out? I digress…

6) Where was Denzel?  

Despite supposedly being fully healthy and recovered from the surgery that caused him to miss all of last season, Denzel Valentine still can’t crack Boylen’s rotation. And that’s even with Otto Porter Jr. being on a minutes limit and Chandler Hutchison still being unavailable with a hamstring. Boylen chose a three point guard lineup that looked undermanned and overwhelmed against Charlotte in favor of playing Denzel. Somebody check on my pal See Red Fred.

7) Kris Dunn had a nice game.

His defensive effort, which included four steals, keyed two runs the Bulls made to get back into the game and build a fourth quarter lead. In my humble opinion, however, Boylen left him in too long as the Bulls coughed up said lead. We already know that Dunn and LaVine don’t play well together. After the loss, Boylen talked about how the ball got stuck on offense as the game slipped away. You know when the ball doesn’t get stuck?  When Tomáš Satoranský is on the floor. It’s almost as if that’s why they signed him in the offseason. Boylen didn’t sub Sato in for Dunn until the 02:17 mark. By that time, the Bulls ten point lead had completely disappeared. Whoops.

8) Thad Young is a stud.

He provided exactly what we expected, chipping in 17 points off the bench on a very efficient 7-of-11 shooting. He even went 3-of-5 from downtown, which has never been a calling card of his offensive game. He’s a force in the post, though, and contributed to the Bulls completely dominating Charlotte in points in the paint. He, along with Otto, was voted by his teammates to be a captain this season. Good call. Now we wait to hear which players will round out the all-important “leadership committee” for this season. C’mooooon, Archie!

9) Speaking of Otto...

He had an underwhelming game. Just 9 points on 3-of-10 shooting and 1-of-5 from deep. He’ll have better games. I’m not worried.

10. Coby White continues to impress.

The rookie scored 17 points and dished 7 assists in his NBA debut. He had some rough moments in the fourth quarter, including a bad offensive charge on a fastbreak that should have built the Bulls’ lead to 12 just before Charlotte made their run.  He also jacked up an ill-advised three pointer when Markkanen had a mismatch in the post right in front of him. He’ll learn, and he’ll continue to develop better decision-making skills. In the meantime, the kid is a natural scorer. And he is fearless. And I love him already. I want to be his pen pal. Are pen pals still a thing? Probably not. Damn smartphones.

All in all, there was lots to be encouraged by in the Bulls season opener. But if they’re going to fight for a playoff spot this season, they can’t lose games like this against opponents like this. Historic shooting night be damned, you cannot cough up a ten point lead halfway through the final quarter. You just can’t. Especially against that team. At least we get to watch them try to do better 81 more times. The NBA is back. Praise be.

Thanks for reading. See red, be good. - Peck

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