All systems go for Chandler Hutchison return

All systems go for Chandler Hutchison return

Barring any last minute setbacks, Chandler Hutchison should be back on the active roster for Friday’s home game against the Detroit Pistons.

Hutchison has been rehabbing from a hamstring injury he suffered during summer workouts, and he spent the last 3 days taking part in the opening practices of training camp with the G-League Windy City Bulls.

“It’s feeling good. Limits have been off the for the last couple days," Hutchison said. "They’ve kind of tailored the practice plan to things I really need to do like going up and down full court, 5 on 5, and I mean it’s been great. Full practice tomorrow (Thursday) with the Bulls, obviously the guys get back after their game in Cleveland. If everything goes good, what I’ve communicated with our training staff is that we’re going to give it a shot on Friday.”

Hutchison was hoping to take on a bigger role this season after a toe injury limited him to just 44 games as a rookie. He worked hard throughout the off-season to develop more consistency with his 3 point shot, only to see his progress slowed by suffering the hamstring injury just before the start of training camp.

“It was a bummer coming off the toe that set me back last year, and then having to deal with the start of this season with the hamstring," he said. "I just got people that are staying with me, teammates always encouraging me to trust the process and not rush back into it. I felt so comfortable throughout this process and the guys are giving me that confidence to be able to just trust it all and come back when I’m ready.”

It’s been tough for Hutchison to watch from the sideline while the Bulls struggled through the opening week of games, losing three of their first four. But the former Boise St. star can see how his talents will fit perfectly with a more up-tempo offense the Bulls are running this season.

“That’s something my whole career has kind of been where I’ve shined most," Hutchison said. "Being able to get that rebound, pushing in transition and using my athleticism to make plays, pass, find guys. So, it’s going to be perfect. The opportunity is going to be there. It’s just getting acclimated with some of the new guys we got, playing with them, but also just getting my feel back, because it’s been quite a while playing under this system and the offense, things like that. It’s going to take a little time, but I’m ready to get up there. As long as I’m healthy and 100 percent, then it’s full go.”

With the Bulls cautiously managing the minutes load for starting small forward Otto Porter Jr., the second unit has been extremely small at times with Kris Dunn, Coby White and Ryan Arcidiacono manning the three perimeter spots. Adding another athlete with Hutchison’s length should give the reserve group another dimension, especially after the Bulls were outrebounded 63-38 against the Knicks Monday night.

“The first thing I see right away is our defensive effort," he said. "For me, last year that was kind of what I was able to hang my hat on was knowing that, okay we’ve got a wing defender. I can take of my business on whoever that might be out there on the court.

“That’s the first thing is where can I plug in and help. I’m just ready to get back out there in really whatever role I’m seeing certain areas and things that we need to get better. I’m just gonna try to fit in and do whatever I can to help this team get on a little win streak here.”

With the Bulls looking for a boost on the defensive end, getting a rangy wing defender like Hutchison back in the rotation definitely should help. 

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In shutting down Trae Young, Kris Dunn showcased the spectrum of his value

In shutting down Trae Young, Kris Dunn showcased the spectrum of his value

Trae Young is one of the most dynamic basketball players on the planet — he’s currently the fifth-leading scorer in the NBA (27.9 points), a 37.6% 3-point shooter (on 8.9 attempts per game) and a transcendent facilitator in the halfcourt and open floor. Some would be daunted, faced with such an adversary (especially given his recent history against the Bulls).

Not Kris Dunn, who took lead responsibilities guarding Young in the Bulls’ 136-102 drubbing of the Hawks, Wednesday night. For him, it was just another game.

“Nah, not at all,” Dunn said when asked if matching up with Young provided him with extra motivation. “It's part of the game. I'm guarding the best player, I'm motivated for all of it. That's what I want. I want the best player. I wanna see what I got. I like the competitiveness of it.

“My job is to guard the best player on the other team. Since I've been starting, I've guarded Buddy [Hield], D'Angelo [Russell], Jimmy [Butler], Trae. You look at the tape, I've been doing a good job,” Dunn said.

Young finished his night with 15 points on 4-for-14 shooting (1-for-6 from 3-point range), seven turnovers and 13 assists. That assist figure is a gaudy one, but Dunn hounded Young — on-the-ball, over screens, everywhere he turned — all night, and clearly shook his rhythm with every poke, bump and step. Of Young’s seven turnovers, two were straight steals by Dunn:


“KD takes the challenge and has great respect for Young. Tries to fight him all over the floor,” Jim Boylen said. “He's a good player, man. But KD's a good player, too. KD's a top-level defender in this league.”

That sentiment permeates the Bulls’ locker room. Dunn’s defensive energy does, too. 

“He puts a lot of pressure on the ball. I just know from my personal experience playing against him, you have to be very careful, because he has quick hands,” Tomas Satoransky said after Wednesday morning shootaround. “I think the offense feels very crowded with him on the ball. So I think that's a very strong point that he brings to that starting lineup.” 

“Everybody knows on this team, I take a lot of pride in my defense. You know, I try to anchor it,” Dunn said. “And I think my defensive energy allows everybody else to put their hard hat on and guard, too.”

Since Nov. 27, the Bulls sport the third-ranked defense in the league (with a 102.4 rating). Dunn’s first game in the starting lineup? Nov. 29 in Portland, two days after Chandler Hutchison suffered a shoulder injury that has rendered him inactive ever since.

And even in spite of his offensive deficiencies — Dunn is currently shooting 19.3% from 3-point range — his greatest skill, stealing the basketball, opens up the area of the Bulls’ offense in which they’re at their most efficient: transition. 

Per Cleaning the Glass, 17.4% of the Bulls’ overall possessions come in transition (fourth-highest in the NBA), and they turn 66.8% of their steals into transition plays (eighth in the NBA). The Bulls score 128.3 points per play on transition plays, 147.5 when said possessions come off steals (both those figures rank sixth in the NBA).

“When we play in transition, I think that's when we're at our best. And in order to get in transition you gotta get stops,” Dunn said. “We got a lot of athletes, a lot of young guys who can get up the floor, and that's what we gotta do.”

Dunn is tied for third in the NBA in steals per game with two. The Bulls, as a team, lead the league in steals per game (9.6) and opponent turnovers per game (18.4).

“He's a ballhawk,” Zach LaVine said of Dunn. “He's gonna make it tough on ’em. I think the dude can mess around and be a first team all-defensive player.”

That idea is also not an uncommon one around the Bulls. Dunn, himself, admits to aspiring to that level of acclaim. 

“I feel like I'm a top defender in this league, and I take pride in it, and I should… Do you see a lot of defenders do what I'm doing? What I do is a little different,” he said with a grin. “But nah, all jokes aside, you know, that's one of my goals. That's always gonna be one of my goals until I get on there.”

LaVine and Dunn both stressed, though, that team success is requisite to any individual recognition. That’s the priority, above all. For now, Dunn remains indelibly confident, and the Bulls need him to be. 

“I'm just going with the flow, you know, whatever the coaching staff needs from me, the team needs from me, I'm gonna go out there and do it,” Dunn said. “I tell people this all the time, I'm a [Swiss Army Knife]. I can do a little bit of everything.

“I'm not worried about where you put me on the floor. I'm a hooper, Imma go out there and hoop.”

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Zach LaVine puts on rare scoring display in Bulls' win over Atlanta Hawks

Zach LaVine puts on rare scoring display in Bulls' win over Atlanta Hawks

On some nights, basketball can feel pretty simple. For the Bulls’ offense — a unit in desperate need of a breakout — tonight was one of those nights.

“I told him, whenever you get it, just shoot it. No matter where you at,” Coby White said of Zach LaVine (who else?) after the Bulls routed the Hawks 136-102. “It just seems like when he gets in a rhythm, he's impossible to stop.”

At present, that sentiment resonates strongly. LaVine scorched the Hawks Wednesday night to the tune of 35 points on 12-for-16 shooting, 7-for-7 from 3-point range. And he did it all in just 25 minutes, sitting the entire fourth quarter of a resounding victory that the Bulls, mercifully, polished off early.

“You know, I get it going. And I want it to stay that way,” LaVine said. “It finally got all put together… It feels good. You wanna have wins like that. It does good for the team and obviously for the body [resting the entire fourth quarter].”

Trouncing the Hawks simultaneously snaps a three-game losing streak for the team and a shooting funk for LaVine. He shot only 33.3% from the field on 19 attempts per game in the three games that comprised that losing streak — hard-fought losses to the Warriors, Heat and Raptors. The Bulls’ total margin of defeat from those three contests was eight points.

“That's what we've been trying to put together,” LaVine said of the Hawks game. “Even though we've had our losses, we’ve been competing every game, we've had stretches where we look really good, where we look like the better team. But we're coming out with the losses.”

Not so tonight. But of course, it’s facetious to call the type of display LaVine put on ‘simple’. Every NBA game, no matter what colors the competing teams sport, features the best basketball players in the world. There are no easy nights at the office in this profession.

Which makes just how easy he can make it look all the more astounding. And all the more worth appreciating.

“Zach's efficiency obviously is just unbelievable,” Jim Boylen said. “He wants to be great, and he's working, and his habits are good. So I'm happy for him.”

LaVine joins a list of only 13 players in NBA history to score 35 points in 25 minutes of play with this performance, including Ben Gordon and *drum roll* Michael Jordan. He is also the 20th player in league history to attempt seven or more 3-pointers in a game and make them all. When he’s on, it’s a spectacle. Appointment television.

But, for LaVine, the focus remains on the team. And the future.

“I don't think every game's gonna be like this, obviously,” he said. “But we need to have more of them.”

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