Bulls

Another big loss wears on Bulls’ Zach LaVine: 'It doesn’t make a lot of sense'

Another big loss wears on Bulls’ Zach LaVine: 'It doesn’t make a lot of sense'

The Bulls were obviously fighting an uphill battle from the start in Saturday night’s game against the Miami Heat, being without center Wendell Carter Jr. and having lost 9-straight games coming into the matchup. But things went from bad to worse as the Bulls had yet another second half collapse that led to a double-digit loss, and some reasonable frustration from guard Zach LaVine.

After heading into the half up by 2 points, Chicago completely fell apart at the start of the third quarter, in which they were outscored 28-19. The Bulls got to the free throw line seven times in the third--a rare occurrence for them--but could not close the gap due to an absolutely dreadful 29.4 percent shooting from the field.

In the second half, the Heat went 10/17 from the 3-point line, raining down triples on the scrambling Bulls defense.

Some of the Heat’s 3-point makes throughout the game were extremely difficult. Like the play where Lauri Markkanen played great defense, only to be thwarted by better shot-making from Dwyane Wade.


Others were completely inexcusable, where the Bulls got sucked into the paint too deep on Miami drives, leading to wide-open shots with poor closeout efforts.

And while the Bulls defense initially had some renewed energy under Boylen, it now ranks 26th in the league in efficiency since he took over on December 4th. The offensive woes are well-documented, but if the Bulls aren’t putting up a fight on D, there isn’t much to keep them in games.

And that is why Zach LaVine’s statements from Saturday hold so much weight.

“Something is obviously wrong. We weren’t losing by double digits earlier in the season.”

It is not the fact that his quote could be looked at as coaching criticism that makes it interesting. It is the fact the numbers back up his claim completely.

The Bulls have not been meaningfully better in any way since having their full complement of players back, and that is concerning.

While Boylen is a defense-first coach, he obviously has some input on the offense.

The Bulls have taken 23.6 3-point shots per game under Boylen. In 24 games under Fred Hoiberg, Chicago was shooting 29.3 3-point shots per game. That precipitous drop in 3-point attempts is simply nothing short of bewildering when you consider that Boylen has had Markkanen under his tutelage during his entire stint.

The Bulls may be tougher in terms of collecting paint points on most nights, but they have actually shot 3.3 less free throws per game under Boylen as well.

And on night’s like Saturday where the Bulls actually held an advantage at the free throw line--21/26 for the Bulls compared to 14/23 for the Heat--unimaginative offense made it impossible to hold on to what was once a 9-point Bulls lead.

Lauri Markkanen ended the first quarter shooting 4/7 from the field but finished the game 7/19 from the field. Kris Dunn finished 3/14 from the field, but more important is the fact the he only took one 3-pointer. He is shooting a career-high in terms of 3-point percentage but has regressed in terms of how much opposing defenses respect his perimeter shot.

Dunn is not a great threat on the perimeter, but ignoring that part of his game completely is unlikely to help Dunn or the Bulls offense in the long-term.

And Jabari Parker--who finished with his fourth-straight game of double-digit scoring on 50 percent or better shooting--still received less than 20 minutes of playing time. Interestingly enough, Parker received less than two minutes of playing time in the third quarter, where the Bulls offense fizzled out completely, going 5/17 from the field.

Obviously, not all of the Bulls issues are directly attributable to Boylen. But many are. And in a season of development and many changes, evaluating Boylen is just as important as evaluating the roster.

Since Boylen took over, the Bulls are 5-17 and one of two teams averaging less than 100 PPG in that span.    

Coming into this season, Bulls fans were prepared for losses but also prepared to gush over the meshing of the talents of LaVine, Dunn, Markkanen.

But so far, the three core players received in the Jimmy Butler trade have been underwhelming as a group, without much as of late to indicate that they are getting more comfortable on the floor together.

So LaVine is correct when he says something is obviously wrong, even if he can’t quite pinpoint the root of the issues.

“I don’t know. We’re a better team now and we’re getting blown out. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Something has to change for the Bulls. Because as the season wears on, it becomes more and more clear that plopping a top 5 draft selection in this lineup is unlikely to be some all-healing salve. Stability within an NBA organization is built through a great relationship between the front office and head coach, and a clear and effective playing style that maximizes the talents of your roster. The Bulls seem to have the former but it will be tough to stay in games against any level of competition until they get a better grasp on the latter.

All stats used via NBA.com

How Michael Jordan reacted to Robert Parish taunting him at Bulls practice

How Michael Jordan reacted to Robert Parish taunting him at Bulls practice

Don’t mess with The Chief. Michael Jordan learned that lesson at a practice during Robert Parish’s lone season with the Bulls in 1996-97 — the last of his 21-year career.

Appearing on CLNS Media’s Cedric Maxwell Podcast, Parish told the story of him taunting Jordan (a rare sight at a Bulls practice in the ’90s), and the shock Jordan responded with. 

“We were scrimmaging, we played like six games going to five points. And so after the first two games, Phil (Jackson) put me with the second unit who I always played with. You know, my boys,” Parish told Maxwell. “We proceeded to kick their (the first unit’s) butts like four straight games. And Michael took offense to it, so I asked him, ‘How did he like that butt whooping?’

“He took offense to it because clearly no one ever manned up to him, you know, challenged him. So he said if I wasn’t careful, he was going to kick my ass. And I told him, ‘I’m not in awe of you. I’ve played with some of the baddest fellas there walking the court … And I’m supposed to be in awe of you?' You know, he’s looking at me like I had slapped his mug (laughs).”

Parish ended his career a four-time NBA champion — thrice with the Celtics (1981, 1984, 1986) and once with the Bulls (1997). He cited his experience playing with all-time greats from Larry Bird to Kevin McHale to Bill Walton to Maxwell as reason for not being intimidated by Jordan. 

Still, his gumption apparently sent shockwaves down the roster. 

“Derrick Dickey couldn’t believe that I talked to Michael like that,” Parish told Maxwell on the podcast. “Clearly, Michael was the alpha, you know, it was his team. He ran the ballclub and everybody kind of like got out of his way and let him do his thing.”

Parish added that he respected Jordan’s brazen leadership style, but that he preferred the manner in which Bird operated.

“Everybody got their own style, and the way they lead. Michael was in your face, he challenged his teammates,” Parish said. “Larry was our leader (with the Celtics), and he led by example. You know, he wasn’t a vocal leader, he let his play dictate how we should play. I think Larry’s style and philosophy makes the best leaders, because if you are a yeller and a screamer, after a while your voice fall on deaf ears and players just kinda tune you out, don’t hear what you got to say.

“I respect both leadership styles, but I prefer Larry’s style the best. Cause you know, some nights you don’t want to hear what he got to say, speaking of Michael. He all up in your face talking trash, you know, he might get a short right, man (laughs).”

Fair enough. Jordan’s abrasive ways weren’t for everyone. Surely, he’s content to let his six rings speak for themselves.

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Michael Jordan: 'I won't play' if Isiah Thomas is on Dream Team in new audio

Michael Jordan: 'I won't play' if Isiah Thomas is on Dream Team in new audio

The plot continues to thicken on the revived Michael Jordan-Isiah Thomas feud that has bubbled during and in the wake of “The Last Dance.” Tuesday, audio surfaced of Jordan admitting that he wouldn’t play for the 1992 Dream Team if Thomas was included on the roster.

The clip comes by way of the Dream Team Tapes podcast with renowned sports journalist Jack McCallum, who authored “Dream Team,” a book that chronicled the construction of the 1992 USA Olympics squad that took the world by storm.

 

Though a bit warbled, Jordan’s ultimatum is clear: "Rod Thorn called me. I said, ‘Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.' He assured me. He said, 'You know what? Chuck (Charles Barkley) doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team.'"

That audio, according to the podcast, is from an interview McCallum conducted with Jordan for the book in 2011. McCallum reported the fruits of this conversation in “Dream Team,” which came out in 2012:

Rod Thorn, who as general manager of the Bulls in 1984 had drafted Jordan, was assigned the most important task: pulling the prize catch into the boat. Thorn called Jordan directly sometime during the summer, after the Bulls had won their first championship. (In fact, all of the invitations were extended directly to the athletes, not through agents…) So let’s be clear right now about what Jordan said in that first phone call.

‘Rod, I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team,’ Jordan said.

I wrote that in Sports Illustrated at the time, not because Jordan confirmed it, which he didn’t, but because at least two reliable sources did. At the time, Jordan more or less denied that he would stand in Isiah’s way.

But he did confirm it to me in the summer of 2011. ‘I told Rod I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.’ That’s what he said.

Still, controversy framed as rumor continued to surround Thomas’ exclusion from the team, including in “The Last Dance.” In a present-day interview in the documentary, Jordan denied requesting Thomas be left on the roster. 

“It was insinuated that I was asking about him. But I never threw his name in there,” Jordan said. “Based on the environment and camaraderie that happened on that team, it was the best harmony. Would Isiah have made a different feeling on that team? Yes. You want to attribute it to me? Go ahead, be my guest. But it wasn’t me.”

In an interview on ESPN’s Golic & Wingo, Thorn, who chaired the USA Basketball Men's National Team Selection Committee in 1992, echoed Jordan’s version of events.

“When I called Jordan, his first inclination was he didn’t know if he wanted to play or not because, as he said, ‘I played on an Olympic team before (in 1988),’” Thorn said. “'It’s for the younger guys as far as I’m concerned.' 

“So we continued the conversation, and at the end of the conversation, he said, ‘You know something, I’ll do it.’ There was never anything in my conversation with him that had to do with Isiah Thomas. Period.”

But now we have audio that directly contradicts those accounts, and corroborates decades-old speculation (and McCallum's reporting) that Jordan played a specific party to Thomas being left off the team. Jordan's invoking Barkley also confirms that there was Dream Team-wide anti-Thomas sentiment. And funny enough, all of this comes from Jordan himself.

Thomas said in “The Last Dance” he didn’t know what went into the decision-making process for the Dream Team, but that he wasn’t selected in spite of, in his estimation, meeting the desired criteria.

If we didn’t know already, we now know for sure what led to his exclusion.

RELATED: David Robinson: Isiah Thomas shouldn’t be surprised about Dream Team snub 

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