Bulls

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Clutch Markkanen lifts Bulls over Magic

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USA TODAY

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Clutch Markkanen lifts Bulls over Magic

On this edition of Bulls Outsiders, Matt Peck, Dave Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 110-109 win over the Magic and another great game from Lauri Markkanen.

0:45       Reaction to Bulls win vs Magic and 2 game win streak

1:45       Maturation of Lauri Markkanen

6:00       On Zach LaVine’s game and chemistry with Lauri Markkanen

7:15       Viewer comment on why wins are bad and thoughts on Boylen

11:50    Viewer question on Kris Dunn

15:00    Reaction to Space Jam 2 with Lebron James

21:30    Reaction to Luka and Lauri in Rising Stars game

24:00    Carlos Boozer and tweeting the wrong Zion get well soon

Lisetn to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: 

Three Takeaways: Point-Zach LaVine rounding into form

Three Takeaways: Point-Zach LaVine rounding into form

The Bulls held on to win what will perhaps go down as their weirdest win on the 2018-19 season. In a game with 23 lead changes and 17 ties, the Bulls came out on top after a series of fortunate (or unfortunate depending on where you stand on wins and losses these days) events. With the game tied at 106 all, former Bull DJ Augustin was fouled by Kris Dunn and received two free throws. Augustin--a career 86.3 percent free throw shooter--missed both free throws to give the Bulls life late in the matchup.

A clutch putback tip-in from Robin Lopez wasn’t the final nail in the coffin for the Magic, as wing Evan Fournier hit a huge 3-point shot with just over 7 seconds left in the game. This setup Markkanen’s clutch free throw attempts at the end of the game, in which he sank two of three to seal the Bulls 15th win of the season.

Lauri Legend in the making

The number one thing Bulls fans were concerned with post-Bobby Portis/Jabari Parker trade was if the departure of the two offensive-minded forwards would allow Markkanen to flourish. So far the answer is a resounding yes.

The Finnisher finished (see what we did there?) with 25 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in 38 minutes of playing time. The double double was Markkanen’ 8th in his last 10 games, and his 13th double double overall on the season.

In the month of February, Markkanen is putting up All-Star numbers. Through 7 games he is averaging 25.3 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 2.6 APG and shooting 47 percent from the field. But just as important as the fact that he is putting up great stats is the way he is collecting those numbers. In recent weeks, we have seen a lot more from Markkanen in terms of taking his defender off the dribble, as he possesses solid speed for a big man.

So far through 36 games played in 2018-19, Markkanen’s 3-point percentage is 38.3 percent, just over a 2 percent increase from last year. And on top of that, he is actually attempting more 3-pointers as well. So with defenses frantically trying to deny him clean 3-point looks, using a--dare I say “Mirotic-esque”--pump fake to open up a driving lanes will take Markkanen’s burgeoning offensive game to the next level. In fact, a pump fake and side-step is the exact move that led to Markkanen drawing the foul on Aaron Gordon that led to the game-winning free throws.

The moment a solid NBA player becomes a superstar is when volume meets efficiency. Markkanen’s usage rate has increased from last year and his offensive rating has increased by about 4 points as well. If Markkanen’s season goes as it did last year, we can expect to see more fireworks as the Bulls closeout 2018-19. In the ‘17-’18 season, April was Markkanen’s highest scoring month.

The steadying force

Bulls head coach Jim Boylen was yet again--and rightfully so--quick to compliment Otto Porter on his play since joining Chicago.

“He’s just a steady force. He can be a receiver or a creator. Those guys are invaluable.”

Porter racked up 17 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, a block and a steal in 38 minutes. His 17 points came on an inefficient 15 field goal attempts, but he still ended up a team-high +10 from the field. Boylen was right  to call OPJ a “steady force” because whether or not he has a great shooting night, he is willing to do all the little the things to contribute to winning basketball.

You can always count on Otto-matic Otto--he of the career 40.2 percent 3-point percentage-- to hit a couple 3-pointers, but with Chicago, he has started to explore his off the dribble game. He is shooting 33.3 percent this season on pull-up 3-pointers--down from 45.2 percent last season in Washington--but he has more than doubled his pull-up 3-point attempts as a Bull.

Porter is not going to turn into Steph Curry overnight, but even at 25 years old, he can get even better at pull-up jump shooting. This part of his game being unlocked in Chicago gives Boylen another competent  ball handler to run secondary pick-and-roll actions.

Through his five games as a Bull, Porter is averaging 2.6 APG, almost a full assist better than his season average. Yet another part of his game that seems to be evolving under Boylen. And most important is the fact Porter’s sharing ways seems to have rubbed off on the rest of the roster.

LaVine the PG?

Through 7 games in February, LaVine is averaging 5.9 APG, which would be higher than any season-long assist average of his career. And this isn’t some sort of random flash in the pan, as the 2 turnovers per game he is averaging in February are the lowest of any month this season.

If LaVine--who has always been a solid passer despite his reputation--can consistently keep the turnovers down while playmaking this much, the idea of him as the Bulls long-term answer at point guard has to be taken seriously.

The main issue with the defensive-minded Dunn being the starter at point is the fact that he cannot hit an open 3-point shot, which was on display on Friday night, as he went 0/2 from 3-point range. Juxtapose this with LaVine, who absolutely made it rain from deep.

As per usual, LaVine wasn’t a major difference maker on defense, but he did a solid job all night. He was very adept at sliding his feet to stay with Augustin and though he did give up his fair share of easy drives, he defended without fouling (1 personal foul on the night).

LaVine’s 22 PTS came on a very efficient 14 shots, and this is no doubt the type of offensive performance that Boylen and co. hope to see more of over the last 23 games.