Big man Luke Kornet out to show he's more than a shooter for the Bulls

USA Today

Big man Luke Kornet out to show he's more than a shooter for the Bulls

During the dynasty days, the United Center faithful used to bellow “Luuuuuuuc” when center Luc Longley impacted the game.

Is it time for Luke Kornet to be serenaded with chants of “Luuuuke”?

If that sounds like hyperbole, well, listen to what Jim Boylen said before Kornet successfully sprinkled the box score of his Bulls debut with nine points, four assists and two rebounds in 16 impactful minutes.

“He was as big a piece as Thad and Sato for what we’re trying to build and what we’re trying to do,” Boylen said, comparing Kornet’s unheralded free-agent signing to the acquisitions of Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky.

Kornet, who played against the Pelicans after missing the first week with turf toe, agreed to a two-year, $4.5 million deal on July 2. At the time, the move seemed more of a flier on a relatively unproven 7-foot-1-inch novelty, a “stretch 5” who shot a career-best 36.3 percent on 193 3-point attempts in just 784 minutes with the Knicks.

But Kornet, who also blocked 0.9 shots in 17 minutes over 46 games, displayed a high basketball IQ in his debut. He set screens effectively. His passing included a no-look feed to Satoransky. His rim protection displayed agile footwork.

“A couple teams contacted me but I was able to talk to Coach Boylen for awhile and I got the feel they value what I do and understand the value of it,” Kornet said of his free agency process. “That got me excited. And then with the players already here, you could see all the pieces of something good building. I wanted to be a part of a group that’s improving and grow and get better and make the playoffs.

“I feel a lot of what I do doesn’t translate necessarily to statistical stuff, in terms of working to space and moving the ball and getting guys open shots and defensively making shots harder. I’ll block some shots. But I’m not always trying to block shots but alter them. They took note of that and it was great to hear they value that.”

Kornet posted two of his best games last season against the Bulls and Wizards, who at the time employed Satoransky and Otto Porter Jr.

“I was familiar with him because actually he killed us (the Wizards) one game,” Satoransky said. “He scored like 20 on us the first half when we played a London game against New York last season.

“He’s not only a shooter, but he can really read the game well. He’s really tall. And I think that’s great defensively because he can help on a lot of drives. So you have a presence (inside). And he’s a very smart guy, so he really surprised me in that sense.”

Kornet’s father, Frank, played with NBC Sports Chicago analyst Will Perdue at Vanderbilt and two seasons with the Bucks. Kornet followed his father to Vanderbilt but said his older sister, Nicole, proved just as big an influence on his career.

“My sister was a really good basketball player,” Kornet said of the woman who played at Oklahoma and UCLA. “So I’m sure that had some sort of side effect on me mentally that I can’t really understand.”

Kornet laughed after saying this, a light-hearted reference to sibling rivalry. But he grew up in a close family and doesn’t consider himself a novelty as a 7-foot-1 shooter who experienced a growth spurt between his junior and senior seasons of high school.

“I always was a shooter,” he said. “I wasn’t super, super tall. My sister, brother and I would shoot in the driveway. When you grow up and play basketball, you learn how to shoot. I’m just playing basketball. I understand shooting is a primary thing. But I don’t really understand why people make such a big deal of it.”

Well, Boylen still will.

“I think he can play with anybody,” the Bulls coach said. “He can play 4. He can play 5. He can play out. He can play in. He’s smart. From our evaluation from the film I watched when I studied him to him playing against us to his raw numbers, he’s one of the top defenders in the league at rim protection. He works at defense. He cares about it. For guys playing at center, he was the least turnover guy in the league. He can handle the ball and make decisions. He can dribble handoff. He can help us.”

It seemed that way in his debut.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers


Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, See Red Fred joins Big Dave and Matt Peck. The guys talk about some big plays down the stretch by Zach LaVine and Denzel Valentine. Plus a great defensive job by Kris Dunn on Paul George. (1:30) See Red Fred states his case for more playing time for Denzel Valentine. (4:00) Plus what's going to happen when Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison come back. (8:00) The guys share some concerns about Coby White in the short term. (10:30) See Red Fred tells you about 3 players who have exceeded expectations this year. (13:00) Plus the guys debate whether Zach LaVine should compete in the dunk contest or 3 point competition. (18:00) They discuss the impact that Kris Dunn has had on the defensive end of the floor. (20:30) Plus See Red Fred lays out his blueprint for the Bulls to make the playoffs. (23:30) Plus the guys make a wager regarding the rest of the season. (25:00)

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

Bulls Outsiders


Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Just over two hours before tipoff, in his first public comments since Media Day, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson talked about how Jim Boylen’s teaching and coaching hasn’t always translated from the practice floor and film room to games.

Could the Bulls’ first victory this season over a winning team be a step?

And don’t mention that the Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams in the Bulls’ 109-106 victory, secured on Zach LaVine’s three-point play with 2 seconds to play.

“Well, we didn’t have (Otto Porter Jr.) or Hutch (Chandler Hutchison) or (Daniel) Gafford,” Boylen said. “So we can ‘Yeah, but’ it a little bit too.”

Bravado aside, there’s stuff on which the Bulls can build here.

LaVine posted his sixth 30-point game and ended a week filled with closing misses with a game-winner in which he powered through a Montrezl Harrell foul on a nice misdirection play involving Kris Dunn. Lauri Markkanen tied his season-high with 17 rebounds while posting his third double-double of the season. Denzel Valentine, playing all but two seconds of the fourth, hit a huge tying 3-pointer in the final minute and scored a season-high 16 points. Thad Young tied his season-high with 17 points.

And Dunn was everywhere, relishing the challenge of guarding Paul George down the stretch and winning a crucial battle for a 50-50 ball that led to Valentine’s tying shot.

“That was a huge moment,” Boylen said.

So was Valentine closing a game.

“I just thought we needed some more shooting on the floor,” Boylen said. “We’ve wrestled with defensive lineups, offensive lineups. We try to mingle them a little bit. I just thought we needed someone to make a big shot. And he did.”

Valentine has now scored in double figures off the bench in five of six games.

“I’m very confident in my abilities,” Valentine said. “I was just waiting for the ball to come my way. Zach is our best player. So the ball’s going to be in his hands. But shoot, I’m ready for it. I love those moments. I love to make those shots.”

Dunn, who finished a plus-22, defended George as he missed a good look for a tying 3-pointer. George scored 10 points in just over 7 minutes in the fourth but missed all three attempts following Valentine’s tying shot.

“I love it,” Dunn said of guarding great players. “I know my niche on this team is to guard. And I take pride in that. It feels good to go against a big-time player and be able to get stops towards the end.”

Markkanen actually received credit for the rebound that Dunn kept alive to lead to Valentine’s tying shot, which Dunn said Markkanen teased him about. Dunn finished with nine points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals.

But his two biggest plays didn’t even crash the box score. He won the 50-50 ball to lead to Valentine’s tying shot and then confused the Clippers’ defense by slipping a screen on LaVine’s game-winner.

“I knew Zach was going to get downhill,” Dunn said. “Because once I did it, I saw Paul George look at me.”

LaVine couldn’t believe how much space he had to operate.

“I’ll take it,” he said. “Once I saw the lane open up, I think there were like 5 seconds left. We were trying to get the last shot. But once the lane opened up, I tried to get a one-on-one. He’s a tough dude. I knew I could attack his body.”

LaVine missed game-winning attempts on an isolation 3-pointer against the Warriors and over a double-team against the Raptors. His three-point play offered a dose of redemption for a player who is never afraid to fail.

“You’re not going to be perfect. As much as people are going to show more of the bad than the good, I’ve had a lot of good times in the clutch as well,” LaVine said. “I try to make the right play for us to win. And I did that tonight.”

For one night, matters were more positive. The Bulls closed out a game against a good team and received multiple contributions while doing so.

Heck, Boylen even downplayed Paxson’s vote of confidence.

“We understand what we’re trying to do. We’re in step on what we’re asking our guys to do and play like and work like and care like,” the coach said. “I’m thankful for it. But I wouldn’t expect anything less.”