Bulls' ball movement stands out in loss to Zion Williamson's Pelicans

Bulls' ball movement stands out in loss to Zion Williamson's Pelicans

Zion Williamson lived up to the hype. The Bulls’ offense created some.

On a night Williamson drew oohs and aahs from the United Center crowd while scoring 29 points on just one missed shot, the Bulls’ ball movement proved sublime. They posted 38 assists on 49 field goals in a 127-125 preseason loss to the Pelicans.

The Bulls’ reserves blew a 23-point, fourth-quarter lead as the Pelicans outscored them 41-18 in the fourth. But for the second straight game, the Bulls attempted at least 37 3-pointers and looked like a well-oiled machine while the regulars played.

Zach LaVine’s 28 points in 24 minutes led the way, while Otto Porter Jr. posted 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

But this game went beyond numbers and into nuance. Twice, including when Luke Kornet started the second half for Cristiano Felicio, coach Jim Boylen sent five shooters to the floor.

The other stint came in the second quarter when Tomas Satoransky, Coby White, LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kornet scored 20 points in 5 minutes. To say this is a luxury for Boylen---and a departure from last season---would be like saying Williamson can dunk.

“I thought at moments we looked like a team,” Boylen said. “We looked like how we want to look.”

As expected, Satoransky drew the start at point guard after Kris Dunn got that assignment in Monday’s preseason opener against the Bucks. After an initial turnover-filled stint, Satoransky finished with 11 points, eight assists, five rebounds and two steals, repeatedly moving the ball quickly and accurately.

For the first time, Boylen said he won’t take all preseason to name his starting point guard. Given how well the ball moved with Satoransky starting, he likely is the leader in the clubhouse.

“I had some quick turnovers early. I’m still learning some situations. I’m learning that Zach is quick so you have to give him the pass early,” Satoransky said. “But I think we did a good job of moving the ball. I think we showed how we want to play in the season---moving the ball well, having open shooters and play with pace.”

The assists were more than the Bulls posted all season. And having so much shooting on the floor should do wonders for LaVine, who consistently drew double teams or got blitzed by defenses in pick-and-roll situations last season.

Boylen called LaVine “a special cat” who is “locked in” this preseason.

“When I do drive, defenses are either going to have to stay at home or if they bring help, we have five shooters,” LaVine said. “It definitely opens the floor up.

“The more we play together, I feel the ball is going to pop around the perimeter a little better. (Satoransky) pushes the pace. Even a couple of the turnovers that he had were the right play. He was going to feel out some lobs and backdoors. It’s going to be fun for somebody like me who can get in transition. It helps me move without the ball a lot better.”

The United Center will host the All-Star game in February. Williamson and LaVine would make for a juicy dunk contest.

“I wanted to see what it was like first-hand. I’m a competitive guy,” LaVine said of their respective dunks. “He’s the truth.”

Indeed, the postgame praise flowed for the No. 1 overall pick, who consistently got to the rim.

“I was amazed at his body control for a guy that big,” Boylen said of Williamson. “There were moments where it looked like he wasn’t going to get to the rim and he did.”

The Bulls only shot 17 free throws but consistently had open looks because of their ball movement. Kornet, who finished with nine points and four assists in his debut, added an element the Bulls didn’t previously have.

“It’s good to have Kornet out there,” Boylen said. “He’s a good player. He understands how to play the game.

“We have a chance to be a good team because of the shooting and versatility and different combinations. We did a better job of getting into some combinations we wanted to see. One was Markkanen and Kornet.

“We’ve added experience and intelligence to this team with Satoransky and Kornet and Thad. When you don’t have an agenda and just play the game, it’s really fun and freeing.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Miami Marlins center fielder Monte Harrison made a bit of history on Aug. 4, when he laced up for his first ever MLB game.

With his debut, he and older brother Shaq officially became just the sixth MLB-NBA brother duo in league history. The most recent? Klay and Trayce Thompson, the latter of which appeared in his last MLB game on June 20, 2018 for the White Sox. Chicago ties all around.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bulls news and analysis.

Shaq used his trademark brand of heart and hustle to work his way up from two 10-day contracts with the Phoenix Suns to a multi-year pact with the Bulls. Monte's path to the majors began in 2014 after the Milwaukee Brewers plucked him in the second round of the Amateur Draft from Lee's Summit West High School in Lee's Summit, Mo. He was jettisoned to Miami as part of the Christian Yelich trade in 2018. 

In 2019, Monte played 58 games between Miami's High-A and Triple-A affiliates, slashing .270/.351/.441 with 9 home runs, 24 RBI and 23 stolen bases. He's been known to flash some leather, too, and entered this season the club's tenth-ranked prospect.

Since his call-up, he's appeared in four contests (three starts) with the Marlins, and is just 1-for-10 at the plate with five strikeouts. But we'll forgive some early-career stumbles. His first big-league base-knock, which came on Thursday, was perfectly emblematic of what Bulls fans have come to expect from the Harrison household.

Yup. A cue-shot infield single. Exit velocity: 44.3 mph. Expected batting average: .190. But he beat it out. And followed it up with a stolen base. You can't script this stuff.

"I don’t know what my mother did, a lot of prayers, a lot of believing, and trust in us," Monte said after his debut on Tuesday, via Bob Nightengale. "We just worked our ass off.''

That much is evident.

RELATED: How Bulls’ Shaq Harrison impacts games, even with limited playing time


Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

With the NBA restarting with 22 of its 30 teams, there was buzz in early July of a second bubble coming to Chicago for the eight teams excluded to get in organized team activities and possibly scrimmages.

Now, it appears those talks have significantly slowed, if not stalled entirely.

The Athletic reported Tuesday that there is "significant doubt" the second bubble concept will come to fruition, but Friday, that bringing the "Delete Eight" teams into the Disney campus has been discussed. Any agreement — whether it be a full-on bubble or respective, in-market OTAs — would require stringent safety protocols and need to be agreed upon by the league and NBPA.

On the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson broke down the latest scuttlebut:

Well, the latest is, you really got only one shared goal between these eight teams and that is to get some kind of formal group activities authorized by the league and the players association.

How that plays out and the form that takes, there are different goals. There are some teams that wouldn't mind doing a bubble. There are other teams that would rather stay in their own practice facilities and not travel. There are other teams that want to do regional scrimmages against another team. And complicating this is that Michele Roberts, the executive director of the players association, is on record as saying: Unless there are the exact same safety protocols going on in Orlando for the second bubble, it's a non-starter for her.

The league's attention mostly has been in Orlando, obviously, and that was a signficant financial undertaking. So you'd also have to factor in that, what kind of financial undertaking would they commit to these eight teams. It did look like there was some positive momentum for, not a bubble, but for each team to be able to hold some sort of offseason training sessions, group sessions in their own facilities, like OTAs in the NFL.

And I don't think that's dead, but there's certainly not as much optimism as there was maybe a week, ten days ago for that. I mean, it's fluid, and there's nothing definitive yet, but you may be staring at that dreaded eight month window between formal group activities for these eight teams. 

In the episode, the crew also breaks down the week in NBA bubble action, talks Jim Boylen and more. Listen here or via the embedded player below: