Bulls muddy things up but drop Sunday tilt to Raptors

Bulls muddy things up but drop Sunday tilt to Raptors

The Bulls dirtied up their Sunday evening tilt against the Toronto Raptors, but eventually talent won out. The Bulls weren’t able to earn a third straight road win, falling 95-89 to the top team in the East.

Here are four observations from North of the border.

1. Mark Schanowski did an awesome job in his play-by-play debut

Let’s start with the real story here. Our colleague and friend Mark Schanowski crossed off a bucket list item by calling play-by-play for Sunday’s game. He was awesome. Like just about everything he does for the company, he was a natural. He crushed it in his first game; we hope it isn’t his last.

2. Chandler Hutchison also did an awesome job

Not to be outdone by Schanowski, Chandler Hutchison put together a career night. The bar wasn’t all that high, but he showed glimpses – especially on the offensive end – of a player who should get the chance to earn minutes down the stretch.

He did what he’s done best in his limited minutes in Chicago, driving to the basket. He finished on three pretty moves and also knocked down his only triple of the evening. Jim Boylen opted to go with Justin Holiday down the stretch instead of letting Hutchison roll, which was a bit surprising not only for the rookie’s progression but simply that Hutchison was the better player on Sunday.

Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come. Hutchison hasn’t really strung together good games but should have the opportunity to do so. He’s getting more run with Bobby Portis out (and Jabari Parker having a permanent residence in the dog house) and Holiday should be on the move sooner than later. That means an opening at either forward position – though we’d like to see him at the 3 – and with the way he played tonight there should be 20-25 minutes for him every night. He added three rebounds and nothing else, but for now we’ll take the shots and move along.

3. It’s going to be tough for the Bulls to win on LaVine off-nights

Zach LaVine simply couldn’t get anything going, and he went through another night where he didn’t receive many calls going to the basket and it affected him all night. It’s similar to what he went through during his ugly stretch in early December.

LaVine finished with 13 points on 3 of 17 shooting, and while he did get to the free throw line seven times it didn’t help much. He only committed one turnover on a pretty high usage night but the reality is the offense is bad even when LaVine is on; when he’s off? It’s downright awful.

The Bulls shot 41 percent and had as many assists as they did turnovers. It’s a lot to ask for LaVine to bring it on offense every night, but such is life for the $78 million man.

4. The Bulls need a few wins this week before hitting the West Coast

The Bulls are back for three home games this week before a five-game West Coast road trip.

Two of those games are against the Magic and Nets, teams that have played better of late but ones that the Bulls should be favored in. The surging Pacers are sandwiched between those two teams, so the Bulls should be shooting for a 2-1 week.

They’ll need two wins, because the West Coast trip they’re about to embark on is going to be incredibly difficult. In a nine-day stretch they’ll face the Blazers, Warriors, Jazz, Lakers and Nuggets. LeBron James might still be out with a strained groin when the Bulls travel to L.A., but this will be a five-game stretch in which the Bulls are underdogs in all five. It doesn’t mean anything for playoff purposes, of course, but for morale it’s important the Bulls pick up a few wins before heading West.

How Drew Gooden thinks LeBron James can surpass Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant

How Drew Gooden thinks LeBron James can surpass Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant

Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? Who is truly the greatest of the bunch?

For Bulls supporters — and, it seems, most basketball fans in the wake of “The Last Dance” — the answer is simple. Jordan, of the five MVPs, six rings (and Finals MVPs), nine scoring titles and a litany of additional accolades is without comparison.

But appearing on Lunch Talk Live with Mike Tirico, Drew Gooden, now an NBC Sports Washington analyst and a teammate of James with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2004-2008, brought up an interesting swing variable in the debate: Phil Jackson.

“There’s one variable that we never talk about when this discussion comes up between Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and it’s one guy that I think is the variable in this formula and it’s Phil Jackson,” Gooden said. “I mean, if you take Phil Jackson out of this equation, how many championships does Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant have?

“LeBron James is in a unique situation outside of not having a Phil Jackson, being able to have to go like a vagabond and go figure it out himself with multiple coaches, multiple organizations, multiple systems. With that being said, I think his book is a lot different than Michael Jordan’s and Kobe Bryant’s, because I feel like they had the structure with Phil Jackson most of their career and were successful with Phil Jackson.”

Indeed, James’ three titles are divided between two franchises, two with the Miami Heat, one with the Cavaliers. And he's positioned for another deep run with the top-seeded Lakers this year. Jordan and Bryant’s title-rearing years came under one coach’s tutelage, James’ two (that he actually won titles with) and counting, and he's cycled through countless rosters and team infrastructures. Some will point to that tumult being his own doing, but the point stands.

Gooden wasn’t ready to anoint James ahead of Jordan and Bryant. But he did say this season could be a pivot point.

I think this will be the tale of the tape of, OK, I’ve not only done that two times, but I’m gonna do it a third time in Los Angeles,” Gooden said. “Doesn’t matter who the coach is, doesn’t matter who my teammates are, I’m gonna provide another championship for the city of Los Angeles. 

“Now if he does that now, you’re starting to see, alright, where does he separate himself from Michael Jordan and the late Kobe Bryant.”

It won’t look conventional, but with the NBA announcing a 22-team return plan for the late summer, it seems James will get a chance.

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Thad Young on the challenges of being a father in a racially unjust world

Thad Young on the challenges of being a father in a racially unjust world

Before getting to Jim Boylen’s future, the anticlimactic end to the Bulls’ campaign and the NBA’s unprecedented 22-team play-in format to finish its 2019-20 season, Thad Young had to address the full context at hand for his conference call with reporters.

For Friday marked the 11th day since George Floyd, a black man, died after white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine straight minutes. The killing has sparked mass unrest, protests and fervent discourse around racial injustice and police brutality across the globe. The world also continues to grapple with the new reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, which shuttered the NBA on March 11, and the rest of the United States (where the virus has killed over 100,000 and counting) soon after.

“I know we’re stuck in unprecedented times where we’re in the house during COVID and then the thing that happened with George Floyd and social injustice,” Young said before fielding questions on the call. “I just want to make sure to let everybody know that I hope everybody is safe and healthy with our families, and make sure we’re holding each and every one of us close and try to get through these tough times…”

Young, 31, is currently bunkered down in his family’s new home in Texas with his wife, Shekinah, and two sons. Parsing through the realities of a racially unjust world with his sons, to hear Young tell is, has been a balancing act.

“When they come up with a question, it’s very hard to answer that question because I don’t want them to have to grow up and fear for their lives or have to grow up and understand that they can’t do the same things that other people are doing,” Young said. “That’s one of the toughest things. You want to give your kid the world. You want to get them to understand that, ‘Hey, you can do whatever you want to do.’ In these times, it’s just not the same. You can’t do everything that somebody else is doing. 

“If I’m going to be specific about it, the black kid can’t do everything that a white kid is doing. Those are things that are very, very tough to talk about. But it’s a harsh reality and we have to talk about them. My kids are still young, six and nine. They understand certain things that are going on, but not entirely everything. 

“For me as a father, that’s probably one of the toughest conversations to ever have with your kids. They all have questions because there’s so much stuff on social media and so much stuff on YouTube, which is what all the kids are watching now. When they see a video pop up with different things that happened… My youngest son, he asked the other day, ‘Why did they kill that man, Daddy?’ It’s hard for me to answer that question because you don’t want to push him into the harsh reality of what it is. But you have to answer those tough questions and you have to have those tough conversations with your kids. It’s definitely hard. What happened is definitely saddening for me but it also scares me to death because I have two young boys.”

Sadder still because the direct onus of those difficult conversations falls on black families far more than their white counterparts. It’s a testament to how ingrained racial biases (at best) and racist practices (at worst) still are, even today.

The hope of Young, Zach LaVine, who spoke on an earlier call, and countless others calling and fighting for change, is that a new dawn is on the horizon. Whether substantive change comes to fruition remains to be seen, but Young emphasized that resolution will come through unity.

“It’s so early right now just to see if there’s going to be change. One of the things that I do see is we have some unity coming,” Young said. “We have some people who are getting together. We have these protests. People are coming out and letting their voices be heard. You have a lot of celebrities and very, very influential people who are following suit. The good thing is we have a lot of people who are speaking up for change and speaking up for freedom and peace. 

“We’re bringing more and more people together. One of the biggest things is to continue to do that. Continue to let our voices be heard. Stay together. Stay unified. And also make sure we do what’s right and steer everybody away from doing what’s wrong.”

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