The Bulls got a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. Here are my thoughts from practice on Sunday.
1. Winning Sunday
Following the Bulls 99-98 win over the Cavs, there was an upbeat vibe on Sunday as guys hit the hardwood laughing, joking around and putting up shots. Then it was off to watch film and back to business. It was two weeks ago in that film room where this team had its ugliest and hardest session of the season… watching the Warriors dismantle them time and time again.
But, since then, the Bulls have actually made big strides defensively, ranking sixth in the league since that blowout. While they’ve gone 2-4 over that stretch, you could argue the losses were all close and coach Fred Hoiberg believes that’s progress.
“Since that night, guys have really bought in to film sessions. They’re coming out on the court and trying to correct things where we were making consistent mistakes. We’re still not there 100 percent, we’re still making [mistakes], but we’re making less of them and that’s a good sign," Hoiberg said. "If we can get the rebounding to where we need it and finish off possessions that’s what will really take us to the next level.”
2. Carter relishes his role as the defensive anchor
Meeting the media with a big grin Sunday, Wendell Carter Jr. joked that he didn’t mind our questions getting him out of some of the team’s film session. Don’t worry Bulls fans, Wendell is a quick study with an extremely high basketball IQ.
“He’s a smart kid. If he does make a mistake, you only have to tell him once and he won’t make it again,” Hoiberg said.
I mention the grin, but the rookie has a lot to be smiling about as he continues to turn heads in this league. He’s averaging nearly 12 points, 8 rebounds and over 2 assists and 2 blocks a game. WCJ joked he was robbed of a fourth swat against the Cavs near the end of the game, but the one everyone wanted to talk about came in the opening quarter where he came from the weak side and blocked Jordan Clarkson.
“It all depends on who I’m guarding, the personnel. For Clarkson I knew he wanted to get a shot up. So, I knew he wasn’t going to pass the ball, so I knew that was the perfect opportunity for me to come over for help-side defense," Carter said. "I just kind of do whatever I can to help the team win and I feel like being a defensive anchor right now is something I have to do just to help this team win.”
3. Gen Z looks up stats differently
Speaking of Wendell Carter Jr., the 19 year old said the three stats he pays attention to when evaluating his game are: Plus-minus, rebounds, and blocked shots. But don’t expect the Gen Z, Duke stud to look those up in a box score. Nope, he’ll just scroll through his IG page, duh. (@wendellcarterjr)
“I’m seeing them on Instagram and on Twitter, but I don’t really try to look for them," Carter said. "I’m not going to lie. After the games I don’t really try to pay attention to my stats, but if I’m scrolling through my Instagram I’ll probably see them at some point. I’m not going to just scroll past them and pretend like I don’t see them. I’m going to look at them.”