Bulls

Bulls practice observations, from two former NBA players

jabari.png
USA TODAY

Bulls practice observations, from two former NBA players

Editor's note: On Wednesday, the Bulls invited their broadcast partners to watch the entire practice. Kendall Gill and Will Perdue, who have a combined 28 years of NBA experience, were on hand and shared their observations.

Will Perdue

As many sports fans around Chicago worry about whether Mitch Trubisky is the quarterback of the Bears' future, I think about bigger and better things for the basketball landscape of Chicago. I was able to catch the Bulls practice this past Wednesday and came away with a few thoughts as the team heads toward their first preseason game on Sunday.

Zach Lavine just glides around the court. Very few players in the NBA have his athleticism, but as I asked on Media Day: "Is this the year he shows us the talents that change the perception of him as a great athlete who plays basketball, to a basketball player with superior athleticism?” Is he truly a candidate for this season's All-Star Game?

Robin Lopez reminded me he’s still a very skilled big man. He may be a plodder, but he’s developed a soft touch on his jumper and makes smart decisions with the ball in his hands. As much as I like what Wendell Carter brings to the table - exceptional lateral quickness and great timing to block shots - he still needs some seasoning as he’s very hesitant on the offensive end of the floor.

Bobby Portis might be the Bulls' best 3-point shooter and he doesn’t hesitate to let it fly. I think it’s in the best interest for Portis and the Bulls to come to some kind of agreement and sign an extension. Portis needs to remember that he’ll have another contract after this one. Give him props, he’s worked hard on his game and it shows.

I know there’s plenty more individuals on this roster, but the ones mentioned above were the players that really jumped out at me for this ONE practice that I watched. The biggest question that needs to be addressed is: Will the Bulls defense make a significant improvement? Practice on this day started with a discussion on how to play screens on crosses in the paint and screens on the wing.

I was asked to clarify something for Coach Jim Boylan. The Bulls plan on using switches on the perimeter as an option within their defense, but it is not their first option. They worked on it in Summer League and have been working on it in practice to see if they have the personnel for it to work effectively. Time will tell. Defense is about the pride, willingness and effort to make it work. That’s on the players. Is there a player/leader that will not only lead by example, but be the voice that holds himself and others accountable?

My initial thoughts that I had throughout the summer haven’t changed after watching practice. This team has talent and depth. This team will be fun to watch. This teams has the necessary parts to be a playoff team, but can the coaches and players figure it out quick enough to make the playoffs a reality? The Eastern Conference is going to be tougher than people think and the Bulls will play some of the tougher Western Conference teams early. I’m currently optimistic that they’ll find a way, but there’s  plenty of work that needs to be done prior to the Bulls opener on October 18 in Philadelphia. 

Kendall Gill

The morning session on the second day of training camp looked good. Sloppy team play at first but then the team got it together and finished strong. I felt all of the players were sharp. Not one of them looked rusty.

I was particularly impressed with the way Bobby Portis shot the ball from deep, knocking down six 3-pointers in a row before missing. Jabari Parker can really score the ball, especially from mid-range and taking it to the basket. Zach Lavine looks as if the ACL injury is behind him. He played hard and aggressive, coming through with a couple of spectacular dunks.

Wendell Carter physically is there.  I'm impressed with a couple of nice blocks on the defensive end,  but he still needs time before being a starter. He's not quite ready yet.

Denzel Valentine also shot the ball really well and practiced like a legit veteran.

Now, here's the thing that stood out most to me: Fred Hoiberg will have to run plays to get Lauri Markkanen involved in the offense because you have three players that like having the ball in their hands to make a play: Dunn, Lavine and Parker. Hoiberg has his work cut out for him to balance everything between the four players. I believe that this team can make the playoffs if they stay healthy. Its a long season, so we will see.

Talk feeling cheap as Year 2 of Bulls' rebuild continues to regress

boyl.jpg
USA TODAY

Talk feeling cheap as Year 2 of Bulls' rebuild continues to regress

There’s not a whole lot to say at this point. The Bulls are 47 games into Year 2 of their rebuild and, now healthy, have somehow taken a step back. What was supposed to be a measuring stick in the second half with a complete roster has now becoming an alarming sign that this team hasn’t improved in any area and they’re trending downward. The latest in a long line of ugly performances might have been the worst under Jim Boylen, spotting a 14-win Hawks team a 20-point first half lead and ultimately suffering their ninth loss by 17 or more points under Boylen.

The same typical responses reverberated in the locker room: the Bulls need to take what they’re doing in practice and put it to use in games; the Bulls need to defend better; the Bulls need to be tougher; the Bulls need to care. At least publicly they haven’t gotten down on themselves or one another. They’re surprisingly upbeat despite having one win in 2019, and it coming at the hands of a tanking Cavaliers. Ironically, one of the reasons Fred Hoiberg was fired was that the team didn’t look disappointed and hurt enough after losses.

But at some point the results need to speak. Boylen said after the game that he’s not judging the Bulls on wins and losses, and even cited that the Bulls didn’t play all that well in their lone 2019 win in Cleveland, committing 18 turnovers. It’s gotten ugly and there’s only so much that can be said. Actions speak, and the Bulls have gone silent the last month.

The most fight the team showed was Bobby Portis taking exception to a Justin Anderson dunk with 11.1 seconds left in the game. He got into a brief skirmish with Alex Len on a free throw attempt. But the Bulls also inexplicably doubled at halfcourt as the Hawks were trying to run out the clock, so the Hawks played on. Ironically, it was the first time all night Atlanta felt suffocated by the Bulls defense…and they still managed to get two free throws out of it.

The loudest the United Center got on Wednesday night was from a small pocket of fans near the Hawks bench chanting “We want Vince!” Carter didn’t get in the game, but if he did he likely would have found open space to score against a Bulls defense that didn’t stop much of anything.

Boylen slowed down the Bulls’ pace when he took over, and it actually led to more efficient defense. The Bulls had the No. 8 defense in Boylen’s first month on the job. The offense was a mess but at least the Bulls were showing improvement. But in the last three weeks that defense has plummeted to 29th in the NBA. Yes, Justin Holiday and Wendell Carter Jr. are gone. No, they are not Paul George and Rudy Gobert.

There was at least a bit of excitement over the previous two games when the Bulls made 27 3-pointers against the Heat and Cavaliers. It came against two of the league’s worst defenses, but even Boylen admitted that the Bulls were looking to increase their pace.

Before the game Boylen said that he felt in his heart that 25 3-point attempts were not enough for the Bulls. Against a Hawks team that led the NBA in pace, the taking was there for the Bulls to at least give it a go and hoist 3-pointers in an up-tempo game. If the defense wasn’t going to improve at least they could continue pushing the tempo and finding open shooters to try and score with a Hawks team ranked 24th in defensive efficiency.

The Bulls took 3-pointers on three of their first four shots. They took 23 the rest of the night. They made 8 of 26 from beyond the arc; Atlanta went 9 of 17 from deep in the first half alone and finished with 15 triples. Markkanen (22 points), LaVine (23 points) and Kris Dunn (16 points) were bright spots, but most of those numbers came with the Bulls trailing a team that got spanked by the Magic at home two nights earlier.

It’s somehow gotten worse. Forty-seven games into the year all the Bulls have to show is that they’ve added a piece in Carter and that LaVine is a capable scorer. They don’t need to win – Zion Williamson would be a worthy consolation prize – but they need to improve at some point. Worse than a lack of improvement is a lack of effort, and a bunch of young prospects with talent are somehow regressing. They’ll continue to say all the right things, but until there’s any sort of results it’ll all feel cheap.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Favorite moments of the Melo Era

anthony-123.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Favorite moments of the Melo Era

Mark Grote, Chris Bleck and JJ Stankevitz join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel.

0:00- Bulls and Hawks battle it out at the bottom of the NBA standings. Are they too good to finish in the bottom 3?

6:00- The Derrick Rose reunion talk continues. Would he fit with the young Bulls?

7:30- The panel discusses how you should watch Bulls games for the remainder of the season.

9:00- The guys discuss their favorite moments of the Melo Era.

10:00- 8 Bears were named to the Pro Bowl. 7 will be playing. Will Bears fans actually watch this meaningless exhibition?

14:00- Luke has the latest on Manny Machado-- it's that there is no news. The guys discuss when something might actually happen. How devastating would it be if he does not sign with the White Sox?

19:00- The Blackhawks beat another division leader. They've won 2 straight heading into the All-Star Break. Could they sneak into the playoffs?

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

Subscribe: