Bulls

Bulls’ unconventional leadership committee will 'have input on what we do and how we operate’

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USA TODAY

Bulls’ unconventional leadership committee will 'have input on what we do and how we operate’

The latest development in the clearing of the air between head coach Jim Boylen and his Bulls players is a leadership committee.

Details of the committee first surfaced on Monday when ESPN’s Malika Andrews and Ramona Shelburne reported that Zach LaVine had spoken with Boylen 1-on-1 following the infamous Sunday meetings at the Advocate Center.

Those discussions led to the creation of the leadership committee, which both LaVine and Boylen spoke about on Tuesday before the team departed for Mexico City for their Thursday game against the Orlando Magic.

"We had a situation over the weekend that could have been handled by a leadership group walking into my office and saying, ‘You know what, Coach? This is how we feel today. What do you think?’ That was the teaching moment,” Boylen said. “I’m juiced, man. I’m jacked up about it."

It’s certainly unconventional of a professional team, but the Bulls are also the second youngest group in the league. Nine of the 13 players Boylen played on Monday are 24 years or younger, and if Boylen’s first week on the job showed anything it’s that there’s disconnect between coach and players.

The Bulls have individual leaders to be sure in players such as LaVine, Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis and veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday. But there isn’t a dominant presence in the mold of a Joakim Noah, Luol Deng or Jimmy Butler that there’s been in years’ past. Such is life in the midst of Year 2 of a slowly moving rebuild.

“We’re putting it together within the team and we’re just trying to figure out the right dudes to lead the team, who will be with us moving forward,” LaVine said. “I think that’s the main thing. But I think it’s a great thing, especially with a young team. It’s not a dictatorship.

“We don’t have a straight-up old-school vet on the team, like a Kevin Garnett to where you know he’s the exact leader.

“With a young team I feel like we can all have a voice, especially the ones that are going to be on the team [moving forward] and dudes that’s voices are respected.’’

The hope is that eventually the 23-year-old LaVine will become that player. It’s why he went to Boylen in the first place as the spokesperson for the team. He’s months removed from signing a four-year, $78 million contract and despite his age is one of the most experienced players on the roster. The likely All-Star has been front and center during the tumultuous 48 hours and wants to take on more responsibility for a team that to this point has relied heavily upon him.

LaVine said the last 48 hours have brought the team closer – something he felt on the court Monday despite the second-half struggles in a loss to the Kings – and that it’s also given him a better understanding of Boylen and how they both have competitive streaks. The next step for LaVine is to transform and mold into a leader who brings it every day. It’s a tall order, but so is building a successful team in the NBA.

“I’ve always been a leader in my own way. I think right now I’m trying to be more vocal. I’ve always been somebody that’s tried to lead by example, hard work and stuff like that. Try and go out there and play the best I can.

“There might be times you’re lazy or you have a play off or whatever, that’s taken into account, but I’m trying to work that down, but you can’t ever question how hard I work and how much the game means to me. I can say that I know I’m a natural leader, but there’s always things you can work on. I’m doing that now.’’

The leadership committee won’t undermine Boylen – remember, “this isn’t a negotiation” – and the head coach said he’s still responsible for and making sure every player knows his role. It’s something he spoke to each player individually about prior to his first game as head coach in Indiana, but even Robin Lopez admitted Monday that some guys are still trying to figure out where they belong. That will fall on Boylen to get each of his players ready on a daily basis.

“A guy isn’t going to go to the leadership committee when he doesn’t understand his role,” Boylen said. “These are about the soul and spirit of the team. What I expect the leadership group to do is respect and honor the soul of the team.”

With LaVine and emotional and vocal leaders in Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis back on the floor, the leadership committee is in good hands. Even 19-year-old Wendell Carter Jr. has been vocal about where the Bulls have struggled and how they can work their way out of them.

With Boylen and the Bulls seemingly on the same page and a leadership committee formed, they’ll turn toward on-court improvements. They’re currently sitting at 6-22 with the worst net rating in the NBA, and the offense hasn’t gotten any better under Boylen. A healthy roster – minus Denzel Valentine – will help smooth things out, but there’s a lot to get right before the Boylen Bulls are all the way back on the right track.

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

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USA Today

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

The Bulls waived Milton Doyle, Justin Simon and Simisola Shittu Saturday, which is minor news since they were mostly camp bodies competing for possibly a two-way contract.

The bigger development is that the Bulls’ roster is basically set, pending the signing of one player to the second two-way contract still available. No Iman Shumpert. No Alfonzo McKinnie. And that’s just naming two hometown products recently linked to the Bulls via the rumor mill.

The Bulls still want to see what they have in Chandler Hutchison, who did some individual shooting Saturday but missed all training camp with a hamstring injury. Denzel Valentine, currently out of the rotation, is staying ready.

And Shaq Harrison, who missed all five preseason games with his own hamstring injury but now is fully practicing, remains a Jim Boylen favorite.

And that’s what the roster staying set for now is about as much as anything. The buy-in Boylen has received from players dating to voluntary September workouts and bonds that have formed could be disrupted by the waiving of someone like Harrison, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed but his commitment is.

While the Bulls recognize proven wing depth is a question mark, they value Harrison’s toughness and defensive ability. If Hutchison or Harrison or Valentine---if he gets an opportunity---don’t produce, perhaps a move could be made at a later date.

But expect only the signing of a second player to a two-way contract to join Adam Mokoka for now.

“We’ve been talking about that,” Boylen said. “We’re working on that. We’ve got our list and have reached out to some people. We’re actively in process.”

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Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

You can’t put Lauri Markkanen in a box.

Just as you can’t pigeonhole one of the faces of the Bulls’ franchise offensively, you won’t get him to bite on any statistical goals for himself. As the outside world clamors for him and Zach LaVine to represent the Bulls at All-Star weekend in Chicago, Markkanen is focused on team goals.

“We haven’t made it to the playoffs and haven’t won many games since we’ve been here,” Markkanen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago following Saturday’s practice, alluding to himself, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. “That really bothers us. So we want to win first.”

In fact, as Markkanen fielded questions about a preseason that featured him playing more as a spot-up shooter than the dynamic, double-double machine that defined his February 2019, he shifted the focus to defense and rebounding.

Ho and hum, indeed.

“You’re trying to get me to say 22 (points) and 12 (rebounds) and 3 assists,” Markkanen said, smiling. “I don’t have those kinds of goals. I want to get our wins from 22 to whatever. And I want to get our home wins from nine to whatever. I’m not putting a number on those either. But I think guys are doing a good job of making unselfish plays and making the extra pass. We’re coming together as a team.”

In fact, Markkanen said, at least for now, his only individual goals are to “stay healthy and be consistent.” He reiterated his stance from media day that his goal is to play all 82 games after averaging 60 games his first two seasons.

“I wanted to focus on defense more this preseason and I was a little disappointed in myself in that regard early in preseason. But I watched a lot of film and I think I had my learning moments and I think I got better as preseason moved on,” Markkanen said. “I’ve talked to Coach. We both expect rebounding from me. I think we’re going to be really good offensively. It’s at a high level now, and we’re deeper. If we rebound and can limit their possessions, we have a chance to be really good.”

Don’t mistake Markkanen’s aversion to setting statistical goals for submissiveness. Early in the interview, he called his preseason “maybe not as great as I wanted to play” and acknowledged he needs to increase his free-throw attempts by getting to the rim more.

Of Markkanen’s 42 shots, 24 came from beyond the arc and he attempted just seven free throws in close to 91 preseason minutes. That average of 1.8 free-throw attempts in his four preseason games pales in comparison to the 3.8 he averaged last season.

“I haven’t got to the rim as much. I’m conscious of that. Those are easy points for us,” Markkanen said. “(Driving) is still available to me. But defenses are loading up on me more and trying not to let me get downhill. And we’re not in the post as much (offensively) as we used to be. We’re shooting a lot of 3s.”

Markkanen smiled again as he said this, so it’s clear he likes the Bulls’ approach. He also remains confident his varied offensive game will be on display at some point.

“I don’t always talk to him about his offense to be honest with you,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I talk to him about defending and rebounding and handling the ball. I’ve shown him some of his decisions in transition where he’s handled the ball.

“I want him to compete at the defensive end, rebound, handle the ball and everything else to me takes care of itself. I know he’s going to make shots. Historically, he’s been better when the lights come on.”

Those lights get flipped on for real Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. You can’t put Markkanen in a box. But he can put pressure on himself to help the Bulls make the playoffs.

“I have really high expectations of myself,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going. I want to win."