Bulls

Did Zach LaVine try to sell the Bulls to Anthony Davis?

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Did Zach LaVine try to sell the Bulls to Anthony Davis?

In a tweet liked by Zach LaVine, you can see the fifth-year guard chat to Anthony Davis after the game and walk away as the Pelicans' Jrue Holiday approaches, only to finish his talk with "The Brow" afterwards.

https://twitter.com/bulls_fanatic1/status/1061020938576240640

Obviously, this is not the first time a line has been connected between Davis and the Bulls. Being a Chicago-native who literally has Chicago tattooed on his arm, there has always been the thought that if Chicago was ever able to possess cap space and a talented core at the time, Davis would at least consider the Bulls.

Now, with Wendell Carter Jr.—at 19 years old is seeming like a revelation—who is on pace to be the first teenager to ever average 2 blocks per game in the NBA, Lauri Markkanen, (the now-injured) Kris Dunn and LaVine all having shown enough to make up a solid core, the idea of Davis coming home isn't improbable.

The Bulls can decline the option on Jabari Parker and renounce the rights to Bobby Portis and Cristiano Felicio and end up with between $35 to $53 million in cap space. Dunn, Markkanen and Carter can all be resigned to reasonable contracts down the line and LaVine is under contract for the next four seasons.

If the Bulls acquire Davis, it would be in 2021, which is when Davis can decline his player option and enter the free agent market. By then the Bulls would likely have the long-term starter at the small forward position figured out by then, if they haven't already decided that Chandler Hutchison will be that player. But just to be a bit more conceivable, imagine a lineup of Dunn-LaVine-Markkanen-Davis-Carter.

That lineup would be bucking the league's current trend of downsizing, instead banking on the off-the-dribble ability of Markkanen and the tremendous shot-blocking duo of Carter and Davis to stymie the league's best lineups.

Right now Davis' Pelicans are 5-6 heading into Sunday night's game against the Phoenix Suns. The losses of Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins didn't affect the prolific offense of New Orleans, but the defense has dropped off dramatically. The Pelicans have an uphill battle to make the playoffs in the improved Western Conference, and if Davis gets antsy about having a real shot to make the NBA Finals, a move to the East becomes all the more attractive.

A Bulls fan can dream right?

Zach LaVine turns up volume on Bulls' offensive woes after another loss

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Zach LaVine turns up volume on Bulls' offensive woes after another loss

The team picture for most disappointing loss of the season is getting crowded.

Make room for Saturday evening, though.

A Nets team already without Kevin Durant and Caris LeVert also sat Kyrie Irving to shoulder soreness and then smoked the Bulls by 11 in the first quarter and 10 in the fourth on their way to a 117-111 victory. Ex-Bull Spencer Dinwiddie added insult to injury by scoring 20 of his 24 points in the fourth.

“They just wanted it more than us,” Zach LaVine said.

For a team that made improving their home mark a major priority after winning a franchise-low nine games at the United Center last season, the Bulls sure aren’t playing with much urgency.

“Our start was unacceptable,” said coach Jim Boylen, who burned two early timeouts.

The Bulls nearly doubled the Nets up in an impressive second quarter that featured defense leading to offense and plenty of transition attacks that led to a season-high 41 free-throw attempts. The Bulls also finally won the rebounding battle 56-40.

But the Bulls again shot poorly from 3-point range, needing a late flurry to even crack 20 percent and finish 9-for-39.

Missed shots always make an offense look worse. But the issues go beyond poor shooting. The Bulls aren’t sprinting the floor consistently. Their halfcourt sets feature little cutting. And since utilizing Lauri Markkanen in this role in the opener against a smallish Hornets frontline, they’ve largely ditched post-up attempts.

“We get stagnant a lot out there,” LaVine said. “We’ll run one action and then everybody is staring at the person with the ball. We gotta get more fluid. I don’t feel a lot of people are in rhythm. When that happens, obviously everybody starts trying to do it themselves.

“It’s tough. I blame myself. I try to do that as well. I’m in the gym late. I’m putting up shots. I’m making sure I’m prepared so I can do everything I can to help. We gotta do a better job as a team.”

LaVine is slowly giving stronger voice to issues he sees with the offense. Following Friday’s practice, he talked about needing to utilize Markkanen more in the post. Markkanen also has talked about the equal opportunity offense in the context of him attempting 10 or fewer shots in eight of 13 games now.

“Sometimes you get the ball and to me it feels like there are 12 eyes staring at me,” LaVine said. “I’m not scared to take any shot. I’ve not scared to miss a shot. I’ve taken all these shots before. If I’m the person to blame, I can take it. I’m in the gym working on my craft each night. I always look at myself first before anyone else. We just gotta do better as a unit.”

What does LaVine, who finished with 36 points, do when he feels 12 eyes staring at him?

"I try to call a pick-and-roll most of the time when that happens and then if nothing comes from that, I'm going to take the shot or pass it. I'm definitely going to at least get a shot on the rim,” he said. “I'm not one to just dribble the clock out or anything like that or throw it to somebody with seven seconds left (on the shot clock). If I get it at the top of the key with eight, nine seconds left on the clock, I'm going to try to make a play."

But what about the lack of cutting?

“I mean, it's our offense. We have a five-out offense,” he said. “So it gets tough when we get to those stagnant points because that's how it's supposed to be."

LaVine attempted double-digit free throws for just the second time this season. He had four such games through 13 games last season.

He also joined Michael Jordan as the only Bulls to post at least 2,100 points, 400 rebounds, 400 assists, 100 steals and 30 blocks in his first 100 games with the franchise. But until the Bulls start winning, LaVine knows his numbers mean little.

“We should take offense to it. We’ve had a really easy schedule to start off,” LaVine said. “You gotta win the games you’re supposed to win. We’ve pissed away a lot of games I think we should’ve won.”

But no changes are coming to the rotation or system.

"I think we gotta stay the course," Boylen said. "Listen, nobody likes losing games. There’s no shame in losing an NBA game. It happens every day. What I’m disappointed in is our start, a home game, on a Saturday night in Chicago. I didn’t like the way we started. I can’t play for them. They gotta come out and do it."

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3 observations: Bulls-Nets

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3 observations: Bulls-Nets

The Bulls fell to the Brooklyn Nets 117-111 at the United Center on Saturday night. Here are three observations from the tough loss:

The Bulls finally play a bit of "big boy basketball"

Bulls color commentator Stacey King loves to refer to physical plays on the court as "big boy basketball", and the Bulls definitely played big boy basketball on Saturday night despite the final score. The Bulls outrebounded the Nets 56-40, and this included an impressive +12 margin on the offensive glass. But that wasn't where the Bulls' physicality stopped in this one. 

With the perimeter shots not falling, the Bulls finally committed to driving hard to the basket, racking up a whopping 41 free throws, including 12 from Zach LaVine alone.

Despite all the offensive boards, the Bulls ended up getting destroyed in the points in the paint category, and this why we added the caveat "a bit" of big boy basketball. The Bulls were outscored by 20 in points in the paint and a big part of it was this system, which appears to have the Bulls big men kicking the ball out to the perimeter, regardless of how many defenders are actually in front of them in the paint. 

The Bulls' newfound love of the 3-point shot is great, though a few years late to the party, it definitely makes sense for the Bulls to play this very modern and aggressive style. But when that "modern and aggressive style" forces your bigs to become tentative on offense, bad things can happen.

And being outscored by 20 in paint points while having a +12 advantage in offensive boards definitely qualifies as a bad thing.

Wendell Carter continues to show growth

This one might as well be a permanent observation, as Carter impresses every time he steps on the court or speaks to the struggles of this team. Carter collected another double-double, notching 18 points ad 14 rebounds. And the most encouraging thing from Carter's scoring output was that 8 of his 18 points were from a season-high 8 trips to the free throw line.

It would be great if we could see Carter empowered a little bit more from the elbows and in the post, as his passing prowess isn't shown off often, but tonight's two assists were a small window into what he can do as a passer. 

Carter shooting 3-pointers — which was very much a reality during his time at Duke — seems like a decades-old memory, and whether by choice or the coaches' system, he is not taking them. But his offense has taken a big step forward this season because so far, he is converting over 60% of his baskets after shooting 48.5% from the field last year. 

If the Bulls start to empower Carter a bit more, giving him offensive possessions to use — and maybe even a spot on the "Leadership Committee" — then we could see things turn around for this team sooner than later. 

Zach LaVine puts up a big-time scoring effort

The Bulls accomplished a few great things offensively and pretty much all of those great things were a result of Zach LaVine going supernova.

LaVine scored 23 of his 36 points in the second half, including going 9-for-10 from the charity stripe down the stretch. LaVine shot 45.8% from the field and despite having 1 assist and 3 turnovers, his decision making was solid throughout.

He did not collect a steal for the first time in six games and his 3-point shooting left a bit to be desired (3-for-10) but overall it was a great performance from LaVine, who finally put together the type of explosive scoring performance that Bulls Nation was expecting from him at the start of the 2019-20 season.

Bulls defense shows a collapse of epic proportions

The Bulls defense was OK in spurts but if we are going to be absolutely honest, the wheels fell off hard in this one.

In certain possessions, especially late in the game against Spencer Dinwiddie, the Bulls went to switching the pick-and-roll rather than their normal semi-trapping system. This did not work extremely well, as Dinwiddie — who has never been known as a high-volume free throw guy — ended up getting 15 free throw attempts knocking down 14 of them. 

And on top of Dinwiddie, the Bulls allowed six different Nets players to score in double figures, and this was on a night where Kyrie Irving's absence was supposed to make it very possible to shut Brooklyn down.

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