Bulls

From hometown kid to bounce-back kid: Jabari Parker flashes potential against Nuggets

From hometown kid to bounce-back kid: Jabari Parker flashes potential against Nuggets

Following Jabari Parker's move to the bench, the biggest fear from Bulls fans was that Parker would become uber-dejected and let his displeasure with coming off the bench affect his play. But after Friday night's bounce-back effort, concerns about Parker playing with the 2nd unit can be shelved....for now. 

Actions speak louder than words, and Parker's play against the Nuggets was screaming:

He would finish the game with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists, on 7-for-11 shooting from the field. Parker's free throw shooting left much to be desired (50 percent), but he shot 50 percent from the 3-point line on six attempts, easily his highest 3-point attempt rate of the preseason.

Parker's role with the second unit—according to Fred Hoiberg—is be a point-forward, capable of pushing the tempo with his ability to grab rebounds and bring the ball up the floor himself. His playmaking wasn't anything to write home about (7 turnovers and 7 assists), but he was a part of an overall group effort to try to pick up the slack on a night in which Kris Dunn struggled mightily.

Moving the ball around is certainly a good sign from Parker. He has had a tendency to let the ball stick, but has made legitimate strides in sharing possessions over the years.

While any playmaking  boost from Parker is nice, Hoiberg surely is more concerned with him getting up more 3-pointers and trying to eliminate long 2-point jump shots from his arsenal altogether, more so because he shot a career-high 38.3 percent from deep last season. Parker has started to make these adjustments, and it showed quite a bit.

In Friday's loss, Parker only took two long 2-point shots, making both of them. This is quite remarkable when you consider that long midrange shots have never made up less than 15 percent of his total offense. A simple redistribution of shot attempts (more 3-pointers, less midrange shots) could lead to the most successful offensive season of Parker's career.

If Parker is 100 percent healthy, his offensive rating would likely creep closer to topping 110 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would put him on par with Klay Thompson in terms of scoring efficiency. 

This preseason has given Hoiberg a small window to toy with lineups, a practice that will likely continue throughout the first quarter of the season until Lauri Markkanen's return. But Parker has now shown that there is a clear role for him on this team that can be beneficial to winning, and at the very least, development. Take the play below for example, where he times his cut along the baseline up perfectly with Cam Payne's drive:

The biggest thing to look out for ahead of next Thursday's regular season opener against the 76ers is if Hoiberg definitively states what his starting lineup will be.

Parker's breakout (preseason) game could be the event that leads to him being re-inserted into the starting five, or it could be exactly what Hoiberg needed to see to cement Parker's status as a key piece of the Bulls second unit.

No matter what the outcome is for Parker in terms of rotation status, the path to a successful marriage between he and the Bulls is now clear. If he keeps playing with the same energy he did against the Nuggets on Friday, he will definitely be a part of the Bulls closing lineup, something that bodes much better for his future in Chicago than whether or not he starts. 

Early crossroads for Jim Boylen as an NBA head coach

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USA TODAY

Early crossroads for Jim Boylen as an NBA head coach

Jim Boylen has been an NBA head coach for less than a week, but already he finds himself dealing with an unhappy locker room. Boylen says he’s willing to sacrifice short-term harmony for long term success, but it’s pretty clear a number of players are unhappy with his methods.

After holding three practices last week that lasted over two hours and then back-to-back games against Oklahoma City and Boston, Boylen decided to hold a noon practice on Sunday after the worst loss in franchise history, 133-77 to the Celtics. Boylen told reporters Saturday night he benched the starters for the final 21 minutes of that game so they would be fresh for practice on Sunday.

But things didn’t exactly go according to plan at the Advocate Center. The players decided to hold a team meeting without the coaches, and eventually invited the coaches in to let them now how they were feeling.

Rookie Wendell Carter Jr. gave the most expansive comments about what happened during the meeting.

“The big main topic for that whole meeting was being truthfully honest and direct. I feel like everyone was very direct with one another, very honest," Carter Jr. said. "Everybody told each other how we really, really felt about what happened last night, how we feel about each in terms of the team, how we feel about everybody as a whole.”

The meetings went on for almost two hours, with Boylen eventually deciding to call off the scheduled practice. Carter indicated the players asked the coaches if they could meet instead of practice, but Boylen offered a different explanation.

“I think it was just a communication, a little bit of both”, Boylen said to reporters. “This is what I think is necessary today. And they felt they needed a voice to talk, too. And that’s cool. That’s good. This is a family thing. This is open lines of communication.”

Okay. A pair of meetings makes perfect sense after such a devastating loss at the end of a tumultuous week. But the Chicago Tribune’s Bulls’ beat reporter K.C. Johnson added another layer to the story when he reported that according to his sources, the players were communicating via group text on whether they would even show up at the Advocate Center for the scheduled practice.

According to Johnson’s sources, the decision was eventually made to hold a team meeting, then meet with the coaching staff.

Zach LaVine was clearly upset in the locker room following the Celtics’ disaster about being benched for the final 21 minutes, but he told reporters Sunday the team meeting allowed the Bulls to clear the air and hopefully re-group for Monday night’s home game against Sacramento.

“I think we needed to get on the same page," LaVine said. "We needed to get a lot of stuff off our chests and be real, be transparent. And I think moving forward that will help us.”

Still, it’s clear there’s a disconnect between the demanding style of the new head coach and what the players had experienced previously under Fred Hoiberg. Asking players to endure training-camp style practices is one thing, but pushing them to the point of considering a boycott can’t possibly be what the front office hoped for in making the coaching change last Monday.

Boylen has made it clear he will do things his way in his first NBA head coaching opportunity, but he’ll probably need to make some adjustments based on the events of the weekend. You can expect Boylen will be meeting with the front office to map out some dos and don’ts in the very near future.

The Bulls should get an emotional lift from the return of Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis in the near future. Portis is planning on playing Monday against Sacramento and Dunn could make his return in that game as well.

The best thing that could happen for everyone right now is a week’s worth of solid play. But with a trip to Mexico City scheduled for mid-week, followed by road games in San Antonio and Oklahoma City, the NBA schedule makers aren’t really doing a struggling team any favors.

The first crisis in the Jim Boylen coaching era has been managed, at least temporarily. But with more losses sure to come, the players and the head coach have to put more effort into building a stronger alliance. It’s the only way this arranged marriage will be able to survive the season.

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Report: Some Bulls players debated attending Sunday practice; meeting held to vent frustrations

Report: Some Bulls players debated attending Sunday practice; meeting held to vent frustrations

The Bulls suffered their worst loss in franchise history on Saturday, falling to the Celtics by 56 points at the United Center. Head coach Jim Boylen pulled all five of his starters at once on two separate occassions, ultimately sitting them for the final 21 minutes of the game.

Boylen's move did not sit well with some players, with Zach LaVine expressing his frustration after the game. Boylen said holding a practice Sunday would be more valuable than playing his starters in a game that the team would ultimately lose anyhow.

According to a report, some players debated attending practice at all.

Ultimately, the players did show up to the Advocate Center, but two meetings were in place of a practice. While the plan was to practice, Wendell Carter Jr. said the players approached the coaching staff about holding a meeting instead.

"We both agreed upon something, the players and coaches," Carter Jr. said. "We came to them as men, we talked to them and told them how we felt, and they responded very well."

Carter Jr. said a players-only meeting was held first, with the players and coaching staff meeting together afterwards. LaVine and Justin Holiday led the meeting with the coaching staff, though Carter Jr. said every player and coach chimed in.

"I’m glad what we did today and I feel like it was very productive even though we weren’t on the court," he said. "We did some productive things in terms of having a meeting as a team."

"I think it was something that we needed to do and I’m happy with the results of it," LaVine said. "I think we just all needed to get on the same page. We needed to get a lot of stuff off our chest and be real, be transparent."

"This is what I think is necessary today and they felt they needed a voice and talk too," Boylen said. "And that’s cool, that’s good. This is a family thing, this is open lines of communication."

Carter Jr. would not reveal exactly what was said in the two meetings, only revealing that they were productive. He reiterated that the main topic of the meeting centered on the players and coaches being honest with one another about how they felt following Saturday night.

"I feel like everybody was very direct with one another," he explained, "Very honest and everybody told each other how we really, really felt about what happened last night, how we feel about each other in terms of team, how we feel about everybody as a whole."

LaVine said that the players and coaching staff are "100 percent" on the same page following the meeting, while Boylen mentioned there is an adjustment period going on since he was promoted to head coach.

"We’re still learning about each other. I’ve moved over the 18 inches and they’re still learning how I want it," he said. "There’s been a little shock and awe here in the last seven days. And there’s an adjustment to that, and that’s okay."

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