Bulls

If you can't stop him, sign him: Bulls reportedly agree to deal with Luke Kornet

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If you can't stop him, sign him: Bulls reportedly agree to deal with Luke Kornet

Luke Kornet has destroyed the Bulls during his brief, 66-game, two-year career.

He's only faced the Bulls three times but in those games has logged career-highs in points, rebounds and blocks.

Either the Bulls got tired of watching him push them around, or more likely saw potential in a stretch 7-footer with rim-protecting ability, and decided to target him in free agency. There was obviously mutual interest, as the sides reportedly agreed to a two-year deal on Tuesday night. It's unknown whether the Bulls will make room to open up cap space for Kornet, who was renounced by the Knicks last month to become an unrestricted free agent, or simply use the room exception to add him, but either way he's a low-risk option that gives the Bulls the depth they need behind Wendell Carter Jr.

Kornet faced the Bulls twice last season in April as both teams were fighting for Lottery position and additional ping-pong balls that came with it. Kornet was magnificent in those two games: On April 1, he tallied a career-high 24 points on 8 of 11 shooting, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. Eight days later, Kornet tallied 12 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 blocks in 39 minutes. The Knicks won both games behind Kornet's two-way prowess, and it clearly made an impression on the Bulls' front office.

Consider Kornet's stats in 3 games (he had a nine-point effort as a rookie in 2018) against the Bulls compared to his other 63 games:

Kornet against the Bulls (3 games): 15 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3.3 blocks, .531/.444/1.000 shooting

Kornet against the other 29 teams (63 games): 6.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.7 blocks, .369/.354/.796 shooting

His dominance against the Bulls aside, there's a lot to like about Kornet, who will turn 24 years old later this month.

He shot 36 percent from beyond the arc on 70 of 193 shooting, and also blocked 42 shots in 46 games. Only 33 players tallied 70+ 3-pointers and 40+ blocks last season, and only 10 were 7-footers. It's tough to analyze his per-game stats because he played 10 minutes or less in 14 of his 46 games (including a 1-second outing against the Bucks in December) and he was shipped between New York and the G-League for a good portion of the season.

But his block percentage (the percentage of shots a player blocks while on the floor) of 4.5% was mighty impressive. Only 20 players accomplished such a rate, including Bulls' rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Making it more impressive was the fact that Kornet shared the floor with rookie Mitchell Robinson for 218 of his 784 minutes. Robinson was one of the best shot-blockers in the NBA last year and led the league in block percentage at 10.0%.

Kornet is rather one-dimensional on both ends (he makes 3s and blocks shots) and doesn't move well enough to be considered a true rotational player. But he's a flier worth taking a risk on and fills a need at backup center behind Carter. It was never feasible that second-round pick Daniel Gafford was going to play big minutes as a rookie, while Lauri Markkanen likely will only see scant center minutes.

But it's just a two-year deal, meaning the Bulls save all-important cap space for 2021, and Kornet should only help a Bulls offense that made the fewest 3-pointers in the NBA a year ago.

Steve Kerr stays positive, keeps perspective with new Warriors' challenge

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Steve Kerr stays positive, keeps perspective with new Warriors' challenge

Kevin Durant chose to leave for the Nets in free agency. Klay Thompson faced rehabilitation after tearing his left ACL during Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

Yes, Steve Kerr knew this Warriors season would be different.

But nobody knew that Steph Curry would break his left hand and be sidelined until likely after the All-Star break at the earliest. Nobody knew D’Angelo Russell, the Warriors’ prized offseason acquisition, would miss nine games with a sprained right thumb.

But just as he kept perspective and an even keel throughout the Warriors’ dynasty, which produced three championships and five straight trips to the NBA Finals, the ever-grounded Kerr is doing the same with a team that lugs a league-worst 4-19 mark into Friday’s meeting with the Bulls.

“I’m enjoying coaching the young guys and going through the details of what they need to learn and helping them develop,” Kerr said in an interview following Thursday’s practice at University of Illinois Chicago. “I basically survived my whole career. I was never really in a position where I felt like, ‘OK, I’ve made it.’ From year to year, it was just survival. So I can relate to a lot of these young guys and I can relate a lot of experiences to them. That’s a satisfying process when you see them do well.”

That said, Kerr is a competitor. There’s a broken clipboard and some bloody towels from last Wednesday’s home victory over the Bulls to prove it.

So the teaching element may be rewarding. The losing?

“It sucks. It sucks,” Kerr said, repeating himself for emphasis. “We’re 1-8 in close games. That’s part of having a young team, learning how to close games. That part of it is a struggle.

“You want your players to feel rewarded when they play well. We had a stretch of two weeks where we played well every night and we had one win to show for it. And that was Chicago. It’s frustrating to walk in the locker room and see guys with their heads down because you know how hard they’re working and how much they want it.”

Kerr experienced a dynasty as a player with the Bulls and as a coach with the Warriors. Invariably throughout last season, he’d remind anyone willing to listen to savor how special those times are.

Does he think people listened?

“No,” he said, laughing. “It’s human nature to think we’re going to win it again and we’re going to keep going forever. Life changes quickly.

“I talked not only to the media and our fans but to our team. Last year there were several times when I said, ‘This is going to be our best chance to win a championship.’ We’ve got an incredible opportunity that may never come up again. That’s something that’s important for everybody to realize---fans, management, players. It is lightning in a bottle. You can do everything perfectly and you still may not get to where you think you might be.”

The Warriors’ dynasty may be over. But with Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green still under contract, an attractive young piece in Russell and a huge trade exception from the Andre Iguodala deal, the Warriors are solidly positioned for the future.

And if this season produces a lottery pick, well, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Until then, Kerr keeps coaching and teaching. Thursday’s film session and practice stretched to the 2 1/2-hour mark.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys. Draymond has been fantastic, basically helping coach the team and talking guys through different situations. They’ve been thrown in the fire every day. It’s not easy. But they’re doing a good job,” Kerr said. “We have to figure it out as a staff: How much do you throw at them? Too much information sometimes can be a bad thing. And so we have to find the balance. We also can’t not give them the information that they need. It’s just maybe doing it sequentially and maybe finding the right order and plugging holes as you go.

“The NBA game is so different. These days, players come in at such a young age. There’s just an awful lot of fundamental stuff you have to break down on a daily basis as a young team. That’s the biggest difference for us as a staff between having a young team and having vets. It’s a different daily routine for sure.”

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With attendance waning, Bulls focused on 'making their own energy'

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With attendance waning, Bulls focused on 'making their own energy'

Last night, the Bulls announced 15,017 fans in attendance for the team's 106-99 victory over the Grizzlies. That figure is more than 4,000 people below their season-average of — after last night — 19,099 fans per contest.

That scarcity was eminent and didn't go unnoticed, especially by players on the court.

"I was telling us in pregame, we're gonna have to bring our own energy today," Zach LaVine said after Thursday afternoon practice. "We got out on that 10-0 run, I was really excited about that, but it was uh, it was a scarce crowd, it was a little quiet in there. But we made our own energy but sometimes that's just what you have to do."

After 11 home games, the Bulls are fourth in the NBA in total attendance (210,090) and sixth in average attendance — both fine marks by the standards of most, but underwhelming for a major-market franchise with their illustrious history. The real kicker: The team is tied for 22nd in the league in percent capacity (91.3) with the Indiana Pacers. Just ahead of that No. 22 slot are the 5-17 Atlanta Hawks, just behind the Phoenix Suns.

Per ESPN's NBA Attendance Report, the Bulls have not finished a regular season outside the top three in total attendance or average attendance since the 2002-03 season. Before last year, they ranked first in both nine seasons in a row. They were also top two in percent capacity for eight straight years before finishing 17th last season. As mentioned, their ranking in that category has dipped even further this year. 

The 2019-20 Bulls currently own a 4-7 home record. Last night was only the Bulls' tenth home victory of the Jim Boylen era, which spans back to Dec. 3, 2018. No one is naiive to the impact those types of results can have. 

"We haven't been a winning basketball team the last couple years, so you know, it makes sense," LaVine said. "Once you start winning that the crowd gets back into it and gets more lively. I understand that, I understand professional sports. So we don't take it personally."

From shootaround to gametime in advance of the Grizzlies game, Boylen stressed the importance of the Bulls getting on a roll on their home floor. According to Boylen, momentum in that respect has to come by way of fast starts, and that came to fruition last night. The Bulls jumped out to a 13-2 lead early in the game and led by as many as 22 in the first half, holding the Grizzlies to 0-for-15 3-point shooting while hitting 8-for-18, themselves. Those numbers stabilizied as the game wore on, but in the locker room afterwards, LaVine was adamant that the team's energy wasn't the issue.

In fact, Boylen and his players seem to have taken ownership of sparking themselves. 

"I want our guys to play hard and compete, and we have to bring our own energy, and we have to play with physicality and effort and all those types of things," Boylen said. He added: "We have the best fans in the league."

They'll have another chance to begin re-establishing a homecourt advantage Friday night agaisnt the lowly Warriors. For the time being, the team's focus is on controlling the things they can control: Results. The rest will come later.

"Obviously you wanna win. We're not going out there to win for, you know, to get more attention, we're going out to win to try to make the playoffs," LaVine said. "So, you know, I think the crowd will come, and they'll get behind you."

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Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.