Bulls

It's just one game, but the Jim Boylen era got off to a solid start in Indiana

It's just one game, but the Jim Boylen era got off to a solid start in Indiana

The sample size is 48 minutes against a team reeling without their only All-Star. Let's just make that clear. But for a 5-19 team with a head coach making his debut on the road against a playoff team, Tuesday night's Bulls performance againt the Pacers went about as well as could be expected.

If, as John Paxson said on Monday, Fred Hoiberg wasn't judged on wins and losses, then we'll do the same for Jim Boylen. The Bulls suffered their seventh straight loss in a 96-90 affair, but something felt different.

While it admittedly wasn't something many people watched for under Hoiberg, the microscope was on the Bulls and, specifically, what their energy level looked like. It was one of the reasons Hoiberg was let go on Monday and one of the reasons the front office believed Boylen was the man for the job.

But even with the bump all teams get in their first game after firing a head coach, the Bulls' effort was there. The Bulls held their ground against a Pacers defense that, despite its shooting struggles, was moving the ball well. The Bulls helped, deflected a handful of passes and had a number of possessions where they recovered, helped and forced an errant Pacers shot.

At the end of the first quarter Boylen, who was off his seat and shouting the majority of the game, got into a defensive stance and willed his team on. The Pacers travelled on the possession.

Though it came against a Pacers team ranked 27th in pace, they held Indiana to 94 poinst - their fewest since Nov. 7 - on 46 percent shooting and 27 percent from deep. It was clear they ran out of steam in the final quarter, but the first half and the early stages of the third were certainly steps in the right direction.

Also of note, we saw plenty of Lauri Markkanen at the center position on the second unit. That probably wasn't the most effective route - Cris Felicio and Robin Lopez were DNPs - but it's a good building block for the future. At some point Markkanen will be asked to play some 5 and to toss him into the fire on a season that won't be judged on wins and losses is fine.

Offensively, well, they could maybe use Fred Hoiberg. In all seriousness, the Bulls are still a major work in progress on that end of the floor. Effort and competitive spirit can help on the defensive end, but skill and execution are what put the ball in the basket. And the Bulls struggled there once again.

They turned it over 18 times and only got to the free throw line five times. That negated what was an otherwise solid passing night, handing out 26 assists on 37 baskets and connecting on 11 3-pointers. Markkanen is clearly still working out rust, shooting 8 of 24 in 32 minutes, while the Ryan Arcidiacono experience appears to be crashing back to the mean (0 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist in 29 minutes).

It's going to get worse before it gets better on the offensive end, but the effort was a promising start to the Jim Boylen era.

Someone dropped a WHOLE bunch of money on a Michael Jordan basketball card

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@chicagotribune

Someone dropped a WHOLE bunch of money on a Michael Jordan basketball card

Someone had some cash burning a hole in their pocket. 

On Thursday afternoon, the Chicago Tribune ran a story about how someone spent THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS on a Michael Jordan basketball card. The card is, according to the piece, one of only 10 ever made. Of those 10 cards, only 3 -- including this one -- have been graded by the Professional Sports Authenticator service.

The card is apparently the most expensive MJ card yet, and the third most-expensive basketball card ever. What's even funnier is that the card was about to sell for $100,000, but a bidding flurry in the auction's final couple minutes raised the price almost 200%. 

That is a staggering amount of money to spend on a laminated, wallet-sized picture of a basketball player, but if that's what you want to drop hundreds of thousands of your dollars on, far be it from me to say otherwise. 

Otto Porter showing off a versatile skill set with Bulls: 'It's been exciting'

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USA TODAY

Otto Porter showing off a versatile skill set with Bulls: 'It's been exciting'

Sample size is important to remember in any numbers piece, especially when analyzing the addition of a player to a 12-win team and bottomed out expectations. Otto Porter was going to make the Bulls a better basketball team. On top of adding a more talented player to the core than what they sent back, Porter also filled an immediate and desperate need as a floor spacer on the wing with the true ability to guard multiple positions in multiple roles.

Still, it’s hard not to look at Porter’s four-game sample size and be excited about what the Bulls may have added to their core – and what they may have unlocked by putting him in a more prominent role than he had in Washington.

Porter is receiving 6 more frontcourt touches per game in Chicago than he did in Washington (29.3 vs. 23.1), and his dribbles per touch are up from 1.05 in Washington to 1.81 in Chicago. That may not seem significant but it’s clear Porter has been on the move more than he was as a spot-up shooter with the Wizards (something he did very well).

Case in point: Porter is averaging 5.3 drives per game in four games with the Bulls, more than double the 2.6 drives he averaged in Washington.

“His drive game is very interesting to me because he has such positional size that he can shoot over, even maybe when he’s closely guarded, he can score over the top of the defense,” Jim Boylen said Thursday after practice. “And then he has a real good feel of passing to the pocket, so I think what’s interesting for me with him is there’s a part of me that wants him off the ball cause he’s a great receiver, and there’s part of us that want him with the ball on the ball because he’s a pretty damn good creator with positional size.”

Porter will never be asked to carry the load for the Bulls because of guys like LaVine and Markkanen, but even in the early going it’s clear Boylen and the coaching staff is giving him a little more freedom within the offense.

Porter has been one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA over the last three seasons – 42.6 percent on 4.2 attempts per game – but there appears to be more to his game. Again, it’s just four games but the Bulls are beginning to open up more for him and he’s answering with some eye-opening numbers.

In 40 games with the Wizards he had 24 post-up possessions. In just four games with the Bulls he’s tallied six post-up possessions. Again, it’s nothing earth-shattering, and the Bulls haven’t suddenly found the second coming of Shaq on the low block, but he’s played 40 percent of his minutes at power forward and center in small-ball lineups and is being used as a mismatch perhaps more than he was in Washington.

“You don’t realize how big he was until you get on top of him. His positional size is off the charts. I didn’t know how easily he would be able to gravitate to the four like he has. I know he played some for [the Wizards], but that’s not an easy process and he’s done that really well. So that’s been, I don’t want to say surprising, but it’s been exciting.”

The word “versatility” in today’s NBA has become as cliché as “wingspan” has to analyze draft prospects. But it’s true with Porter, and it’s especially true on a Bulls team that was running out Bobby Portis at center, Chandler Hutchison at power forward and Shaq Harrison at small forward out of necessity rather than true fit.

Plus, this is only the beginning. Boylen said the Bulls have really tried to simplify the offense since Porter arrived, and the All-Star break and subsequent practices coming out of it have helped the 6-foot-8 wing with terminology, sets and chemistry. He won’t continue shooting .621/.579/.778 but the potential is there for Porter to really open up and become an all-around talent, adding to his already stellar defensive traits.

“Practice is where you can get acquainted with everybody, coaching staff, still learning names, but it’s always good to get a couple practices in with the team,” Porter said on Thursday. “Right now I’m just learning our defensive schemes, where coaches want us to be defensively. And offensively just getting accustomed to all the name calls.”

It’s still been just four games, so take it all with a grain of salt, and Porter is still playing in his Wizards colorway shoes. Lucky for him, those colors blend right in with the Bulls uniforms, and lucky for the Bulls their newest addition to the rebuild is blending in seamlessly with the rest of the core.