Bulls

Jim Boylen disappointed, Zach LaVine embarrassed following Bulls' worst loss in franchise history

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USA TODAY

Jim Boylen disappointed, Zach LaVine embarrassed following Bulls' worst loss in franchise history

A lot can change in 24 hours. 

Friday, the Bulls picked up their most impressive win of the season, defeating the Thunder 114-112 at the United Center. The Thunder, now 16-8, sit near the top of the Western Conference playoff standings.

And then Saturday night happened.

The Celtics rolled into the United Center and handed the Bulls their worst loss in franchise history. Boston beat the Bulls 133-77, a scoring deficit of a mere 56 points.

“Disappointing, disappointing effort, disappointing outcome after I thought a really hard-fought two games at Indiana and at home last night," said Bulls head coach Jim Boylen. "I’m not discouraged, but I’m disappointed.

"We gotta care more about our effort on a nightly basis, we gotta care more about playing for each other and tonight I thought we didn’t do that."

Before Saturday, the Bulls' worst loss occurred on Nov. 8, 2001, when the Timberwolves picked up a 127-74 win. Fred Hoiberg was on that Bulls team in 2001, ironically.

That 2001 game saw head coach Tim Floyd substitute all five of his starters at once (h/t to K.C. Johnson). Ironically, Boylen did that Saturday night after the Bulls starters shot 0-of-8 to open the game.

The Bulls did not score their first points until the 5:42 mark of the first quarter, going down 17-0 before Jabari Parker hit two free throws. Robin Lopez made the Bulls' first field goal at the 5:06 mark of the quarter on the team's 12th shot of the night.

"Gotta give Boston credit, I thought they made shots," Boylen said. "They kind of punched us and we didn’t respond."

Boylen substituted all five starters in the first quarter and said that the team did not honor the game with their competitiveness, so he gave the reserves a chance.

“I wanted to give the other guys a chance to see if they could right the ship a little bit," he said. "I’ve been a part of teams that have done that before; don’t like the five guys out here, don’t like that combination, look at a new combination, take them all out, let them sit there and think about it.

"We didn’t honor the game very well with our effort and our competitiveness, so why not take them all out? We’re a team, so sub five guys and see what they can do."

"It is what it is,” Zach LaVine said. "We gotta do what he says.

Boston led 35-17 after the first quarter, 64-43 at halftime and 93-60 after the third quarter. They shot 53.8 percent from the field for the game compared to the Bulls' 38.3 percent, hitting 22 three-pointers compared to the Bulls' six.

The Celtics also out-rebounded the Bulls 54-37 for the game, beating Chicago to lose balls late in the fourth quarter despite the Bulls trailing by more than 50 points.

"We were just following them around, I thought we were a step slow on everything, mentally and physically," Boylen said. "Is it want to, is it effort, what is it? I don’t know what it is, but I just wasn’t going to stand for it."

Not only did Boylen pull all five starters in the first quarter, but he also did after the Celtics opened the third quarter on a 5-3 run. LaVine and the four other starters sat for the final 21 minutes of the game, and the Celtics outscored the Bulls 69-34 in the second half.

LaVine scored 11 points in 19 minutes on 4-of-6 shooting. He said that he was embarrassed, mentioning how it sucked watching the Celtics' lead continue to rise.

"I felt embarrassed. I wish I was out there competing," LaVine said. "It sucks man, sitting there watching the score go up and up. I know we’re competing out there, but it sucks. You know you can help."

LaVine said there is a fine line between sending a message and embarrassing the players.

"Yea, I think so. We put a lot of hard work into this. I get up, compete every day. I think regardless of whatever the score is, I want to go out there and compete, but obviously we didn’t get a chance to do that.

But when asked how the starters don't construe getting pulled out as Boylen embarrassing them, Boylen said the team's play was embarrassing.

"I think your play is embarrassing, me subbing them is saving them, maybe. Maybe we saved them," he said. "The pro player thing, this is basketball; this is about honoring the game and doing the right things.

"Embarrassment is not giving the effort in that Bulls uniform, so I put five guys in that I thought could put the effort in.

"They’re disappointed, they feel bad about it. We need some leadership to step up, we need some guys to take leadership roles on the team."

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How former Bull C.J. Watson is working to inspire children through books

How former Bull C.J. Watson is working to inspire children through books

C.J. Watson carved out a 10-year NBA career with not just talent but also an ability to overcome odds and tune out doubters.

So whenever the former Bulls guard encountered skepticism for his latest dream, he’d answer every "Why” with a "Why not?”

That dream? To create children's books. Watson, 36, has now published two titles: "CJ’s Big Dream" and "CJ’s Big Project." The first came out last November, the second in March.

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“It was just a random idea I had to challenge myself and try to push myself,” Watson said in a phone conversation. “I want to try to continue to be an inspiration. Playing in the NBA is an inspiration to kids. But I wanted to continue to offer kids knowledge and tell my story through books.

“Kids are the next generation of leaders. They’re the next entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers. Some kid will grow up to be President. I just wanted to try to share some gems and drops of knowledge. I want to try to propel little boys and girls and let them know it’s OK to shoot for their dreams and to dream big.”

The books were written by author Tamika Newhouse and illustrated by Cameron Wilson based on stories shared by Watson. Watson spent hours on the phone over a six-month period with Newhouse, sharing his stories and his vision for the project, which is scheduled to include at least one more title.

They are based on Watson’s upbringing in Las Vegas, where he first experienced doubts for his NBA dream.

“These are true stories,” Watson said. “I made it to the NBA after growing up in the inner city and not having the same resources or same chances as some. Growing up, seeing graffiti, abandoned houses, drugs, gangs, it can be discouraging. But I had a great support system that kept me focused on my goal.”

The second book focuses on the time Watson received an F on a science project in school. But the teacher offered him a chance to re-do it, which taught him a valuable lesson.

“The second book talks about working hard and the importance of getting good grades to be able to play sports,” he said. “That was the important thing in my household. If we didn’t have good grades, my brother and I couldn’t play sports.”

Watson is the father of two children with one on the way. His parents, Cathy and Charles, stressed education and reading as they raised him and his brother. He majored in psychology at Tennessee, which is in his parents’ hometown of Nashville, Tenn.

“My parents came from an area more poverty-stricken than I did,” Watson said. “You always want better for your kid, right? We might not have lived in the best area, but they always put my brother and me in the best schools to give us the best chance to succeed.

“They also were big on me and my brother doing community service. We’d go feed the homeless. We’d go visit nursing homes to care for the elderly. When I was younger, I always said if I made it that I wanted to give back.”

Watson and his family established his Quiet Storm Foundation in 2009. That foundation established an active presence in Chicago during his two seasons with the Bulls.

Watson is eight years removed from that stint, where he played an important role for a reserve unit so potent that it achieved its own nickname. “The Bench Mob” proved a significant reason the Bulls led the NBA in regular-season victories in consecutive seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

“It was definitely fun. It goes by fast. Chicago was probably some of the best years I had in the NBA,” Watson said. “We could’ve achieved more. We weren’t picked to do much that first year and surprised everybody. Then that second year, D-Rose got hurt.

“I felt like they should’ve kept the team together maybe a couple more years to try to see what could’ve happened. But it’s a business at the end of the day.”

Watson isn’t surprised Rose, who he backed up, is thriving again after a series of knee injuries, surgeries and rehabilitations.

“Definitely a great teammate, probably one of my favorites,” Watson said. “Injuries take a toll on you. He was held up to the MVP standard and some people judged him unfairly. But he has worked so hard. I’m definitely rooting for him and I’m always watching.”

Watson played for Charles Oakley’s team in the Big3 last summer, a 3-on-3 pro league that was canceled this summer because of COVID-19. He isn’t sure if he’ll play again if the league resumes next summer.

“It was fun. But it’s a different league. It’s pretty brutal. They don’t call any fouls. It’s kind of an old man’s game,” Watson said. “My body may have had enough.”

No matter his decision, Watson’s mind remains sharp.

“These books definitely are not a money maker. It’s a passion project,” Watson said. “Unless you’re a big-time children’s author, you probably won’t make a living at this. But I just did it to inspire kids and challenge myself. It’s kind of like the NBA. I never thought I’d make the NBA.  But lo and behold, I worked hard enough and got there.”

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Windy City Bulls standout PJ Dozier secures multi-year deal with Nuggets

Windy City Bulls standout PJ Dozier secures multi-year deal with Nuggets

Since going unselected in the 2017 NBA Draft, PJ Dozier has had his fair share of stops, from brief stints signed to the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, to successive one-year pacts with the Oklahoma City Thunder (2017-18) and Boston Celtics (2018-19). He spent most of the latter two tenures in the G League.

Dozier began the 2019-20 season signed to the Denver Nuggets on a two-way deal, but assigned to the Windy City Bulls, the Bulls' G League affiliate, along with 2019 second-round draftee of the Nuggets Bol Bol. 

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On Tuesday, the Nuggets officially announced they are converting Dozier's two-way deal into a multi-year contract with the team.

It's great news for Dozier, who enjoyed a dominating campaign for Windy City. In 18 games with the team, he averaged 21.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals on 43.8-32.6-74.1 shooting splits. A 6-foot-6 playmaking wing, Dozier flashed plus ball-handling, scoring and facilitating ability at a position of supreme value in the modern game.

He parlayed all of the above into a midseason All-NBA G League selection, but was recently left off the end-of-season all-league teams, presumably due to a limited sample size. He was called up to the Nuggets in mid-January and made an immediate impact, scoring 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting (2-for-4 from 3) in his debut, a win over the Charlotte Hornets. He reset his NBA career high one week later with a 15-point outing against the Houston Rockets.

In the run-up to the NBA pausing its season, Dozier appeared in 21 of 26 games for the Nuggets, averaging 4.1 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He'd appeared in just eight career NBA games before that stretch. 

How much of an imprint will he make on the Nuggets' rotation when the NBA season restarts? It's too soon to say. But it seems the longtime G League standout's breakthrough at the next level could be coming.

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