Jim Boylen trying to build the Bulls back up on the fly and admits 'there's a lot to build'


Jim Boylen trying to build the Bulls back up on the fly and admits 'there's a lot to build'

Jim Boylen is ready and willing to build this thing back from the ground up.

The Bulls’ offense has been in a funk for essentially the entire season, though it’s been especially bad for about a month. Since their win over the Cavaliers on Nov. 12, the Bulls have an offensive rating of 96.3, nearly 4 points worse than 29th ranked Atlanta. In that 12-game stretch they have the league’s worst effective field goal percentage and fifth worst turnover percentage.

So it isn’t surprising that Jim Boylen, in his first week after taking over for Fred Hoiberg, is simplifying things. He’s getting the Bulls back to the essential basics. While some may question his decision to run two-hour practices and have conditioning and endurance training usually seen in training camp be part of the process in early December, that’s the starting point for a Bulls team with the second worst record in the NBA.

“My focus is that we’re not where we need to be to compete, and so obviously we want to win but I want us to be at a level where we get the full force of what we do,” he said Thursday after practice. “I don’t think our conditioning allows us to do that.

“We’re on the first floor, We’re on ‘A.’ I’d like us to get to ‘D’ and ‘E.’ Maybe in two weeks we’ll see. We can’t get to ‘D’ and ‘E’ if we’re not in shape.”

Boylen admitted the Bulls will be able to get a little “trendy” once the full roster is back – he didn’t rule out Kris Dunn or Bobby Portis returning either Friday against the Thunder or Saturday against the Celtics – but for now playing basic is going to rule out.

It isn’t going be sexy, but what the Bulls have looked like the last three weeks hasn’t, either.

Past how the team looks, Boylen said that he wants the Bulls “to play smart” above anything else. In his head coaching debut the Bulls turned the ball over 18 times and scored just 90 points, getting to the free throw line an NBA single-game low five times in a loss to the Pacers.

Those ugly numbers, albeit a one-game sample size, also speak to the core principles Boylen is attempting to instill in his team. Beyond X’s and O’s – though he did watch film with the team immediately after the Indiana loss – Boylen wants to see better chemistry on the floor that he hopes will lead to better results come game time.

“I thought another practice where we strived to get better, we played for each other, not just with each other,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s a results business but I thought we took a step forward today.”

So while the comments may sound like that of a high school coach trying to get his group of players in shape before Thanksgiving tournaments begin, it’s his assessment of where his team is versus where he’d like them to be. It may not sound like an NBA coach describing his team in the first week of December, but he clearly sees a need for improvement in the smallest, most basic yet essential areas of the game.

“I thought we competed two days in a row, which I thought was a step forward. I thought we’re treating each other with respect but also competing, which I like, too,” Boylen said. “We’re just trying to build a first floor right now. There’s a lot to build.”

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


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'


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.