Bulls

Lauri Markkanen's production is down, and the Bulls must find a fix

Lauri Markkanen's production is down, and the Bulls must find a fix

BOSTON — This was touted as Lauri Markkanen’s breakout season. Instead, 41 games in, he’s scoring fewer points per game than in his rookie season while barely averaging more playing time.

The lack of production is a combination of factors. Markkanen got off to a slow start, missing open shots and struggling to adjust to the Bulls’ new offensive scheme that features reading and reacting and equal opportunity, rather than a true pecking order. He has battled a sore oblique and is currently playing through a sprained left ankle.

The limited playing time can’t be overlooked, either.

“Obviously, I had my bad stretch in the beginning and kind of picked it up after that. Just don’t know what to say. I’ve had my moments. But I obviously expect more from myself,” Markkanen said following the Bulls’ 113-101 loss to the Celtics. “So I’m disappointed in myself because I think if I played at a normal level, we’d probably have a couple more wins. I think I can do a better job.”

Markkanen is a team-first guy who never will rock the boat. Nevertheless, he fielded a follow-up question on whether or not he could be more impactful with more playing time and more shots.

“That’s our system now,” he said. “It’s just trying to figure it out because there are games that I’m really involved and I’m bringing the ball up. I can do a better job. I look in the mirror. I can rebound better and get out and run. I need to look at myself first. Just gotta figure out what it is.”

This issue is compounded on nights when Thad Young gets rolling, as he did against the Celtics. Taking advantage of the Celtics’ smaller, switching defense, the Bulls finally utilized Young in the post, a place he has made the majority of his living during his 13-year NBA career.

“It wasn’t in the game plan. It just happened to be they had a small lineup and we tried to take advantage of it,” Young said. “If they came with a double [team], I’d pass out of the double. They weren’t coming with a double at first. So I was like, ‘All right. Easy layups.’ Just playing basketball.”

Coincidentally, Young fielded questions following the morning shootaround about how much the system is calling for him to play on the perimeter. He’s currently averaging the second-highest 3-point attempts per game of his career.

Zach LaVine talked about how much he liked seeing Young operate in the post. So is this something the Bulls could employ against other teams, no matter their defense?

“That’s up to Coach to look at the film and see if he wants to do something with that. I’m always here whenever you need me to do whatever,” Young said. “Whatever they tell me to do, I try to do to the best of my abilities. I think it could be something we try to use when the time is right.”

With Wendell Carter Jr. sidelined four to six weeks with a sprained right ankle, Boylen has talked about developing Daniel Gafford and Luke Kornet. He has rarely played Markkanen and Young together, and Markkanen sat for close to 11 minutes of game action on Monday when Young got rolling offensively.

“Our guys understand if somebody has it going, we’re going to leave him in there,” Boylen said. “We’ve done that throughout the year.”

But at what cost for the franchise’s future? Boylen was one of many pointing to the Bulls’ offseason moves as clearing the runway for LaVine and Markkanen to ascend towards stardom.

Instead, Markkanen is putting up numbers that resemble his rookie season.

“I feel like you get a little bit cold after that,” Markkanen said of his lengthy sitdowns. “But it’s nothing you can’t get through. 22 years old, you get warm going to the scorers’ table.”

The Bulls need more out of Markkanen.

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Posterized presents 'Chicagoland's All-Time Starting Five' plus Q&A with Jason Goff

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Posterized presents 'Chicagoland's All-Time Starting Five' plus Q&A with Jason Goff

Over the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago, the "Posterized: The Chicago Experience by Jim Beam" event celebrated the rich history of Chicagoland high school hoops by honoring an all-time starting five, featuring five Chicagoland preps legends, voted on by Chicago sports fans

 Fans had from Feb. 6 to Feb. 10 at 9 pm.. to vote for their top five from a list of names that included Candace Parker, Derrick Rose, and the late Benji Wilson. The final results were revealed on Feb. 14, at the Chicago Sports Museum & Harry Caray's 7th inning stretch restaurant.

The Chicagoland all-time starting five was Derrick Rose (Simeon), Isiah Thomas (St. Joseph), Dwyane Wade (Richards), Anthony Davis (Perspectives Charter), and Antoine Walker (Mount Carmel). I was able to speak with the host of the event about the experience and the final list, NBC Sports Chicago's Jason Goff.

 

Q: How was your experience at 'Posterized: The Chicago Experience' and what ultimately led to your interest in hosting the event? 

It was a terrific experience. Joy Glover and her team put together a really cool experience for locals and people who aren't from Chicago. All things party, Chicago basketball appreciation; and All-Star weekend rolled into one event. When Joy reached out through a mutual friend, I didn't hesitate. The idea was cool and the execution during the busiest time I've seen in quite a while was excellent. 

Q: Ultimately, do you think the fans got the starting five right? Was there anyone you were shocked didn't make the final cut? 

There are so many names that were on the list that deserve recognition. We're all prisoners of whatever generation of basketball we grew up in. Quinn Buckner, Mark Aguirre, George Mikan, etc. Just to name a few. Also, the women's game could've received a little more gratitude by our voters as well. Candace Parker, Cappie Pondexter; and many others have had just as much success inside and outside of this city as anyone. 

Q: Who in your opinion had the best high school career out of the Chicagoland all-time starting five?

Of the ones named? Probably Derrick Rose. But nobody has done more winning than Quinn Buckner (a member of undefeated Thornridge High School team in 1972).

Q: When it's all said and done, who do you think will have the best NBA career of the Chicagoland all-time starting five?

Unless Anthony Davis wins a few titles, it'd have to be Dwyane Wade with Isiah Thomas as a close second.

Between the five players that make up Posterized's all-time starting five, there are six NBA Championships, an NBA MVP, and 17 All-NBA appearances. Below are some of the accomplishments of this illustrious group:

Isiah Thomas:

High school (St. Joseph-Westchester): State finalist (1979), McDonald's All-American (1979), first-team Parade All-American, USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year (1980)

Indiana (NCAA): NCAA champion (1981), NCAA Tourney MVP (1981), two-time All-Big Ten, Consensus First-Team All-American (1981)

NBA (Detroit Pistons): Five-time All-NBA, Two-time NBA Champion (1988-89, 1989-90), 1989-90 Finals MVP, Hall of Famer

Derrick Rose:

Simeon (High school): State finalist (1979), McDonald's All-American (1979), First-Team Parade All-American, USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year (1980)

Memphis (NCAA): NCAA runner-up (2008)

NBA (Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons): 2008-09 Rookie of the Year, one-time All-NBA, 2010-11 MVP

Dwyane Wade:

Richards (High school): Led Richards to the Class AA sectional finals in his senior year

Marquette (NCAA): First-team All-American (2003), Conference USA Player of the Year (2003), No. 3 jersey retired by Marquette

NBA (Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers): Eight-time All-NBA, Three-time NBA champion (2005-06, 2011-12, 2012-13), Finals MVP (2005-06)

Antoine Walker:

Mount Carmel (High school): Chicago Tribune 1994 Boys All-State Basketball Team, First-team Parade All-American (1994)

Kentucky (NCAA): SEC Tournament MVP (1995), First-team All-SEC (1996), NCAA Champion (1996)

NBA (Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves): 15,647 career points, 1996-97 All-Rookie, three-time All-Star, 2005-06 NBA Champion

Anthony Davis:

Perspectives (High school): First-team Parade All-American (2011), Jordan Brand Classic co-MVP (2011)

Kentucky (NCAA): 2011-12 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, 2012 SEC Player of the Year, Naismith Award, Wooden Award, NCAA Champion (2011-12)

NBA (New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers): 2012-13 All-Rookie, three-time blocks leader, three-time All-Defensive team, three-time All-NBA

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Roommates, brothers, opponents: Coby White, Cam Johnson reunite and show out

Roommates, brothers, opponents: Coby White, Cam Johnson reunite and show out

Cameron Johnson had just been selected by the Phoenix Suns with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft. At the time, the move was a surprise — Johnson was projected to fall into the middle to late first round, despite averaging 16.9 points and shooting 45.7% from 3 in his last year at North Carolina.

So, elation was a natural response for all close to Johnson. And nobody displayed that elation more authentically — nor more publicly — than Johnson’s teammate, roommate and ‘little brother’ Coby White (who had been picked by the Bulls just four slots earlier). You remember the clip:

That familial bond was grown over many nights bunking together on the road during White’s one and only year at UNC. It all began on a week-long trip to the Bahamas in advance of last season.

“Coming in, I'm the type of dude where if I don't really know you, then I don't talk a lot,” White said. “And then Cam was like ‘Why you so anti(-social)?’ and then it kinda started from there. He became a guy I could always go to if I ever needed something, on or off the court.”

“You know, seniors pair with freshmen, make sure they're everybody they need to be on time,” Johnson, a fifth-year in 2018-19, said. “But he was, like, a mature, easy, no-drama freshman. His composure was at a very high level, his maturity was at a very high level.”

White scoffed at that, saying he got a similar rep (of being ‘mature’) in his first weeks with the Bulls. “I was like nah just trust me,” he said. “And now I'm like that little brother that's annoying them.”

Still, Johnson and White became fast friends over their overlapping year in Chapel Hill. Though it’s been tough to keep in touch amid the rigors of their first NBA seasons, they each agreed competing against each other was a fun change of pace.

“It was great seeing him, I hadn't seen him in a long time, so it was great seeing him,” White said. “We talk here and there, but because we're so busy — it's one of those things, like, you know no matter what we're gonna have each other's backs, we always gonna be there for each other when we need each other.”

“I love that kid, man. I tell you, most of the time when we talk it’s just saying what’s up and just reminding each other that we love each other,” Johnson said. “That’s my guy and I went over and gave him a big hug before I went on the court today.”

 

What ensued come gametime was special for all. In the contest — a 112-104 Suns victory — White poured in a career-high 33 points and canned seven 3-pointers, shooting 11-for-22 from the field. Johnson notched 11 points and three 3-pointers, and made all of them count.

“It was fun, but I hate him so much,” White said of Johnson, who hit two of his three 3-pointers in the game’s fourth quarter. “I just know whenever he shoots if he gets any type of open look it's going in. So every time he shot it in my head, I'm like mad cause I'm like, he's the one you just can't leave him open. The ball just kept finding him in open space.”

But then, with a smile: “But obviously it's all love. After the game, I talked to him, he told me he was proud of me and whatnot. He's like a big brother to me, so it means a lot.”

There’s just something about these Tar Heels. With Roy Williams at the United Center on Nov. 12, White set a Bulls record for 3-pointers in a quarter with seven in the fourth against the Knicks. Tonight, lined up across from Johnson, he scored the second-most points in Bulls franchise history by a rookie off the bench.

He, Johnson and Bulls fans everywhere, will be counting down the days until the team visits Phoenix on April 5.

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