Bulls

Otto Porter's versatility, flexibility on full display for Bulls: 'That's what we needed, that's what we got'

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USA TODAY

Otto Porter's versatility, flexibility on full display for Bulls: 'That's what we needed, that's what we got'

Almost as important as the Bulls needing to improve its talent base in Year 2 of the rebuild was improving its versatility. One of the myriad reasons the Bulls struggled to fight through their copious injuries was a lack of organizational depth and one-dimensional players unable to adjust in different scenarios.

So while the addition of Otto Porter Jr. at last week’s trade deadline gave the Bulls an elite shooter who complemented the team’s two leading scorers, it also gave them a versatile wing capable of guarding – and guarding well – three different positions.

That was on full display in the Bulls’ Monday night loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Porter played 37 minutes and saw time at small forward, power forward, and even de facto center when Mike Budenholzer’s group put MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo in the middle of a small lineup.

Porter responded with another night outing, his third straight since coming to the Bulls in a deal with the Wizards last Wednesday. He finished with 18 points on 7 of 14 shooting, seven rebounds and four assists, and now has averages of 17.6 points and 4.3 rebounds through three games. More importantly, he’s made 8 of his first 14 3-point attempts and has even shown a bit of play making with seven assists.

“He’s just a basketball player. That’s what we needed, that’s what we got,” Jim Boylen said after the game. “What that means is you can throw him out there and he can get somebody else going, he can get himself going, he can make shots off the move.

“I think he showed the whole thing tonight. He showed a lot of versatility. I’m really thankful he’s a Bull.”

The Bulls finally have what appears to be their long-term answer at small forward – his contract necessitates it, but his play is worthy of it too. Justin Holiday was always a stopgap, and while Chandler Hutchison and Shaq Harrison showed flashes, they both project more as rotational pieces than an answer to the spot in between LaVine and Markkanen.

And for all LaVine has done as a playmaker, especially when Kris Dunn was out with a sprained knee, he doesn’t scream versatility and has had his struggles on the defensive end. The same goes for Markkanen, a matchup nightmare but someone who has struggled defensively in limited minutes at center. Dunn doesn’t provide much shooting from the point guard position, and Wendell Carter Jr., while agile, was a true center and didn’t spend much time at power forward before his thumb injury.

But in Porter the Bulls have someone who can wear multiple hats. He played 36 percent of his minutes this season in Washington at power forward because he was a positive there, not just because the Wizards wanted to go small. Now Boylen has options he didn’t really have during the small forward merry-go-round earlier in the season.

Dunn mentioned after the game that having Porter in the lineup has allowed the Bulls to switch more often and not be out of position on mismatches. Porter is a legitimate 6-foot-8 with length, and he’s got the lateral speed to stick with quicker guards.

His primary use will still come at small forward, where he’s been a complementary piece to LaVine and Markkanen as a tertiary scorer. LaVine is already seeing the benefits of having another shooter on the floor, and he’s now tallied 18 assists since Porter joined the Bulls.

“Otto has definitely been giving us space. Before, they were loading up on the elbow, so it was hard for me to drive the seam,” LaVine said. “I can get to the paint and I can create for myself or others."

And it’s just the beginning. Porter is still learning the optimal way to play with his teammates and will only get better as they learn each other. Both in the short term and long term he's giving the Bulls a sort of versatility and flexibility they needed in a desperate way.

 “I’m not surprised. I need to do more. Just figuring out what I can do but I’m out there just trying to do whatever I can,” Porter said. “It’s helped me get acclimated with the guys for me to do what I do.”

Thad Young addresses media in wake of reports of being dissatisfied with role

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USA Today

Thad Young addresses media in wake of reports of being dissatisfied with role

Earlier this week, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Thad Young is dissatisfied with his role with the Bulls. Young addressed the report and other questions regarding his role to assorted media after Friday morning shootaround.

Questions are paraphrased for length and clarity. Our Tony Gill also has the full video of Young's comments.

On Young's thoughts on the report:

I mean, you know, y'all see my quote in the same article, so, the quote was, 'I'm gonna go out there and play as hard as I can, when I can and do what I do to help the team win games. We're just coming off a really good win for us, we're looking forward to the next game and that's all it is. No matter if I'm playing 20 minutes or I'm playing 30 minutes. You guys have seen all year long I'm just gonna continue to go out there and play as hard as I can to help my teammates. And that's what it's all about, me going out there for my teammates and just staying calm, staying patient and waiting for my time.

On if he's frustrated with the amount of playing time he's receiving:

I mean, everybody wants to play 30-40 minutes a game. Everybody wants to play, especially when they feel they can help the team. But like I said, at the end of the day, whatever coach sees fit to do, I'm falling in line, I'm rolling with it. I've said that in all previous interviews, you can see that from all my quotes they've all been the same. Nothing has changed, and I played 30+ minutes last game, but if I come out and play 18-20 minutes this game, I'm still gonna go out there and play as hard as I can, no matter what. Like I said, it's about me always being there for my teammates and my teammates knowing I'm gonna be there for them regardless in any type of situation.

On if he's talked with Jim Boylen about his playing time:

I mean, we've talked. But at the end of the day, like I said, it's all about what coach wants to do and I have to fall in line with what our coaches are putting out, and believing in the game plan. I do believe in our gameplan, I believe we can win each and every game, you know, we've lost some very, very close ones. But I do feel like I can help the team a little bit more, but at the end of the day, like I said, it's all about me going out there with the time I do get and taking care of business. 

On how he feels he can help the team:

In ways, specifically, impactful times in the game, when teams are making runs or we need some type of defensive energy and some defensive spurts in end-of-game situations. But like I said, we're in a stage where we're trying to win games and we're trying to develop players and we're trying to make sure everybody's on one accord. And like I said, with the times that I do get, I go out there and try to be as productive as I can, the same as each and every guy on this team.

On if the conversations he had with Bulls in the offseason match up with the way things are now:

I mean, like I said, the conversations in the offseason were the conversations in the offseason. But going into the season things change and things come out a little differently. But, for me, like I said, it's not really about what was said in the offseason and all of that. It's about me going out there day-to-day, doing the work, and making sure that I go out there and help my team win games, so that's been my focus, that's my only focus and coming here, my only focus is to win basketball games and I want to do that at all costs.

On if the timing of these reports surfacing soon after playing his highest minutes total of the season (33 minutes against the Hawks on Wednesday):

Like I said, you've seen my quotes in the article. So, my quotes have always kinda been the same. Just to be ready at all costs, go out there and do my job when it's needed and go out there and whatever minutes I get, play as hard as I can in those minutes. So, I don't think about the timing or anything like that, I leave that timing thought process for y'all. But for me, like I said, it's all about coming to work and putting my hard-hat on each and every night.

On if he is disillusioned with the amount of playing time he's receiving:

Like I said, everybody wants to play more minutes. That's every guy on this team. Every guy wants to go out there and be able to play 30 minutes a night. It just so happens I came from a team — or my last seven, eight years — I've been playing 30 minutes a night and being very impactful within those 30 minutes. It's definitely a change, but like I said, whatever time that you do get, you go out there and you play as hard as you can, you continue to be professional, you continue to believe in what you're trying to build and you continue to believe in your teammates each and every night.

On if he should be rewarded for positive play with more playing time down the stretch of games:

I mean, yeah, I mean, it should be. But at the end of the day, like I said, we have different things that we're trying to do. Like I said, we're trying to develop guys and we're trying to win at the same time. But at the end of the day, the minutes. Yes, I would like to play more minutes, but if I'm playing 20 minutes a game, within those 20 minutes, I'm gonna try to give somebody hell during those 20 minutes. So, it is what it is.

On if he regrets joining the Bulls:

No, I mean, I love my teammates to death. Obviously the circumstances are not the best-case scenario. But at the end of the day, I love my teammates, I go to war with them each and every day, I love being able to help some of the guys get better. I love going out there and having fun with these guys, playing games. And I love getting into the film room with the coaching staff and going over different things that we can do better as a team. I just love everything about the game, I love everything that it brings, and like I said, the situation is not best case scenario, simply because I am only playing 20 minutes a game. But if coach sees fit to play me 20, sees fit to play me 25, sees fit to play me 30, I'm with whatever he decides. He's the man in charge, he's our chief, and we have to go out there and be able to follow behind our chief each and every night.

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Thad Young 'gets on' Wendell Carter Jr. for his struggles with foul trouble

Thad Young 'gets on' Wendell Carter Jr. for his struggles with foul trouble

In the midst of a season defined by slews of injuries and inconsistent play, Wendell Carter Jr. and Daniel Gafford have been undeniable bright spots for the Bulls.

"Sh*t, they've been doing great!" Thad Young said after Friday morning shootaround, on their progression. "Wendell has been amazing all season long, you know, he's a capable double-double guy each and every night.

"Daniel. He's been huge for us with the time he does get. He comes out and brings a huge spurt of energy with blocking shots and rebounds. But also, on the offensive end, he's better than people think. You know, he can score the basketball around the basket, he has a great feel for the game, he has great touch."

That's high praise coming from Young, one of the preeminent veteran locker room presences in the league. He did have one critique, though, specifically for Carter.

"The only thing we gotta work on is his f*cking hands," Young said, with a chuckle. "Fouling people. He's always fouling people, he's always, you know, I tell him all the time, keep your hands out of there. When guards see that, they want to attack your hands and get to the free throw line. So, if we can keep his hands away from guys and keep 'em going straight up and getting him to alter shots as opposed to just trying to block 'em all the time. And getting guys to maneuver around him, then it puts him in a better position for him to stay in games and help us win games."

Carter's struggles with foul trouble are well-documented. He currently leads the league in personal fouls with 106 (that's 4.1 per game, second only to Jaren Jackson Jr.) and has fouled out of five games already this season. Young isn't going to let him off the hook.

"Yes, all the time," Young said, when asked he if 'gets on' Carter when he starts racking up fouls. "I got on him [in the Raptors game] when he fouled out. I said, 'What I tell you about your hands, man?' I said soon as you stuck your hand in there, they was ready to call a foul."

Still, it's hard to be too critical of the Bulls' second-year big. Carter also has 13 double-doubles this season, is tied for third in the league in offensive rebounds per game and anchors a Bulls defense rated second in the NBA over the past two weeks and change. Young acknowledged that, as well.

"He's been great all season long. He's a physical force for us, one of our better defensive players," Young said. "He does a hell of a job going out there and executing each and every night."

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