As practices toughen, Bulls eye return of their two most hardened players

As practices toughen, Bulls eye return of their two most hardened players

Time will tell whether the Bulls are better or worse off for it, but there's a different vibe inside the Advocate Center.

Head coach Jim Boylen ran a second straight two-plus hour practice on Wednesday - including a film session before - that he said included suicide sprints and other conditioning drills the day after the Bulls' 96-90 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

"We're old-school, we get on the line. Then we have certain drills we do within the line for that. But there's no short-cut to conditioning. There's no short cut to getting in shape," he said. "People think there is I think sometimes, or you can do this or you can do that. The only way you get in shape in this game is to get on the floor and do it. That's what we're going to do. We're going to do it every day."

Boylen's comments read more like a coach on the first day of training camp, not one taking over a team already past the one-quarter mark of their regular season. But Boylen, who is now a little more than 48 hours into the gig, is attempting to establish a culture that wasn't there under Fred Hoiberg.

For Boylen, it's about getting back to the basics and walking before you can run, despite all the running the Bulls apparently did on Wednesday.

That's why he and the Bulls had a brief film session immediately after Tuesday's game, their seventh consecutive defeat that made them the first team in the NBA to 20 losses.

The Bulls committed 18 turnovers and shot below 40 percent from the field. They managed just 90 points and dropped their league-worst offensive rating since Nov. 12 to 96.3, nearly 3.0 points worse than 29th-ranked Atlanta.

But Boylen was teaching on the fly in that loss, grabbing a few guys during timeouts to give further instruction and having an early hook on players who failed to execute on either end.

"I learned from (Gregg Popovich), you can show film after the game. We showed five or six clips right after the game, because they're fresh, they're live and that's when you can make the most impact. So yeah, we're going to try to coach our guys on the fly and on the spot," he said. "It's more about them understanding that's the way we're going to do it around here, that's the culture we're trying to build."

The energy and competitive spirit, a trio of buzz words that will remain constants as long as Boylen is in charge, was improved on Tuesday. Even against the slower-paced Pacers the Bulls allowed 96 points and showed a noticeably different effort on that end of the floor.

That attitude should only improve and become more consistent with the impending returns of Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis.

Both players practiced in full with the Bulls again on Wednesday as they had on Monday, in addition to getting in a Tuesday practice with the G-League's Windy City team. Though it doesn't seem likely that either will be ready to make their returns this weekend, they're certainly closing in on it.

Dunn said his knee is "getting there" and that while it isn't 100 percent he hasn't been hindered at all in practice.

"Did everything (Wednesday)," Dunn said. "Just taking it step by step, trying to get my legs and rhythm back, my conditioning back, my feel of the game and just go from there."

Portis, who has been a few days behind in his own MCL sprain rehab, said the knee feels "great" and that he's responded well to the first major injury of his life.

Aside from the talent they'll bring to a Bulls lineup in desparate need of it, Dunn and Portis are the two unquestioned vocal leaders and should infuse more of that energy and competitive spirit that Boylen has preached in his first three days on the job.

"They were spirited, they were competitive. Bobby Portis has the ability to raise the level of your practice, which is something we need," Boylen said. "Raise the competitiveness and determination. He does that. He’s got a great soul, he’s got a great spirit for the game. Kris is a guy that’s so superior athletically, it just changes the way you look right off the bat.

"I'm hoping we can get them back soon."

Zion Williamson injury updated to Grade 1 right knee sprain


Zion Williamson injury updated to Grade 1 right knee sprain

In a game in which you could spot the likes of Bulls General Manager Gar Forman and former President Barack Obama in the crowd, almost everyone came away disappointed. In the opening minute of Wednesday’s Duke-North Carolina game, Blue Devils star Zion Williamson slipped when trying to plant his foot, tearing through his PG 2.5 basketball sneaker and suffering an apparent knee/lower leg injury.

The Williamson injury happened approximately 40 seconds into the game, taking away much of the fanfare from one of the most anticipated college basketball games of the year for both fans and NBA scouts alike.

Postgame, Duke head coach Mike Krzyewski stated that Zion’s injury as of now is being labeled a mild knee sprain.

This initial diagnosis is very good for Williamson, as the injury appeared to be a much more serious knee or lower leg issue in real-time. Without Williamson, Duke had to rely heavily on freshmen RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones for offense, and Jone specifically struggled to take on a bigger role. Clearly, Williamson’s prolonged absence had both a mental and physical effect on this young Duke team. They had no rim protection without him and they severely missed his leadership once the game got out of hand.

There was no shortage of love for Zion on the night, with everyone wishing him a quick recovery, including President Obama and Nike.

As of Thursday afternoon, it was announced that Williamson is listed as day-to-day with what is now being called a Grade 1 right knee sprain.

He will almost surely missed Duke’s next game on February 23 against Syracuse. Their last game of the regular season is a rematch against UNC on March 9. After that, the Blue Devils will be getting ready for the ACC Tournament in Charlotte, that starts on March 12.

If Williamson is going to return this season, it would be reasonable to expect it to happen by the ACC Tournament, as it is hard to imagine the idea of Zion playing in the NCAA Tournament without any game reps prior.

And of course, Williamson could shut it down for the rest of the season if he wants to use this recovery period to get ready for the NBA Draft, an idea that Bulls Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen had already floated. Regardless of what Williamson chooses to do, the entire basketball world will be on the edge of their seats.

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.