Bulls

Shaq Harrison does it all in Bulls' drubbing of the Pistons, and he's not done yet

Shaq Harrison does it all in Bulls' drubbing of the Pistons, and he's not done yet

Shaq Harrison has just played the game of his season. In a 109-89 dismantling of the Pistons, the Bulls’ ‘next-man-up’ of the night did it all, scoring 15 points, snagging 11 rebounds and swiping three steals on a rather efficient 7-of-12 shooting. He was announced as the Bulls’ fifth starter just two hours before tip-off.

In the locker room after the game, Harrison was — unsurprisingly — all smiles. But emblazoned across the front of his bottom lip: a smear of blood.

To Harrison, it’s a badge of honor.

“This was the first play of the game,” he said, ever-congenial. “Welcome back.”

That’s the rare brand of attitude Harrison brings to the Bulls, and it takes only a brief spin around the locker room to see how much he is appreciated.

"Shaq's a dirty-work guy, and that first group needs it," head coach Jim Boylen said of what Harrison brought to the starting lineup.

“His defense is great, he always constantly puts pressure on guy[s],” Tomas Satoransky said. “We needed that energy.”

Energy is one thing, and Harrison certainly possesses that in droves — he likened himself to a “rabbit” on the court, chasing down loose balls, rebounds and transition opportunities. But to go from a spark-plug to a true impact player, there’s a deeper level of preparedness required.

If he hadn’t already, Harrison proved tonight that he’s the latter — or, at least, that he can be.

“Shaq’s a real pro, stays ready,” Boylen said. “He’s been working… It’s a credit to him. He’s a winning dude.”

“When you got other players that are playing in front of you, you can easily cry about it and complain,” Harrison said. “But I kept my head on straight and stayed the course, and everything worked out for me in the end.”

Against Detroit, Harrison logged more minutes (26) than he had all season to this point (23), and led the Bulls in plus-minus (+29), to boot. 

“It’s easy to talk with him about how we want to play, and I feel like communicating with him is a very natural thing for me,” Satoransky said of getting Harrison up to speed. 

On Harrison's ability to plug and play, even without a guaranteed role: “It says a lot,” Satoransky said. “And I think he just confirmed what I was thinking about him from last year, because with [the] Wizards, we played against them… He always put a lot of trouble defensively on us.”

The typical highlight-reel plays were there, as well, but when asked his favorite play of the night, Harrison cited his lone three-pointer (he was 1-for-2 from deep on the night), which gave the Bulls a 17-6 lead in the first quarter.

“That was my favorite one of the day,” he said. “Cause I worked so hard on it in the offseason.”

And the thing he’s most proud of?

“Most of all, I take pride in the win. That’s the main goal, and that’s what we got tonight.”

With starting small forward Otto Porter Jr. and his understudy Chandler Hutchison both injured and without concrete timetables for return, Harrison will likely see more opportunities to contribute to that main goal, moving forward. Boylen said he sees no reason to switch the current starting unit up, especially with a back-to-back coming this weekend.

Harrison, for his part, remains focused on the things he can control. The rest will work itself out later.

“Toughness and a dog mentality,” he said, on what he brings. “I’m always gonna be able to play 100 percent every single night. Whether my shot falling or it’s not falling, you’re gonna get 100 percent out of me."

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, See Red Fred joins Big Dave and Matt Peck. The guys talk about some big plays down the stretch by Zach LaVine and Denzel Valentine. Plus a great defensive job by Kris Dunn on Paul George. (1:30) See Red Fred states his case for more playing time for Denzel Valentine. (4:00) Plus what's going to happen when Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison come back. (8:00) The guys share some concerns about Coby White in the short term. (10:30) See Red Fred tells you about 3 players who have exceeded expectations this year. (13:00) Plus the guys debate whether Zach LaVine should compete in the dunk contest or 3 point competition. (18:00) They discuss the impact that Kris Dunn has had on the defensive end of the floor. (20:30) Plus See Red Fred lays out his blueprint for the Bulls to make the playoffs. (23:30) Plus the guys make a wager regarding the rest of the season. (25:00)
 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Just over two hours before tipoff, in his first public comments since Media Day, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson talked about how Jim Boylen’s teaching and coaching hasn’t always translated from the practice floor and film room to games.

Could the Bulls’ first victory this season over a winning team be a step?

And don’t mention that the Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams in the Bulls’ 109-106 victory, secured on Zach LaVine’s three-point play with 2 seconds to play.

“Well, we didn’t have (Otto Porter Jr.) or Hutch (Chandler Hutchison) or (Daniel) Gafford,” Boylen said. “So we can ‘Yeah, but’ it a little bit too.”

Bravado aside, there’s stuff on which the Bulls can build here.

LaVine posted his sixth 30-point game and ended a week filled with closing misses with a game-winner in which he powered through a Montrezl Harrell foul on a nice misdirection play involving Kris Dunn. Lauri Markkanen tied his season-high with 17 rebounds while posting his third double-double of the season. Denzel Valentine, playing all but two seconds of the fourth, hit a huge tying 3-pointer in the final minute and scored a season-high 16 points. Thad Young tied his season-high with 17 points.

And Dunn was everywhere, relishing the challenge of guarding Paul George down the stretch and winning a crucial battle for a 50-50 ball that led to Valentine’s tying shot.

“That was a huge moment,” Boylen said.

So was Valentine closing a game.

“I just thought we needed some more shooting on the floor,” Boylen said. “We’ve wrestled with defensive lineups, offensive lineups. We try to mingle them a little bit. I just thought we needed someone to make a big shot. And he did.”

Valentine has now scored in double figures off the bench in five of six games.

“I’m very confident in my abilities,” Valentine said. “I was just waiting for the ball to come my way. Zach is our best player. So the ball’s going to be in his hands. But shoot, I’m ready for it. I love those moments. I love to make those shots.”

Dunn, who finished a plus-22, defended George as he missed a good look for a tying 3-pointer. George scored 10 points in just over 7 minutes in the fourth but missed all three attempts following Valentine’s tying shot.

“I love it,” Dunn said of guarding great players. “I know my niche on this team is to guard. And I take pride in that. It feels good to go against a big-time player and be able to get stops towards the end.”

Markkanen actually received credit for the rebound that Dunn kept alive to lead to Valentine’s tying shot, which Dunn said Markkanen teased him about. Dunn finished with nine points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals.

But his two biggest plays didn’t even crash the box score. He won the 50-50 ball to lead to Valentine’s tying shot and then confused the Clippers’ defense by slipping a screen on LaVine’s game-winner.

“I knew Zach was going to get downhill,” Dunn said. “Because once I did it, I saw Paul George look at me.”

LaVine couldn’t believe how much space he had to operate.

“I’ll take it,” he said. “Once I saw the lane open up, I think there were like 5 seconds left. We were trying to get the last shot. But once the lane opened up, I tried to get a one-on-one. He’s a tough dude. I knew I could attack his body.”

LaVine missed game-winning attempts on an isolation 3-pointer against the Warriors and over a double-team against the Raptors. His three-point play offered a dose of redemption for a player who is never afraid to fail.

“You’re not going to be perfect. As much as people are going to show more of the bad than the good, I’ve had a lot of good times in the clutch as well,” LaVine said. “I try to make the right play for us to win. And I did that tonight.”

For one night, matters were more positive. The Bulls closed out a game against a good team and received multiple contributions while doing so.

Heck, Boylen even downplayed Paxson’s vote of confidence.

“We understand what we’re trying to do. We’re in step on what we’re asking our guys to do and play like and work like and care like,” the coach said. “I’m thankful for it. But I wouldn’t expect anything less.”