Bulls

Team USA upset by France in FIBA World Cup; Who will be next Bulls player to suit up?

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USA TODAY

Team USA upset by France in FIBA World Cup; Who will be next Bulls player to suit up?

There were serious question marks about USA Basketball's chances of three-peating at the FIBA World Cup, and they were answered on Tuesday in their 89-79 upset loss to Rudy Gobert and France in the quarterfinals.

It was Team USA's first international loss with NBA players since the 2004 Olympics, and creates plenty of pressure and intrigue heading into the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo next year.

Granted, some of the dozen or so players who opted out of the FIBA World Cup - James Harden, Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and many significant others - may wind up representing their country in Tokyo. The Olympics are a much bigger deal than the FIBA World Cup (duh) and some of those players may feel motivated to bring gold back for the United States after seeing the others fall short in China.

Will any Bulls players be part of those reclamation teams? It's tough to see any current players making the 2020 Olympic team now that there's a real chance the stars come out to make up for the country's embarrassing 2019 World Cup performance, but what about at the 2023 FIBA World Cup (hosted by multiple nations) or 2024 Olympics in Paris? Here's a look at the best bets.

Lauri Markkanen: Lauri Markkanen is Finnish. He is not American. He can not play for Team USA. We've seen his name pop up a few times in our @NBCSBulls mentions, so this is for those few who do not understand how citizenship works.

Zach LaVine: It's unknown whether LaVine was even asked by USA Basketball to compete for this year's World Cup. If he was, his decision to not play was never publicized. Looking ahead to 2023, LaVine would be a 28-year-old with nine years of NBA experience when the next World Cup rolls around. That's certainly on the older side based on this year's team - just five of the 12 players were 28 or older - but would make sense given LaVine's experience and ability to score. Plenty can and will change between now and then, but the Americans really struggled to score in China. LaVine's ability to run in transition and make 3s would be a boon for a USA team that was heavy at point guard but had little on the wings.

Wendell Carter: Now here's an intriguing name. The disclaimer here is that Carter has played 44 NBA games. There's optimism, but the jury is still out on what kind of pro he will be, let alone someone good enough to play for Team USA. But center was arguably the Americans' weakest position at the FIBA World Cup, with Myles Turner, Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee not making all that big an impact. Granted, there are guys like Jaren Jackson, Bam Adebayo and Andre Drummond who will have legitimate cases (as well as Turner, who did play well and is a perfect international center), but Carter feels like a fit. He's a versatile defender with a knack for rim-protecting, he projects as someone who will be able to shoot from the outside eventually, and he'll be 24 years old with five years of NBA experience when the World Cup rolls around.

Otto Porter: There's a chance Porter isn't a member of the Bulls when the FIBA World Cup rolls around in 2023, but his skill set is perfect. Porter is one of the league's best 3-point shooters and a versatile wing defender. He's not exactly a quick-twitch player and he won't contribute all that much in transition, but the Americans were desperate enough to keep Joe Harris on this year's roster (no offense to Joe Harris, who is an elite 3-point shooter...he just doesn't do much else). Porter would be 30 at the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which is definitely on the older side, but maybe an elder statesman is exactly what the Americans could use with a crop of young talent. They seemingly didn't have it this time around.

Coby White: We'll toss him on here for fun. White hasn't played an NBA game yet. But he's a speed demon and someone who can play off the ball, and that versatility plays in international basketball (Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker were USA's best players). White has a loooooooong way to go before he's considered a Team USA-level talent, but the potential is certainly there.

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reacting to a brutal loss to Brooklyn

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reacting to a brutal loss to Brooklyn

On this edition of Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and Dave Watson react to the Bulls 117-111 loss to the Nets on Saturday.

0:30 - On losing a game that the Bulls could have won

2:30 - On Zach LaVine’s 36 point effort in loss

4:00 - On giving up 43 to the Nets in the 4th quarter

5:30 - Viewer comment on Lauri’s struggles

7:30 - Viewer comment on Kris Dunn

11:10 - Viewer comment on trading LaVine and keeping Markkanen

13:20 - On Markkanen looking aggressive at times vs Nets

15:15 - Viewer comment on starting Coby White

16:30 - Let’s remember Nate Robinson

19:20 - Lebron James throws it down vs the Kings and defeats Father Time

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You  have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.        

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Zach LaVine turns up volume on Bulls' offensive woes after another loss

Zach LaVine turns up volume on Bulls' offensive woes after another loss

The team picture for most disappointing loss of the season is getting crowded.

Make room for Saturday evening, though.

A Nets team already without Kevin Durant and Caris LeVert also sat Kyrie Irving to shoulder soreness and then smoked the Bulls by 11 in the first quarter and 10 in the fourth on their way to a 117-111 victory. Ex-Bull Spencer Dinwiddie added insult to injury by scoring 20 of his 24 points in the fourth.

“They just wanted it more than us,” Zach LaVine said.

For a team that made improving their home mark a major priority after winning a franchise-low nine games at the United Center last season, the Bulls sure aren’t playing with much urgency.

“Our start was unacceptable,” said coach Jim Boylen, who burned two early timeouts.

The Bulls nearly doubled the Nets up in an impressive second quarter that featured defense leading to offense and plenty of transition attacks that led to a season-high 41 free-throw attempts. The Bulls also finally won the rebounding battle 56-40.

But the Bulls again shot poorly from 3-point range, needing a late flurry to even crack 20 percent and finish 9-for-39.

Missed shots always make an offense look worse. But the issues go beyond poor shooting. The Bulls aren’t sprinting the floor consistently. Their halfcourt sets feature little cutting. And since utilizing Lauri Markkanen in this role in the opener against a smallish Hornets frontline, they’ve largely ditched post-up attempts.

“We get stagnant a lot out there,” LaVine said. “We’ll run one action and then everybody is staring at the person with the ball. We gotta get more fluid. I don’t feel a lot of people are in rhythm. When that happens, obviously everybody starts trying to do it themselves.

“It’s tough. I blame myself. I try to do that as well. I’m in the gym late. I’m putting up shots. I’m making sure I’m prepared so I can do everything I can to help. We gotta do a better job as a team.”

LaVine is slowly giving stronger voice to issues he sees with the offense. Following Friday’s practice, he talked about needing to utilize Markkanen more in the post. Markkanen also has talked about the equal opportunity offense in the context of him attempting 10 or fewer shots in eight of 13 games now.

“Sometimes you get the ball and to me it feels like there are 12 eyes staring at me,” LaVine said. “I’m not scared to take any shot. I’ve not scared to miss a shot. I’ve taken all these shots before. If I’m the person to blame, I can take it. I’m in the gym working on my craft each night. I always look at myself first before anyone else. We just gotta do better as a unit.”

What does LaVine, who finished with 36 points, do when he feels 12 eyes staring at him?

"I try to call a pick-and-roll most of the time when that happens and then if nothing comes from that, I'm going to take the shot or pass it. I'm definitely going to at least get a shot on the rim,” he said. “I'm not one to just dribble the clock out or anything like that or throw it to somebody with seven seconds left (on the shot clock). If I get it at the top of the key with eight, nine seconds left on the clock, I'm going to try to make a play."

But what about the lack of cutting?

“I mean, it's our offense. We have a five-out offense,” he said. “So it gets tough when we get to those stagnant points because that's how it's supposed to be."

LaVine attempted double-digit free throws for just the second time this season. He had four such games through 13 games last season.

He also joined Michael Jordan as the only Bulls to post at least 2,100 points, 400 rebounds, 400 assists, 100 steals and 30 blocks in his first 100 games with the franchise. But until the Bulls start winning, LaVine knows his numbers mean little.

“We should take offense to it. We’ve had a really easy schedule to start off,” LaVine said. “You gotta win the games you’re supposed to win. We’ve pissed away a lot of games I think we should’ve won.”

But no changes are coming to the rotation or system.

"I think we gotta stay the course," Boylen said. "Listen, nobody likes losing games. There’s no shame in losing an NBA game. It happens every day. What I’m disappointed in is our start, a home game, on a Saturday night in Chicago. I didn’t like the way we started. I can’t play for them. They gotta come out and do it."

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Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.