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Thad Young is adjusting to new role, new style of play with Bulls

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USA Today

Thad Young is adjusting to new role, new style of play with Bulls

BOSTON --- Thad Young is averaging 3.3 3-point attempts per game, the second-highest total of his career.

This is less a reflection of Young wanting to become the next Steph Curry and more a reflection of him doing what his coach has asked.

“Those are the things our staff encourages. They encourage us to take threes and layups, I think that’s the type of league that we’re in now, a 3 and layup-type game. No long twos and less on the post-ups and stuff like that because it slows down the game or it stagnates the offense,” Young said following shootaround. “Just trying to be able to evolve. If I’m open, I’ll shoot it. If I’m not, I'll drive it or move it so just being able to do a lot of different things and not staying on the wing, I think that’s one of the biggest things that I have to continue to get better at. And also with my teammates, just feeding and trying to figure out them a little bit better than I have in the past games that we’ve played so far.”

Young is shooting 32.3 percent from 3-point range, which is basically right at his career average of 32.8 percent. He has averaged 1.5 3-point attempts in his 13-year NBA career and his highest season average from his three with the Pacers is 2.2 per game.

“Yeah, I mean that’s not how I played pretty much my whole career. But like I said, its what’s being asked of me. I’m the type of guy my coach asks me to do something, if he asks me to run through a brick wall, I know it’s going to hurt but I’m going to try and run through that brick wall,” Young said. “So it is what it is. I’ve always been a team-first guy. I’ve always been a guy who listens to the coaching staff and what they’re trying to instill in us and what they’re trying to do and then try to go out there and accomplish the mission.”

Boylen appreciates this mentality.

“He’s just tough. He does everything we ask him to do. He has played different for us than he did in Indiana. You have to give him credit for that. He’s spacing it. He has shot it well. Our system is different than them. He has made the adjustment,” Boylen said. “Defensively, he knocks balls loose. He competes. He’s a great voice in the locker room. He’s a great voice on the floor. He believes in the work it takes to build a team. He loves to practice. Those things are all really valuable for us. I can have a conversation with him and we can talk about things. I think that’s important.”

Asked if playing this style was conveyed to him when he signed with the Bulls during the free-agency process, Young said no.

“But at the end of the day, everybody here signed up for a certain thing and they all signed up believing in what we’re trying to build,” Young said. “So, just go out there and do what we’re supposed to do as far as our job and make sure that we’ll continue to build and we’ll continue to grow as a team.”

Boylen admitted it was “a hard ask” but an “easy sell” for Young to play a different style than he has the majority of his career. He reiterated this is borne out of wanting to establish a style of play at both ends with both the starting and reserve units playing similarly.

“He’s very willing to help, please. He’s a pro, man,” Boylen said. “I’ve mentioned, though, that I don’t want to have a system where injury makes us play differently from night to night. Illness, sickness, guy has the flu, now we have to play a whole different way? We don’t want to do that. With that comes some growing pains.

“I think it’s fair to say Wendell Carter is better in our pick-and-roll defense than Daniel (Gafford) and Luke (Kornet). It’s not a cut to them. It’s the reality of he’s an elite dude at it. So they have to grow with that because I don’t want to have change everything we do on a game-to-game basis. That’s not how you build something. And Thad has bought into that.

“I want my 4 to play the same way in the first group as the second. We tweak it a little for him. We run a couple things for him. But in general, we play the same way with the second group. And he has bought into that. And it wasn’t a hard sell to him. But it was an adjustment to him. Not being a hard sell is a credit to him. Good dude.

“We established it in September and October. We all understood it was a different style for him, a different way to play. I thought with his skill set and his intelligence that he could do it. And he has done it.”

Young is averaging 8.7 points, the second-lowest scoring average of his career behind his rookie season. His 22.2 minutes per game also are the lowest since his rookie season.

“Biggest adjustment is not starting and playing less minutes,” Young said. “Obviously when you get up in age or you come to a certain situation where you’re focused on development of certain guys and you’re focused on different things, you as a veteran, you take those hits.

“You just got to go out there and play every time you get and just be productive. Make sure you’re doing the right things to help the team win and then also just helping guys grow, younger guys. It’s a situation where we’re grooming a lot of guys at one time. You have Lauri (Markkanen), you have Daniel, you have Coby (White), you have a lot of young guys on the team, Chandler Hutchison. So just helping those guys get better each and every day and just making sure that when I’m going out there I’m impacting the game in certain ways in the time that I do get.” 

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Where the Bulls stand in each of the NBA’s reported resumption plans

Where the Bulls stand in each of the NBA’s reported resumption plans

Wheels are spinning towards the relaunch of the NBA season. In which direction? For now, all of them.

Faced with a task unprecedented in logistical and financial scale, several formats for resuming and resolving the 2019-20 campaign amid the COVID-19 pandemic have emerged, all centered around Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort as a likely bubble site. Returning 30 teams to tie a bow on an abbreviated regular season “has lost momentum, but still has significant lobby,” according to Adrian Wojnarowski. Skipping straight to a 16-team playoff? There’s a “good chance” of that, according to Brian Windhorst, though securing the necessary owner votes to do away with conference alignment could prove a long shot. On Tuesday, the possibility of a 20-team playoff that would replace the first round with a World Cup-esque “group stage” was extensively detailed by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Other pool play options were offered up in a past canvassing conducted by the league. 

Some players and teams, regardless of positioning, are reportedly itching to play. Some would sooner be inclined to avert the risk of infection inextricable from bumping bodies without proper competitive incentive — most prominently (and publicly), Damian Lillard

All in all, there’s a whole lot on the table. But the league doesn’t yet appear near a consensus with calls reportedly slated with general managers and the Board of Governors on Thursday and Friday, respectively. 

The Bulls, for their part, are paused comfortably in purgatory. Should they be included in the NBA’s resumption plan, it could afford a sliver more time for the revamped front office to evaluate personnel and the coaching staff, and perhaps a sliver more excitement for a fanbase left wanting in that department this season. At the same time, this team is no title contender — even a de facto playoff berth would likely be short-lived — and the prospect of a month-or-more long training camp schedule leading up to five-to-seven games of (in the grand scheme) meaningless basketball could introduce excessive and unnecessary risk to players — many of whom are currently out-of-market — and staff. Scurrying straight to the offseason would potentially afford one of the youngest teams in the NBA a nine-month layoff between this season and next, and allow the new braintrust to fully plunge into draft preparation and long-term planning, both along the roster and on Jim Boylen’s fate.

That all leaves us with heads full of ideas, but not much in the way of certainty. Here, at least, are the options the NBA is reportedly mulling, and how the Bulls could fit into them:

All 30 teams resume regular season

In his most recent report, Wojnarowski pinpointed 72 games as the NBA’s target goal if they pursue some closure for the regular season. At 22-43, that would leave the Bulls with seven remaining games, a perfectly average figure. Their 65 games already played is two less than the teams with the most games completed (Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks), and two more than those with the least (Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs). Who the Bulls’ remaining games would be against is unknowable for the time being.

In the interest of recouping lost revenue, sucking all 30 teams into a hypothetical bubble is likely attractive to the league — doing so exponentially multiples the number of telivisable games, and if the astronomical ratings for TNT’s “The Match” are any indication, interest will be immense regardless of matchup. But it also doubles the amount of variables necessary to maintain the wellbeing of everyone involved from athletes to coaches to accommodation staff and beyond. 

With no non-playoff team in either conference within 3.5 games of a berth (the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans all rest 3.5 back of the Memphis Grizzlies), the cost of that risk for anyone outside the top 16 is indeed the question.

Skipping straight to a 16-team playoff

Which brings us to the tidiest of the solutions reportedly on the table: fast-forwarding straight to a 16-team playoff. Less teams, less variables, less risk (though a healthy amount of that persists no matter the format). Seeded independent of conference, here’s what that could look like — though the more likely scenario is probably keeping the conference alignment as is:

 

Paused 8.5 games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls would fall well short of involvement in a jump straight to the postseason.

World Cup style

Here inlies the most ambitious of the proposals picking up steam, but creativity is commissioner Adam Silver’s MO. In this format, as detailed by O’Connor, the first round of the postseason would be replaced by a “group stage” wherein the teams with the best 20 records in the league would be divided up into five groups (four teams each). From there, each four-team grouping would compete in respective eight-game round robins, with the two best records from each group moving on to a bracketed, eight-team playoff.

The pros: It’s an exciting, inventive idea that could drive interest up, conjure 80 surefire compelling games and satiate fringe playoff teams (Portland, Sacramento, New Orleans, San Antonio) aggrieved by having their seasons cut short. 

 

The cons: Four extra teams increases risk, and it introduces tremendous potential for upsets and general randomness that could impact top seeds. Continuing to punish elite teams that will already be operating without their hard-earned homecourt advantage feels slightly backward.

Frankly, this format would be a ton of fun. But regardless of whether it comes to fruition, the Bulls, currently paused with the 24th-best record in the NBA, would be on the outside looking in. 

Other pool play options

That 22-43 mark, though, could sneak them into a potential 24-team “Playoffs Plus,” a format Shams Charania of The Athletic reported as being on a recent survey circulated by the league to general managers — and a bracket size the NHL just announced for their season. 

Any 30-team play-in tournament could feature the Bulls, as well, though an exact layout for that possibility remains to be determined. Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe combined to report that the league is considering pool play options that would involve anywhere from 16 to all 30 teams — possibly utilizing a structure akin to the group stage layout enumerated above.

In any event, more clarity should come soon, with GM and Board of Governors calls scheduled for Thursday and Friday, respectively. In the meantime, the season of speculation marches on.

How Michael Jordan reacted to Robert Parish taunting him at Bulls practice

How Michael Jordan reacted to Robert Parish taunting him at Bulls practice

Don’t mess with The Chief. Michael Jordan learned that lesson at a practice during Robert Parish’s lone season with the Bulls in 1996-97 — the last of his 21-year career.

Appearing on CLNS Media’s Cedric Maxwell Podcast, Parish told the story of him taunting Jordan (a rare sight at a Bulls practice in the ’90s), and the shock Jordan responded with. 

“We were scrimmaging, we played like six games going to five points. And so after the first two games, Phil (Jackson) put me with the second unit who I always played with. You know, my boys,” Parish told Maxwell. “We proceeded to kick their (the first unit’s) butts like four straight games. And Michael took offense to it, so I asked him, ‘How did he like that butt whooping?’

“He took offense to it because clearly no one ever manned up to him, you know, challenged him. So he said if I wasn’t careful, he was going to kick my ass. And I told him, ‘I’m not in awe of you. I’ve played with some of the baddest fellas there walking the court … And I’m supposed to be in awe of you?' You know, he’s looking at me like I had slapped his mug (laughs).”

Parish ended his career a four-time NBA champion — thrice with the Celtics (1981, 1984, 1986) and once with the Bulls (1997). He cited his experience playing with all-time greats from Larry Bird to Kevin McHale to Bill Walton to Maxwell as reason for not being intimidated by Jordan. 

Still, his gumption apparently sent shockwaves down the roster. 

“Derrick Dickey (Dickey Simpkins?) couldn’t believe that I talked to Michael like that,” Parish told Maxwell on the podcast. “Clearly, Michael was the alpha, you know, it was his team. He ran the ballclub and everybody kind of like got out of his way and let him do his thing.”

Parish added that he respected Jordan’s brazen leadership style, but that he preferred the manner in which Bird operated.

“Everybody got their own style, and the way they lead. Michael was in your face, he challenged his teammates,” Parish said. “Larry was our leader (with the Celtics), and he led by example. You know, he wasn’t a vocal leader, he let his play dictate how we should play. I think Larry’s style and philosophy makes the best leaders, because if you are a yeller and a screamer, after a while your voice fall on deaf ears and players just kinda tune you out, don’t hear what you got to say.

“I respect both leadership styles, but I prefer Larry’s style the best. Cause you know, some nights you don’t want to hear what he got to say, speaking of Michael. He all up in your face talking trash, you know, he might get a short right, man (laughs).”

Fair enough. Jordan’s abrasive ways weren’t for everyone. Surely, he’s content to let his six rings speak for themselves.

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