Bulls

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against Pacers

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against Pacers

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Bulls take on the Indiana Pacers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. Slowing down a dynamic Pacers offense: The Bulls have already faced some of the league's best offenses this season in the Cavaliers, Raptors and Magic (yes, the Magic. For real). They'll face another impressive unit in Indiana, who touts the league's seventh most efficient offense. Expected to take a major step back after losing Paul George, the ball movement has been better (9th in assist ratio), they're taking care of the rock (3rd in turnover percentage) and they're making shots (7th in effective field goal percentage). The Bulls defense will have its hands full against the likes of Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner and Darren Collison.

2. Victor Oladipo: It's a shame Zach LaVine isn't healthy because this would have been a fantastic matchup of athletic wings. Since LaVine is still working his way back from knee surgery we'll just have to marvel at Oladipo, who is enjoying a bounce back season after being dealt in the Paul George deal. In his first season with the Pacers he's averaging 22.8 pooints on 46 percent shooting, 4.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists. With Myles Turner having battled a concussion earlier in the year Oladipo is the main reason the Pacers, expected to be one of the league's worst teams, boasts a surprising 5-7 record.

3. Myles Turner is the real deal: He's only played five games because of the aforementioned concussion, but Myles Turner is the best young player the casual NBA fan hasn't heard of. In those five games he's averaging a modest 15.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 28.7 minutes. But don't let those numbers confuse you; Turner is a budding superstar and while he may not get to the same level of a Giannis or Kristaps, he's going to be the face of the Pacers franchise for the next decade. He's still just 21 years old. Robin Lopez will have his hands full.

Bulls' treasure Johnny 'Red' Kerr was a walking basketball encyclopedia

Bulls' treasure Johnny 'Red' Kerr was a walking basketball encyclopedia

With the Eastern Conference finals and NBA Finals games largely shifting to network coverage, the broadcasting work from Tom Dore and Johnny “Red” Kerr for the 1996 playoffs is mostly over.

But what a treat it has been hearing that duo work together again during NBC Sports Chicago’s re-airing of the 1996 playoff run. Covering the games meant you didn’t get to hear the humorous interplay between the two, or Dore’s economical play-by-play work, or Kerr’s heart-on-his-sleeve bemoaning of missed boxouts or official’s calls.

Not that those of us around that team didn’t hear such moments off the air. It was fun to catch up with Dore on a recent Bulls Talk podcast. And I’d call getting to know Kerr one of the highlights of my two decades-plus around the franchise.

Red was there when John Havlicek stole the ball. And he was there when Michael Jordan held the pose.

Yes, Kerr was a walking, talking basketball encyclopedia who bled Bulls red. A storyteller supreme.

Beyond basketball, Kerr graciously sat for a tear-stained interview about his 46 years of marriage to Betsy after she passed away in October 2000. He did so because he wanted to share their love story, because her support allowed him to pursue his passions and because of her Bulls fandom.

At the time, Kerr shared how he hand-picked the three songs played at his wife’s funeral. This sparked a discussion about our shared passion for music.

From that day on, Kerr used to burn me CDs of artists he liked or he thought I’d like or I had told him about. In fact, having a 68-year-old Kerr thank me for introducing him to Uncle Tupelo is a career moment that may be hard to top.

Kerr became the first coach in sports history to lead an expansion team to the playoffs when he guided the 1966-67 Bulls. His knowledge of the game burned through every broadcast. His humor played out in lines like this one as the Bulls eliminated the Knicks to advance to the Eastern Conference finals against the Magic:

“The Bulls are trying to send the Knicks to play golf tomorrow. The Bulls might play golf, too.”

A bust of Kerr stands in the atrium of the United Center, a fitting tribute to a wonderful player, coach and broadcaster. And above all, a gem of a man.

Every other night through April 15, NBC Sports Chicago is airing the entirety of the Bulls' 1996 NBA championship run. Find the full schedule here.

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.

Bulls mailbag: Will Jim Boylen return? Will Zach LaVine get traded?

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USA Today

Bulls mailbag: Will Jim Boylen return? Will Zach LaVine get traded?

These are strange times, but your interest in the Bulls remains insatiable. For that, we show appreciation.

Do you think Jim Boylen will return as head coach? — Jack R.

I think it depends on the person or people Michael Reinsdorf hires to run a revamped front office. As previously written, Reinsdorf remains supportive of Boylen. If the targeted lead candidate makes clear he or she wants to make a coaching change in the interview process, that wouldn’t be a dealbreaker. In other words, Reinsdorf won’t make a hire with the pre-existing condition that Boylen must be retained. However, Boylen has done pretty much exactly what ownership and management asked him to do upon his hiring. So that’s one reason why Reinsdorf and John Paxson have remained supportive of Boylen.

In explaining why the Bulls are likely to retain John Paxson after this season, you frequently cite that Michael and Jerry Reinsdorf are loyal, and that they believe in his ability to build a roster. If that’s the case, why do you believe Jerry Reinsdorf feels more loyal to Paxson and more strongly about his abilities to rebuild the Bulls than he did about Jerry Krause, who he fired in April 2003 after Krause won six NBA Championships (compared to Paxsons’s zero NBA Finals appearances as an executive)? — Dan B.

The difference is this: Paxson isn’t being retained to have final say on building the roster, but to serve in whatever advisory or consulting role the new empowered hire or hires desires. As previously written, Paxson has initiated a lot of the talk for change to expand and modernize the Bulls’ front office.

This is an astute question, though, because there are similarities between then and now. One difference is it’s only been close to three years since the full rebuild began. Krause had five years between the end of the dynasty and his departure. But in terms of the Bulls dropping in relevance and competitiveness on and off the court, there are some similarities. And that’s why there will be offseason change.

Your question reminds us all of one amazing fact: In 35 years, Reinsdorf has had two lead decision-makers for basketball operations in Krause and Paxson. That’s almost unheard of in sports.

Do you think Zach LaVine will be traded? He hasn’t really shown the ability to impact winning, and he represents the Bulls’ biggest asset. — Zach L.

Zach looking out for Zach.

I do not think LaVine will be traded. Obviously, whoever is hired to run basketball operations may feel differently. But LaVine’s flat $19.5 million deal through 2022 is affordable, and his game continues to grow. Plus, if you do that, you’re rebuilding again. Coby White has plenty of potential, but if you trade LaVine, you’re building around a 20-year-old player who still is trying to master the point guard position. I’ve said this before, but I feel too many people focus on LaVine’s weaknesses rather than his strengths.

What are the current players doing during this hiatus? — Joe P.

Pretty much what everyone else is doing — staying at home, trying to stay in shape and listening to experts for what’s next. The fact that the NBA shut down practice facilities, which can be controlled environments, says plenty.

One issue I’ve heard in talking to people around the league is the uncertainty and the difficulty that places on teams and players. With an offseason and a training camp report date, players know how to target their workouts and bodies to get ready for that time. Here, it’s just basic maintenance, and in working conditions that aren’t the same as the modern practice facilities. It’s why if the league is able to salvage any part of this season, a period of assimilation will be essential.

I wanted to get your take on the strange disappearance/death of former Bull Bison Dele/Brian Williams. Is there a definitive article or documentary out there? Seems like an epic enough story for a big-time movie, or at least a miniseries. — Elijah H.

I think Dateline NBC did something at some point, though I didn’t see it. The uber-talented Chris Ballard, formerly of Sports Illustrated, wrote this fine piece in October 2013: Lost Soul.

And the tragedy afforded me one of the more surreal experiences of my career.

For those not familiar with the story, here’s the tragic tale in extremely shorthand version: Williams, always a free spirit and adventurous soul, walked away from $30 million and the NBA in 1999. In 2002, he, his girlfriend, his older brother and a skipper sailed away from Tahiti on a catamaran. Only the older brother returned, and he eventually intentionally overdosed on insulin and died. Investigators later concluded that Williams, his girlfriend and the skipper either were murdered or forced to walk off the boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I wrote a feature on Williams for the Chicago Tribune during the Bulls’ 1997 title run and had a number for his mother, Patricia Phillips, who lived in Santa Monica, California. When he originally disappeared, I called her and, following a long phone conversation, she agreed to an in-person interview.

If memory serves, she was talking regularly to reporters at the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Rocky Mountain News and the Chicago Tribune. I don’t know how many of those spent multiple days with her in person, as I did. But I know I was the only one to be sitting with her inside her apartment when the FBI called to tell her that Miles had overdosed on insulin and been found on a beach in Mexico. There’s no journalism school that prepares you for such a moment. You just try to be present and human.

The commitment the Chicago Tribune made to that story still makes me proud. Heralded by editor Kerry Luft, we sent foreign correspondent Evan Osnos, now with the New Yorker, to Tahiti. Todd Lighty, the unparalleled ace bulldog reporter still doing magic at the Tribune, worked law enforcement angles. And I had Phillips’ trust.

I stayed in touch with her for a while following the tragedy, including flying back out to Los Angeles for the incredibly emotional and private memorial service. I’ve thought about trying to reconnect with her multiple times over the years, especially now that I have two sons. But I’ve chosen to respect her privacy and hope she’s at peace.

Any chance Kirk Hinrich is a name we could hear for a front office position? Or beyond that a coach? — Matt A., Australia

I always list Australia when a questioner does because I’m always amazed at how many Bulls fans live Down Under. G’day, mate.

Hinrich has kept an extremely low profile since leaving the NBA in 2016. He never even officially announced his retirement. He has stayed busy raising his family and working at the Sanford POWER Basketball Academy in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He also did some predraft work with Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo.

Never say never in this business, but I personally would be surprised if Hinrich jumped back into the fray at this time. There was talk of him being a Bulls ambassador this season, but he hasn’t attended a game. His father coached high school basketball, and I think Kirk would be a good coach if he ever chose that route.

Ever since Dwyane Wade worked out a buyout from the Bulls, I always wondered how much the final amount was. If that number got out, I must have missed it. Last I heard, it was a stalemate before that season. But I just always wondered who “won” and what the buyout was. — Kyle D.

Really, did anybody win? It actually wasn’t a stalemate at all. Both sides worked amicably to finalize the buyout. Coincidentally, Leon Rose, now the Knicks president, worked with the Bulls on behalf of Wade and his agency. Wade received $15.5 million of his $23.7 million due that season, which he finished with the Heat after a stint with the Cavaliers.

Thanks for all the questions. Talk to you soon.

Every other night through April 15, NBC Sports Chicago is airing the entirety of the Bulls' 1996 NBA championship run. Find the full schedule here.

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.