Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker trending in opposite directions: 5 observations from Bulls-Hornets

Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker trending in opposite directions: 5 observations from Bulls-Hornets

The Bulls once again struggled defensively in Monday night's 110-104 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Here are five observations we have from the preseason tilt:

1. Jabari Parker will have better nights

At least we hope he does. It was a second (third, really) consecutive disappointing outing - doo-doo outing - for the Bulls' top free agent. And the scary part might be that it's happening at his more natural position; the Bulls are hoping Parker can play some small forward when Lauri Markkanen returns, but he's already looking slow at power forward, where that isn't supposed to (as much of) an issue. He's really struggled in pick-and-roll defense and hasn't made a real isolation defensive stop that stands out.

His shot is off, he isn't taking advantage of mismatches (on larger power forwards on on guards in switches) and he looks lost. Perhaps it's because he spent all offseason practicing small forward in Fred Hoiberg's offense and so he's out of place, but we're now three preseason games in and it hasn't gotten better. He finished

2. Zach LaVine still looks like it's all coming together

On the flip side, the Bulls' other large offseason investment continues to produce. Zach LaVine was arguably the best player on the floor (when taking the Bulls' defense into consideration). He scored 26 points on just 15 shots, a serious improvement in the efficiency department. Ironically he was at his best after an ugly long missed 2-pointer that was tightly contested early in the shot clock. It looked like 2017-18 Zach LaVine.

Then the new school LaVine showed up. He looked comfortable coming off screens and pulling up from beyond the arc, finishing in transition and getting to the basket. He did a little bit of everything, which is a far cry from what he did last season. An aggressive LaVine and a smart shot taking LaVine is a tough one to stop on the offensive end. Another night, another positive for the $78 million man.

3. The Bulls are going to give up a lot of points

No one expected the Bulls to make a serious leap on the defensive end, but it's a little concerning that they haven't shown much improvement at all. Granted, we're talking about an incredibly small #SampleSize, and the Bulls have faced three teams (New Orleans, Milwaukee, Charlotte) that ranked in the top 12 in offense a year ago. But it hasn't been pretty. And Lauri Markkanen isn't exactly Rudy Gobert, so it's not as though serious reinforcements are coming.

Kris Dunn has been a serious positive. He's as smart as he is physical and at the very least is going to help the Bulls backcourt. It should make things easier on the frontcourt, too, in pick and roll scenarios. Wendell Carter Jr. also had a few flashes, but...

4. Wendell Carter Jr. makes some good plays, is still a rookie

We're not here to dismiss what Carter has done in the early going. We're here to temper expectations. He shows serious potential and flashes that simply aren't normal from a 19-year-old kid. His hands are active, he never seems to have the classic rookie feet and it's clear his size is already a bonus, even at such an early age. But the game is still a step quicker than he is, and he's trying to figure out where he fits in to his role. That can be difficult in the preseason, and really difficult playing alongside Bobby Portis.

Carter has outstanding potential. He's going to be the starter at center sooner than later. But when remembering the things he did well tonight (five assists and a block) remember that he's an unfinished product. He's got a long ways to go, and the Bulls have time to give.

5. Chandler Hutchison improves again

Chandler Hutchison reminds us of Jimmy Butler for one single reason (don't freak out, we're not going crazy over here): he doesn't take false steps. He's a four-year college player and got plenty of reps in Las Vegas, and has been getting more practice reps with Denzel Valentine out. And it seems to be paying off. Hutchison is looking more comfortable out there each time, tonight going for seven points and eight rebounds. He made his only 3-point attempt. The verdict's out on whether there will be a spot in the rotation for him, but this was another positive step for him. He had gone 3-for-14 in the first two preseason contests. Tonight? 3-for-6.

Nick Nurse confident in Jim Boylen, Bulls: 'He'll be a good leader for them'

Nick Nurse confident in Jim Boylen, Bulls: 'He'll be a good leader for them'

Toronto Raptors head coach and lifelong Cubs fan Nick Nurse was in Chicago on Friday to throw out the 1st pitch and sing the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field.

It was a major moment for Nurse—who grew up in Carroll, Iowa and played college basketball at the University of Northern Iowa—to be able to talk with Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Maddon actually started his pro baseball career as a catcher for the Quad Cities Angles, based out of Davenport, Iowa, in 1976.

Nurse stated that Maddon is a huge inspiration to him and was clearly overjoyed to speak with someone he considers an excellent leader. Nurse's Chicago trip would not have been complete without a little NBA talk and he had no problem discussing his faith in colleague and Bulls head coach Jim Boylen.

"Well, first of all, Jimmy Boylen, the head coach, is a good friend of mine and he is a hell of a coach."

Nurse went on to joke about not wanting the Bulls to do "too well" of course, as the two teams will see each other four times next season and will both be battling for a potential postseason berth in a new-look, wide-open Eastern Conference. The Raptors, of course, will be looking to make another deep playoff run despite the loss of NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. The Bulls will be looking to at least have a competitive season after finishing with a whopping 60 losses in 2018-19, their first 60-loss season since 2002. 

But when discussing the future outlook of the Bulls, Nurse was confident in the direction of the franchise and Boylen's presence as a strong headman for the team is a major reason why. 

"Everything rises and falls with leadership and...he'll be a good leader for them."

Anthony Davis speaks on the Chicago hoops scene at Nike Rise Camp: 'We are the Mecca of Basketball'

Anthony Davis speaks on the Chicago hoops scene at Nike Rise Camp: 'We are the Mecca of Basketball'

On Friday afternoon the Nike Rise Camp took place at Kenwood High School and it was hosted by new Lakers star and Chicago native Anthony Davis.

Davis is excited to be able to help the Chicago youth with camps like Nike Rise, especially the much younger generations. The Nike Rise Camp is for kids ages 8-17 and focuses on skill development, drills, game programming, and various workshops. 

Davis stated that while he went to many of the illustrious basketball camps—like Pangos, Five-Star, Nike's individual player camps, etc.—he hadn't been to any basketball training camps at such a young age.

These kids are amazing, y'know, they're fun to hang around, they listen, they wanna learn. [There's] some good talent upstairs.....The future is definitely bright for all these young kids so I'm excited to come back and just give them my knowledge and my experience and spend that time with them."

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When asked to describe the relationship Chicago has with basketball, Davis made sure to laud the toughness of the Chicago hoops scene.

"It's basketball in any condition, y'know you gonna find a way to play...their love for the game right now is tremendous...No matter if it's hot, it's freezing cold in the gym, outside it's raining, whatever."

By any means necessary, we wanna play the game.

-Anthony Davis on the mindset of Chicago basketball

On a summer day with 90+ degree weather, the Kenwood Academy gym was even hotter inside but that didn't stop the coaches and trainees from getting in a great workout. 

Davis minced no words when letting the world know how he feels about Chicago hoops, "In Chicago, it means a lot more to us because we are a basketball city and we are the Mecca of Basketball and you can quote me on that."