Bulls

5 Things to watch: Bulls open season against Celtics

5 Things to watch: Bulls open season against Celtics

The Bulls kick off their 2016-17 season Thursday night against the Celtics.

We'll have end-to-end coverage all season long. Make sure you're following these accounts for all the information you'll need: @vgoodwill, @MarkSchanowski, @markstrot, @ChuckGarfien, @CSNBulls.

Here are five things to watch for tonight. And don't forget to tune in to CSN on Saturday night as the Bulls host Paul George and Indiana Pacers.

1. The Three Alphas debut

Each of the Bulls' starting guards had their moments during the preseason, but it's admittedly tough to get a read on how well they'll perform when the games mean something. While it won't be entirely fair to judge them on one game - especially against a stellar defensive team in Boston - how the three players interchange with each other will say plenty. Watch for the way they share the basketball, who initiates the offense and, when one gets hot, if the other two don't mind taking a backseat for a handful of possessions.

2. Who takes the reins at power forward?

Fred Hoiberg said that Taj Gibson will get the start against the Celtics, and it's well deserved after his impressive preseason. Gibson is as rock solid and consistent on both ends as they come, but the reality is if the Bulls are going to be successful this year one of Nikola Mirotic or Bobby Portis will need to make a jump forward. The Celtics deploy postman Amir Johnson and stretch forward Jonas Jerebko at the 4, so Brad Stevens will give the Bulls multiple looks that they'll need to counter with the combination of Gibson/Mirotic/Portis.

3. Running of the Bulls

The Bulls are naturally going to push pace with a great initiator in Rondo and two excellent finishers in Butler and Wade. The Celtics played at home against the Nets last night, and four days into the season they're already playing their first back-to-back. It will be interesting to see if Hoiberg and the Bulls put an emphasis on pushing pace against a Celtics team that played 24 hours earlier.

4. How much will Denzel Valentine play?

The Bulls' rookie really only has one real practice under his belt, but he says he feels good enough that he'll suit up Thursday night. In most situations he wouldn't expect to see much playing time, if any. But the Celtics go 10 deep - 10 players played at least 15 minutes and scored eight points - and that may cause Hoiberg to go deeper into his bench than usual.

5. Fred Hoiberg's debut: Pt. II

Fred Hoiberg began his coaching career with a victory over the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers. The rest of the season didn't go as planned, but with a fresh roster and a year of experience under his belt he'll get another chance to show what he can do. He'll have to balance the Three Alphas, figure out the power forward spot and determine how his second unit works best together. And as far as tonight goes, he'll need to do it against one of the best coaches in the league in Brad Stevens. There's plenty of time to evaluate Hoiberg, but a victory in Game 1 would be another good start for him and the Bulls.

Kevin Durant sports Toni Kukoc jersey at a workout

kukoc-durant.jpg
AP/USA TODAY

Kevin Durant sports Toni Kukoc jersey at a workout

Here’s your random, surprising and somewhat meaningless thing of the day: Kevin Durant wore a Bulls Toni Kukoc jersey in a gym.

This isn’t reason to start “KD to the Bulls” speculation, but it is a weird, cool thing that came out of nowhere.


Kukoc was 6-foot-11 and primarily made his living on the perimeter as a sharpshooter. He shot 40.3% from 3-point range during the Bulls’ 72-win season in 1995-96.

Durant, 31, would have been young and impressionable just as Kukoc was entering his prime with the Bulls during those years. He also has grown into having a similar profile as a big man playing on the perimeter. From that perspective, it’s reasonable to think Durant looked up to Kukoc from a young age. Durant will also wear No. 7, Kukoc's number with the Bulls, when he eventually comes back from injury and suits up for the Nets.

It’s still a bit jarring to see one of the best players in the NBA repping someone from a previous era who never made an All-Star team.

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Ryan Arcidiacono enjoys Coby White's historic 3-point barrage

Ryan Arcidiacono enjoys Coby White's historic 3-point barrage

Ryan Arcidiacono had so much trust in teammate Coby White that he was willing to risk pulling a Nick Young.

The former Lakers guard once infamously turned and headed downcourt to celebrate a 3-point shot that missed.

White didn’t, sinking the fifth of his franchise-record seven 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s victory over the Knicks. And Arcidiacono, who posted his eighth assist on the play, didn’t see it, heading downcourt with his arms aloft shortly after making the pass.

“As soon as I got the ball, I saw Coby spacing out. He had it going. I had the confidence. So as soon as I let it go to him, I’m like, ‘I’m about to turn. And hopefully I don’t pull a Nick Young and the ball doesn’t go in,’” Arcidiacono said. “But that’s just how much confidence I have and I know our teammates have in Coby. I saw the fans’ reaction, so I was like, ‘All right. I was successful in that.’

“Our bench was going crazy as well. It was good stuff.”

The Bulls’ celebratory moments have been few and far between. One could say Arcidiacono’s celebration walked the line between supporting a teammate and throwing sand in an opponent’s face.

Jim Boylen, who obviously is biased, wouldn’t be one of those people.

“These guys like playing together,” Boylen said. “Like I’ve said all along we have a high-character group. They care about doing the right things. They relish in a teammate’s success.

“The way that ball was popping back to (White) and they were finding him, they knew exactly what they were doing. I think they honored him that he was rolling and they got the ball to him. It’s just fun to watch. That’s how it’s supposed to be. The fact that he, I think he turned and ran, and hey, I think that’s great. Trust. He has confidence. That’s a cool thing.”

Arcidiacono, who called White’s 3-point barrage “crazy,” saw his celebratory move similarly.

“You love to see a player who works as hard as he does show it in a game and be that successful in a quarter,” Arcidiacono said of White.

The performance also helped serve as a temporary reprieve for the three-guard lineup that Boylen has utilized with first Chandler Hutchison sidelined by a strained hamstring and now Otto Porter Jr. out indefinitely with a sprained left foot. White scored. Arcidiacono passed. Kris Dunn added to his league-leading steals total.

“We try to scrap defensively,” Arcidiacono said of the three-guard look. “I know we’re not the biggest unit out there. We gotta toughen up. We switched a little bit and started battling with the bigs.

“On the offensive end, I think our second unit does a good job of moving the ball and putting each other in good positions. We know we’re not always going to score with the best. But when we get someone going like that, we try to feed the hot hand. And we know we’re always going to try our best defensively to keep us in the game.”

Arcidiacono missed his lone 3-point attempt but is shooting 7-for-15 from the distance on the young season and committed just one turnover in 21 minutes. He finished plus-25.

“He’s a confident, high-character guy that will assume any job you give him. He can play on the ball, off the ball,” Boylen said of Arcidiacono. “He’s improved the things that I’ve asked him to work on which is finishing at the rim and taking his open 3s. The rest of it he had. He can drive it, he can spray it. He made the assist to win the national championship game, right?”

That was back when Arcidiacono played for Villanova. Asked lightheartedly if he ever performed a similar celebration for local product Jalen Brunson, Arcidiacono said that team’s focus was to get back on defense.

But Arcidiacono has made a small name for himself with his in-game celebrations. From the bench, he used to mimic Robin Lopez’s array of post moves. The Bulls and Arcidiacono face Lopez and the Bucks Thursday in Milwaukee.

“We played them in the preseason, so I shed a tear when he was at the free-throw line,” Arcidiacono said. “I couldn’t imitate his hair pull and his waiting at the top of the half-circle stuff. I loved playing with RoLo.  It will be weird not being able to imitate him.

“I like to have fun, try to keep it loose and bring energy to our team.”

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