Bulls

After brief hiatus, Griffin returns to Bulls' staff

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After brief hiatus, Griffin returns to Bulls' staff

At 37 years old, Adrian Griffin walked away from a plum position as an NBA assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls, the team with the NBA's best regular-season record last season, in early July, citing responsibilities to his family and an interest in pursuing a career in the ministry.

Only a few months later, Griffin, known for his determination, toughness and defensive acumen during his playing career, is back on the Bulls coaching staff.

"I just needed a little time to take care of what's really important and that's family and getting everybody on the same page," Griffin told CSNChicago.com Wednesday at Herbert Elementary School on the West Side, where he joined other Bulls employees in a pep rally, in which the organization donated school supplies to an auditorium full of appreciative students.

"The Bulls were great about giving me some time to attend to my family and everything worked out, and I'm back to work and it's like I never left, so I'm just excited. I know things will work out for the better."

Griffin admitted that stepping down was a difficult decision, but the religious Wichita, Kan., native never questioned his thought process.

"It was, but at the end of the day, you have to put your priorities in line," Griffin explained. "It worked out where I'm able to be back at work and do the thing that I do love, and that's to coach. I do have aspirations of eventually being a head coach, but at the end of the day, your family's important and you just have to make sure that everything's OK on that end."

Griffin said the organization welcomed him back with open arms.

"Oh yeah, they were great. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, general manager Gar Forman and the entire coaching staff, they were very supportive," said Griffin, who played a key role in the successful season of one-time teammate, small forward Luol Deng. "We're a close-knit group and it was just good to have their support."

The transition was perhaps eased by the ongoing NBA lockout, as the Bulls didn't have any pressure to immediately hire a replacement or promote from within, although Griffin couldn't himself comment on the work stoppage, per league rules.

"I went right back to work," said Griffin, in a nod to Thibodeau, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year's relentless work ethic. "It was fun and I was looking forward to it after being off so long."

Griffin was joined at Wednesday's Kia Motors-sponsored event by fellow former Bulls players Scottie Pippen, Bob Love, Sidney Green and Randy Brown, as well as play-by-play announcer Chuck Swirsky and mascot Benny the Bull.

"It really puts things in perspective. This is what life is all about," reflected Griffin. "We were all here at one point, little kids wondering what we wanted to do with our lives."

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:


Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.