Bulls

Another important day for NBA lockout talks arrives

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Another important day for NBA lockout talks arrives

Today's the day. Just like last Friday was the day and the last week in June was the week. But seriously--today, which would ordinarily be the first day of training camp after Media Day--is the day.

Didn't you read the letter from the cabal of powerful agents, representing a large portion of the NBA, to their clients--obtained by various media outlets and released in their entirety Monday--who comprise some of the league's top talent, including MVP Derrick Rose, urging players not to go for a deal that concedes any further concessions?

What about union president Derek Fisher's anticipatory response to his constituents and comments to the media Monday in New York that "a lot of signs point to tomorrow being a very huge day"?

Not to discount the significance of Tuesday in the ongoing bargaining talks, the lingering threat of the aforementioned agents mobilizing their clientele to push for decertification of the union or even the returned presence of superstars--including Kobe Bryant, back from a promotional tour of Italy, which is increasingly rumored to be his next playing destination; the latest reports have him close to signing a 10-game, 3 million-deal as his representatives "intensely" work with Italian club Virtus Bologna--to the negotiations in Manhattan, but in some shape or form, haven't we heard this all before? And will likely hear it again.

"Each side understands exactly whats at stake and where potentially there is movement in order to try to get a deal done, NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver told reporters after a five-hour session Monday. I mean, we can only say were running out of time so many times. We both understand that if we dont make our best offers in the next few days, were going to be at the point where were going to be causing damage to the game, to ourselves, and theyre going to be out paychecks."

Even the most diehard NBA fans hanging on every trace of optimism in these work-stoppage discussions understand that despite all of the posturing muddying the waters, it doesn't take a Harvard MBA to know that both sides are still very far apart.

And with the union having already proposed giving back a percentage of basketball-related income, if the league doesn't bring to the table something a bit more palatable, the next subsequent step will be to cancel the remainder of the preseason, with regular-season games soon to follow.

Once that occurs, any logic goes out of the window, as each party will have to first reassess their individual priorities--from the players voting on decertification to the less hard-line owners promoting the spirit of compromise--in order to save the season.

As a smarter person than myself once said, "When games are missed and the checks don't come, that's when it's officially a lockout." Can that be avoided?

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

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USA TODAY

Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

In a five-game span Wendell Carter Jr. saw preseason action against Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and Myles Turner. The 19-year-old rookie had his share of expected ups and downs but performed well enough that Fred Hoiberg officially announced him a starter for the team’s season opener tomorrow night.

His reward for all that hard work? A matchup against All-Pro center Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

It’ll be an eye-opening experience for the Duke product, who just a year ago was readying himself for his first season of college basketball and a season-opening matchup against Elon. It’s safe to assume Embiid will pose a few more problems than did Phoenix center Tyler Seibring.

“Joel Embiid was one of my role models growing up,” Embiid said before practice Wednesday. “He was someone I always wanted to pattern my game after. Just to go up against him is a remarkable feeling. He’s a very physical player. He’s a very talented player. I’m going to be able to stack up and see what all I need to work on to last in this league.”

While it’s no easy task against a talent like Embiid, who was named All-NBA Second Team last season, Carter’s most important job will be staying out of foul trouble. Carter piggy-backed an impressive Summer League with a preseason that included averages of 7.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in 21.1 minutes. But those numbers also included 7.7 fouls per 48 minutes. He racked up 17 fouls in five games, and had at least three in each.

Embiid only went to the line five times in Tuesday’s season-opening loss to the Celtics, but that was primarily against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Al Horford. Embiid won’t face as much resistance against Carter, putting the pressure on the rookie to stay on the floor.

“He’s going to have to navigate that without using his hands,” Fred Hoiberg said. “We have to be all five aware. It’s just not a one-man problem with Embiid. We have to have great awareness of him and try and mix up coverages and hopefully make him take tough shots, knowing that he’s going to hit some of those. You just can’t get deflated when he does.’’

The decision was a mere formality – Bobby Portis will start at power forward – after the frontcourt combination played considerably better in the Bulls’ final two preseason games. Though Jabari Parker was initially slotted in at power forward following Lauri Markkanen’s elbow sprain, Portis’ impressive preseason forced Hoiberg’s hand. Portis averaged 17.0 points and 5.8 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field in just 22.4 minutes.

“It’s all about combinations out there and we felt like Bobby gave us a great start with the way he was playing,” Hoiberg said. “And then we kind of changed things up with that second unit and put the ball in Jabari’s hands, so it was more that in trying to get guys out there with the right combinations.”

Lopez may have an expanded role if Carter gets into foul trouble early, while Parker will be the facilitator on a second unit that doesn’t have much in the way of a point guard. It’s anyone’s guess as to how the frontcourt will play out once Markkanen returns in roughly a month; if Portis and Carter continue playing well, Hoiberg could opt to keep them together on the second unit and put Lopez back in the starting lineup.

But for at least Opening Night – the Bulls also get Andre Drummond and the Pistons on Saturday – it’ll be the seventh overall pick getting his NBA feet wet with a matchup against arguably the best center in basketball. But’s it a role he’s earned, and on a Bulls defense looking for any sort of improvement, Carter is the player who can anchor it.

“His defense is always going to be important for us. He’s the guy that’s the anchor in that starting unit at the rim,” Hoiberg said, “and he’s done a really solid job of making perimeter guys taking contested shots when he gets switched off, or staying vertical at the rim and trying to make a big finish over the top of him, so yeah, again it’s a great challenge, great opportunity for Wendell.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: