Bulls

Boo-birds out as Rockets blow out Bulls

Boo-birds out as Rockets blow out Bulls

Turn your head for a second, the Houston Rockets will run you out of the building.

Your building.

Anyone’s building.

But how long did the Chicago Bulls turn their collective heads?

Apparently the Bulls went to sleep in the middle of the game against the Houston Rockets, giving up a run that’s hard to fathom in their 115-94 loss at the United Center, their fourth consecutive defeat in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.

Only on the vintage arcade game “NBA Jam” could a team go on a 33-2 run in another team’s building, especially a team that has designs on staying in the playoff race with 18 games left to go.

“Wish I could tell you. I don’t know. We was down, they was up. I don’t know,” said Dwyane Wade in a statement that wasn’t as dismissive as it appears, but displaying the simplicity of the matter.

They had no rhythm, in part because there isn’t a consistent rotation and it’s 65 games into the season—something that’s frustrating to the veterans but also an aspect they have no control over.

“Yes, but we need to play who’s on the basketball floor. We have to be ready,” Wade said. “It’s tough when guys don’t know how many minutes they’re going to play. We just need to figure it out.”

The Bulls were overmatched, outworked and unwilling to compete with the Rockets when it became apparent that not even a 13-point Bulls lead would keep them from stalking their opponents.

In between the second and third quarter, the Rockets made their winning surge when James Harden’s triple gave the Rockets a 50-49 lead with 2:08 remaining in the first half.

“We jumped out to a double-digit lead, then they go on a big run and we tried to get it all back at once,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Obviously they’re a team that can get going in a hurry and can get hot. They did that and we didn’t respond well.”

So the talk about the Bulls having fourth-quarter issues in their three-game skid would no longer be necessary as the Rockets decided that narrative was too old to carry on another night.

Now there’s question, reasonable doubt about the Bulls’ objective to make a real run at the playoffs, as the Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks look more like they know who they are at this stage of the season than the Bulls.

Hoiberg, in keeping with management’s objective to play the young guys to evaluate them for the future, played 12 players in the first half

“We’re doing everything we can to compete to win, at the same time we have some young guys we wanna get on the floor. It’s a balance,” Hoiberg said. “It’s guys, we want to get them out there and see how they play then make a decision in the second half.”

When it was mentioned to Hoiberg many teams don’t play 12 in a rotation, he said simply, “yeah, you’re right.”

It seemed like the Bulls forgot how to play at that point, or more pointedly, that a playoff spot is at stake with so precious few games remaining. And smelling blood, the Rockets pounced—one of the few teams capable of taking advantage of the Bulls’ all-around indifference.

“I don’t know. I think everybody is trying to play their role,” Jimmy Butler said. “It’s hard. Because we’re playing a lot of guys. Night in and out, you don’t know what it’s gonna come down to. Who’s gonna play minutes with what lineup. It’s hard. We just gotta keep playing, man. You gotta be a star within that role. It’s not easy but everybody gotta be ready.”

Taking a seven-point lead before the half, they essentially outhustled the Bulls into submission and there was no timeout Hoiberg could call, no smelling salts he could inject into his team that clearly had no feel for the game, no rhythm to fall back on.

By the end of the run, the Rockets led 80-51 and the Bulls all but declared their intentions for competing nil for the night.

It wasn’t Harden having a 50-point game, and no Rocket scored over 20 for the first 44 minutes of the game until Ryan Anderson cracked the mark late, finishing with 21. In fact, the Rockets shot just 32 percent from the 3-point line, below their average, hitting 15 triples.

But they kept launching and kept attacking as trade deadline acquisition Lou Williams came off the bench to score 18—while Bulls deadline acquisition Cameron Payne struggled in the minutes that mattered, getting the bulk of his 11 points when the game was already decided.

The impactful points were scored by Wade, when he emerged from his two-game absence to score 12 in the first quarter and all of his 21 in the first half, when the Bulls had energy and perhaps a little hope.

Jimmy Butler scored 16 with five rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes but the Bulls couldn’t keep up as the Rockets made a laugher out of the alleged contest, shooting just 39 percent and launching 36 triples at a 25 percent clip.

The result?

The boo-birds were out with more than 18 minutes left of playing time and they’d seen enough.

 

Terry Rozier didn’t know Michael Jordan, Bulls 3-peated twice until ‘Last Dance’

Terry Rozier didn’t know Michael Jordan, Bulls 3-peated twice until ‘Last Dance’

It’s as shocking as it is true.

Terry Rozier, 26 years old and an established NBA player employed by the Charlotte Hornets, did not know that Michael Jordan and the Bulls three-peated twice in the 1990s until viewing “The Last Dance.”

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bulls news and analysis.

He confessed as much to Jonathan Abrams of Bleacher Report:

"Just actually seeing this documentary, I learned so much," Rozier told Abrams. "I didn't even know that they (the Bulls) won three straight [championships two times]. I'm just being honest... To do things like that in this league, you have to be super special.”

 

Fact check for all of the above: true. And while undeniably humorous to hear Rozier admit this, the larger piece offers a heartwarming testament to Jordan’s influence from the perspective of Rozier, backcourt-mate Devonte’ Graham, Cody Zeller and other members of the team the Bulls’ great now owns. It's an engaging, worthwhile read.

Rozier even said he could have foreseen himself fighting MJ if, in another life, they somehow found themselves on the same team. “The Steve Kerr route,” as he puts it.

The feature also touches on Jordan and Jordan Brand’s $100 million commitment to social justice causes.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE BULLS TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.

Bulls offseason watch: Key dates for 2020 NBA Draft, Free Agency

Bulls offseason watch: Key dates for 2020 NBA Draft, Free Agency

Tuesday begins the staggered, three-day voyage of 21 NBA teams to Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla. for the 2019-20 season restart (the Raptors have already arrived).

For the Bulls, and Bulls fans, that’s not of direct consequence. Excluded from the bubble, supporters and observers will be limited to loose Bulls ties — enter: Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler — and draft lottery dreaming as the NBA’s best battle for the 2019-20 crown in Orlando.

But that doesn’t mean the next five months, which will comprise an unprecedented offseason in the league’s history, don’t hold significance for the Bulls. A likely third consecutive top-10 draft choice is on the way for the team, as are key contractual deadlines for players currently on the roster and a decision on the future of head coach Jim Boylen.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bulls news and analysis.

There remains much unknown about the 2020 NBA offseason — chiefly, from the Bulls’ perspective, the salary cap, luxury tax line and status of the predraft process, the last of which has been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also now in play is the matter of a possible eight-team bubble being constructed in Chicago for the squads not joining the league in Orlando, though there are hurdles galore on that front.

What we do have is a framework of a reported schedule to track through the remainder of the summer and ensuing autumn. Here are some key dates for Bulls fans to watch for the time being (all of which are, of course, subject to change given the potentially fluid nature of the league’s calendar amid the pandemic):

NBA Draft

Aug. 17: Early entry deadline for prospects

The last day for underclassmen not automatically eligible to declare for the NBA draft to state their intentions. Moved back from its original date of April 26, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Scott Phillips has you covered tracking who’s already declared or testing the waters.

Aug. 25: Draft Lottery

Typically, the early entry deadline and draft lottery would be nearly two months apart, with the combine sandwiched in between. But with the pandemic moving predraft interviews to Zoom, and live, remote workouts currently prohibited, it appears the league will squeeze both into an eight-day span, also per Wojnarowski.

The Bulls have selected No. 7 three years in a row, using those picks to draft core pieces in Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White. And even as the world erupts into chaos around them, they slot seventh in the lottery ranks once again this season. 

But with the NBA smoothing its lottery odds before the 2019 draft, the Bulls will have a modicum higher of a chance of leaping. They enter the lottery with a 7.5% chance of nabbing the No. 1 pick, 32% shot at vaulting into the top four and 19.7% odds of staying locked at No. 7. They also own mathematical chances at No. 8 (34.1%), No. 9 (12.9%), No. 10 (1.3%) and even 11 (0.03%).

Last nugget of note: This year’s lottery intentionally falls 11 days after the conclusion of the NBA’s eight-game seeding round in Orlando; while the eight teams left out of the bubble are locked into their current slots, the final six teams in the 14-team lottery will be populated by those who fall short of the playoffs. Right now, those six are the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards. If any of them vault into the postseason during the seeding games and play-in round, they’ll flip places with the team they usurp outside of the lottery. Both the lottery order, and the order of selections 15 - 30 will be determined by team record from when the league suspended play on March 11. 

Oct. 6: Early withdrawal deadline for prospects

Any not automatically eligible prospects that declared for the draft on or before Aug. 17 will have the opportunity to rescind that declaration (and maintain NCAA eligibility) on or before Oct. 6, per Wojnarowski.

Oct. 16: 2020 NBA Draft

The draft this year will fall three days after a potential Game 7 of the NBA Finals (Oct. 13), according to Wojnarowski. Broadcast, location and logistical specifics appear to be undetermined as of yet.

RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 6.0

Option/Offer Deadlines and Extension Eligibilities

From there, a few key decision days for players already on the Bulls’ roster loom. First and certainly not least...

Oct. 17: Otto Porter Jr.’s player option deadline

As reported by ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Otto Porter Jr. will have until Oct. 17 to decide whether or not to exercise his roughly $28.5 million player option for the 2020-21 season. His opting in appears all but a certainty (especially coming off an injury-riddled season in which he appeared in just 14 games, and amid a potentially tumultuous cap environment), and will essentially seal the Bulls’ fate as an over-the-cap team this offseason. 

Heaping that $28.5 million figure onto the Bulls’ books would bring the team’s guaranteed salaries for the 2020-21 season to $106,027,707 (numbers via Spotrac) before addressing restricted free agents or contracts for any draftees. The latest reputable pre-pandemic cap projection, from Wojnarowski, was $115 million, which could now be subject to change.

Oct. 17: Qualifying offer deadline

Also on Oct. 17 is the last day for teams to extend qualifying offers to restricted free agents, per Marks. The Bulls have three: Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine and Shaq Harrison. Full breakdown on the considerations at play for each here.

Oct. 18: Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Porter and Cristiano Felicio become extension eligible

The next day, per Marks, three Bulls starters become extension eligible — Markkanen on a rookie-scale basis, while LaVine and Porter are of the veteran designation.

Markkanen’s case is among the more curious in the league. His third season saw marked regression from his second in usage, opportunity and production, but given his skillset and considerable potential, he still represents a possible building block for the Bulls moving forward. A year ago — assuming expected development — we might have thought we’d be pondering a max for Markkanen at this point. Now, with a new front office regime in place, his market value is anyone’s guess. Maybe Arturas Karnisovas and Markkanen’s representation find an amenable compromise before the start of the 2020-21 season. But perhaps just as likely is Karnisovas wanting to see more from him, and Markkanen taking the opportunity to bet on himself making a leap in a contract year and earning some extra dough, as Jimmy Butler did five years ago.

RELATED: Bulls mailbag: Which free agents fit? Lauri Markkanen extension talks?

LaVine has two years and $39 million remaining on a contract he has become one of the more team-friendly in the league given his production since returning full-time from his ACL tear. Porter and Felicio’s deals enter their final years in 2020-21. Frankly, it’d be surprising to see any of them consummate extensions before Karnisovas and new general manager Marc Eversley get a chance to see the Bulls up close and in action.

Free Agency

Oct. 18: Free Agency opens

According to Wojnarowski, free agency is expected open Oct. 18 at 6 p.m. ET, with the moratorium period running from Oct. 19 - 23, and lifting on Oct. 24.

As mentioned, the Bulls will likely be out of the running for any appreciable cap space when that window opens. But they will have their (as of now) non-taxpayer mid-level exception to work with — possible targets for which you can peruse in K.C. Johnson’s latest mailbag.

And for what it’s worth, that luxury tax line could be worth monitoring. In a tweet Monday, Marks mentioned a previous projection of $139 million for next season’s luxury tax. That projection would have to plunge pretty far for the Bulls to need sweating it out, but in the current climate, who knows what could be on the table? If the Bulls somehow found themselves over that line, the difference in last seasons non-taxpayer and taxpayer MLE was about $3.5 million (~$9.2 million to $5.7 million).

SUBSCRIBE TO THE BULLS TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.