Bulls

Brewer a willing and able replacement for Deng

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Brewer a willing and able replacement for Deng

Whether its filling in for Rip Hamilton at shooting guard, being the de facto backup point guard when Derrick Rose and C.J. Watson were simultaneously sidelined or his current role, starting at small forward in place of the injured Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer is ready.

Thibs prepares you by telling you to come in with the early group and learn every position, Brewer, who started at small forward Monday and will start again Wednesday, when the Bulls host the Central Division rival Pacers, said following the teams morning shootaround. He tried to throw me in at the point guard position a few times, Rips been out a few times and now, Lus out, so youve got to be ready whenever your name is called and thats what Ive been trying to do all season long.

However, while Thibodeau is certainly confident in Brewers abilities, the Bulls head coach admitted that he loves having the versatile swingman come off the bench, as the second-generation NBA player has great chemistry with the fellow members of the Bench Mob, the teams second unit.

Well see. Well see how it goes, said Thibodeau, when asked if Brewer would be a permanent starter during Dengs absence. What Ronnie has shown, whether hes starting for Rip or starting for Luol and hes started a number of games in this league is that he can handle starting. He handles coming off the bench. I thought last year him coming off the bench was a great asset. I value greatly what a guy like that can bring coming off the bench, so in some ways, I do miss what he brings coming off the bench. But I also like what he does as a starter, so its a tribute to him and his versatility.

Brewer explained the difference mentality required to start a contest.

Coming off the bench, you get to watch and see the flow of the game, and the pace and analyze things. As a starter, youve got to be ready to go from the tip, so its a little different, but at the same time, youve got to be ready to play, he said. I feel like I can play off those other guys. D-Rose has so much attention, Luol got a lot of attention when he was out there, learning to play off Rip, knowing Booz playing with him my whole career, Im able to cut on the baseline and Joakims such a great passer, so its easy to fit in with the starters and I played all last year with the Bench Mob, so I was able to learn all their strengths and weaknesses, as well.

Hamilton, the teams lone new starter this season, has fit like a glove, Boozer predicted early on in his new teammates tenure. Brewer, who started at shooting guard when Hamilton was out with a groin injury, explained that hes quickly adjusting to the veteran shooting guards game.

Watching him, it allows me to learn a lot being able to move without the basketball and get your shot off a little quicker and its making the game a lot easier. Hes a seasoned vet and youve got to be like a sponge, and learn as much as possible from him. He draws so much attention coming off double screens, single screens. Guys opposing defenders have got to stunt to him, double to him and hes such a great player, hes making a lot of easy plays for other people and getting them involved, so hes making the offense flow a lot smoother, he said. It shows the work he puts in because he sat out so many games, then he comes back, he fits right in. Hes shooting the ball phenomenally, hes dishing the ball and guys every practice, every game are learning to jell a little bit better with him.

While playing against starting shooting guards in the NBA is no piece of cake, Brewer also faces a new challenge in matching up with small forwards, one of the leagues most high-profile positions, featuring the likes reigning scoring champ Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, the latter two normally the primary responsibility of Deng, one of the top perimeter defenders in the game hell face on the Bulls upcoming road trip.

Its fairly the same position, just a little bit bigger guys. Sometimes the twos start lower, the threes start higher, vice versa. Working with Thibs and the early group, Ive been able to learn the plays at both positions. Its not going to be any easier playing the three than it is the two. High-caliber players every night that youre going to face, so youve got to be ready for the test, said Brewer. Well see. Im going to have to do what Ive been trying to do since Ive been with the Bulls and thats hustle on both ends of the court, run the floor, be a tougher defender. Tonight, we have a tough matchup, trying to guard Pacers small forward Danny Granger. These upcoming games, we have a lot of tough guys that were going to face, so Ive just got to come in there, try to do my part and be an energy spark for this team.

Its going to be tough. Whenever you have a guy of Lus caliber out hes one of our leaders vocally and by his playhes definitely going to be missed. A lot of different guys are going to have to step up and bring something different if its on offense, defense, assists because he does a lot of things for this team, so somebodys going to have to step up, he continued. We have a lot of guys on this team who can step up and make plays on either offense or defense. When we had D-Rose out, we had C.J. Watson come in and John Lucas III and Mike James. When C.J. was out, John Lucas came in there and stepped in. Weve got a lot of guys who come in and make plays. Thats what you expect from a deep team and weve got a lot of depth on this team.

Although Brewers skill set arent an identical match to Dengs, the players do have a lot in common. Both are versatile, willing passers, aggressive slashers, move well without the ball and defend at a high level. But like Deng, Brewer is also a much-improved shooter, something the modest wing refuses to toot his own horn about.

It goes back to my teammates. D-Rose makes a lot of plays and has enough confidence in me to find me when Im open and Ive got to reward him by knocking down the shot. He gets so much attention, it makes the game a lot easier for him, so Ive got to continue to work hard, continue to work with the coaches and in the game, try to knock down as many shots as possible.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reaction to Lauri Markkanen’s injury and loss to Kings

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USA TODAY

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reaction to Lauri Markkanen’s injury and loss to Kings

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 98-81 loss to the Kings.

1:00 - Reaction to the loss and LaVine getting double-teamed

2:50 - On Jim Boylen saying don’t expect system changes with Markkanen hurt

4:25 - Sabine’s list of things that have happened since the last time the Kings made the playoffs in 2006

5:35 - Viewer comment on LaVine and Coby

6:40 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine

8:00 - On the importance of 1st vs 3rd quarter

9:00 - Viewer comment on possible trades

11:00 - Viewer comment on seeing Bulls without Markkanen

14:30 - On Lauri Markkanen’s hip injury and missing 4-6 weeks

18:40 - Viewer comment asking if Bulls should shut down Markkanen

19:50 - Hey Matt Peck, did you see what DRose did tonight?

21:15 - Viewer comment on what to expect from Lauri when he returns

23:40 - Viewer asking the greatest moment the Outsiders have witnessed

24:55 - On NBA naming the All-Star starters

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Without Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine's job will only get more difficult

Without Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine's job will only get more difficult

It’s been the most pressing on-court issue facing the Bulls all season — in a season full of them:

Outside of Zach LaVine, where do the points come from?

The glare of that question is only set to amplify with Lauri Markkanen now set to miss four to six weeks with a pelvic injury. Take tonight’s 98-81 defeat at the hands of the Kings as an example. LaVine tallied 21 — his 13th consecutive game with 20 or more. Thad Young chipped in 10; Kris Dunn did, too. But the rest of the team mustered 40, and the Bulls finished with 81 points against the Kings’ 18th-rated defense.

For a stretch — a 109-second one, to start the second half — it appeared LaVine might single-handedly save the day, as he has before. He opened the third quarter with 10 quick points to shave a 10-point halftime deficit to two after tallying eight in the first two periods combined.

But the Kings clamped up. The rest of the way, LaVine scored only thrice and was ever on the run from one, two or three Sacramento defenders at a time, depending on the possession. The Bulls’ dearth of scoring around him made the gameplan a simple one: Cut the head off the snake. LaVine finished just 8-for-21 from the field.

“I think they did a good job of that,” Jim Boylen said of the Kings’ throwing waves of bodies LaVine’s way. “Zach's a primary guy and they treated him like a primary guy. He got up 21 shots. You know, six rebounds. I thought he tried.”

This storyline isn’t going away. As of this writing, three of the Bulls’ top five scorers (Marrkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr.) are sidelined and weeks (at least) away from return. Young, steady as he is, isn’t going to transform into a consistent 20-point scorer overnight. Tomas Satoransky and Coby White represent the Bulls’ best chance of secondary explosions on a night-to-night basis — but against Sacramento, they combined for 16 points on 4-for-16 shooting.

“I mean, [opponents have] been doing that,” LaVine said of the double and triple-teams he received tonight. “We gotta get somebody to step up, and I think we'll find it. It's the first game without Lau [Lauri Markkanen]. We'll figure out what we gotta do in Cleveland.”

Easier said than done. Down another primary 3-point threat in Markkanen, the Bulls shot 8-for-37 from deep tonight, the fifth time in seven games they’ve made less than 10 3-pointers. They’re now 2-13 on the season when they make less than 10 3s.

“Will we have to adjust some things and maybe play a little differently? Maybe,” Jim Boylen said of the team’s shooting. “I'll evaluate with the shots we got and what else we had. But I'm not gonna reinvent the wheel in January, I'm not gonna do that.”

The Bulls — spearheaded by Boylen and LaVine — insist they’re going to keep plugging. Still, an offense already third-to-last in the league in offensive rating just lost another cog, and the impact was apparent. LaVine already carried as great an offensive load as anyone in the league. Now, if he didn’t already, he’ll receive as much attention as anyone, too.

“That's up to coach. I'm prepared for everything. I think my conditioning's [good], so we'll see, maybe I gotta do that,” LaVine said of potentially taking on more minutes.

And of the injuries: “Nobody's gonna feel bad for you. They're just gonna try to take advantage of it.”

The Kings did that successfully tonight. The Bulls hope it doesn't prove a foreshadowing.

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