Bulls

Bulls appreciate being Holiday Showcase game

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Bulls appreciate being Holiday Showcase game

Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010
10:23 a.m.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
NEW YORKA noon start, away from their families. But all of that pales in comparison to the honorto a man, that was the word used to describe itof playing on Christmas Day.

I think its an honor and a privilege to be playing, and I know its tough for the away teamparticularly the players who have kidsbut thats all part of it and hopefully when we get back, theyll have a chance to spend some time with their families, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said prior to Fridays practice at Madison Square Garden.

Everyone around the worlds going to be watching. Everyone that loves basketball, theyre going to tune in, so its definitely an honor to play on Christmas, echoed Kurt Thomas, who couldnt remember how many Christmas days games hes played inthe former Knick estimated three to fiveover the course of his 18-year career. Its the fact thatmy kidsIm not at home, seeing the Christmas tree, opening up their presents. Thats really the only difficult part, but its part of the job. You just go out there and play, go have fun.

Luol Deng, the longest-tenured Bulls player, hasnt played in any games on the holiday during his career, so he acknowledged how the teams rising status in the league earned them their reward.

I think the league schedules it before the season starts, so I think they schedule it kind of depending on the players you have, Deng told CSNChicago.com. I think it shows a lot, the kind of guys we have on the team and people want to watch us. We could have came in with a bad record, but I think they scheduled it because people at home want to see all these players.

Carlos Boozer, coming from small-market Utah, definitely appreciates the benefits playing on a high-profile squad has garnered.

None Christmas Day games in Utah. I think I played in one in Cleveland, Brons LeBron James rookie year, said Boozer. Its an honor to play on Christmasits for the fans and we take great pride to be one of the teams thats featured for the fans.

Obviously we wouldnt mind spending more time with our family at home, toolike most peoplebut we take pride and honor in what were able to do and we look forward to the game tomorrow.

For native New Yorker Taj Gibson, playing in the Garden, in front of friends and family in his hometown, makes it even more special.

This is a dream come true, remarked Gibson. Hopefully we can get a win and it would be even better.

Deng, who attended high school in nearby New Jersey, shared his sentiments.

I went to high school not too far from here. Im going to have a lot of friends at the gameI always have friends coming hereI have some family in New York, so to me, its always been special because of that. History plays into it, but I think a lot of people, they dont have that connection with Madison Square Garden that I have, Deng told CSNChicago.com. I think everyones excited. Im a little bummed for Jo injured center Joakim Noah, but its part of the game. Hell be back and hell have his days playing here.

Thomas, whose Knicks career coincided with the last time New York was relevant in the league, also savored his return to the worlds most famous arena.

I love New York. I spent a lot of time here. Im always excited to come back here and play, said Thomas. Every time I walk into this building, I see people Ive known for a good number of years.

Going to the NBA Finals in 99, that definitely was the highlight, and just playing here in the Garden every night was just amazing. The fans here were incredible.

Derrick Rose didnt necessarily grow up dreaming about playing on the holiday, but understands its significance for the team.

I never thought about playing on Christmas. I just thought about playing in the NBA. I really didnt think about it when I was younger, like, I cant wait to play on Christmas. Its an honor to be playing on Christmas. I remember the first two years and being at homebeing in Chicago for Christmas, then going somewhere to play the next day, but its an honor to be playing and were playing in one of the best arenas in the world, said Rose. Were on the rise. Were getting noticed, but we still have to handle our business, knowing that this is still a job. We have to take this as very important, and go out there and play hard.

The serious-minded Thibodeau certainly has preached that to his team.

The big thing is its a holiday and its an early game, so theres a lot going on. But we have to be ready, so our preparation today and then early morning tomorrow at the walk-through and then noon start, we have to be focused, said Thibodeau, who will be facing one of the several teams, the Knicks, hes worked for as an assistant coach. Normally, you would haveif its a 7 or 7:30 startyou would have your shootaround in the morning, where you can go through some things live on the court and it changes when its a noon start. Youre in the ballroom in the hotel and youre just walking through things, so from that standpoint, it changes.

Besides that, its just a regular gameor so the participants would have you believe.

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.

Five things we learned during the Bulls' West Coast road trip

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USA TODAY

Five things we learned during the Bulls' West Coast road trip

The Bulls finished up a difficult road trip on Thursday against the Nuggets with an embarrassing 135-105 loss. They went 0-5 on the trip and now have lost nine straight games, giving them the second worst record in the NBA.

While it wasn't pretty, we're trying to take five things we saw on the trip.

Lauri Markkanen is a different player when he gets going early

Thursday was Lauri Markkanen’s best performance of the road trip, and unsurprisingly it came in the game where he attempted 10 first-quarter field goals. He went 6-for-10 in the opening 12 minutes, hitting three 3-pointers, driving twice to the basket for nice finishes and hitting a baseline jumper.

It was a sight for sore eyes for a Bulls team that has an incredibly low 91.4 offensive rating in first quarters under Jim Boylen; that’s worst in the NBA by more than 8 points per 100 possessions. It was also good for Markkanen, who is averaging 4.0 points on 36 percent shooting in first quarters this season. It’s by far Markkanen’s worst shooting quarter (he’s at 47.4%, 44.6% and 43.6% in the final three quarters) so to see him start quickly was a good sign.

He had two attempts in the first quarter against the Lakers, four against the Jazz and four against the Warriors. He doesn’t need to attempt 10 every first quarter like he did against the Nuggets, but he needs to start aggressive. It changes how he plays the rest of the night like it did Thursday.

Jabari Parker needs to be in the rotation until he’s dealt

Jim Boylen had his reasons for yanking Jabari Parker out of the rotation, and maybe they were warranted. But it’s also clear that the timing has been correct to put him back in the rotation, and credit to Parker for being ready in that moment.

In the final three games of the trip Parker was really solid offensively, shooting 17 of 27 while averaging 14.6 points. It was much needed for an offense that simply couldn’t keep up with opponents most of the time. They’re going

He’s got his warts, he doesn’t have a good positional fit and he definitely isn’t part of the future. But Parker’s return to the rotation should continue. If it isn’t to help the team competing and playing better it’s becoming a nice bump to his trade value.

We’re still waiting for Kris Dunn to put it together

No one is more happy to come home than Kris Dunn. It was a largely forgettable trip for the Bulls’ point guard, who after a 17-point, 7-assist night in Portland was invisible for four games. In five road games he averaged 8.6 points and 5.4 assists. He shot 36.7 percent and just never seemed to mesh with the rest of the offense. He has his moments, but far too few of them.

His lack of 3-point shooting and drawing fouls is beginning to be a real concern. We knew Dunn wasn’t an elite 3-point shooter but he was making a concerted effort to get to the basket more often this season. While he seems to be finishing better around the rim – and he had a thunderous dunk against Denver – he simply isn’t drawing fouls and getting to the line. That’d be fine if he was an elite passer in this offense, but he simply isn’t. He runs basic pick-and-roll fine and drops off to bigs on drives at times, but overall there hasn’t been a lot of “wow” from Dunn like we’ve seen from Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen – and even Wendell Carter – at times this season.

It’s going to be a long 37 games

The belief as the injury-plagued Bulls trudged along during the first month of the season was that, once healthy, there was simply too much young talent to think about the top of the NBA Draft. After all, teams like the Cavaliers, Suns, Knicks and Hawks had far more precarious short-term situations and the Bulls, playing in the East, would at least remain competitive and beat similarly talented teams.

While we didn’t exactly learn this during the trip, the reality is the Bulls will smack dab in the mix for the league’s worst record this season. With Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the starting lineup the Bulls are 1-12. Part of that is the schedule – 11 of those 13 opponents are at or above .500 – but there simply isn’t enough chemistry between these three for it to yield results. Add in the midseason coaching change and the difficulty that puts on a young team and you’ve got a recipe for a disastrous final 37 games.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing –heard of Zion Williamson? – but it’s an unfortunate truth that the Bulls aren’t as far along as we thought they’d be. Rebuilds take time, and it appears the Bulls will have very little to show for when they enter 2019 training camp. The Bulls have the sixth easiest schedule to finish the year, including two games against the Cavs and two against the Knicks, but progress the rest of the way can’t be measured in wins and losses. It’ll be looking at the Lauri-LaVine-Dunn three-man lineup numbers, LaVine’s ability to work off Markkanen (when Lauri is looking for his shot) and Dunn’s aggressiveness on the offensive side of the ball.

Chandler Hutchison is finally getting consistent run

It might have been the front office’s doing, but credit to Jim Boylen for finally giving Chandler Hutchison consistent run. The Bulls rookie played 25 minutes or more in every game during the road trip, the first time he’s logged that many minutes in five straight games.

It was promising, too, that his best games came in the final three of the road trip. After logging big minutes on the road he didn’t falter, scoring 11, 12 and 12 points against Utah, Los Angeles and Denver. Hutchison had scored in double figures twice this season, and he’s now done it three consecutive games. The increase in minutes has helped, but Hutchison was also 15 of 25 in that stretch. He doesn’t do much creating but seems to be in the right spots at the right time. He also averaged 6.2 rebounds and had a steal in the last four games of the trip. He was a real bright spot.

Wendell Carter Jr. OUT tonight against Denver Nuggets

Wendell Carter Jr. OUT tonight against Denver Nuggets

The Bulls may have dodged a major bullet with the Wendell Carter Jr injury, but the rookie will still miss tonight's game against the Nuggets: 

Carter suffered the injury during Tuesday night's loss in Los Angeles, and initial reports were that it was severe. That turned out not to be the case, but Carter will still end up missing the first game of his NBA career. 

The rookie out of Duke has been one of the lone bright spots for Chicago this season, averaging 20 points and 13.5 rebounds per 100 possesions. He's been a net positive on both ends of the floor, posting an ORtg of 106 and a DRtg of 109. 

Tonight's the last night of the Bulls' West Coast swing, and they're still looking for their first win of 2019. Their 8-game losing streak, which extends back to December 28th, is their longest of the season.