Bulls

Bulls benefit from Thibodeau's past lockout experience

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Bulls benefit from Thibodeau's past lockout experience

After the NBAs last work stoppage, the New York Knicks made a Cinderella run of sorts, sneaking into the playoffs as an eighth seed, then advancing all the way to the finals, despite not having the services of All-Star center Patrick Ewing, before losing to the San Antonio Spurs. That Knicks team, the last New York squad to make it to the championship round, was celebrated for its heart, embodied by fearless players like Latrell Sprewell and Marcus Camby.

The head coach of that team was also beloved by its fans and while Jeff Van Gundy never got back to the Finals though he had some successful seasons in Houston, where injuries to stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady frequently derailed the Rockets playoff aspirations based largely on the Knicks run, his profile was greatly enhanced, something thats carried over to career as a broadcaster. One of Van Gundys assistant coaches in New York during that 50-game 1998-99 NBA campaign and subsequent playoff run (as well as in Houston) was currently Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Thibodeaus Bulls are constituted differently than that Knicks team and the circumstances, not to mention expectations, of this season also differ, as the league mandated a 66-game abbreviated schedule. Still, Thibodeau admitted that he does occasionally draw upon his experiences.

Hopefully you learn from all your experiences. Not just that season, but every season after that. How you pace your team, I think, as a head coach, is critical. You map it out. Once the schedule comes, you see where your schedules heavy and you have to plan accordingly, he said after Wednesdays morning shootaround at the Berto Center. You still have to get things done, youve got to be ready to play and theres different stretches, where youll have the opportunity to practice more, and you want to take advantage of that. Then, you have to evaluate whether rest is more important than practice. Theres a lot of things that factor into it. You never want to stay the same. You always want to try to get better, so I hope Im learning something every day.

While Thibodeau isnt one to make excuses whether now or in the past he noted how the Knicks injuries woes hamstrung the team, though he didnt mention Ewing specifically, but also cited that, in his opinion, the current scenario leaves less time for preparation.

I felt like we had more time during that lockout and my experience that year was we had a couple injuries early on, and then we had to, I believe, win eight or nine out of 10, just to get the eighth seed. Thats what it is, but you have to learn to navigate around all that stuff. Some years, youre healthier than others, said Thibodeau before realizing he was perhaps being too candid and reverting back to his usual name, rank and serial number mode that is used for the media. But like I said before, we have a deep roster, we have 14 players that we feel can all play and I think theyre all ready. When they get the opportunity, we expect them to play well. I think the way that they prepare each and every day I get an opportunity to watch them practice and see them concentrate so Im not surprised and Ive said this all along: I believe that we have more than enough to win with.

Bulls Talk Podcast: How NBA Draft combine impacted mock drafts

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: How NBA Draft combine impacted mock drafts

On this edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill discuss the NBA Draft and what happened at the NBA combine that shifted most experts mock drafts.

Kendall also explains why a "promise" to draft a player isn’t guaranteed. He also shares his experience on getting drafted by the Hornets and why he initially felt they were the wrong team for him.

North Carolina "News and Observer" Duke basketball beat writer Jonathan Alexander gives us his opinion on Wendell Carter and the other Duke draft prospects including why he thinks Carter will be a future all-star. Also includes an interview with Carter from the draft combine.

Listen to the full Bulls Talk Podcast right here:

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

Anfernee Simons looks more like a ball boy than a 2018 NBA Draft prospect right now. He’s not considered small, what with having a 6-foot-3 frame with a massive 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine at 183 pounds, “heavier” than Lottery-bound guards like Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton.

But there’s plenty of potential to unpack from the soon-to-be 19-year-old, baby-faced combo guard. Don’t let the appearance fool you. Simons is one of the most talented players in the class, and a team patient enough to let him develop at his own pace could reap major benefits in due time.

You won’t find much video on Simons, as the IMG Academy star is preparing to be the first prospect to go preps-to-pros without a year in college since Thon Maker did so in 2016.

Simons, a consensus five-star recruit in the 2018 class, originally committed to Louisville in November 2016 and then decommitted the following September shortly after Rick Pitino was fired. Since he had graduated from Edgewater High School in Florida and was playing a post-grad year at IMG Academy, he became eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he is a year removed from high school. That’s where he played this past season, declaring for the draft and signing with an agent in late March.

“The opportunity is there. Me and my parents talked about it a lot and I feel like I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to make this jump,” he said at last week’s Combine. “So I just felt like, do it now and not waste any time.”

Simons has been on the radars of NBA teams, even if he’s not a household name like Ayton, Doncic and Bagley. He’s currently projected outside of the Lottery, in part because teams haven’t seen him compete against collegiate level talent and because his wiry frame almost surely means time in the G-League as a rookie. But again, the skill set is there.

Simons is a point guard with solid range beyond the arc. He may struggle off the ball because of his size, though that long wingspan and a quick release from his chest should allow him to get off shots. He’s a blur in transition and finishes well at the rim – his 41.5-inch vertical was tied for third best at the Combine, and his three-quarters court sprint was eighth fastest.

He’s a mixed bag defensively. Wingspan is the fun buzz word these days, and that will help him at the next level, but his small frame means there’s work to be done. A strength and conditioning coach will salivate at bringing Simons into the weight room and getting his body NBA-ready.

“Just staying durable through 82 games,” Simons answered when asked about his biggest challenge physically at the next level. “Taking care of your body is real pivotal so I feel like learning how to take care of my body now is a good thing.”

Simons maturely answered that the “unknown” of his game will be both a positive and minus during the pre-draft process. While fellow prospects he may face in team workouts don’t know as much about him and, thus, his game, teams also need to find out more about Simons’ game and off-court habits.

“Coming in young, people don’t know who I am and haven’t seen me play much. That’s the good side about coming in early,” he said. “It could be the same thing (negatively). People haven’t seen me like that, so I feel like they don’t know who I am. They probably think I’m too young to play in the league.”

Simons met with the Bulls and has scheduled a pre-draft workout with them. Though the Bulls feel like their rebuild could go quicker than anticipated – especially if they hit on their No. 7 pick – there could be plenty to gain from drafting for upside on a player like Simons.

Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne will both be free agents in 2019, and Denzel Valentine’s long-term future isn’t set in stone in Chicago. That leaves plenty of openings in the backcourt behind Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Simons won’t be ready to contribute much in 2018-19, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. A handful of outlets projected Simons as a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Bulls could snag him a year earlier, let him develop in Hoffman Estates and bring him up in a year when they’re a step closer to contending.