Bulls

Bulls hold team meeting to address downturn

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Bulls hold team meeting to address downturn

There’s been a lot of talk and rhetoric in this underwhelming Bulls’ season to date, but perhaps there hasn’t been enough honest and raw communication between the principle parties as things have gone south.

To that end, there was a team meeting before Sunday morning’s practice, following their third straight loss to a sub .500 team, the latest a drubbing at the hands of the Orlando Magic.

There didn’t appear to be any furniture moving or expletive-filled rants by the coaching staff or the players, which one can interpret myriad ways.

“We did get together and talk. That was a big part of what today was about, getting in there and talking about some things and hopefully airing some things out,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We came out and competed. We got after it in practice, not for long stretches because of our upcoming schedule. But I thought it was a productive day.”

As for the meeting, it seemed to have a measured tone, not necessarily one where guys got after each other for mishaps and mistakes, but presumably there was an air of responsibility for the current state of affairs.

“I don’t know about angry. I think just disappointed,” forward Mike Dunleavy said. “I think we feel like we can play better and win more games. I don’t think we’re a 60-win team or anything, but I think we should have some more wins right now, and probably be in a better position to get into the playoffs. But we are where we are, and we’ve got to make the most of it.”

[MORE: Rock Bottom: Bulls submit in blowout loss to Magic]

Hoiberg termed the meeting “productive”, but with the schedule turning more treacherous and the Bulls having squandered a huge opportunity to close the gap on Detroit and Indiana, one has to wonder if it’s too little, too late.

“As always happens in those type of meetings, yeah,” said Hoiberg when asked if voices were raised. “You talk about things and obviously we have a lot to correct right now. We had a three-game win streak and the last three have been very poor performances by our team to say the least. I think it had to be done. And again, I thought it was productive.”

With games against an Atlanta team that has stymied the Bulls all season, the Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons this week, things had better shape up in a hurry.

Hoiberg openly wondered after the Bulls’ 111-89 loss to the Magic if his message to the team was getting lost, and had to answer the worst question a coach can ever be asked: if his team has quit.

Even the question being asked is an indictment, and responsibility is likely shared between the players and coaches.

“It’s both. It’s two-way. It’s what communication is all about,” Dunleavy said. “They have to find a way for us to do it, but we as players have to take a collective responsibility and get it done. And that’s what we’re searching for right now.”

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Dunleavy said the team feels as if it's being prepared properly by the coaching staff strategically, but clearly something is going wrong early. Although it’s been a problem over the last three months, it’s been more noticeable in the last three games where the Bulls have been outscored by an average of eight points and giving up an average of 32 points in first quarters.

“I just think we’ve had some issues with carrying out that game plan,” Dunleavy said. “And so maybe we need to be more thorough about it, maybe we need to give guys less freedom in terms of what they’re able to do.”

Freedom has been one of the magic tenets of Hoiberg’s tenure, and Dunleavy’s statement indicates there could’ve been some liberties taken by this team in its newfound freedom this season, to disastrous results.

Stating “I just don’t think we’re good enough,” was also a nod to the expectations that the Bulls have come up short in this season, as many expected them to challenge the Cavaliers for supremacy — now, they’re fighting for their playoff life, leaving many to wonder if they possess a pulse.

“It’s a do or die week for us,” he said. “We just lost three tough games in a row to teams we expected to beat, but that can turn quickly. You can win three in a row just as easily as you can lose three. It all starts tomorrow night for us.’’

NBA removes Omer Asik's contract, giving Bulls additional $3 million in cap space

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USA TODAY

NBA removes Omer Asik's contract, giving Bulls additional $3 million in cap space

The Bulls will have an additional $3 million to use in free agency this summer after the NBA ruled in favor of clearing Omer Asik's contract from their books, according to Stadium's Shams Charania.

Two months ago the Bulls applied for cap relief to have Asik's $3 million contract removed from their books. Asik, who was ruled out in September 2018 with inflammatory arthritis, never played again and was waived in October. The move saved the Bulls $8 million at the time, and the arthritis that forced him out of basketball will now save the Bulls an additional $3 million.

The Bulls now have upwards of $23 million to use in free agency. Mark Schanowski looked at how they might use that cash this summer.

Asik was originally traded to the Bulls in 2018, along with a first-round draft pick, in exchange for power forward Nikola Mirotic. Asik played in just four games after the trade, averaging 1.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in 15.3 minutes. The Bulls used that first round pick on Chandler Hutchison, while Mirotic thrived in the second half and postseason for the New Orleans Pelicans.

Free agency roundup: Here's who the Bulls may target

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USA TODAY

Free agency roundup: Here's who the Bulls may target

Free agency begins June 30 at 6 p.m. CT and the Bulls will have in the range of $22 million to fill out their roster.

Mark Schanowski took a look at how the Bulls may decide to spend their money earlier in the week. Here, we'll analyze the groups of players the Bulls may pull from in the lead-up to the start of the frenzy on Sunday night.

Potential point guard options for the Bulls: 6/26

The Bulls are deep at point guard, but they're not all that talented. They drafted North Carolina's Coby White seventh overall and still have Kris Dunn, a former fifth overall pick. Ryan Arcidiacono could be back on a small deal. The issue, of course, is experience. Dunn and Arcidiacono are both 25 years old, and they've played a combined 281 games. That's less than 3.5 NBA seasons. There's a real need for a veteran presence to both improve the Bulls and mentor White as the lead guard of the future.

Potential shooting options for the Bulls: 6/27

The Bulls were 29th in offensive rating and 28th in effective field goal percentage last season. They were dead last in 3-point makes per game (9.1), though their slow pace did them no favors in that regard. They were a respectable 19th in 3-point field goal percentage, and 17th after Jim Boylen took over in early December (on just 8.7 makes, also last in the league). It's no secret that the Bulls need shooting. The return of Denzel Valentine will help, but not so much that they don't need to address the issue. Even if young players like Chandler Hutchison, Wendell Carter and Kris Dunn make strides from beyond the arc, wing shooting is arguably the biggest component missing from this Bulls offense.

Potential backup big options for the Bulls: 6/28

The foundation of the Bulls' frontcourt is pretty much set. They love what they have in Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr., and they're not even close to having fully untapped their potential. It's not traditional but the Bulls are happy to have a pair of bigs to build around. However, there's not much behind them. They dealt Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis at the trade deadline last season, Robin Lopez is a free agent and Cris Felicio simply isn't an option for serious minutes. They drafted Daniel Gafford in the second round but will need someone to back up Markkanen. A power forward is a clear need this summer.

Potential veteran leaders for the Bulls: 6/29

Cris Felicio is the second oldest player on the Bulls. Zach LaVine is 25 and has played the second most games of anyone on the roster. Otto Porter is the lone Bulls player to have tasted the postseason, and he has all of 31 games under his belt. This hasn't been an issue in the first two years of the rebuild because of Robin Lopez and even guys like Justin Holiday or Quincy Pondexter in 2018, but it's now a clear need. The Bulls need to get older in a few areas to mentor young players and manage the locker room. The kids are still the future, but a guiding presence or two will go a long way. Just ask other successful rebuilds. 

Potential young fliers for the Bulls: 6/30

One man's trash is another man's treasure. The Bulls are in the stage of the rebuild where they can take fliers on cheap talent that still has untapped potential. Granted, it didn't work all that well last season with Jabari Parker but diamonds in the rough like David Nwaba and Shaq Harrison exist. They're not franchise changers but they're important in the long run as depth and potential trade chips.