Bulls

Bulls notes: Birthday boy Thibodeau happy to be back in Boston

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Bulls notes: Birthday boy Thibodeau happy to be back in Boston

BOSTON -- Tom Thibodeau spent his 55th birthday Thursday in a city that means a lot to him: Boston.
He indicated that his usual custom of going out for dinner with his former boss, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers continued, and the Maywood, Ill., native had to pick up the tab, a running joke between the pair that Thibodeau is aware Rivers will give him a hard time about through the media.
Of course Rivers informed the media that he paid for the coaches meal! Thibodeau quipped. He had to, too.
Birthday aside, the former Harvard University assistant coach his last stop before embarking on a 20-year NBA odyssey prior to landing the Chicago job talked about the special meaning Boston has for him, specifically winning the 2009 NBA title as a Celtics assistant.
I was very fortunate to be here. Its a great organization. To be part of a championship team, I think its a special place, so I always respect that, he said before the Bulls morning shootaround Friday at TD BankNorth Garden. I look forward to seeing these guys after we play, but I also know their spirit. Its a very competitive group. When the ball goes up, I want to beat them just as badly as they want to beat me, so I know whats at stake here.
Celtics Bradley impresses Thibodeau
Thibodeau discussed the impact of Celtics shooting guard Avery Bradley, a defensive specialist who returned from a shoulder injury suffered in last year's playoffs. Since Bradley came back to the lineup Jan. 2, Boston has been a different team, as hes taken some pressure of All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo on the defensive end of the court, as well as given the Celtics, who added several newcomers in the offseason, a dose of athleticism and added some familiar chemistry.
Hes huge. Sometimes guys like that and he proved it last year, too statistically, you cant measure their impact. But his energy, his toughness, his ability to slow people down, I think that brings a lot to the team, Thibodeau said of Bradley. With the Celtics, the core of that team is still Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, and so, those guys have been through a lot of wars together, and you throw Doc Rivers into it, theyre going to always figure things out and theres a lot of toughness there. Theyve got a lot of new faces, so theyre sort of figuring that out, but the core of the team is intact.
Bulls collective effort working in Roses absence
While theres been some uneven play at times during the campaign, like last season, the Bulls have seemingly found a formula for success without the star power of the sidelined Derrick Rose in the lineup. Thibodeau is far from satisfied, but acknowledged that the Bulls team approach has been effective at times.
The big thing for us was you can never replace Derrick individually and we knew that from the start, so for us, it was to do it collectively. Everyone would have to step up, do their job and put a lot into it. Thats our only chance and for the most part, weve done that, he explained. You cant replace a guy like Derrick individually, so we understand it has to be done with our defense and our rebounding, and sharing the ball and everybody being ready to step up.
You always feel like you can do better and there have been stretches where weve played well, the coach continued. For the most part, I think the attitude and the approach have been very good.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.