Bulls

Bulls run Pacers out of Chicago for second win

Bulls run Pacers out of Chicago for second win

A streaking Jimmy Butler was on a fly pattern with Rajon Rondo measuring his wide receivers’ speed past Paul George and the two connected for an easy pitch, catch and dunk — a scene that hasn’t been witnessed in quite awhile.

The inherent message from Rondo was clear as he compiled his 11th assist of the first half in the Bulls’ impressive 118-101 win over the Indiana Pacers Saturday night at the United Center: Run and you’ll get the ball.

Run and I’ll find you.

Just run.

“Who doesn’t want the ball? Everybody wants the ball, everybody wants to score,” Rondo said. “We’ve been doing a great job of cleaning up the glass. Our wings are getting out wide and running. We’ve been practicing about 30 days straight. The chemistry is coming along (but) it’s early.”

Fred Hoiberg could only dream of this type of pace and speed to his offense last year, and even though his big guns are more deliberate players, they know a good thing when they see it as the Bulls improved to 2-0 on the year.

One wouldn’t have to hit Hoiberg with truth serum for him to proclaim it was the best performance he’s witnessed as coach, as the Bulls committed just 11 turnovers, shot 52 percent, made 19 of 21 free throws and tallied a whopping 30 fast break points.

“I talked to them and told them if we commit to playing with that type of unselfishness and ball movement, we have a chance to have a good year,” Hoiberg said.

“I loved our intensity out the gate. Our pace the other way was as good as I’ve seen, and our ball movement was off the charts.”

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It began with Rondo and trickled down to the rest of the roster, as a definitive tone has been set — a surprising one for a team so new and not used to playing with one another.

Dwyane Wade dashed to the rim, Michael Carter-Williams forced the action on both ends, Taj Gibson filled the lanes and Rondo maestro’d like very few can in this league.

“He talks in every huddle, ‘run with me, I’ll throw it ahead’,” Hoiberg said of Rondo. “It’s something we work on and stress, getting up."

Rondo was the only starter not in double figures but had 13 assists in 25 minutes, setting the tone and tempo for his teammates to follow. Wade scored 14 on just seven shots in 21 minutes, while Butler scored 16 on nine shots in 26 minutes.

The value of a good point guard cannot be overstated, comparing Rondo to new Pacers point guard Jeff Teague, who struggled for the second straight night.

Teague had eight assists but went scoreless on his seven attempts and was generally frustrated by his lack of flow. He helped Paul George to a degree get his 20 points on just 12 shots, but the Pacers didn’t have any of the rhythm they were advertised to have, as many expected them to challenge for a top spot in the East.

Instead, it’s the Bulls who have surprised in the early going, with impressive wins over two teams they’ll have to beat if they hope to claim a playoff spot in April.

If Saturday was any indication, some good things could be in store.

And they got it while the getting was good, as the Bulls essentially closed the evening relatively early with a 23-4 run in the second quarter, smothering the Pacers defensively as they took advantage of the Pacers trying to play a little too fast after made baskets or in the set offense as a whole.

The turnovers led to a track meet, as the unselfishness was contagious, led by the second unit. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic were going end to end for forays, spot-up threes and easy layups.

“I thought our bench was great tonight, you look across the board,” said Hoiberg, mentioning Carter-Williams and Isaiah Canaan, whose ball pressure ignited fast breaks.

“Carter-Williams I can tell is starting to get more comfortable. He got into the paint and hit a couple floaters for us.”

It led to a 23-point lead after 23 minutes and the Bulls’ 21-point lead at halftime was the largest halftime lead in three seasons.

It continued in the second half as McDermott got going in the way people expect him — as a marksman behind the 3-point line. A recipient of unselfish play across the board as the Bulls tallied 34 assists on 44 field goals, McDermott hit five triples on his way to a game-high 23, almost all on the drive-and-kick or swing-swing variety.

“He was great,” Wade said. “He did what Doug does, he stepped in and just shot his shots. He’s going to have nights like that. He’ll have nights where the defense isn’t going to leave him and he’ll need to be the one to make the extra pass.”

The lead ballooned to 29 before the Pacers scored plenty in garbage time, but the Bulls sent a resounding message of sorts in the opening days of the season.

Even if you run, we’ll find you.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

Mark Carman, Hub Arkush, Phil Rogers and Will Perdue join Kap on the SportsTalk Live Podcast.

The guys start by discussing Brandon Morrow's injury that he sustained while taking off his pants... what's the craziest cause for an injury the guys can remember?

Plus, should the Bulls move up or down in Thursday's NBA Draft? Does it make sense to take on a bad contract in a potential deal?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

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USA TODAY

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

Over the past several weeks, the Bulls have been heavily rumored to be selecting Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although the 6-foot-7 Hutchison had a stellar four-year career with the Broncos, and was regarded as a top-100 national prospect coming out of high school, his background is relatively unknown compared to many of his first-round counterparts. Not many recruiting gurus watched Hutchison in-depth in high school. The same could be said about draft analysts watching Hutchison's career unfold at Boise State.

Part of the reason Hutchison has flown under the radar for so long, despite being a first-round talent, is his unique basketball upbringing. Many elite high school players opt to transfer to big-time basketball schools while playing in high-exposure shoe-company leagues during the spring and summer. Instead of the normal path, Hutchison chose to stick with the people that he trusted.

Playing for a small, independent grassroots program in high school known as Team Eastbay, Hutchison started showing special gifts as a sophomore in before blossoming into a top-100 national prospect towards the end of high school. Hutchison's trainer and coach with Team Eastbay, Perry Webster, saw that Chandler had the ability to be a big-time player.

"I walked into the gym and saw this 15-year-old kind of gangly kid. And he just moved different than anybody else. I thought he had a chance to be a pretty good player," Webster said of Hutchison.

As Hutchison developed more of a reputation in the Southern California basketball scene, becoming a starter at Mission Viejo High School his junior season, he started to draw more attention from local and national recruiting analysts — including former ESPN recruiting insider Joel Francisco, Scout.com's Josh Gershon and SoCal recruiting analyst Devin Ugland.

"You saw during his junior year that he was a legitimate Division I prospect. During the spring he started blossoming," Francisco said. "He had the ball skills and the prototypical length and things like that. And he was finishing plays. He had a good IQ for the game. It was a matter of strength and he had to fill out to become a more complete player."

By the end of summer going into his senior season, Hutchison had established himself as a potential Pac-12 recruit, as schools like Oregon and USC started to show heavy interest. But it was mid-major programs like Boise State, Saint Mary's and UC-Irvine who had long been involved in Hutchison's recruitment.

Knowing that Hutchison was a unique wing with a high IQ and passing skills, Webster, a former Division I player at Cal State Fullerton himself, advised that his star player take a close look at the programs that would put him in position to succeed right away.

"Every AAU program in Southern California was trying to get him for their team. Free ride this, free shoes. The kid stayed really loyal to me. I was very hard on him," Webster said. "I demanded a lot of him. I screamed at him, I yelled at him. And he looked me in the eye and took it. I realized, this kid is pretty special because he's not running away from what he is. He knows what his limitations are. That's not something he's afraid to address.

"Not everybody was sold on him. Joel [Francisco] was. Joel was one of the proponents of him. But being that he burst on the scene late, and that he didn't play for the big shoe companies, we kind of came to the decision that we wouldn't be so enamored by the Pac-12. He realized he had ability but he still had a long way to go." 

Hutchison eventually decided to sign his National Letter of Intent with Boise State before his senior season started as assistant coach Jeff Linder acted as his lead recruiter. Even though his collegiate future had been decided, Hutchison continued to evolve into a major prospect during senior year as he flourished at Mission Viejo.

Even with his strong senior season, skepticism remained about Hutchison since he hadn't played with and against many of the major names in Southern California. Ranked as the No. 83 overall prospect in ESPN's final Class of 2014 national recruiting rankings, Hutchison was viewed as the seventh best player in his own state. While Francisco pushed for Hutchison to be ranked in the top 50, he had to settle for him being a back-end top-100 talent.

"They're like, hey, he's going to Boise State, he's not on a major shoe company team. How good can he be? But if he can play, he can play. It doesn't matter if he's not on the adidas circuit, he's not in the EYBL," Francisco said.

Francisco wasn't the only major recruiting analyst to take notice of Hutchison's play. Rivals.com's Eric Bossi also labeled Hutchison as a potential breakout player at Boise State. Hutchison was even placed in the Rivals national recruiting rankings, ending up at No. 98 overall, after his senior season. Bossi was on vacation with his family during spring break and he happened to see Hutchison play during his senior season. But Hutchison's strong effort, along with some research, convinced Bossi that he was worthy of a top-100 ranking, even with only one serious viewing. 

"I decided to go watch some regional California high school playoff stuff. And it just so happened to be that Chandler's high school team was one of the teams I was seeing," Bossi said. "I knew he was on the team and committed to Boise State. But then when I watched him play I was like, 'Holy cow, what an incredible get for Boise State. Like, this dude's legit.' He had great size for a wing. He could handle the ball, he could really pass and I thought he could defend multiple positions at the next level when it was all said and done. I thought he was a versatile, well-skilled, well-rounded basketball player. So, based on that, I thought he was top-100. I wish I had seen him more."

Even as a former top-100 national prospect, it took some time for Hutchison to gain traction at Boise State as he didn't put up big numbers during his first two seasons. Although Hutchison played plenty of minutes and started a healthy amount of games, he often took a back seat to talented all-conference players like Anthony Drmic and James Webb III.

When those players eventually moved on from the Broncos, Hutchison was given his chance to shine, as his ascension into all-conference player and future first-round pick came with an intense work ethic that continually developed during workouts in college.

Hutchison also became a consistent three-point threat — something he had been lacking during his development — as he became a hot name in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his unorthodox basketball background.

"He's always been competitive. I think the big thing is reps. And it still will be as he continues to play in the league," Webster said. "He wasn't a bad shooter in high school, but I think the big adjustment for him getting to college, it's hard to put up good percentages in college. I think some of it is mental. But I think he's a good shooter and I think that he'll prove that." 

It's hard to predict if the Bulls will end up with Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night — especially given all of the chaos that can occur on draft night. But if Hutchison does end up in Chicago, he won't be fazed by having to prove himself after already doing so at the high school and college level.