Bulls working to 'clean up and fix' turnover issues


Bulls working to 'clean up and fix' turnover issues

The offseason hype surrounding Fred Hoiberg's up-tempo offensive philosophy was expected to inject new life into a Bulls group that had wilted down the stretch in last year's playoffs, ending in a 73-point outing in a Game 6 loss to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The 3-point-heavy offense has yielded more positive results than negative, as the Bulls stand at 2-1 with an important win over those Cavaliers on opening night, in the season's first week.

But within the new offensive scheme the Bulls have been practicing for a little more than a month - the majority of which came without the sidelined Derrick Rose - has also produced some careless play, as they rank among the league's worst in both turnovers per game and per possession through three games.

Granted, the sample size is minuscule and really not fair to judge any team on, let alone one dealing with an entirely new coaching staff and scheme, so early in the season.

Still, through three games the Bulls have averaged 17.7 turnovers per game, ranked 24th in the NBA and are ahead of only Washington, Toronto and Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference. Their turnover percentage, which takes into account pace of play, is 16.8 percent, also 24th in the league. A year ago the Bulls averaged just 14.4 turnover per game, 13th in the league.

[MORE: Hoiberg misses practice to attend Flip Saunders' funeral]

A year ago Cleveland, Brooklyn and Detroit all ranked in the lower half of the NBA in turning opponents over, so it’s not as if the Bulls are squaring off against pesky defenses, either.

"We try to analyze our turnovers as best we can. There are some charges in there. There are some poor decisions, poor passing, kind of a hodgepodge," said assistant coach Jim Boylen at Saturday afternoon's practice. "It’s something we have to clean up and fix. Offensively, you have to get a shot on goal. And turnovers don’t allow you to do that. It’s a point of emphasis in everything we do."

Friday it cost the Bulls dearly. Thirteen miscues against Detroit meant a 39-point first half, and they were unable to get a shot off with less than a minute to play in a tie game. The game then went to overtime, where the Bulls were outscored 15-11 in their first loss of the season.

All told the Bulls are 19th in offensive efficiency and ninth in defensive efficiency, again small sample sizes but telling of the Bulls still figuring out how to maneuver in Hoiberg’s offense. The positives are there; Derrick Rose has been aggressive attacking the rim - sans the end of Friday night's game, when his jumper at the end of regulation was off the mark - Jimmy Butler has been a facilitator in addition to his scoring prowess, and Nikola Mirotic has flourished as the starting power forward, averaging 19.7 points on 51 percent shooting.

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They'll only improve as the starting unit spends more time in the system together - Mike Dunleavy is still expected to miss at least another month after offseason back surgery - as they look to raise their 17.7 assists per game, currently 28th in the NBA.

"I think it’s a work in progress. I think there have been moments where it’s very good and other moments where it’s struggled," Boylen said of the offseason. "I think some credit has to go to Detroit’s defense. They played very hard and they were locked into us pretty good."

Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'


Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

It’s tough to call the position battle for the backup point guard spot on a Lottery-bound team important, but here we are two days into the Bulls’ season.

It won’t move the needle in NBA circles and Dwane Casey won’t be putting in additional time getting ready for Saturday’s game, but there appears to be potential for change in Fred Hoiberg’s rotation.

One day after an embarrassing display in a season-opening loss to the Sixers, Hoiberg said the Bulls have yet to make a decision on a potential lineup change for tomorrow’s affair against the Detroit Pistons. Kris Dunn, who missed Thursday’s game for the birth of his first child, was not at practice on Friday and may or may not be available for the home opener.

That could prompt changes after Cam Payne, inserted into the starting lineup, was largely ineffective, failing to score on 0 of 4 shooting in 21 minutes.

“We’re gonna see how practice goes today and then make that decision,” Hoiberg said. “It’s still up in the air on what we’re gonna do.”

The loss certainly can’t fall on just Payne, as the Bulls went lifeless after a 41-point first quarter that had them in the lead after 12 minutes. From there the Sixers outscored them by 29 in the second and third quarters, facing little resistance from a Bulls defense that doesn’t appear to have made much improvement from a year ago, Dunn or no Dunn.

Philadelphia shot 48 percent from the field, scored 20 fast-break points and 46 points in the paint, cruising to 102 points through three quarters before reserves finished things off. Even with Dunn the defensive prospects don’t look good, meaning Hoiberg might have to make changes to ignite the offense that scored just 35 points in those second and third quarters.

The Bulls could go a few different routes. Zach LaVine’s hot hand in the first quarter – 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting – saw the ball in his hands, and he even added two assists.

“It's a collective effort. You've got to have all five guys out there trying to play the right way and again, we found a recipe with Zach, especially in that first unit, where we let him bring the ball up the floor,” Hoiberg said. “We ran a couple actions where he was the facilitator and we put Cam in the corner. So a lot of that will be dictated by who has it going on a particular night and last night it happened to be Zach, so he was the one that was doing a lot of facilitating.”

Past a point guard-less lineup, the backups to Payne – Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis – could also see extended minutes going forward.

Arcidiacono had 8 points and 8 assists in 28 minutes, though the majority of those stats came in garbage time. Still, he hit a pair of 3-pointers and didn’t turn the ball over, and five of his assists resulted in makes at the rim.

Ulis, acquired off waivers last week, could inject some life into the second unit.

“He’s ready. He’s done a good job in practice,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve gone through the system with him as far as what we expect and if there’s a point in the game where he can go out there and we feel he can help us, I’m confident that he’ll go out there and give us good effort.”

The point guard rotation isn’t the key to unlocking the Bulls as a lockdown defensive team, or no longer suffering the offensive dry spells that happened Thursday. But in a season that’s already showing signs of adversity, shaking up the lineup might be Hoiberg’s only chance.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.