Bulls

It's the Midwest's turn for exhibition games

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It's the Midwest's turn for exhibition games

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Posted: 2:54 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Follow @CSNBullsInsider
For all of the basketball being played these days, one would hardly know there's a lockout.

At this point during a normal offseason, most players are holed up in individual workouts in preparation for training camp, international players -- some of whom likely opted to participate for their national teams because of the work stoppage, not to mention Olympic qualification -- excluded. But even domestically, there have been a rash of pro-am exhibition games and as non-NBA American players begin to depart for their overseas jobs, NBA-only contests, as well as the anticipated Competitive Training Series in Las Vegas.

The majority of the high-profile events have been based on the East Coast, but the Midwest will finally get a taste of spotlight later this month. On Sept. 24, Indianapolis' Butler University will host an affair pitting the Indy Pro-Am against the Washington, D.C.-based Goodman League -- the same outfit that took on both the Los Angeles-based Drew League and a Baltimore-based "Melo League" squad featuring LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul -- last month, CSNChicago.com confirmed with Indy Pro-Am founder Carlos Knox.

Knox said he expects Indy Pro-Am participants such as Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph, former Butler star and Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward, Jazz first-round draft pick Alec Burks, Pacers guard Lance Stephenson, Pacers guard and Indianapolis native George Hill and Wizards draft pick Shelvin Mack, another recent Butler product, to participate. On the Goodman end, reigning two-time NBA scoring champion and Thunder superstar Kevin Durant, a Washington native, and Wizards star John Wall are the reported headliners.

Being that Indianapolis is only an approximately three-hour drive away, it might be the closest Chicago will get to a high-profile exhibition -- even without labor negotiations as of yet resolved, look for several of these events to crop up this month, before the official opening of NBA training camps officially open in October -- this offseason, for the time being.

Knox, whose league was quietly one of the better pro-am summer events in the country and featured NBA players (and was free to the public), let it be known that he's open to Bulls players engaging in regional pride -- putting aside a conference rivalry with the Pacers, let alone the heated first-round matchup last spring -- to suit up for Indianapolis. Given Derrick Rose's adamant stance about not playing in pro-am or summer-league games -- although he did take part in a barnstorming trip to the Philippines earlier this summer -- he's a longshot to play. Besides the high-flying league MVP, in your opinion, which Bulls players would fare best in a free-flowing, laissez-faire, decidedly un-Thibsesque streetball setting?

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reaction to Lauri Markkanen’s injury and loss to Kings

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USA TODAY

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reaction to Lauri Markkanen’s injury and loss to Kings

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 98-81 loss to the Kings.

1:00 - Reaction to the loss and LaVine getting double-teamed

2:50 - On Jim Boylen saying don’t expect system changes with Markkanen hurt

4:25 - Sabine’s list of things that have happened since the last time the Kings made the playoffs in 2006

5:35 - Viewer comment on LaVine and Coby

6:40 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine

8:00 - On the importance of 1st vs 3rd quarter

9:00 - Viewer comment on possible trades

11:00 - Viewer comment on seeing Bulls without Markkanen

14:30 - On Lauri Markkanen’s hip injury and missing 4-6 weeks

18:40 - Viewer comment asking if Bulls should shut down Markkanen

19:50 - Hey Matt Peck, did you see what DRose did tonight?

21:15 - Viewer comment on what to expect from Lauri when he returns

23:40 - Viewer asking the greatest moment the Outsiders have witnessed

24:55 - On NBA naming the All-Star starters

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Without Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine's job will only get more difficult

Without Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine's job will only get more difficult

It’s been the most pressing on-court issue facing the Bulls all season — in a season full of them:

Outside of Zach LaVine, where do the points come from?

The glare of that question is only set to amplify with Lauri Markkanen now set to miss four to six weeks with a pelvic injury. Take tonight’s 98-81 defeat at the hands of the Kings as an example. LaVine tallied 21 — his 13th consecutive game with 20 or more. Thad Young chipped in 10; Kris Dunn did, too. But the rest of the team mustered 40, and the Bulls finished with 81 points against the Kings’ 18th-rated defense.

For a stretch — a 109-second one, to start the second half — it appeared LaVine might single-handedly save the day, as he has before. He opened the third quarter with 10 quick points to shave a 10-point halftime deficit to two after tallying eight in the first two periods combined.

But the Kings clamped up. The rest of the way, LaVine scored only thrice and was ever on the run from one, two or three Sacramento defenders at a time, depending on the possession. The Bulls’ dearth of scoring around him made the gameplan a simple one: Cut the head off the snake. LaVine finished just 8-for-21 from the field.

“I think they did a good job of that,” Jim Boylen said of the Kings’ throwing waves of bodies LaVine’s way. “Zach's a primary guy and they treated him like a primary guy. He got up 21 shots. You know, six rebounds. I thought he tried.”

This storyline isn’t going away. As of this writing, three of the Bulls’ top five scorers (Marrkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr.) are sidelined and weeks (at least) away from return. Young, steady as he is, isn’t going to transform into a consistent 20-point scorer overnight. Tomas Satoransky and Coby White represent the Bulls’ best chance of secondary explosions on a night-to-night basis — but against Sacramento, they combined for 16 points on 4-for-16 shooting.

“I mean, [opponents have] been doing that,” LaVine said of the double and triple-teams he received tonight. “We gotta get somebody to step up, and I think we'll find it. It's the first game without Lau [Lauri Markkanen]. We'll figure out what we gotta do in Cleveland.”

Easier said than done. Down another primary 3-point threat in Markkanen, the Bulls shot 8-for-37 from deep tonight, the fifth time in seven games they’ve made less than 10 3-pointers. They’re now 2-13 on the season when they make less than 10 3s.

“Will we have to adjust some things and maybe play a little differently? Maybe,” Jim Boylen said of the team’s shooting. “I'll evaluate with the shots we got and what else we had. But I'm not gonna reinvent the wheel in January, I'm not gonna do that.”

The Bulls — spearheaded by Boylen and LaVine — insist they’re going to keep plugging. Still, an offense already third-to-last in the league in offensive rating just lost another cog, and the impact was apparent. LaVine already carried as great an offensive load as anyone in the league. Now, if he didn’t already, he’ll receive as much attention as anyone, too.

“That's up to coach. I'm prepared for everything. I think my conditioning's [good], so we'll see, maybe I gotta do that,” LaVine said of potentially taking on more minutes.

And of the injuries: “Nobody's gonna feel bad for you. They're just gonna try to take advantage of it.”

The Kings did that successfully tonight. The Bulls hope it doesn't prove a foreshadowing.

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