Bulls

Jerry Reinsdorf reflects on Bulls dynasty as he enters Hall of Fame

Jerry Reinsdorf reflects on Bulls dynasty as he enters Hall of Fame

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — In the hours before his enshrinement here at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a humbled Jerry Reinsdorf has the face of a reluctant inductee.

He believes that players and coaches belong in the Hall, not executives.

But that didn’t stop the letters from coming in — from Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson — urging the Hall of Fame to induct the owner who presided over six NBA championships in the 1990s.

“There’s still some people who think (Jordan and I) didn’t have a good relationship, so I think that puts that to rest,” Reinsdorf said of the Jordan letter. “Michael and I always got along.”

Friday, Reinsdorf will join Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming, Allen Iverson, Tom Izzo, Sheryl Swoopes and the late Zelmo Beaty and coach John McLendon in the Class of 2016.

“I've said many times, the only real skill I have is finding good people. I'm proud of that,” Reinsdorf said. "Otherwise, I'm not quite sure how to put it, but these are great players. I'm just a business guy. I still don't quite understand why I'm going in. I really don't. But since they want to do it, I'm very happy to accept."

Before winning those six titles, the Bulls had to find a way to get past the Detroit Pistons. But there was another team, arguably more talented, that provided a roadblock of their own: the Cleveland Cavaliers. Led by Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Ron Harper and Larry Nance, the Cavs could have been a dynasty of their own. Just look at that 1988-89 regular season. They went 6-0 against the Bulls, including the final game in which the Cavs rested Price, Daugherty and Nance and they still beat the Bulls by six at Chicago Stadium just days before the two teams met in the first round of the playoffs.

But two weeks later, a possible Cavaliers dynasty burned to the ground at the old Richfield Coliseum thanks to Jordan’s legendary shot over Craig Ehlo that clinched the series.

It was also the moment when Reinsdorf believed that the Bulls were on the verge of greatness.

“That was the first time I really thought we had a chance to succeed. I remember when Michael made that shot, I was jumping up and down with Jerry Krause and Karen Stack and 18,000 people were in dead silence and all of a sudden I realized we were in the wrong place to be jumping up and down and we better get the bleep out of there. To me, that will always be the highlight. Even though it wasn’t the championship, that’s when it all started."

Ask Reinsdorf for his favorite Bulls team, and his answers will very likely surprise you because none of them have a ring. And none of them have Jordan.

“My favorite team of all the Bulls teams was 1993-94,” Reinsdorf said. “They come to camp and Michael is gone. (Toni) Kukoc has come over from Europe to play with Michael, and all of a sudden Michael is gone. They hung together and won 55 games. We should have gone another round, at least, but for that brutal (official’s) call against New York. My liking for a team isn’t based on just how good it was but how good was it in relation to how good it should have been. That team overachieved its talent level. That was a great team.”

When Jordan returned to the Bulls, they needed a rebounder to fill the void left by Horace Grant. The best candidate was former Bulls nemesis Dennis Rodman, who the San Antonio Spurs were willing to trade for Will Perdue.

What did Reinsdorf think when Krause, the former Bulls general manager, presented the idea to him?

“I think I said, ‘You want to bring Dennis Rodman here? Remember what he had done to Scottie in Detroit?’ But I remember Phil saying after we lost to Orlando (in the 1995 playoffs) we needed someone, in his words, ‘to fetch the ball.’ We spoke to Michael and Scottie, and they were all for it. We wouldn’t have done it if they were against it.”

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With the Worm aboard, the Bulls won three more NBA titles. Each of the six championships are like children to Reinsdorf. He can’t choose one over the other. They were all special in their own right.

The challenge during that time was to cherish them as they occurred because he didn't know if the team would ever win again.

“I kept trying to remind myself that it wasn’t going to last forever, so enjoy it,” Reinsdorf said. “Every year was different. People forget we were down 0-2 to the Knicks in the (1993) conference finals. The Knicks had a better record and we didn’t have home-court advantage in the conference finals and Finals, and I think Michael got burned out on that one. I remember leaving New York on the way to the airport (down 0-2) and talking to Phil and saying, ‘If we lose, we have to lose with dignity. Let’s not do it like the Pistons did.’ He assured me if we did in fact lose, it would be with class, but we never had to find out.”

At the induction ceremony on Friday, Reinsdorf will be presented on stage by Pippen and Jackson. Jordan is unable to attend because of a scheduling conflict.

“It would have been nice to have all three of them, but he just couldn’t be here.”

Most of all, Reinsdorf wishes his former general manager was inducted before him.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Jerry Krause. When I was told (of being inducted), my first reaction was I’d rather it be Krause. But it isn’t Krause, it’s me, and I didn’t turn it down,” he said laughing.

As for this upcoming season, the Bulls were on the verge of rebuilding. But all of that changed when Dwyane Wade decided to he wanted to come back to his hometown and play for the Bulls.

His signing shocked everybody — including Reinsdorf.

“I thought for sure (Wade) would go back to Miami,” Reinsdorf admitted. “It’s a tremendous addition not only as a player but the culture. Right off the bat he wanted to know what he could do in the community. He has his own plans, and so does Rajon (Rondo). I think these guys will be a real plus.

“Despite the fact that some of the (media) seem to think we got older, we have a pretty young team. So the older players are going to be great mentors for our seven guys with three years or less of service.

"I think we're going to be competitive. I'm not predicting anything. But remember, as bad as we were last year, we beat Cleveland three out of four and Toronto four out of four."

With the nucleus of Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, Reinsdorf believed they had a chance to add a seventh title to the Bulls' collection. But like the Cavs teams from the 1990s and countless others, it doesn’t always work out the way you plan it.

“I had high hopes for the last group,” Reinsdorf said. “I thought they could contend for titles, maybe win, but certainly contend. It was certainly disappointing, all those injuries to Derrick. It’s not easy to win. Doug Collins told me, ‘It’s not solitaire; other people are trying to beat you.'”

In those six magical seasons in the 90s, no one could beat the Chicago Bulls. Two decades later, we continue to celebrate them — and always will.

Friday, another piece from that era will be enshrined in Springfield. Reinsdorf might not have played the game, but he played a pivotal role in making the Bulls an NBA dynasty.

“I’m proud of the fact I was able to surround myself with great people who did great things and it resulted in the Bulls being a global brand and winning championships and a factor in the community,” Reinsdorf explained. “I’ve said many times, any real skill I have is finding great people, and I’m proud of that because those people have done great things.”

NBA Draft: What the Bulls would get in Jarrett Culver

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USA TODAY

NBA Draft: What the Bulls would get in Jarrett Culver

The phrase “getting downhill” became somewhat of a buzzword during Jim Bolyen’s first year at the helm. It may not have elicited the same reactions as his “soul and spirit” comments did, but the Bulls had clear instruction to blitz defenses by getting to spots and attacking the basket. The result was the Bulls leading the NBA in drives per game after Dec. 3, when Boylen took over for Fred Hoiberg. They went from 41.9 last season, to 43.3 under Hoiberg this past season to a whopping 55.9 under Boylen.

Personnel certainly played a part, as Kris Dunn averaged 11.7 drives and played just two games for Hoiberg, while an aggressive Lauri Markkanen in February also helped the cause. No matter how you slice it, Boylen likes his guys attacking the rim. The hope is that it eventually leads to kickouts and open 3-pointers, but the Bulls aren’t quite there yet.

They led the NBA in drives per game but were just 15th in points percentage, netting points on just 55.7% of drives (15th best). Despite their pass percentage being 18th in the NBA (they passed after drives 36.4% of the time) they were 28th in assist percentage, with a drive resulting in an assist just 8.3% of the time.

One could surmise that the Bulls need shooters. Instead, we’ll argue today that they should continue to play the drives game. That means going after Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver. The sophomore put together an outstanding year in Lubbock, Tex., averaging 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals in 38 games. He led the Red Raiders to the NCAA championship game, where they lost in overtime to Virginia.

Culver excelled attacking the rim. Whether it’s using pick-and-rolls, cutting off the ball or using his length in post-up action, Culver was a beast around the rim. Per Synergy Sports, he shot almost 59 percent on 269 attempts around the rim. Though he settles for midrange jumpers at times, he’s got a strong dribble, does a nice job lowering his shoulder and finishes with contact. And again, he plays longer than his listed height. His wingspan will be interesting to see at the Combine as he seemingly hasn’t stopped growing over the last year.

Working in Culver’s favor as far as his NBA prospects are concerned is that he had an excellent season in pick-and-roll action. Though he played 84 percent of his minutes at shooting guard, Culver had 201 pick-and-roll actions. He scored 162 points on those – placing him in the 63rd percentile among all players – and his turnover rate of 14.4% was 18th among the 50 players with 200 or more PnR possessions.

In addition to his ability getting to the basket, Culver is an experienced player who can work off the likes of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. He’s an apt passer, too, averaging the 3.7 assists off the ball.

Then there’s his defense. Wingspan doesn’t equal good defender, but Culver uses it incredibly well. He’s arguably the second best wing defender in the class behind Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter, but he projects as someone who would gibe the Bulls continued versatility to switch. A defense with Wendell Carter, Otto Porter and Culver is a large improvement from 12 months ago.

The Bulls need shooting. Badly. Culver’s outside numbers were ugly, but consider two facts: He shot 38.2 percent from deep as a freshman on nearly the same amount of attempts and his form isn’t broken. He had seven games with three or more 3-pointers, and shot 24 of 45 in those games (53.3%). He’s a smart player and can really get going when he feels it.

If you’ve read to this point, consider Jimmy Butler as an NBA comparison. Not overly fast or athletic, but gets to his spots, is strong attacking the rim, plays solid defense and can catch heat from deep from time to time. The Bulls could use Culver as a sixth man who staggers with Zach LaVine and Otto Porter and gives the Bulls someone to attack on the second unit – Shaq Harrison and Wayne Selden didn’t exactly cut it last season. He’d be a good complement to Chandler Hutchison, too, as another lengthy defender who can play multiple positions.

Culver doesn’t have the ceiling of a Zion, Ja or Barrett. But he’s also got perhaps the highest floor of anyone in the draft. His defense is going to translate and there’s room for a non-point guard who can run pick-and-roll action. He’ll keep the ball moving, which should have him at the top of the Bulls’ draft board. If his 3-point numbers get back to where he was as a freshman, he has All-Star potential. Defenses may sag in on him at the pro level, which could make attacking the rim more difficult. But even if that’s the case, he’ll still work well off the ball as a cutter.

His skills translate as someone who can play right away. That’s what the Bulls need after an injury-riddled 28-win campaign didn’t really move the rebuild forward. It’s time to take a step forward, and Culver gives them the best chance to do so if they aren’t lucky enough to move up in the Lottery.

Season in Review: Antonio Blakeney had the Mamba Mentality

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USA TODAY

Season in Review: Antonio Blakeney had the Mamba Mentality

Over the next month we'll be recapping each of the Bulls' individual 2018-19 regular seasons.

Previous reviews: Lauri Markkanen | Shaq Harrison | Ryan Arcidiacono | Otto Porter  | Wayne Selden | Zach LaVine

Preseason expectations: Like most of the end-of-the-bench Bulls, Antonio Blakeney’s role became much larger with the injuries to Denzel Valentine, Kris Dunn and even Bobby Portis. It moved everyone up on the depth chart across the board, and that included Blakeney.

The expectations were simple because of what Blakeney is: a scorer. Good nights would include games where his midrange jumper was falling, and bad ones would be obvious quickly. Then again, the Bulls liked what they saw in his impressive Summer League by giving him guaranteed money on a two-year deal.

What went right: Well, he did provide a scoring punch on occasion. Blakeney topped the 14-point mark eight different times in 2019 and did so in pretty efficient fashion – he shot 50 percent or better in six of those eight games. Blakeney had a knack for reeling off a few makes in a row to help the Bulls in spurts. Of course they happened few and far between, but we’d be remiss not to mention that a hot Blakeney was a really good Blakeney.

What went wrong: A whole lot. On the surface you’ll see that Blakeney shot 39.6 percent from beyond the arc last season. In reality, much of that damage came early in the season. In a five-game stretch in late October he made 14 of 22 triples. The rest of the season he was 22 of 69 (31.8%) and just 15.8 percent from March 1 until the end of the season. He couldn’t top 42 percent from the field and provided very little in the way of passing, rebounding or defense. The Bulls needed Blakeney to provide a scoring punch, and in early November it looked like he might be a surprise. It was a mirage.

The Stat:  432 to 396

It was something we followed all season long but Blakeney ultimately finished the year with more passes (432) than field goal attempts (396). But only barely.

2019-20 Expectations: If the Bulls opt to keep Blakeney and his guaranteed money, he’ll be an end-of-the-bench player without much of a role. Denzel Valentine will be back, the Bulls should add another backcourt player in the draft – with either pick – and Chandler Hutchison will be healthy to give the Bulls more depth. This was Blakeney’s best shot to prove he belongs in the NBA and he did very little with the opportunity.