Im never going to admit it, man, Luol Deng told CSNChicago.com after Sundays Bulls overtime win at Detroit. Weve got a lot of guys, weve got depth. I think were going to start using our depth now.After playing nearly 45 minutes -- and scoring only two points, though he limited Pistons counterpart Tayshaun Princes scoring, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists -- Deng looked exhausted, as usual. Additionally, he suffered an injury to his ribs after taking a shot from Pistons guard Ben Gordon, a former teammate, as first reported by the Chicago Tribune.However, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau argued that while Deng currently leads the league in minutes per game, the fact that hes missed time with a torn ligament in his left wrist -- a factor in his up-and-down shooting nights -- means he hasnt had as much wear and tear as one might expect.If you studied his total minutes, you would see that hes had plenty of rest this year. If you compare his total minutes for the season, dont forget hes missed nine games this season, so its not a guy thats piled up a ton of minutes, said a testy Thibodeau about the All-Star, who ranks 20th in the league in total minutes entering Monday. Its a valid question. I think for him, he knew this is what it would be like. Some days, its better than others. He still helps us a lot when hes not scoring. He does so many other things, whether hes rebounding the ball or he creates space. When hes on the floor, theyre not leaving him, so theres more space for Derrick to operate. I think that three-point shot is huge. Well see how it goes. Hes getting time off in practice. Maybe we should have him practice and give him the games off, I dont know.Deng is almost like a safety blanket to Thibodeau because of his versatility, so even on the nights on which he doesnt produce much scoring -- Im not just out there for my defense, Deng bristled -- his versatility and the mere threat of his varied offensive game helps the Bulls.Thibodeau explained: Thats the value of him. Hes on a primary scorer every night, so hes such a big part of our defense, I know theres going to be nights when hes not shooting well. Im good with that because of his rebounding, his defense and his ability to shoot the three. Even when hes not shooting well, theyre not leaving him, so his man is going to be out of the paint and thats what Derrick needs. Derrick needs space. Luol has shown hes more than capable of hitting that big three, even on nights hes not shooting well. You leave him open, hes a clutch shooter. Hes going to make those.
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 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.
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.
Sources: Undrafted Loyola Chicago forward Donte Ingram has committed to summer league with the Chicago Bulls.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 22, 2018
This summer shall be LIT! 🙌🏾🤩— Donte Ingram (@kingram_0) June 22, 2018
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.