Bulls

No one leader needed to help Bulls from lethargy, they say

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No one leader needed to help Bulls from lethargy, they say

PHILADELPHIA—The sluggish start to the Bulls’ season has left many scratching their heads in confusion, with everything from lineup changes to discussion about leadership being a point of discussion seven games into a long, seven-month journey.

No one player has been the proverbial “ass kicker” in the locker room, as it has turned into a leadership by committee situation, the one thing everybody is seemingly on the same page about.

“I think (Joakim Noah) has probably been the most vocal,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Pau (Gasol) with his experience. Jimmy (Butler) and Derrick (Rose) are guys who will talk when you get in. Taj (Gibson) has done a good job. Even Kirk (Hinrich) on the sidelines. Talking to (Mike) Dunleavy, he’s always telling me what he thinks and sees. It’s a group by committee. But your most vocal guy is Jo.”

[MORE: Bulls hope communication issues have been fixed]

Rose and Butler are in agreement on this not being that kind of team and even Noah bristles at the notion about him being the leader of this bunch. Rose is the most accomplished, Noah the most tenured and Butler the most consistent.

Those are likely the loudest voices in the room, the voices who should’ve been heard from after Saturday’s overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“I mean we talk to each other. Every team is different. Every leader is different,” Rose said. “And they handle it in their own little way. I think with the team, I think we talked about it as far as making sure everyone is on the same page and making sure we give all our effort, I mean our best effort every night.”

If the two overtime games go in a different direction, losses to Minnesota and Detroit, the Bulls would be 6-1 and the narrative wouldn’t have anything to do with a perceived lack of leadership.

“To tell you the truth, if you win games nobody looks at it like that,” Butler said. “When you're losing, especially the way we've been losing, you've gotta blame it on something. I think it's more important to have team full of leaders, do their roles and do what's expected to do night in and out.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Whatever is said behind closed doors, Rose believes, should be between the players and not even the coaching staff. But even he is slightly hesitant to speak up considering he isn’t playing to his own standards and has plenty of catching up to do after missing all of training camp.

“I mean I would, yeah, but at the same time I’m dealing with my own problems too, so it’s all about finding that balance, and like I said getting everybody on the same page,” Rose said.

“It’s about catching up. These guys have been playing for a long time. When I was out I tend to just watch and see what’s going, and when you’re not playing you can’t voice your opinion like that. I don’t care who you are. With me being on the court, me getting back into a rhythm and just playing, I think that I should be able to voice my opinion a little bit more, and it’s slowly coming.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: A sprained MCL and Trubisky's performance. vs the Pats

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: A sprained MCL and Trubisky's performance. vs the Pats

David Haugh, Jordan Cornette, Shae Peppler join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Mark Schanowski joins SportsTalk Live to discuss Kris Dunn’s sprained MCL, Fred Hoiberg’s tough luck and Zach LaVine postgame criticisms of the coaching. Plus they’ll discuss another 0-3 team- LeBron’s Lakers.

20:00 – The panel discusses Mitchell Trubisky’s performance vs. the Patriots. Jordan makes the case that the media is giving the former No. 2 pick a pass.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Bulls bracing for a Kemba Walker onslaught

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USA TODAY

Bulls bracing for a Kemba Walker onslaught

Through the opening week of the NBA season, Hornets' All-Star point guard Kemba Walker and former Bull Niko Mirotic share the league scoring lead, averaging 33 points per game.

Bulls' fans have seen these hot stretches from Niko before, and chances are he'll start moving down to the mid to high-teens before long. But Walker is a big-time scorer who's quietly emerged as one of the most consistently productive point guards in a league loaded with stars at that position. He's averaged over 20 points and 5 assists in each of the last three seasons, making the Eastern Conference All-Star team twice.

Last season, Walker lit up the Bulls for 47 points in an overtime loss at the United Center in November, making some of the most difficult shots you can imagine to keep his team in the game. He seems to be as this best when facing the Bulls and you can bet Fred Hoiberg and his staff will pull out all the stops to try to slow him down, especially with defensive ace Kris Dunn out 4-6 weeks after suffering a sprained left MCL in his season debut on Monday.

The Hornets made some personnel changes since last season. The one-year experiment with Dwight Howard at center is over. Howard put up solid numbers for Charlotte a year ago, but didn't make much difference in the win-loss column, so he's moved on to Washington in his NBA odyssey. Cody Zeller is now the starting center, backed up by Bismack Biyombo and former Benet Academy and University of Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky.

Charlotte tried to improve the athleticism on their roster by selecting Malik Monk and Miles Bridges in the first rounds of the last two drafts. Monk is getting more playing time this season, averaging 13.5 points in the Hornets' first four games. Bridges is averaging just under 16 minutes a game as a backup to starting forwards Marvin Williams and Nic Batum. Just like he did at Michigan State, Bridges is providing those highlight reel putback dunks, but it remains to be seen whether he'll develop a consistent enough outside shot to be a quality starter in the NBA.

The well-traveled Jeremy Lamb is now starting in the backcourt with Walker, and the Hornets brought in long-time Spurs' point guard Tony Parker to add some much needed experience and veteran savvy off the bench. Given the current state of the Eastern Conference (post-LeBron), it's not out of the question for this group to contend for one of the final playoff spots.

Here's what the Bulls need to do for a shot at their first win of the season. This also applies to the rematch in Charlotte on Friday.

1. CORRAL KEMBA. For whatever reason, seeing that Bulls' logo turns Walker into an almost unstoppable scoring machine. Walker is adept at working off his big men, either in straight pick and rolls or cutting through the post on give-and-go plays. He's one of the league's most creative scorers, and doesn't require much room to get his shot off. The Bulls' bigs will have to provide help on Walker whenever he comes off screens to keep him from taking over the game.

2. PUT THE BALL IN ZACH'S HANDS. Whether he's playing shooting guard or point guard, Zach LaVine needs to be the primary facilitator with Dunn sidelined. LaVine scored 34 points against Dallas Monday night on just 15 shots, which led to him questioning some of the offensive sets that were run in the 2nd half. LaVine told reporters on Tuesday that he smoothed things over with his head coach, explaining his comments were the result of the frustration he was feeling after a third-straight loss to open the season. Still, LaVine is on a major hot streak, joining Bulls' all-time greats Michael Jordan and Bob Love as the only players to start the year with three straight games scoring at least 30 points. The Bulls will need to ride that hot hand for as far as LaVine can carry them.

3. DEFEND THE 3-POINT LINE. You knew I would eventually get to this, right? Dallas made 15 of 47 3-point attempts on Monday after the Pistons knocked down 18 of 40 in a two-point win last Saturday. The Hornets have all kinds of capable 3-point shooters in Walker, Lamb, Monk, Batum and Williams (they're shooting .397 as a team on 3's), so guarding the arc will be crucial for the Bulls to have a chance at their first win.

Don’t forget you can catch Wednesday's game on NBC Sports Chicago and the new MyTeams by NBC sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 pm when Kendall Gill, Will Perdue and Kelly Crull join me for Bulls Pregame Live from the United Center Atrium. Neil Funk and Stacey King have the play-by-play call at 7 pm, then stay tuned after the final buzzer for Bulls Postgame Live and the always entertaining Bulls Outsiders.