Bulls

Patience preached by Boozer's Bulls teammates

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Patience preached by Boozer's Bulls teammates

Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010
2:02 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Patience is a virtue. In the case of Carlos Boozer's Bulls debut, nobody understands that better than current and former teammates Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer.

"Well, its going to be a little different this time because before, he was coming into a system he already knew inside and out, and theres a little new stuff here," Korver told CSNChicago.com after Wednesday night's loss to the Magic. "Its one thing to see and watch in a game, but to be out there doing it is different. Hes a pretty smart basketball player, so hopefully hell it wont take too long."

"Its not a certain timetable. Any athlete or some people that cover the game know that basketballs a game of rhythm, so the sooner you can pick it up, the sooner you can get in the flow," added Brewer, who played with Boozer in Utah from 2006-07 until last season, when he was dealt to Memphis at the trade deadline. "With him, its a whole new city, whole new system, teammates. You watch them play, but youve got to get used to being on the court, playing at game speed and competing at a high level like he does, facing great talents night in and night out."

It's no secret that Boozer's tenure in Utah was riddled with injuries, as he missed significant time in three of his six seasons (missing 138 regular-season games) with the Jazz. Boozer's 2004-05 campaign was curtailed after 51 games and he only played in 33 games in the subsequent 2005-06 after returning to the lineup in the middle of the season, so perhaps his last injury-plagued season in Salt Lake City best illustrates what the Bulls can expect.

Boozer went out of the Jazz lineup on Nov. 19, 2008, and returned on Feb. 23, 2009, following arthroscopic knee surgery. In his first game back, he recorded two points and five rebounds, not dissimilar to Wednesday's five-point, two-rebound outing.

His next few games showed gradual improvement--12 points and four boards on Feb. 25, six and five on Feb. 28, 10 and nine on March 1--before a breakout performance on March 4, 2009, his fifth game back, when he notched a more Boozer-like 20 points and 17 rebounds.

"You never know with him. Hes a top-tier player in the league, so next game he might have his rhythm back. It might be a week, it might be two weeks, it might be three weeks," Brewer told CSNChicago.com. "Hes a high-talent guy. Even though hes been working hard off the floor, I still think youve got to get your legs back, your conditioning back and your rhythm shooting the ball, and when that comes back, I think youll know the answer about the timetable because hell be a 20-and-10 guy again.

"From Boozs standpoint, he wants to come in and kind of fit in. At the same time, hes got people expecting him to put up big numbers. Its a bit of a tricky thing to do, but the biggest thing is to get comfortable as fast as you can. Thats going to happen through practice and watching film," said Korver, who was traded to Utah from Philadelphia midway through the 2007-08 season. "His first game back was Orlandothats going to be a tough matchup for anyone, regardlessand thats your first basketball game in two months. Its been a long time since he played in a game, so that plus the fact that hes had a broken hand."

Although Boozer claimed his conditioning was fine, he admitted to reporters the difference between practice speed and game speed caught him by surprise. In addition, as his teammates mentioned, learning a new system will take an adjustment and even though by all accounts he's been a diligent pupil during his absence, he appeared to be a step behind on both ends--in fairness, the entire squad seemed out of sync, possibly due to trying to accommodate Boozer and vice versa--during certain points of the Orlando loss.

"Booz, hes hard on himself and he expects great things. He told me, I feel like I need to go out there and score 20 points and 10 rebounds every game, and I was like, Booz, I know youre capable of doing that and youre that type of player, but youve got to take it one game at a time, one possession at a time and try to make positive plays whether its on the offensive end or the defensive end,'" revealed Brewer. "Overall, as a whole, we didnt play well as a team and that puts a lot of pressure on him, his first game back because we kind of put ourselves in a hole quick. I think everybody was kind of pressing their game to make something happen, try to get a 20-point play on one play and you cant do that in basketball. Were going to get better, were going to work on it in practice and I think hes going to get better, as well."

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms 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.

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

We all know what Zach LaVine is capable of doing on the offensive side of things. But what about his defense?

It's no secret that LaVine has had his fair share of struggles on defense, but Kris Dunn thinks highly of his 23-year-old teammate and what his potential is at the other end.

"On the defensive end I just told him, 'You're as fast as me. You're more athletic than me. There's no way you shouldn't be a good defender in this league. You could be one of those guys who could be dynamic in the passing lanes because you're so athletic and fast.'" Dunn said of LaVine. "And personally, I like to score. If you get in a passing lane, that's a dunk for yourself and because you've got so much bounce that's when you get the crowd on their feet — maybe do a windmill, a 360, something.

"But I think he's been going a good job on the defensive end. It's not going to be easy. We all got to learn and I think we're all trying."

Improving his defense would obviously be a big step forward for LaVine (and the Bulls), and he knows it. 

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” LaVine said when assessing his preseason. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

LaVine and the Bulls travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Thursday night in their season opener. You can watch Bulls Pre- and Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago before and after the game for highlights and analysis.

3 keys for Bulls in season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers

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USA TODAY

3 keys for Bulls in season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers

1. Provide help defense on Joel Embiid early and often. Embiid's high usage rate means going to score regardless, and has even added moves like a step-back jumper that he can go to comfortably from 15-feet. But if you make him see multiple defenders and force him to be unsettled, you can harass him into poor shooting nights like Boston did (Embiid shot 9-for-21 on Tuesday night). There were plays where as soon as Embiid took one or two dribbles, a help defender—even a guard—was flying in to go for block shot opportunities.

Wendell Carter Jr. earned the starting center job with his ahead-of-his-age defensive IQ, but no matter how ahead of the curve he is, stopping Embiid will take a group effort. He can become enamored with the 3-point shot, so the Bulls will have to work together to coax Embiid into taking poor shot attempts. Boston did a great job of denying him deep post position. Wendell Carter Jr. will get his first big defensive test on Thursday night, as he will have to use his lower body strength to prevent Embiid's low post dominance. We have seen Carter struggle with bigger low post scorers in the preseason, and if the Bulls don't provide help fast, Carter will be in trouble.

If Carter does what many rookies do, and tries to use his hands to stop Embiid from gaining ground, the referees will call a foul quickly, especially since he is a rookie learning the ropes. Helpside defense will be the difference in this game for the Bulls.

2. Get back quickly and build a wall on transition defense. Below is the combined shot chart of Embiid and Ben Simmons from Tuesday night against the Celtics. Notice where the attempts are mostly concentrated. 

Ben Simmons and Embiid like to put pressure on the opposing defense by putting pressure on the front of the basket, and with good reason. They are both dominant finishers in the paint and questionable outside shooters. In 207-18 Embiid shot 57 percent when 0-3 feet from the basket, Simmons shot a staggering 83 percent in the 0-3 foot range, which is even more impressive when you consider that defenses are gameplanning for his drives. We all know that Simmons will likely never be an even average 3-point shooter, and Embiid shot a dreadful 25 percent from the 3-point line last season despite a career-high 214 attempts. But the above the break 3-point shot is a major part of the Philadelphia offense, with Embiid shooting a much better 30.4 percent on above the break 3-pointers. Chicago would be wise to let the Sixers get these shots. 

In transition Simmons (or Markelle Fultz) will run the break with Embiid trailing directly behind them, either looking for a straight-line drive to the basket or an above the break 3-pointer after their forward momentum has been stopped. 

If the Bulls can summon the words of former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and form a wall around the restricted area, they can wall off aggressive drives from the Sixers young, dynamic duo. The Bulls need to force this game to be about turnovers and free throw makes, areas in which the Sixers have struggled last season (dead-last in the league in turnovers and 23rd in FT percentage).

3. Force the defense to move side-to-side. Philadelphia had a top-five defensive rating last season, and a big reason for that was that while the Sixers would often switch one through four, they wouldn't switch the five, meaning Embiid was often dropping back on pick-and-roll D and stationing himself near the basket. Staying as close as possibe to the rim obviously is beneficial to the Embiid, who has averaged 2 blocks per game for his career. But when you get Philly's aggressive defense to shift, they try to jump passing lanes to ignite their fastbreak, which can lead to plays like this:

The above play contains the exact type of ball-movement and cutting principles that Fred Hoiberg has stressed throughout the preseason. Zach LaVine is the type of quick, explosive guard that the Sixers can have trouble containing with their personnel, more so that they are depending on Fultz so much. But if the Bulls get bogged down into a bunch of one-on-one play, it will allow Embiid to sit back and be a huge deterrent at the rim. Carter's ability to stretch the floor—along with Bobby Portis' shooting—should be enough of a threat to keep Embiid occupied, but if not he will not respect their shots, and simply clog up driving lanes. Handoff plays contained some of Carter's best moments this preseason, so we should expect to see Hoiberg call for lots of plays that get a Bulls guard or wing attacking a backpedaling big.