Bulls

In the post: Johnson's play draws attention

In the post: Johnson's play draws attention

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010
11:00 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

TORONTO -- Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus familiarity with Brian Scalabrine certainly doesnt hurt the veterans cause, but with Joakim Noah sidelined with flu-like symptoms and foul trouble ailing starters Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, the veteran stepped up and proved his worth.

Hes a solid veteran. He gives you veteran leadership. Hes been in a lot of situations like that and tonight, were short-handed and thats why I like him, said Thibodeau. He stays ready to play, you put him out there and he can guard people and his team defense is very good and offensively, hes smart. He keeps the ball moving, he knows where the matchups are, he knows whos hot, he knows how the plays being defended, so you can count on him.

Derrick Rose is already a big believer in his new teammates influence. Scal, hes the other coach on the floor. When Thibs doesnt know what to run, Scal is always in his ear. If we dont know what to run, Scal is helping me and the other point guards, telling people where to go and thats what we need, just everybody talking on the floor, said Rose. It makes my job a lot easier, where when I come down and Scal knows something, hes coming to me. Weve got great veterans on this team, like Kurt Thomas K.T. when he sees something, hes telling everybody, so were all communicating out there and thats the reason why we came back tonight.

--Rose also had high praise for James Johnsons performance, explaining how the second-year forward has taken strides and improved.

Hes not thinking too much basic move, get to the basket, pull-up shot and thats all he needs. He doesnt need to dribble that much, he just needs to create space a little bit; hes playing with a lot of confidence right now, said Rose.

Added Thibodeau: Johnson was very good. I thought defensively, he was moving his feet, he was down in a defensive stance and offensively, I thought he made great decisions. As for Johnson himself, he attributes his successful evening to his teammates and the teams new system. I like how spread out our offense isWere moving the ball, which just makes my game a lot easier I do anything I have to do. I come off screens when I have to, cut, my man finds me and Im just happy they did today, said Johnson. My team provided offense for me. They spread it out and it was just easy for me to go to work when I got the ball. Once my guy had to help or stunt, then I got the ball and it was easy for me to drive the lane.

--Thibodeau believes swingman Ronnie Brewer is progressing well in his return from a pulled hamstring. Brewer played just under 25 minutes Wednesday his high this preseason and although he didnt put up gaudy statistics (five points, two assists), his coach feels hes starting to get back to his old self.

I really liked the way Ronnie moved tonight. I thought he looked comfortable. He made a lot of great cuts, where he didnt necessarily get the pass for the layup, but his cuts loosened up the defense and created open shots for us, so I thought he was very efficient and it looked like he was moving with a lot of confidence tonight, said Thibodeau. Each game, were trying to give him more and more, and just see how he handles it. In practice, hes doing everything now. Well keep increasing it to see how it goes. Its more precautionary. We could have finished it out, but we wanted to keep his minutes around 25 and then well go from there.

--At the Raptors Wednesday morning shootaround, Toronto point guard Jarrett Jack opined on the NBAs controversial new technical-foul policy.

Ive tried the best I can. I think Ive gotten two technicals so far. But the NBA has the right to upgrade their product, as far as our image is concerned, but in the same sense, we dont want to take away the emotions of the game. Were still human at the end of the day, said Jack. If something happens in a split-second and we have a reaction to it that may not be demonstrative to where were not showing the ref, but allow us to react.

"Nobodys going to sit there expressionless, emotionless. Thats a robot and none of us are that. I think if they just give us some leeway, Im sure that as the season goes along, there will kind of be some leniency with the technical fouls, but as of right now, they kind of have to crack the whip and let everybody fall in line.

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Zach LaVine vows to help Lauri Markkanen's offense get back on track

Zach LaVine vows to help Lauri Markkanen's offense get back on track

Lauri Markkanen has a wicked sense of humor. Trust us. He does.

It’s when the camera lights turn on and the tape recorders start rolling that he slips into a more guarded phase, content to trade in the currency of cliché. Combine that dynamic with his mentality, which is to put the team before himself and never to rock the boat, and you’re not going to get much from the stoic Finn on his current struggles.

That’s where Zach LaVine steps in. LaVine and Markkanen, forever bonded by the Jimmy Butler trade, shoot straight with each other. And according to LaVine, Markkanen remains in a good place mentally, if not statistically.

“He just doesn’t seem in rhythm right now man. It’s a new offense. And I think it has a part to do with it,” LaVine said. “We just gotta help him find it. We’ve all gone through some struggles. I feel like everybody has been off rhythm in the beginning part of the year. I think everybody is shooting a lower field goal percentage than their (career) average.

“His spirits are still high. I know he’s worried about it but he’s not pressing yet. And I think that’s good to see. He hasn’t done anything out of character. He hasn’t lashed out or blamed anybody. He just wants to win. And that’s the type of player he is.”

Markkanen showed the world the type of player he can be last February with dominant double-double after dominant double-double. The organization publicly placed LaVine and Markkanen on a pedestal this offseason, declaring all offseason moves were made to clear the runway for their next steps.

Through 12 games, Markkanen is averaging a career low 14.4 points on career low 37.6 percent shooting and career low 27.8 percent 3-point shooting. His 11.8 shots per game also mark a career low and are well down from last season’s 15.3 per game.

“You can’t blame it all on the offense,” LaVine said. “Sometimes you have to go out there as a player and do what you do as well. That’s at least what I think.”

But what specifically about the offense does LaVine think is limiting Markkanen?

“It’s just different. We’re not getting as many postups. Like we’ve been showing, we’re trying to shoot 3s and get to the basket more,” LaVine said. “For somebody who I think is 7 foot, we just gotta get him some easy ones. Maybe him sometimes standing on the wing waiting for it isn’t the best for him.

“I think in the beginning I was trying to find my way with (the offense). I think it’s a little bit easier for me because I have the ball in my hand and I feel I can create a little better off the dribble and find my own shot. I think we have to help him find his easy shots. I told him, ‘If we’re in transition and you find a small, post up, man. Do what you do. Get in that rhythm. Get to the free throw line.’ I’m still out there trying to help him.

“We just have to do a better job of helping him get to his rhythm and find him. It sucks because you don’t want to see your guy out there struggling, especially you know how good he is and what he can do. He had that great first game. We haven’t been able to get back to it. We gotta find him some easy baskets to help him get in a rhythm. Without him, it’s going to be tough to play.”

Indeed, when Markkanen put up 35 points and 17 rebounds in the opener at Charlotte, flashbacks to February happened. Instead, Markkanen has posted three single-digit scoring games since and has attempted 10 or fewer shots in seven of 12 games.

“I think in general, the league is more prepared for him. I think in general, he's A-1 or A-2 on the scouting report and they're bringing physicality at him every night,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I also think we've demanded that he play better defense and more consistent defense. So being a two-way player at this level is very difficult.

“If you look at some of the matchup he's had, there are some tough matchups in our division, from (Kevin) Love to Giannis (Antetokounmpo) to Blake Griffin and these are all learning things for him. Yeah, we want him to be the Lauri Markkanen he was in February. We believe he can do that. Is he frustrated with that and does he want it? Of course.

“I show him the things he needs to do better. He understands what he needs to do. He's not a dummy. And he cares about the team. When he will break through, how he will break through---I can't tell you that. All I can tell you is he's trying to control the things he can control.”

Boylen has downplayed questions about Markkanen’s shot attempts, saying he’s playing the right way and taking what the game and defense dictate. But is that always a good thing? If Markkanen is a primary scoring option, should Coby White be attempting more shots in less playing time?

“He’s a young developing player. I think he’s had some moments where he can do better. I think he understands that. I think consistency for our group – not only him – has been a problem, and our growth plate for all of us,” Boylen said. “The thing I look at is does he continue to work and communicate and take ownership? I feel no delusional tendencies from him. He’s not making excuses, and as long as I see a guy working and caring, I believe he will play better and get back to who we think he can be.”

Maybe this will all blow over. Perhaps another dominant stretch is imminent. Until then, the questions will remain.

“He hasn’t been frustrated or pressing. He’s like, ‘I gotta get it going,’” LaVine said. “We’ve all missed some easy ones. When you’re in rhythm, those easy ones are automatic. We gotta make that hoop look big to him again. I think he’ll get back on track. He’s in the gym shooting. It’s 12 games in. Luckily, it’s not a 12-game season. But obviously we want to help him get on track faster than anything else.”

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Concern over Lauri Markkanen

lauri_back_pod.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Concern over Lauri Markkanen

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Jason Goff, Kendall Gill, and Dave Watson react to the Bulls loss in Milwaukee and where the team is after 12 games.

1:10 - On Coby White and becoming a major scoring threat off the bench

2:30 - Should Coby start?

4:00 - On Lauri Markkanen’s inconsistent play

10:10 - Do the Bulls need more 2-man game with Lauri and Zach?

14:00 - Do we need to change our expectations for this team and the players?

20:30 - Kendall on how the cavalry isn’t coming to help the Bulls

21:45 - Is Wendell Carter the ‘future’ of the Bulls and impact on team veterans?

25:30 - On the Bulls’ evolving rotations

30:15 - On Daniel Gafford’s lack of playing time

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: 

Bulls Talk Podcast

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