Bulls

Schanowski: Should Bulls get involved in Howard trade talks?

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Schanowski: Should Bulls get involved in Howard trade talks?

At first glance, the decision by the Orlando Magic to fire Head Coach Stan Van Gundy and part ways with General Manager Otis Smith would seem like an obvious attempt to pacify disgruntled superstar Dwight Howard, who had differences with both men during this past season. Howard reluctantly agreed to relinquish his opt-out clause for the 2012-13 season before the trade deadline in March, and with Van Gundy and Smith out of the picture, you would think the Magic have a decent shot at getting him to sign a long-term extension.

Well, guess again. Sources close to Howard told Sheridan Hoops that the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is more determined than ever to bolt the Magic Kingdom, and he has the two New York teams, the two Los Angeles teams and Dallas on his list of preferred destinations.

My question is, should the Bulls make a bid to bring Howard to Chicago?

Granted, with Derrick Rose facing a long rehab after surgery to repair a torn left ACL and Luol Deng possibly missing the first two months of next season if he decides to have wrist surgery, the Bulls arent exactly in a position of strength to make a deal.

But the way I look at it, the Rose injury might make this the best time for Bulls management to roll the dice. If you could get Orlando to agree to a package of Joakim Noah, Deng, Ronnie Brewer and the future Charlotte first-round draft pick for Howard and Hedo Turkoglu (who will have to be included in any deal involving Howard because of his big money contract), you would have that second superstar to reduce the burden on Rose to carry the Bulls offense.

We know Howard hasnt been all that excited about the possibility of coming to cold-weather Chicago, but if he had a full season to experience all the city has to offer and the tremendous loyalty of Bulls fans, maybe he would warm up to the idea of making the Windy City his long-term NBA home. And, if Howard decides to bolt after one season, the Bulls could use the salary cap room they would create to bid on a star-studded free agent class in 2014.

I know its a lot to ask for Bulls fans to be patient after believing the team was on the cusp of a championship during the last two seasons. But the reality is, even with the supremely talented Rose, this is an offensively challenged team that might not have been able to beat Miami or the Western Conference champion in a seven game series. Taking the gamble on making a trade for Howard would be the Bulls best opportunity to acquire another game-changing player. And if Howard leaves, the Bulls would have sufficient cap room in 2014 to possibly make another run at LeBron James, who can opt out of his contract with the Heat that summer.

If the Bulls stand pat with the current roster, all theyll be able to do this season is add a stop-gap point guard fill in at the mini-mid level contract of about 2.5 million dollars. Were talking about veterans on the down side of their careers like: Kirk Hinrich, Andre Miller, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, or maybe young players who havent yet reached their potential like Raymond Felton, Jerryd Bayliss and Jonny Flynn.

The Bulls will probably use their late first-round draft pick (No. 29 overall) on either a college shooter like Vanderbilts John Jenkins or Ohio States William Buford or possibly another big man like Syracuse 7 footer Fab Melo.

Maybe next season isnt about contending for a title, given the injury rehab periods for Rose and possibly Deng. If the next legitimate title shot isnt until the 2013-14 season, the front office should seriously consider making a bold roster move that will set the team up for years of contention after Dengs contract expires in two years and the Bulls can bring European sensation Nikola Mirotic to the NBA.

Howard might not love Chicago now, but the thought of Howard & Rose teaming up on future title teams is just too intriguing to dismiss out of hand.

Did Lauri Markkanen just troll Donald Trump?

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@MARKKANENLAURI

Did Lauri Markkanen just troll Donald Trump?

Lauri Markkanen remains undefeated on Twitter.

Sunday, Markkanen tweeted a photo that seems to be an attempt to troll President Donald Trump. Take a look:

Look at that sly smile. The photo seems relatively harmless, but it's clear that Markkanen is trolling Trump based on the president's comments regarding the devastating California wildfires. From The New York Times:

“You look at other countries where they do it differently and it’s a whole different story,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference in Paradise, Calif., on Saturday. “I was with the president of Finland and he said: ‘We have a much different — we’re a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation, and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. And they don’t have any problem.”

In addition to the obvious rake reference, Markkanen, of course, is Finnish. All jokes aside, Markkanen used the tweet to promote donating to those affected by the wildfires. What a guy!

Take a deep breath: The injured, rebuilding Bulls are exactly where they’re supposed to be

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USA TODAY

Take a deep breath: The injured, rebuilding Bulls are exactly where they’re supposed to be

There wasn’t a snowball’s chance that Saturday night was going to be anything other than abysmal. Already shorthanded, the Bulls were without leading scorer Zach LaVine on the second night of a back-to-back facing the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors. Even without Kawhi Leonard and on its own tail end of a back-to-back, Toronto’s roster made the end result feel inevitable. And it was.

The Bulls offense was invisible without LaVine, tallying just 55 points through three quarters and finishing with 22 turnovers and 21 assists. They shot 35 percent from the field while the Raptors scored at will; the 122-83 loss was the fourth worst home loss in Bulls history, and the Raptors largest road win in their history. It was even uglier than the final score.

In a vacuum the Bulls are 4-13, the fourth worst record in the NBA, with the league’s third worst offense and seventh worst defense. The season is exactly one month old and the Bulls already have two four-game losing streaks, another three-game skid and only wins against four sub-.500 teams with a combined record of 16-45. Its best win came against a 7-8 Hornets team that was finishing a four-game-in-six-nights road trip. “Let’s go Raptors” chants breaking out at home while trailing by 38 is probably a new low in a season that’s quickly getting away from the Bulls.

"We have to find a way to stick together through this tough stretch that we've had, and we've got to find a way to build on the good things that we do and start to limit the bad stretches that we have, which are way too many right now," Hoiberg said. "Got to find a way."

It’s been ugly. But in context, the 4-13 Bulls are playing exactly like a team that a) is missing three of its top players, including its best, and b) is in Year 2 of a bare bones rebuild. The Bulls are one year removed from a 27-win season, the franchise’s worst in 14 years. They’re the youngest team in the NBA and on Saturday night played seven players with three years of NBA experience or less.

VP John Paxson told reporters after last season that the tanking Bulls “don’t ever want to be in this position again.” It was an uplifting quote at the time, a sign that Year 2 of the rebuild wouldn’t be as bumpy as Year 1. The reality was that, even when healthy, this rebuild is barely in the simmering stages of fully cooking.

Perhaps Paxson meant he didn’t want to be playing Cris Felicio 30 minutes a night and be actively benching healthy veterans (to the point that the NBA stepped in). But it certainly didn’t mean more wins than losses. Trying to win is different than expecting to win. Las Vegas projected a healthy Bulls team to win 28.5 games for a reason, even in a weak Eastern Conference.

The 2018-19 season’s most important goal was assessing five players: To that point, Zach LaVine is averaging 25 points per game and outplaying the contract some believed he didn’t deserve. Wendell Carter Jr. is on pace to be the first rookie since Joel Embiid to average 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. The other three – Markkanen, Dunn and Portis – are on the shelf and may not be fully up and running until late December or early January.

Only the Denver Nuggets have had more games missed to injury than the Bulls. Denver knew Isaiah Thomas would miss time when they signed him in July as he rehabbed from hip surgery and that rookie Michael Porter Jr. would miss time with a back injury. The Bulls’ four injuries were sprung on them after media day and training camp began.

The result is them changing lineups, rotations, responsibilities and roles on the absolute fly. Cameron Payne hadn’t played significant minutes in 10 days and had 4 points in 22 minutes as a starter on Saturday. Robin Lopez and Felicio remain in a coin flip each night for backup duties behind Carter.

The truth is it’s really not important from a long-term perspective, which is entirely what the Bulls are focused on. Maybe Justin Holiday plays well enough to be traded. That isn’t going to move the needle on the rebuild. Don’t focus on the micro during a macro rebuild.

Markkanen’s magical rookie season, Carter’s impressive start and LaVine hitting everything in sight seems to have increased team expectations. The reality is the roster is still far from competing, even when healthy. The core pieces appear to be there. They’re also 23, 21 and 19 years old.

Rebuilds take time.

The goals will change when Hoiberg’s coaching with a full deck. LaVine and Markkanen must develop a two-man game on the perimeter that punishes defense with a pick-your-poison effect. Dunn and Carter’s pick-and-roll progression will be something to watch, as will Dunn’s perimeter shooting. Bobby Portis is playing for millions of dollars, either on the open market or in Chicago.

The rest is fluff. They’re supposed to look bad right now. The roster wasn’t exactly built to withstand injuries to three major contributors. How many in the league are?

That’s not to say there haven’t been negatives. Jabari Parker has been a bust. There’s no denying the Bulls swung and missed on paying the Chicago native $20 million only to take low-percentage shots, jog back on defense and own up to very little of either. Cameron Payne had an opportunity to showcase his ability as a former Lottery pick and cement his status as the backup behind Dunn. It didn’t happen. Chandler Hutchison to this point has been underwhelming, but like the core pieces he should have a larger role when the calendar flips to 2019.

They’ll have another Lottery pick in a draft class that looks absolutely star-studded. Maybe it won’t be Zion Williamson. But after drafting Markkanen and Carter seventh overall in consecutive drafts, there’s optimism they can find another gem regardless of where they draft. They’ll also have a boatload of money in free agency. Maybe it won’t be Kevin Durant. But Chicago looks liked a much more desired destination than it did 12 months ago.

It certainly can be frustrating to watch given the future seems so far away. But this is what the front office signed up for. The time to evaluate the roster – and even Hoiberg – won’t come for another few months. If you’re truly upset with how the Bulls are playing down three of their top players, you’ve either wagered on them to win 29 games or are Jabari Parker’s agent.

For now, it’s about withstanding the lows and searching for the progression that ultimately will lead to the highs.  Take a deep breath, Bulls fans: the rebuild is where it’s supposed to be.

Lauri, Kris and Bobby are on their way to begin the next chapter.