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Short-handed Bulls nab sole possession of first

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Short-handed Bulls nab sole possession of first

Tuesday, March 15, 2011Posted: 9:31 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

It wasnt their best effort, but against their lowly opponent, it didnt have to be, as the Bulls (48-18) trounced the visiting Wizards (16-50), 98-79, Tuesday night at the United Center.

Led by the surprising scoring of Keith Bogans, Chicago overcame the absences of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer to seize first place in the Eastern Conference by a half-game over Boston.

I dont think Ive been in this position before," Luol Deng said. "Were playing great basketball, but honestly, I just feel weve got to keep goingI dont think were going to go out and have a party, now that were No. 1 in the East. Were hungry and were going to keep going. We didnt even talk about it. Its not even our goal. Our goal is bigger than that. I really think that we feel weve got something great that we can accomplish and I think everyone is focused on putting everything into the team.

The Bulls found their offensive groove early, with Taj Gibson feasting on the interior of Washingtons zone defense for a pair of quick dunks. A three-point barrage followed, as Derrick Rose (23 points, seven assists), Deng (20 points, seven rebounds, four assists) and Bogans all knocked down triples, with forward Yi Jianlian providing most of the early offense for the visitors.

Chicago then emphasized the transition game and Rose feasted as a result, finishing layups through contact for traditional three-point plays. Although Wizards rookie guards John Wall (17 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists) and Jordan Crawford (27 points) excelled in that setting, the Bulls stingy halfcourt defense limited them when the pace slowed. Swingman Ronnie Brewer (nine points, five rebounds, four assists) came off the bench to make a variety of plays and after the opening period, the home team held a 31-19 advantage.

The comfortable double-digit lead the Bulls built was easily maintained in the second quarter, although Thibodeau tweaked his rotation a bitfan favorite Brian Scalabrine played in the first quarter, due to the aforementioned absences of Noah and Boozerto adjust to his depleted lineup. Crawford became a virtual one-man gang for Washington, almost scoring at will in both transition and the halfcourt, albeit with a high number of shot attempts.

Brewers all-around effort persisted, but the Bulls overall play declined as the half went onturnovers, poor shot selection and defensive lapses were all issuesallowing the Wizards to gradually chip away at the deficit. Behind their first-year backcourt, Washington trailed by a narrow four-point margin at the intermission, 50-46, following a desperation three-point heave by Kurt Thomas (eight points, 15 rebounds) at the halftime buzzer.

We all knew what we had to do and we werent really happy with the way we played in the first half, said Deng. We had to play as hard as they were. We couldnt let them play harder than us the whole game.

Added Rose: Tonight, once again, we let them come back. We shouldnt be doing that, but well learn from it and hopefully get better from it.

Whatever Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau told his team in the locker room regarding their lackluster second-quarter effort apparently worked, as Chicago came out with much more energy and focus in the third quarter. Offensively, the Bulls still appeared disjointed, but increased their intensity on the defensive side of the court, aiding their cause in building the lead back to a double-digit winning margin.

Thibodeau will be on the Dan Patrick Show on CSN tomorrow morning at 9:05 a.m.

The energetic Gibson, back in a starting role with Noah out, played solid on both ends and the surprising offensive contributions from the normally light-scoring Bogans propelled the Bulls, who played stout defense against their impatient young guests. Deng also got into the scoring act and buoyed by Roses playmaking ability, Chicago led, 75-60, through three periods, even after Wall hit a fallaway jumper at the third-quarter buzzer.

Thibodeau kept Bogans (17 points, 5-for-10 three-point shooting, five rebounds, three assists) in the game to start the final stanzathe much-maligned starting shooting guard played the entire third quarter; hes usually replaced by Brewer midway through the periodand he responded by extending his relative offensive explosion.

I feel like I got more looks. I got more minutes tonight. My teammates did a good job of finding me in the offense, said Bogans. I just took my shot when it was there. I didnt do anything different than I normally do.

My job on this team is to defend first. I think people get caught up in the fact that Im a shooting guard and Im not shooting the ball, but when youve got Derrick, youve got Luol, youve got Carlos, they take the bulk of the shots. Im going to get us going defensively and when my shots there, I take it. I know my role on this team, he continued. We have a great team. Guys know that when one guys down, somebody else has to step up and do a little bit more. Weve understood that since having Booz out at the beginning of the season.

Its good that I had a good game, but weve still got a long way to go. Our goal is to get to the championship.

Chimed in Rose: I know its hard on him sometimes, but in practice, we have a lot of confidence when he shoots those shots.

During the game, we tell him to shoot, said the All-Star point guard about his backcourt mate and post-practice shooting partner. He passes up some shotshe passed up some tonight that hes supposed to shootbut right now, hes feeling it and Ive just got to make sure that I find him.

Chicagos intensity waned as the period persisted, but Washington simply couldnt muster up enough energy to mount any type of comeback, although Wizards center JaVale McGee (11 points, 12 rebounds, 12 blocked shots), who attended high school in Windy City, managed some awe-inspiring blocked shots and dunks.

Down the stretch, the Bulls cruised to the eventual win, with the only drama in the United Center being the fans desire for the team to reach 100 points, resulting in the ever-coveted prize of free Big Macs. Alas, Scalabrine, though beloved by Bulls loyalists, refused to take a shot as time wound down, disappointing the teams faithful.

One game at a time, very similar to what Thibs says, summed up Deng. Hes always reminding you to be at your best going out there and not to get too high. For as many games as we play, its really easy to relax.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's 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.

With 2021 NBA Free Agency looming, Bulls fired Jim Boylen in the nick of time

With 2021 NBA Free Agency looming, Bulls fired Jim Boylen in the nick of time

In retrospect, we should have all seen it coming. On the final day of the NBA regular season, Arturas Karnisovas fired Bulls head coach Jim Boylen, ending a nearly two-year tenure that saw the team play to a 39-84 record.

“I thought the timing was right right now, going into the lottery and the draft process. It’s an official offseason for us. So we thought it was good timing,” Karnisovas said in a conference call Friday.

The seeding phase of the league’s restart ending Friday and the draft lottery six days ahead does provide a nice bit of symmetry. But was Aug. 14 too long to wait? Karnisovas officially accepted his position as executive vice president of basketball operations on April 13. He brought in new front office hires in Marc Eversley, J.J. Polk and Pat Connelly in early May. Yet Boylen’s tenure dragged into the dog days of summer.

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Why? Karnisovas addressed that on said conference call.

“I took my time for a reason. It was a process to make that decision. Over the last few months, since I was hired in April, I had no timeline,” he said. “This was the right time to make this change.”

“Since it was a very unique situation to be hired in April, we took our time. The restrictions were lifted a little bit more. Interaction was involved.”

That answer echoes Karnisovas’ reputation as a thoughtful and deliberate decision-maker. He’s also said in the past that, in his eyes, forming personal relationships is requisite to holding employees accountable — player or coach. Some will appreciate that approach applied in this context, especially given that he’s inheriting a franchise that has twice in the past has parted ways with coaches on Christmas Eve. Some may not.

But bottom line: The end result is the one the Bulls badly needed to reach, and just in the nick of time.

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The cruciality of moving on from Boylen now is multi-layered. For one, there appears to be burbling optimism that the eight teams excluded from the NBA’s Disney World restart will find a way to resume basketball activities in some capacity soon. It may not be in a second bubble, but even organized OTAs with group activities would be a step up for a Bulls team that has been constrained to voluntary individual workouts with stringent protocols thus far. 

“The players now can work out individually in our practice facility, and our gym is pretty,” Karnisovas said on the call. “So while we’re waiting, if we can get any additional support from the league — again, overall the league regrets that we couldn’t get anything done until now. But I’m hopeful to get something soon.”

Starting the search “immediately” (in Karnisovas’ words) could have a new coach in the Advocate Center doors for all or some of those activities, should they come to fruition. Even if it doesn’t, the Bulls still have plenty of runway before the start of the 2020-21 campaign, which has yet to be finalized.

And in a big picture sense, getting fresh blood in the building has the potential to further a much-needed shift in the Bulls’ league wide perception that was catalyzed by its front office facelift months ago. 

Because this decision makes the organizational message clear: No half-measures. With a new executive vice president of basketball operations and general manager, burgeoning player development personnel, and soon a new coach — particularly, one that will replace a coach that lost games at a historic clip and often prompted questions about his player relationships — there are no caveats required to call this a new era of Bulls basketball; an era in which player development appears to be king, and mediocrity isn’t tolerated.

“The signal is that we’re changing things. It signals that we’re looking forward to what comes next,” Karnisovas said. “We just felt this program needed a change and needed a change now. And I can’t wait to find the next coach for this group.”

The looming free agency period of 2021 makes sending that signal now all the more important. Of course, firing Boylen doesn’t guarantee the Bulls Anthony Davis or Giannis Antetokounmpo. It might not even get them a meeting. 

For the time being, the Bulls are pretty much locked in place from a roster standpoint. Otto Porter Jr. opting in to his $28.5 million player option — which still qualifies as a near-certainty — and the cap hits the team’s first- and second-round draft choices will eventually invoke will cinch the Bulls in as an over-the-cap club for the 2020-21 season. 

So, the ship likely isn’t getting entirely righted overnight. Whatever your opinion of Boylen, some share of the blame for a 22-win season falls on the roster, as well. However talented you deem the Bulls’ core pieces, new leadership won’t vault them straight to title contention. 

But they don’t necessarily need to, at least not next season. The foundation has to start somewhere, and that summer of 2021 is where things get interesting. To steal a chart from myself, here’s what the Bulls books roughly look heading into that summer, as matters stand right now (via Spotrac): 

  2020-21 2021-22 2022-23 2023-24
Total Cap Allocations $106,027,707 $65,249,867 $9,344,636 $0
Signed Players 13 8 2 0

A possible Lauri Markkanen’s extension is pending, but partial guarantees on the third years of Tomas Satoransky and Thad Young’s contracts, as well as a team option on the third year of Ryan Arcidiacono’s, provides flexibility. Bottom line: They’ll be in a position to make major changes, possibly a splash — assuming the salary cap holds in the vicinity of its current $109.1 million status.

Which makes it all the more imperative that the 2020-21 season not play out as 2019-20 did. The Bulls are an attractive coaching job for the same reasons they were an attractive front office gig — young talent on the roster (albeit largely unproven), own all their own draft capital, cap space coming, big market, rabid fanbase — but to leverage all of that into being a desirable player destination, the soggy hunk of clay that is this rebuild needs to take shape. 

To follow in the footsteps of recent successful rebuilds — think Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers; big-market teams that parlayed modica of promising talent into scrappy overperformance on the court, and, in turn, big moves on the trade and free agent markets — the Bulls need to transform themselves into a team on the rise. 

That doesn’t have to mean a top-four seed or a first-round playoff victory from the jump. But it starts with maximizing the pieces on the team now and improving next season, so that, in the age or perpetual player movement, when opportunity comes knocking, they’ll be prepared to seize it. It’s evident by the results that Boylen wasn’t the person to foster such progression.

A coach with a specialization in player development and relationships — which Karnisvoas said will be a focal point in the search — will be a foundational step. What the changes necessary will look like specifically may have to wait until Karnisovas and Co. have a precise candidate in their sights. Fortunately, there’s just about nowhere to go but up.

For now, it’s at least refreshing to know the Bulls are on the right track.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Jim Boylen is out as Bulls head coach

Bulls Talk Podcast: Jim Boylen is out as Bulls head coach

Once the regular season ended, the official start of the offseason began and the Bulls' first move was to let Jim Boylen go. In an emergency edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, host Jason Goff is joined by Bulls insider K.C. Johnson and Bulls beat writer Rob Schaefer as they discuss the decision.

(1:30) - What led Arturas Karnisovas to the decision to let go, Jim Boylen

(6:00) - Arturas Karnisovas on having full power to make decisions

(16:30) - Potential candidates to replace Jim Boylen

(25:20) - How can a coach get the best out of the current Bulls roster

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

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