Bulls

Sources: Dwyane Wade still mulling decision to pick up player option with Bulls

Sources: Dwyane Wade still mulling decision to pick up player option with Bulls

Dwyane Wade sat courtside in Cleveland in a fashionable jumpsuit that made its rounds through social media as the Cavaliers registered their lone win in the NBA Finals last week, drawing conversations from Kyrie Irving as Irving kept the eventual champion Golden State Warriors at bay in the second half.

One wonders if that’s as close as Wade will get to championship competition next season as he ponders his future with the Chicago Bulls, having to decide whether he’ll exercise a nearly $24 million option to remain with the Bulls for the 2017-18 season. Wade has until June 27 to opt-in to the second and final year of his contract.

Sources tell CSNChicago.com Wade hasn’t yet made a decision on next season and hasn’t informed the Bulls of anything yet, as he’ll continue vacationing for the next couple weeks before deciding his future.

Wade met with Bulls management last week in the attempt to gauge where the franchise’s direction would be for next season. The Bulls hold the 16th pick in next week’s NBA Draft, and although they’ve met with Jimmy Butler, things still appear murky as to their long-term commitment to Butler and if they want to try to make inroads in the Eastern Conference with veteran reinforcements.

Currently, the team line has been about allowing some of their younger pieces to grow and hoping head coach Fred Hoiberg can coax some development and consistency from an inconsistent bunch.

In that meeting, the Bulls were up front about the likelihood that they will stay the course as opposed to looking at the landscape of the East and making significant changes to the personnel, sources close to Wade tell CSNChicago.com.

The Bulls gave the same speech to Butler in their last meeting when Butler came back to Chicago over a week ago, although one wonders if they’ll entertain trade discussions surrounding Butler next week with the draft approaching.

Wade’s relationship with Butler was a chief reason why he chose the Bulls, along with the sizeable contract offer, and on more than a few nights Wade was the Bulls’ best player.

How often he should be counted on to do that in the future is a question, unless one of the Bulls’ younger players makes an unlikely leap to consistency next season. One wonders if Wade wants a role similar to what he had this year, although his itch to play deep into May suggests he would be willing to cede space in the team’s hierarchy if the Bulls were to acquire a dependable veteran.

Before his elbow injury in March, Wade was on track to play over 70 games and averaged 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 29.9 minutes, as his per-36 minute production hovered around the same mark it had his last two years in Miami.

So for Wade the options appear to be simple, while the execution is more complex: Sign up for more of the same next season or opt-out of his contract for another round of free agency, to Parts Unknown.

He’ll turn 36 in the middle of next season and hasn’t been definitive on how much longer he wants to play, along with balancing the reality of another salary cap spike this offseason as going after another payday could be tempting from another franchise in need of star power.

However it’s unlikely a team will shell out that much cash annually for Wade, who feels like this payday has been earned after years of salary sacrifices in Miami.

Knowing Wade, the clarity in communication was likely appreciated given his feelings on how his time with the Miami Heat ended one year ago.

“When you get respect, that's what you get back,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com days before his return to Miami last November. “I've given nothing but respect (to the Heat). I feel like a lot of things in this world and this league are mishandled from the notion of communication. That's it.”

“I understand this business just as good as anybody. But it's a way, someone like me, a way you communicate what you're trying to do, and how you're gonna do it and what it looks like for me.”

His oldest son will turn 16 next season and Wade had made a note of wanting stability for his family compared to moving them around frequently at the end of his career.

Wade’s patience will likely factor into this decision, as his lone public relations hiccup with the Bulls came in January when he and Butler’s frustration with the youth of the roster boiled over into some strong postgame comments that resulted in discipline from the team.

From that point on, Wade became much more reticent about speaking up about the direction of the team, even though his feelings about the Bulls having an opportunity to advance through an underwhelming Eastern Conference remained and was almost proven right if not for Rajon Rondo’s injury in Game 2 of their first-round series against the Boston Celtics.

Because the Bulls were open with Wade, it leaves him with a few options and a few weeks to figure out how he wants to spend his 15th season—just days away after witnessing championship basketball from the sidelines.

Zach LaVine is “tired of people talking sh*t about my defense” and working towards becoming an NBA All-Star

Zach LaVine is “tired of people talking sh*t about my defense” and working towards becoming an NBA All-Star

Zach LaVine is fed up with being underestimated and he’s going to do something about it. The Bulls guard has been having a strong pre-season so far but is looking to improve his skills as a two-way player.

“I’m just tired of people talking shit about my defense,” LaVine said. “I’ve always been a good on-ball defender. But there’s no reason I can be this good offensively and not be that on the defensive end.”

“I’m taking more pride in it,” he continued. “I’m pretty sure it’ll show. I’ll make sure of that.”

If you think LaVine sounds confident, he has good reason to be. Last season LaVine was one of only ten players to average at least 23 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists, making him stand out as an elite player in the company of MVPs and All-Stars. LaVine’s personal triumphs, however, were overshadowed by the Bulls abysmal 22-60 record last season.

So far, this preseason LaVine has been looking better on defense, averaging 1.3 steals per game through three preseason games. Any improvements on defense will greatly help LaVine’s All-Star case.

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3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

The Bulls recorded their first win of the preseason with Sunday night’s 105-91 win over the Raptors. Here are three takeaways:

We got a peek at Jim Boylen's regular-season rotation

We had a clue that Boylen was going to go with Tomas Satoransky as his starter after he chose to sit him with the starters in the Bulls third preseason game against the Indiana Pacers. Sunday confirmed this idea. Boylen stated before the game that he would be starting to roll out his regular season rotations, and we saw "Sato" start next to the regular Bulls starting group of Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and the returning Wendell Carter Jr.

On top of seeing the starting group, we got to see Thaddeus Young in his probable role as the sixth man, coming in for Carter to provide the Bulls with more of a small look where Markkanen acts as the center.

Markkanen was particularly effective on the glass against the smaller Raptors frontline sans Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam. Lauri collected a double-double, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds, including four offensive rebounds. 

Giving an even greater effort on the glass will push Markkanen closer to All-Star status and it is not out of the question as we have seen him raise his rebounding average every season. Games like Sunday night's show that all of the muscle Markkanen added this offseason is going to pay dividends in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and beyond, which will allow the Bulls to play smaller more often to get dynamic scorers like Coby White on the floor.

White came in as a substitute for Porter, giving the Bulls another small-ball lineup in which LaVine acts as the small forward next to him and Satoransky.

Satoransky was great, finishing with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 turnovers in 21 minutes. Sato pushed the pace but also could sense the right time to pull the ball back out and run a play in the halfcourt.

In general, the Bulls trotted out more three-guard lineups in this game, and the size of big guards like Satoransky and Kris Dunn help the Bulls blur the lines between wing and guard, mitigating some of the risks involved with not having a traditional wing on the floor.

On the flip side, the perimeter skills of a big man like Young allow the Bulls to play bigger lineups in which Young plays small forward next to two big men. In Sunday night's win over the Raptors, Young finished the game second on the Bulls in rebounds (7) and assists (3), while being in the right spot more times than not on D. 

With stretch-five Luke Kornet (2-of-7 from 3-point line vs Raptors), the gritty, playmaking Ryan Arcidiacono (3 assists, no turnovers), and rookie Daniel Gafford rounding out the rest of the new Bulls' Bench Mob," Boylen will have the ability to play many different ways, affording us a fair chance to see what he is made of as an NBA head coach. He is already passing his first test of showing that he is open to change, with the Bulls shooting 49 3-pointers on Sunday night, keeping their promise of being more aggressive from deep.

The Zach LaVine All-Star push starts now 

Overall, Zach LaVine has not been shy about already being at an All-Star level of play, you just have to ask him.

LaVine came into Sunday night's game sixth in the league in preseason scoring, averaging 22.0 points per game through two contests, and he kept up that scoring onslaught in a big way. He finished Sunday's win over the Raptors with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in just 24 minutes of action. He finished the night with four turnovers as well, and while you would like to see the assist-to-turnover ratio improve, high turnover totals are just the name of the game for high-usage stars.

Besides, Boylen and Co. likely would rather see LaVine collect some turnovers trying to make the extra pass—something the Bulls have committed to hard this preseason—rather than trying to iso and make a play for himself.

Notably, the LaVine-Markkanen pick-and-roll that figures to be a staple of the Bulls offense for a long time again made an appearance in this game, looking crisp at moments as defenses struggle with scrambling to Markkanen at the 3-point line or worrying more about LaVine's oftentimes dominant drives to the rim.

While it is encouraging to see LaVine score effortlessly, that is not a new development for Bulls fans. The true mark of improvement for LaVine will be his defense and playmaking, both of which looked good on Sunday night.

LaVine racked up two steals and showed an improved awareness and aggressiveness when prowling the passing lanes. What makes defense so huge for LaVine, besides the fact that his effort-level sets the tone for the team, is that he so often turns opponent turnovers into points in transition for Chicago.

The Bulls had 14 fastbreak points and 17 points off of turnovers in their win over the Raptors, with LaVine's efforts playing a large hand in the win. 

Coby White continues to score in bunches 

It has been stated many times how Coby White was more of a shooting guard in high school and only transitioned into being more a lead guard at North Carolina. And those natural scoring instincts have shown up time and time again in the NBA preseason, especially in transition. 

If you get White going towards the rim with a head of steam in transition, he will make it to the basket before the 24-second shot clock hits the 19-second mark, a remarkable display of his blazing speed.

Of course, everything is to be taken with a grain of salt in the NBA preseason, as we are often seeing White (and others) face off against a team's backups or even worse, players that won't even make an NBA roster. But what White has done well should play in the regular season, too. He scored 18 points on 37.5% shooting from the field, including hitting 4 of his 12 attempts from 3-point range. White was 2-2 from the free throw line and finished with one assist and no turnovers. 

It looks like it will be a while before we see Coby White look like an NBA-level floor general but he is already playing like an uber-confident, spark plug shooting guard.

The Bulls can utilize White's scoring in the regular season knowing that even if his court vision isn't where they want it to be, his shoot-first mentality and propensity to keep the ball moving should result in lower turnover totals than your usual score-first point guard.