Bulls

IncrediBulls define team mentality

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IncrediBulls define team mentality

For years, they have defined the team mentality that weve come to know the Bulls for.

Their contributions throughout the United Center often go unnoticed by most as the LuvaBulls and Matadors receive most of the notoriety, but aside from the actual team, there might not be a more important factor on game night than the IncrediBulls.

The roster goes 15 deep, including the likes of Terrance Grady, Morris Brent, Joe Alexander, Mitchell Mangoba, Ernesto Sanchez, Michael Turner, Ashlee Bodden, Darrel Dupit, Pegie Diaz, Eric Wackerfuss, Carlos Ayala, Deborah Byczkowski, Dagoberto Soto, Tom Niemiera, and Shawnkesse Jackson.

Its a team built on energy, enthusiasm, personality, creativity, teamwork, professionalism and showmanship. Aside from the energy aspect, teamwork is arguably the most essential aspect of the squad.

There are plenty of things that we have to do out there on the court, in the stands that involve more than just one person, says 10-year vet Ayala. We have to communicate with one another as far as running a sling-team where were swinging the t-shirts. We all have to be perfectly coordinated, two people holding the sling, one person slinging and we have one person whos technically showing the shirt to the crowd of what were going to be tossing them. Its very important. Its a lot of teamwork. Just like in any other workplace, you have to be able to communicate with everybody and work to be on the same page.

The t-shirts, arguably the item in which theyre most linked with and the ultimate souvenir for fans lucky enough to have one flung, thrown or cannoned their way during a break in play.

To casual observers, it may look just like a group of individuals scrambling around, but its all coordinated with timing.

Its knowing where youre supposed to be when youre supposed to be there, says Wackerfuss, an IncrediBull for five years. It goes along with teamwork. If you have a timeout that lasts about a minute-and-a-half, when you hear the horn go off, when the timeout is over, you know thats your signal to get off the court, so you dont disrupt the game and, god forbid, have the team get assessed a delay of game penalty because of something we caused. Its really an important issue to make sure that were in the spots that we need to be in, in order to both rev up the crowd and not disrupt the game.

From the 300 level to the ground floor, they keep United Center faithful engaged through wins, bouts of lack of energy and are still expected to draw the crowds reaction during a loss.

Its not all rah-rah either as any member on the Bulls will tell you that they have the best fans in the world and their tenacity on a nightly basis is a direct correlation to the crowds energy.

The energy that we bring to the crowd allows the NBA players to have the energy on the court, says four-year member Turner. I kind of feel without us amping the crowd up; it doesnt give players that energy. Thats just my personal opinion. Our energy feeds the crowd and that feeds the players.

Being an IncrediBull is only a part-time, seasonal position as there is no true job security with tryouts being held every summer for new potential members.

In any job, there are those days where you simply just dont have it in terms of energy and you have to coast throughout the day. That isnt a luxury that the IncrediBulls are afforded.

All of us have other jobs aside from this during the day, says Diaz, a five-year veteran. Sometimes we can have a stressful day at work but as soon as we get to the United Center, we have to leave everything outside and turn into a different person. Were here to make people happy and to get the crowd pumped up and screaming.

Their duties extend beyond the confines United Center as they also lend their time to charity and community events, represent the organization at special events and promotional engagements.

No matter what theyre called on to do, its never too much as each member has an undying love for the franchise and city which Ayala sums up perfectly.

10 years ago when I got this job, I had a friend who told me hey, the Bulls are looking to hire people that are going to be fun, energetic, throw a couple of t-shirts into the crowd, run a couple of contests and you get paid for it. Are you serious? That was a no-brainer for me. If they would have said its for free than I would have probably still done it. I was here every single game my rookie year. It was a couple tough years after the Jordan era, but Ive been a fan of sports my whole life and going back to the first six championships the Bulls had. To be in the same building, see those banners; why wouldnt anybody want to do that? If youre a fan of the Bulls, why wouldnt you want to be in my position? I feel like Im one of the lucky 13 people on this squad that get to do what we do.

Interestedin being a member of the IncrediBulls? Be sure to stay tuned to Bulls.com for tryout infomation.

How Bulls’ Kris Dunn carved out NBA niche in resurgent 2019-20 season

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USA Today

How Bulls’ Kris Dunn carved out NBA niche in resurgent 2019-20 season

NBC Sports Chicago is breaking down the 15 full-time players on the Bulls' roster. Next up is Kris Dunn.

Past: Zach LaVine | Coby White | Tomas Satoransky

2019-20 Stats

7.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.0 SPG | 44.4% FG, 25.9% 3P, 74.1% FT | 14.5% USG

Contract Breakdown

Age: 26

July 2016: Dunn signed a 4-year, $17,488,287 rookie-scale contract with Minnesota Timberwolves

2020-21: RFA (QO: $7,091,457)

(via Spotrac)

Strengths

Seeing the ball, attacking the ball and stealing the ball. At 6-foot-3 with a 6-9 wingspan, Dunn doesn’t discriminate when it comes to ripping opponents — he owns the length and physicality to swallow up guards and hang with wings of all shapes and sizes. In 2019-20, amplified by defensive schemes that demanded aggressive blitzing in pick-and-roll scenarios, Dunn currently sits tied for second in the NBA in steals per game, seventh in steal rate (34.1%) and fourth in deflections per game (3.7)… All in spite of logging only 24.9 minutes per contest across 50 games.

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And even in an underwhelming team-wide season, Dunn’s contributions were impactful. The Bulls were 6.8 points per 100 possessions better defensively in 2019-20 with Dunn on the floor than off, and played their best basketball after he was inserted into the small forward slot of the starting lineup on Nov. 29 with injuries to Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison, going 7-7 in December and bumping their defensive rating to as high as second in the NBA. He was an anchor for a squad that turned opponents over — and scored off said turnovers — at a higher rate than any team in the league by a wide margin.

Most importantly for Dunn, he found his niche, despite coming off an offseason littered with trade rumors. He’s a ball hawk and a bonafide perimeter stopper at a level few in the NBA can boast. A legitimate All-Defense candidate. Just ask Trae Young, Paul George or anyone else that had the misfortune of happening across his path this season.

Areas to Improve

Dunn is a serviceable playmaker in spurts, and actually improved his finishing drastically this season on cut-back volume. But for him to ascend from defensive specialist to truly valuable role player on a winning team, he’s got to find a jump shot.

It’s not just that in 2019-20, he regressed from a 32.3% career mark from 3-point range to 25.9% (24.1% on NBA.com-defined “wide open” long-balls). It’s that other teams stopped treating him as an even marginal threat from outside, opting instead to sag off, hone in on other creators (read: Zach LaVine), and muck up driving and passing lanes. It’s a testament to just how great Dunn’s defense is that he’s still an impactful NBA player at his position despite that deficiency. But no matter how stingy a defender Dunn is, it’s hard to survive in the modern NBA with more than one non-shooter on the floor.

Ceiling Projection

Exiting his rookie contract, Dunn is 26 and coming off a sprained MCL sustained Jan. 31. He'll be a restricted free agent when the offseason begins, but due to his mixed bag of attributes and the Bulls' uncertain position, the market for his services is unclear

As for his individual ceiling: Any point guard of the future premonitions have passed in Chicago. And that’s OK. If he can pull off a Marcus Smart-ian turn as a long-range shooter to at or close to league average, it doesn’t feel outlandish that Dunn could compete for All-Defense consideration as a reserve on a good-to-great team through his prime.

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Bulls' Jim Boylen believes he's forming strong relationship with new regime

Bulls' Jim Boylen believes he's forming strong relationship with new regime

In his first public comments on the Bulls' new front office, coach Jim Boylen believes he's forming a strong initial relationship with executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley.

"The relationship has gone really well," Boylen told Jack Doles of WOOD-TV, an NBC affiliate in the coach's hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., with a question and local angle given to Doles by sister station WGN-Ch. 9 in Chicago. "We communicate every day. I think they understand where we were, what we're trying to get to. They've been very supportive and collaborative. It's a process to build this team into what it can be. I just like the fact that we have a relationship already. It's never perfect. Nothing's perfect. You just work at it. Tell the truth. You get your guys to play hard. That's what we're trying to do."

 

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Boylen spoke after giving a speech at a Unity in the Community event in Grand Rapids in which he continued to show support for social justice and addressing racial inequity. Last month, Boylen participated with Wendell Carter Jr. and other Bulls staffers in a Juneteenth march in Grant Park. And Karnisovas said on a conference call with reporters that Boylen has been vocal in team Zoom discussions on the issues.

"I just think we have to tell the truth. We can't cover things up. We've made mistakes. We've got to own up to those mistakes," Boylen told the Grand Rapids TV station. "It's a difficult time. It's raw right now and it should be. I'm just hoping we can use this moment to be better, all of us."

As for Boylen's future, Karnisovas has empowered Boylen for now, although plenty of speculation about his long-term fit exists. Karnisovas has asked for Boylen's input on player development strategies and potential hires in that department. The front office and coaching staff also have had multiple meetings about the current roster as well as draft and free agency discussions.

Publicly, Karnisovas has made it clear he wants to get to know Boylen and his staff and also watch him in action before making a decison on his future. The NBA and NBPA are discussing possible holding a second so-called "bubble" for the eight teams, including the Bulls, not invited to the NBA's restart in Orlando, Fla. That bubble almost certainly would take place in Chicago and would give Boylen and his staff an opportunity to work in a developmental phase with players for Karnisovas and Eversley to view.

Boylen and his staff are operating as if they'll return for the 2020-21 season. He is confident Karnisovas and Eversley understand the improvement the Bulls made as a young team in areas like defense, pace and shot quality before widespread injuries hit. Boylen has two years remaining on his deal and has a strong relationship with ownership.

"We have a young team," Boylen told the Grand Rapids TV station. "We were 23 1/2 years old. We had an injury-laden season. We need to play. We need to compete. We played very hard. We were a hard-playing team, but we want to keep that edge going into next year. It's hard to do that without the competition part of it. We're hoping we can have some of that."

Boylen dined with Karnisovas and Eversley last week in Chicago. They also have been watching the voluntary player workouts that have been taking place at the Advocate Center together, which last week included Zach LaVine. Boylen had welcomed Karnisovas to the organization in a team-issued statement upon the executive's hiring in April but hadn't commented publicly on the full new regime, which replaced John Paxson and Gar Forman. Paxson, who held Karnisovas' role, is now in a senior advisor role. Forman, who was the general manager, was fired.

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