It’s safe to say Bulls fans — supporters of a team currently in the midst of a five-game losing streak and 12 games under .500 — are itching for a fresh perspective.
Enter: Kendrick Perkins. The 14-year NBA vet and one-time NBA champion has forged a new path for himself as a national ESPN pundit, capitalizing on the trademark brashness that made him a polarizing figure throughout his playing career.
Thursday morning, Perkins dipped into the local Chicago waters, joining the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score to talk Bulls basketball. They touched on a wide range of topics in the interview, all topics undoubtedly on the minds of every pocket of the Bulls’ fanbase. Let’s run through them.
On accountability for the Bulls’ malaise
Obviously, the team’s current 13-25 record isn’t ideal, especially considering the playoff expectations set by the organization before the season. But worse is that the Bulls have both played one of the easiest schedules in the league to this point and the second most ‘clutch’ games, defined by NBA.com as contests within a five-point margin with five minutes or less to play. The Bulls are 8-16 in ‘clutch’ games.
“The Bulls are going out there, and they’re competing at a high level,” Perkins told 670, specifically citing the team's recent 102-98 loss to the Jazz as an example. “I always look at the bench, I look at the camaraderie, I look to see if guys actually enjoy playing with one another. And I don’t think it’s necessarily the guys don’t like playing with each other. I think it’s just that the guys, they’re going out there and they’re playing hard but they’re not having fun.”
That much is widely agreed upon. The Bulls do play hard, but that hasn’t translated in the win column, as of late. Perkins lamented coaching as a primary factor in that perceived lack of ‘fun.’
“I don’t see jumping up and down from the bench, I don’t see guys chest-bumping or nothing to that nature,” Perkins said. “To me, it falls back on the coach. Because him building that high school type atmosphere, culture, the guys are not having fun. And I know it’s a job and we get paid millions of dollars to play the game of basketball, and we’re supposed to take it serious. But at the end of the day you’re also supposed to enjoy this, you’re supposed to love this.”
On Zach LaVine as a No. 1 option
Perkins commended LaVine as a “great talent” and dude that “can play” in the interview. Fact check: Also true. LaVine is currently averaging the highest points per game (23.9) and 3-point percentage (39.2% on 7.8 attempts per) figures of his career, and has closed out many of the Bulls’ 13 victories. He also sits fifth in the Eastern Conference backcourt fan voting for All-Star starters (not ideal, but not terrible either).
But Perk said he’s not sold on him as a No. 1 option that can be viably built around.
“To me, in my opinion, he’s not a Batman. He’s a Robin,” Perkins said. “I’d take him as my second-best player, though, second or third option guy. But to say, hey, I’m gonna build around Zach LaVine? I don’t know. Even though he’s stepped up in crucial moments, he has those games where goes missing. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t say Chicago is a playoff team if they’re building around Zach LaVine.”
On Lauri Markkanen as a No. 2
If LaVine is a Robin in Perkins’ eyes, where does that leave Markkanen?
“He’s not a No. 2. He’s a great guy that could give you 15 points, you know, 6 or 7 rebounds a night, that’s more like a third or fourth option type guy,” Perkins told 670. “What ended up happening with him was, you know, it’s different when you’re the hunter and when you start being hunted. He snuck up on a lot of people when he first came into the NBA, meaning he probably wasn’t in the scouting report, guys weren’t keying in on him.
“It’s different when, pregame, when teams are in their meetings, and they’re starting to, you know, hey, look, we gotta close out on this guy, we gotta take away his 3, we gotta take him out the game. When you can go out there and then you can counter and still do put up numbers? That’s what separates you.”
To his point, Markkanen’s minutes, scoring, shooting percentages and shot attempts are all down this year after an encouraging sophomore campaign. He has looked better since the start of the December, but evidently, not better enough to win Perkins over.
On Coby White’s place with the team
Perkins lit up when White was brought up. This was probably the most impassioned he got in the segment, lamenting White’s current role as the Bulls’ sixth-man.
“I don’t see how this kid not starting, in my opinion. I mean, I don’t understand how you draft a guy so high in the lottery — I mean, to me, the Bulls are not going anywhere this season, so at least, let the kid play,” Perkins said. “Hand this kid the keys and let him go out there and do him and let him get all the time, all the reps, all the experience that he needs his rookie season.”
He later followed up on Twitter to really assert his point:
Perkins might not be the hero Chicago needs or deserves, but many aggrieved by the Bulls’ woes will certainly appreciate his candor.
Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.