Robin Lopez

With fond memories of playing for the Bulls, new Buck Robin Lopez beats them

With fond memories of playing for the Bulls, new Buck Robin Lopez beats them

At every turn, hugs greeted Robin Lopez in his Monday return to the United Center.

Well, except for the time Benny the Bull, one of many mascots the affable center has tormented over the years, threw a cardboard cutout of Lopez's likeness into a trash can during a bit aired on the scoreboard during a timeout.

Over three seasons as a Bull, Lopez earned widespread admiration from teammates and coaches for his selfless play and durability. That's why after dropping 14 points, five rebounds and three blocks on his former team, the new Bucks center even was warmly greeted when he visited the Bulls' locker room following the Bucks' 122-112 preseason victory.

"He was coachable and he was reliable, just a wonderful guy," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. "Very intelligent guy. And I thought he was a great Bull while he was here during a difficult time. I wish him success."

Team success is what drew Lopez to the Bucks, who signed him as a free agent.

"It was cool," Lopez said of the free-agent process. "Everything happens so quickly now. A lot of teams inquired. I don’t want to say the choice was easy because a lot of quality organizations inquired. But obviously it was an appealing offer. Obviously, a very good organization top to bottom. They’re ideally trying to win now."

But what about playing with his twin brother, Brook, for the first time since they played collegiately at Stanford?

"You can’t have everything," Lopez cracked.

Yes, the shade-throwing between the two brothers will be going on all season. And with Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer's wide-open system leading to multiple 3-point opportunities for Brook last season, look for Robin's "tea-party" celebration following his made 3-pointers frequently this season.

"I think we felt what was best for him and our situation with Wendell Carter that it was best for him maybe to find another opportunity, which we had no doubt that he would. But he was a terrific player for the team for us,"  Boylen said. "He was a dynamic screener. And he was an ‘Amen’ guy in the locker room, so when you say something he’d always give you an ‘Amen’ because he believes in the right things."

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Top 10 Bulls of the decade: From the Rose years to the rebuild

Top 10 Bulls of the decade: From the Rose years to the rebuild

The 2010s are about to be in the books, so we took a look back at the top 10 players from that decade of the Bulls franchise. A handful of different factors went into the equation, including longevity, per-game performance, team success and individual accolades such as All-Star appearances, Defensive Player of the Year votes and MVPs.

10. Nikola Mirotic (2014-2018; 243 games): 11.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.8 3-pointers

No Bulls player made more 3-pointers in the 2010s than Mirotic, who poured in 432 triples in three-plus seasons. He never fully reached his potential in Chicago – and a right hook from Bobby Portis essentially ended his time in Chicago – after finishing second to Andrew Wiggins in the 2015 Rookie of the Year voting, but Mirotic had some stellar stretches for the Bulls. Most notably, his red-hot Marches and his sparkling December/January stretch that allowed the Bulls to net a first-round pick from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for him.

In addition to being the 3-point champion of the 2010s, Mirotic ranks seventh in points, seventh in rebounds, eighth in games, eighth in steals and eighth in blocks. Whether you liked him or thought he was overrated, Mirotic put up numbers for the Bulls.

9. Lauri Markkanen (2017-2019; 120 games): 16.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 3-pointers

Too soon to put him on the list? Maybe, but in just two seasons Markkanen ranked 12th in points and 11th in rebounds over the last decade for the Bulls. He’s also 8th in made 3-pointers and gets a few added bonus points for being the potential face of the franchise in the post-Jimmy Butler era.

Markkanen has posted impressive numbers despite the fact that the Bulls have been tanking around him the last two seasons, plus a head-coaching change right after his return from an elbow injury and a heart scare at the end of last season. He provides one of the most unique skill sets the franchise has ever seen and should only improve in Year 3 with a clean bill of health, a stable head-coaching situation and more talent around him.

8. Robin Lopez (2016-2019; 219 games): 10.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.1 blocks

This is the one that probably has you scratching your head. In terms of on-court production, Lopez quietly put together three really nice seasons. Among Bulls in the 2010s, he ranks 10th in games played, 10th in points, 10th in rebounds and fourth in blocks. He’s also second in field goal percentage. So the numbers give him credibility on the list despite him playing just three seasons in Chicago.

But his off-the-court productivity is noteworthy, too. He was the veteran leader both with the Three Amigos fiasco of a season and during two years of rebuilds. He dealt with DNP’s, 12-minute first quarters and then 36 straight minutes on the bench, and then watched the Bulls draft his replacement in Wendell Carter Jr. Lopez then took Carter under his watch and helped the 19-year-old rookie acclimate to the NBA. He was also one of the key veterans in keeping the peace during Jim Boylen’s wild first week as head coach. Lopez was never an All-Star in Chicago, but he left a great impression on the entire organization.

7. Pau Gasol (2014-2016; 150 games): 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks

Gasol was the consolation prize for Carmelo Anthony but proved to be one of the best signings from the draft class. He had a career rejuvenation in Chicago, making two All-Star appearances, helping lead the Bulls to the postseason twice, and posting some gaudy numbers in his ages 34 and 35 campaigns.

Despite playing just two seasons with the Bulls, his ranks among the 2010s Bulls include: eighth in points, sixth in rebounds, ninth in assists, third in blocks and 10th in games. It happened while Jimmy Butler was ascending to stardom and that buried Gasol’s accomplishments some, but the Spaniard was a great addition in Chicago.

6. Carlos Boozer (2010-2014; 280 games): 15.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists

Stop punching the air. Though he was certainly not the main target during the historic 2010 free agent class, Boozer put together four solid seasons with the Bulls. Though he was never able to replicate the numbers he posted during his Jazz days, Boozer still finished the 2010s ranked fifth in points, third in rebounds, seventh in steals, 10th in blocks and seventh in games.

He’ll always be remembered as “the guy the Bulls signed instead of LeBron James” but he wound up working out for the Bulls. Holdat.

5. Taj Gibson (2009-2017): 9.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.2 blocks

No. 5 on our list, but forever No. 1 in our hearts. No player appeared in more games or played more minutes for the Bulls in the 2010s than Gibson, who finished third in points, second in rebounds, fourth in steals and first in blocks. Along the way, Gibson spent more than half his games coming off the bench in favor of Carlos Boozer and Pau Gasol, all the while being the consummate teammate and locker room presence.

He also provided the lasting in-game memory of the 2010s Bulls when he dunked all over Dwyane Wade in Game 1 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. Let’s just forget that he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Cameron Payne and remember the good times.

4. Luol Deng (2010-2014): 16.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals

Deng had played five NBA seasons before the 2010s rolled around but enjoyed his best seasons in that era. He was named an All-Star twice while leading the NBA in minutes per game both seasons, went toe-to-toe with LeBron James in some unforgettable playoff series, and hit his fair share of clutch shots.

In the 2010s alone, Deng ranked fourth in points, fourth in rebounds, fifth in assists, third in steals, fifth in 3-pointers, sixth in blocks and sixth in games. An all-around, two-way player who certainly has an argument to be even higher on this list.

3. Jimmy Butler (2011-2017): 15.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 steals

Butler made one of the most unlikely rises to stardom of any player in the 2010s, from late first-round pick to four-time All-Star in the span of four seasons. Butler watched as Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose all departed before him to make him the face of the franchise. Though Butler never got the Bulls past the second round of the playoffs and wound up being the outgoing piece to begin the Bulls’ rebuild in 2017, he was still one of the team’s best players of the last decade.

He ranked second in points, fifth in rebounds, third in assists, first in steals, fifth in blocks, first in made free throws and third in games. It’s a shame neither side could make the relationship work that would have allowed Butler to add on to those numbers the last few seasons, but both parties seem better off.

2. Joakim Noah (2009-2016): 10.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 blocks

Noah played his first two NBA seasons in the 2000s but was a budding star by the time the 2010s rolled around. All Noah did in seven Bulls seasons was earn two All-Star berths, win Defensive Player of the Year and finish fifth in the MVP voting in 2014.

Noah is littered across the 2010s Bulls leaderboard: Sixth in points, first in rebounds, second in assists, second in steals, second in blocks, second in games and second in minutes. Injuries eventually took their toll on Noah, who was a shell of himself by the time the Bulls moved on in 2016, but he was an easy choice for No. 2 on this list.

1. Derrick Rose (2009-2016): 20.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 0.8 steals

Rose ended the 2000s in style by winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2009, but he was just getting started. Over the next seven seasons (six years), Rose became the youngest MVP in league history, went to three All-Star Games, signed a shoe deal with adidas and was the driving force behind a pair of top seeds in the Eastern Conference, including a 62-win campaign in 2011.

Among the 2010s Bulls, Rose ranks first in points, first in assists, sixth in steals, eighth in blocks, fourth in 3-pointers, fourth in games and fifth in minutes. Debate his legacy in Chicago all you’d like, but there wasn’t a better or more accomplished player during the last decade than Pooh.

 

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Three takeaways: Robin Lopez racks up 29 PTS on his birthday

Three takeaways: Robin Lopez racks up 29 PTS on his birthday

 

The Bulls took on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in a matchup of teams set to have top-four odds in the 2019 NBA Draft lottery. In a game that most expected to close--ESPN had the line for the game listed as Bulls +3.5--the Bulls went down 37-19 after one quarter, and the Knicks never looked back.

New York’s largest lead of the night was 28 points and the deflating loss drops Chicago’s record to 21-57 on the season. But there were still some solid takeaways from the Bulls 113-105 loss to the Knicks, specifically for the young players on the floor for Chicago, who are actively fighting for spots in the league.

JaKarr Sampson’s career night shows off how he could be an intriguing depth option at PF/C

JaKarr Sampson had a solid year for the Windy City Bulls, putting up  21.1 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.0 APG on 54 percent shooting. During his stints in the NBA, Sampson was a solid finisher in the paint, but little else. Per Cleaning the Glass, he has always shot 59 percent or better at the rim and also made sure that the majority of his shot attempts are in the restricted area. There is something to be said about playing to your strengths and Sampson definitely does that.

Against the Knicks on Monday, Sampson did his damage in the paint, finishing with 22 points on 80 percent shooting from the field.


And though level of competition obviously has to be factored in, his outing was encouraging because he got the free throw line six times as well, playing physical with a Knicks frontline that was thin on athleticism outside of rookie Mitchell Robinson.

Sampson’s big third quarter dunk on Knicks forward Luke Kornet got the Bulls bench hype and was a perfect encapsulation of the ability he has as a rim runner, especially in transition. He is not much a 3PT shooter, which makes him a bit of a “tweener” in today’s league.

The Madison Square Garden rims were kind to Sampson, who hit one of his two 3PT shots on Monday night. If he could bring his 3PT shooting to anywhere near NBA average levels, he could easily stick in an NBA rotation. Monday night was a step in the right direction for Sampson’s NBA stock.
 

Robin Lopez plays big on his birthday

April 1 is April Fool’s Day, but more important, it is the birthday of Bulls center Robin Lopez, who turned 31 on Monday. And RoLo made sure not to disappoint on his big day.

Lopez ended the night with 29 points, one shy of his career-high. RoLo received plenty of looks in the low post--as he has post All-Star break--and cashed in, converting on 11/18 from the field.

He showcased plenty of nifty footwork on the night and made rookie Mitchell Robinson looks silly on multiple occasions.

All in all, it was another great night for the hard-working veteran big man. And on a day where he was curiously left off the list of candidates for the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award, it was fitting that RoLo turned in one of his best performances of the season.

Ryan Arcidiacono: Always under control

Arcidiacono has put in more work this season than any basketball pundit expected coming into the year. He is one of the top three Bulls players in terms on minutes played this season and has been solid throughout, with his decision-making shining as his best attribute.

On the season, “Arci” has a sparkling 4.31 assist-to-turnover ratio that not only leads the Bulls, but is head and shoulders above anyone else on the team. His skill as a  pick-and-roll ball handler creates open lanes to the basket, but the Bulls simply don’t have the rim-running bigs needed to leverage this skill often.

In Monday’s loss in New York, Arcidiacono ended the evening with 14 points, 2 assists, a rebound and in classic Arcidiacono fashion, zero turnovers.

Arcidiacono has played well enough this season to be considered as a backup PG next year, even with Kris Dunn and other possible additions in the backcourt over the offseason.