Victor Oladipo

Kenny Smith launches virtual basketball camp featuring NBA and WNBA stars

Kenny Smith launches virtual basketball camp featuring NBA and WNBA stars

Two-time NBA champion and TNT analyst Kenny Smith is launching Jet Academy, a virtual basketball camp staffed by the highest-level hoopers in the world to help boys and girls train their game while maintaining social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was sitting at home and social distancing and quarantine, and my kids typically go to basketball camps,” Smith told Jason Goff on the latest Bulls Talk Podcast. “They can’t go to camps anymore, I can’t do my basketball camp in North Carolina, I had 700 kids. And I just noticed it was a need in the world that was going on, and I said I’m going to create — and I created — the first virtual basketball camp for kids and adults and anybody who plays the game, virtually. And you can do it from anywhere, any time, on any device, with anyone.”

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As for the instructors? Kemba Walker, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Victor Oladipo, Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird and Trae Young will all lead or co-lead training sessions. Those seven players account for 35 All-Star appearances and two MVP awards. 

Smith was clear that his intention isn’t to replace traditional trainers, but he believes those that have achieved greatness at the highest level will have special perspective to offer.

“I was talking to Kemba, I was like, ‘OK, Kemba, so this is what we need to do in the camp’ and he’s like, ‘OK, what are the drills you want to do?’” Smith said on the podcast. “I said, ‘No, no, no. Trae, Kemba, I want you to do the drills that you do to get ready. I want to see how you got your jumper like that. That’s what I would want to see. ‘Kemba, show me the pullback.’ He said, ‘Alright, I’ll show you the pullback.’ I said, ‘No, but then you gotta tell us why you use it and when you use it.’ That’s what a trainer at times can’t give you.”

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The camp tips off July 20 and will feature live, daily, two-hour video sessions with instructors that campers can follow along with remotely. Campers will also be able to text questions to instructors, upload video of them training for response within 48 hours, and view sessions on-demand. Smith stressed the importance of that interaction towards developing one’s game. 

Listen to the rest of Smith and Goff’s conversation, which touches on the litany of considerations facing the NBA as it embarks on its bubble experiment in Orlando, here or via the embedded player above.

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NBA Last Two Minute Report: Victor Oladipo committed late foul on Zach LaVine

NBA Last Two Minute Report: Victor Oladipo committed late foul on Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine didn't need to see Thursday's Last Two Minute Report from the NBA league office to know that Victor Oladipo fouled him on his game-winning attempt near the end of regulation of a game eventually won by the Pacers in overtime.

"I felt it," LaVine said.

After Oladipo sank a long 3-pointer to tie the game, LaVine drove the lane coming out of a Bulls timeout. Replays clearly indicated Oladipo hacking LaVine across his arm. No call came, and coach Jim Boylen erupted in disbelief along the sideline.

The Bulls failed to score over the final four minutes of regulation.

“They know what happened," LaVine said Wednesday in Indianapolis about the officials. "It’s basketball. Shouldn’t have got down to that point. It was a no call. Obviously, I understand what happened. It was a foul. They just missed it. That stuff happens throughout the game. It just sucks that it was at the end of the game. I don’t think it should’ve got down to that last-second shot anyway. We let the game slip out of hand. I was upset with myself for not being able to close it out.”

The report also stated that Thaddeus Young should've been called for a loose ball foul with 1 minute, 34 seconds left.

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The Bulls are playing for Zach LaVine's All-Star candidacy and more vs. Pacers

The Bulls are playing for Zach LaVine's All-Star candidacy and more vs. Pacers

The Bulls look to clinch their first three-game win streak since February 2019 against the Pacers in Indiana, and Victor Oladipo is back. The game tips at 6 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here's what to watch for:

Pacers' last five games (3-2)

  • Jan. 26 — L at Trail Blazers: 139-129
  • Jan. 24 — W at Warriors: 129-118
  • Jan. 22 — W at Suns: 112-87
  • Jan. 20 — L at Jazz; 118-88
  • Jan. 19 — W at Nuggets: 115-107

Victory Oladipo returns

It's the defining storyline entering play: After missing the latter 35 games of the 2018-19 season and first 47 games of this one with a ruptured quad tendon, Victor Oladipo makes his season debut tonight.

According to Scott Agness of The AthleticOladipo will operate on a minutes restriction and come off the bench against the Bulls, with the minutes restriction lasting through the All-Star break. So don't expect anything earth-shattering. Still, he has the potential to pack a scoring punch off the pine and the home Indiana crowd — along with Oladipo's teammates — should get a boost from his highly anticipated return (along with a return home for the team after a five-game road swing).

But, as has been the case in these teams' past two matchups, the Pacers are a tad fraught with injuries at the moment: Malcolm Brogdon (concussion) had been listed as questionable, but will start, and Myles Turner (illness) is inactive. On Nov. 3, the Pacers knocked off the Bulls 108-95 in Indiana without Oladipo, Turner or Domantas Sabonis; then, in Chicago on Jan. 10, the Pacers prevailed 116-105 without Oladipo, Sabonis or Brogdon. For their part, the Bulls will be without Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Daniel Gafford and Otto Porter Jr. tonight...

Frontcourt wars

... Which brings me to my next point. The Bulls have been without Carter — their starting center and defensive anchor — since Jan. 6, and their aforementioned Jan. 10 date with the Pacers shined a glaring light on how much Carter matters to this team's success.

How, you ask? In that game, the Pacers outscored the Bulls 70-36 in the paint, shooting a dizzying 26-for-31 in the restricted area. Turner had 27 points and 14 rebounds. As a team, the Pacers won the boards 47-40 and scored 12 second-chance points. And the Bulls still had Markkanen and Gafford at that point.

Turner sitting increases the Bulls' odds of leveling those disparities, but they'll have their hands full with Sabonis (who hasn't played in either of these teams' previous two meetups), regardless. Sabonis is averaging 18.1 points, 12.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists (53.7% shooting) per game in this, a breakout season, and is exactly the type of player that gives the Bulls fits.

Fortunately for the Bulls, Thad Young has picked up his play substantially of late, averaging 11.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals on 54.5% shooting (39.3% from 3-point range) in his last nine games. He'll likely draw the Sabonis assignment and, the way he's going, could find an edge against his old team.

All-Star watch

If Young can neutralize Sabonis, he would help out teammate Zach LaVine, as well as the team at large. All-Star reserves, after all, are set to be announced Thursday, and LaVine and Sabonis are both jockeying for position. 

As I wrote about at length earlier this week, Sabonis has the upper hand in that 'game-within-the-game' for now, but LaVine's January line of 29.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game (47.3% shooting; 36.7% from 3-point range) is extremely compelling. Though it was a game that ended in defeat, LaVine torched the Pacers for 43 points (29 in the second half) and canned 8 of 13 3-pointers on Jan. 10. A big night for him in his last chance to prove himself to Eastern Conference coaches is far from out of the realm of possibility. 

Playoffs?

But, as a team, the Bulls are playing for more than LaVine's All-Star candidacy.

Since that Jan. 10 Indiana loss sank the Bulls to 13-26, they're 6-4 in their last 10 games, and have moved into an improved position in the race for a playoff spot in the East. As of this writing, the Bulls sit two games back of the Brooklyn Nets (3-10 in January) for the eighth seed and 2.5 behind the Orlando Magic (losers of four straight) for the seventh spot. Both the Magic and Nets have games in hand, but the Bulls being within shouting distance is signficant, given the recent rash of injuries that has swept over the team.

A win tonight would mark the Bulls' second in 20 tries against teams with records at or above .500 at time of contest. And it would be the Bulls' third consecutive win — the first time they've accomplished that feat since February 2019.

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