Bulls

Things just got worse for the Lakers

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Things just got worse for the Lakers

From Comcast SportsNetMEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- A team meeting didn't help stop the losing, and this season just keeps spinning away from the Lakers.Darrell Arthur scored a season-high 20 points and Mike Conley added 19 as the Memphis Grizzlies beat Los Angeles 106-93 Wednesday night, handing the Lakers their fourth straight loss and 10th in 12 games."I do think they play as hard as they can play, and that's what's scary," coach Mike D'Antoni said of his Lakers, who are now 2-10 in January. "I mean I don't know how we can play harder or blame something else. We just didn't play well."Kobe Bryant said he felt comfortable with what he said in a team meeting before the morning shootaround. He said he doesn't know if his message to Dwight Howard got across. When asked if he hoped it did, Bryant simply answered with a seemingly sarcastic "No." And Bryant said this season certainly is getting up there when asked if it was his toughest in the NBA."That Rudy T (Tomjanovich) one was a pretty hard one, too," Bryant said.That was 2004-05, when the Lakers last missed the playoffs when Tomjanovich was coach part of a 34-48 season.These Lakers are 17-25 after losing their seventh consecutive road game. D'Antoni had talked before the game about having an All-Star team with players not having learned their pecking order. Then Howard missed the second half after aggravating his sore shoulder just before halftime. D'Antoni said the center will be re-evaluated in Los Angeles.Memphis got to celebrate a big win, a day after trading three reserves to Cleveland. That meant, even with the signing of D-League player Chris Johnson, Memphis only dressed 10 players before clinching the season series over the Lakers with one game left in Los Angeles on April 5."It was just a great team win," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said.Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen added 12 points apiece as Memphis improved to 12-0 when scoring at least 100 points. Randolph also grabbed 10 rebounds. The Grizzlies scored a season-high 60 points in the paint, compared to 34 for the Lakers with Howard out the second half.Bryant scored 29 points for the Lakers, Metta World Peace added 15, Pau Gasol 13 and Earl Clark 11.Los Angeles came in as the NBA's fifth-best scoring team, averaging 102.6 points. But it was the Grizzlies topping 100 points for the first time since Jan. 11 against the Spurs, and they scored their most points since getting 113 against Sacramento on Jan. 7.Pau Gasol, coming off the bench again, believes defense remains the Lakers' biggest problem."We make these teams look a lot better offensively than they really are," the Lakers forward said. "That's something that's pretty negative. Pretty alarming."The Grizzlies had a short bench after trading three players to the Cavaliers on Tuesday, only getting Jon Leuer back in a move freeing up Memphis from the luxury tax. But the paperwork hadn't cleared on the physicals of the trio going to Cleveland in time to have Leuer available against the Lakers.Then Marc Gasol, Randolph, Hamed Haddadi and Jerryd Bayless all picked up two fouls each in the first quarter. That forced Hollins to rotate his Grizzlies to keep them fresh, and rookie Tony Wroten, who has gotten most of his playing time in the D-League in Reno this season, had a career-best nine points by halftime."When we are faced with adversity, we show that we can win," Allen said. "When adversity comes, when guys get hurt, we pull together."The Lakers started quickly, scoring the first six points of the game and forced four turnovers. They looked like they had listened to D'Antoni's plea for better defense.But they last led 30-28 on a 15-footer by Pau Gasol with 9 minutes left in the second quarter. Conley answered with a 9-foot runner to tie it up, and that started a 22-5 run as the Grizzlies took the lead for good. Conley capped the spurt with a fast-break layup with 4:25 left in the first half for a 50-35 lead.Both teams shot better than 50 percent in the first half, but the Grizzlies led 59-50 at halftime. They led by as much as 21 in the second half and finished with a 27-3 edge on second-chance points. They outrebounded the Lakers 52-34, including 16 offensive rebounds."It's just the same thing over again," Lakers forward Earl Clark said. "We broke down defensively. They went on a run, and we continue to just go downhill."Meanwhile, Howard was 0 of 4 from the floor and headed to the locker room with 2:21 left in the first half, flexing his right shoulder. He had been probable with a torn labrum and had a very physical first half against Gasol and Haddadi.The Lakers got within 61-58 on a 14-footer by Bryant with 8:57 left in the third. That was as close as they would get as their woes worsened when Steve Nash, who came in a perfect 26 of 26 at the free throw line this season, missed his second attempt of the night with 3:07 left in the third.Notes: Gay tied Pau Gasol as the Grizzlies' franchise leader in games played with 476 ... D'Antoni, told at least he didn't have to worry about coaching the All-Star game this season, joked, "just barely missed it by 30 games." ... Memphis had gone six straight games since last topping 100 points, and the Grizzlies needed overtime to do that against the Spurs. ... Memphis had a 43-29 scoring edge from the bench. ... Nash finished with eight assists but six turnovers.

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.

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