It was a win-less week of basketball for the Bulls. They played well in Toronto against the Raptors, last Sunday, giving one of the best teams in the league a hard time. It was a balanced, if low scoring effort from Chicago; Lauri Markkanen had 18 points, Zach LaVine 13, Kris Dunn 14, and Wendell Carter Jr 16 points, but it wasn’t enough as Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam torched the Bulls for a combined 47 points. Toronto won 95-89.
Wednesday brought the Orlando Magic to town, a very winnable game for the Bulls. They had played the Magic twice, up until Wedneseday. Both games went back and forth. Both teams looked even in talent, and the series reflected that fact, they had split it at a win a piece. On Wednesday, however, the Magic blew out the Bulls in Chicago, 112-84. Bulls players struggled to score, Carter barely touched the floor logging only 13 minutes of poor play, and the Magic couldn’t miss from 3. Magic big man, Nikola Vucevic was a bully in the post. His 22 points and the lights out shooting from the rest of the Magic, it proved a disastrous recipe for the Bulls.
Redemption came for the Bulls in the form of their best loss of the season, a tumultuous, overtime dagger throwing contest with the Indiana Pacers, 119-116. The final minutes of the game featured an exciting duel between the Bulls three budding stars (Dunn, Markkanen, and LaVine) and the emerging Pacer superstar, Victor Oladipo. The four young players traded big shot after big shot, it was so spectacular that I’m even tempted to call it the best Bulls game of the season (but there was that win against the Oklahoma City Thunder). Victor Oladipo sealed the game for the Pacers with a 3 pointer taken about a mile away from the basket with Kris Dunn’s hand in his face. The Bulls had a chance to tie the game with 0.3 seconds on the clock, but even though Zach LaVine nailed the turn around 3 from the corner, he failed to release the ball before time expired. It was close enough that the officiating crew had to look at the replay, but the video evidence was clear, and the Bulls finished the week 0-3.
It is now official, Justin Holiday has been shipped to the Memphis Grizzlies for Wayne Selden, MarShon Brooks, a 2019 2nd round draft pick, and a 2020 2nd round draft pick. In order to make room for Selden and Brooks on the roster, the Bulls waived Cameron Payne. It doesn’t sound like the Bulls are interested in keeping Brooks either, the rumors are that they hope to packaging him along with Brook Lopez or Jabari Parker in another trade of some sort. Wayne Selden is a 6’5”, 230 lbs., 24 year old, shooting guard, so the Bulls have decided to give him a chance to make the roster. You can expect to see Selden get some playing time off the bench over the next few weeks. The big winner of the trade seems to be rookie Chandler Huthcison, who has taken over Holiday’s starting position at Small Forward. His defense and energy fit well, but he needs to improve his scoring pronto.
Bobby Portis is expected to play this afternoon against the Brooklyn Nets. He has missed the last 7 or so games with an ankle sprain. He will take up the roll of Sixth Man, coming off the bench like he was supposed to do at the start of the season. I’m not expecting much from Portis in his first few games back, he’ll have to get his legs under him and get back into playing shape. This is a contract year for Portis, so it shouldn’t be too long before we see him bullying bigs in the post and launching from 3.
Cameron Payne will go down in history as one of the most despised players that has ever worn a Bulls uniform. Despised by Bulls fans that is, I’m sure MJ and Pippin have their detractors around the league. Payne was a special player, he was a manifestation the front office on the court. He was GarPax’s version of Frankenstein’s Monster. The final piece in a puzzle of diminishing returns that traces its way back to the trade of Eddie Curry 12 years ago.
— NBA Sweatpants (@NBASweatpants) January 4, 2019
I have long railed against the trade of Taj Gibson, Doug (Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic) McDermott, and a 2nd round pick to OKC for Anthony Morrow, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Cameron Payne. It was a grasping, covetous move by GarPax. They recklessly squandered solid players and a draft pick for an oft injured project of a point guard in Payne. They hyped him as the point guard of the future. They spoke glowingly about what he had done in college for Murray State. They constantly reminded us that Payne was a lottery pick, but what Payne turned out to be was not good enough at basketball to play in the NBA.
At the end of last season, it looked as though Payne had finally turned a corner and was going to make the critics eat crow. He was efficiently running the offense, distributing the ball well, and hitting his shots. On the defensive end, he was forcing turnovers, jumping the passing lanes and surprising opponents with his quick hands. He looked like a pro.
Over this past summer, the old habits crawled back into place and he regressed to his former self. Payne has been dribbling too much and chucking up wild shots. He has made numerous careless turnovers and compounded those errors by over-trying on defense. His flustered, frustrated play have resulted in fouls or wide open shots for opponents. He over-commits on defense in order to make up for his previous mistakes and the man he is guarding makes the Bulls pay.
The Last Cam Payne Highlight Reel pic.twitter.com/NRCEfppgky
— Gustavo Vega (@iamvega1982) January 4, 2019
I had hope for Payne. I saw the improvements he had made at the end of last season, and I clung to the belief that people can change, that Cameron Payne had finally come around and realized his potential. I was wrong. While he might get there some day, he will not do it as a Chicago Bull.
I think a lot of the criticism we fans leveled at Payne was probably unfair. While his play was poor, I believe the majority of the frustration fans felt came from knowing we traded Taj Gibson for Payne. Those boos and jabs we took at Payne were misplaced, sure he was a bad player, but so are half the Bulls roster. The jeers and taunts that Payne faced on a nightly bases were misdirected. They should have been thrown at the GarPax for their poor talent evaluation and covetous nature.
Coming up for the Bulls…
A five game West Coast swing that pits Chicago against some of the toughest teams in the league including the Golden State Warriors, the Denver Nuggets, the Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers. But first, another go at the Brooklyn Nets this afternoon. Let’s hope the Bulls ride the momentum from Friday’s thrilling overtime loss. Thanks for reading, and Go Bulls!