After winning one game this week and dropping two, the Chicago Bulls sit 11th in the Eastern Conference with a 21-42 record. Seven games out of the eighth and final playoff spot with 19 games left in the season, it’s time to turn toward “development” over winning.
The Look Back:
With Zach LaVine sidelined nursing a left quad injury, the bulk of the Bulls offense is being run through rookie Coby White. Still coming off the bench, White has responded well to his new role, putting up not just scoring numbers, but a nice amount of assists as well.
Another positive take away from this week was the return from injury of Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr, Denzel Valentine, and Otto Porter Jr. The play of White and the return of the walking wounded helped galvanize the Bulls to victory against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. The Mav’s “Unicorn”, Kristaps Porzingis, sat out leaving the young phenom, Luka Doncic, to shoulder the load for Dallas. As good as Luka is, he couldn’t hold off the combined effort of White (19 points), Porter (18 pts), Valentine (17 pts), Thaddeus Young (12 pts), Tomas Satoransky (11 pts), and Ryan Arcidiacono (10 pts). It was a team win from Chicago, 109-107, and arguably the best of the season.
As good as the win against Dallas was on Monday, the loss to the woeful Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday was equally awful. White again played well, but the Bulls didn’t have an answer for the T-Wolves Malik Beasley, D’Angelo Russell, and rookie big man Naz Reid. The trio combined for 59 points, with Naz Reid grabbing 5 offensive rebounds. He outplayed the Bulls bigs in nearly every facet of the game, just as the rest of the Minnesota team outplayed our hometown heroes. Final score: 115-108.
The Bulls ended the week with a sleepy 108-102 loss to the Indiana Pacers. Down 20 points at the half, Chicago battled back to get the game to within single digits, but the outcome was never really in doubt. Shaq Harrison had a career night for the Bulls scoring 25 points on 5-6 shooting from 3 point land. Not to be out done, Coby White poured in 26 points off the bench, kicking off what we can only imagine will be called the “Shaq and Coby Era” when historians look back on this Bulls team in the future.
MVP for Week 20: Coby White (3)
As I’ve been saying throughout this entire post, Coby White has been playing well lately. So well, in fact, that the NBA named him Rookie of the Month for February. Seemingly over the “Rookie Wall”, White has been on fire ever since the All-Star break, averaging nearly 26 points a game with 4 assists and 3 rebounds to boot. He had that stretch of three games where he scored over 30 points, and this week he led the Bulls in scoring while dishing out 5, 6 and 6 assists against the Mavericks, Timberwolves, and Pacers respectively. Even though the growing backcourt chemistry between he and Zach LaVine has been waylaid by LaVine’s quad injury, Coby has been a magnificent offensive force for the Bulls. It’s been nice to see him looking more comfortable on the floor, making good decisions with the basketball in his hands, and scoring from nearly everywhere on the court. This is an important step that White has taken in his development, and it is a bright spot in a very depressing season of underachievement from the rest of team in general.
With the news that a Front Office shake up is on the horizon for the Bulls, names of possible future General Managers are starting to circulate the rumor mill. The latest name and most noteworthy to surface is Sam Presti, the current GM of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and man most known for drafting the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Presti is currently in the midst of what looks like a fairly successful rebuild for OKC. David Kaplan of ESPN 1000 and NBCSports Chicago “Sports Talk Live” was the man to break this rumor. We’ll see if Presti and OKC want to part ways, but to his credit Kaplan was the first to break the news that the Bulls were looking to retool the front office, so there might be more legs to this rumor than just wishful thinking.
Another interesting development was the mutual parting of ways between the Brooklyn Nets and their head coach Kenny Atkinson. He joins former Sacramento Kings coach Dave Joerger, as another potential upgrade at Head Coach, if the next GM of the Bulls decides to move on from Jim Boylen. Both Atkinson and Joerger have proven track records of developing young players and getting the most out of their rosters. Between the Front Office rumors and available head coaching candidates, his upcoming off-season has the potential to reshape the entire Bulls franchise. Let’s just hope Michael Reinsdorf gets it right.
The Look Ahead:
Speaking of the future… The Bulls have four games this week. A Sunday Matinee with the aforementioned Brooklyn Nets. No coach, no KD, no Kyrie, I think the Bulls still manage to lose this one.
Tuesday sees the Bulls at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers, hopefully LaVine is back playing and they scrape a victory from the hapless Cavs.
Thursday, it’s back on the road as the Bulls face the 8th seeded Orlando Magic. The Bulls lost their only other game this season against the Magic in late December. Maybe they can even the season series against a wishy-washy “playoff” team.
Saturday, it’s more fun in the Florida sun as the Bulls take on the Heat in Miami. The Bulls are 0 for 2 against Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo this season, and I don’t see them winning this one either. I’m going with a Miami season series sweep.
Until the Bulls prove me wrong, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!