I just laughed when the shot went in. What else could you do? It was the perfect amount of dumb luck and coincidence that resulted in the shot being taken, and going in. It’s the sort of thing that only happens when the basketball gods are smiling on you. The mad scramble for the loose ball after the jump-ball. Damian Lillard coming away with it behind the 3 point arc (once Dame has the ball in his hands you might as well call “game”). All he needed was a little space and, Bang! Dagger three with 0:00 left on the clock. Portland Trailblazers 123, Chicago Bulls 122.
I’m not even mad. The Bulls played incredibly well in the second half of that game, overcoming a 19 point deficit, taking the lead in the 4th quarter, and generally looking like they were going to defeat Portland for a 2nd time this season. But fate had other plans. To be beaten by a great player like Lillard certainly hurts, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Even as the ball was swishing through the hoop on that final shot, my mind jumped back to last season’s victory over the Charlotte Hornets courtesy of Zach LaVine. Maybe this loss was the basketball universe finding it’s cosmic balance.
On the whole it was a rough week for the Bulls. It started with a Monday loss to the Boston Celtics, 119-103. The Celtics, behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, were just too talented for the Bulls. It was another measuring stick game for Chicago, against one of the best teams in the league, and they came up woefully short. As good as they’ve looked over the last several weeks, they are still a long way from championship contention.
It was as sobering middle of the week. The news broke that Wendell Carter Jr will miss the next 4 weeks of the season, at the very least, with a deep quad contusion, and Wednesday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies was postponed due to Covid. And then the week concluded with last night’s heart breaker against the Blazers. The Bulls are now 7-11 on the season, and in the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference. Not a fun way to close out January.
NBA All-Star voting has started, and if you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to take the time to cast a few ballots for Zach LaVine. He deserves an All-Star berth more than ever this season. He is a top 5 scorer in the league, on super efficient shooting. His assists are up, his defense is markedly better, and his team is winning more than they have in the past 3 seasons. Zach LaVine deserves to be an All-Star, let’s make him one Bulls fans! Here’s where you can vote: NBA All-Star Voting.
You might not realize it (I certainly didn’t) but we are rapidly approaching NBA trade season. The trade deadline is March 25th this season, but the day on which teams can start trading players they signed as free agents this offseason is February 6th, which is next Saturday. Traditionally, that day signals the beginning of NBA trade season. Already, the New Orleans Pelicans have made it known that they have a number of players on the trading block. JJ Reddick, Eric Bledsoe, and Lonzo Ball, are the names circling the rumor mill.
Much speculation has come out this week among Bulls fans and media, after it was revealed that the Round Table have some interest in Lonzo Ball. It’s no secret that the Bulls need a playmaker, and Lonzo is one of the best passers in the NBA. The question is, how patient with Coby White will this Bulls front office and coaching staff be? A trade for Ball means White would no longer be the lead ball handler in the starting unit. He would probably be moved back to the role of microwave scoring 6th man off the bench, which, quite honestly, might be Coby’s best role in the NBA.
White has certainly made strides as the Bulls starting point guard, in fact, the game he had last night against the Blazers might have been his best one yet. 20 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, and only 1 turnover, not too shabby for the 2nd year man. But if Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversely decide they want Ball on the Bulls, the question quickly becomes what does it take to acquire him? The speculation has kicked around a couple of names, Lauri Markkanen and Coby White being the most prominent.
I’m not sure that a trade for Lonzo Ball is in the best long term interest of the Bulls. Maybe he makes them better this season with his passing, but he is a restricted free agent this upcoming offseason, just like Lauri Markkanen, and I’m still holding out hope that Coby White becomes a solid starting point guard in the next couple years. Ball is a very limited shooter, and while an excellent playmaker in transition, his play in half-court sets leaves something to be desired. For me, a trade of either Markkanen or White for a guy who maybe makes your team a little better this season, doesn’t seem worth it to me.
Thadd But True
Meanwhile, on the Bulls trading block, the most desirable player that is most likely available has to be Thaddeus Young. He has been simply amazing off the bench as the Bulls small ball center this season. With Wendell Carter shelved for the past 4 games, Young has really taken advantage of his ballooned minutes. For the 2nd game in a row Thadd flirted with a triple double (16 points, 9 assists, 9 rebounds against Boston, 8 points, 11 assists, 11 rebounds against the Blazers). He would make an excellent back-up big for some playoff bound team. And even if the Bulls don’t trade him, this was the Thaddeus Young John Paxson signed two summers ago. The way he has been playing this season is what we expected to see all 2019-20.
The Bulls have an odd week ahead of themselves; double features against the New York Knicks (Monday and Wednesday) and the Orlando Magic (Friday and Saturday). These should be 4 competitive games the Bulls have a shot at winning. We could be looking at a really good week for the Bulls. New York and Orlando are the two teams directly ahead of the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Standings. This week could go a long way in showing us exactly where the Bulls belong on the NBA heirarchy.
Until next we find out where they perch, thanks for reading, vote for Zach, and GO BULLS!