Bulls Very Much a Work in Progress

60734.jpg

Bulls Very Much a Work in Progress

Monday, November 2nd

by Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

So what do you think of the Bulls' play in the opening week of the NBA season? We'd love to see your comments in the section below, or feel free to drop me an e-mail.

Here's a few things I've observed. It's pretty obvious the Bulls won't be able to win consistently without a healthy Derrick Rose in the line-up. Derrick insists his pre-season ankle injury is not the reason for his slow start. He says he just needs to work on his conditioning and find the rhythm in his offensive game. But watching Rose play in the first three regular season games, you can see he doesn't have his trademark quickness and explosive first step on drives to the basket. Derrick is one of the best finishing point guards in the game, but he's missed a lot of shots he normally would make. Rose has been able to get past his defender, but hasn't exploded to the basket like he did last season. Once Derrick is 100 healthy again, the Bulls' offense will instantly be better.

Joakim Noah's summer work has paid off. Noah's improved strength and conditioning has allowed him to tirelessly work the backboards on both ends, and so far, he's been the Bulls' best player. He's definitely capable of averaging double figures in points and rebounds, and better equipped to battle other NBA big men for position under the basket. Noah's also showed an improved ability to finish on close range shots in the lane, but his jump shot still looks pretty funky. The Bulls' center position is better than it's been in a long time with Noah, Brad Miller and overseas prospect Omer Asik, a 7-footer from Turkey who should join the team next summer.

The Bulls' coaches still don't have complete faith in Tyrus Thomas. Tyrus got the quick hook in the season opener against San Antonio, and he only played 20 minutes during Sunday's game in Miami. Vinny Del Negro said he wanted to go with a small line-up and more shooters against the Heat, but it still left Tyrus on the bench, wondering about his future with the team. While other NBA teams extended the contracts of their high draft picks from the '06 draft, the Bulls chose to let Thomas play out his deal and become a restricted free agent next summer. That decision alone speaks volumes on what they think of Thomas' future in Chicago.

Luol Deng should have a big season. With Ben Gordon now in Detroit, there are a lot more shots available in the Bulls' offense, and Deng will get a lot of them. He scored 17 points on opening night, and led all scorers with 26 points against the Heat. Even more encouraging than the numbers is Luol driving hard to the basket again, and finishing with a dunk on the fast break. Those are the kind of plays that will allow Deng to average in the 17 to 20 point range this season.

Right now, Vinny and his staff have to settle on a consistent playing rotation and figure out the best way to get open looks for a jump shooting team. The schedule is daunting during the month of November, so don't get too hung up on wins and losses. Look for good ball movement on offense and improved rotations on defense. Those are 2 of the keys to the Bulls making it back to the playoffs next spring.

I'll see you from the United Center with Kendall Gill for live pre-game reports Tuesday during SportsNite at 6:30 before the Bulls-Bucks game on Comcast SportsNet at 7:00.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre and post game studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

Bulls: Jimmy Butler says he no longer wears a chip on his shoulder

Bulls: Jimmy Butler says he no longer wears a chip on his shoulder

The biggest thing on Jimmy Butler—next to his haircut—has likely been the golden nugget-sized chip on his shoulder he proudly wore on his journey from non-entity to All-Star and Olympian.

However, Butler claims that invisible attribute that has taken him to unforeseen heights is gone as he’s two months away from leading a Bulls team that has undergone the most significant roster overhaul in his career.

Perhaps it’s a tacit admission about changing his leadership style, but it’s certainly a change on face value.

“I don’t think I have a chip on my shoulder anymore,” Butler said at USA Basketball practice at the United Center Thursday, one day before an exhibition against Venezuela. “I don’t think I have too much to prove like back in the day. That doesn’t mean I don’t work hard or anything. I just think I go about things a little differently.”

He didn’t actually specify how he’ll do things differently but perhaps the quest for validation that has driven him to insatiable heights and a few questionable moments on the way is over.

With Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose dispatched to New York, followed by the surprising additions of ring bearers Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, perhaps he’s feeling more secure about where he ranks on the team masthead.

“I think I have to catch up with them, with the winning mentality,” Butler said. “I think I can learn a lot from those guys. D-Wade, multiple championships. Rondo bringing in his intensity.”

[SHOP: Buy a Jimmy Butler Team USA shirt]

Wade and Rondo have the championship receipts that Butler doesn’t have, so Butler feels he’ll learn more from them as opposed to worrying about the on-court fit that on paper, doesn’t seem to be ideal.

“I don’t do the analytics and numbers. D-Wade has put the ball in the basket for a number of years,” Butler said. “He’s a great player because of the way he can score. I don’t think you can call him a non-shooter because he can shoot the ball.

“Rondo, call him what you want but he’s effective at what he does. Same thing with myself. You gotta be able to knock down shots.”

Before those new acquisitions, Butler had to deal with the belief he had Rose shipped out as a mark of some type of organizational power, as the two were never fully able to maximize their partnership on the floor to the tune of playoff success or even chemistry.

Then, in a stunning turn of events that seemed to indicate his fingerprints couldn’t be on much of anything, Butler had to endure trade rumors of his own the next day during the NBA draft.

He hasn’t spoken many times this offseason with the exception of summer league and an ESPN media tour in Los Angeles, but the proverbial scars are there and he addressed the rumors.

“That has nothing to do with me, I don’t move guys,” Butler said. “People are gonna think what they’re gonna think. I don’t let it bother me. I know where I stand, I know who I am. It’s one more thing for people to talk about. I don’t pay too much attention to it.”

[MORE: Bulls release 2016 preseason schedule]

He has spoken to Rose since the trade, as Rose attended an USA Basketball game in Los Angeles and the two chatted during the contest. And he exchanged texts with Noah after Noah broke the bank for a $72 million deal with the New York Knicks in free agency.

“We’ll always have love for each other because we’re always teammates, we’ve been in the trenches together.”

Bulls release 2016 preseason schedule

Bulls release 2016 preseason schedule

The Bulls announced their preseason schedule on Thursday that will feature five games aired on Comcast SportsNet.

The Bulls, who traded Derrick Rose and added Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade during a busy offseason, will debut their new-look roster on October 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center. They'll also square off against the defending champion Cavaliers on October 14 and will play in Omaha against the Atlanta Hawks on October 20.

Bulls 2016 preseason schedule

Monday, October 3: vs. Milwaukee (7 p.m.)
Thursday, October 6: at Indiana (7 p.m.)
Friday, October 14: vs. Cleveland (7 p.m.)
Saturday, October 15: at Milwaukee (7:30 p.m.)
Monday, October 17: vs. Charlotte (7 p.m.)
Thursday, October 20: vs. Atlanta (7 p.m.)

Michael Jordan voices concern, donates $2 million to police, African-American groups

Michael Jordan voices concern, donates $2 million to police, African-American groups

Michael Jordan has decided to speak out on the country's growing racial and social unrest.

The NBA legend released a statement Monday voicing his concern about the shootings of African-Americans and the targeting of police officers. In the statement, Jordan announced his donation of $1 million each to two organizations involved in efforts to bring police officers and African-Americans together.

"As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers. I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well."

“I was raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race or background, so I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late. I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent. We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers – who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all – are respected and supported.”

As someone who has been known for — and criticized for — keeping a low profile when it comes to social and political advocacy, this is a big public milestone for Jordan.

You can read Jordan's full statement to The Undefeated here.