Don’t get me wrong, I like watching the new Chicago Bulls obliterate teams in the preseason as much as the next guy, but if you’re not following the Chicago Sky yet, you’re missing some of the best basketball in Chicago right now.
Candace Parker and Co. officially took down the No. 1 seeded Connecticut Sun on Wednesday night to punch their ticket to the WNBA Finals. The team will await the winner of the Phoenix Mercury-Las Vegas Aces semifinal matchup, which is currently tied 2-2.
— Chicago Sky (@chicagosky) October 7, 2021
Seriously, the story for this group is all kinds of poetic. WNBA legend Parker decided to come home in January after 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks. She inked a two-year deal with the franchise with the goal to finally get this squad over the Finals hump. Fast forward nine months later, and she has done just that. Even more impressive, the Sky came into the playoffs 6th-overall with an underwhelming 16-16 record. They had to take down the No. 7 seed, No. 3 seed, and No. 1 seed to become only the third team in WNBA history to make the Finals without a regular-season winning record.
So if Coby White, Patrick Williams, DeMar DeRozan, Mo Cheeks, Scottie Pippen, and Chance the Rapper are all turning in, so should you. The Finals start Sunday on ABC!
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 7, 2021
Bulls x Sky love!
Game recognize game!
— Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) October 7, 2021
• I’m 43 percent sure the Chicago Bulls were playing on an airport moving sidewalk on Tuesday night. Head coach Billy Donovan stressed during Media Day that he wanted this Bulls squad to play faster. It was a style of play Donovan embraced with Zach LaVine and Coby White during much of the 2020-21 campaign, with the Bulls ranking 8th in PACE over their first 43 games, per NBA Stats. However, once the trade deadline hit and Nikola Vucevic came to town, the team’s ability to get up and down the court drastically declined. How drastically, you ask? The team’s PACE fell to 25th in the NBA post-trade deadline, and I think a stat like that only further emphasizes the difficult adjustment this team had to make over the final stretch.
“We are going to have to play faster. I think DeMar and Zach are two players that in the open floor and in open spare are really really terrific offensive players,” Donovan said at Media Day. “So we’re going to have to play faster … Lonzo, to me, as good as an advanced passer as there is. And I think in order to play to his strengths we got to get out to enable him to get his passing into the game.”
• Now, with a full offseason to re-invent the roster around the organization’s preferred style of play, the speed is back on (Chicago got up 109 shots in Game 1 … which was more than in any game last season). Lonzo Ball was the catalyst for this high-speed transition offense on Tuesday (to no one’s surprise) and LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Alex Caruso looked more than comfortable. In fact, the only question mark in this system should be big man Nikola Vucevic. Time and again he was (expectedly) the last man up the floor, and it will be important to watch how Donovan deals with this in certain situations throughout the season. The good news is that Vucevic is one of the better shooting centers in the league, so while his lumbering presence may hurt the teams at times, he can at least hit the kick-out bucket.
• I also can’t believe the Bulls looked as good as they did on Tuesday WITHOUT four rotation players. Again, I know it was just one measly preseason win, but it’s so encouraging to know the talent level on the court is only going to improve. Coby White, Patrick Williams, Derrick Jones Jr., and Tony Bradley are all reserves who project to be vital to this second unit. Not to mention, all should fit into the style of play we saw on both ends of the floor well upon their return.
• We talked about defense a lot in Wednesday’s bullets, so I’ll keep this brief: I’m encouraged that everyone looked as engaged as they did without three of the team’s best defenders on the floor. Williams, Jones, and Bradley are each going to bolster this group’s rim protection somewhat significantly, but will their presence make the rest of the roster let down their guard a bit? Let’s hope not.
• FWIW: I also think DeRozan best summed up what the Bulls’ defensive identity will have to be this season. The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry shared the snippet in his latest article, and I encourage you to give that a read.
“We were just all over the place,” said DeRozan. “We made an emphasis this week. Nothing’s going to be perfect. But we’ve got to have one another’s back, and that was big that we went out there and we scrambled. We tried to help each other out. We tried to cause a little havoc and just be all over the place and we did that.”
• Exactly. No one is denying that this team lacks elite defensive talent, but no one is also denying that solid defense is going to be pivotal in turning this group into a real winner. Buying into the “chaotic” and “scrappy” defensive mindset could do this long and athletic team a lot of good. They don’t have to be the most physical or the most fundamentally sound, they just have to use their athleticism to get opposing teams out of a rhythm.
• Good read on all things Nikola Vucevic!
Grateful to be on the October @hauteliving Chicago cover where I talk all things @starwars, basketball, being a father, and my new city. @laurainwonderland__ @kirstenmiccoli @thegwenchicagohttps://t.co/QbDqmxPgKN pic.twitter.com/35uxr5RveC
— Nikola Vucevic (@NikolaVucevic) October 6, 2021
• Get poked.
Sources: NBA players were informed unvaccinated players who breach quarantine in Toronto face criminal offense. Unvaccinated players only able to leave hotel for team activities. Per Canada's Quarantine Act, violations could lead to up to 6 months in prison and/or $750K in fines.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 7, 2021
• PRESEASON BASKETBALL BABY!!
Boban with back-to-back threes!
14 PTS (5/7 FG) in 9 MINS pic.twitter.com/J8veEHRtf9
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) October 7, 2021
• I think Jarrett Allen needs to be forced to retire.
JOHN COLLINS MY GOODNESS
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 7, 2021
• BEAT. THE. RAIDERS.
Sure, they’re 3-1, but I don’t think the Raiders are as good as their record suggests. https://t.co/o87oAW3Zdy
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) October 7, 2021
• Hey, that’s cool!
Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, and Seth Jones Named to Team USA 2022 Winter Olympic Rosterhttps://t.co/XIBqMAQUf5
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) October 7, 2021