Going for 4-0, Marko Assigned to the G-League, Having Fun Again, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Going for 4-0, Marko Assigned to the G-League, Having Fun Again, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

When the medium-sized orange round bouncy thingy is thrown in the air tonight at 6:30 p.m. CT in Toronto, Zach LaVine will try to do something he has not done once in his NBA Career: Win four games in a row.

As bizarre as that sounds – yes – it is true. The All-Star has never seen a winning streak longer than three games over his 414 games of professional basketball. The Chicago Bulls did surprisingly win seven games in a row during the 2017-18 season with LaVine on the roster, but the man watched it all from the bench as he recovered from his ACL injury. So all that stands in between LaVine and the longest winning streak of his still-young career is a 1-2 Raptors team that is missing arguably its best player. With that being the case, I want to feel confident heading into tonight’s matchup … but I’m not there quite yet.

•   The Raptors are a confusing bunch. While Pascal Siakam is recovering from a torn labrum, the team still has a unique mix of proven playoff talent and intriguing young prospects. This kind of combination can lead to some unpredictability, and that has certainly been on full display over the team’s first three games. After an opening night double-digit loss to the Wizards (where they scored just 83 points), the Raptors destroyed Jayson Tatum and Co. behind a 25-point night out of rookie Scottie Barnes and a 9-assist performance from Fred VanVleet. Then, they were handed their second loss of the season by the Mavericks after being outscored 58-44 in the second half. I know everyone is still finding themselves after opening week, but the Raptors feel like an especially tough team to read. Will the Bulls get the bunch that decimated the Celtics or the one that struggled to get anything going against the Wizards?

•   If one thing is for sure, the Raptors play damn pretty hard. The team might be shooting 2nd-worst in the league from the field, but they do crash the boards and get after the basketball. Toronto currently sits first in offensive rebounds and third in total rebounds per game. Meanwhile, they have held the 6th-best defensive rating while forcing the 2nd-most steals. We have to take all of this with a grain of salt since the sample size is low, but Nick Nurse has shown for years that he can get his team to lock in defensively and play a physical brand of basketball. Chicago feels well-equipped to handle this with such an athletic bunch and multiple ballhandlers in the lineup, but they also could be without one of their most important players.

•   We learned this morning that big man Nikola Vucevic has been added to the injury report with an illness. Fortunately, he is only listed as questionable for tonight’s game, but with the Raptors being a strong rebounding squad that also likes to charge the paint, missing the team’s biggest body could be problematic.

•   If Vucevic is sidelined tonight, the Bulls would likely run their rotation with Alize Johnson and Tony Bradley. The alternative, of course, would be to give Patrick Williams a shot underneath the basket. Donovan has given this a try in short stints already this season, and considering the Raptors are not the most towering group up front (Precious Achiuwa and Scottie Barnes each stand 6’9″), tonight might be the right time for an extended look.

•   We do know Marko Simonovic will not get an opportunity to prove his worth tonight. The big man has been sent to the Windy City Bulls alongside two-way players Devon Dotson and Tyler Cook.

•   By the way, Simonovic can be assigned to and recalled from the G-League whenever (that’s how it works for players with three or fewer years of service time). The expectation was that he would see multiple stints with the Windy City Bulls throughout the season thanks to limited opportunities with the big boys. And, if you ask me, that’s a great thing. Simonovic is the exact reason it’s so nice for organizations to have their own G-League affiliate. Summer League showed us the big man must build up strength and hone his craft before he can contribute consistently at the next level. The coaching staff with the Windy City Bulls can make him a priority and more easily help him add those needed traits.

•   It’s early, but one thing has immediately stood out about the new Bulls: They have fun.

•   Everyone was worried about the chemistry and fit of this team. We may not be out of the woods yet, but I think it’s clear they have backed up their verbal excitement and willingness to sacrifice for each other on the court so far. The team is playing one of the most exciting brands of basketball this city has seen in years, and they know it.

•   It’s hard not to understand some comparisons between Ja Morant and Derrick Rose. Both players have wicked athleticism and zero fear.

•   I don’t like it here.

•   I also don’t like it here.



Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.