Billy Donovan Headed to All-Star Weekend? Vucevic vs. Embiid, LaVine's Status, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Billy Donovan Headed to All-Star Weekend? Vucevic vs. Embiid, LaVine’s Status, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls





For any fans going to the game this afternoon, feel free to take that to the poster-making station.

•   While the Chicago Bulls will already have Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Ayo Dosunmu as their All-Star Weekend representatives, they have a chance to add to that list this afternoon. A win over the Philadelphia 76ers at the United Center would keep the Bulls firmly planted at the top of the Eastern Conference, thus earning head coach Billy Donovan and his staff the right to coach at the All-Star game. If the Bulls can not manage to pull off the victory, they will lose their first-place standing and book Eric Spoelstra a ticket from Miami to Cleveland.

•   It’s already obvious how tight the current Eastern Conference playoff picture is this season, but this race for the All-Star game coaching spot really emphasizes it. According to NBA Communications, this is the first time since the 2012-13 season that an All-Star game head coach spot will be decided on the final day.

•   To be honest, I wish I felt more optimistic about Donovan earning the nod this afternoon. Thanks to two games earlier this season, we’ve already seen how tough of a matchup this 76ers team can be for the Bulls, and those two games were with a fully healthy Bulls lineup on the floor (minus Patrick Williams). Not only is the team missing their two best defenders this time around, but the health of Zach LaVine and Coby White remains up in the air. Both players are listed as questionable heading into this contest with a back injury for LaVine and a groin injury for White. Fortunately, there seemed to be optimism that both could return for this game, but who is to say either will be at 100 percent if they do take the floor?

•   Joel Embiid had a surprisingly tamed game against the Bulls back on November 3rd, scoring just 18 points to go along with 9 rebounds. However, three days later, Embiid dropped a more understandable 30 points with 16 rebounds against this undersized Bulls frontcourt. If I was a betting man, I’d put some money on Emiid mimicking his second performance this afternoon. After all, this is a Chicago defense that has allowed the 3rd-most points in the paint since the beginning of January. And, speaking of scoring in the paint, the Bulls backcourt will also have to try to keep a body in front of the surging Tyrese Maxey. The second-year guard is having a breakout season, averaging a 62 percent clip at the rim, which ranks in the NBA’s 72nd percentile, per Cleaning the Glass.

•   Nikola Vucevic has scored at least 30 points with at least 17 rebounds in each of the past two games, and the Bulls would love to make it a third this afternoon. The only problem for the big man is that he will no longer have the clear size advantage, and he’s also playing against a fellow big who shares the ability to space the floor. Vucevic only scored a combined 15 points in his two games against Embiid this season, so I’ll be curious to see how the Bulls try to flip that script this time around. My best guess is that we see him take a handful of shots from deep, as Donovan tries his best to force Embiid to guard outside of the paint so LaVine and DeRozan can attack.

•   I also wonder how much Tony Bradley we could see in this one. He gave the team about 12 solid minutes in each of the previous two games, helping the Bulls in the rebounding department while also making life a tiny bit more difficult on Embiid with his physicality. As a former teammate of the big man, he seemed to understand how to approach guarding the superstar in certain situations.

•   I’m pretty sure everyone now knows not to jump with Zach LaVine.

•   Can Alex Caruso join Stacey and Adam on some broadcasts while he sits out?

•   “Can he shoot!?” … “Yes, I can shoot!”

•   Big add for the Bears.

•   The Cat made the most of his first-ever All-Star game!

Author: Elias Schuster

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