Push for Playoffs? LaVar Talks Lonzo, Zach Hates the Deadline, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Push for Playoffs? LaVar Talks Lonzo, Zach Hates the Deadline, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

If the Chicago Bulls win their next two games against Portland and San Antonio they will be just two games out of .500 (doable). Then, matchups against the Grizzlies, Cavs, and Nets await (less doable).

Is there any world where this team can get back to league average this season?

  • I’m skeptical, but I guess Arturas Karnisovas isn’t. According to Shams Charania, all he’s heard about the Bulls in recent weeks is that they plan to stay the course. The front office wants to continue to push for the postseason, so much so that they may even look to *add* to this pre-existing core at the deadline. More on that below:

  • Do I agree with that decision? Eh, no. Considering their odds of successfully cracking the top-8 are about the same as landing a top-4 pick in this upcoming draft, I’d prefer to see them take their chances on the latter. Having said that, I guess a continued playoff push is the only other semi-acceptable outcome. If they want to wait until the offseason to revisit this roster, then they might as well try to get players like Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, and Ayo Dosunmu some playoff experience. Even if it’s just the Play-In Tournament this year, at least that’s some form of do-or-die competition that can help with future development.
  • If they miss the postseason entirely AND choose not to do what they can to better position their lottery odds, though, this season can be chalked up as a complete and utter failure. Likewise, if they part with any real assets just to add a vet who can help them MAYBE get the 8 seed, that will likely be another brutal blow. Trading someone like Drummond or White is one thing, but they better not think about moving a player like Dosunmu or that Portland first-round pick.
  • Speaking of Dosunmu, can he turn his last performance into a full-blown second-half breakout? We hadn’t seen the second-year guard play that aggressively on the offensive end in quite a while. A handful of his buckets did come in transition (where he’s always thrived), but it was encouraging to see him attack off the dribble in several half-court possessions. Portland has the 26th-ranked defense and sits bottom third in points in the paint allowed per game. If Dosunmu keeps that same mindset tonight, he could find similar success at the rim (especially against some tired legs, as the Blazers took on the Wizards in DC less than 24 hours ago).

  • The Blazers’ defense might stink, but their offense remains one of the most formidable in the league. They sit top-5 in offensive rating and have the 6th-best effective field goal percentage. After missing practically the entirety of last year, Damian Lillard is back to looking like a true superstar, averaging 30.7 points with 7.3 assists and shooting 37.0 percent from downtown on roughly 11.0 attempts per game.
  • The availability of both Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams could truly prove to be the difference between keeping this one competitive and getting blown out. Between Anfernee Simons and Lillard, the Blazers’ backcourt is as deadly as they come. The Bulls will need Caruso’s POA pressure and ability to generate TOVs to limit at least one of these guys. Meanwhile, Jerami Grant has put together an outstanding first year in Portland, averaging 21.0 points on 48.5 shooting from the field and 42.0 percent shooting from long range. The Bulls would love to have Williams’ size and physicality to throw at him.
  • ICYMI: LaVar Ball sat down with Stacey King on the Gimme the Hot Sauce Podcast. During their lengthy discussion, LaVar addresses Lonzo’s health, offering some confidence that he’ll eventually get back to 100 percent.

“Lonzo is going to be fine,” LaVar said. “He’s only 25 years old. He’s going to get his stuff together, and he’s going to be ready to play and do his things again. People just got to stay off that thinking ‘oh, you’re gonna come back tomorrow, or next week, or next month.’ I mean, he had some debris in a nerve. Those going to cause you to do some other things. That’s why he couldn’t get anything done. Some of the debris was in the nerve. It doesn’t allow you to bend and stretch and all that. But all of that is done now. It’s about getting your strength back and getting your endurance. Once you get your strength back, now you can see how long you can it for.”

  • At the end of the day, we have to take everything LaVar says with a grain of salt. The fact of the matter is that he also clearly doesn’t know when Ball will have a chance to return, but I guess it’s at least something that he seems to believe the right medical issue has been addressed. The question is just how long it will take for Ball’s body to recover from the previous damage done (… if ever).
  • Dalen Terry dropped 15 points with 6 assists in last night’s win over the Wisconsin Herd. I know I keep saying it, but I’d LOVE for the Bulls to find him just a little bit of playing time during this second half of the season. They really have no reason not to give him a try at this point.

  • The Bulls’ two-way player also continues to dominate the G-League:

  • Zach LaVine kept it real when asked about the trade deadline drama (h/t Will Gottlieb): “No, I hate it. I can’t stand it.” Honestly … can we blame him? While this isn’t the response I necessarily expected, I think it’s a brutally honest one. I don’t think LaVine has any intention to leave Chicago at the moment. He’s been committed to the franchise ever since they acquired him in the Jimmy Butler trade, and he’s never shied away from having the hard conversations. I respect him for that. I’m also sure that’s why it’s exhausting to hear about all this trade chatter. Players like to say it’s all outside noise that they don’t hear, but I’m telling you confidently that’s a lie. A lot of these guys are way more aware of all the rumors than they want to let on, and I have to imagine LaVine is one of them.
  • Austin Rivers and Mo Bamba threw hands in the middle of last night’s game in Minnesota. The altercation led to both players being ejected and numerous technicals administered. I have to imagine suspensions are coming from Commissioner Adam Silver.

  • Rivers sounds like he regrets the decision, but he also didn’t hesitate to call Bamba out.


  • Ah, that’s a bummer.

Author: Elias Schuster

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