Bulls Training Camp is underway and coach Jim Boylen is emphasizing a multi-handler system where everyone handles the ball and brings it.
Everybody is running, everybody is passing, everybody is shooting; Jim Boylen is smiling.
Have the Warriors moved to Chicago?
It sounded a bit like that Tuesday as the Bulls to open training camp were practicing with perhaps their most skilled and versatile lineup of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Tomas Satoransky in the backcourt/wing, and Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen up front. Or perhaps cutting to the corner or on top for a three?
A signal of a future starting (or finishing?) lineup in which all five players are good passers and mostly good three point shooters with exceptional positional size for defense?
"We've talked about different lineups, we've talked about the versatility of this roster, how we're going to play," said Bulls coach Jim Boylen. "You've heard me mention we want to be redundant, where if someone gets hurt, we can still play the same way. We had that opportunity today in midstream. We flip a guy from black to red (teams) or white to the red team and we keep playing our same way. I do have probable lineups on my board and we've talked about it and today it just kind of happened in real time, which was good. We get to see that. Now we'll watch that film and we'll coach to that. We do different things when Lauri's at five (center) than when Wendell's at five. But it's within the same system."
An indication of things to come?
It's potentially an exciting possibility with the 6-4 Dunn, 6-5 LaVine, 6-7 Satoransky, 6-8 Porter and seven-foot Markkanen. Other than Dunn, who shot a respectable 35 percent on threes last season, all have been capable of shooting 40 percent on threes. All are good moving the ball, and are mostly long-armed players who can disrupt an offense.
It became a lineup of necessity Tuesday when—oh, no, yes again—suspected starting center Wendell Carter Jr. sustained a sprained ankle and had to leave practice. Boylen insisted he didn't believe it was major and the team was merely being cautious.
"We don't think it's serious," Boylen said after a three-hour workout. "As of this moment, no swelling, little soreness. We expect him to be day-to-day. It's a guy that plays really hard and stepped on a foot and sprained an ankle, which can happen to anybody. I'm not going to overplay it. He looked at me and acted like, 'Coach I'm going to be just fine.' But it's not the time of the year to make a guy play or ask him to play, so I'm not concerned."
Boylen did express some concern about rookie second round draft pick Daniel Gafford, who sustained a hyperextended elbow late in practice.
"I worry about the elbow," Boylen admitted. "When you hyperextend an elbow, which is what Lauri did last year and if you've ever done that, that's a really weird kind of thing. You can roll an ankle, but an elbow, if it's at the point where it hurts, it probably means you popped it pretty good. Daniel plays so hard. Such a good kid."
Boylen added that Chandler Hutchison, out with a hamstring injury from last month, was sent home with a virus. Free agent center Luke Kornet remained out with turf toe.
Carter is expected to be the starting center, principally because of his physical nature and defensive abilities. As an aside, the sprained ankle continues to become the most common NBA injury. And probably is the most easily remedied, but likely never will be. Because those feet are getting bigger while where they stand remains the same.
The standard NBA basketball court remains the 94 by 50 it has been throughout the league's history. Yet, the average size of players has increased from about 6-3 195 when the 24-second shot clock was inaugurated to about 6-7 and 225 this year. That's bigger—and especially stronger—people occupying the same space they have for 70 years. Though the NBA continues to consider various innovations, expanding the court by removing courtside and lower level seats is not on anyone's agenda. Players just have to remain careful where they step.
But is the next step for the Bulls into this "modern" NBA we hear so much about with the fluidity and three-point finality?
One of the principal participants as maybe something of a Czech army knife-assuming there is such a thing—appears to be Satoransky, who was one of the stars of the recent FIBA World Cup. Satoransky led his Czech Republic team to finish ahead of the USA team and was a tournament MVP candidate averaging 15.5 points, 8.5 assists and 5.6 rebounds in the shorter games. In three of the eight games, Satoransky barely missed triple doubles and averaged in that four-game stretch midway through the tournament 17 points, 10.8 assists and seven rebounds. The numbers transcended everyone on the USA team despite playing with weaker teammates and being more frequently targeted by opponents.
A breakthrough for the former Wizards guard?
"I hope I did open their eyes already before the World Cup," said Satoransky, 27, who has been a professional since he was 16. "I played, like, 50 games as a starting point guard last year (with John Wall injured). I felt like I did pretty good. But obviously the World Cup is a good tournament that I did for my confidence. Obviously people were watching it more here. I was glad because of that. But I thought I opened some eyes already."
Likely the Bulls previously since he scored his career-high 25 points against the Bulls in 2018.
And while the presumed competition for starting point guard is between Satoransky and Dunn, the opening practice lineups suggests Boylen sees possibilities with both versatile players.
"I was already in the mix in my three years in D.C. when I played the one position, two, three, sometimes even four," Satoransky said. "So it's for me more to get used to who I'm playing next to and (Tuesday) I played a lot with Zach, Lauri, KD and OP in the same five. So for me it's just getting used to those guys to their tendencies and just make the best out of every position I play."
Which could be particularly appealing this season.
It seems clear Markkanen, LaVine and Porter are locked in as starters.
"We'll have a point guard," agreed Boylen, "but in a multihandler system everybody handles it. Everybody brings it. In our actions, we can put the two in there, the three in there. With that, Sato can play one, two or three. Dunn can play one, two or three. Shaq (Harrison) can play one, two or three. Archie (Ryan Arcidiacono) can play one or two. So I understand that we have to answer these questions and I understand why they're being asked. It's an important issue. But we are going to play a little different where the flexibility and versatility is almost more important than the position. Old-school point guard, two, three. Does everybody kind of get that?"
Play your part and give your heart. Can it be the start of something big?