OK, now the Bulls season is really starting. Now, really.
"I think earlier when coach (Jim Boylen) came over, it was more drive the ball and stuff like that," Zach LaVine said Thursday just before the Bulls left for Friday's game in Brooklyn. "I think a little bit of the playing style is going to change just because that's how our game is. You have to play to your strengths. We might start shooting a little bit more threes. We also have multiple positions you have to guard. I think we're going to be pretty on the wings with me at 6-5, 6-6, I don't even know how tall Otto is – like 6-8? Whenever we played Washington, he was the one that was guarding me. He definitely takes the brunt of the leading scorer and stuff like that. Lauri has been playing great the last three or four days. I'm excited; I want to see. It's weird because you don't know how it's going to be. It's changed, but we're going to see how it goes."
And so begins the Bulls with small forward Otto Porter Jr., acquired from the Washington Wizards late Wednesday night for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker.
It's something of a next first step to add to the core three, who still are on trial to some extent, of LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn. Even with Markkanen averaging more than 20 points the last 10 games and LaVine being one of the top scorers in the NBA, the Bulls have been an offensively-challenged team somewhat out of step with the modern NBA of faster, open play with perimeter shooting. That was, essentially, some of the reason for the trade to acquire Porter, a so called 3-and-D player, meaning his specialty is three-point shooting and defense at small forward. The scheme becomes to rely on the shooting to open the court, force defenders to come out farther to guard and then open more lanes to drive to the basket.
The Bulls with LaVine, Markkanen and now Porter would, in theory, have more of such talent to play that kind of game.
It is an evolution from Boylen's inaugural in December when the team was playing slowly to concentrate on defense. But the Bulls have scored at least 100 points in the last 16 games. The Bulls still are 29th in the league in scoring. But in the last month in that stretch, the Bulls are averaging about 108 points per game, which is just below the league average. Baby steps?
"He (Porter) can defend multiple positions," said LaVine, who sat out practice with sore ankles but is expected to play in Brooklyn. "He's obviously a proven scorer. He led the NBA in three-point percentage (third last season). He's definitely somebody that can come out here and help us.
"It's all frustrating because we didn't have the season we wanted to (up to this point)," LaVine added. "I think losing definitely feeds into doubt and the way people act and react to you and feel about you. I think that's partly on us as well. We got to go out here and do our job regardless. I'm not a front office guy, I'm not a coach. I can't really tell you what they're thinking or what the direction is. I just know I've got to go out here and do my job. I feel like I've been doing that for the most part. My head's high. I'
And no offense to the popular Portis, who is scheduled to play with the Wizards against the Bulls Saturday, but he became somewhat incidental the way the roster was going. Though no fault of his.
"I hate the saying ‘This is the business,'" acknowledged Boylen. "I think it's kind of a copout, but you know what? This is the business.
"I think you have to look at our roster makeup," said Boylen, who was not officially supposed to mention Porter for now and talked in realistic hypotheticals. "I think it's pretty well known that Lauri Markkanen is a starter at the four (power forward) who can also play some five (center). I think it's from our standpoint..our evaluation that Wendell Carter is going to be a heck of a player for us, maybe a possible dominant defensive guy and also an improving young developing offensive player who plays five. I think we've all learned that Bobby's best position is at five. He seems to be open on every possession when he plays five, and we've got two guys on our roster that we think can play those spots. If you're taking about asset allocation, if you're taking about roster fit, I think the Portis situation, that what happened in the last two days makes complete sense. It doesn't make it easier. It doesn't mean that he's not a very good player. The things that I valued in Bobby were important to me, his spirit to come in and work and his practice habits and Chicago Bulls across his chest meant the world to him. I'm sure Wizards across his chest will mean the world, too. That's the kind of kid he is. Those are the things that are maybe hard to replace in my mind. That's a credit to him and who he is.
"To me," Boylen added, "Otto Porter is what the league is, 6-6 to 6-8, multi-position defender, can 3 and D, has got playoff experience. I think I read where he had 33 games of playoff experience, which is exciting to me, which means he's been in what it's all about and had those moments that really develop you as a player with the highest amount of pressure on you. So yeah, he fits. He fits. We want him to be comfortable in the system. So hypothetically, of course, we'll be learning about him or whoever is here as we go down these last 27 games or whatever it is."
It's still uncertain if Porter plays in Brooklyn, though the trade was official after Boylen met with media.
One of the biggest surprises, albeit pleasant for those around the Bulls, was that Robin Lopez was not traded despite much speculation. There is a possibility of a buyout, though for now the Bulls denied that is under consideration.
So it was left to Lopez, as it often is, to burrow in on the essence and significance of all the dealings that included former Bull Nikola Mirotic traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, where Lopez' brother plays.
"I feel bad for Niko," said Robin. "He has to play with Brookie. You know what's even worse about it. He already got the superior experience of playing with me. And now he has to go and play with Brook. It's like living in Fresno and having to move to Clovis. I'm sure everybody understood that."
At least that Robin always leaves you with a smile. How could anyone not like him?