Bulls look to establish their offensive plans early at Summer League

Bulls open Summer League play against the Lakers tonight at 6:30 p.m. CT.
by Sam Smith
Kia Bulls Summer League Coverage

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Head Coach Jim Boylen is excited to establish his system during Summer League play

There comes Zach whizzing out of the backcourt, Otto and Lauri filling the lanes, Wendell the trailer spotting up high. The ball snaps to the wing, the into the deep corner, baseline skip pass, corner pass to the wing, shot. Three!

The informal dress rehearsal for that presumptive Bulls design begins Friday in Las Vegas when the Bulls open Summer League play against the Los Angeles Lakers 6:30 p.m Central on ESPN.

Zach and Lauri and Otto and the guys won't be there. But top draft pick Coby White and second rounder Daniel Gafford will be there along with the likes of holdover guard Shaquille Harrison and newly signed two-way guard Adam Mokoka from France.

Sure, the Bulls would like to get a first look at point guard White and rim runner Gafford during the next step up in competition. But it's also an opportunity for a preliminary glimpse at the style of play coach Jim Boylen plans to implement this season.

"I don't want to put too many expectations on them," Boylen said Thursday after a week long mini-camp for the rookies and free agents. "I'd like them to just get a comfort level with our staff, with what we are trying to do. Compete and play hard and help us to continue to establish our multi-ball handler system, our ability to drive the ball and get middle.

Gafford and White outside at player workouts

"We'd like to push the ball with the summer team with Coby dictating the break," Boylen said. "We'd like high outlets. We'd like guys running hard to the corners. We just want to be better at what we do while incorporating them."

While the Summer League games are something of a semi formal for the NBA's debuting dribbling debutantes, for the Bulls and Boylen facing his first full training camp as Bulls head coach it also will be something of a test run for the system of play the Bulls want to incorporate with their new, developing roster. Assistant Nate Loenser will coach the Summer League team.

"I also use Summer League for experimentation, the things I want to do and want to try," said Boylen. "One thing we haven't tried before, which the analytics say is something to do, is the corner crash, meaning we will send a guy to the boards we haven't sent before. We'll take a look at that this summer.

"I want a recognition system instead of an execution system. I want guys to read and react, like the old Bulls. That's what we are building here. So the practice plans are prepared to do that."

Head Coach Jim Boylen

"But the main thing is I want to teach our guys to read and react and play," said Boylen in channeling the best of Phil Jackson.

When Jackson took over as Bulls coach in 1989, he began incorporating the triple post, triangle offense. Though Boylen is not talking about using the triangle, the offense that was shaped by Hall of Fame coach Tex Winter features a read and reach philosophy. Jackson, of course, made references and comparisons to tai chi, the Chinese martial art that features defensive movements.

Boylen's concept of a read and react ideology, similar to Jackson's philosophy, is to limit the set plays so the defense cannot prepare for the play or action. In theory, that should give the offense more time for a shot or movement. Even with veterans like the Bulls had in the late 1980's, it took awhile to master. Boylen isn't looking so much for an instant system as much as encouraging players to react to their instincts in a coordinated manner.

Gafford and White are all smiles at their introductory Press Conference

"I want a recognition system instead of an execution system," Boylen said. "I want guys to read and react, like the old Bulls. That's what we are building here. So the practice plans are prepared to do that.

"When you take over halfway through the year like I did, you are just trying to survive," Boylen noted about his shaky debut last December "We stripped it down, threw the ball to the post and drove the ball. That's all we did. Now we're going to start learning how to play the way we want going forward and what we want to do within that."

For the next week or so, it will start with White, who is one of the highest 2019 draft picks expected to play in Las Vegas. The Bulls are scheduled to face New Orleans and No. 1 pick Zion Williamson in their third preliminary game, 8:30 p.m. Central Monday on NBA-TV. Point guards Ja Morant and Darius Garland are not expected to participate after surgeries, making White the highest drafted rookie point guard for the Summer League games.

The Bulls got a sneak peak this week during scrimmages. Now they get the opportunity to see White against professional competition.

"Coby is really a willing passer," Boylen said about his observation from this week's sessions. "We want him to be aggressive. He needs to improve his decisions, when to shoot, when to pass, his pass timing and quality. But he really is a willing passer. And he is really, really fast."

So watch carefully.

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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