An indside-look at a closed Bulls practice session


Editor's note: On Wednesday, the Bulls invited their broadcast partners to watch the entire practice. Kendall Gill and Will Perdue, who have a combined 28 years of NBA experience, were on-hand and shared their observations.

As many sports fans around Chicago worry about whether Mitch Trubisky is the quarterback of the Bears future, or if the Cubs will regain their World Series championship-form, I think about bigger and better things for the basketball landscape of Chicago.

I was able to catch the Bulls practice this past Wednesday and came away with a few—OK, a lot of—thoughts as the Bulls head towards their first preseason game vs the Pelicans:

Zach Lavine just glides around the court. Very few players in the NBA have his type of athleticism, but as I asked on Bulls Media Day, “is this the year he [LaVine] shows us the talents that change the perception of him as a great athlete who plays basketball, to a basketball player with superior athleticism?”

Is LaVine truly capable of being a candidate for this season’s All-Star game?

Robin Lopez reminded me that he’s still a very skilled big man. He may be a plodder, but he’s developed a soft touch on his jumper and makes smart decisions with the ball in his hands. As much as I like what Wendell Carter brings to the table-exceptional lateral quickness and great timing to block shot-he still needs some seasoning, as he’s very hesitant on the offensive end of the floor.

On the other side of the spectrum, Bobby Portis might be the Bulls best 3-point shooter and he doesn’t hesitate to let it fly. I think it’s in the best interest for Portis and the Bulls to come to some kind of agreement on a contract extension.

Portis needs to remember that he’ll have another contract after this one. But give him props, he’s worked hard on his game and it shows.

I know there’s plenty more individuals on this roster, but the ones mentioned above were the players that really jumped out at me for this ONE practice that I watched.

The biggest question that needs to be addressed is, “will the Bulls defense make a significant improvement?” Practice on this day started with a discussion on how to play screens on crosses in the paint and screens on the wing. The Bulls plan on using switches on the perimeter as an option within their defense, but it is not their first option.

They worked on it in summer league and have been working on it in practice to see if they have the personnel for it to work effectively. Only time will tell. Defense is about the pride, willingness and effort to make it work. That’s on the players. Is there a player on this roster that will not only lead by example, but be the voice that holds himself and others accountable?

My initial thoughts that I had throughout the summer haven’t changed after watching practice. This team has talent and depth, and they will be fun to watch. The Bulls have the necessary parts to be a playoff team, but can the coaches and players figure it out quickly enough to make the playoffs a reality? The Eastern Conference is going to be tougher than most people think and the Bulls will play some of the tougher Western Conference teams early. I’m currently optimistic that they’ll find a way to make the playoffs, but there’s plenty of work that needs to be done prior to the Bulls opener on Oct 18 in Philadelphia.

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