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Basketball

The state of the Chicago Bulls

Bull’s fans are rightly confused. But confusion feels a lot better than however that emotional minefield of a 14-44 stretch was supposed to leave us feeling.

Chicago looked dead in the water back in December. Now here comes Otto Porter, and what? Is this a rebuild or not? Normally teams don’t initiate aggressive moves like the Porter trade a few weeks back. But as I hinted at last week, this storied franchise may be gearing up for some greater splash.

Whether or not A.D. 23 is truly in their sights, the Bulls have plenty of questions left to answer, and with $2.9 billion in the bank, they have all the room they need to answer them.

Options At the Point Guard…

Throughout the season, the Chicago front office has hinted that a veteran point guard is high on their off-season wish list. Kris Dunn just isn’t getting the job done. And he shouldn’t be. The 24-year-old has underperformed himself into the dreaded “role-player” tag.

The best he can hope for at this point is a late stage “Most Improved” award, otherwise known as the NBA’s most passive-aggressive participation trophy.

Dunn needs time to come into his offensive identity. He’s still forcing mid-rangers up like he believes he used to make them at one point. Five assists against a stiff Boston defense just isn’t going to get done what needs to get done.

I wish the young guy well. I’ll admit that I told my friends that “this Dunn kid is for real…just wait and see,” but for the sake of the Bull’s, Dunn’s transformation needs to happen somewhere else. There was a time when I was excited to watch Dunn slash, dash, and cut numbers up the floor.

But this Bull’s plane is taking off fast, and Dunn in the pilot’s seat, with busted stats and a sore tailbone, feels a lot like letting a toddler fly a Boeing 757. The young Bull’s need a floor general—not even a superstar, but someone who can rally in the fresh core when they get too tenacious. Dunn just seems to lack the confidence.

But who can Bull’s fans look to this summer to help solidify this young unit? Chicago is set up to have $19 million in off-season fun-money. The Bulls could easily nab prime candidates such as Ricky Rubio or Darren Collison with that kind of money.

Rubio dropped 25 on the Mavs Saturday, and his amoeba-like veteran presence could blend perfectly with Otto Porter’s pick and pop. His date with Chicago has been rumored off-and-on for years, and this could be the summer the Ricky Rubio dream could come to fruition in the Windy City.

Darren Collison’s game is well-adjusted to lengthy skill players like Miles Turner, and his transition to the likes of Lauri Markannen could prove to be seamless and dazzling.

If Chicago really wants to turn heads, they could try patching Malcolm Brogdon from the Bucks. Brogdon is 26, but the on-court balance he’s struck with The Freak From Greece proves he can provide Chicago with the ego-less anchor the Bulls need.

And yes, Chicago, Derrick Rose will be a free agent this summer. The Chicago native smiled under a wave of MVP chants as his Wolves buried the Bulls at home back in December. Rose scored 24 that game, and reached 10,000 career points in January. The former MVP is in the midst of a late stage surge, and my Windy City intuition tells me that a Rose-Bulls reunion would bring a joy to the city not seen since we got rid of Jimmy.

Zion and Bulls On a Collision Course?…

The Bulls have won three straight. That’s all fine and good to smooth over a home crowd that turned against them just two months ago, but if Chicago wants the number one pick, they better get back to tanking. It may be worth it.

Chicago’s been quiet on their draft strategy all season—as any smart team would be. But with every game that passes, the star that is Zion Williamson burns brighter. Zion in a Bull’s jersey would be a match made in basketball heaven. The Duke prodigy is 6’7”, 285, an absolute bruiser down low, with a body like Lebron. Zion’s skill set would allow Chicago to modernize it’s offense.

“We are in an age of the positionless player. Whether Zion can play small forward or not is less important than if he can stretch defenses and guard the pick and roll,” Bull’s analyst Dave Zirin said. “For someone of his talents . . . he can do anything on the court. And what he can learn and do it as well as anyone else. When you have a prospect like this, you don’t care where you slot him. Just feed him his minutes.”

Think Zion to Chicago is just too bonkers? Bull’s G.M. Gar Forman was spotted, near incognito and courtside, at the Duke-U.N.C. game not too long ago.

Questions We Still Don’t Have Answers To…

But Zion isn’t the only head-turner in a draft riddled with talent and flash. And point guard is far from the only area the Bulls could use some fresh legs in.

Speaking of fresh legs, how long is this Jim Boylen going to stick around? Bought in on the interim after Hoiberg was given the boot, Boylen hasn’t really won over the hearts of Bull’s fans during his dreary 11-25 tenure. It’s clear across the board the Chicago’s sudden reverberation has more to do with Otto Porter than Jim Boylen. With all that money in the front office, Boylen sticking around surely can only be performance-based.

“We can’t control perception,’’ said team President John Paxson, “The only people who really know are those of us in the building. I know that everyone has their contacts, and they talk to people, but [Boylen staying as coach] has nothing to do with money.”

So where does Jim Boylen fit in this Bull’s future? Does he? And is Zion Williamson even the best option for Chicago in the June draft?

These questions are all too dizzying for my young and frail mind. I’ll answer them next week. All I want right now is to hear the voice of my sweet Grandma Marlene.

Grandma Marlene’s Gamebreak…

I’ll tell ya, Drakey Pooh, these Bulls are no joke…Mrs. Kaufmann was wrong. We are a new team! Three in a row, there’s no doubting that. We won a close one in Orlando Friday night, I was so nervous! I almost had to sleep in the next morning.

Your grandpa’s breathing machine makes that impossible, but oh well…what was I saying? The Bulls? Oh yeah, we are a new team, and it’s all thanks to this Otter Porter fella. He and Lauri play so well together, like they’ve been playing together for years.

Otter spreads the floor and lets Lauri find open lanes that he just couldn’t seem to get before. And then the next possession, Lauri will set a screen and give Otter a lane to the basket that he takes full advantage of. Man, that Markkanen is a tall drink of water. So is Otter Potter, come to think of it.

No one gets through those two when we’re on defense, and it creates opportunities for Zach and Wendell to get turnovers. And that’s impressive against a team like the Magic, because they’re fast and young. I hope for their sake they use that speed to get out of Florida…that place is a dump…

Anyway, Otter left…is it Otto? It’s Otto isn’t it. Otto left the game on Sunday against the Celtics with a leg injury. Only took four shots, missed them all! Scared the jeepers out of me. They said he’ll be fine, and we didn’t need him I guess. We just smooshed Boston. Smooshed ‘em. 126-116! Zach had 42 points and Lauri scored 35!

The men on the TV said that it was the first time that two Bulls have scored 35 points since Michael and Scottie did it back in ’96….I remember that year. What a fun time that was. I almost started drinking. Anyway, we crushed the Celtics.

The offense was fired up, I don’t even remember the last time we scored that many points. That [Kyrie] Irving looked to be the only one who could do anything all night long, our defense really cut all of his help away from him with our defense.

Our defense looks so much more energetic now a days, we’re really flying to the ball, and that’s great to see. And we wore those black uniforms, those ones with the stars on the chest! I didn’t like those at first you know, until I saw how handsome Zach looked in black…don’t tell your grandpa I said that, he thinks I watch the Bulls too much as it is.

We play the Bucks, the Grizzlies, and the Hawks twice next week! I cannot wait, three wins in-a-row and I have a good feeling!

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