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It’s hard to tell at this moment what it would take for the Chicago Bulls front office to finally part ways with head coach Jim Boylen.
If this downward spiral continues for the Chicago Bulls for much longer, all options should be on the table as to what to do to fix this problem and right the ship. The Bulls sit with a record of 6-14 through the first 20 games of the regular season. That’s not where head coach Jim Boylen and the Bulls wanted to be at after upgrading the roster significantly over the offseason.

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John Paxson and Gar Forman seem to love what they have in Boylen. Losing doesn’t seem to bother the coaching staff or the front office, which is going to be a problem that continues to annoy the fans. The Bulls are working their way well outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, and toward another draft lottery pick.

However, the Bulls could repair the damage from the top-down this season if they finally make the move to shakeup either the coaching staff, front office, or both. GarPax and Boylen aren’t popular with the fan base, and with good reason. They just haven’t done anything to further this rebuild in its third year.

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This brand of Bulls basketball is getting harder and harder to watch every single game. With this latest Western Conference road trip largely coming up short, the impatience should only continue to grow from here.

Here’s a look into the three best current coaching candidates that could be called upon to replace Jim Boylen as head coach for the Chicago Bulls if he were to see the door by the end of the 2019-20 regular season.

It’s taken more than a month, but the Portland Trail Blazers finally have a little momentum.

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The Blazers defeated the Chicago Bulls 107-103 Friday night at the Moda Center, dismissing the NBA’s third-youngest team for the second time in the five nights.

The win gives the Blazers (8-12) their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Hassan Whiteside set a franchise record for blocks, Carmelo Anthony continued his NBA renaissance, Rodney Hood had another solid outing and the Blazers’ dynamic backcourt took care of the rest as Portland continued to creep out of its early-season funk.

WHITESIDE SETS BLOCK RECORD

Whiteside had the type of dominant defensive performance the Blazers were expecting when they acquired him from the Miami Heat in a four-team trade during the offseason, finishing with eight points, 15 rebounds and a franchise-record 10 blocks.

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The Blazers’ starting center blocked his first shot one minute, eight seconds into the game, swatting away a Zach LaVine floater, and the rejections came in waves from there, as he owned the paint against a Bulls team that thrives off driving to the basket.

Whiteside blocked four shots in the first quarter, had six by halftime, and collected a couple in crunch time that helped the Blazers fight off a surprisingly stiff challenge from Chicago (6-14).

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“Hassan had a hell of a game tonight,” Anthony said. “Being the anchor on the defensive end. We kind of fed off of that.”

Whiteside tied the franchise record with 4:55 left, when he blocked a LaVine driving layup from behind to preserve a four-point lead. And then, with 1:43 left and the Blazers clinging to a 101-98 lead, Whiteside swatted away a Tomas Satoransky drive to set the franchise mark.

He broke a record that had been shared by Bill Walton, Joel Przybilla, Theo Ratliff and Mychal Thompson.

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When told after the game that Walton was one of the players who owned the old record, Whiteside beamed.

“Anytime you beat a Hall of Fame record, it’s special,” he said.

But it wasn’t just Whiteside’s dominant shot-blocking that carried the Blazers Friday night. His last bucket came on a crucial last-second put-back that helped preserve the victory.

With the Blazers holding a 105-103 lead, Lillard tried to ice the game with a 9-foot turnaround jumper. It missed. But Whiteside skied out of nowhere and followed the errant shot with a left-handed tip-in with 8.8 seconds left, sealing the win.

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He ended up finishing two points shy of his fifth career triple-double. Whiteside, who fell two blocks shy of his career high, owns four of the NBA’s last five triple-doubles that include blocks.

Either way, for a player who has endured an injury-riddled and up-and-down beginning with the Blazers — and even had his effort challenged — it was a performance worth remembering.

“He had a great, great defensive performance,” Lillard said. “I thought it was pretty much the difference in the game for us. He came up big on the glass, rebounding out of his area and he blocked 10 shots. If they didn’t change (their offense), he probably would have blocked 15. That’s the version of him that we need to be the team that we planned on being to start the year.”

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Anthony continued to be a valuable addition for the Blazers, finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, Lillard had 28 points and six assists and CJ McCollum added 20 points and seven rebounds. All the while, Hood added another solid outing to his underrated season, recording 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting, including 3 of 5 from three-point range.

LaVine led the Bulls with 28 points, six rebounds and five assists and Wendell Carter Jr. added 16 points and nine rebounds.

HOME COOKIN’

It was the Blazers’ second consecutive win at home at an important point of the season. After a road-heavy first month, they will play 10 of their next 14 games at the Moda Center, where they have traditionally excelled.

So while the three-game winning streak features a pair of wins against the Bulls and a victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, they are also much needed for a Blazers team desperate to build a little holiday momentum after underwhelming most of the season.

The Chicago Bulls aren’t performing well as a team, so let’s talk about the individuals. Here’s how the players stack up against each other.
After 10 regular-season games, the Chicago Bulls were really disappointing. Now, after 20 games, they’re somehow even more disappointing. They’re 6-14 on the season and have the second-worst offense in the league. So much for this “playoff-hopeful” team.

Despite the Bulls playing horrible basketball as a unit over the first 20 games of the 2019-20 season, there has been some nice individual play. Let’s get into it.

8. Ryan Arcidiacono
Previous ranking: Unranked

Ryan Arcidiacono is arguably the least skilled player on the entire Bulls roster. There are a lot of G League guys that have more raw basketball skill than Arch. He brings two things to the table every night that earn him a spot on this list, though: effort and savviness.

His savvy play often pays off on both offense and defense. On offense, he uses noon-ball moves in the paint that help free him up for open floaters. On defense, he pulls the chair out when bigger opponents think they can post him up. He truly is one of the most intelligent players on this roster.

If you need a stat to quantify Arch’s effort, look no further than the list of players who have taken the most charges so far this season. Arch is tied for seventh.

When Ryan Arcidiacono is on the floor, you don’t have to worry about him. He’s not going to make egregious mistakes, which is more than you can say for a few guys on the roster.

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Chicago Bulls veteran small forward Thaddeus Young is averaging only 21.5 minutes this season, the second-fewest mark of his career.

Young, who signed a three-year deal with the Bulls in free agency, has no idea why he’s playing so few minutes:

“That’s something you’ve got to ask coach,” Young said, via The Athletic. “I’m not sure. But whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll do it. That’s something that they have to figure out.

“I’ve been pretty healthy for the majority of my career, knock on wood. In the past three years I’ve only missed about 10 games. Eight were about three seasons ago, and one and one the last two seasons. So for the most part I’m healthy and ready to go each and every night. So whatever coach sees fit to do, I fall in line and have to ride with it and go out there and continue to play with my teammates.”

In 20 games this season for the Bulls, Young is averaging 8.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists. The lefty is shooting 40.2 percent from the field, 32.4 percent from beyond the arc and 55.6 percent from the free-throw line.

These numbers are all well down from last season with the Indiana Pacers. In 30.7 minutes per game, the veteran power forward averaged 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 52.7 percent overall, 34.9 percent from 3-point land and 64.4 percent from the charity stripe.

The Bulls are 6-14 on the season, 12th place in the Eastern Conference standings, and they need Young to perform better after they made him their top priority in free agency.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — As a Timberwolves rookie in 2014-15, Zach LaVine had it rough.

His rookie duties were assigned by a plethora of hard-core veterans like Mo Williams, Kevin Martin and none other than Kevin Garnett.

Practice would end. And Garnett would start booting basketballs into the stands of whatever arena the Timberwolves would be in for LaVine and fellow rookie Andrew Wiggins to fetch.

Coby White and Daniel Gafford have it easy.

“I haven’t been getting it as bad as some other rookies I know,” Gafford said following Sunday’s practice at Portland State University. “I thought there was a slight chance I was going to have to pay for dinner the other night. But we all chipped in. I was grateful for that.”

Added White: “They’ve been kind of light on me, so I appreciate that. We really don’t have that many vets, to be honest. Thad (Young) is a true vet and then there’s OP (Otto Porter Jr.), Zach and Sato (Tomas Satoransky). So I got lucky.”

Fetching towels and drinks, picking up shoes to give to the equipment manager and making food runs for the group before the Bulls’ charter plane leaves O’Hare have been the rookies’ biggest and most consistent tasks.

Maybe White’s theory holds some water. After all, the Bulls are the league’s third-youngest team. Or perhaps LaVine just recognizes the need to keep White, in particular, fresh.

When White is on the court, particularly alongside LaVine, it presents an offensive challenge for opposing defenses to consider. LaVine can see less double-teaming and blitzing.

“Zach is always in my ear because he has seen what I’m capable of and how good I can be. He tells me it’s my time, tells me to do what I do and to be Coby White and take over,” White said. “For our go-to guy to believe that much in me and encourage me means a lot. It gives me a lot of confidence.”

Coach Jim Boylen has been consistent with his approach regarding White’s closing role. If he has it rolling, which he did in road victories at the Grizzlies and Hornets or the home victory over the Knicks, White plays the majority or all of the fourth quarter alongside LaVine.

“I think he’s a big moment guy, I think he has that in him,” Boylen said. “I have confidence that he’s not scared about that moment. The big shot doesn’t bother him. He’s a competitive guy, so it’s easy to leave him out there.’’

LaVine leads the Bulls by averaging 6.3 points in the fourth quarter. White ranks second at 3.8 points. They average the same amount of playing time in the fourth, a team-high 7.3 minutes per game. Only Wendell Carter Jr. at 7.8 fourth-quarter minutes plays more.

“I think the league has seen him enough that you have to have a decent defender on him, so when you have him and Zach out there together I think that can put some pressure on the defense,” Boylen said. “Usually the primary guy takes Zach, and then maybe the secondary guy takes Coby.”

Trying to score against fourth-quarter defenses beats fetching basketballs from stands.

“In the fourth quarter, everything goes up a different level. So it’s a big deal being out there,” White said. “I’m just glad (Boylen) has faith in me when I have it rolling. Rookies don’t always get that opportunity. I’m blessed and thankful for it.”

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During the fourth quarter of Monday night’s road victory over the Kings, coach Jim Boylen called timeout. A double-digit lead had shrunk to single digits. The Bulls have blown similar games before during this season.

As Boylen huddled with his assistant coaches before addressing the players, Denzel Valentine approached the five currently in the game who were sitting on the bench. Even from 15 feet away, it was easy to spot Valentine’s passion and positivity.

“I was just trying to keep us up,” Valentine said late Monday in the postgame locker room. “They were going on a run and I kept saying, ‘We’re good. It’s cool.’ Sometimes when adversity hits us, we struggle. Having that ability to be positive is huge.”

Valentine has natural leadership qualities. Management cited them upon drafting the Michigan State product in 2016.

But Valentine knows as well as anyone a simple truth of sports.

“When you’re playing, your leadership can have more impact. When you’re not playing, you can say the same stuff but you’re not playing,” he said. “When you’re competing, your energy is up. You’re positive. It just naturally comes out of me when I’m playing.”

Valentine finally is.

It may not always be big minutes. It may not be every game, although Valentine has appeared in four straight and logged double-digit minutes in three.

But it’s something. And for a proud competitor who recently found himself behind Shaq Harrison even with Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison sidelined and the Bulls struggling to shoot from 3-point range, that’s better than nothing.

“It’s been cool,” Valentine said. “It definitely feels good to be playing again and competing again. I’m just loving it.”

Valentine said he leaned on his family, agent B.J. Armstrong and his internal confidence to keep him going through his period of inactivity that he knows may come again. In seven games, he’s averaging 4.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 7.7 minutes and shooting 38.9 percent from 3-point range.

“I’m always going to believe in myself no matter what,” Valentine said. “Whether I play or not, that’s not in my control. I know what I can do. It’s all about the right opportunity. When I get the opportunity, I’m going to make the most of it.”

Against the Kings, Valentine beat the shot clock with a difficult 3-pointer from a tough angle in the corner and followed that with a nifty assist in transition to Daniel Gafford in the third quarter. He also isolated and shot an airball on a 3-pointer as the quarter ended.

But like his season, Valentine persevered. He finished with six points, three rebounds, two steals and an assist in just shy of 12 minutes.

“At the end of the day, I’m blessed to be in the NBA. I’m living my dream job,” Valentine said. “So many people came up to me and told me I’d get an opportunity. And here it is.”

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

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The Windy City Bulls tip-off the G League season this weekend with a home and home series against the Wisconsin Herd. NBC Sports Chicago will televise all 24 home games this season from the Sears Centre either live or on tape delay.

The Bulls’ G League affiliate starts the season with a brand new coach in Australia native Damian Cotter and a promising roster, featuring Bulls’ two-way players Max Strus and Adam Mokoka, former Loyola star Milton Doyle and P.J. Dozier — a high-scoring two-way player for the Denver Nuggets who has been assigned to Windy City.

Strus is an especially intriguing prospect after setting a DePaul record with 113 made 3-pointers during his senior season with the Blue Demons in 2018-19. The Hickory Hills native earned second team All-Big East honors last season after averaging 20.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists.

Strus wasn’t selected in the NBA draft in June, but quickly drew the attention of scouts and executives with a strong performance for the Boston Celtics Summer League team in Las Vegas. Boston signed Strus to a two-way contract but released him at the end of training camp, and the Bulls swooped in to add him to the roster with their one remaining two-way spot.

It’s been an amazing success story for a player who didn’t attract much recruiting attention in high school and started his college career at Division II Lewis University. So, Strus is more than ready for the challenges ahead in trying to prove himself worthy of an NBA roster spot.

“I’ve always believed in myself, starting Division II out of high school I’ve always had that chip on my shoulder, so I still carry that with me,” Strus said. “People still don’t know who I am, but that’s okay. Hopefully I can make the hometown proud here, keep getting better individually and making this organization better as a whole as well.”

Since Windy City will run the exact same plays as the NBA Bulls, the players on the roster can make a smooth adjustment in the event of a mid-season call-up. Don’t forget, the Bulls signed both Walter Lemon and JaKarr Sampson after a rash of injuries last season. Strus’ 3-point shooting ability makes him a prime candidate to catch on with an NBA team at some point, but for now, he’s just focused on enjoying some success at the G League level.

“For me, playing in the NBA is probably going to be about making shots and defending, so that’s really what I’ve got to focus on,” he said. “Do that here and then carry it over when I get lucky enough to get the chance to get called up to the Bulls, but just got to keep working hard every day and the coaches will put us in a great situation to make that happen.”

Two years ago, Loyola coach Porter Moser and most of the Loyola players came out to the Sears Centre to support Doyle, who was playing as a visitor for the Nets’ G League team, and Strus anticipates the same kind of support from his former coaches and teammates at DePaul.

“Oh absolutely, I guarantee there will be at least a few,” he said. “It’s a great relationship I have with coach [Dave] Leitao and the players that are still there from behind. I’m still talking to guys there and they’ll for sure be at a couple games.”

For local high school stars like Strus and Doyle, getting the chance to pursue their NBA dreams right at home makes the anticipation of a new season even more exciting.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — If the Bulls are going to even their season series with the Trail Blazers, they’re going to have to do so without Chandler Hutchison and possibly without Tomas Satoransky.

According to coach Jim Boylen, the initial read of the MRI exam performed on Hutchison’s sprained right shoulder showed no dislocation or labrum injury but that it will be re-read. Hutchison, who suffered the injury early in Wednesday’s loss to the Warriors, had just returned from sore shins and also missed time with a strained hamstring. Boylen called Hutchison’s latest injury “a soft tissue-type sprain.”

Satoransky suffered a sprained big left toe in Wednesday’s loss and didn’t participate in Friday’s morning shootaround at Moda Center. Boylen called him questionable but also said he’s a gametime decision.

Ryan Arcidiacono is playing through a banged-up right elbow for the Bulls, who already are without Otto Porter Jr. and Cristiano Felicio.

The Bulls lost to the Trail Blazers at the United Center Monday and are 0-1 on this three-game trip, which concludes Monday against the Kings in Sacramento, Calif.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Even before injuries to Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison, wing depth loomed as an issue for the Bulls.

Hutchison was coming off a rookie season shortened by injury. Porter has battled nagging injuries throughout his career. And Denzel Valentine was coming off missing an entire season to reconstructive ankle surgery.

On Tuesday, the Bulls fly back to Chicago following their three-game trip with Porter and Hutchison still out and Valentine not playing much although recently in the rotation. Coach Jim Boylen mostly has relied on a three-guard lineup featuring Kris Dunn, Ryan Arcidiacono and Coby White. Both Shaquille Harrison and Dunn have started at small forward on this trip.

“It is frustrating. I try not to look at those things like it’s my frustration. I feel bad for the guy,” Boylen said. “Obviously, the team needs (Porter). But I feel bad for him. I think he’s frustrated. It wears on him. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a winning player. So it’s very difficult for him.”

Porter, in his first comments to reporters in a while, agreed.

“It’s definitely tough watching the guys go through that,” Porter said of the team’s 6-14 start. “I just try to remain positive. I still try to be a leader to them in the locker room, what I see out there when I’m watching, what we can do better. I’m always going to be voicing my opinion on what we should do or just adjustments out there on the court.”

Boylen said Porter and Hutchison will be re-evaluated this week in Chicago. Porter has played just nine games this season because of a soft tissue injury to his left foot. Hutchison is on his third injury this season, a sprained right shoulder.

Originally, the Bulls listed Porter’s injury as a sprained left foot. But a second MRI exam on Nov. 19 revealed bone bruising which the team disclosed in a release and Porter cited it as a bone bruise in his remarks to reporters.

“It takes time. Every day it gets a little better. Baby steps,” Porter said. “You can reaggravate it absolutely. And that’s what we’re trying to monitor to make sure that these days that I do activities, the next day it’s not overaggravated or swells back up. We’re definitely watching it close.”

Porter said he has been able to do some elliptical work and lift weights with some spot set shooting.

“I have no idea about coming back sooner or later.,” Porter said. “The new MRI I’m supposed to be taking is just supposed to see how far along I’ve come. It will eliminate any other things that might’ve happened as far as like tissue and stuff like that. Looking forward to it.”

Just like Boylen is looking forward to Porter’s return, whenever it happens.

“We miss his calm, veteran demeanor,” Boylen said. “I said this last year and this year too: He settles us down a bit, maybe at times we need that. He makes timely shots. He’s one of our better shooters. And he has positional size, which is a huge part of that big wing position. We miss those things. He has done a terrific job of trying to help the younger guys and stay connected even though he has been hurt. It’s difficult. But he has a veteran voice. He’s one of our captains. And he’s doing a good job of that.”

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — There were more than a handful of excuses a few weeks ago, and Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen was well-versed in all of them.

A new system, new teammates, a sore oblique, needing the ball more to get into a rhythm, better communication. Pick one, any one, and believe what you want.

But after practice Sunday at Portland State University, Markkanen offered no excuses. The only place he wanted to put the blame was on himself.

‘‘I can’t really say anything about [the system] at this point,’’ Markkanen said. ‘‘We’ve played a good amount of games now in this system already, so it should have come.’’

It hasn’t. Markkanen has been the biggest disappointment on the Bulls’ roster and among the biggest in the NBA. Through 20 games, he is averaging 13.3 points and seven rebounds and is shooting 34.9 percent from the field, including 28.2 percent from three-point range.

This from a player who averaged 18.7 points and nine rebounds last season and, along with guard Zach LaVine, was one of the pillars upon whom the Bulls’ rebuild was relying.

The biggest indictment of how bad things have been for Markkanen has come late in close games. There have been a handful of games in which coach Jim Boylen has benched Markkanen in favor of guard Ryan Arcidiacono or guard Coby White.

No wonder Markkanen showed up an hour early to practice Sunday, looking to get some extra work in.

‘‘I believe he does,’’ Boylen said when he was asked if he thought Markkanen has the makeup to get out of his slump. ‘‘I believe he has the makeup to overcome a difficult situation, some adversity. Again, I go back to the work. If you work, I think you can fight through anything. You work and care, and I think he does care.

‘‘I want him to handle in-game adversity better, move to the next play, put that one behind you, win the next play. Those are kind of the things we talk about.’’

Much of that talk went on after practice, with Boylen calling Markkanen over for a quick heart-to-heart. He reminded him the three-pointer is falling in practice, has fallen the previous two seasons and will start falling again.

Markkanen was a 36.2 percent three-point shooter as a rookie and a 36.1 percent three-point shooter last season. Those are the numbers the Bulls believe in.

‘‘I’m not worried about my shot,’’ Markkanen said. ‘‘It’s going to come. I’ve shot it well in practice, so I know I can do it. I just have to do it in the game. That’s not a concern for me; it’s going to fall.

‘‘It’s more the overall play. Obviously, I put the highest pressure on myself, so I’m trying to reach that level. It’s been frustrating that I’m not getting there. At the same time, it works as motivation and keeps pushing me to work hard.’’

Boylen is trying to help in the motivation department.

‘‘I believe in his shooting,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘I believe in him as a player. He came here an hour early this morning and got his workout in. Then he went through the full practice, so he’s doing what I think you have to do, which is work your way out of it. I’m confident he will.’’

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The Windy City Bulls tip-off the G League season this weekend with a home and home series against the Wisconsin Herd. NBC Sports Chicago will televise all 24 home games this season from the Sears Centre either live or on tape delay.

The Bulls’ G League affiliate starts the season with a brand new coach in Australia native Damian Cotter and a promising roster, featuring Bulls’ two-way players Max Strus and Adam Mokoka, former Loyola star Milton Doyle and P.J. Dozier — a high-scoring two-way player for the Denver Nuggets who has been assigned to Windy City.

Strus is an especially intriguing prospect after setting a DePaul record with 113 made 3-pointers during his senior season with the Blue Demons in 2018-19. The Hickory Hills native earned second team All-Big East honors last season after averaging 20.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists.

Strus wasn’t selected in the NBA draft in June, but quickly drew the attention of scouts and executives with a strong performance for the Boston Celtics Summer League team in Las Vegas. Boston signed Strus to a two-way contract but released him at the end of training camp, and the Bulls swooped in to add him to the roster with their one remaining two-way spot.

It’s been an amazing success story for a player who didn’t attract much recruiting attention in high school and started his college career at Division II Lewis University. So, Strus is more than ready for the challenges ahead in trying to prove himself worthy of an NBA roster spot.

“I’ve always believed in myself, starting Division II out of high school I’ve always had that chip on my shoulder, so I still carry that with me,” Strus said. “People still don’t know who I am, but that’s okay. Hopefully I can make the hometown proud here, keep getting better individually and making this organization better as a whole as well.”

Since Windy City will run the exact same plays as the NBA Bulls, the players on the roster can make a smooth adjustment in the event of a mid-season call-up. Don’t forget, the Bulls signed both Walter Lemon and JaKarr Sampson after a rash of injuries last season. Strus’ 3-point shooting ability makes him a prime candidate to catch on with an NBA team at some point, but for now, he’s just focused on enjoying some success at the G League level.

“For me, playing in the NBA is probably going to be about making shots and defending, so that’s really what I’ve got to focus on,” he said. “Do that here and then carry it over when I get lucky enough to get the chance to get called up to the Bulls, but just got to keep working hard every day and the coaches will put us in a great situation to make that happen.”

Two years ago, Loyola coach Porter Moser and most of the Loyola players came out to the Sears Centre to support Doyle, who was playing as a visitor for the Nets’ G League team, and Strus anticipates the same kind of support from his former coaches and teammates at DePaul.

“Oh absolutely, I guarantee there will be at least a few,” he said. “It’s a great relationship I have with coach [Dave] Leitao and the players that are still there from behind. I’m still talking to guys there and they’ll for sure be at a couple games.”

For local high school stars like Strus and Doyle, getting the chance to pursue their NBA dreams right at home makes the anticipation of a new season even more exciting.
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Even before injuries to Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison, wing depth loomed as an issue for the Bulls.

Hutchison was coming off a rookie season shortened by injury. Porter has battled nagging injuries throughout his career. And Denzel Valentine was coming off missing an entire season to reconstructive ankle surgery.

On Tuesday, the Bulls fly back to Chicago following their three-game trip with Porter and Hutchison still out and Valentine not playing much although recently in the rotation. Coach Jim Boylen mostly has relied on a three-guard lineup featuring Kris Dunn, Ryan Arcidiacono and Coby White. Both Shaquille Harrison and Dunn have started at small forward on this trip.

“It is frustrating. I try not to look at those things like it’s my frustration. I feel bad for the guy,” Boylen said. “Obviously, the team needs (Porter). But I feel bad for him. I think he’s frustrated. It wears on him. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a winning player. So it’s very difficult for him.”

Porter, in his first comments to reporters in a while, agreed.

“It’s definitely tough watching the guys go through that,” Porter said of the team’s 6-14 start. “I just try to remain positive. I still try to be a leader to them in the locker room, what I see out there when I’m watching, what we can do better. I’m always going to be voicing my opinion on what we should do or just adjustments out there on the court.”

Boylen said Porter and Hutchison will be re-evaluated this week in Chicago. Porter has played just nine games this season because of a soft tissue injury to his left foot. Hutchison is on his third injury this season, a sprained right shoulder.

Originally, the Bulls listed Porter’s injury as a sprained left foot. But a second MRI exam on Nov. 19 revealed bone bruising which the team disclosed in a release and Porter cited it as a bone bruise in his remarks to reporters.

“It takes time. Every day it gets a little better. Baby steps,” Porter said. “You can reaggravate it absolutely. And that’s what we’re trying to monitor to make sure that these days that I do activities, the next day it’s not overaggravated or swells back up. We’re definitely watching it close.”

Porter said he has been able to do some elliptical work and lift weights with some spot set shooting.

“I have no idea about coming back sooner or later.,” Porter said. “The new MRI I’m supposed to be taking is just supposed to see how far along I’ve come. It will eliminate any other things that might’ve happened as far as like tissue and stuff like that. Looking forward to it.”

Just like Boylen is looking forward to Porter’s return, whenever it happens.

“We miss his calm, veteran demeanor,” Boylen said. “I said this last year and this year too: He settles us down a bit, maybe at times we need that. He makes timely shots. He’s one of our better shooters. And he has positional size, which is a huge part of that big wing position. We miss those things. He has done a terrific job of trying to help the younger guys and stay connected even though he has been hurt. It’s difficult. But he has a veteran voice. He’s one of our captains. And he’s doing a good job of that.”

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Bulls forward Luke Kornet underwent nose surgery today due a sinus obstruction. The obstruction is the result of a broken nose he suffered while playing with the New York Knicks in Dec. 2018.

Leading up to the Bulls game tonight at home against the Milwaukee Bucks, Boylen expanded upon the Bulls official announcement.

“Kornet had sinus surgery this morning,” Boylen said. “He had blockage and some issues from a previous fracture from when he was in New York. We just felt it was time to go in there and clean that thing out. That happened this morning at 6 a.m. He’s out. Surgery went well. We’ll have more to report as we go. Originally, it was a 7-10 day thing where he’d be back. I think it’s one of those things they don’t know until they get in there how extreme it is. But he had blockage and it needed to be done.”

Kornet was drafted by the Knicks in 2017 and this is his first season with the Bulls.

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