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Wendell Carter Jr Calls Out Leaderless Bulls

The Bulls are missing a big voice while Kris Dunn recovers from injury. Until then, it’s on Wendell Carter Jr to lead his team despite his young age.

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wendell carter jr leaderless bulls

“When the times get hard, I feel like we start to separate. And I feel like those are the times we need each other the most.”

Wise words from an NBA vet-errr, never mind. Those wise words were spoken in the visitor’s locker room at the TD Garden in Boston last night by Chicago Bulls rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Yeah, that 19 year-old kid. Remind me who the leader is on this listless team right now?

The 4-11 Bulls are looking anywhere and everywhere for answers during a brutal stretch of their schedule; trying to stay afloat while they wait for key pieces like Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine to get healthy. Zach LaVine is doing everything he can to lead their scoring efforts on a nightly basis. But when LaVine has an off-night, things get ugly rather quickly. That’s exactly what happened last night in Boston, as LaVine’s 20-point game streak came crashing to a halt and the Bulls mustered just 82 points in 48 minutes. For those keeping score at home, that’s 10 points fewer than they surrendered to the Golden State Warriors in 24 minutes of basketball earlier this season.

As Will Perdue said, where was the pride of this young and undermanned group that night at the United Center when Klay Thompson went nuts? Why did no one step up and say, “I don’t care how, but we do NOT let that guy break the 3-point record in OUR house”? It goes back to the sentiments the Bulls’ youngest player expressed after their 11th loss last night. When things take a turn for the worse, they separate instead of coming together.

“It’s not so much an offensive or defensive thing. Just coming out of timeouts, we go our separate ways. Instead of huddling as a team, we only huddle when the coach – when it’s a timeout. And I feel like that’s important. Just to talk to one another, interact with one another throughout the game so we get a feel for one another and know that we got each others’ back. I feel like that’s where we struggle right now.”

How is it that a 19 year-old rookie sounds like the most mature and insightful person in this locker room? It’s a great sign for the future of the Bulls’ most recent lottery pick. This kid has “veteran leader” written all over him. But is there no one else to do the leading in a season when his focus should be developing his NBA game? Who might that be?

The obvious options are LaVine and Dunn. One is clearly the team’s best offensive player, while the other anchors the team’s defense when healthy. LaVine deserves credit for shattering expectations early this season, scoring at will from all over the floor. But there’s little evidence of him being the vocal leader on the floor, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s no written rule saying your team’s best scorer must also serve as the vocal leader. (Let’s remember that a young Derrick Rose was not the leader of the Bulls teams of yesteryear. No, that role belonged to Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.)  Honestly, LaVine should get some measure of a pass for not being a vocal leader on the defensive end given everything being asked of him on offense.

The front office duo of John Paxson and Gar Forman repeatedly laud Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez as veteran leaders for this very young team. But is there much evidence of them serving those roles on the court? Holiday might be among the team’s leaders in minutes played, but that doesn’t mean he’s leading them in any other way. Lopez has been in and out of the rotation, and it’s hard to be a leader if you’re not regularly on the floor.

Dunn is the vocal leader this team is missing. He spoke during the offseason about wanting to take on that role, and his teammates were ready to fall in line. Bobby Portis praised Dunn for helping him understand his defensive role as a big manning the baseline, recalling Dunn’s comparison to a quarterback who can see the whole field. LaVine expressed his gratitude to Dunn for calling out his defensive shortcomings after Dunn suggested to Zach that his length and athleticism should allow him to be just as strong as Dunn on that end of the floor.

But while Dunn nurses his sprained MCL, who has taken on that responsibility of holding teammates accountable? Making sure the whole team is communicating during the game and in timeouts? According to Wendell, the answer is sadly: no one.

“It’s hard. I guess it does kind of start with one voice. And we’re looking for that voice right now.”

Guess what, youngin? I think we found the voice. It’s you. Tell your teammates to fall in line until Dunn gets back.

Have thoughts on last night’s game or Wendell’s postgame comments? Comment below or continue the conversation with me on Twitter @Bulls_Peck.

In addition to Locked On Bulls, Matt is the host of Bulls Outsiders on NBC Sports Chicago, which follows Bulls Postgame Live after every Bulls game. He also hosts The 312 on AM 1590 WCGO on Saturday afternoons, covering all 5 of Chicago's major teams. His work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Bleacher Report, NBA.com and FanRag Sports. The only things he loves more than Chicago sports are grilled meats and his adorable niece.

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Game Recap

All signs point to Bulls moving on from Jabari Parker

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Bulls Jabari Parker could be on the move via trade or buyout - Locked On Bulls

Locked On Bulls is back with a fresh episode, the guys kick off the show talking about the Bulls loss to the Magic in Mexico last night. Late game mistakes, turnovers, and off night shooting sums up the Bulls. The guys discuss some of the growing concerns about the offense under Jim Boylen. The guys also discuss a supposed “transition” from Fred Hoiberg’s offense that looks oddly similar.

The guys move to the more shocking news, just before tip ESPN’s Malika Andrews broke the news that Jabari Parker would be out of the Bulls rotation going forward. The guys give their reaction and if this is the right move. Where do they go moving forward? What’s more likely: trade, buyout, or finishes the season on the Bulls?

Locked On Bulls talks about Antonio Blakeney, who refutes a report from The Athletic that he cursed out former head coach Fred Hoiberg. The guys read his response in full and react. The guys talk about the actual ‘leadership committee’, who is on it, and why was Wendell Carter Jr. left off? Some of the other topics include a conspiracy about Boylen not being on Woj’s podcast and the national media continues to troll the Bulls but maybe on a false narrative. All of this and so much more on Locked On Bulls.

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Game Recap

Kings players mocking Bulls is just the latest example of rock bottom

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Kings mock Bulls players after another home loss - Locked On Bulls
The Chicago Bulls may have just hit their newest low, the Sacramento Kings come into town and pick up a win and follow it with players mocking the recent circus around this team. Jim Boylen’s iron fist mentality is getting the Bulls booed at home and mocked by some of the most embarrassing franchises in recent memory. While the Kings mock Bulls players, is this just the start?

Locked On Bulls is back with a fresh episode, the guys kick off the show talking about the blowout loss to the Sacramento Kings. The Kings came to pick up a win and stayed to mock the circus around the Bulls. The guys talk about how Boylen’s rotations were all over, getting outscored 63-33 in the second half, Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis return, and ultimately some more Jim Boylen comments.

The guys continue discussing all of the storylines come from the recent days with Jim Boylen’s Bulls. The guys face the reality that this team is at the point where the Sacramento Kings are mocking you on your home floor. The guys talk about the national landscape of this story and who is taking what side? Will Boylen change (probably not), how long will it take for the next blow up, who was a part of leading the stop to practice Sunday, and will LaVine/Boylen continue to butt heads? All of this and so much more on Locked On Bulls.

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Game Recap

Rockets rout Bulls despite Lauri Markkanen’s return

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Lauri Markkanen returns for the Bulls but still fall to Rockets on the road - Locked On Bulls

The Rockets spoiled Lauri Markkanen‘s season debut with a 121-105 win over the Bulls on Saturday night.

James Harden lifted the Rockets past a struggling Bulls defense. The Bulls started slowly while Harden scored half of his 30 point total in the first quarter. This marks a season-worst for the Chicago Bulls with an active six-game losing streak.

Markkanen wasted no time getting back on the scoreboard, nailing the first 3-pointer he took against the Rockets. He had two of the Bulls’ eight total 3-pointers in the game. The 21-year-old sophomore finished with 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting in his first regular season game in over seven months. Along with his 10 points, were four rebounds, a block, and a steal. Markkanen came off the bench Saturday night, playing just 25 minutes in the Bulls loss.

Zach LaVine responded well to a disappointing scoring outing in Detroit Friday night as he notched 29 points. LaVine shot 11-for-17 from the field and was perfect from the stripe. He led the team in scoring yet again, but was still not enough for the offensive juggernaut that is the Houston Rockets.

Jabari Parker continued his hot streak adding his 5th double-double this season, with four of them coming in his last seven games. He finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 8-for-15 from the floor. Although the Bull fell short, it’s good to see Parker finally getting into a rhythm.

It was the Bulls’ defense that led to their league-high 19th loss. The team allowed 121 points, with seven Rockets players finishing in double digit. It was Rockets big man Clint Capela that fueled the team on both ends of the floor. Capela had 18 points along with 15 boards in their team’s 11th win of the season. Chris Paul matched his season-high in assists with 13.

The Bulls will get two days of rest before flying to Indy for their matchup against the Pacers Tuesday night.

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