The Chicago Bulls will look for their first positive note of the season tonight in the United Center as they host the Toronto Raptors at 7:00 PM Central time. On Wednesday, the Bulls began their season with an ugly 20-point loss at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The less-than-stellar performance was immediately followed by a ‘players-only’ meeting, highlighting the lack of effort and heart of the group. Yesterday, news broke that DeMar DeRozan’s camp and Chicago are ‘apart on multiple fronts’ regarding a contract extension, meaning he will likely depart after this season’s conclusion. This is a rematch of the preseason matchup between these two clubs ten days ago when the Raptors bested the Bulls 106-102 in Chicago. What are the headlines to follow, and can the Bulls find their stride in game two?
DeRozan’s Revenge Streak Continues
Since departing Toronto following his nine-year tenure with the Raptors, DeRozan has carved up the franchise that originally drafted him. He’s averaging 21.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per contest through the 13 games he’s faced them, with a record of 7-6. His last two appearances against the Raptors halted a streak of eight straight games scoring 19 or more points, five of which he dropped over 25. Lately, Toronto has been forcing his hand in the playmaking department, and as the team’s leader in assists each of the last two years, DeRozan’s more than capable of facilitating.
Look for a bounceback performance from DeRozan after a lackluster outing on Wednesday, where he posted 20 points on 9-for-20 from the field, two assists, and five rebounds in the loss.
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Coby White’s Ball Security
Entering this offseason, Coby White wasn’t sure he’d be back in Chicago, let alone their starting point guard on day one. After lighting up the preseason, White proved worthy of the starting nod and filled the role well. Outside of his poor shooting percentage, he had four assists and zero turnovers to help orchestrate the Bulls’ offense after averaging nearly three turnovers a game through five preseason outings. His worst preseason performance came against Toronto, and Dennis Shroder gave him plenty of problems defensively. White finished with his preseason-high five turnovers and four personal fouls, had his second-lowest scoring output and only four assists.
White will need to take care of the rock tonight if Chicago wants to take down the undefeated Raptors and secure their first win. Toronto forced 14 turnovers in their first game and held the Timberwolves to 34% shooting from the field, only allowing 94 points to a team that finished above the Bulls in offensive production a year ago. Their length throughout the roster often causes problems for the opposition for the past few seasons.
Time For Zach LaVine To Enter Stardom
Zach LaVine is the most frustrating Chicago Bull over the past two seasons. He’s now being paid a top-15 salary leaguewide and has the usage and freedom of a star, but he does not have the accolades or the success to match. In what is being categorized as a “make or break year” for LaVine, his start could not have been much worse. He did not make a field goal until the second half of their season opener and finished 4-of-16 from the field, including 2-of-9 from three-point territory. LaVine led the team with four turnovers and three personal fouls, and his postgame interview wasn’t full of remorse or self-awareness but rather deflecting and finger-pointing.
Tonight is the perfect opportunity for LaVine to wipe the slate clean from Wednesday’s monstrosity and put on a show for the home crowd. Look for him to hunt his shot early and often; making it to the free-throw line six times in the first half of the last game will be a common theme for the downhill offensive threat.
Can the Bulls make amends for their embarrassing and worrisome start to the season, or are Chicago fans in for the same mediocre and disappointing ride as a season ago?