Bulls hope to bond on 5-game West Coast road trip

This is usually an early-season endeavor, packing for a long West Coast road trip.

But now the circus road trip in November, a 40-year-tradition for the Bulls, is over. They'll play for the first time in the Pacific time zone in Game No. 41, on Wednesday at Portland.

But first things first. Packing the suitcase for five games in nine days is nothing to take for granted.

"Packing for me is hard," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said Tuesday at the Advocate Center. "I have a hard time with those decisions, man. I don't know why. But I always overpack, we have five games and I bring eight ties instead of five. I bring two winter coats. I don't know why I brought two winter coats.

"I really struggle with it. My wife tries to help me and I don't know. It's not one of my strengths, to be honest with you."

Boylen is not planning to pass out books to read, like Phil Jackson used to do, but he can appreciate the benefits of taking a team on the road. This is the Bulls' longest trip of the season.

"I love being together. I love being on the plane with the team," he said. "I love just the bus. It's what I'm familiar with, it's what I grew up with. I went to school in Maine and bussed everywhere, 6-hour bus ride, 5-hour bus ride to Boston. So it's really where I feel safe, to be honest with you."

No one is busing from Orono, Maine to Boston on this trip. It will be a challenging trek, with games against Portland, Golden State, Utah, the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver. It's possible the Bulls will miss LeBron James when they visit L.A., since he is recovering from the groin strain suffered on Christmas Night.

Some of the players talked about Western Conference teams playing at a faster pace. The Bulls have been the NBA's slowest and lowest-scoring team since Boylen became head coach on Dec. 3.

Actually, three of the five opponents on this trip - Portland, Utah and Denver - are on the lower end of the Western Conference scoring scale. When the Bulls visited Portland last season, though, Blazers guard C.J. McCollum lit them up for 50 points.

"It's a total different pace, especially with the first game, we've got the two-headed monster with C.J. and Dame (Lillard) and they're going to be attacking," Zach LaVine said. "You talk about shooting 3s, they're going to be going at you. We've got to be prepared for that."

Boylen talked about a pacing strategy for the West Coast. Since the Bulls aren't a high-powered offensive team at the moment, he thinks it would be playing into the opponents' hands if they try to run and gun.

"We can't have the defense slip. So it's a tricky," Boylen said. "I don't think we're a team yet that's going to win 120-117. I still think we've got to be 104-100, 108-104, somewhere in there. If we can get to that point, hopefully our defense can hold and we can continue to improve and grow as a group."

At least the Bulls will head West at relatively full strength. Boylen said there won't be a decision on whether Bobby Portis will be on a minutes restriction until Wednesday's shootaround. Portis returned from a right ankle sprain Sunday and scored 17 points in 20 minutes against Brooklyn.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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Scouting report

Bulls vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Moda Center

TV: WGN • Radio: WSCR 670-AM

Outlook: A five-game West Coast road trip begins in Portland, where the Bulls have lost three straight. In last year's visit, Blazers guard C.J. McCollum poured in 50 points in a 124-108 victory. ... As usual, guard Damian Lillard leads the Blazers at 26.2 points per game, with McCollum at 20.8. Former Bulls draft pick Jusuf Nurkic is averaging 15.3 points and 10.5 rebounds. ... Portland (24-17) has won four of its last five.

Next: Golden State Warriors, 9:30 p.m. Friday at Oracle Arena

- Mike McGraw

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