'Who's going to guard Giannis?': Boylen previews Bulls' free-agent pursuit

Updated 4/9/2019 6:31 AM

The Bulls don't have the cap space to make a play for the top free agents this summer. More likely, they'll do some value shopping and try to improve their depth.

Coach Jim Boylen gave a general preview of free-agency following Monday's final practice of the season at the United Center.


"We just talked about kind of identifying some of the qualities we would like," Boylen said. "Without being too specific, guys that compete, guys with a motor. We've talked about having the capability to guard some of the tougher guys in our division.

"Who's going to guard Giannis (Antetokounmpo)? Who's going to guard Blake (Griffin)? Can we get the guys we have to grow into defending them? Those are some of the conversations we've had."

There are other tough covers in the East, such as Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The Bulls probably shouldn't count on Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. to do all the heavy-lifting on defense.

Boylen added his favorite catchphrase, saying they want to add players who appreciate having "Bulls" across their chest. That might be difficult in free-agency, where dollar signs on the contract usually mean more than the team name.

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"We feel like if we get guys with high character that want to play hard we're going to be good," Boylen said. "So that's kind of my focus."

Boylen lauds practice habits:

Coach Jim Boylen took over the job on Dec. 3, so he didn't get a chance to hold his own training camp. But he thinks some parts of the foundation went into the ground.

"I told the team today that I thought we established some practice habits on how I want to practice," he said Monday. "I thought we had a stretch where we played winning basketball consistently at a high level and played the right way.

"I thought we stepped up our film work with individual guys, and again, we practiced at the level that I thought we had to practice at. It doesn't mean long, it doesn't mean abusive, it means doing what you have to do to grow, get better, and with all the different pieces we had, we had to do that.

"And I'm proud of what we did. I've been in these situations before where maybe guys didn't practice this hard at this time of the year. When you establish a mindset of work and a habit of this is important, there's a big difference."

Bulls horns:

The Bulls took their team photo Monday, which meant newcomers Walt Lemon Jr. and JaKarr Sampson were included. The Bulls have 18 players at the moment, including the two-way guys and a roster exemption due to the injuries. … JaKarr Sampson, added to the roster last week, has averaged 23 points in his first two games. He's technically the Bulls' second-leading scorer this season, behind Zach LaVine at 23.7 points.


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