'It just touches you': Bulls have plenty of Kobe memories

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The Michael Jordan statue is illuminated in purple to honor Kobe Bryant before an NBA basketball game between the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Chicago.

    The Michael Jordan statue is illuminated in purple to honor Kobe Bryant before an NBA basketball game between the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Chicago. Associated Press

  • Players and fans stand for 24 seconds to honor Kobe Bryant before an NBA basketball game between the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Chicago.

    Players and fans stand for 24 seconds to honor Kobe Bryant before an NBA basketball game between the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Chicago. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/28/2020 8:28 AM

The Bulls don't have a lot of direct connections to Kobe Bryant. It's mostly from the former Bulls players and coaches who spent time with the Lakers.

Most of the Bulls' championship coaching staff joined the Lakers for the 1999-2000 season, including head coach Phil Jackson, along with assistants Frank Hamblen, Jim Cleamons and Tex Winter. Ron Harper, Horace Grant and Pau Gasol won championships with Bryant and the Lakers, while Dennis Rodman spent 23 games with the Lakers in the '99 season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I did text Phil, I've not heard back from him and I don't expect to, but he was one of the first people on my mind because of his relationship with Kobe," Bulls VP of basketball operations John Paxson said Monday. "We have a guy on our staff (director of performance health) Chip Schaefer who spent 12 years with Kobe. I've talked to him, and it's just hard for people."

Bulls coach Jim Boylen, who has two daughters of his own, choked up when talking about the deaths of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter accident. Two of Gianna's basketball teammates and five others died in the crash.

"It's tough, we talked about it (as a team). We handled it together," Boylen said at the morning shootaround. "Thad (Young) wears his shoe, I think always has, and has played against him. Shaq (Harrison), with his competitive nature, is a guy that I know he idolized. Hutch (Chandler Hutchison) is an Orange County kid and grew up, that was his guy. My guys were Bird and Magic when I was these guys' age. Every generation has their guy. To Hutch, Kobe was his guy and Hutch was a Lakers fan.

"(Bulls assistant) Roy Rogers was in his draft class (in 1996). We just watched a video of that draft and Roy's sitting in the same row with Kobe and David Stern's going by shaking everyone's hands. So it hit Roy in a different place and a different way. Archie (Ryan Arcidiacono) is an East Coast, Philadelphia guy (Bryant's hometown). It just touches you. And if you have children, many of us do, it's really ... it's painful."

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Pop remembers Kobe:

A very somber San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich talked about having to play a game Sunday afternoon, just hours after everyone learned the tragic news about Kobe Bryant. The Spurs lost to Toronto 110-106.

"I think everybody was in a little bit of a fog, which is expected and I think it will still take some time, especially for the guys that knew him the best, to get back whole just mentally and psychologically -- emotionally, more than anything," Popovich said. "It's a tough thing."

The Bulls didn't play many meaningful games against Bryant. They never matched up in the playoffs, and during the Lakers' championship years with Bryant, the Bulls were usually bad. Popovich has a very different history, with the Spurs and Lakers locking up several times in the playoffs.

"I think it's pretty obvious what Kobe's impact was on the league, on millions of people," Popovich said. "On each team, the young kids on your team idolized him and looked up to him. The older ones knew him and talked to him and had relationships. So no matter which one of those groups you belonged to, it was a tragic shock obviously because it was so unexpected. You don't dream of things like that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We all have special thoughts of him to varying degrees, no matter whether you knew him a little bit or not at all. Even the millions who admired and cherished just knowing they could watch a game with him in it. You feel like he was your own. That's what happens when you're iconic and you're basically a superhero."

LaVine's memorable foul:

Zach LaVine's most significant connection to Kobe Bryant was committing a foul that led to the 2 Bryant free throws that sent him past Michael Jordan on the NBA's all-time scoring list. That happened in the second quarter of a game at Minnesota on Dec. 14, 2014. Thaddeus Young was also with the Timberwolves back then.

"I heard so many different stories from former players that have coached me, where if he had a bad game he would stay all night, or during the summer times he wouldn't take time off," LaVine said. "I just try and take that mindset of working hard and being in the gym, and his mindset of coming in to just kill every game."

Young broke out a pair of Kobe's sneakers in purple for Monday's game.

"The first thing, we come in and we talked about it over breakfast, just how saddening it is, how devastating it is for us as a basketball community," Young said. "And like I said, these are not the things that you want to talk about, but right now it's hard to bear, it just makes us all numb and it's just a very, very sad situation."

Injury updates:

Otto Porter did some walking and skipping on the court during Monday's shootaround. He still hasn't done any running and has been out since Nov. 6 with a broken foot. ... Coach Jim Boylen said both Daniel Gafford (thumb) and Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle) are feeling better, but no word yet on when they'll return. "I can tell they're both getting anxious to come back," Boylen said.

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