Bulls new lineup clicks right away in preseason win over Cavs
The dream of the Bulls putting more talented players on the floor than they have in a few years turned into a nice reality at Tuesday's preseason opener.
The Bulls rolled over Cleveland 131-95 at the United Center with just about every key player turning in a nice performance.
Bulls fans quickly decided former Lakers guard Alex Caruso will be a popular addition. He received a huge cheer when he checked in for the first time, later surpassed by the cheers for his 40-foot alley-oop pass to Zach LaVine in the second quarter.
One part that really stood out was the passing. The Bulls piled up 36 assists, and among the starters plus Caruso, the assist-to-turnover ratio was 26-3.
"This week of practice, you could tell this was a very unselfish, good passing team," coach Billy Donovan said. "That was certainly something that stood out in a positive way."
Needless to say, the regulars looked good. LaVine scored 25 points in 24 minutes, hitting 9 of 14 shots. Javonte Green, DeMar DeRozan and Troy Brown Jr. had 13 points each, Caruso had 10 points and 10 assists, while Lonzo Ball produced 8 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
The chemistry between Ball, LaVine and DeRozan clicked quickly. This was an exhibition game against a probable lottery team, but the addition of a true point guard, along with some winning experience on the floor, was very apparent.
"He's a heck of a player, talent, IQ," DeRozan said of Ball. "It's fun. He makes it easy. What's even better about it is he's got the greatest, most humbling demeanor toward him too. But it's definitely fun playing with him, and it's contagious. It's been like that all through training camp and we expect it to keep getting better."
The Bulls used Green, a 6-4 guard, as the starter at power forward. It seemed like an odd choice, until the game started.
Green helped in just about every way possible. He wasn't just pretending to be a power forward either. He guarded 7-foot rookie Evan Mobley and ex-Bull Lauri Markkanen all night. In the third quarter, Green had his layup attempt blocked by Markkanen, got his own rebound, went back up and dunked it against three Cavs.
"I just felt like Javonte -- not that he's had a better camp than anybody else -- being with him last year, I kind of got a better feel for him as a player," Donovan said. "I thought maybe it would be good to get him an opportunity tonight. I wouldn't read anything into it."
With Patrick Williams nursing an ankle injury. Donovan said the Bulls have been using Green, Derrick Jones Jr. and Stanley Johnson in that stop during camp. Jones didn't play Tuesday due to a sore ankle.
"We kind of know what we're going to get (with Green)," Donovan said. "We're going to get a high motor guy that's going to defend and be active. Maybe you don't always know what's going to happen, but something's going to happen when he gets out there."
Alize Johnson was the Bulls' top rebounder with 11, while starting center Nikola Vucevic pulled down 9.
Rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu, a Chicago native, also got a nice ovation when he checked in for the first time in the third quarter. The former Illinois star scored 8 points in 13 minutes.
Markkanen had 13 points and 4 rebounds in his Cavs debut. Another ex-Bull now with Cleveland is Denzel Valentine, who played in the fourth quarter.