Long, but not tall, Bulls try to make it work defensively

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bulls' Lonzo Ball blocks the shot of Cleveland Cavaliers' Jarrett Allen (31) as Zach LaVine also defends during Tuesday's preseason win. The Bulls looked good in their preseason opener, but their defense and lack of height on the front line will be something to watch when the real competition begins.

    Bulls' Lonzo Ball blocks the shot of Cleveland Cavaliers' Jarrett Allen (31) as Zach LaVine also defends during Tuesday's preseason win. The Bulls looked good in their preseason opener, but their defense and lack of height on the front line will be something to watch when the real competition begins. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/6/2021 7:36 PM

One concern going into the season for the Bulls is defense, especially on the interior.

It all looked promising in Tuesday's preseason opener, even while playing a smaller lineup than usual. The Bulls started 6-4 guard Javonte Green at power forward and neither of the backup centers were available due to injury.

 

"I think we have really good length," coach Billy Donovan said after the game. "Lonzo (Ball's) a long player. Zach (LaVine) has length, DeMar (DeRozan) has length, Javonte has length. I thought we used our length. We may not be this overly big team in terms of height, but I do think we're long. I think if we can get our length into our defense, we'll be in good shape."

Cleveland shot 36 percent from the field and the Bulls came up with 13 steals -- 3 each by Ball and LaVine.

The Bulls may not have many players renowned for their defensive skills, but most successful NBA teams start with a collection of good scorers who learn how to play team defense.

"We were scrambling," DeRozan said. "We were just all over the place. We made an emphasis this week. Nothing's going to be perfect. But we've got to have one another's back, and that was big that we went out there and we scrambled. We tried to help each other out. We tried to cause a little havoc and just be all over the place and we did that."

Maybe the most interesting trait of the new-look Bulls is how many different guys can initiate offense. They were switching from Ball to LaVine to DeRozan to Alex Caruso, who finished with 10 assists. As a team, the Bulls piled up 36 assists, an impressive number.

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"I mean, we've been playing this way in practice," LaVine said. "It looks like this. Guys cutting, helping on defense, coming over from baseline and doubling down and gang rebounding. AC going to the lane, pump-faking and throwing it to the corner. We have a bunch of guys who know how to play and make open passes. It's good to play with guys like that."

LaVine misses opportunity:

Zach LaVine got an early shout-out from "Shaqtin a Fool" when he muffed a breakaway dunk. He might have been trying something fancy, but it was hard to tell because he ended up barely even getting a shot off,

"A little blown tire, man," LaVine said, shaking his head. "I had too much time to think about what dunk I was doing and I got caught. I just wanted to get Lonzo (Ball) a rebound and assist. That was my mindset."

Ball was standing right there to follow in the rebound, so no harm done.

DeRozan on debut:

DeMar DeRozan, 32, on debuting with a new team: "The more years you get in this thing, you start to realize you've really got to enjoy it because it goes by so fast. It's just crazy to me looking up every single day, like, 'I'm going into my 13th year.' It's an honor just to make it that far playing in the league.

"Not to try to age myself, but you're just at a point now where you've got to enjoy everything that comes with it. I think at this point in my career and my life, it's just enjoying it. Because you only get to do this for so long."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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