After a day of rest, the Chicago Bulls returned to the court for their second game of the NBA Summer League and promptly got thrashed from start to finish by the Atlanta Hawks to the tune of a 75-55 final score. Denzel Valentine and Lauri Markkanen put up one of the most horrific combined shooting performances fans will ever see, and Cameron Payne continued to lend credibility to the idea that he has no idea how to play point guard effectively on either end of the court.
The game began with news that Paul Zipser would sit out with an ankle injury and that Kris Dunn would miss the rest of the Summer League due to a family emergency. With the Bulls suddenly missing two starters, their offense suffered dramatically early on, going 1-15 from the field through the first five minutes of the game. The Bulls missed all eight of their three point attempts out of the gate and registered their only field goal on a Lauri Markkanen dunk that came about after an offensive rebound and assist from Denzel Valentine. The Hawks had trouble getting things going themselves, however, with a 3-15 shooting performance of their own over the same stretch. Thankfully, Chris Walker checked into the game and gave the Bulls some much-needed energy on both ends, including this nice block on Diamond Stone:
Both teams continued to shoot poorly, but the Bulls managed to chip into the deficit a bit thanks to a late scoring punch from Antonio Blakeney off the bench. The first quarter mercifully ended with a score of 17-14 in favor of the Hawks, and both teams combined to shoot a ghastly 9-44 from the field through the first ten minutes of play.
The second quarter of this game can be effectively summarized by the following statement: Cameron Payne is a repugnant basketball player. Payne did the majority of the ball-handling for Chicago in the absence of Kris Dunn, but all he actually managed to do was constantly dribble himself into double teams above the perimeter without looking to get rid of the ball. By the time he did, the Hawks’ defense was already in an easy position to recover regardless of where Payne flung the ball to, and the Bulls would have to rush to get back into an under-developed offensive set. He somehow finished the first half without recording a single assist and tallied merely five points on 2-6 shooting. Defensively, he consistently cheated too far off his man in an effort to play help defense, and this allowed the Hawks to keep the Bulls off balance while generating open looks for themselves.
As bad as Payne was, he didn’t get much help from any of his teammates. Markkanen and Valentine combined to shoot 2-13 from the field in the first half and missed all ten of their 3-PT attempts. Chicago as a team did not register a single make from distance over the first twenty minutes of action, recorded more fouls than made baskets, and no player other than Valentine finished the half with any assists. Markkanen also looked like a completely miserable defensive player, especially on this dunk under the basket from John Collins when the 7th overall pick made absolutely no effort to contest the attempt despite standing directly in front of Collins:
Nine fouls, eight made field goals, six turnovers, and three assists. It was one of the most pitiful offensive halves of basketball I have ever had the misfortune of watching. As a result, the Bulls went into the locker room down 45-26.
Color commentator Seth Greenberg was quick to scold Payne at the start of the second half and throughout the third quarter. Greenberg noted that Payne’s leadership for a point guard appeared extremely poor based on his lack of interraction with teammates. He also criticized Payne’s annoying habits of chucking up attempts early on in the shot clock and usually making only one pass per possession, both of which are not conducive to erasing a twenty point deficit such as the one the Bulls had created for themselves. It was somewhat vidicating to hear one of ESPN’s most animated basketball analysts so sternly criticize a player many Bulls fans have already written off as not good.
Fred Hoiberg gave a mid-game interview about halfway through the third quarter, speaking primarily about Lauri Markkanen and the future course of the Bulls. He noted his favorite thing about Markkanen was his desire to compete, which is funny when considering about twenty minutes prior to that remark, Markkanen was surrendering an uncontested dunk under the basket. In terms of the outlook for the future, Hoiberg noted the most important thing for his system was acquiring versatile players. In that case, good thing the Bulls flipped the best two-way player in the Eastern Conference for two sub-zero defenders and the guy that posted the worst true-shooting percentage in the NBA last season.
But the highlight of the interview had to be Hoiberg’s answer to the final question. In response to being asked, “two years into the NBA, what have you learned as a person and as a coach, no matter what the ups and downs of the specifics,” Hoiberg responded, “yeah, well, you know, the big thing is to just continue to get your team, uh, in a position to, uh, hopefully go out and give themselves a chance to win.”
Granted, I think ESPN was trying to go to commerical, but that is—by far—the most nothing answer to any question I have ever heard in my life.
Oh yeah, there was basketball being played during all of this commentary, but none of it is really worth mentioning and the Bulls continued to stink. They finished the third quarter down 59-44.
The fourth quarter was more of the same, so in lieu of telling you that the Bulls continued to miss an embarrasing amount of three pointers, here’s an awesome and-1 dunk from Antonio Blakeney:
The game eventually ended with a final score of 75-55 in favor of the Hawks.
Denzel Valentine and Lauri Markkanen combined to shoot 2-25 from the field and both players missed all eighteen of their three point attempts. Those two players set the tone for Chicago’s offensive meltdown as the team finished the night 16-73 from the field (21.9%), 4-35 from long distance (11.4%), and somehow wound up with more than twice as many turnovers (14) to assists (6). Cameron Payne concluded his disgusting night with 12 points on 4-11 shooting alongside four turnovers and only one assist. None of the Bulls’ players finished with a positive +/- rating, and about the only positive from this game from Chicago’s perspective was that Markkanen and Walker both finished with four blocks each.
This game was so bad that I sincerely think it took a couple of years off my life. After watching this tone-deaf symphony of nauseating basketball, my mind feels as though it was removed from my skull, left in a microwave for far too long, and then placed back in my head with all the surgical grace of an arthritic grizzly bear.
If that sounds like a thrilling experience for someone like yourself, then come back tomorrow when the Bulls play their final summer league game against the Washington Wizards at 5 PM CT on NBA TV.