Bulls still finding pressure points for Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen

The coaching staff and front office had no problem putting pressure on their two best players this offseason, and it won’t be stopping anytime soon. And that’s just fine with LaVine.

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NEW YORK — Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen have embraced the pressure put on them by Bulls coach Jim Boylen and vice president John Paxson.

Boylen and Paxson insisted last month that the team’s roster was built to lift Markkanen and LaVine to stardom.

On Monday, Boylen said LaVine and Markkanen had been reprimanded about their defense and needed to pick up that aspect of their game if the team was to succeed.

“What I talked to them about was getting us to defend at a higher level more consistently, and it’s got to start with them,’’ Boylen said. “They’ve been great, they’ve both been committed to doing that, but we need to defend better, and we need to be more tied together on the defensive end of the floor. And that’s where we need to grow. We’ve got a bunch of growth plates, and that’s one of them.’’

LaVine said the message was heard loud and clear.

“You have to understand pressure,’’ LaVine said. “You have to understand it to get something good from it. You can say you don’t feel it, but it has to be something in the back of your head where it gets you going, so obviously there’s pressure, and we embrace it.

“We understand the team that we have. We just need to get it clicking.’’

Same old ‘BP’

Of course, Bobby Portis ran down the floor, talking smack at the Bulls’ bench after scoring his first basket. The Bulls wouldn’t have expected anything different from the player they called “BP’’ when he was a teammate.

“Yeah, we were thankful for his competitive spirit when we had him, and now that we don’t, we have to respect it still,’’ Boylen said. “That’s what we love about him. He’s one of my favorite guys I ever coached and been around. He’s a yes-sir, no-sir guy, he’s a winner, he’s a worker, so I think the Knicks are fortunate to have him.’’

Portis was drafted by the Bulls 22nd overall in the 2015 NBA Draft, and the Arkansas product quickly endeared himself to his teammates, with Joakim Noah first nicknaming him “Crazy Eyes’’ before settling on “BP.’’

The forward/center was traded last February to the Wizards — along with Jabari Parker — with the Bulls getting Otto Porter Jr. in return. Portis signed a two-year,

$31 million free-agent contract with the Knicks this offseason and is coming off the bench.

Makes and misses

Forward Chandler Hutchison (left hamstring) stayed in Chicago and practiced with the G-League team. If all goes well the next few days, he could be activated for the game Friday against the Pistons.

Boylen has been going back and forth about having shootarounds on game days and admitted it has been reward-based. Good practices and games earn having morning shootarounds off; they do walkthroughs instead.

Porter indicated that he was still a bit sore after taking an elbow to the mouth Saturday. He received six stitches. He did start against the Knicks, however. 

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