In a crowded field for the season's most uninspiring losses, the
Not only did the Bulls lose their fourth straight, they were thoroughly dominated by the team they owe their first-round draft pick to this summer and whose best player at the start of the season, Nikola Vucevi , they acquired at the trade deadline. Yet it was the Magic who took a 21-point lead into the fourth quarter in an all-around abysmal performance for the Bulls, who fell to disappointing 3-8 since the trade deadline.
“Are we going to keep playing lifeless basketball?” forward
Vucevi put up 29 points and 11 rebounds against his former team and
He found few answers.
The stock in
“My thing is you can't play desperate for nine minutes and expect to win an NBA game,” Donovan said. “We don't have that margin for error to not be a desperate team. … We can't decide we want to be urgent for nine minutes in the game and then try to save a victory; it doesn't work like that.”
The Bulls made a bold trade at the deadline, dealing away pieces for the future with the intention of competing for this season and beyond. But so far this experiment has not cured their ills. Their roster has improved on paper, but aside from a brief three-game winning streak that has been erased by this most recent skid, the team has not meshed well.
Since the deadline, the Bulls rank 17th in offense and 25th in defense. They are short on rim protectors, and their guards struggle to stop the ball at the point of attack. They still lack a true starting point guard capable of organizing the offense. They've gone cold shooting from beyond the arc, turn the ball over too frequently, often have fewer free-throw opportunities than their opponents and can't figure out how to defend the pick-and-roll (a question about pick-and-roll defense on a Zoom call before the game prompted a two-minute rant from Donovan).
They fell to a season-worst 10 games under .500 at 22-32.
“Guys are frustrated,” LaVine said. “We know we're better, and we're supposed to be beating some of these teams. Everybody wants to win. We went on a little win streak and then we reverted back down to losing. Guys get frustrated. You'd rather have guys frustrated than not, but that frustration has to turn into something on the court. You have to put it together sooner or later. You don't look forward in the calendar, but obviously these games are against us. We're talking a big game. We've got to go out there and walk it too.”
The perks of playing in the lackluster
The Bulls wanted the benefit of the doubt in the weeks after the trade, insisting they were going through a learning curve to incorporate so many new pieces into their lineup. With a brutal schedule and not much practice time to work things out, perhaps the first few losses coming out of the deadline were excusable.
Yet the Bulls have managed to make Sunday's loss to the
“We are not in a position now to be looking at anybody and thinking we're better than anybody,” Donovan said. “That to me is the biggest mistake. It doesn't make a difference who we line up against. It could be a college team or a high school team if we're not going to really be desperate and have that sense of urgency.”
(C)2021 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.