After Wednesday’s 123-108 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, Kris Dunn had some thoughts.
“Teams are making adjustments. And we gotta be able to adjust with them,” Dunn told NBC Sports Chicago. “Credit New Orleans. They made adjustments to our defense. At the same time, it’s our fault. The players on the court have to be able to see what they’re doing. We just couldn’t get a grasp of it.”
Zach LaVine joined in the chorus: “We got outplayed. They locked into what we were doing. They went into their halftime and adjusted their offense a little bit and picked us apart. Same storyline,” LaVine said. “I think we’re a good team with a lot of good pieces. It’s just upsetting when we can’t put it together and get wins. We work hard. I work hard individually. I try to give it my all. When you do that and it doesn’t work out, you get a little pissed off.”
The frustration is warranted … and, believe me, shared.
LaVine and Dunn, two of the players carried over from the Jimmy Butler trade (to begin the Bulls rebuilding efforts), haven’t seen much change throughout their time in Chicago. Of course, their own individual performances have played a role in that, but as this season unwinds, the Bulls real problem – a lack of guidance, not talent – becomes more evident every day.
Consider: New Orleans is in the midst of a rebuild, themselves, one that was similarly jump-started by trading away a star player for a package of hopeful NBA prospects. To be clear, their rebuild began on a much better note than the Bulls thanks to the handful of draft picks handed over by the Los Angeles Lakers (not to mention, the No. 1 pick of the 2019 draft, Zion Williamson). Still, it’s fair to say the makeup of each roster isn’t all that different right now.
And while both teams may carry the same win total (13), the Pelicans have played a much tougher schedule and have recent wins over top teams like the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and Houston Rockets. Meanwhile, the Bulls are 1-15 against opponents over .500 this season and are riding a five-game skid. How does that happen? Lack of discipline. Lack of a game plan. Lack of chemistry. Lack of a true head coach.
Indeed, Mike Budenholzer, Quin Snyder, Brad Stevens, Rick Carlisle, and Alvin Gentry have further exposed the Bulls’ greatest fault over these last five games – Jim Boylen.
LaVine and Dunn’s frustration is warranted, because each opposing coach made the proper adjustments coming out of the locker room – something Boylen has clearly and repeatedly failed to do.
For reference, here’s how the Bulls were outscored in the third quarter over the last five games:
- Bucks: 40-25 (Bulls losing 55-52 at half)
- Jazz: 29-19 (Bulls winning 51-47 at half)
- Celtics: 30-21 (Bulls losing 55-52 at half)
- Mavs: 27-27 (Bulls losing 61-55 at half)
- Pelicans: 44-27 (Bulls tied 48-48 at half)
The Bulls net-rating in the third quarter over the last five games is dead-last in the league by far at -39.2. On the season, they have the 28th-ranked net rating during that quarter.
Boylen can’t make adjustments, and if he does, they’re almost always the wrong choice.
LaVine and Dunn’s frustration likely isn’t going away anytime soon.