The Unfortunate Timing of LaVine's Ankle, Defensive Issues Continue, Hutch Talkin' Smack? And Other Bulls Bullets

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The Unfortunate Timing of LaVine’s Ankle, Defensive Issues Continue, Hutch Talkin’ Smack? And Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Hi. It me. I want a Bulls win.

•  If I was Zach LaVine, I’d be frustrated too. Right around the time his organization makes massive roster moves with his future in mind *and* the Bulls embark on the toughest stretch of their second-half schedule, his ankle says, “not so fast.” He wants to feel out his new teammates, and he wants to help the Bulls crack the playoffs for the first time since 2017. I appreciate that, but someone has to tell him to press pause. After last night’s game, LaVine did not fully commit to sitting out a game to rest-up his ankle, but he did finally seem to consider it as a worthwhile option.

•   I don’t think LaVine is aggressively damaging the team’s chances of winning while out there, but I do think he is hindering this much-needed learning experience. In other words, I’m not sure these five new players have learned much at all about how to play with LaVine over these first two games. Why? Because the player they’ve shared the court with isn’t really Zach LaVine. We know he is capable of much more, and the sooner they play with the LaVine we know and love, the quicker we should see things start to gel.

•   If this doesn’t tell LaVine clear isn’t right, I don’t know what will:

•   I have to admit, I was pretty damn frustrated with last night’s loss. With the Suns, Jazz, and Nets on the schedule next, it really felt like the team should at least grab one of these matchups against the Spurs or Warriors. I’m trying not to overreact since integrating five new rotation players in the middle of a playoff run can be all kinds of difficult, but it’s hard not to feel like the pressure is on. The Bulls are now 19-26 (10th) and 2.0 games back from the Indiana Pacers, 3.0 games back from the Heat/Celtics, 3.5 games back from the Hawks, and 4.0 games back from the Hornets and Knicks. No, it isn’t at all impossible for the Bulls to still sneak their way up the standings, but we have started to see signs of a more defined hierarchy. With only 27 games left, there is likely a growing sense of urgency in the Advocate Center.

•   Speaking of urgency, head coach Billy Donovan is going to have to figure out his rotation sooner than later. I totally understand why he has mixed and matched so many different combinations over the first two games (and I’m sure he is having all kinds of fun with it), but the more he switches things up, the less time units have to get comfortable. I expect we see this new starting lineup with Thad and Vooch in the frontcourt for the foreseeable future.

•   The defense continues to be problematic. Theis looks like the anchor this team needs, but he certainly didn’t have much help out there last night. I’m interested to see if the clear problems on that end of the floor will bring Al-Farouq Aminu back into the mix – who oddly didn’t see any action last night. Additionally, Javonte Green has seen just as much action as Troy Brown Jr. in these first two games, which could be a signal that Donovan prefers his defensive intensity. Anyway, if I do know one thing, it’s that Garrett Temple left last night’s game with a hamstring injury, and that has a possibility of making their already suspect perimeter defense worse.

•   Uh … wat?

•   Chandler Hutchison seems to be talking some smack to the Bulls after his 18-point debut last night … and that’s weird. Like, I get they traded you, but does it really come as a massive surprise? Not only was he not a hand-selected player from this new front office, but he has also repeatedly struggled to stay on the floor. Likewise, he sat out the last 23 games of his Bulls career due to personal reasons, and those were 23 games he could have tried to establish himself a more consistent role. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s totally fine he sidelined himself. I don’t know what he was going through, and I totally respect taking the time needed to figure things out. However, I have a hard time believing the organization mistreated him or anything. Eh, whatever. Maybe it’s just a regular competitive thing and there are no real hard feelings.

•   Meanwhile, Hutchison’s new team could make up some ground on the Bulls.


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Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.