The LaVine Situation, a Talent Problem, Nikola Vucevic’s Much-needed Mindset, and Other Bulls Bullets

The Bears got Justin Fields. The Bears got Justin Fields. The Bears got Justin Fields. The Bears got Justin Fields. The Bears got Justin Fields. The Bears got Justin Fields. The Bears got Justin Fields. The Bears got Justin Fields.

Ok. I’m in a better mood. Now, we can talk about the Bulls.

•   Let’s start this Saturday with some good news. Zach LaVine unexpectedly appeared on the Bulls bench last night after being away from the team for the previous eight games. According to head coach Billy Donovan, LaVine has still not checked all the boxes to return to on-court activity (typically, after an extended absence, players need to make sure their conditioning is back to an appropriate level), but seeing him back around the team is certainly a good sign. Hopefully, this means the star player can take a big step in the right direction this weekend and get back on the court to further build his chemistry with Nikola Vucevic. Notice how I didn’t type, “get back on the court to help this team win games.”

•   While a final push for the play-in tournament would be lovely, it doesn’t feel in the cards. With the Washington Wizards winning last night, the Chicago Bulls have fallen 3.0 games back of the 10th seed. The Atlanta Hawks, Philidelphia 76ers, Charlotte Hornets, and Boston Celtics make up the next four games for Chicago. Then, after a winnable matchup with the Detroit Pistons, the Bulls will finish out the season with matchups against the Brooklyn Nets (x2), Toronto Raptors, and Milwaukee Bucks. One look at that schedule, and it’s not hard to question how “worth it” a LaVine return would really be. I’m not one to be in favor of throwing in the towel, but how can the Bulls not think about it when their only chance at a first-round draft pick this season is with a top-4 selection. NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson wrote more about that point after last night’s loss:

•   I doubt the Bulls are going to enter tank mode. Unlike last season, I have not even found myself advocating for it this season. The whole concept would just go against everything this new organization is trying to build. Arturas Karnisovas has said he is serious about winning, and while that may not be how the season ends, I can’t imagine it will be for a lack of trying. With that in mind, I don’t see the Bulls shutting down Zach LaVine, and nor would I recommend they do. We have to remember that the trade deadline was not just about this season. The more experience LaVine and Vucevic get on the court together the better. And the more experience Donovan gets coaching them the better. The same thing goes for guys like Patrick Williams and Coby White. I know it still might not amount to much, but fighting until the very end can still be good for this team’s future. Call it player development.

•   Chicago’s biggest problem isn’t the turnovers or lack of free throws or mental toughness … it’s the collective talent. Game after game we listen to both Donovan and the players talk about the need for more consistent play. We have also continued to hear comments about the need to come out of the gate with a greater sense of urgency. All of that is true, but maybe this team just isn’t capable of that. At some point, you just are who you are. It’s up to this front office to change who the Bulls are.

•   Vucevic gives me hope. Many of the Bulls pre-existing players never experienced a healthy team environment, Zach LaVine included. When that’s the case, it can be hard to learn one of the league’s most valuable lessons: A short memory is the best memory. Vucevic has this down pat. It’s why his 7-27 shooting performance Friday night didn’t mean much to him, and it’s why he will fight until the final game.

“It’s very important. In the NBA it’s just the way it is, especially this year with so many game in such a short span. You can’t dwell on things or you can’t over celebrate things,” Vucevic told reporters after last night’s game. “You just have to continue moving forward, learn kind of on the go and try to improve things. There is really not much else we can do. we can sit here and be disappointed and we can cry about it, it’s not going to do us any good. We just have to move on.”

•   The Bulls will need that mindset come season’s end.

•   Anyway, the Bulls play again tonight! Until then, watch Daniel Theis do something cool:

written by

Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

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