Enjoying the Good, Embracing the Bad (And Other Bulls Bullets)

So have you seen Knives Out? If not, don’t worry, the following metaphor is pretty simple to follow.

Like most, I highly enjoyed that film. It was a fun and relatively light-hearted murder mystery with a stellar cast. The story kept you on your toes for a good two and a half hours … but then the final 15 minutes hit. Sure, it was interesting to see how all the dots connected Ransom to the murder of Harlan (the film has been out for three years, so no “spoiler alert”), and the way Marta gets him to confess makes for a really enjoyable scene.

However, the answer was right in front of us the whole time. Ransom felt like the most obvious killer with the more obvious motive from start to finish. I guess they tried to throw us off the scent when he helped console Marta, but I was still left with an overwhelming sense of “duh” when it was divulged that he did the dark deed. And I’m currently left with that same sense as I watch the Chicago Bulls.

The three-quarters of the regular season has been as entertaining as it has been captivating. The Bulls gripped us with star talent, a dazzling supporting cast, and plenty of memorable moments. But the obvious has still always been there: This is a collectively inexperienced group that remains fragile, a work in progress. We thought about that at the beginning, we forgot about it in the middle, and we’re annoyingly being reminded of it at the end.

Still, that doesn’t mean I haven’t enjoyed this season as a whole! The only reason what’s happening right now is so frustrating is because the rest has been so darn good. So I choose to embrace those good parts at times, especially since we’ve watched nothing but crappy movies the past handful of years.

•   I apparently made quite the controversial comment last night on social media when I said: “The Bulls are still in the playoff picture after years of sitting in the depths of the East. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that.” Sure, maybe that isn’t what fans want to hear after the eighth loss in the last 10 games. I get it. But is it also not true? I’m not saying we shouldn’t be mad or shouldn’t hold the team accountable for their recent play. We should. All I am saying is that – holistically – I’ll take the current situation over the one this organization has been in over the past half-decade. I like the fact that we get to talk about a playoff race as opposed to how many more games this team must lose to increase their lottery odds. Perhaps that isn’t where your head is at, and that’s totally ok! Fan how you want.

•   But no one is saying the team’s plummet down the standings is acceptable. If we choose not to look at the season as a whole and square-in on the post-All-Star break, it’s a grim sight that merits frustration. There is no question the Bulls should be playing better basketball at the moment. Not only has the team gotten healthier, but the stars have only had more time to figure out how to best play with one another. Those were two hurdles (excuses?) we’ve hung on for a while, removed. Even if I think the team’s 0-15 record against the top-3 teams in both conferences can be chalked-up, in part, to either of the above, sitting at 2-13 or 4-11 wouldn’t be that much better. The fact of the matter is, thus far, the team has failed to reach the high bar they set for themselves, and they have to own that. Fortunately, DeMar DeRozan does:

“You hit bumps in the road, and you got to make adjustments while you’re on that road,” DeRozan told reporters. “Try to get out of that terrain. That’s just where we’re at, and I told the guys the same thing. We’ve just hit that tough spot, it’s on us to get ourselves out of it and figure it out. 

•   I highly recommend you listen to DeRozan’s full press conference if you have the time. His calm and collected veteran demeanor is a comforting sign.

•   With that said, actions speak louder than words. DeRozan and his teammates surely realize it’s on them to make the most of this tough stretch, but how can they do that? How can they stop the snowball effect? I mean, we’re talking about a team whose Net Rating sits 5th-worst in the league since the All-Star break. We’re talking about a team whose one strong suit – their offense – has sat just 27th-best over the last 11 games. The Bulls also held the 8th-best AST/TOV rate in the league before the All-Star break, yet they have become way more sloppy in recent weeks and have ranked bottom 10 over those last 11.

•   Meanwhile, Alex Caruso is back, but the defense is still in shambles. They have a real problem stopping dribble-penetration, and they have an even greater problem guarding the pick-and-roll. When they do try to switch things up and blitz an opponent, they aren’t savvy enough to rotate or help adequately. There are real issues on both sides of the ball. To be sure, I do think some of that can be fixed  – after all, we saw how good this team could be at times this season – I just worry they can not fix it fast enough.

•   At least Alex Caruso still has some fun moments, right!?

•   Also, we did get some good news last night!

•   The Blackhawks are in a tough spot.

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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