Zach LaVine and Billy Donovan Sound Off on Bulls’ Recent Struggles (and Other Bulls Bullets)

Heads up: Things might be a tad light over here at BN Bulls today. The entire BN Crew and I (minus White Sox Fan Patrick Flowers) will be grouped together in the right-field bleachers for Opening Day at Wrigley Field.

If you happen to be around and want to locate us, just listen closely for the crying and moaning of a discouraged Bulls fan!

•   Zach LaVine didn’t mince a single word when addressing reports after the team’s 117-94 loss to the Boston Celtics: “We look like a totally different team right now, and it’s upsetting,” LaVine said. The All-Star guard spoke about the dire need for this group to refind their rhythm, which is a task that feels borderline impossible with only two regular-season games left to go. Would a win over either the Hornets or Timberwolves – two teams they have already beaten earlier this season – truly provide the momentum shift this team needs? If we’re being honest, simply talking it through on the practice court might be the best way to gain steam for a competitive first-round series. After all, guys like LaVine and DeRozan attributed much of the Bulls’ early-season chemistry to that extra time spent together in the gym.

•   Seriously, if I’m head coach Billy Donovan, I highly consider resting most of my top guys over the next two games. The fact of the matter is this team has clinched a first-round series, and whether or not they land No. 5 or No 6 doesn’t seem to matter too much. Not only are the Raptors 1.5 games ahead of the Bulls with two winnable games against the Knicks and the Rockets left on their schedule, but seeds 2-4 are so jumbled up that it’s too hard to predict whether No. 5 or 6 would draw the more “favorable” matchup.

•   I don’t know. I guess I just believe this team has spiraled to the point where ensured health is their best path forward. Some time to clear their head off the court might not be the worst thing either. Plus, guys like Patrick Williams, Coby White, and Ayo Dosunmu could then use these last two games to try to build up their own on-court confidence heading into their first postseason. But, hey, if you think having everyone play these last two games is most useful, I don’t necessarily have a great rebuttal.

•   Head coach Billy Donovan spoke with just as much frustration and candor as his All-Star guard last night. Once again, he said this adversity should be viewed as a positive (which I agree with in many ways), but he was clear that his team needs to do a better job turning it into that.

“I don’t want to say eye-opening, but it’s a little bit like, ‘wow, I think I’m playing hard, but it’s not good enough.’ And I think these moments where you’re playing against really good quality teams, you just get to a point where it’s enough … What are you competing for? You’re competing for everything on every single possession. You’re competing on the screen. You’re competing to get out there to contest. You’re competing on the glass. Everything is that,” Donovan told reporters.

•   Donovan has coached NBA playoff teams in six of his seven NBA seasons, so I think it’s safe to say he knows what a team has to look like to get to that point. He sees a Bulls squad that has yet to grasp how much really goes into being consistently competitive. And we can’t deny that it looks like they don’t value every possession. Whether it be pulling up for an early-shot clock 3-pointer or allowing Jaylen Brown to cut to the rim without a single body there to contest, the Bulls lack focus and urgency too many times per game. They turned the ball over 17 times against the Celtics, and they lost the fastbreak battle 16-6. Yes, Boston is a very good team, but that’s the Bulls playing sloppy and getting outhustled.

•   I understand Donovan deserves some of the blame for the group’s recent downfall, but he has continually kept it real when it comes to discussing where this team is at.

“We’re not as bad as we have played. We’re not,” Donovan said. “But we probably weren’t as good as when we went on an eight or nine-game winning streak. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.”

•   He’s right. When the Bulls went on arguably their best stretch of the season and won 10 of 11 games, not a single win came over a currently above-.500 team. In fact, the one winning team they did play happened to be their one loss (Dallas on January 9th).

•   The Bulls have shot 43.8 percent or worse from the field over the last three games. I truly can’t believe how much this team’s offense has fallen off a cliff in recent weeks. In early season matchups against Milwaukee, Philly, Miami, and Boston, they were able to at least hang around thanks, in large part, to a top-ranked bucket-getting group. Now? They have an offensive rating that sits 4th-worst in the NBA since the All-Star break and an effective field goal percentage that ranks only better than the Blazers, Magic, and Raptors. What the heck happened?

•   Need some optimism on this Thursday morning? Here:

•   Don’t bring this up right now, Adam. I need the Bulls to rest.

•   PLEASE DON’T RAIN!

•   You have my attention.

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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