I’m not sure anything other than winning basketball games will make folks feel better about the Bulls’ recent struggles, but the team leaders did at least say the right things after another ghastly loss.
• So last night had to be rock bottom for this group, right? RIGHT!? I can’t imagine it gets any worse than a 37-point deficit at home to a Charlotte Hornets team that is on the backend of a back-to-back. The Bulls allowed the East’s 10th team to obliterate them from start to finish, shooting 60.5 percent from the field with 19 3-pointers and 34 assists. Charlotte flew past defenders for uncontested dunks, soared in transition for easy points, and knocked down wide-open shots behind the arc. Now, do they deserve credit for going full NBA Jam mode on the Bulls? Absolutely, but last night wasn’t about one team having a hot night, it was about the other team not even trying to cool them off.
• Indeed, that’s what hurt the most watching the game. It wasn’t the still-excruciating defensive breakdowns or the lack of ball movement, it was the fact the Bulls’ starters played as if they had already lost. We’ve seen this a couple of times over the past few weeks, and it’s a stark contrast to the team we watched rise to the top of the East earlier this season. The Bulls were the unit that took opponents by surprise and made them play up until the final buzzer. Even as they dropped games to the league elites, they made Philly, Miami, and Milwaukee fight for almost every possession. Any semblance of that same fight was non-existent until a youthful lineup of Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu, Troy Brown Jr., Patrick Williams, and Derrick Jones Jr. took the floor, which is why boos rained down from the crowd on multiple occasions.
“To be honest, the way I felt about it, they should,” LaVine told reporters. “It’s embarrassing. We’re a really good basketball team, and we’re not playing like it. They know that, we know that. It’s understandable. We know they have our back, but we got to play better.”
• I got to give a lot of credit to LaVine. Not only has he endured an immense amount of crap over his years in Chicago, but he’s always dealt with it admirably. He’s repeatedly taken responsibility for the team’s actions, and I think it goes to show how dedicated he is to getting this franchise back on a consistently competitive track. Don’t get me wrong, he needs to help find a solution to the ongoing problems, but we never have to question whether he’s actively trying to do that.
“I always try to be very uplifting and try to see the brighter side, but I’m tired of talking,” LaVine said. “We say a lot of words, and we say the right things, but we got to figure it out. And we’re not doing that. Plain and simple. Top to bottom. Coaching staff, everybody is involved. We have to do a better job because it’s right around the corner. We can’t let this happen. It’s embarrassing.”
• Before LaVine embraced the boos, Donovan put the team’s out-of-sync start on his shoulders.
“To be quite honest with you, I didn’t do a good enough job creating enough clarity for them on those situations,” Donovan said about the team’s defensive breakdowns. “I thought we had some blown coverges, and we got hurt on some slip outs. It was stuff that we knew they were going to do. We kind of talked about it, worked on it a little bit, but I obviously didn’t do enough of a good job creating clarity for them, so that’s on me.”
• While it’s on the players to execute, it’s on the coaching staff to provide a game plan the players are capable of executing. Not to mention, when a group plays this deflated, it’s up to the head coach to pump them back up. Now, with that said, while I’ve seen a handful of folks criticize Donovan for not making game-to-game adjustments, I don’t actually think that’s true. He’s tried different lineups and different defensive schemes (blitzing on PnR, slipping into a zone, etc), but he simply hasn’t found the right answers.
Billy Donovan on #Bulls' communication problems on defense: "There was a play in the second half, it was like 'hey, hey, hey!' 'Hey, hey, hey' is not a coverage. That's not a coverage."
— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) April 9, 2022
• DeMar DeRozan chimed in later on with a rock-solid metaphor:
“It’s kind of like going through high school. You’re getting all A’s as a freshman, sophomore, and junior, and senior year you got AP classes and them sh*t is extremely hard. I don’t know. I just made that up, but you get what I’m trying to say. But now you just got to buckle down and kind of put the extra work in studying. You got to take it to that next level if you really want to go to Yale.”
• I think that’s actually a pretty great way to put it. The Bulls passed the first half of this season with flying colors, holding one of the best grades in the NBA with a top-7 net rating as they walked into 2022. But learning how to beat the Bucks and Heat takes a lot more work than learning how to beat the Pistons and Pacers. I’m not sure the Bulls have put in that work.
• I guess this has at least set the Bulls up to re-channel the “nobody believes in us” mentality. I’m sure not many have a Bulls team that sits 7-15 since the All-Star break truly contending in a first-round series, which is a lot like how not many had the Bulls cracking the top-6 before the season started. If I’m Donovan, I put that outside skepticism on full display in the locker room and hope the chip that was once on their shoulder returns.
• At least Coby White and Patrick Williams got some extra run last night:
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) April 8, 2022
• Brb gonna go cry some more:
A fourth straight double-digit loss has dropped Bulls’ net rating of minus-8.2 to 28th over period from when they last led the East—-Feb. 25—to today. That ranks ahead of only Oklahoma City and Portland.
From start of season to Feb. 25, Bulls’ net rating of plus-2 ranked 12th.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) April 9, 2022
• BRING BACK MAC!
The Los Angeles Lakers are planning to sign guard Mac McClung to a two-way NBA contract, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. McClung went to training camp with the Lakers and has developed in their South Bay affiliate where he won G League Rookie of the Year.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 9, 2022
• The weather might be crappy, but it’s not crappy enough to stop baseball!
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) April 9, 2022