Struggles Against the Best, the Stars Have to Improve Too, AK Will “Explore Everything,” and Other Bulls Bullets

For those who grew up with a younger sibling: Remember when your parents would tell you to take it easy on them? For example, you pretend to have your ankles broken or miss the wide-open dunk while playing hoops in the driveway. But, then, your younger sibling begins to get all cocky. They talk just enough unwarranted smack that you decide to reverse course. From there, they are getting posterized on one possession, stuffed to oblivion on another, and sent crying back inside after you overcome a 12-0 deficit to put them in their place.

Anyway, that’s a long-winded way of saying that I feel as if this is exactly what happened in the Mavericks-Suns game last night. Dallas was hanging around until Big Brother Chris Paul decided to rattle off 14 easy points in the 4th quarter on 6-7 shooting to lead the Suns to a 129-109 victory.

The more I thought about it, my Bulls brain also believes this sibling scenario describes almost every time the Bulls played a top-3 team in either conference this season. Walking in as the cocky youngsters, we watched more experienced squads repeatedly crush their dreams. All we can do now is hope they learned their lesson, and Billy Donovan seems to think they did.

More on that below: 

•   Seriously, the Bulls’ combined 1-15 record against the top-3 teams in each conference has to at least be some kind of fluke, right? I’m not trying to say they should have finished with something much better, but you would assume at least a couple more games would fall their way. Indeed, I think that’s why I have a hard time freaking out about it. As bad as it looked – and as much as it does point toward much-needed growth – I don’t think it was necessarily a sign of what’s to come. The organization can take what they saw against those top teams and adjust the roster accordingly. Meanwhile, head coach Billy Donovan and the players can go into next season with a much better understanding of what it takes to compete with these squads on a more consistent basis.

•   I anticipate a lot of this offseason will be centered around the work Arturas Karnisovas does around the margins. Improving size and shooting outside the starting five will particularly be an ongoing topic. With that said, we still can’t lose sight of the fact that the “Big 3” (if they hang around) must also take the next step. When you invest in a core group, there has to be an expectation for that core group to improve. I also think this is a concept we lose sight of in the LaVine max contract discourse. The Bulls wouldn’t just pay for the player he is today, they would pay for the player they hope he can become. At 27 years old and coming off the two best seasons of his career, the expectation would be for him to continue expanding on that. Some might fairly question whether or not he can do just that, but I tend to believe he can, especially if the front office keeps building a smart roster around him.

•   Speaking of building that roster, Karnisovas gave a very Karnisovas answer when asked about how he expects to continue constructing this group.

“We’re going to explore everything,” the front office leader told reporters at his end-of-season press conference. “We had a pretty busy summer last summer, and [there are] a lot of things you still can’t project going into draft and free agency. The way I allow things to settle for the draft is you get a better idea a week or two weeks before the draft because you’re going through workouts and interviews. You get a better feel. Obviously, the prep for free agency is going on at the same time. Once it gets closer, we’ll have a better idea, but right now it’s kind of hard to say what opportunities we’ll have right now …

You just have to have a plan and alternatives for every situation. And that’s what we had last summer, and that’s what we’ll have now. We’re going to be prepared for anything that happens. We’ll deal with it”

•   I honestly believe Karnisovas when he suggests that he doesn’t have much of an immediate plan of action right now. While I’m sure he has a long-term goal and many thoughts to work through, he’s done a miraculous job of surveying the land and remaining flexible. In fact, I think that is the easiest way to remain aggressive. He doesn’t want to rule anything out or close any doors during this time of year. The more options he keeps open, the more chances he has to attack.

•   How the heck is this allowed?

•   Jimmy Butler = Still Good

•   The Cubs are starting to look more like the Cubs we expected.

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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