At first, I was just a disappointed dad.
Losing to San Antonio and Orlando felt like that typical sitcom troupe of finding out my kid turned an F into an A. While it was wrong of them to try to hide the mistake, the fact they hid it in the first place at least signaled an element of shame. And, after we sat down for our family-friendly talk with soft strings playing in the background, I believed they felt bad and embarrassed about the outcome. I also believed they would try to make it up to me.
But then came OKC, Houston, Washington, and OKC again. Apologies followed, but they felt increasingly hollow. It’s been hard for my disappointment not to turn into flat-out anger. Why haven’t things changed? Where is the effort? How can you keep making the same mistakes?
- I genuinely don’t understand this Bulls team. Right when I think they have finally figured things out, they string together three-straight losses (two of which were against supposedly inferior teams). This ability to show up against superstar squads and disappear against the rest screams a lack of discipline and leadership.
- I know it can always sound a bit meathead-y to complain about those intangibles, but the Bulls have left me no choice. For as many holes as they have on this roster, they have at least proven they can hang with some of the best. There is no reason they should repeatedly struggle this much to take care of business.
- This all just feels like a game of mental gymnastics. The players win one battle against the Celtics and think they’re back on track. Then, they play down to a couple of teams like the Rockets and Thunder and get their butts whooped. The embarrassment is enough to inspire them the next time they play the Nets or Bucks … and the cycle starts all over again. The effort is just startlingly inconsistent, and we need to look no further than the defensive end to see just that.
- The Bulls let a Thunder team on the backend of a back-to-back outwork them from the opening tip. Whether it be getting blown by at the point of attack or allowing straight drives to the basket in transition, the Bulls’ defense stunk worse than a three-week-old Italian beef. OKC’s 19th-ranked offense shot 51.1 percent from the field and won the points in the paint battle an embarrassing 64-44. While they undoubtedly have a handful of gifted young players, in no world should the margin be this staggering, especially when the Bulls have the size advantage and also must rely on scoring inside.
“They were straight-line driving us,” Billy Donovan said. “We knew going in they’re a hard-driving team. We just were unable to stop a little bit shorter and guard the ball one-on-one. They’re coming to you. And we were beat so much off the dribble.”
- In another display of poor effort, the Bulls also turned the ball over 16 times and allowed the Thunder to score 23 points off those turnovers. This comes one game after they allowed the Wizards to score a pivotal 19 points off their 12 turnovers. Combine these careless cough-ups and poor transition defense with their inability to prevent their opponents from feasting on offensive rebounds … and the number of ways they can beat themselves feels overwhelming.
“The one thing you have to be careful of is you can be in a situation where you make all these schematic changes and be good at nothing,” Donovan told NBC Sports Chicago after the game. “I believe we can guard the ball better. Are they getting the message? Yes. But there’s a difference between getting the message and going out there and executing it over the course of the game.”
- To make matters worse, Zach LaVine might not be 100 percent. He popped up on the injury report ahead of last night’s game with a hand issue. While he was listed as “probable” and downplayed the injury after shootaround, it became pretty clear that something was off during the game. LaVine was still able to put together a solid 25-point showing, but he shot just 5-19 from the field and 1-8 from downtown. Getting to the free throw was clearly the top priority, and he touched on that after the game, per 670 The Score’s Cody Westerlund.
- “You drive the ball when you can’t shoot,” LaVine said. “That’s what happens when you have a torn ligament.” No doubt this comment raised eyebrows, but the team reportedly confirmed after the game that LaVine isn’t dealing with any ligament issues. Regardless, though, it’s clear the injury is impacting how he approaches things. And that’s a huge bummer when we consider how well he’s played in recent weeks.
- Shoutout Caruso. Now, how about the rest of the team?
- That works for me!
- Reminder: BN NFL is now a thing!