“We played like s***,” he said.
If you think that blunt assessment woke the Bulls up, you didn’t watch them Sunday night when they gave up 150 points in a loss to a Timberwolves team without Karl-Anthony Towns or Rudy Gobert — the Bulls have lost four straight, 7-of-9, and have fallen to 11th in the East (out of even the play-in). After this latest ugly loss, players and coaches took turns shredding their own team’s effort, starting with Zach LaVine calling it “embarrassing.”
“Guys in here are talking. We’re trying to be leaders in our own way, but we’ve got to find a way to get it done. I mean, shoot, it ain’t like we’re not trying. We’re going out here talking a lot. We’ve just got to stop talking and go out there and do it. We’ll do it inconsistently, or consistently for one or two plays, but then won’t do it again. So it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for all of us. I know it’s frustrating for the fans. It’s embarrassing. We’re all a little embarrassed about it. At the end of the day, you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and be real about it and figure out how to come back and fight back.”
DeMar DeRozan was more direct.
“We gotta have that competitive nature like we had in Milwaukee every night. Like I grew up playing in the park where you want to go home with your ball. You want to fight and make sure you play with your ball and take your ball home. We gotta have that kind of attitude. Until we buckle down and realize, like, we’re leaving this park with our ball regardless, we gonna keep getting the same results. I’m tired of going home without a ball.”
Coach Billy Donovan deserves some blame for this slide, but a coach can only do so much if the players won’t execute the game plan. Donovan essentially threw things back on the players.
“We need to compete a whole lot better on the defensive end of the floor. And that’s five guys being connected. I can switch to zone. I can switch to different pick-and-roll coverages. But if the compete level is not high enough collectively as a group there, it doesn’t make a difference… You gotta line up and physically put your nose, your body, your spirit and soul in front of people.”
This Bulls’ slide has other teams thinking Chicago could get a seller at the trade deadline in February. While teams are interested in Zach LaVine, it’s considered highly unlikely the Bulls move on from a player they just signed to a max extension. Center Nikola Vucevic is reportedly considered available, and while other teams hope the Bulls would move on from DeRozan Chicago’s management reportedly has not been willing to go there. Yet.
If Chicago doesn’t snap this slide and turn things around, there needs to be some soul-searching and hard decisions made in the Bulls’ front office.