A familiar theme has arisen from opposing teams when they take the floor against the younger Bulls. Teams like the Pacers and Nets the past week have taken it to the Bulls, defining a style of play that appears to have both frustrated and intimidated the Bulls.
There aren’t any real statistics to back up or refute the assertion, but the Bulls are feeling it and know it needs to change.
“I just think we need to be more physical. I feel like when teams see us they can take advantage of us at times in the game and I don’t think that’s a good trait to have as a team,” Zach LaVine said, reiterating a point he made after Sunday’s loss to the Nets. “I think overall we need to be tougher.”
The Bulls are doing their best to shy away from the excuse, but the reality is they’re a young team. After dealing Justin Holiday to the Grizzlies last week, the Bulls now have one player older than 26 years old – Robin Lopez. LaVine has the second most experience on the team behind Lopez, and he won’t turn 24 for another two months.
On any given night, unless Phoenix is in town, the Bulls are the younger, less experienced group on the floor. Playing with that physical edge doesn’t come easily and hasn’t come easily, but the Bulls know they need to start moving that process along to see results better than their current 10-30 record. Cond
“I think our physicality individually needs to grow,” Jim Boylen said. “Getting open on the wing, fighting for that catch on that wing Fighting for htat post catch. Playing lower. Narrowing the floor to get open. All those things are physical, competitive things.
“I think sometimes you've just got to get a guy off you. You've got to get him off you, man. You've got to make a stand.”
There, of course, is a mental component to toughness as well. Boylen admitted that the Bulls’ biggest issue right now is allowing early in-game struggles to snowball. The Bulls have made ugly quarters a trademark this season, and there simply isn’t enough talent to recover from deficits caused by them.
“I think these days it’s recovering from a mistake,” Boylen said when asked what constitutes toughness in today’s NBA. “The ability to recover from an in-game failure, maybe a poor quarter. Can you mentally right the ship in your mind and battle through it? I talk to our guys about if you start poorly, are you going to have a bad game? Or are you going to compete?
“If you start well, can you sustain it and make the adjustments when the defense adjusts to you? That mental edge and toughness, some of it is maturity. Some is experience. There’s physical toughness, mental toughness. There’s bringing a consistent edge. I think all those things are part of it.”