Thanks to injuries to---deep breath here---DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso, Goran Dragic, Derrick Jones Jr. Javonte Green and Lonzo Ball, rookie Dalen Terry logged a season-high 27 minutes and scored a season-high 13 points in the Chicago Bulls’ 112-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday night.
The Bulls enter the All-Star break on a season-high, six-game losing streak. They sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of the Indiana Pacers and as close to the 13th-place Orlando Magic as the 10th-place Toronto Raptors.
With two games to make up over the final 23 games merely to make the play-in picture, coach Billy Donovan fielded a question on whether or not Terry will remain in the rotation moving forward.
“I’ve got to see what we look like health-wise,” Donovan said. “With our roster, somebody is going to have to sit. I’m not saying that Dalen is the one who is going to be sitting. But somebody is going to have to.”
This was a telling answer, particularly since it came shortly after Donovan also fielded a question on whether his focus remains on making the playoffs.
“Yeah, that’s the goal,” Donovan said. “The goal is for us to be playing better basketball.”
Couple Donovan’s answer with executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas doubling down on his preseason expectation that the Bulls win a playoff series by reiterating on the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline day that his expectation is to make the playoffs. Then you have your answer on whether the Bulls plan to prioritize trying to improve their draft lottery positioning to keep a pick that conveys to Orlando unless it remains in the top-four selections or if they’ll gun for a playoff berth.
“This is our job. We’re not just throwing in the towel. I don’t think we have the type of team or personnel to do that,” Zach LaVine said. “Obviously, losing hurts and everybody is down and frustrated. But we’re coming in, doing our jobs every day. We’re the ones who are going to have to figure it out. Nobody else is.”
It’s an intriguing debate. Following Thursday’s loss, the Bulls sit seven games below .500 with the NBA’s seventh-worst record.
As it currently stands, the Bulls have a 32 percent chance to exit the draft lottery with a top-four pick, according to www.tankathon.com. If they dropped to the fifth-worst record, those odds would climb to 42.1 percent.
But with the Bulls currently owning the 10th-easiest schedule the remainder of the way and the publicly stated playoff expectations, draft lottery positioning is more a fantasy than reality.
“I still have a lot of belief in the group because of who they are,” Donovan said. “We’ve just got to try to find ways to improve.”
LaVine kept it real with his postgame and pre-All-Star-break assessment of where the Bulls stand.
“It’s not what we want. We have an uphill battle. Hopefully we can get away from it a little bit, recharge and come back a more hungry team,” LaVine said. “Obviously, what we’ve been doing isn’t good enough.”
Asked what his focus will be through the break and coming out of it, LaVine pointed to the team’s inconsistency. The Bulls have lost five games in which they led by 16 points or more.
“We have to stop beating ourselves. It’s a recurring theme,” LaVine said. “I think 1-15, guys are tired of losing and the miscues, especially in games that we’re leading.
“Your record is what it is. For us, we’ve shown we can beat anybody. We’re also able to lose to everybody too. You take it for what it is. Let it hurt. Let it sting. You can’t just keep avoiding it and thinking you’re something you’re not. Go out there and be better.”
The Bulls own the 24th-ranked offense heading into the All-Star break.
“Something isn’t working, obviously,” LaVine said. “Some games we’re really good. Some games we’re bad. Once again, it’s that consistency factor of figuring out what our identity is and what we’re going to be each game.
“Even if guys are in and out of the lineup, you see some teams that have consistency with what they do. They have an identity. That’s something we’re still trying to figure out in these last couple years. We changed our offense a little bit this year from last year. But it’s no excuse with the type of talent that we have on the team.”