Bulls

Bulls' mentality must change in a hurry

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Bulls' mentality must change in a hurry

The key number after the Bulls Saturday-night loss to the Suns at the United Center wasnt the 97-81 final score.

Its the teams home record, which fell to 10-10 on the season after losing to the second-worst team in the Western Conference, previously losers of 12 consecutive road games and playing in their fourth game in five nights.

Making the defeat even more jarring is the fact that just the previous evening, the Bulls played mostly brilliantly in taking down one of the Eastern Conference elite teams, the Knicks, in the hostile environment of Madison Square Garden.

It can happen once in a great while thats part of the game but its too much, so I have to figure it out. My job is to have us ready and we have to play with more intensity, more of an edge and were not doing that, so we have to correct that, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said afterwards. We have to be ready for everybody and we have to know everybody, inside and out. We have to do better with that. I have to do better with that. I have to make sure were ready. Ive got to get intensity out of our team. Ive got to take a hard look at everything right now.

Its a team-wide thing and when youre having success, you do that together and when youre struggling, you do that together. We have to circle the wagons. Weve got to take a hard look at everything that were doing and everyone has to do it, starting with me, so Ive got to get more out of our team and thats my job, he continued. Theres no such thing in the NBA as a non-marquee team, in my eyes. If youre a player in this league, you are a great player and everybody that youre playing against, every team that youre playing against, is capable of beating you and so, I think the teams that ultimately have great success, it comes down to the degree of how hard youre willing to play each and every night, the degree of how smart youre willing to play each and every night and the degree of how together youre willing to play each and every night, and thats what separates teams. Every team in this league is extremely talented, from top to bottom, so its your willingness to make that commitment for each other, understanding readiness to play, how important the first quarter is and its easy in this league, to get sidetracked and distracted.

When you have the right type of commitment thats necessary to win, you dont allow that stuff to get in the way. Youre ready whenever they tell you to throw the ball up, youre ready. If they say, were playing at midnight on the roof, you should be saying, lets get the ladders. Thats the way it is. Youve got to have the right guys.

Thats certainly a mouthful especially the classic, get the ladders remark but all of it is pertinent. Thibodeaus players, while phrasing things a bit differently, share similar sentiments, particularly the holdovers, who are used to the Bulls giving a consistently hard effort on a nightly basis, regardless of the competition, and dominating at the United Center.

Weve got to fix it. I think if we all knew what the problem was, wed try to do something. But shootarounds are the same time. Weve got to compete, compete harder, play together and play for one another. But I think that it just was not a great effort tonight. They played very well. The way we competed was not great, Joakim Noah said. Its not any given night. Thats the problem. Were 10-10 at home. Thats not very good; thats very average, so theres obviously a problem if were going on the road, beating some of the best teams and coming home against lower-echelon teams, and not competing,

I think its okay to be wrapped up in big wins and I think youre supposed to be happy after you win. When its the big game, we come ready to play. We have to make a conscious effort as players, as coaches everybody I feel like we complain way too much. When things arent going our way, we have to find a way to stick together more because its just too negative. We have to support one another when things arent going well because right now, things arent going our way. Its like its the end of the world and you have to move on to the next play, and unite together because I dont feel like were doing that right now.

Luol Deng, who uncharacteristically picked up a technical foul in the contest, chimed in: I just think we could play a lot harder than we did tonight. Whatever you want to call it relax or thinking that were that good and were just going to walk over them its a lot of things. The bottom line is its an NBA team, theyve got good players, youve got to respect that, come out and get the job done.

Its a long season. Every team has their problems or their issues, whatever you want to call it, and what makes you a good team is recognizing those things and getting better at it. I think right now were showing up in the big games and games like tonight, especially at home, where weve got to dig deep and find a way to be a better team because so far, we havent been, he continued. Every team, if you go up and down the league, even the team with the best record, they have something theyre not good at or something that they need to improve, and I think right now, we need to tackle that. At the beginning of the year, it was playing the whole 48 minutes. I think were getting better at that and now, its games like this weve got to get up for.

Whether its the Suns or Knicks, the Heat in Miami or the Bobcats at home on a holiday, the Bulls game-to-game mentality must change in a hurry. In the past, they didnt play down to competition and defended home court, regardless of circumstances, and to a man, one got the feeling from observing the competitive bunch, if Thibodeau informed them that they had a game at midnight, theyd be willing to get the ladders.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.