Bulls suffer third blowout loss to Bucks this month

Bulls suffer third blowout loss to Bucks this month

Well, at least the Bulls cured their ills of having slow starts in their recent losses.

They’ll have to hope that 2017 brings about more solutions for the other three quarters, though.

The Bulls finished up their 2016 portion of their schedule with a new starting lineup and wonderful new vibes for the first 12 minutes but finished out with the same old familiar result against the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center, losing 116-96 Saturday night.

Fred Hoiberg made the expected decision of benching Rajon Rondo in favor of Michael Carter-Williams and it provided a momentary energy boost — emphasis on “momentary”.

Carter-Williams had a pretty no-look flip pass to Dwyane Wade in the first quarter from halfcourt that resulted in a dunk on a play in which both he and Jimmy Butler dove on the floor for loose balls.

In general, the Bulls played with more fervor to start the game, shooting 48 percent and taking a 10-point lead. Butler had a low-key start but finished with 26 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

But it wasn’t sustainable as the Bucks held the Bulls to 17 of 44 shooting in the middle two quarters — as the Bulls again failed to identify the rare hot shooter. Friday it was Doug McDermott who went AWOL. Saturday it was Nikola Mirotic who started off three for three in the first but didn’t get another shot until the start of the fourth.

Perhaps he was quarantined off by the massive arms of Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was literally everywhere at all times.

There may be no bigger matchup problem for the Bulls in the East than the Bucks and Antetokounmpo signifies that more than anybody, as he finished with 35 points on just 19 shots to go along with nine rebounds, seven assists, seven blocks and a measly two steals.

After the short surge, the game drastically got away from the Bulls as the Bucks kept pushing, kept jumping and never stopped running.

[MORE BULLS: Rajon Rondo on receiving explanation for benching: 'Negative']

Rookie Malcolm Brogdon, a second-round find for the Bucks, had a triple-double with 15 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in 39 minutes

Antetokounmpo had five blocks in the first half, often triggering their potent fast break. And when he wasn’t underneath the Bulls’ fingertips, he was above the rim — on both ends. Rising above for rebounds, flying over and posing for dunks.

At one moment in the third quarter, with his team firmly in control of whatever the Bulls were doing, he smiled and rubbed his hands together like they were cold — but he had his hands on the ball and game so much, he probably didn’t know what it was like to be without it.

He was aided by a familiar face to this area in Jabari Parker, who scored 27 with five rebounds and three assists

Parker, the Chicago native who had a slow start to his career after a storied prep stint, has truly begun to find his footing and stuck it right in the middle of the Bulls’ defense, using his 250-pound frame to bully the Bulls inside and while on the perimeter just rose above defenders to unleash a silky smooth jumper.

He hit a triple midway through the fourth with the shot clock running down, easily solving the Bulls’ defense after the first quarter. In sharp contrast to the Bulls’ decline, the Bucks scored 58 points in the middle two quarters and shot 22 of 37 from the field, with Greg Monroe scoring 15 with 12 rebounds off the bench.

It became fairly obvious where things were headed — and they went there quite quickly.

Onto 2017, uncertain days ahead for these Chicago Bulls.

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.