Bulls

Bulls tally season-low in points in embarrassing loss to Bucks

Bulls tally season-low in points in embarrassing loss to Bucks

Fred Hoiberg punched a basketball in disgust as some unusual effort from his team went unrewarded — as Jimmy Butler dove on the floor to retrieve a loose ball, only for Rajon Rondo to throw it to nobody in particular, leading to a Jabari Parker uncontested dunk.

The play wasn’t symbolic of the Bulls’ effort because that would imply the result of the home-and-home set with the Milwaukee Bucks had something to do with tough luck.

The Bulls didn’t show up after being embarrassed Thursday, deciding to test their act out in front of their home floor with a 95-69 drubbing, a third straight loss and one that ranks among the worst showings in the Hoiberg era.

“Coaches, players, we’re all accountable,” Hoiberg said. “Starting with me, I gotta get us playing more consistently.”

Pushed back to .500, the Bulls are seemingly back to square one. Count Butler among those who aren’t the big believers in team meetings and get-togethers to hash things out.

“It’s all hype. We know what we’re capable of. We know what to do,” Butler said. “We gotta go our there and execute. We don’t need to sit in a circle and hold each other’s hands and talk about all of that. We don’t talk that much on the floor, that’s where the problem begins.

“We gotta help each other. We gotta be vocal. We don’t have to feel sorry for ourselves and sit around in a circle and pat each other on the back.”

They weren’t patted on the back by the unforgiving United Center crowd, as it booed though most of the night, especially as the Bucks lead ballooned to 72-44 in the third quarter.

“I don’t wanna hear no boos, nobody in here wanna hear no boos. We’ll be better next game,” Butler said.

If there were any positives, Hoiberg was likely loathe to locate them. The Bulls shot 30 percent, had a season low in points and allowed the Bucks to run all over the floor, with Giannis Antetokounmpo doing chin-ups on the rim with show-off dunks and plays — earning a technical foul for his efforts midway through the fourth quarter with his team up 24 points.

“Collectively we have to find a way to get out of it,” Hoiberg said. “We have to find a way to regroup, we have to do it together and play together through this rough patch, that’s the only way we know how, is to work.”

The law of averages did not work out, as Antetokounmpo scored 22 with 11 assists and seven rebounds in 35 minutes. He routinely worked the Bulls’ bigs in pick and roll situations as the de-facto point guard, finding players like John Henson or Greg Monroe for easy layups.

Six Bucks scored in double figures, and they seemingly showed no fear to the Bulls being a somewhat formidable veteran team, with Monroe scoring 14 points and grabbing 12 boards off the bench.

Emboldened by handling the Bulls for the better part of 40 minutes as opposed to discouraged by not winning by a larger amount, they immediately restarted the dismantling from the outset.

Once again, they were quicker and faster, jumping higher and playing stronger. And with 24 hours to get the Bulls ready and motivated, they conjured next to nothing in the way of meaningful adjustments.

“They got us again with rebounding and turnovers and not getting back and building a wall defensively,” Hoiberg said. “It starts with communication and we’ve taken a step back in that area.”

Whether Hoiberg doesn’t have the horses to perform in the way of the young players or his message isn’t getting across, the Bucks seem to be the perfect team to exploit their weaknesses — a model other teams are sure to follow in the coming weeks as the Bucks ran the Bulls out of their own building, and the Bulls had nothing to fall back on.

“I don’t wanna talk about the gameplan,” Butler said. “That stays in the locker room with all due respect. We didn’t come out and execute or do whatever the gameplan (called for).”

Leading by 19 after the first quarter, the Bucks either made the Bulls quit or the Bulls failed to show up — as Nikola Mirotic didn’t make it to the afternoon walkthrough after he didn’t play Thursday night and Hoiberg likely punished him for this offense by leaving him as the only Bull in uniform not to play.

But it wasn’t like the ones who did play brought anything besides their bodies, as they shot 22 percent in the first quarter and didn’t cross the 30 percent mark until late in the fourth quarter, when members of their roster who have shuffled back and forth from the D-League finished the game.

Butler looked a little slow for the second straight night, scoring just seven points with six assists and seven rebounds in 31 minutes. Dwyane Wade scored 12 points on five of 14 shooting.

The Bulls started off December with confidence, buoyed by a strong road mark in November. But midway through a home-laden schedule, one has to wonder if this will get very, very ugly.

“If we don’t believe in ourselves, it can get pretty bad pretty fast,” Butler said.

Indeed, it can.

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.