Bulls

Dwyane Wade vents after Bulls blown out by Celtics

Dwyane Wade vents after Bulls blown out by Celtics

BOSTON — Of all the metrics that could be described to best illustrate yet another disappointing effort for the Bulls in their 100-80 loss to the Boston Celtics Sunday afternoon at TD Garden, one snapshot stands out as they simply submitted from the opening tip.

On consecutive possessions after turnovers and misses, only one Bull crossed halfcourt as the Celtics increased their lead to 29 with uncontested layups in the third quarter.

It prompts the question, given the five-game losing streak and the manner in which it’s happened recently, of whether the Bulls have given up on the season — despite being in playoff contention.

"No, I don’t think we're giving up," Jimmy Butler said. "We're just not playing any type of good basketball as a whole. We gotta get back to winning basics before we can try to do anything else. Getting back in transition. Guarding the way we’re supposed to be. Taking the right shots. I'm sure we're gonna talk about that for awhile before we play Charlotte.

"But we're not giving up, I can tell you that."

Not much changed from Friday night's showing or strategy against the Houston Rockets. Fred Hoiberg played 11 players in the first half, with only Michael Carter-Williams being the change.

"It's tough," Dwyane Wade said. "Especially when you're playing teams that's ready for the playoffs, besides Orlando. It's all been playoff teams and they're ready. They know what they gotta do. We're still… experimenting."

Whether it actually played a part in the Bulls' worst first quarter and first half showing is up for speculation, but shooting three for 22 in the first quarter against a Celtics team that wasn't playing swarming defense.

"I don't think it was a lack of competing but a lack of shot making," Hoiberg said. "Missed some really good looks and turned it over four times in that span. But to answer your question, the vets are staying positive and that's the only way I can judge it right now."

They missed their first 12 shots from the field before Wade bailed them out with a jumper and the Celtics jumped out to a 20-4 lead as the Bulls mustered just nine points in the quarter.

Wade, who finished a career-low minus-37 on the plus-minus scale, offered some level of shelter for Hoiberg, as the Bulls coach and players have been put in an impossible position since the trade deadline.

"It does, it does. A lot of people have a lot of things they can say about Fred as a coach but I will defend him on this: this is a tough situation he's been put in," Wade said. "I'm glad I'm on this side, glad I got a jersey and I don't have to make certain decisions because it is tough. No one is going care too much, Fred gets a nice paycheck, I got a nice paycheck, Jimmy gets a nice paycheck. This 2016-17, we all go down together no matter what the story is. And it's on us."

Watching his words given how calling his teammates out went several weeks ago, Wade was asked if it was fair of him to answer questions about a situation no one in the locker room created.

"I don't know. I wish upper management could be answering the questions because I'm tired of answering them every game," Wade said. "I don't know. I wish I had the answer. I don't wanna say too much, I don't wanna say the wrong thing. I just wanna get out there, try to play and lead. Figure out a way me and Jimmy can be better. Right now they're just watching us on pick and rolls, we gotta find a way to be better, so we can help everybody else be better."

Wade might've washed out his defense of Hoiberg when Wade suggested he and Butler are too easy to guard, saying "pick and rolls, that ain't it." Wade said he and Butler would have to get with the coaching staff before Monday's game in Charlotte to try to figure out new strategies to get them easier looks — because at this stage, opponents have figured the Bulls out and the word is spreading to trap Wade and Butler, then wait on the house of cards to fall from there.

The nine was the season-low for any quarter this season — which was one short of the players Hoiberg used in the first as Nikola Mirotic was further embarrassed by being listed as inactive in place of Isaiah Canaan.

Butler's post-All Star slump continued as he shot just two for 11, but it wasn't as bad as Bobby Portis' nightmare.

Airballs, turnovers, you name it, Portis probably did it as he struggled as much as he has at any point during this stretch since the trade of Taj Gibson.

The problem is, he wasn't the only one as the Celtics didn't break a sweat. Wade shot four for 11. Joffrey Lauvergne was one for seven. Rajon Rondo was one for five.

Overall, the Bulls shot 36 percent as Denzel Valentine made a dent in the scoring column with 13 but all came when the game was out of reach — and the playoffs look not too far behind.

Once the Celtics' lead reached double figures at 10-0 with 7:44 left in the first quarter, the Bulls never got it under 10.

There was no need for an Isaiah Thomas explosion, although he and Avery Bradley had a field day against the Bulls' guards. Thomas scored 22 and Bradley 17, with each playing under 30 minutes.

Rookie Jaylen Brown showed some signs why he'll be a big piece in any trade discussions this summer, with a couple highlight plays in his 21 minutes.

But the Celtics didn't blow out the Bulls with red-hot shooting or otherworldly efficiency, although they corralled plenty of loose balls and hit 14 triples.

They simply didn't need to bring their best game because their opponent forgot to bring any game to TD Garden.

Tomas Satoransky's key to finding footing with Bulls after adverse 2019-20

Tomas Satoransky's key to finding footing with Bulls after adverse 2019-20

NBC Sports Chicago is breaking down the 15 full-time players on the Bulls' roster. Next up is Tomas Satoransky.

Past: Zach LaVine | Coby White

2019-20 Stats

9.9 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.9 RPG | 43% FG, 32.2% 3P, 87.6% FT | 16.5% USG

Contract Breakdown

Age: 28

July 2019: Signed 3-year, $30 million contract (partial guarantee on third season)

2020-21: $10,000,000 | 2021-22: $10,000,000* 

*$5,000,000 guaranteed, fully guaranteed on June 30, 2021

(via Spotrac)

Strengths

Satoransky is always available and a wonderful team player — he and Coby White were the only Bulls to appear in all 65 of the team’s games, and Sato led the Bulls in assists per game and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.72) in 2019-20. His advanced feel for the game and willingness to jabber on the floor make him an effective traffic director, and his 6-foot-7 build allows him to see over the tops of defenses to find teammates.

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When he’s “on” offensively, that translates into an effective drive-and-kick game, and his track record is one of an good spot-up shooter. He’s a veteran, solid team defender and one of the more congenial guys on the team. Not a break-down-the-defense player, which factored into him having a limited impact on the Bulls' offense this season, but a capable glue guy on the floor and off it.

Areas to Improve

Though Satoransky posted career-high counting stats across the board in his first season as an NBA starter, his inaugural campaign with the Bulls didn’t live up to his or the team’s expectations after his signing was widely lauded in the 2019 offseason. The highs were high, but they were too few and far between by season's end. White usurped him in the starting lineup in the Bulls' final game before the hiatus, via a combination of the rookie’s torrid play and Satoransky’s uneven production. In line with his character, Satoransky handled the demotion with grace.

The quickest way for Sato to right the ship is to bounce back in the shooting department. A huge part of his sell as a free agent signing was his ability to complement Zach LaVine in the starting backcourt as a facilitator and off-ball scoring threat. The former panned out at times, the latter not as much. Satoransky entered 2019-20 a 44.5% catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter (1.5 attempts per game) in his past two seasons. In 2019-20: 32.9% on 2.6 attempts per, and he made just 26.8% of all of his long-range looks from December on. 

The good news: He’s reportedly working with renowned shooting coach Stefan Weissenböck this offseason, who Satoransky has credited with drastic improvements to his jumper in the past — chiefly, a leap from 24.3% to 46.3% from deep between his first and second NBA seasons. Him finding his footing there could unlock a lot for his game and the Bulls offense, even if he’s relegated to a reserve role moving forward.

Ceiling Projection

Satoransky would be an integral role player on most any team in the league. He’s not the Bulls’ point guard of the long- or short-term future — that slot is best reserved for White or their impending top-10 draftee. But as, say, a seventh man, he can be useful for a young team in need of a steady hand at the controls for spurts. And his $10 million salary for next season, plus a partial guarantee for 2021-22, isn’t overly-debilitating to the Bulls' books. We’ll call his ceiling a top-five reserve lead guard in the NBA, and a capable spot starter.

Whether he sticks in Chicago depends on the new front office regime's impression of his game, and draft fates.

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Why Jimmy Butler wants to play without name or social justice message on jersey

Why Jimmy Butler wants to play without name or social justice message on jersey

Jimmy Butler has always been comfortable taking the road less traveled.

So his answer to whether he’ll wear one of the league-approved social justice messages on the back of his Miami Heat jersey shouldn’t surprise.

“I have decided not to. With that being said, I hope that my last name doesn’t go on there as well,” Butler said during his remote media availability session from the NBA’s restart on the Disney World campus in Florida. “I love and respect all the messages that the league did choose. But for me, I felt like with no message, with no name, it’s going back to like who I was. And if I wasn’t who I was today, I’m no different than anybody else of color.

“And I want that to be my message in the sense that just because I’m an NBA player, everybody has the same rights no matter what. That’s how I feel about my people of color.”

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Butler would need NBA approval for his unique idea. If he received it, it would symbolically place him back in the same status of anonymity as many African-Americans who have experienced police brutality, a crucial point in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I’m hoping I get that opportunity though,” Butler said. “I really am.”

Butler admitted he considered sitting out the league’s 22-team restart to make a statement in that fashion, a strong admission from one of the league’s most competitive players. But ultimately, the former Bulls All-Star forward said just as much positive impact can occur by playing.

“Being away from your family is hard. What’s going on in the world right now it’s hard. But being here, it’s also hard. It’s not easy for anybody,” he said. “But we get the opportunity to talk amongst each other, learn about each other and everybody’s stories that’s here. And knowing that we’re all in this together, we’re all in this for the greater good. And I can tell you that everybody here is with the equality because it’s real. It needs to happen. There just has to be more action behind it.”

Butler called life inside the so-called bubble “easy,” a testament to the intricate and exhaustive planning undertaken by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association. The Heat have been one of the surprise stories of the NBA season, and Butler offered a colorful answer when asked how he kept sharp during the four-month hiatus since COVID-19 paused the league.

“The whole thing was just find a way to compete, whether it be at cards or at dominoes or a footrace, whatever it is. Keep your mind thinking, ‘I have to be the best. I have to win,’” Butler said. “And then as far as working out goes, if you have a gym at your house or a basket, yeah, go ahead. Work out. Shoot. But just ride the bike. Lift some weights. Do some yoga. Do some pilates, whatever that might be. And I think the Miami Heat did a great job of using Zoom to do pilates, yoga, lift together, talk. I think that was huge to getting back to where we are right now.”

Back in April, Butler even sent portable baskets to all his teammates. So, yes, Butler is ready. He always is.

RELATED: 'He looks great': What a reinvigorated Joakim Noah can bring to title-contending Clippers

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