Frustration continues to mount for Bulls


Frustration continues to mount for Bulls

From hearing how theyre not the same team from the past two seasons without Derrick Rose and the Bench Mob, and no consistency in the principles that put them in title conversations during that stretch, the Bulls' 6-7 start can be summed up in one obvious word -- frustration.

Those issues seemed to all culminate in their 93-92 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, as they watched a 27-point third-quarter lead evaporate courtesy of Milwaukees reserves, who closed the game by outscoring the Bulls 42-12 over the final 14:50 of play.

Im stunned, just on the simple fact that when you have a 27-point lead, and the way that we defend, you never expect a team to make a run like that, especially to play harder than us in the fourth, said Richard Hamilton, who scored a season-high 30 points, also his most as a Bull.

You have a team down, you have to keep them down, he continued. We kind of gave them a little bit of confidence at the end of the third quarter. Once they got rolling, we couldnt stop them.

For two-and-a-half quarters, the Bulls appeared on their way to their 10th straight win over Central Division foes, but whether due to fatigue, lack of focus or a combination of both they fell apart.

We didnt look like the same team, Kirk Hinrich said. It seemed like we just kind of got away from everything we were doing to get the lead. Obviously, youre going to make mistakes out there, but we kind of compounded them, and they capitalized on them."

The rotation has been in question as well as the collective production of the reserve unit and thats sure to continue as no starter played less than 38 minutes in the loss, with Luol Deng playing a game-high 47.

While it is unfair to compare given that statistic, the Bucks reserves outscored the Bulls 56-10.

The loss is the fourth in five games for the Bulls.

While its still early in the season, the standard they have come to expect from themselves makes the way theyre losing the more disappointing.

The loss counts the same as the six that came before it and with 69 games remaining, they wont dwell on this, given coach Thibodeaus penchant on not looking back. But unless they find some answers, more frustrating losses will continue to pile up. Even when they looked their best, it only took a desperate group of reserves to make them look average.

You never have a game won until the final horn goes off, said a frustrated Thibodeau. In this league, if youre not a 48-minute team, youre asking for trouble. As soon as you start feeling good about yourself, youre going to get knocked on your expletive and thats what happened.

You have to play 48 minutes in this league, and we still have a long way to go in that area.

Robin Lopez continues to contribute as 'great example,' mentor for young Bulls


Robin Lopez continues to contribute as 'great example,' mentor for young Bulls

Robin Lopez hasn’t exactly had a season to remember in Year 3 with the Bulls. The longest tenured player on the rebuilding Bulls, Lopez has seen his starting spot relinquished during the preseason, he’s been a healthy scratch in half of the team’s 14 games and has struggled in the extended minutes he’s seen this past week.

But Lopez, ever the professional and positive presence in the locker room – with his framed Britney Spears picture still in view – is still having an impact. Specifically, the mentoring he’s given rookie Wendell Carter Jr. is one of the reasons the Bulls’ seventh overall pick has been able to succeed so early in his NBA career.

“Robin’s great for this young group of guys. He’s played already a couple different roles,” Fred Hoiberg said. “And any time you can show the guys the right way to approach that, be professional about it and still be a mentor throughout the tough times, it’s a great example. He’s a great role model for our young players.

“He’s really taken Wendell under his wing. You look at what Cris and Bobby did in their first couple years in the league. He had those same impact on those guys.”

When Lopez arrived in Chicago via the Derrick Rose trade, the Bulls were still competing. He started 81 games in 2016-17, averaging 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in 28.0 minutes, the most he had played since his first season in Portland.

But Lopez became a victim of the Bulls tank last season, starting 64 games but sitting 18 of the final 26 contests. Lopez only played in eight of those games as a result of the NBA stepping in and asking the Bulls to play their veterans – Lopez and Justin Holiday – more. Lopez averaged just 16.9 minutes in those games.

Lopez began the year as the starter but Carter quickly established himself as the foundation of the defense while also showing off an offensive skill set that complemented the backcourt.

Through the demotion and healthy scratches Lopez has taken on a mentor role, not dissimilar to the one fellow veterans took on for him in his early seasons as a pro in New Orleans.

“I’ve been really fortunate in the league,” Lopez said. “I’ve had a lot of great veterans myself, but even if I hadn’t I have a great joy playing with these guys, being around these guys. We have a great group of guys, a great group of teammates. I’d be a huge jackass if I weren’t to do that, you know?’’

Since rejoining the rotation in New York, Lopez has averaged a paltry 2.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 17.2 minutes. He has blocked five shots, including a pivotal one in the final seconds of regulation against the Knicks. He’s been an abled body off the bench to spell Carter – or eat minutes if the rookie is in foul trouble – or a more viable option for Felicio, who has struggled in his own right.

The on-court production is what it is, but Lopez’s teaching role has mattered more to a Bulls team sitting at 4-9 while they await the return of four rotation players.

“Coming out of a timeout or when guys come over, whether we’re going through a good stretch or a bad one, he’s always the first one to go up to Wendell and talk to him about things that he sees on the floor,” Hoiberg said. “He just has such a great feel for doing the right thing out there.”

It’s a role he’ll play for as long as he’s with the Bulls. When Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis return the Bulls’ frontcourt minutes will be swallowed up, and odds are the Bulls will want to continue trying out Felicio based solely on the money the Bulls owe him the next two-plus seasons. Lopez, a free agent at season’s end, likely hasn’t done enough to fetch anything considerable in a trade and doesn’t offer much as an expiring contract.

But that won’t stop him from continuing to compete, push the younger players in practice and attempt to create a winning culture in Chicago.

"Everybody here, we’re competitive guys,” he said. “We want that to be us. Wherever I am I want us to be winning, I’m a competitive player. You see me on the floor getting technicals and generally shouting at the refs, but occasionally other people too. I’m a competitive guy. I want to be winning wherever I am.’’

Gustav Forsling call-up comes at perfect time for Blackhawks


Gustav Forsling call-up comes at perfect time for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks recalled defenseman Gustav Forsling from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League and placed forward Marcus Kruger (left leg) on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 9, the team announced Tuesday.

Forsling, who underwent wrist surgery in the offseason, was sent to Rockford on Oct. 22 perhaps more-so as a conditioning stint and appeared in five games. He missed four contests with a groin injury, but is coming off a two-assist game against the Chicago Wolves over the weekend.

Forsling had three goals and 10 assists in 41 games with the Blackhawks last season before getting assigned to the IceHogs for the remainder of the campaign, where he recorded five points (two goals, three assists) in 18 regular-season games and five points (one goal, four assists) in 13 postseason contests.

The Blackhawks' roster currently sits at 23 players, so it appears they will carry eight defensemen for now despite the team's reluctance to do so again this season after it backfired a year ago. Brandon Davidson (right leg injury) did not practice on Tuesday, which could be the reason for bringing up Forsling.

But his call-up certainly comes at a desperate time for the Blackhawks, who have lost eight in a row (0-6-2) and could use all the help they can get on the back end.

In other positive news, Connor Murphy skated in full gear for the first time in months as he continues to recover from a back injury. He's still a ways away from practicing, but this was the next step in his recovery process.