That’s how the Chicago Bulls have always believed — or sometimes even said — that the sub-.500 teams they faced were the ones they should beat.
Those below .500 said the same about the Bulls.
The Charlotte Hornets on Thursday became the latest team to embarrass the Bulls, who are tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference with the Washington Wizards. By the way, who currently owns the tiebreaker, is two wins out of three with one game left in the season series as they won one game in the absence of Bradley Beal , and the Bulls again thought they deserved to win.
It’s not a good look.
As Billy Donovan told reporters in Charlotte after the game, the Bulls need to play more desperately. By this point, it’s clear how little room for error this team has if it wants to win; they’ve now lost to the team with the fewest road wins (Houston Rockets) and the team with the fewest home wins (Hornets).
So, blow it up, right? This is still a vision, not a realistic scenario.
For starters, the Bulls are less than two years away from this new management regime, which is destroying what it inherited from its predecessor. That leaves only Zach LaVine and Coby White.
Artūras Karnišovas observed half a season and a full season of young players like Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen, respectively, and concluded that he didn’t like the direction the team was going. So he traded Carter Jr. for Nikola Vucevic in March 2021, thereby putting the Bulls into winning mode — or at least competitive relevance.
The offseason brought more big moves. The Bulls acquired DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball in a sign-and-trade, added Alex Caruso via free agency, and traded a disgruntled Markkanen for Derry Jr. G Jones and a future lottery-protected first-round pick.
Ball’s two knee surgeries and extended absence — he hasn’t played since January 2022 and there’s no timetable for his return — have undercut management’s vision for continuity. Like Derrick Rose’s torn ACL and barrage of knee injuries, The Last Regiment’s attempts to keep its short title window alive were paralyzed.
Let’s define “blow up” as trading two of the Bulls’ “Big Three” — LaVine, DeRozan and Vucevic — before the Feb. 9 trade deadline. Perhaps only by trading DeRozan can he get the greatest return.
Of the two scenarios, the first is sure to surprise several rival executives NBC Sports Chicago spoke to recently, and their current impression is that Karnišovas wants to see him use a lot of draft money to assemble games. Core. Ball’s stalled return prevents that from happening.
Not sure if yet another troubling loss and a team with a clear record of maddening regression after leaps and bounds will sway Karnišovas’ thinking. While trading DeRozan remains a non-starter, it would certainly make up for some lost draft money.
The player to watch is Vucevic. While trading him would basically be an admission of error given the price tag to acquire him, losing him for nothing in unrestricted free agency this offseason would be even worse. It’s management’s job to balance short-term and long-term plans, and of course it’s important to understand Vucevic’s offseason intentions at this point.
As far as Donovan is concerned, the Bulls are taking it easy on too many games. They haven’t consistently shown a sense of urgency over high-profile victories like the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
They also lack shooting ability, as evidenced by their league-worst 29 three-point attempts per game, and they lack legitimate two-way players.
In contrast, their 29 three-point attempts are almost two full threes behind the 29th-ranked Atlanta Hawks and trail the ludicrous 43.3 attempts of the No. 1 Golden State Warriors.
As for two-way players, Ball is the best, and he hasn’t played in more than a calendar year.
On Thursday night, the second-half lead was broken again. Donovan pointed to turnovers, too many fouls and too many second-chance scoring as culprits for this to happen.
Playing harder, with more urgency, with greater strength, and with better execution is Donovan’s plan to break through the current predicament. For now, blowing up the roster is still a no-go.
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