A few weeks ago, Alex Caruso was talking about the two players—DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine—who have emerged as clear All-Stars for the Chicago Bulls, each of whom could make a case for being in the NBA MVP conversation. And what Caruso foresaw even then has turned out to be one of the keys to the Bulls’ surge toward the top of the East, which took another step on Saturday with their win: their unselfishness.
“Them being so low-maintenance and unselfish as the best players on the team, that’s hard to find in the NBA,” Caruso said on J.J. Redick’s podcast last month. “To get all of the guys who are supposed to be your best players to be guys who are just like, go with the flow, just roll with the punches people, I feel like that is really hard to find.”
The two combined on Saturday for 60 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists, and shot 50% from the field (22-for-44).
Bulls Tops in East in Net Rating
The win over Brooklyn not only moved the Bulls (who are 16-8) within a half-game of the Nets (who are 16-7), but it also pulled Chicago into the top spot in the East in net rating, a measure of the team’s offensive efficiency vs. its defensive efficiency.
The Bulls have the No. 4 rated offense in the East, at 110.5 points per 100 possessions, and the No. 3 defense, at 105.8. The difference of 4.7 is fourth overall in the NBA and ahead of the Bucks, at 3.9, in the East.
Still, no one with the Bulls is resting on their laurels. One of the clear messages out of the Brooklyn win was that the team had not accomplished anything.
“I don’t want to overmagnify the win and I don’t want to do anything to take away the work that these guys put in,” coach Billy Donovan told the media after the game. “They’re banged up like we are. They are the best team record-wise in the East and it was a great game for us to come in and play against a great team and we can learn a lot more about ourselves. But I’m not going to sit there and take one game in the middle of December and act like this is unbelievable. It’s one game. We’ve got to be better than we were tonight. And we’re capable of being better.”
Caruso on LaVine: ‘Zach Has Been Starving Trying to Win’
That’s the encouraging thing for the Bulls. This is still a pretty new team. On Saturday, seven of the 10 players who got minutes in the rotation were not with the Bulls last year—only LaVine, Troy Brown Jr. and Nikola Vucevic were holdovers, with Brown and Vucevic being late additions who only played a handful of Bulls games.
But as Caruso said, one of the key elements of bringing this group together has been the attitude and approach of LaVine and DeRozan. Especially LaVine—he has been the face of the franchise for the last few years but has willingly welcomed all newcomers.
After eight seasons in the NBA without having played a single postseason game, LaVine is ready for the Bulls’ new look.
“Zach has been starving trying to win for so long, he’s just trying to get it right,” Caruso said. “That’s been the one thing for him, he’s been trying to learn and adapt to this new situation. Because Chicago, even before that, he was in Minnesota, so he has not done much winning in his career, so learning how to win, he is working on that and he is improving.”