At some point, the Chicago Bulls (11-17) have to decide that enough is enough. Another loss — the Bulls’ third in a row with each of the last two coming against the New York Knicks — has left a dark cloud over the locker room.
Head coach Billy Donovan noted the “high character” of the players on the roster; one of the traits pushed as a benefit of roster continuity this past offseason.
After falling to the Knicks 128-120 in overtime on Wednesday, they were run off the floor in the second half of the second meeting getting outscored 27-16 in the fourth quarter alone ultimately falling 114-91. It was enough to elicit an expletive-punctuated answer from 13-year veteran forward DeMar DeRozan.
“We played like s***,” DeRozan said, per NBC Sports Chicago‘s Bulls insider K.C Johnson.”
DeRozan Rips Bulls’ Effort
The Bulls came out stronger in the second outing, leading the visiting Knicks 32-29 after the first quarter. They trailed 29-28 after the opening frame in the first meeting. But they lost the turnover battle 20-10 while also losing the battle on the glass 50-39 and getting outscored 14-0 in second-chance points.
A Knicks squad that has now won six games in a row scored 24 points off those giveaways to 10 points for Chicago.
“We didn’t have a sense of urgency,” DeRozan told reporters in the Bulls locker room postgame. “We didn’t do nothing. That goes back on us having to look in the mirror and start with each and every one of us. If you’re a competitor, you gotta play a full game.”
DeRozan finished the outing with 14 points, four assists (to four turnovers), four rebounds, and one steal. This is just the latest occurrence of DeRozan trying to be a guiding light for an embattled bunch that has looked more like the team we saw in the second half of last season rather than the first.
He came to the defense of beleaguered big man Nikola Vucevic whose missed free throws against the Orlando Magic were just one of many reasons the Bulls suffered the first of their two buzzer-beating losses this season – the second loss came three weeks later on the road against the Atlanta Hawks.
“We’ve had enough trial and error,’’ DeRozan said after the loss to Atlanta via Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “We know what works when we do it right, and at this point, we should know what doesn’t work when we’re doing it wrong. This one sucks, this one hurts.’’
That was just the first of what has become a three-game slide and a 2-5 record in December.
The Bulls will see both the Hawks and Knicks in the final two stops on their current four-game road trip.
DeRozan Drawing Interest
The Bulls have been reluctant to concede a season that is rapidly getting away from them. Not only do they continue to suffer frustrating defeats, but they were also delivered a blow to their ceiling when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that there are no guarantees Lonzo Ball will return to the court this season.
Donovan has been a realist about the situation all along saying that he was operating as if Ball wouldn’t return and has said that he has faith that Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas is evaluating everything to improve the situation.
Perhaps that will include moving DeRozan who has been linked strongly to the Los Angeles Lakers among other potential suitors in trade rumors.
He is still performing at a high level.
DeRozan is averaging 25.8 points per game, good for 16th in the league, on 59.9% true shooting, the second-highest mark of his illustrious career.
Bulls Sticking Together
“We gotta get tired of having this feeling of not competing and losing like this, especially on our home court,” DeRozan said. “It’s not ideal where we’re at. But hey, great stories start with some sort of tragedy.”
Donovan said he doesn’t think it was a mistake to run it back with largely the same roster that won just eight of their 23 games after the All-Star break last season. But the results continue to pile up suggesting the contrary.
Regardless, the Bulls are still searching for answers to a problem that won’t be solved simply by saying the right things.