Everyone knew that this season would be played under the specter of Covid-19, I’m not sure any of us thought the Bulls would face that specter this often, so early in the season. So far, there has been the Noah Vonleh exposure in preseason, the Garrett Temple never-made-it-to-training-camp-or-preseason scare, and now Chandler Hutchison has tested positive for Covid, and Lauri Markkanen, Tomas Satoransky, and Ryan Arcidiacono have been forced to quarantine due to exposure.
From a purely basketball aspect, it’s tough for the Bulls to lose four players, three of which are part of the regular rotation. Both Markkanen and Satoransky have played well through less than a handful of games. Lauri has looked like his old self, the player who averages 18 points and grabs 9 boards every game. Satoransky has been dishing out assists off the bench at a high rate, and helped steady the Bulls when they’ve floundered against opposition. Hutchison has been an uneven contributor off the bench in this young season, and Arcidiacono has played limited minutes, but being four players down would put a strain on any NBA roster.
The Bulls handled their first game without the quartet well, beating the Washington Wizards for the second time in a matter of days, 133-130. Unfortunately, the next night against the Milwaukee Bucks did not go so well. Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo bullied the Bulls all night long, leading the Bucks in a 126-96 beat down of our favorite team. The Bulls are now 2-4 on the season, and 11th in the Eastern Conference.
In his post-game press conference Coach Billy Donovan didn’t make excuses for his teams poor play. Again Donovan pointed to the Bulls inability stand up to adversity and lack of cohesion on the court, as the main culprit behind the awful results in the game against the Bucks. I myself have been disappointed in the demeanor of Wendell Carter Jr, Zach LaVine, and Coby White. While all three have played well at stretches, Zach in particular has been brilliant at points, none of these three seem to handle adversity very well. I’m willing to cut Coby some slack because he’s trying to learn how to play the hardest position in basketball, at the highest level, against some of the greatest in the world, but Zach should know how to fight on a nightly basis by now, and Wendell has the talent to make a real impact in the league. All three have got to find a way to continue fighting in the face of adversity, instead of rolling over and giving up.
Meanwhile, with Markkanen quarantined and Wendell scuffling, an opportunity for minutes has emerged for 2nd year center Daniel Gafford (My Guy!!!). He played well against the Wizards, filling up the stat sheet in 22 minutes of play, but had a much tougher night against Milwaukee and their big heavy line up of Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Brook Lopez. Lopez in particular posed a match up problem because of his ability to sink 3 pointers. Gafford, an innate rim protector, really doesn’t jump out to guard the perimeter very much which often left Lopez wide open at the arc; he drained 3 of 6 three pointers, and the Bucks as a team went 22-45 from behind the arc.
The Bulls have got to get better on defense.
They also have to stop turning the ball over. Which they did 20 times in the loss to the Bucks
Those are the two areas that have hurt them the most this season, defense and turnovers. We’ll see if they can improve on those areas, and hopefully get the services of the Covid Quartet back on the court ASAP.
The Bulls face a murders row of Western Conference teams this week. They start off with the Dallas Mavericks, travel to Portland to take on the Trailblazers, head South to Sacramento and the Kings, and finish the week on Friday against the NBA Champions, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Talk about adversity.
Until they find their legs and stand up to it, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!