Sunday Bulls Update: Missed Opportunities

This past week was pure frustration if you are a Bulls fan. The return of Lauri Markkanen from Covid Health and Safety Protocols was delayed because the NBA canceled Tuesday’s game against the Boston Celtics… for Covid Health and Safety Protocols. Too many Boston players either tested positive for Covid or had been in close proximity with people who had, the game had to be postponed. The week concluded with Friday’s overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder 127-125. It was a classic ‘jump out to a giant lead in the first half only to watch it bleed away in the second’ kind of game for the Bulls. The second half was such a shit show of turnovers and poor defense, it made me the angriest I have ever been watching a Bulls game.

I wasn’t the only one angry. Zach LaVine was visibly fuming on the court. His frustration with the situation was palpable. The half time score was 68-50. The Bulls were cruising. And then they started turning the ball over. They gave the ball away 24 times throughout the game, something like 17 of those turnovers happened in the second half. Even veterans like Thadd Young were just throwing the ball away with reckless abandon.

For all the strides we’ve seen this team take when faced with adversity, Friday’s loss had the taste of bitter familiarity. Throughout the three long seasons of this rebuild we’ve seen plenty of games just like this one, where the Bulls jump out to a seemingly insurmountable lead, only to be reeled back in and beaten. I had hoped that the Bulls were past that, but I guess one solid week of playing well on the road against some of the best teams in the NBA didn’t exercise all of their adversity demons.

I was all set to rant this entire post about the poor play, the turnovers, the shoddy defense, the lack of fight, etc. but I’m over it. Oklahoma City is a team the Bulls should be able to beat, so the loss hurts a lot. You can’t give away winnable games in the NBA and expect to be taken seriously. Losing to OKC the way they did just shows us how far the Bulls have to go in their fight against adversity. It also shows that it’s a constant battle. Adversity in the form of fears, insecurities, and distrusting teammates, all of it can rear it’s ugly heads like the mythological hydra during any given game. The Bulls have to find a way to slay the hydra, not just chop off it’s multiplying heads.

Consistent play on both ends of the court, maintaining focus throughout an entire game, and trusting teammates to do the same, it’s the only way this Bulls team can overcome the on-the-court adversity every game throws at them. They did it for a week on the West Coast and came away with a surprise victory. They got away from their core principles for one half and ended up with a loss that never should have happened. It can change that quickly in the NBA.

Speaking of the NBA changing quickly, James Harden is now a Brooklyn Net. A multi-team trade that happened mid-week has the former MVP teamed up once again with Kevin Durant, and for the first time ever Kyrie Irving. Brooklyn, already a formidable opponent, reaches “Super Team” status with Harden’s addition. They are the favorites to win the Eastern Conference, and are another obstacle for the Bulls to overcome in their quest to achieve relevance.

The Harden trade is also an important “get” in the ongoing NBA “arms race.” With the Nets substantially better, teams like the Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia ‘76ers might feel the need to bolster their rosters. We’ll see if any of them start asking the Round Table what it would take to get Zach LaVine.

Zach is on an amazing ride right now. In his last four games, he has averaged 38.5 points, with 6 assists and just under 7 rebounds. If you ignore his turnovers (4.25 a game, I told you to ignore them), he is on an All-Star type pace (again), contending teams will find him a very attractive potential addition to their teams.

I’m not saying the Bulls should trade Zach LaVine. In fact, I kind of don’t want them too. Not yet. He has grown so much as a player during his time with the team, and he’s the best thing the Bulls have going for themselves right now, at least until one of the younger guys steps up and takes over. In a season of evaluation and rebooting the rebuild, you could do a lot worse than watch Zach LaVine drop 35 to 50 points on opponents night in and night out.

The Bulls are now 4-8 on the season. They sit 13th in the Eastern Conference just above the Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons. They have the 4th worst record in the league with only Detroit, Washington and the Minnesota Timberwolves behind them in record. The Bulls should be a better team than that, but given the way they lost to OKC this week you can see why they are that low in the NBA standings.

Coming this week: Games against Dallas (Sunday), Houston (Monday), Charlotte (Friday), and the Los Angeles Lakers (Saturday). A mixed bag of teams they might be able to beat. Chin up Bulls fans! Things will get better, I hope.

Until they do, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!