Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg disputed the notion — subscribed to by many fans — that if centerpiece prospects Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn play well and the Bulls lose, it’s all good.
“Well, we don’t consider it good [to lose],” Hoiberg said.
Maybe not. But reality is that every day closer to the lottery is a good one for the rebuilding Bulls — especially if Markkanen, Dunn and eventually Zach LaVine lay the foundation for the future. Even Hoiberg acknowledged that winning isn’t everything.
“That’s the thing we talk about all the time,” Hoiberg said. “It’s not about looking at wins and losses. It’s about taking steps in the right direction every day.”
So take it for what it’s worth that the Bulls played hard, didn’t give up, had chances at the end, and still came up short in a 107-106 loss to the Kings on Friday night at the United Center. Jerian Grant’s three-pointer at the buzzer accounted for the final score. It was the Bulls’ eighth consecutive loss, dropping them to an NBA-worst 3-18. Arguably not the worst of days for a rebuilding team.
“We certainly have some things we can learn from,” Hoiberg said.
Progress was not quite as obvious as Thursday night’s last-second loss to the Nuggets, when Markkanen had 20 points and nine rebounds and Dunn added 16 points on 9-for-11 shooting. Against the Kings, Markannen scored 14 points on 5-for-13 shooting. Dunn, after scoring 43 points on 19-for-27 shooting in the previous two games, was not much of a factor with six points on 2-for-9 shooting and eight assists. Grant led six players in double figures with 17 points.
“It’s definitely tough to see progress when we keep losing. But it is what it is,” guard Denzel Valentine said. “We’re 3-18 — the worst team in the league. It’s pretty tough. We’ve just got to keep fighting, keep working hard. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us.”
The Bulls had their chances. Trailing 101-99 with three minutes left, Markkanen missed a shot and Justin Holiday and Markkanen missed three-pointers that would have given the Bulls the lead.
“Offensively, I think we’re making strides,” Valentine said. “I just think we gotta know, when it’s critical time, what plays to make; who to find; things like that. I think we’re right there. We’re just missing a little something.”
As the losses pile up, the Bulls are going to have to settle for small victories. “The last few games we found a little bit of a rhythm on the offensive end,” Hoiberg said. “But we’ve got to find a way to come out with more of an edge on the defensive end.”
The Bulls expect a significant boost when LaVine returns from the torn ACL he suffered last season with the Timberwolves. But Holiday for one, sees signs of progress.
“Just the effort and energy,” he said. “There were times when we came out in the first quarter and didn’t have great energy. Or if we played well in the first and second quarter, we didn’t have any energy [in the second half].
“We’ve been making good adjustments. [The Kings] scored 61 points in the first half. We came back in the second half and [held them to 46]. So we’re answering well to things that happen to us, which we didn’t do earlier in the year. We’re in the game right at the end. We’re doing a good job with that. We’re just not winning.”
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