Short-handed Bulls drop sixth game in row, and trading might not be done

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Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari and Bulls forward Bobby Portis reach for a rebound Saturday in Los Angeles.
| Mark J. Terrill/AP

LOS ANGELES — Forget the Bulls’ 10-6 record in December. It was a cute little story, but it was an aberration.

Their recent play has been more in line with what was expected from them this season. In their first game since trading forward Nikola Mirotic to the Pelicans on Thursday, the Bulls’ losing streak reached six with a 113-103 loss Saturday to the Clippers.

Besides being without Mirotic, the Bulls were still without forward Lauri Markkanen (birth of son) and guard Kris Dunn (concussion). But guard Zach LaVine, who led the Bulls with 21 points despite shooting 6-for-18, didn’t want to make excuses.

‘‘I think we’re all still trying to get familiar with each other, get that chemistry down,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘Sometimes with the group of guys we have, we go through stretches where we’re really good and we’re competitive. And some other stretches we look sorry. We look out of place and lacking here and there, so we’ve gotta get that out of the way.’’

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And the roster tinkering might not be done with the trade deadline coming up Thursday. Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson has been upfront about his desire to get another deal done, and coach Fred Hoiberg reiterated that.

‘‘I’ve talked to John every day since we’ve been on the road trip, and — like all 30 teams are doing — they’re making phone calls and seeing if there is something they can do to improve the roster, something that might make sense for the long-term future of the organization,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘Just a lot of that right now.’’

But not every team is willing to move pretty much all but three players, like the Bulls are. Besides Markkanen, LaVine and Dunn, Paxson is willing to package anyone if it means receiving a young player or draft asset in return. If that means taking back an expiring contract or a bad contract the Bulls can get out from under in a couple of years, such as center Omer Asik’s, so be it. That’s what a rebuild entails.

‘‘Again, if you can get a young player that you feel fits the direction that the team is heading, then you obviously have to look at that, as well,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘But to acquire a [protected] first-round pick in the trade for Niko I think fits the direction this team is heading. Obviously, we’re going to have our pick, which will be a very high pick, and then we’ll see what happens with that New Orleans pick.’’

So whom do the Bulls have left to offer in a trade? Besides the expiring contracts of swingman Tony Allen and guard Jameer Nelson, whom they acquired with Asik in the Mirotic trade, they could look to deal center Robin Lopez, swingman Justin Holiday or guard Jerian Grant.

‘‘We now have a situation where we’re invested in these young guys,’’ Paxson said. ‘‘Our focus remains on growth and development of them. This is consistent with what we set out to do on draft night.’’

What Hoiberg and his players set out to do on this trip was win a game. But their sixth consecutive loss left them only three games ahead of the Hawks, who have the worst record in the NBA.

‘‘We’ve gotta go out there and fight,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘We’ve gotta do better, all of us included. We’re going to get [Markkanen and Dunn] back, [and] we’re going to be a full team.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.


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