Bulls guard Kris Dunn lets locker room know this one was unacceptable

After an embarrassing performance in the loss to New Orleans, Dunn wants his teammates to start “being men about it,’’ as well as letting them know that what’s at stake has “gotta mean something to this locker room.’’

SHARE Bulls guard Kris Dunn lets locker room know this one was unacceptable
Bulls coach Jim Boylen reacts to a call while standing next to guard Kris Dunn during the second half of Monday’s loss to the Pelicans.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen reacts to a call while standing next to guard Kris Dunn during the second half of Monday’s loss to the Pelicans.

Matthew Hinton/AP

NEW ORLEANS — The Bulls simply didn’t have much of an appetite for coach Jim Boylen’s menu Wednesday.

After another shaky offensive performance that was compounded by some serious defensive breakdowns, the Bulls lost to the undermanned Pelicans in embarrassing fashion 123-108.

“Our margin of error is not enough to do that,’’ Boylen said of the offensive woes. “That’s the frustrating part. But what I wanted to do was establish a system where we learned how to play basketball. And we get into a playoff situation and a team locks into you and you play basketball, you don’t run this set, and they know it’s coming, and they lock you down. You have to make reads.

“So I’m giving these guys the menu where we’re struggling and what read to take. That’s what we’re teaching. That’s the way I believe you build a championship-caliber team.’’

For Boylen, this season was about establishing an identity and a culture.

Rip him or not, he has established a top-five defense. Of course some external factors have benefitted the defense — beginning with one of the easier schedules in the Eastern Conference through last week, as well as taking on a lot of teams that have been without their best players — but the numbers are the numbers on that end of the court.

The offensive numbers, however, are still really concerning. That’s Boylen’s next hill to climb. Against New Orleans (13-25), it was a mountain.

“I know you’re probably making fun of me when I say ‘championship-caliber team,’ ’’ Boylen said. “That’s what I’m trying to build. That’s all I’m worried about. I believe in where we’re going to be. If I shortcut that — not that we don’t need to win — then I don’t really care about the franchise and what we’re doing.’’

That message looked a bit confusing after the latest letdown, and not just because the Bulls are 13-25, but because the same slipups keep happening, specifically third-quarter letdowns.

Coming out of halftime locked up at 48, Boylen’s hope was his team was finally starting to understand the importance of getting ready for the counterpunch and punching back. Instead, he witnessed a quarter in which his team was outscored 44-27. The Bulls allowed the Pelicans to shoot 65 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three-point range.

Even the usually positive Kris Dunn was baffled by this latest stumble.

“Teams are making adjustments, and we’ve got to be able to adjust with them,’’ he said. “At the same time, it’s our fault, the players on the court. We’ve got to be able to see what they’re doing. We just couldn’t get a grasp of it.

“We gotta be men about it. This is a game of runs, and you’ve got to be able to withstand it and fight through adversity.’’

By the end, the energy was gone, and even the Bulls’ usual fourth-quarter push didn’t materialize.

“Lack of focus,’’ Dunn said. “You’ve got to understand the players on the court. It’s getting repetitive. Keep saying it, saying it. It’s going to get to a time where, are we going to do something about it? We still have a chance to be in the race for the playoffs, and it’s gotta mean something to this locker room.’’

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