The good news for the Bulls is their issues are mostly fixable
To be learning on the fly and still have a 6-2 record is a great thing. But DeMar DeRozan knows there’s still a lot to work on to become a playoff team. The problem is some of the issues won’t be going away anytime soon.
DeMar DeRozan’s level of concern was sitting comfortably at about a two out of 10.
In the eyes of the veteran small forward, most of the problems the Bulls have developed in the first eight games of the regular season are very fixable.
But it starts with priority No. 1, and that’s getting back to playing a chaotic style of defense, and not just in the second half.
That was the biggest issue during the two-game road trip — lack of defensive energy in the first half that led to huge deficits. The Bulls were able to win at Boston, coming back from 19 down late in the third quarter, but 18 down to the 76ers in the second quarter left them just short.
In DeRozan’s eyes, though, it’s fixable.
“It definitely has to start [with defense],’’ DeRozan said. “That’s when we’re at our best, getting out in transition. When we work together defensively, we’ve shown it throughout the games when we’ve needed it the most. We got to put that pressure on as soon as tipoff.’’
His reason for why it wasn’t there in the first half of both road games was just as simple. Call it growing pains for a team that was assembled in the summer, had a few weeks of camp to get acclimated and then dropped into the pressure cooker of an NBA season.
“Learning curve,’’ DeRozan reasoned. “Everything can’t be perfect. Pretty sure we’re going to go back and look at this [Philadelphia] game, understand the mistakes, where we made the mistakes, the play-calls we’re making at times, things we’re doing on both ends that we can be better at. We’re not even 10 games in, and there’s a lot we can learn from and we will take from this.’’
That’s the good news in the 6-2 start for the Bulls. Learning is going on daily and during games.
The Bulls have the athletes and the depth to play a chaotic style of defense for two halves and now just have to refocus on it before the rematch Saturday with the 76ers.
And while defensive intensity for 48 minutes sits atop the priority list of issues to work on, it’s likely the most fixable than some of the other issues:
1. Nikola Vucevic’s scoring slump
The big man has made a career of being talented enough to fall out of bed and put 20 points and 10 rebounds in the box score. This season, though, he’s simply falling.
Vucevic is a career 49.5% shooter and entered the season averaging over 39% from three-point range the last two years. Entering the weekend, he’s shooting a career-low 38.9% from the field and 28.1% from beyond the arc.
Coach Billy Donovan’s solution would like to see other players such as Zach LaVine and DeRozan get Vucevic involved in the offense more.
No one believes that Vucevic, 31, suddenly has lost his offensive touch, so they are putting faith in the back of his basketball card. Keep feeding him and he’ll shoot out of it. FIXABLE
The Bulls are 21st in rebound differential at -2.6 rebounds per game. Last week they were 27th. So while it has improved, it’s not going to go away this season. The counterpunch is being disruptive with steals, deflections and blocks. But this is an undersized team, and unless there’s a trade, that won’t change. UNFIXABLE
3. Zach LaVine’s thumb
The ligaments in LaVine’s left thumb are slowly healing but are also costing the All-Star the ability to attack and finish with his left hand. He’s basically a one-handed player who just has to figure it out and hope it continues feeling better with no setbacks.
Until it does, though, it’s a grin and bear it. FIXABLE (with time)