There is progress being made on the defensive end.
Not that it’s easy to see in the three games since Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas launched the trade-deadline reload, acquiring five new faces including All-Star center Nikola Vucevic.
But veteran forward Thad Young swears it’s there.
“I think we are getting closer,’’ Young said after the loss to the Suns on Wednesday. “Obviously the games are a little closer than the last couple of games with . . . how we played [against Phoenix], but defensively we just got to get better. Biggest thing is just getting the guys acclimated to how we play defensively. We’re still having some miscues on coverages and some of the stuff we are doing out there, but it’s simply because we haven’t had time to have practice time.
“If this was a regular year we’d have had a day of practice or a couple of days of practice to actually get some guys acclimated to how we play. We’re trying to use time in shootarounds and stuff like that for practice time or going into a film session, but there is nothing like getting up and down the court and actually going through coverages and breaking a sweat, simulating game-like situations throughout the course of a one- or two-hour practice. If we can figure out a way to get some practice time, we’ll definitely be a little bit better.’’
Well it wasn’t going to come Thursday, as the undermanned Bulls used the off-day to rest and recover before taking on the Jazz on Friday night.
The hope is to have Zach LaVine (right ankle), Coby White (neck) and Garrett Temple (hamstring) up and running for a Saturday practice, or at least by Monday, but after that the Bulls will be dealing with five games in seven nights.
While there’s no quick fix, the guards can at least change their mentality, which coach Billy Donovan has been pleading for them to do since the start of the season, but they are still far too inconsistent.
That’s why a two-guard such as Devin Booker can drop 45 points on the Bulls, and do so very comfortably.
“I didn’t think we had enough physicality at all,’’ Donovan said. “I think that they shot the ball really well from behind the line, but I didn’t think we contested very well.
“We weren’t into the ball at all. The ball is just coming right off screens and our guards have got to get into the ball and they have to guard the ball.’’
And it’s not like life gets easier with some of the opposing backcourts the Bulls will see the next few games. Utah has Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley to deal with, while the Nets could have Kyrie Irving and James Harden ready to go on Sunday, depending on injuries.
“It starts with us guards getting into the ball and just making it uncomfortable on their guards,’’ said Patrick Williams, who defends guards from his forward spot. “I think that’s the first part, and then from there we can address the rest of it. But it definitely starts with us guards just making their guards more uncomfortable and not letting them get to their spots as easy and just making it harder for them to get into their offense and things like that.
“But with the addition of the bigs that we have and also the guards that we have — you know, Javonte [Green] and Troy [Brown Jr.] and the rest of the guys that we added to the team — I mean, we definitely have the guys in the locker room to defend.’’
They might want to start proving that, and soon.