Bulls have bigger issues to deal with than low-energy performances

The dismal showing in the loss to Denver earned the team a practice day on Monday. But effort hasn’t been the issue through the first 14 games. Availability has, and that falls on a front office and the leap of faith they took on continuity.

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Bulls’ Zach LaVine yells at a referee during a game against the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 26 at the United Center.

Zach LaVine wasn’t pleased with the Bulls’ performance against the Nuggets.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Under most circumstances, Monday would’ve been a day off for the Bulls.

Their off-night against the Nuggets, however, altered those plans.

And we’re being kind in calling their effort Sunday an off-night.

Guard Ayo Dosunmu was minus-27 in 30 minutes, closely followed by DeMar DeRozan’s minus-26, Patrick Williams’ minus-24, Zach LaVine’s minus-18 and Nikola Vucevic’s minus-16.

In the first quarter, the starters dug themselves a 12-point hole with some lethargic defense and six turnovers.

That half-hearted display from tip-off to final horn in the 126-103 loss earned the team a noon practice 14 hours later.

LaVine said the performance in front of a United Center crowd was “unacceptable.’’

Then he added, “from all of us, one through 15, the coaching staff, everybody.’’

That statement usually raises some eyebrows. Is there more going on behind the curtains? When a player publicly implicates the coaching staff in a team’s failure, it’s more often considered an indictment than honesty.

But that’s not the case with LaVine.

LaVine always has been a straight shooter after tough losses and doesn’t dabble in cryptic messaging about the coaches or front office.

After practice Monday, his feelings were backed by coach Billy Donovan, who detailed in length the accountability that everyone should take away from the game against Denver.

Like LaVine, Donovan has proved to be good in the transparency department. Both are comfortable saying what needs to be said.

LaVine was rewarded with a five-year, $215 million max contract last summer, and the front office has not wavered at all from the idea that Donovan is the right person to coach this team in the third year of his four-year contract.

So should the panic button be pressed in mid-November with only 14 games in the books, a 6-8 record and more than 80% of the season left?

Pressed? No. Located just in case? Definitely.

The Bulls haven’t lacked energy and been unprepared in all eight of their losses. If anything, the Nuggets game was an outlier. They have eight losses because executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas took a leap of faith that continuity was the right path with this group.

But it’s a group made up of players with a history of missing time with injuries.

Without Lonzo Ball (left knee surgery) and with LaVine on a management schedule for his left knee for an undetermined amount of time, the Bulls quickly found themselves behind the eight ball.

The organization is still holding out hope that Ball will be back at some point this season and get enough games under his belt to be ready for a possible playoff run. And LaVine has been able to get more work in lately in games and practice, which is a win in itself.

Having a fully healthy roster is the light at the end of this tunnel, but that means continuing to fight through the darkness.

And on some days, that also means having an extra practice.

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