Bulls’ veterans say it’s time for some tough conversations after 9-14 start

Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan remain confident the Bulls can turn this ship around.

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Bulls veterans Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan said some touch conversations will be needed for the team to turn itself around.

Bulls veterans Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan said some touch conversations will be needed for the team to turn itself around.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Bulls coach Billy Donovan gave his players Monday off.

The length of a six-game road trip warranted that. Their play definitely didn’t.

Regardless, Donovan was banking on the Bulls having a new focus on toughness when they reconvene at practice Tuesday.

One veteran player promised plenty of tough love awaiting a 9-14 team that has dropped seven of its last 10 games.

‘‘There’s going to be tough conversations; there’s going to be words said,’’ guard Zach LaVine said. ‘‘Sometimes you need that. From top to bottom, we’ve all got to try and figure it out because no one is going to dig us out of this hole besides us.’’

And it is a hole.

After their 2-4 trip, the Bulls are a season-worst five games below .500 and in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, ahead of only the Hornets, Pistons and Magic.

‘‘I talked to them prior to training camp starting, and I knew this was going to be a hard year for our team,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘This is really where you find out — because we have to dig ourselves out of this — that no one is helping us. Players, coaches, we’ve got to figure this out. They were all like, ‘We’re going to handle the adversity.’ Well, these are the moments that everybody has got to be able to work together, pull together and pull yourself out of it.’’

The disappointing thing about this team is that it has been unable to take a positive and run with it several times this season.

The Bulls had a big home victory last month against the Raptors, only to follow it up with four consecutive losses. Then they had back-to-back victories at home against the conference-leading Celtics and on the road against the Bucks in the first game of their just-completed trip.

Even after a loss to the Thunder, they rallied in the next game to beat Lauri Markkanen and the Jazz. That gave them three victories in four games, all against quality teams.

But that’s when the trip went off the rails. The Bulls watched Devin Booker drop 51 points in three quarters on them in a blowout loss to the Suns, then fell into huge early holes they couldn’t come all the way back from in losses to the Warriors and Kings.

That’s why the Bulls were a frustrated group in the visitors’ locker room Sunday in Sacramento.

‘‘Zach, DeMar [DeRozan], Vooch [Nikola Vucevic], Goran [Dragic], Andre [Drummond] . . . you’ve got a lot of veteran players that have been in the league for a while,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘They take a lot of pride, and they’re competitive guys. When you’re not winning, I understand that [frustration].’’

The question now is how they will channel it. DeRozan said he wants to make sure it’s used correctly.

‘‘I’ve got the most confidence in the world that once it clicks for us, it’s going to click,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘It won’t matter who we’re playing. That’s the beauty of sports [and] life: You get down, the true character shows up. Who do you wanna be? It’s up to us to control that narrative going forward.

‘‘You know, it’s supposed to be frustrating, supposed to hurt, supposed to suck, supposed to be all these things. Now how do we channel that and challenge ourselves to come out of this and make something out of it?

‘‘All these guys show frustration, show anger, and that’s a great sign. We’ve got to channel that in the right direction — the start of games, second quarter, third quarter, closing out games. Once we see we can do it and it gives us a belief, we’ll be fine.’’

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