Film shows Zach LaVine, Bulls must improve on defense

Coach Billy Donovan made Saturday’s film session as painful as possible, showing all the defensive breakdowns from a bad Friday loss.

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Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine might be the face of the franchise, inking that max contract last season, but he needs to start being at least consistently a bit more present on the defensive end if the Bulls want to turn this around.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

DENVER — The ugly plays Friday weren’t any easier to watch while studying film Saturday.

The Bulls had many defensive lapses in their 109-107 loss to the Nets, and the face of those lapses happened to be the financial face of the franchise, guard Zach LaVine.

He made a poor decision on an attempted steal to mess up the rotation on Cam Thomas’ three-pointer with 2:18 left in the game. Just over a minute later, Mikel Bridges wore LaVine like a loose shirt before simply going around him on the baseline for a dunk.

LaVine was asked about the lapses and didn’t do himself any favors with his response.

“I don’t think they were lapses,’’ he told reporters. “We’re all out there playing hard. You go for a steal. … I thought we were doing good rotations.

“And Bridges made a good move on the baseline. That’s basketball. I don’t think they’re defensive lapses. It’s basketball.’’

Yes, bad basketball.

Maybe that mentality explains why the Bulls, who finished in the top five in defensive efficiency last season, entered the game Saturday against the Nuggets at No. 20.

LaVine, like the rest of his teammates, heard all about it during the film session.

“We can’t play defense with four guys,’’ Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “[Alex] Caruso can’t run around and guard five guys. Torrey Craig can’t do that, either.

“To me, the disappointing part defensively was there was a lot of different breakdowns at a lot of different points, and I don’t think we did a good enough job protecting one another in situations where we got spread out, we were not in the right position, not in the right shifts, we left each other on an island. And it wasn’t just Zach, it was everybody. Collectively, we’ve got to be better.’’

Fortunately for Donovan, he has seen a slow start by this group before.

Last year, the defense didn’t start tightening up until a few months into the season, and it never let go.

But LaVine has always been knocked for his defense. It’s not that he can’t play it, because in moments he’s very good. He just doesn’t stay consistent with it.

“I think the word right there is consistency, and it’s been the consistency with our team,’’ Donovan said. “We could not have been where we were last year defensively if [LaVine] was not very good. So he’s very capable. It’s not like he’s the only guy. Do I think he can do it? Absolutely.

“What I think about Zach is I do feel he’s always trying to find ways to get better. Is he going to be perfect? No, none of us are. But he knows there are things that he has to do.’’

Dosunmu still out

Reserve guard Ayo Dosunmu didn’t make the trip to Denver, staying back in Chicago to deal with an illness.

Donovan still wasn’t certain how long Dosunmu will be out. The Bulls are off Sunday before hosting the Jazz on Monday.

Dosunmu is averaging five points per game, despite playing only 11.2 minutes per game.

Final say

There was early-morning chatter that DeMar DeRozan might sit out the Nuggets game, but he wasn’t having any of that.

According to Donovan, the training staff talked to DeRozan about where he was minutes-wise, but he told them he felt good and that’s all that mattered.

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