Guard Patrick Beverley just one factor in toughening up of Bulls

The addition of Beverley has helped, but coach Billy Donovan is also seeing a group that now understands the moment of a game where adversity hits, and when it’s time to finally hit back.

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Patrick Beverley

Bulls guard Patrick Beverley is one factor in the team’s recent 8-4 record, but there’s also a general toughness being shown that wasn’t there earlier this season.

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PHILADELPHIA — Doc Rivers knows Chicago basketball well. The 76ers coach starred at Proviso East and thought the Bulls were going to draft him as a hometown kid coming out of Marquette in 1983.

It didn’t happen, and he still talks about it with a hint of missed opportunity in his voice.

So he knows exactly what West Side native Patrick Beverley means to the Bulls today, and what playing for them means to Beverley.

“It’s where you grow up,” Rivers said. “Chicago is a unique style of basketball. Patrick Beverley shows that every time he walks out on the floor. He went to Marshall . . . too bad for him he didn’t go to Proviso. But I think he averaged 40 in high school? Our guys were actually talking about that a couple days [ago]. That’s pretty amazing.”

As is the Bulls’ sudden turnaround after many nights of lethargic, soft play this season.

Is the hard-nosed Beverley the reason the Bulls have gone 8-4 since his arrival and are now playing their best basketball?

He’s definitely a piece of it.

But as coach Billy Donovan pointed out in the wake of Monday’s double-overtime win over the 76ers (48-23), it feels as though Bulls players are finally starting to understand how to dig their feet in during tough moments, take a punch and punch back.

“I don’t want to say we’ve figured anything out, because anytime you say you figured something out, you lose an opportunity to grow,” Donovan said. “But the one thing we have done as of late, which is the one thing we’ve struggled with — whatever word you want to use, ‘let go of the rope,’ ‘frustration,’ ‘disappointment’ — we’ve kept grinding and playing [lately]. I like our huddles a lot more in terms of communication. There were times in the past where we would get a little bit quiet. I think guys were trying to internalize what they’ve got to do, but we’ve got to get to a place where [we] do it together. I’m hopeful that’s helped us grow, just to have that kind of mentality to fight and compete.”

What took so long? That’s a question players can only answer individually. Veteran forward DeMar DeRozan practically has been begging this group to find consistent urgency for weeks, and maybe it finally sank in. If Beverley was the catalyst, so be it.

“We’ve got to be desperate,” DeRozan said. “We’re fighting for our life every single game, and we don’t want to put our faith in nobody else’s hands, hoping someone loses, and playing that whole game. All we can do is control what we can control.”

They seem to be succeeding. While other potential Eastern Conference play-in teams have been sputtering the last few weeks, the Bulls (34-37) have enjoyed a small surge. As of Tuesday, they were 10th in the conference standings — the final play-in spot — with a buffer between themselves and the teams on the outside looking in. They also have the potential to move up; only a half-game separates them and the ninth-place Raptors with 11 games to play.

Donovan’s hope is that the new grind-it-out mentality is here to stay for those 11 games and into the postseason.

“If you get into a situation where your confidence rides on the external result of winning or losing, you don’t have a lot of confidence,” he said. “It’s the NBA. It’s about trying to play to a standard you want to play to as a team against everybody, not just Philly.”

A Chicago kid in the mix doesn’t hurt.

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