As trade deadline approaches for Bulls, loss to Heat is a gut punch

According to coach Billy Donovan, the front office has yet to choose a path with the deadline less than two weeks away. The Bulls still have time, but the latest loss to Miami was a painful reminder of the numerous holes that exist on the roster.

SHARE As trade deadline approaches for Bulls, loss to Heat is a gut punch

Bulls coach Billy Donovan swears a path hasn’t been chosen yet.

He’s admittedly not in every front-office meeting or conferenced in on every phone call by his boss, Arturas Karnisovas, the Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations, but he’s in the loop. And with the NBA trade deadline less than two weeks away, Donovan knows Karnisovas is busy but also patient.

“Obviously they’re meeting quite a bit, and I’ve been able to be a part of some of that as well,” Donovan said. “I think they’re evaluating everything as it relates to what’s best for the Bulls organization.

“I would say we’ve really been committed to these guys in trying to help them continue to grow. I know Arturas has said this, and I’ve said this: We like our guys. And they’ve done a good job, worked hard. But I think as an organization, you always have to field phone calls and take phone calls and evaluate everything. But I don’t know if those decisions have been made to that point to where it’s, ‘OK, this is exactly what we’re doing.’ ”

Fair enough. But a 101-90 loss to the visiting Heat on Friday night might have been a nudge — or a shove for anyone studying the fourth quarter alone. What had been a back-and-forth game through the first three quarters turned into the Goran Dragic show as the veteran guard torched second-year guard Coby White and the Bulls for 20 of his 25 points in the final quarter. The Heat outscored the Bulls 31-22 in the fourth.

“We just had a hard time guarding him,” Donovan said of Dragic. “He made some really, really difficult shots over outstretched hands. We just really didn’t have anybody that could really, really handle him, to be quite honest with you, and he made them from three and he made them from in the mid-range.”

As the front office chews on what to do in the next two weeks, thank the roster for the continued uncertainty. The last two games have been the healthiest the Bulls (16-20) have been all season, and there are still unknowns regarding how well the young core can play Donovan’s style of basketball together.

Injuries have also stunted development, putting the front office in a position of trying to decide whether a player has hit his ceiling or if he’s potentially a breakout talent after being traded to another team.

The good news for the Bulls is that as inconsistent as they’ve been this season, they’re still in the mix for a postseason play-in game, with an opportunity to jump up to the No.5 seed in the Eastern Conference with a few victories. But would moving a player such as forward Thad Young jeopardize their chances? They may be weighing the acquisition of a future asset against the idea of getting their young core into a playoff situation and allowing them to play a meaningful game.

“I think our coaching staff has invested a lot,” Donovan said. “When you’re making those kinds of investments, you want to be able to see guys grow and develop and

experience what you’re talking about. But at the same point, too, it is a business. There is an organizational component, too, that I understand.”

What’s also understood is that there are some Bulls who just aren’t playing well lately — key guys such as big man Wendell Carter Jr., who has been shaky for five straight games and had no answers after scoring just four points Friday.

“Honestly, I’ve just got to play better,” Carter said. “These last couple of games have frustrated the [expletive] out of me.”

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