The NBA shouldn’t be an excuse business. The current Bulls regime knows that much better than the old one did.
That was demonstrated by executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas in his season-ending address with the media.
“There were lots of games that we played for 3½ quarters,’’ Karnisovas said. “Learning to win often requires a transition period. That is part of what we are going through here. We expect a steep learning curve with this team. The ups and downs in games were drastic, going from game to game. Consistency is the mark of a mature, developed team, a team that adapts to adversity. I get it, it’s protocols, lack of practice time, lack of rest and development gets to you. But every team was in the same situation. Resilient and mature teams rise above challenges.’’
Game, set and match. So while there was improvement over last season’s circus, the goal was not even close to being met. That’s why the overall grade for this season’s Bulls is a D.
The All-Star guard had career numbers across the board and was even willing to exert more energy defensively for the first time in seven seasons. That has to continue, as does the idea of understanding how to impact winning. GRADE: A-.
It’s not often that a player fails point-guard school and loses his starting seat in the class, only to come back and actually look like a capable starter. Here’s the problem: White excelled at a point in the season when the pressure had dwindled. GRADE: C+.
The veteran guard hasn’t been the point guard/outside threat he was with the Wizards, but he did have some glue moments for the starting and reserve units. GRADE: C.
The veteran battled through some injuries and was inconsistent on the court, but his leadership for the money the Bulls paid for him? Priceless. GRADE: B.
Troy Brown Jr.
An ankle injury limited Brown to 13 games, but it was a solid showing, especially on the defensive end. Need to see more of Brown moving forward. GRADE: Incomplete.
The Bulls have an option on Arch, and while pound for pound, he’s one of the tougher players on the roster — see the charges he takes — it will be interesting to see if he’s picked up. GRADE: B-.
Like Brown, the sample size was too small to fairly judge, but when he played, there was defensive energy. He is a free agent, and decisions have to be made. GRADE: Incomplete.
The rookie has uncanny tools for a 19-year-old, but he needs to stop overthinking his role with the team and play with aggression offensively. Williams should have been the third-best player on the roster at the end of the season and wasn’t. GRADE: B-.
Sure, he looks like a villain in a Jason Statham movie, but Theis brought a presence and toughness this team sorely needed. Now it’s about keeping the free agent in a Bulls jersey. GRADE: B+.
The Michigan State product had some memorable moments this season — and not all of them good. Either way, the free agent-to-be is never boring when he’s in the game. GRADE: C.
The player once considered a foundation piece of the rebuild had every opportunity to excel this season. The right coach, the right offense, then some fellow Euros added to the roster at the deadline. But he continued to vanish far too often. GRADE: D.
Coaching matters, and it definitely did with Young. He went from wanting to retire under former coach Jim Boylen to establishing a career high in assists under Billy Donovan. Then you add the leadership aspect. GRADE: A-.
The veteran has picked up his player option for next season at $10.1 million and might take over Cristiano Felicio’s chair at the end of the bench. GRADE: F.
It’s not Big Cris’ fault that former general manager Gar Forman thought he was the smartest exec in the room and handed the backup center $32 million. Felicio, however, never seemed to work on his weaknesses. GRADE: F.
The “Vooch’’ can fall out of bed and put up a double-double, but can he and LaVine figure out how to lift this team into the playoffs next season? GRADE: B+.
It was good to cover a coach who actually tries to be transparent, admits mistakes and takes ownership of losses.
Donovan was handcuffed after the deadline, getting five new players in the locker room and having almost no practice time to get them assimilated, but, again, in a pass/fail business, the Bulls didn’t get it done. GRADE: C.
Karnisovas took a big swing in acquiring Vucevic and possibly losing a 2021 draft pick to do so and still fell short of the postseason. The message sent league-wide, however, was the Bulls are now a culture of trying to win rather than trying to survive.
We’ll see if it resonates. But for now, the Bulls are once again a lottery team that could lose its first-round ticket. GRADE: D.