Bulls have some serious repairs to make after latest embarrassment

DeMar DeRozan wants his teammates to embrace the challenge that sits in front of them, but that seems to be more and more difficult as the losses to the league’s elite continue to pile up. The Suns were the latest team to beat that message home.

SHARE Bulls have some serious repairs to make after latest embarrassment

PHOENIX — There’s a realness to Bulls veteran DeMar DeRozan, who grew up in Compton, California, and he’s not going to delude his teammates about where they are with 12 games left in the regular season: crawling toward the finish line, as opposed to sprinting with the bravado they showed in November and December.

“We’re past that,” DeRozan said.

That was evident in the 129-102 loss to the Western Conference-leading Suns on Friday night.

No more waiting for teammates to get healthy — the Bulls must forget about individual playing time and roles and start doing whatever is necessary to just win.

“Especially when you’re going through a little adversity, dropping the last few games [and] things haven’t been going right,” DeRozan said. “It has to push you to more of a concentration and a sense of urgency to go out there and compete — whoever is out there playing. We can’t sit back and say, ‘Four games from now, maybe we’ll have this person back, this person back.’ We’ve got to have this motivate us, drive us to help get us to understand that things are tough and we’ve got to figure it out.

“Before you know it, the playoffs are going to be here, so we’ve got to figure it out. Can’t rely on who is possibly coming.”

DeRozan has hammered the message for weeks, as have coach Billy Donovan, guard Alex Caruso, center Tristan Thompson and others. Yet there was almost a woe-is-us mentality hanging over the Bulls last month as they played without Caruso, forward Patrick Williams and guards Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine. Caruso (wrist) and LaVine (knee) have returned, although neither will likely be at 100% until the offseason, and Williams (wrist) is expected back next week. However, the Bulls’ issues on the court haven’t improved, especially on defense, and DeRozan has reached the point of enough is enough.

“We’ve got to lean on each other to fix this,” he said.

The Bulls allowed the Suns to overcome a slow shooting start to finish 56% from the field and 44% from three. Meanwhile, the Bulls' offense was stagnant most of the night. DeRozan went 6-for-14, LaVine 1-for-7 and Nikola Vucevic 8-for-16.

The “Big Three’’ was a combined minus-73 in plus/minus.

The Bulls fell to 3-18 against teams currently with a winning percentage of .600 or better. They’re 1-10 against such Eastern Conference teams.

DeRozan is trying to prevent his teammates from buying into the belief that they have had a good year but can’t compete against elite teams. If a majority of the Bulls carry that into April and beyond, expect a short postseason run.

“We’ve just got to understand our mistakes,” DeRozan said. “We’ve kind of got to look at ourselves at why we drop games, why we can have a bad quarter defensively, offensively. You’ve just got to lean on [each other] more so than anything to make those corrections. That way, it can carry over once we get to the playoffs.

“There’s no footprint to it. You can struggle against certain teams in the regular season and beat them in the playoffs, but it’s really who can figure it out and do so quickly. As much as I hate losing, sometimes when you get knocked down, you’ve got to figure out yourself more in-depth, so it could be beneficial once playoffs come. I think that’s where we’re at, trying to understand ourselves, get more in-depth. What are we really made out of? It’s about digging down and seeing what we can get out of ourselves. For me, that’s the beauty of the challenge.” 

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