Two-day breather for Bulls potentially could help clean up some issues
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Finally, the Bulls get a breather.
Well, as much of a breather as an undermanned, overworked team could ask for these days, with the next two opponents being the lottery-bound Cavaliers and Mavericks at the United Center.
After a stretch of six games (five against likely playoff teams) crammed into 10 nights, the Bulls finally were able to get in a needed full practice Friday.
Trying to fix glaring holes in shootarounds and walkthroughs wasn’t getting it done, so the timing for the practice couldn’t have been better.
“We’ve got to execute better, [and] we’ve got to get more consistent on the offensive end,” Hoiberg said of the Bulls’ 3-9 start. “We’ve got habits that we need to break these next few days. [Friday was] the first time to practice in a long time. First time with two days in between games since we started, so it’s a great opportunity to get out here on the practice court and hopefully correct some things.’’
There’s a list of things.
First, leading scorer Zach LaVine must stay in a rhythm and not get caught up trying to carry the team. It’s not an easy tightrope to walk all the time, especially since LaVine is fourth in the NBA in scoring with 27.4 points per game despite having the lowest shooting percentage (.461) of the quartet.
“I’m doing what I have to do,” LaVine said. “I don’t know if I have to score 30 for us to win. I think we won one game where I didn’t.”
LaVine is correct. He scored 27 in the 97-85 victory against the Hawks. In the double-overtime win over the Knicks, LaVine scored 41. In the win against the Hornets, he scored 32.
“I’ll do whatever I have to do to try to put points on the board or help us win,” LaVine said. “If that’s scoring, facilitating, rebounding, whatever it is. It’s scoring for right now. I’ll continue to do that until we need something else.”
The Bulls offered no clarity on when other scorers will return from injury. Lauri Markkanen (right elbow) is the only player starting to work his way back into the lineup, but that won’t come until late November at the earliest.
Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said Wednesday in New Orleans that Denzel Valentine (left ankle) was downgraded to being out “indefinitely,” while Kris Dunn (left knee) and Bobby Portis (right knee) were still more than a month away.
“We go out there with what we have and we play hard and we give ourselves an opportunity to win,” LaVine said of the mental fatigue associated with being short-handed. “That’s what we can pat ourselves on the back for. If we go out there and execute and do everything we can to be in the game at the end and have a fighting chance, I think we did our job. It’s a little tiring. But this is our job to go out and do this.”
Elsewhere, backup center Cristiano Felicio could lose minutes to Robin Lopez. At starting point guard, Ryan Arcidiacono has outplayed Cam Payne in two of the last three games.
And, of course, there’s always the defense.
“If we keep the effort going, we’re going to be fine,” Hoiberg said. “My job is to keep the spirits up, keep the morale up through some of these tough times.”