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Bulls’ lack of toughness will be tested during five-city Western trip

The Bulls have some tough players.

Ask Nikola Mirotic if Bobby Portis is one to be intimidated.

Robin Lopez backs down from no one.

And to a man, the Bulls will tell you that if you’re going down a sketchy alley, Kris Dunn is the guy you want next to you.

Collectively, however, this team comes up a bit soft in the toughness department. But at least the group is self-aware enough to admit it.

“We need to be more physical,’’ guard Zach LaVine said as the Bulls prepared for a five-game, 10-day trip that begins Wednesday in Portland. “I feel like when teams see us, they can take advantage of us at times in the game, and I don’t think that’s a good trait to have as a team.

“Overall, we need to be tougher. [Maybe] sending a message by committing a foul early in the game or setting the tone. . . . Physicality, but not just playing your way into the game, starting it off like that.’’

LaVine points the first finger at himself.

“I think I gotta do a better job with that, as well,’’ he said.

That was clear Sunday during the loss to Brooklyn. The Nets brought in tough-minded veterans such as DeMarre Carroll off the bench and bullied the younger Bulls.

“We need to get a physical toughness,’’ coach Jim Boylen said Tuesday. ‘‘We can’t let teams manhandle us on the defensive end.’’

Can toughness be taught, though?

LaVine thinks so.

“It can be [difficult to teach] because it’s all new, but we’ve got to stop talking about youth because that’s where we’re at right now,’’ LaVine said. “We’re going to keep playing like this, so we’re going to get better. There’s going to be steps that we have to take, but you can change that very fast by changing the way you play or your mindset.’’

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Does that mean fans should expect a hard foul early against the Trail Blazers or Boylen drawing a technical? Maybe.

Boylen hopes the Bulls reach that next level soon.

“I had an [athletic director] tell me one time that maturity only happens with the passage of time,’’ Boylen said. “We’re trying to speed it up. You do that on the practice floor. That’s why practices are so important.

“These days, [toughness is] recovering from a mistake. The ability to recover from an in-game failure, maybe a poor quarter. Can you mentally right the ship in your mind and battle through it? I talk to our guys about, if you start poorly, are you going to have a bad game? Or are you going to compete? If you start well, can you sustain it and make the adjustments when the defense adjusts to you? That mental edge and toughness, some of it is maturity. Some is experience. There’s physical toughness, mental toughness. There’s bringing a consistent edge. I think all those things are part of it.’’

And all will be tested on this trip against the Trail Blazers, Warriors, Jazz, Lakers and Nuggets.

“You got 41 home, 41 road,’’ Boylen said. “You’ve got to play them; you’ve got to embrace them.’’