Our Pledge To You

Bulls

The Bulls need to take a look in the mirror this offseason and get defensive

It’s no surprise that the Bulls’ defense is shaky right now.

They’re down a handful of starters and are using unfamiliar lineup combinations that they haven’t used before.

But the 124-96 loss to the Nets on Saturday wasn’t just poor defense, but rather a “debacle,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said.

The Bulls allowed the Nets to make a franchise-high 24 three-pointers on 55 attempts. The coaches knew they were coming. The players knew they were coming. And there was no answer.

RELATED STORIES
Bulls lose to Brooklyn
Loyola receives VIP treatment at UC

That’s why the Bulls entered Sunday tied for 25th in the league in points allowed (109.8) and 26th in defensive efficiency (108.9). Last season, the Bulls finished sixth in efficiency (104.5) and sixth in points allowed (102.4).

Because the 2016-17 roster was comprised of Tom Thibodeau holdovers, including Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson (before his trade to the Thunder), many nights the Bulls used defensive concepts employed by their former coach. Not only was it the defense that Butler wanted to play, but it obviously worked.

That never really sat well with current associate head coach Jim Boylen, who was hired to keep the Bulls a top defensive team. According to one former player, he was very critical of Thibodeau’s defense and wanted to scrap it two seasons ago.

In the offseason, Boylen got his wish, but now it might be time to go back to the drawing board.

“Obviously we’ll look at improvements across the board, and defensively is one area,’’ Hoiberg said. “I thought we had a good little stretch there before these last couple games where I thought we were really good with our hands. The turnovers, getting our hands on balls, deflections, forcing them, but [Saturday] was obviously a debacle. We were stuck in mud from the very beginning of the game.

“That’s obviously something we’ll look at, as far as philosophy, what exactly we’re going to do.’’

In Boylen’s defense, a young roster, as well as one subject to frequent change, is a recipe for defensive lapses.

What needs to be looked at, however, is coming up with a defensive philosophy that is sustainable from game to game and lineup to lineup. Thibodeau’s defense is based on switching everything, much like the defense the Bulls faced March 27 against the Rockets and coach Mike D’Antoni.

The starters know the defense, and the bench players know it. It travels well in back-to-backs and stretches of four games in five nights when little else does.

According to Butler, when the Bulls did try to step away from Thibodeau’s defense and go with Boylen’s last season, it was too different from game to game.

“It’s a trust factor right now with so many different lineups,’’ guard Jerian Grant said. “But the thing is, the personnel is so much different than last season. Having guys like Jimmy, D-Wade [Dwyane Wade], [Rajon] Rondo, Taj, real defensive guys who get up into you is different than the guys we have in there. Comparing us to last year, it’s a huge difference. Having games where you give up 120 points, it’s just going to be hard to win. But in the offseason, that’s something we need to look at and something that will change.’’