Loss to Celtics can serve as reminder of what Bulls should try to be
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There has to be better. The Bulls’ 111-104 road loss Friday to the Celtics was another reminder of that.
The Celtics’ organization should be everything the Bulls would like to emulate. Make that need to emulate.
Off the court, the Celtics make smart draft choices, are aggressive on the trade market and are unafraid in free agency. On the court, they have an offensive and defensive identity that holds up for an 82-game regular season.
Yes, injuries to Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward likely have derailed their championship chances this season, but the Celtics are considered to be the ‘‘it’’ team for the next three to five years because of how their roster is constructed.
Conversely, the way the Bulls’ roster is constructed, they are more a question mark in the first season of their rebuild than an up-and-coming Eastern Conference power.
Even the Bulls’ players know that. They acknowledged the important steps that must be taken this summer.
‘‘I just want to show the organization and the team and everybody that I’m serious about this summer, that I’m serious about working and excited for next season,’’ point guard Kris Dunn said. ‘‘I’m going to try to come in and try to improve and try to accept the challenge that we have as a group to be able to try to chase the playoffs.
‘‘I’m not saying we’re going to make it right away, but we’re definitely going to try to chase it.’’
That isn’t just talk from Dunn. The one thing he has shown is that he’s willing to put in the work. And while he will be an important piece in the Bulls’ effort to follow in the Celtics’ footsteps, here are three other members of the organization who will be more vital:
1. General manager Gar Forman
There’s a reason Forman seldom has been seen or heard for most of this season. He is no longer the voice he was for the last five-plus years.
Forman’s presence caused uneasiness more than anything else, not only among media and fans but his own players. Let’s just say there’s a lack of trust when it comes to Forman.
That’s one of the reasons he has moved behind the scenes, focusing more on the scouting end, while vice president John Paxson once again is getting the team’s message out and dealing with the players and coaching staff.
But that doesn’t mean Forman doesn’t have to prove his value. With as much time as he has spent on the road, the draft in June might be make-or-break for him. Forman has to hit on the Bulls’ two first-round picks, no matter where they end up selecting.
2. Guard Zach LaVine
LaVine, who will be a restricted free agent after the season, is about to get a big payday this summer. It might not be as big as he would like, but he undoubtedly will be the highest-paid player on the Bulls’ roster by a bunch.
With that will come huge expectations — and rightfully so. Yes, LaVine can have big scoring nights, but the face of an organization needs to be much more than that. That means understanding the importance of defense and leadership.
3. Associate head coach Jim Boylen
What continues to stand out about the Celtics is the way they play defense. Their philosophy is sound, and it runs from the start of the regular season through April.
The Bulls are too often disjointed defensively. Since former coach Tom Thibodeau was fired after the 2014-15 season, the Bulls’ defense has continued to slip. And the only reason it had any life to it the last two seasons was because the players were mostly mimicking Thibodeau’s defense.
That hasn’t been the case this season, and it has shown. The Bulls rank 24th in the league in defensive efficiency and 25th in points allowed.
While the defense is something of a group effort among the coaches, Boylen has the largest say. He was brought over from the Spurs to make sure the defense would stay at a high level, and it hasn’t.
A big reason why, former and current players say, is that there is no set philosophy. It’s based on reacting to the matchups instead of forcing the offense to react to it.
There have been whispers the defense will be scrutinized this summer, but that remains to be seen. It will be an ego check for Boylen either way.