CHICAGO (670 The Score) – After the Bulls suffered their third consecutive loss Friday, this one in listless fashion to drop to 11-17, coach Billy Donovan had a straightforward message for his team in the locker room postgame.
“Our spirit and resolve needs to be better,” Donovan said. “That’s exactly what I said to them.”
One-third of the way through the regular season, the conversation surrounding the Bulls is largely centered on the abstract. That’s because their performance was pathetic for the final 28 minutes of game time in a 114-91 setback to the Knicks at the United Center, their second loss in three nights to the same foe.
After leading by seven points with four minutes left before halftime, the Bulls watched as the Knicks closed on a 17-5 run entering the break. It didn’t get any better from there, as the Knicks completely controlled the second half.
The Bulls were undone by their poor rebounding (the Knicks had 15 offensive rebounds), 20 turnovers and an inability to play with force, as they got to the free-throw line a measly eight times. A few boos rained down from the United Center game in the fourth quarter.
Afterward, Donovan kept hammering home the term “resolve.” He continually framed it in the context of the collective group while admitting the tougher mindset needs to start with veteran stars DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. As an example, Donovan thought the Bulls were frustrated by failing to get a few foul calls in their favor in the second quarter as the game began spiraling away from them.
“I do think individually DeMar and Vooch and Zach have some resolve,” Donovan said. “There’s pride there. It’s not about those three guys. It’s about a collective resolve and spirit, and our collective resolve and spirit in my opinion needs to be better. Do they have it individually? Yeah. There’s individual pride out there all the time. But collectively, we’ve got to have it as a group.
“You’ve got to be able to have resolve to be able to move through adversity on stuff that you can’t control. And I thought that that weighed on us and that impacted our spirit, where we’ve got to be able to fight through those things. It kind of bled into the third quarter.
The Bulls currently sit 11th in the East. Donovan pushed back at the theory that the season could be slipping away from his team, but he understands the need for urgency. He also brushed off a question about whether the Bulls bringing back the same roster from last season – and thus many of the same problems and weaknesses – was a mistake, but the fact that he fielded the query was reflective of the sorry state of the team.
“I don’t personally feel way,” Donovan said. “I think the character in that locker room is really, really good. I just think that, to your point, the adversity or the setbacks or whatever, those things that happen in the game, we have got to collectively have more resolve.”
And how does a player go about showcasing that trait?
“Go out there and play the right way,” LaVine said. “Play for each other, your coaches and your teammates. I think that’s the only way you can do it.”
Donovan was somewhat forceful in his postgame comments, with his voice rising on one occasion as he pointed out the Bulls were two DeRozan buzzer-beaters away from being in the play-in round last season. LaVine was rather muted in his postgame media session, with his answers rather short after a frustrating evening.
DeRozan was his usual positive, pleasant self, noting the Bulls’ struggles aren’t ideal but that “great stories start with some type of tragedy.”
“We just got to compete,” DeRozan said. “You never lose hope. No matter how hard and difficult a situation may seem or be, you can’t never lose hope. If you lose hope, you lost the whole battle.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.