The level of effort for the Bulls is now a question as the season continues to slide


MINNEAPOLIS — Much of Billy Donovan’s postgame press conference Sunday night was in the aftermath Chicago Bulls’ The latest defensive disaster centered on the essentials.



“If we want to be any good, we have to face the fact that you don’t run away from competition,” Donovan said. “We need to compete a lot better on the defensive end of the floor. And they are five men connected.

“I can switch to the area. I can switch to different covers. But if collectively as a group the level of competition isn’t high enough there, it doesn’t make a difference… You have to line up and put your nose, body, soul and spirit in front of people.”

The Bulls did, and memorably on the night of November 23 they went to Milwaukee and stood up to the incredible physical strength of the Bucks. This is no small or easy task.

So how does the Bull in just over three weeks go from that defensive effort and performance to Sunday night? That’s when the Minnesota Timberwolves set a franchise record with 150 points, becoming only the fourth opponent—and the first since 1982—to post that number or higher against the Bulls in a regulation game.

The Timberwolves also set the opponent’s season highs for points, field goals (57), 3-point field goals (23), and field goal percentage (65.5%).

Donovan basically said to ask the players. He’s already talked about the concept of sacrifice, and how Bulls needs to “get in the mindset that I feel like I’m doing it for him and I don’t let the guy I’m in there down.”

So the players answered the question: How did the Bulls get from the night of November 23rd in Milwaukee to this one?

“Because we don’t play for each other,” Goran Dragic said. “It’s that easy.”

This is as shocking as it is currently accurate.

DeMar DeRozan answered the same question.

“I think we all have to understand when you have games and moments like that (in Milwaukee), you have to create those. They don’t come when you’re playing against good teams. We have to do it against lower-level teams as well. It’s not who you play against. It’s What’s inside us every night we have to carry in. “I think a lot of times we lose sight of that and let the negative kind of force kick in and make us play these kinds of games,” DeRozan said. We have to have that competitive nature like we had in Milwaukee every night.

“Like if I grew up playing in the park where you want to go home with the ball. You want to fight and make sure you play the ball and take your ball home. We have to have that kind of attitude. Until we toughen up and realize, like, we’re leaving this park with Our ball regardless, we’ll keep getting the same results. I’m tired of going home without a ball.”

Zach LaVine gave his opinion next.

“Until we pull together and start helping each other, you’re not going to see a different result. You can’t ask your team to put in the effort every night. I think that’s the first thing you have to bring up from top to bottom,” he said. “The guys here are talking. We’re trying to be leaders in our own way, but we have to find a way to get it done.

“I mean, shoot, it’s not like we’re not trying. We go out here talking a lot. We just have to stop talking and go out and do it. We’ll do it inconsistently, or constantly for a play or two, but then not once.” Others. So it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for all of us. I know it’s frustrating for the fans. It’s embarrassing. We’re all a little embarrassed about it. At the end of the day, you have to look in the mirror and be real about it and figure out how to come back and fight back.”

The fact that the Bulls are 29 games into a season that started with heightened expectations and turned into post-game questions about key concepts like competition and communication is definitely concerning. Donovan and the players all agreed it was time to stop talking about it and start standing up for what is being said.

In other words, perform along with compulsory effort.

“We have to get out of the mentality of worrying about scoring and how offensively things go,” Donovan said.

In fact, 126 points and 52.3 percent shooting are more than enough to win. The Bulls even sank 16 three-pointers.

But whether it was allowing tackle man Nathan Knight to dunk unhindered at the edge or D’Angelo Russell going nuclear with seven three-pointers, they had no defensive answer.

“We have to play for each other,” Dragic said. “If you put two guys on the ball, the dirty side has to be there. So everyone has to be in the right position to help each other.

“And in offense the same thing. If we put the action in, everyone should be on the same page. Then play it with a purpose. Put up a good screen. Try to get your friend, your teammate open. And when you get the ball, you have to be smart with it to make the play.” Right. This goes both ways, defensively and offensively.”

As for Donovan’s concept of sacrifice, Dragic also agreed.

“Someone told me – and he was right – it’s easy to talk about sacrifice. But it’s easier to talk about someone else’s sacrifice. But when it comes to you, you have to sacrifice for the team, that’s a different story. You have to accept it. But he said.” Do this because we are in the same boat. Everyone plays in the same colors, in the same team, in the same city.

“That’s why we have to sacrifice for each other – to make a better play, to stand defensively, to protect someone, to swing a pass. If you have a good shot, swing it and someone will have a better shot. It’s details, small details.”

Speaking of specifics, Donovan shared an interesting one about an off-season conversation he had with Seattle Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.

“I’ve been talking to him about Seattle’s defense. And he’s been talking about, like, I know every one of these guys’ wives, their fathers, their brothers. And we’re in touch. He’s been talking a lot about that call,” Donovan said. It’s hard to be anything great as a group unless you’re really going to do it for the guy next to you. That’s what it comes down to. We have to do that for each other.”

Milwaukee’s victory – not to mention two high-profile victories over the Celtics – shows that the Bulls have the ability to play this way. To play with selflessness and while sacrificing for each other at both ends.

But she is not there now. Which is why DeRozan asked whether the Bulls need to work on strengthening relationships off the field to help them do so.

“Um, yes? No? Just because at the end of the day, we have a great group of guys. We don’t have any big egos. We don’t have a bunch of attention-fighting stars. That’s not a problem,” he said. “Whether we hang out more or not, we just understand what needs to be done and go out there and compete.

“We all have to be on the same level when we compete and not individually think, like, ‘Okay, lemme just do my job. “It’s a collective thing where we have to be as one.”

Lavigne agreed, pointing to the general unselfish mentality that both DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic constantly play with.

“We all try to play the right way,” said Lavigne. “I try to pick-and-roll out instead of trying to shoot it side one. Even if I think I can take a man, I try to hit the other side, hit the pocket, and then hit it. I know Vooch in the post has mismatches and sometimes they ask him for a space (on Earth).Same with DeMar.

“But for the three of us to come together, we just have to do a better job of helping facilitate abuse to where everyone feels involved.”

The Bulls have lost four straight and seven of nine. They are currently in a mess defensively. There are three matches left on this trip.

Will they stay in touch and start playing with their teammate? Donovan is waiting to be seen as well.

“In anything competitive, high level,” he said, “you have to deal with adversity, accept adversity, and turn to adversity.” “Adversity does one of two things. It either brings you very close together or divides you. The harder things get, the harder it is for you to rely on each other.”

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