‘It’s going to be important to be patient’ – The Denver Post


After a 13-game sprint to start the season, the Chicago Bulls are still figuring out how to find consistency.

They haven’t suffered more than two straight losses but also haven’t strung together more than two wins in a row. The team’s results often seem contradictory — a resounding road win over the powerhouse Miami Heat followed by a deflating loss to the Washington Wizards and trading double-digit wins with the Toronto Raptors on consecutive nights.

Guard Zach LaVine’s lingering left knee injury only exacerbated the unpredictability of the first three weeks of the season. But even as LaVine nears full availability, the Bulls still have plenty to smooth out to win consistently.

“To me, it’s just all the details,” coach Billy Donovan said. “Our effort has been there for the most part. I give our guys a lot of credit to see what they went through physically with how condensed (the schedule) was. I really felt like our guys’ effort is there. I don’t think the execution and the details have been.”

The start is tepid in comparison to the opening weeks of last season, which featured a four-game winning streak to begin the schedule. The Bulls went 23-10 through three months, dropping only four home games during that stretch. And they maintained that pace despite the loss of Patrick Williams to a left wrist injury in the fourth game, which significantly disrupted the starting lineup.

Despite the disparity, center Nikola Vučević feels the challenges of the opening three weeks this season have provided a more accurate barometer for the Bulls.

“These things where we’re going through some ups and downs, it’s going to be good for us to see ‘Hey, this doesn’t work, this works,’ ” Vučević said. “You learn from it and move on. Last year started off so well, it covered up all the things that were not going well. It’s just human nature to do that.”

In a reversal from the end of last season, the Bulls have found a comfort zone defensively. They entered Friday ranked fifth in defensive rating at 108.5, a stark improvement from 23rd in 2021-22. The Bulls were 10th in defense through the first three months of last season before plummeting with the losses of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso to injury.

Maintaining defensive pressure will be a priority for the Bulls to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference. But the offense has proved streaky.

Although Donovan balked in the preseason at describing the offense as a completely new system, the team’s focus on ball movement has produced an improved offensive pace — but also created growing pains.

“It looks good at times,” LaVine said. “Sometimes, it looks like we don’t know what we’re doing. The ball gets stuck or people are just looking. I don’t think we necessarily want it that way, but you have to go through and figure out if it’s the best thing for us. We’re not just going to abandon it after 10 games. We’ll keep working with it.”

The Bulls will always rely heavily on their three All-Stars, but the trio’s scoring pace has been slightly reduced this season: DeMar DeRozan is averaging 24.5 points per game, LaVine 22 and Vučević 16.5 .

A successful offense built around their All-Stars requires the Bulls to create other options. They have thrived off the intense offense from the bench unit, which was diminished by key injuries to backup center Andre Drummond and guard Coby White, who is still sidelined with a thigh bruise.

With Drummond back in the mix and LaVine preparing to shoulder a full load of games soon, the Bulls are hoping for more lineup consistency. But last season taught them that consistency can’t come from a lack of injuries — if the Bulls are going to break out of this up-and-down cycle, they’ll need to create a rubric for offensive stability that doesn’t rely on the availability of one or two players.

“It just takes time to process,” Vučević said. “You have to be patient with it and continue to stick with it. You don’t go away from it or get frustrated if it’s not working. It’s going to be important to be patient.”



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