Under most circumstances, Monday would have been an off-day for the Bulls players.
Sunday’s off-night against Denver, however, altered that.
Then again, calling it an off-night was being kind.
Guard Ayo Dosunmu was a minus-27 in his 30 minutes of work, closely followed by DeMar DeRozan’s minus-26, Patrick Williams’ minus-24, Zach LaVine’s minus-18, and then Nikola Vucevic bringing up the rear at a minus-16.
Further evidence of that dismal showing came in the very first quarter in which the starters dug themselves into a 12-point deficit courtesy of lethargic defense, and had six turnovers on the offensive end.
A half-hearted display that fell directly on that first unit from tip-off to final horn, earning the entire group – starters and reserves – a noon practice 14 hours later.
LaVine didn’t run from that after the game, calling the display in front of the United Center crowd “unacceptable.’’
But then the two-time All-Star added something very interesting, continuing on with, “from all of us, one-through-15, the coaching staff, everybody.’’
That’s usually the type of statement that could raise some eyebrows on maybe there’s more going on behind the curtains. When players publicly involve the coaching staff in their failings, it’s often considered an indictment more so than honesty.
Newsflash – that’s not the case with LaVine.
LaVine has always been a straight-shooter after tough losses, and doesn’t work with an agenda of cryptic messaging about the coaches or front office.
His feelings were then backed up by Billy Donovan after the Monday practice, with the coach explaining in length the accountability that everyone involved should take away from the performance against the Nuggets.
Like LaVine, Donovan has proven to be very good in the transparency department on those fronts.
It also doesn’t hurt that both are working from a place where they are very comfortable in saying what needs to be said.
LaVine was just given a five-year, $215-million max contract last summer, while sources have told the Sun-Times that the front office hasn’t had a hint of wavering from the idea that Donovan is the right person to coach this team in Year 3 of his four-year contract.
So should the panic button even be pressed in mid-November with just 14 games in the books, a 6-8 record, and still over 80% of the season left? Pressed? No. Located just in case? Definitely.
The Bulls have the record they have not because they were unprepared and low-energy in all eight of the losses. If anything, Denver was an outlier. They have eight losses because executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas took a leap of faith that continuity was the right path with this group.
A group that is made up of players with a history of inconsistent availability.
That’s been on display yet again since fall camp started in September. Without Lonzo Ball (left knee surgery) available, and then making it public the morning of the regular-season opener in Miami that LaVine was on a left knee-management schedule for an unknown amount of time, the 8-ball was rolled into place and the Bulls quickly found themselves behind it.
The organization is still holding out hope that Ball will be back at some point this season and get enough games under his belt to be ready for a possible playoff run. When it comes to LaVine, he’s been able to get more work in lately, both in the games and practice, which is a win in itself.
Having a fully healthy roster is the light at the end of this tunnel, but that means continuing to fight through the darkness.
And on some days, that also means having an extra practice.