The Bulls and their new roster had very little time to work with each other after the Thursday trade deadline, and it showed. Now it’s up to All-Stars Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic to figure out, and do so quickly.
There will be better nights.
There has to be.
The Bulls didn’t mortgage the immediate draft future and say goodbye to youthful development, just so they can be run out of opposing buildings like the Spurs did to them in Saturday’s 120-104 one-sided affair.
If there was good news to come out of the loss for the new-look roster it was they have an important practice scheduled in the Bay Area during Sunday’s off day. With only 28 regular-season games left, however, they need more than a day.
All-Star center, and trade deadline addition, Nikola Vucevic knows that he and Zach LaVine will work, but as the loss in San Antonio showed it’s about getting all the pieces to work together.
Too many moments of LaVine & Co. going out of their own comfort level to try and feed a big with a skillset that many of them have never played with. It showed and it was obvious.
“That’s a big part of it,’’ coach Billy Donovan said of the immediate growing pains with his two All-Stars. “So much of Zach, at least this year, he’s played at such an exceptionally high level and has carried in so many ways … then you add a guy like ‘Vuch’ and he’s trying to learn … I think the thing that Zach cannot do is start to worry about feeding [Vucevic].
“There’s opportunities to find ‘Vuch’ and we missed him a bunch [Saturday]. It’s just I think those guys playing with each other, and I do think because Zach is an unselfish player and he wants to win, I thought he shot ball poorly in my opinion, from the perspective that he was trying to find [Vucevic] and I think it took him out of rhythm too. But playing with a player like that will take an adjustment period, not only from [LaVine], but I think from everybody.’’
“We have talked about it and we will obviously the more we’re together, but also part of it will be just going out there and playing our game,’’ Vucevic said. “There probably will be things that will be different, but I think overall we have to do what makes us good players. If we start doing differently it’s not going to help anybody. Some of it is repetition and playing together. The more games we play together will help.’’
Well, obviously at least more than one game.
While the Bulls (19-25) did make a run in the fourth quarter to cut a 36-point deficit to single digits with 5:13 left in the game, it was just too deep a hole to climb out of. As far as the new faces, Vucevic finished with 21 points and nine rebounds in his Bulls debut, Al-Farouq Aminu had two, Troy Brown Jr. had eight, and Javonte Green went scoreless, but had a few solid defensive moments.
How all the combinations will work once Daniel Theis joins the team in time for the game at Golden State? That will fall Donovan. What will fall on LaVine and Vucevic is to figure out how to play their games and do so without compromising what has made them both All-Stars.
They obviously struggled with that in the opening quarter, as Vucevic scored the first time they got the ball to him, and then it all seemed to unravel, especially on the defensive end.
By the end of the first, the Spurs (23-20) had a 33-20 lead, and then piled onto it.
And while the fourth-quarter fight was nice, it was almost as if San Antonio had checked out, as Donovan found a group that was willing to take advantage of that.
“We gotta get that chemistry right,’’ LaVine said. “[Vucevic’s] very transparent and I’m transparent with him. I think we’re both going to figure it out. I’m not scared about that.’’