DeMar DeRozan

Bulls' DeMar DeRozan guarantees better effort vs. Raptors

Disastrous home opener featured blowout loss and confrontation, prompting workmanlike response

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

There’s no such thing as a must-win game in the first week of the season. But the Chicago Bulls have created a scenario in which must-respond applies to Friday’s home matchup against the Toronto Raptors.

“Getting our (butt) kicked at (the) home opener, that’s a disrespect to us, disrespect to our fans. I just know we won’t let that happen again, at least not from an effort standpoint,” DeMar DeRozan said following Thursday’s practice at the Advocate Center. “We probably will have games where we won’t make shots. It may not be our night. But effort-wise, we could’ve done a lot better. We could’ve executed better.

“My takeaway is how we respond. You can sit up there and have a million conversations about something. But it’s about how you respond and the mindset that I know how everybody came in here (to practice) with, how they feel. That’s how I know for a fact (Friday) will not be like (Wednesday). I can guarantee you that.”

It’s not often guarantees are flowing in the first week of the season. But that’s what happens when you lose the season opener to the Oklahoma City Thunder by 20 points and have that be the third headline behind Nikola Vucevic and Billy Donovan having a heated exchange and a postgame conversation in which players said yes to Donovan’s offer to continuing talking amongst themselves before coaches entered.

“It was a conversation that needed to be had,” Torrey Craig said. “We didn’t come out and play the way we wanted to, especially at home and the first game of the season. We want to set a standard. And we weren’t satisfied. So we addressed it and moved on.

“That’s what good teams need. All good teams have those meetings. And you need it to progress and get better.”

With three games in four nights to start the season, including Saturday’s road opener in Detroit, the Bulls will find out quickly what they’re made of now that they’ve created this must-respond situation. Given that players themselves have talked about this likely being the last opportunity for this core to produce or changes could be made, there’s plenty at stake.

And from Donovan’s perspective, the coach who openly provided details not only of his in-game exchange with Vucevic but the players taking more time to talk among themselves before coaches entered the postgame locker room, Thursday was a productive day.

“The confrontational piece is good. It just is. No one came in here taking it personal, pouting, bad attitude. We watched film, the things about spacing and decision-making. . . . They put the work in. In terms of any lingering carryover from last night, there was none. They got to work and got the job done.”

Now let’s see the response on Friday night.

Donovan is welcoming any and all confrontation because, to him, that represents communication and care factor. He had no problem with the players wanting to talk more by themselves, pointing out that never would’ve happened last season. As he said Wednesday night, he offered that opportunity to the players.

Putting the players conversation into even greater perspective, Coby White went and told Donovan when the players were finished and the coaching staff then entered the locker room.

It’s hard to parse Xs and Os on a night where so much went awry. But the Bulls did tie last season’s high with 42 3-point attempts and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, two points of offseason emphasis. They obviously need to make more than 12 3-pointers, but 19 second-chance points is an improvement.

As for the negatives, offensive spacing and decision-making stood out on film. These were Vucevic’s main points of frustration---not necessarily touches or field-goal attempts but stagnation.

“I definitely get it. None of us take it as a negative. It’s him wanting to do whatever he can to make sure we win. It’s not from a selfish standpoint at all. I can honestly say that,” DeRozan said. “He’s right. I agree with him. We all agree with him. We all have to do a better job with that on down the line with everybody.”

Craig has talked openly about choosing the Bulls in free agency because he felt his competitive edge and ability to have honest, tough conversations with teammates could have significant impact. He quietly had a strong debut with 11 points, seven rebounds and three 3-pointers.

Like DeRozan, he had no issue with Vucevic voicing frustration.

“Being frustrated is part of the game. You’re in the NBA. It’s an emotional sport. It’s an emotional game. Emotions are going to fly,” Craig said. “Some guys play with a lot of emotion. And Vooch is one of those guys. It’s expected when you want to compete at a high level.”

Which the Bulls need to do on Friday night.

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