Bulls Insider

Bulls must adapt to defensive pressure on DeRozan, LaVine


PHOENIX — DeMar DeRozan said he isn’t tired mentally or physically, embraces the challenge of doing his part to right the Chicago Bulls’ ship and is spreading the message that adversity builds character to his teammates.

“I’m a guy who loves a challenge. When things get rough, I don’t necessarily shy away from it. I don’t let it put me in a negative spot,” DeRozan said late Friday after the Bulls concluded an 0-3 trip with a blowout loss to the Suns. “It’s the challenge that as a competitor, you gotta step up too.

“That’s one thing I try to express to the guys — we just gotta step up to it. You gotta find the beauty in it at the same time. You really get to see what you’re made out of and understand what you need to get better at if you really want to be something.”

But in the next breath, DeRozan admitted he’s seeing the most double teams not only of this season — but of his entire 13-year career.

“For sure. No question. Probably the most I’ve seen in my career, to be honest with you,” DeRozan said. “For me, it’s one of those things that we gotta figure it out. It’s on me to help the guys figure it out as well. The best way to learn is to be knocked in the mouth like we doing. Now it’s a matter of us responding, letting it click. Once it clicks, we be fine.”

DeRozan and Zach LaVine are willing passers. LaVine’s season-high-tying nine assists against the Suns is evidence of that. And DeRozan is averaging over five assists for the fifth straight season.

But with the Bulls’ defense consistently giving up big numbers in porous fashion, the offense is needed more than ever. And suddenly, that’s stumbling a bit.

Since his historic streak of eight straight 35-point games with 50 percent or better shooting in each, DeRozan is averaging 24.9 points on 41.1 percent shooting and 5.2 assists over 10 games. He needs help.

“That’s the next evolution of us really being an extremely good team — not being surprised when teams blitz me or double team me or try to get the ball out of me and Zach’s hands,” DeRozan said. “We need to keep evolving and understanding how we can beat teams and use that against them.

“We’re trying to make the right play. We’re understanding we’re trying to make it easier on guys. We keep making that contagious and understanding it’s on us figuring out when to score, when to be aggressive, when to find guys. Once that rhythm comes, we’re going to be alright.”

DeRozan was upbeat as he talked. The Bulls are 2-8 over their last 10 games, but he’s spinning it positively as a chance to grow.

“You hit bumpy roads and you gotta make adjustments while you’re on that road and try to get out of that terrain. That’s just where we at,” DeRozan said. “I told the guys the same thing. We just hit that tough spot. It’s on us to get ourselves out of it and figure it out.

“We’re at that time of the year where nothing is a secret. We been playing great basketball throughout the whole year. We hit that bumpy road where teams are going after us no matter who we play. That’s a newfound adjustment and understanding for us that a lot of guys on this team haven’t had before.  And the turnaround of figuring out and adjusting is quick.”

DeRozan said he indeed is a scoreboard watcher. So he knows the Bulls have dropped 1.5 games behind the Celtics for homecourt advantage in the playoffs and sit just one game ahead of sixth-place Cleveland. Big games await.

So do more double teams.

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