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DeRozan on latest loss: ‘We played like (expletive)'


DeMar DeRozan didn’t mince words.

“We played like (expletive),” he said.

Zach LaVine called the Chicago Bulls’ embarrassing 114-91 home loss to the New York Knicks “terrible.”

How low can the Bulls go? And where do they go from here?

After their third straight loss and sixth in eight games dropped them to a season-low six games under .500, there are currently more questions than answers. But after a disturbingly lifeless home performance that allowed the Knicks to sweep a two-game set in convincing fashion, something has to change.

From coach Billy Donovan admitting pregame that everything has to be on the table in terms of starting lineups and rotations to the size and shooting disparities that played out in the form of the Knicks winning the 3-point battle by 15 points and second-chance points by 14-0, the Bulls currently have very little stability game-to-game on which to rely.

To this point, executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas has shown no indications of a major roster shakeup. But other teams around the league smell blood and are lurking in case that stance changes.

Would these same Knicks, who missed out on the Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes, engage and offer future draft capital if DeRozan and LaVine are dangled?

Lonzo Ball isn’t walking through that door anymore. That’s not to say the point guard who means so much to this roster’s construction at both ends won’t play this season. As of now, there is no definitive decision on that other than trying to solve the lingering pain issues he faces during his lengthy and arduous rehabilitation.

What can be definitely stated regarding Ball is that the preseason stance that the Bulls could keep things stable until his floor-spacing and pace-pushing offensive ability and turnover-wreaking defensive ability returned no longer applies. It’s unfair, not to mention unrealistic for someone who hasn’t played since January, to expect Ball to be a season savior even if he does return.

If Ball plays this season, anything he contributes has to be considered gravy.

So how do the Bulls make hay on a daily basis? Coach Billy Donovan repeatedly cited the need for an improved “collective spirit and resolve.” In Donovan’s view, the Bulls let in-game adversity snowball and, eventually, overwhelm them.

DeRozan agreed.

“I think myself along with a few others, we let frustration get to us, whether we felt like calls weren’t going our way or whatever,” he said. “We didn’t have a sense of urgency. We didn’t do nothing. That goes back on us having to look in the mirror and start with each and every one of us. If you’re a competitor, you gotta play a full game.

“We gotta get tired of having this feeling of not competing and losing like this, especially on our homecourt. It’s not ideal where we’re at. But hey, great stories start with some sort of tragedy.”

LaVine also looked forward.

“If you don’t have belief, what you doing out here? I have confidence in myself and my teammates because we put the work in. If you doubt it, you shouldn’t be here,” LaVine said. “Obviously, these are tough times. We’re not trying to play like this. But if you do, you gotta own it and try to play better.

“Play the right way. Play for each other and your coaches and teammates. I think that’s the only way you can do it. You can’t separate.”

So there’s agreement between coach and his star players. That’s a start. The fact there are no signs of separation is another potential step forward. But that’s off-the-court stuff.

On the court, management’s desire to see continuity hasn’t transpired because of Ball’s situation. After such high-profile struggles against top-tier teams last season, the Bulls own two victories over the Celtics and one against the Bucks this season.

But the lack of 3-point shooting and lack of consistency in areas like ball security one night or limiting second-chance points on another is jarring.

“I don’t personally feel that way,” Donovan said, when asked if management miscalculated by bringing back the same group. “I think the character in that locker room is really, really good. I just think that with the adversity that happens in the game, we have to collectively have more resolve.”

Donovan did remind all that the Bulls were two DeRozan 3-point buzzer beaters away from landing in the play-in tournament last season. Take those ridiculous game-winners at Indiana and Washington away last season and the Bulls weren’t landing in the sixth seed.

Even the sixth seed is a long way off right now for a team which has the internal expectations of winning at least one playoff round this season. The Bulls currently sit 11th in the Eastern Conference.

DeRozan and LaVine combined for nine of the Bulls’ 20 turnovers. LaVine's postgame frustration was palpable. DeRozan, as is his nature, turned philosophical.

“We just trying to figure out ways to pull each other up. When we’re all frustrated, it’s hard at times to be completely positive because we all want the outcome to be different. Everybody feels like they can do something to change that,” DeRozan said. “We gotta stay on each other. We’re in it together, win, lose or draw. It’s human nature to get frustrated so figure out ways to stay uplifted.

“I know we all want it to change. We just gotta keep calm and stay level-headed so we don’t let that frustration get to us.”

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