Can Bulls avoid visit from Ghost of Christmas Eve Past?

Covering the Bulls for number of years, it's not hard to recognize a Dead Team Walking.

There are major problems on this team, things that can't wait until Christmas Eve to be resolved.

At the start of the season, we tried to explain why management was OK with bringing back a flawed nucleus. In this case, management means a consensus of the basketball operations and ticket sales departments. They saw this Bulls team as a likable group, a collection of nice guys who get along well. The plan was to field a team good enough to compete for a play-in or playoff spot and sell enough tickets to turn a profit.

Then the games began and the Bulls turned out to be a bunch of guys who don't want to be here. Whether they dislike the chemistry, scheme or work ethic of certain teammates, these Bulls are playing with the enthusiasm of kids forced to skip a birthday party for their cousin's piano recital.

Outside of Coby White, who seems to be enjoying the chance to take on an expanded role, most everyone looks miserable, especially coach Billy Donovan. He might have set a record in Sunday's loss to Brooklyn by calling two disgusted timeouts in 10 seconds. A turnover and driving lay-in happened during the 10 seconds of game action.

On Nov. 14, Chicago-based NBA insider Shams Charania reported Zach LaVine was open to a trade. In today's media world, this sort of "breaking news" appears only when an interested party wants it broken. This was a clear message LaVine wants out.

There's no compelling reason for the Bulls to keep LaVine, but making a successful trade will be a challenge. He's in the second season of a five-year max contract and has not been associated with much winning basketball in the NBA.

That doesn't mean LaVine couldn't become a successful player on a new team. Bulls fans have seen that story many times before.

In the meantime, basketball operations chief Arturas Karnisovas basically has two choices: Change coaches and hope to light a spark, or suffer through a couple more months and hope to make some decent trades before the deadline hits in February.

The problem with midseason coaching changes is it's impossible to start over completely. Sometimes teams promote an assistant, in this case probably Chris Fleming.

There are some interesting coaches sitting on the sidelines if the Bulls want to go in that direction, like Maywood native Doc Rivers or former Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. It's also possible Karnisovas will look at the current situation, decide roster changes are inevitable and Donovan is the best option to coach a revamped group.

At this point, it feels like a change of scenery for LaVine is in the best interest of all parties. The Bulls needed him to take the reins from DeMar DeRozan and be the lead, but it's not happening.

It's not LaVine's fault he's been stuck on some terrible teams. But the whole operation is not in sync. The Bulls need more from LaVine, but he seems to need more from the team.

LaVine's inability to make winning plays consistently has been a source of frustration, and is likely rubbing off on teammates. An incredible athlete, LaVine ranks ninth on the team in blocked shots, eighth in offensive rebounds, seventh in steals. He's drawn one offensive foul all season, according to Last year, he drew 4 offensive fouls in 77 games. DeRozan drew 32 and Alex Caruso 47.

LaVine would be better off on a team like the Lakers, where he could be the third wheel next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But the Lakers have to be willing and Karnisovas needs to land at least one promising young player in return.

For anyone new to this saga, the Bulls of Christmas past have fired their head coach twice on Dec. 24 (Tim Floyd and Scott Skiles). Whether history repeats or not, this team appears headed for a dreary December.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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