Short-handed Bulls trying to keep frustration at bay
Thursday might have been the night when frustration became overwhelming for the Bulls.
The return from the all-star break was supposed to bring a fresh start, with some players finally getting back from injury. But rookie center Daniel Gafford was the only player who returned.
Another smallish crowd at the United Center grumbled loudly as the Bulls fell behind by 21 points in the third quarter. Thad Young led a comeback to get within 2 points, but once again, the short-handed Bulls couldn't compete against Charlotte and ran their losing streak to seven straight.
Zach LaVine was already tired of the losing. The best team he's played for was a 31-51 Minnesota squad. The Bulls started the year talking playoffs, but now getting to 30 wins seems unlikely.
"We're fighting. Everybody knows we're undermanned right now, but nobody cares," LaVine said. "It's a dog-eat-dog world out here."
LaVine's body language slips deep into negativity at times. But he's really done a remarkable job staying positive over the past few weeks, through the disappointment of not making the all-star team and Bulls fans venting frustration during a live TV show to the losing streak.
"I just understand the situation that we're in," LaVine said. "I'm a glass half-full type guy. I think I say things how it is still. I'm frustrated, I think everybody is. We've been losing, but I take pride in what I do on the court each and every day."
Now the Bulls have three more home games in the next five days. Two teams with losing records, Phoenix and Washington, visit this weekend, but that can be a tricky situation if the Bulls fall flat again in a game that is theoretically winnable.
There was a lot of chatter about starting Ryan Arcidiacono on Thursday instead of rookie Coby White. But really, there are no great choices. White is clearly a developing player with a long way to go. He hit 3 of 11 shots for 12 points in 30 minutes against the Hornets.
After Friday's practice at the Advocate Center, Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr. and Denzel Valentine were jogging on the court, but none of them is expected to play Saturday against Phoenix. Meanwhile, center Luke Kornet sprained his left ankle during practice and is listed as doubtful.
With the Bulls planning front office changes, no one knows how much longer coach Jim Boylen will stay on the job, but he's been talking about foundations and long-term plans the past few days.
"Even though we're on a losing streak, we're still playing hard, aggressive basketball," Boylen said Friday. "I think we're fifth in February in points in the paint, so I try to look at the facts of things we are doing. After the 50-game mark, we were plus-seven wins from last year at the 50-game mark. Then we had some guys start to go down."
It won't get any easier with still 26 games remaining, although maybe someday the Bulls will get closer to full strength.
"I'm not going to let the injury bug or the negativity stop the understanding of what we're building and who we are," Boylen said. "There's a lot of positive things that we've done and that we're doing. Injury makes it hard on everybody."
Bulls game dayBulls game day
Bulls vs. Phoenix Suns, 7 p.m. Saturday at the United Center
TV: NBCSCH • Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: This is the first meeting of the season between the Bulls and Suns. Phoenix returned from the break on Friday in Toronto. Before the break, the Suns had lost six of eight. ... SG Devin Booker, who made his first all-star appearance last weekend, is averaging 26.4 points. SF Kelly Oubre is at 18.9 ppg, while second-year center DeAndre Ayton is averaging 18.7 points and 12 rebounds. ... Benet Academy's Frank Kakinsky is out with a stress fracture in his knee. ... The Bulls swept the Suns last season.
Next: Washington Wizards, 6 p.m. Sunday at the United Center
-- Mike McGraw