LaVine wants Bulls to get tougher
Zach LaVine knows where the Chicago Bulls need to improve. He mentioned it after Sunday's game, saw it on the opposite bench and gave a more thorough explanation at Monday's practice.
After Sunday's loss to Brooklyn, LaVine said the Bulls need to get tougher, himself included.
"I just think we need to be more physical," LaVine said Monday at the Advocate Center. "I feel like when teams see us they can take advantage of us at times in the game and I don't think that's a good trait to have as a team."
Maybe it's not ideal, but it's a way of life for a team that has one veteran in the playing rotation. Besides Robin Lopez, LaVine, 23, is the most experienced player the Bulls use, in his fifth NBA season.
The Nets provided an interesting contrast. Their young talent is probably not as impressive as what's on the Bulls' roster. But the Nets have some veterans in key roles, such as Jared Dudley, DeMarre Carroll and Ed Davis, with a combined 28 years in the league. Those three guys made a difference in Brooklyn's 117-100 victory.
"Yeah, they brought some vets in there that are rough and they know their roles on the team and they're going to do that to a 'T,'" LaVine said. "You know what to expect from them every night and I think we need that."
True, but immediate help is not on the way. This is a season for the Bulls' young core to get on the floor and see what they bring. Management may try to bring in some veterans this summer, but with a 10-30 record and some impressive talent waiting in the 2019 draft, winning is not going to be the highest priority right now.
So how does a team starting two rookies (Wendell Carter Jr., Chandler Hutchison), a second-year player (Lauri Markkanen) and third-year player (Kris Dunn) get tougher against older competition?
"It can be (difficult) because it's all new, but we've got to stop talking about youth," LaVine said. "There's going to be steps that we have to take but you can change that very fast by changing the way you play or your mindset on the game.
"I think overall we need to be tougher. If that's sending a message by committing a foul early in the game or setting the tone (and) physicality, not just playing your way into the game, start it off like that."
Coach Jim Boylen got his start as an NBA assistant coach in the 1990s, when defense and physical play was important. Offense and 3-point shooting has become a higher priority, but Boylen wants the Bulls to start with an old school-style foundation.
Boylen has been preaching about mental toughness, like recovering from a few mistakes or a bad quarter. But he agreed with LaVine's view of the team.
"I think sometimes you've just got to get a guy off you," Boylen said. "You've got to make a stand. Whether it's more physical on our screening or more physical on narrowing the floor and getting open, get lower. It's technique, but it's also a want to and you've got to make a conscious decision.
"You control your effort. You control your physicality. I can't do that. Coaches can't do that. So that's what we're asking our guys to do and it's a learning thing. It's just part of the maturation process."
While LaVine would like to have some veteran help, it sounds like he knows the reality for the second half of the season. If this young group plays better and starts winning more games, so be it. But they're going to have to stand up for themselves.