The problems are piling up for the Bulls this week

With Thursday's rough ending in Charlotte, the Bulls now own losses to four of the five worst teams in the NBA, and there are still two more chances to complete the set by losing to the Pistons.

The Bulls have essentially played the same game twice on this road trip. They were outscored by 23 points in the second half against the Hornets, and by 22 at Indiana. One more stop remains in Orlando on Saturday. The Magic are a bottom-five team, so it may not go well.

Astute fans might recall the Bulls used the opposite method - fall behind early, then come up short after a frantic second half - to lose games early in the season. And before these last two losses, the Bulls were playing well, 11-6 over a 17-game span.

Coach Billy Donovan suggested more desperation as the cure. Don't ease into the second half counting on the other team to roll over and concede defeat.

"Sometimes we play for each other and play the right way for one half, then in the second half we are up, get a little more lackadaisical when we are in control and the rope slips," Zach LaVine said after the loss in Charlotte. "Any team that gets hot, we get put on our heels, and then it's up in the air."

The NBA trade deadline is approaching on Feb. 9, but it will be tough for the Bulls to fix anything through roster maneuvers. Both Donovan and LaVine said no changes are needed.

"I'm not at a point to say, 'OK, this just can't work,'" Donovan said. "I think there's too much substance of guys who are good guys that I think want to do the right things and care, but we've got to be able to do it."

Added LaVine: "Whoever is on the team, I ride with them. I'm not the person in the front office making the decisions, so I go out there and do my job. I believe in myself and I believe in the team, whoever is on this team."

The Bulls' biggest problems of the week fall into three basic categories:

The kids aren't all right:

The Bulls have that veteran core with LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, but they're also suffering growing pains from Patrick Williams, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu.

White hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter Thursday, then finished with 6 points. White's been playing better lately, but when the Bulls really needed him against the Hornets, he couldn't hit a shot.

Williams had a pretty good game back in his hometown of Charlotte, but he completely disappeared in the second half at Indiana. A less passive Patrick is essential for Bulls success, on both sides of the floor.

Trading one of the young guys for a veteran role player would be one way to try to improve this team, but does that make sense for the Bulls' future?

Vucevic needs help:

Opposing centers did some dancing this week, with Indiana's Myles Turner scoring 26 points, then Charlotte's Mason Plumlee adding 21 points and 12 rebounds.

This isn't a new issue. When they made the trade with Orlando, the Bulls knew Vucevic wasn't a strong defender and needs plenty of help, from the power forward and everyone. And sometimes, Vucevic's teammates seem to lose interest in providing that defensive help.

As mentioned here before, one idea for the Bulls is to add a more veteran backup forward who can jump in when defensive help is needed. Andre Drummond has done a decent job at backup center, but Donovan has leaned toward using 6-5 Derrick Jones Jr. recently, thinking a small lineup fits the Bulls' style.

"The numbers when we've played Derrick at the five spot, they're pretty eye-opening on a pretty good sample size," Donovan said. "It gives us a different look without Vuc in terms of being able to switch and do some different things."

LaVine in a slump:

Just when it seemed like LaVine was back to being completely healthy after offseason knee surgery, he injured a finger on his shooting hand and has shot 17.5% from 3-point range (7 of 40) in the last six games.

The Bulls usually turn to DeRozan when the ship goes sideways. When LaVine tried to steer through turbulence in the last two games, it didn't work out well.

There's not much to do here except keep waiting. The Bulls knew what they were getting into by giving a max contract to a player who has never received a single vote for MVP or All-NBA, or led his team to a playoff win.

Bulls management can't say, "Well, he's not living up to the contract," because they knew last year at this time a max contract probably wouldn't work out well. But they'd already painted themselves into a corner heading into free-agency.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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Chicago Bulls guard Coby White, left, competes against Charlotte Hornets forward JT Thor for possession of the ball in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday. Associated Press
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