No matter how bad the Chicago Bulls are, an offseason spent away from watching the team and forgetting all of their faults is enough to lure most unsuspecting fans back into the fold each year — myself included. It wouldn’t take long for us to served a cold reminder of this team’s faults, however, as Chicago’s home opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder was a disastrous affair.
Fans were treated to a competitive affair early on, as the Bulls were engaged in a close 78-79 contest with only three minutes left in the third quarter, but the wheels would soon fall off as the Thunder ripped off a 12-2 run to take a commanding lead heading into the fourth. Things would only get worse from there, as OKC outscored Chicago by double digits in the fourth to easily win the game 124-104.
A loss is one thing, and generally not worth overreacting over. But the way the Bulls repeatedly blew their defensive coverages and allowed OKC’s bench players to dominate from the three-point line was unforgivable. Worst of all, this Bulls team did not look like anything like the product of continuity and strong team chemistry that were promised.
The cracks began showing as early as the third quarter, when Nikola Vucevic visibily ripped into his head coach Billy Donovan on the sideline.
Bulls appear poised to self-destruct after humiliating loss in home opener to Thunder.
This wouldn’t be an isolated incident, as tensions reportedly boiled over into the locker room post-game. The Bulls roster was reportedly engaged in “heated conversations” that Donovan didn’t appear fit to resolve himself. Anyone who has ever played team sports will tell you that this is a normal part of being a competitive athlete, but having these issues pop up during the first game of the season rather than the dog days of January is very concerning.
Zach LaVine attempted to explain the situation away by dismissing it as nothing more than a lack of “heart”, which frankly, I find a little ridiculous. It’s the first game of the season, how can you possibly justify warrant being underprepared and not caring enough to fight for a win in front of the home crowd?
"“I don’t feel like we played with enough heart. And that’s on us. It’s unacceptable. I don’t think it’s a thing people do on purpose either. But we gotta come together during those (opponent) runs.”"
I don’t believe a lack of “heart” was the issue at hand here. I do, however, believe that LaVine and Coby White combining for 8-for-30 from the field was detrimental to the team’s efforts. I do believe that letting the opposing team shoot 48.7% from beyond the arc on such a high volume also isn’t very helpful. These are the real problems at hand, ones that hopefully more calm and collected minds attempted to discuss.
Vucevic spoke further about the “heated conversations” in his post-game presser:
"“We can use this to learn and change some things that we need to change. There wasn’t anything crazy, no fighting, none of that. It was really constructive, and it’s maybe one of the first times since I’ve been here that it was like this.”"
This is all great to hear, but I can’t exactly view Vucevic as the voice of reason here when he himself was engaged in mid-game argument with his own coach. The Bulls may try to pass this off as a test of toughness and holding each other accountable, but I’m not buying it. Billy Donovan clearly doesn’t have control over his own locker room, and the season’s just getting started. We could be in for a long (and embarrassing) year of Chicago Bulls basketball.