Although the Chicago Bulls hoped to pick up their first In-Season Tournament victory of the season last night against the Raptors, they'd once again be unsuccessful in their endeavors. Losing 108-121 to Toronto, the Bulls have now dropped to 0-3 in the group stage of the In-Season Tournament with arguably the toughest game still yet to be played against the Boston Celtics.
The Bulls' losing ways have caused a great deal of frustration for the fans and players alike, with it all seemingly coming to a head last night as Chicago's All-Star forward DeMar DeRozan was ejected in the closing moments of the game. In response to Pascal Siakam attempting a three-point shot in the final seconds of the game, DeRozan earned the ire of the officiating crew and was assessed his technical foul of the game, resulting in his immediate ejection.
Despite the fact DeRozan's ejection ultimately changed nothing in terms of the game's result, I still found it very indicative of how the Bulls have handled themselves as a whole this season. Gone is the positive momentum and good vibes of the 2021-22 season, replaced now by a foreboding sense that any game this core plays together could be their last.
I wouldn't be surprised if this knowledge was affecting the team's performance, as DeRozan shot 7-for-16 from the field and 5-for-9 from the charity stripe. Zach LaVine starred, dropping 36 points on 16-for-23 points, but his teammates would ultimately let him down in the end. DeMar contributed a relatively poor 19 points while no other player on the Bulls scored 15 or more points.
DeMar DeRozan's actions in last night's loss indicate the Bulls are only going to get worse before they get better.
Tensions were already running high before this game, with rumors of Billy Donovan on the hot seat following Chicago's early-season skid. It appears things may be reaching a boiling point, as DeRozan explains his ejection was the result of built-up frustration. Here's what DeMar had to say in his post-game presser:
""I can’t fake it. I’m beyond frustrated. Everybody in this locker room is frustrated. It’s from a good place of being a competitor and wanting to figure it out that badly. Put a couple wins together. I really truly believe that can shift everything for us""- DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan seems to feel confident that a few consecutive wins would help this team claw their way out of the hole they've dug for themselves, but I'm not so sure. The Bulls are 5-12 for a reason, with their weaknesses counting far too many in number and far too easy to exploit. This combination of subpar coaching, a star player who looks like they'd rather be elsewhere, and inadequate talent on the roster is an obstacle simply too daunting to overcome.
What the Bulls really need to do if they wish to turn things around is face the reality of their situation. This team isn't built to win now. This team is built to fill seats, sell merchandise, and keep Arturas Karnisovas employed for as long as possible. Ironically, it's failing to accomplish even that much. The longer Chicago puts off an inevitable rebuild, the more likely fans are to become disaffected with their favorite team and the more likely Karnisovas will be searching for a new place of employment.
Whether or not the front office is willing to face the grim reality of the situation remains to be seen. The Bulls' next chance to add to their win column will take place tomorrow, November 26 on the road against the Brooklyn Nets. After that, the Bulls will begin a daunting nine-game slate on their schedule against the Celtics, Bucks (twice), Pelicans, Nuggets, Heat (twice), 76ers, and Lakers. If this team isn't at their breaking point already, I suspect they will be very soon.