SACRAMENTO – Billy Donovan gave his players Monday off.
The length of the six-game road trip warranted that. The play definitely didn’t.
But still, the Bulls coach was hoping when they do reconvene in the Tuesday practice, there’s a refocus on toughness.
According to one Bulls veteran player, there’s definitely at least going to be some tough love going on.
“There’s going to be tough conversations, there’s going to be words said,” guard Zach LaVine said, when asked about turning the 9-14 start around. “Sometimes you need that. From top to bottom we’ve all got to try and figure it out, because no one is going to dig us out of this hole besides us.”
And it is a hole.
Not only being a season-low five games under .500, but sitting 12th in the Eastern Conference, with only Charlotte, Detroit and Orlando looking up at them.
“I talked to them prior to training camp starting, and I knew this was going to be a hard year for our team,” Donovan said. “This is really where you find out – because we have to dig ourselves out of this – that no one is helping us. Players, coaches, we’ve got to figure this out. They were all like, ‘We’re going to handle the adversity.’ Well, these are the moments that everybody has got to be able to work together, pull together, and pull yourself out of it.”
That’s the disappointing part with this team – it looked like they would take a positive and run with it several times this season.
There was a big home win over Toronto last month, only to be followed up by four-straight losses. Then in one of the more signature wins of the season, the Bulls beat Boston 121-107, following that up with an unexpected win in Milwaukee to start the six-game road trip.
Even after the loss in Oklahoma City, they rallied a game later, beating former Bull Lauri Markkanen and the Utah Jazz. Three wins in four games, and all over quality teams.
That’s about when the trip went off the rails.
Devin Booker dropped 51 on them in just three quarters of work in a blowout loss in Phoenix, and then they dug huge holes against Golden State and Sacramento, only to see comebacks fall short in the second half.
That’s why it was an obviously frustrated group in the Kings visiting locker room.
“Zach, DeMar [DeRozan], Vooch [Nikola Vucevic], Goran [Dragic], Andre [Drummond] … you’ve got a lot of veteran players that have been in the league for a while,” Donovan said. “They take a lot of pride, and they’re competitive guys. When you’re not winning, I understand that [frustration].”
But now it’s how will they use it?
DeRozan wanted to make sure it would be used correctly.
“I’ve got the most confidence in the world that once it clicks for us, it’s going to click,” DeRozan said. “It won’t matter who we’re playing. That’s the beauty of sports, life. You get down, the true character shows up. Who do you wanna be? It’s up to us to control that narrative going forward. You know it’s supposed to be frustrating, supposed to hurt, supposed to suck, supposed to be all these things, and now how do we channel that and challenge ourselves to come out of this and make something out of it?
“All these guys show frustration, show anger, and that’s a great sign. We’ve got to channel that in the right direction, the start of games, second quarter, third quarter, closing out games. Once we see we can do it and it gives us a belief, we’ll be fine.”