Time for the Bulls to be real with themselves: It’s a soft roster

ORLANDO – DeMar DeRozan remained confident where his head was.

Unfortunately for the Bulls veteran forward, he could only speak for himself.

Where his teammates were as far as their own mental space after back-to-back embarrassing losses this week? That’s for each of them to figure out.

What DeRozan won’t allow in the locker room, however, is the outside narrative of this team to seep into their own psyche and become their reality.

“I think if you think like that, and you give into that, you become that,” DeRozan said. “We cannot become what everybody says we keep doing. I’m always a big firm believer in as long as you’ve got time, have an opportunity going forward, you’ve got a chance to change whatever needs to be changed.

“It would be different if we had a deadline of, ‘We’ve got five days to change something so big.’ No, we have opportunities. It sucks [losing] … We’re just waiting for that opportunity. Not even necessarily waiting, I think we’re fighting for it instead of trusting that it’s going to come. As long as it comes at the right time, that’s all that matters. It’s just got to come.”

But does it?

That’s where DeRozan’s blind leap of faith could come back to bite him and the Bulls this season, especially if the front office is also thinking that same way.

Multiple wins over Milwaukee, Miami, Boston and Brooklyn can’t be downplayed. But they also can’t blur some underlying issues that aren’t going away with the way this roster is currently constructed.

Coach Billy Donovan uses buzzwords and catchphrases like, “need to play desperate,” “ramping up the compete level,” “playing with physicality.”

Translation: This roster is soft.

Talented? No question. But a foxhole team that understands what it takes to win games late – let alone a playoff series when the game gets really grimy? No sir.

Back-to-back losses to Indiana and then Charlotte were equally frustrating, and also followed a blueprint that is a direct indictment of the lack of edge this Bulls team not only displays, but is easy for less talented teams to pick up on.

Go at them hard later in the game and they will break.

It’s not an every-game occurrence, but it’s enough. Donovan made no secret of that.

“Setting a standard of play where we shouldn’t be letting another team dictate what level we need to play to,” Donovan said of one of the corrections that has to be made. “I always think that’s really dangerous inside of a team, when you get to that place where you’ve gotta at least be, ‘OK, here is the level we know we’ve got to play to.’ ”

The Magic have already beaten the Bulls once this season, and of course pulled the game out late with Zach LaVine benched. Does anyone think Orlando will be at all intimidated of this Bulls team on Friday?

The real intrigue, however, is that after Bulls-Magic that leaves just five more games before the Feb. 9 trade deadline.

The Sun-Times reported earlier this month that executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas built last offseason around “continuity,” and wasn’t about to stray off of that, especially still believing that a healthy Lonzo Ball covers up a lot of weaknesses that have been exposed.

Roster construction is a fluid business, however. Could a third-straight loss to a team that is less talented on paper be the final straw?

Only Karnisovas can answer that, and now has less than two weeks to do so.

“How do we just turn that into every single night no matter who we’re playing against, with that element of knowing we have what it takes to compete against the best?” DeRozan said. “That’s what gives me hope.”

At this point, that might not be enough.

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