After the Bulls’ 127-120 overtime loss to the Raptors on Thursday night, it might be tempting for Arturas Karnisovas, their executive vice president of basketball operations, to start making trade deadline calls in less of a week. The host Raptors grabbed 22 offensive rebounds, scoring 22 points on 17 Bulls turnovers and put up 60 points in the paint.
It all screamed obvious, again: The Bulls need to get bigger and more physical in the frontcourt.
“We were outplayed and they outplayed us physically throughout the game,” guard Zach LaVine said the same day NBA coaches selected him as an All-Star reserve. “It shouldn’t have been this close to a game to start.”
Karnisovas isn’t necessarily about to make any changes – a stance that hasn’t changed since last month, according to coach Billy Donovan. The Bulls (32-19) would like to add talent at the deadline, but not at the expense of chemistry.
“I would say I would go for the chemistry,” Donovan said.
The Bulls’ big four, LaVine, guard Lonzo Ball, forward DeMar DeRozan and center Nikola Vucevic have only played 17 games together, but when they have, the results have been solid, even with a lack obvious size at the start.
“We love our band a lot, we love the chemistry a lot, we want to make sure that continues,” Donovan said. “The chemistry in the dressing room is key – it’s important. Certainly Arturas will always look for ways to improve the group, but you don’t want to say: ‘OK, we’ve improved our talent, but we’re not as cohesive and the chemistry isn’t as good.’ So all of those decisions are definitely considered, and they’re definitely a priority.
The good news is that these Bulls and Donovan are used to trading deadline nerves. DeRozan, Vucevic, Ball and LaVine have all been traded before, and Karnisovas is known for his open-door policy with players.
“This time of year, there will always be [tension]especially for young players who haven’t experienced this commercial aspect, but I think the front office, Arturas and [general manager] Mark [Eversley]did a really, really good job where if the players have questions they have the freedom to go up there and talk to them about different things,” Donovan said.
This policy which could be tested next week. The only test Thursday was the Raptors (27-23). DeRozan tied the game with 47.8 seconds left in regulation, and Vucevic, who finished with 30 points and 18 rebounds, gave the Bulls the lead with 8.6 seconds left. But Scottie Barnes was tipped for the Raptors to send him to overtime, and the Bulls finally seemed to hit the wall.
With the game tied with 1:44 to go, Barnes hit the hard 4-footer. Gary Trent Jr. followed with a huge three with 16.5 seconds left on a defensive switch blown by LaVine and Vucevic.
LaVine has had back spasms the past two games, but didn’t offer that as an excuse.
“They did a stack action, and we didn’t defend it well,” he said of Trent’s dagger. “It’s just miscommunication at the wrong time in the game.”