Apr 13, 2024  |  
 | Remer,MN
Sponsor:  QWIKET.COM 
Sponsor:  QWIKET.COM 
Sponsor:  QWIKET.COM 
Sponsor:  QWIKET.COM Sports Media Index – Perfect for Fantasy Sports Fans.
Sponsor:  QWIKET.COM Sports Media Index – Perfect for Fantasy Sports Fans. Track media mentions of your fantasy team.

NextImg:Better late than never for Bulls offense? Coach Billy Donovan hopes so

No practice time for the Bulls on Saturday.

Then again, it’s a roster that’s past practice really mattering at this point of the season. Building chemistry, adding new sets, ironing out kinks … nice thoughts, but with the regular season over a week from Sunday and five games left to determine this group’s fate, it’s now just grinding out the next win by all means necessary.

What Bulls coach Billy Donovan was confident about was it was a roster – especially the starting five – that finally understood what was being asked of them offensively, and more importantly, looking at it the same way.

What took so long?

Plenty of blame for that to go around, but there were also some unlucky circumstances.

After the Bulls got off to a solid start last season, injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso limited what they had built defensively. Then as Zach LaVine’s injuries stacked up – a thumb and his left knee – well, it became DeMar DeRozan’s world and everyone else was just visiting it.

“I think we became so predictable and DeMar-centric,’’ Donovan said. “You knew that was just not going to be sustainable, and clearly it was not against the better teams.’’

An all-too familiar storyline through the second half of last season and into the first-round playoff series against Milwaukee.

It was DeRozan or bust, and against better teams – especially better defenses – it was just too easy to defend.

Even in winning one game in the Bucks series, it took a 41-point effort from DeRozan to do that.

That’s why Donovan knew the focus going into this season was getting an offensive philosophy in place in which there was more randomness throughout the game, always having iso ball saved for late if needed.

That meant having to break some bad habits, as well as a veteran point guard in Patrick Beverley that understood getting teammates on the same page.

There’s a reason the Bulls were 11-7 since the Beverley addition, as well as 9-6 in the month of March, all the while becoming a top offensive team in that time.

Entering Saturday, the Bulls’ 119.1 offensive rating was the ninth best in the league since the all-star break, with Sacramento atop that category with a 125.3.

“I think the thing that’s taken us a little bit of time is having the group collectively look at offense the same way,’’ Donovan said. “I think the reason that Golden State has been very good in my opinion, besides having great players, is their main guys are all on the same page of how they’re going to play the game. The give and take, the cohesiveness of working together.

“I had gotten asked a lot through the course of this year, certainly when we were struggling, do you feel that these guys are so frustrated that they’re letting go of the rope or throwing in the towel? I never felt that way. I felt like they were fighting and trying to figure things out.’’

That fight is about to be tested.

The Bulls trail both Toronto and Atlanta by a game, looking to improve their positioning for the play-in tournament. To do so they have to take on Memphis Sunday afternoon at the United Center, host Atlanta and then face Milwaukee in a back-to-back.

Then comes a trip to Dallas, who is also in must-win mode, before getting a breather in the finale against Detroit.

“We had to change things defensively, we couldn’t keep playing defense that way,’’ Donovan said. “And we had to take a jump offensively. Sometimes when you try and do that you go [downward] first. I think we’re playing more to where they’re kind of all in the flow, understanding roles.

“To me it’s that risk you’ve got to take.’’