SALT LAKE CITY – There was a wave of excitement after their trade deadline deals changed the landscape of the team and their short-term goals.
Acquiring All-Star Nikola Vucevic along with four other players while sending off five others who weren’t fitting in with Billy Donovan’s new regime created a buzz around the group that suddenly looked like a contender for the postseason.
But thanks to a few injuries, expected growing pains as players find chemistry, along with a difficult schedule, it’s been a rough ride for the Bulls over the past week-and-a-half.
Despite competitive efforts against some of the best teams in the NBA while missing key players in each game, the Bulls took four-straight losses in their road trip against Western Conference opponents.
That included a 113-106 loss on Friday to the NBA-leading Jazz where the team was without key reserve Garrett Temple, who remains hampered by a hamstring injury. Add these four defeats to the two before the trade deadline, and Donovan’s team is currently mired in a six-game skid.
No relief is in sight for the team in the immediate future, either, as the Eastern Conference-leading Nets visit the United Center on Sunday afternoon. After that comes five-straight road games, with the first three (Indiana, Toronto, and Atlanta) coming against teams fighting for the final playoff spots in the conference.
Turning things around sooner than later would help the Bulls reach the postseason, which is more appealing now since the Bulls traded their 2021 first round pick. They’d only get it back if they missed the postseason then got in the top four in the lottery as they did a year ago.
For now, it’s all about trying to fix breakdowns in critical parts of the team which has led to this season-long losing skid.
“It’s just runs at the ends of quarters and dumb mistakes,” said guard Zach LaVine when asked while close games have been slipping away for the Bulls. “Their defensive mistakes, offensive mistakes, not hitting the right guy when they’re open or having an untimely turnover. Those things add up, and against really good teams, they’ll make you pay for it down the stretch.”
So far they have, quelling some of that post-trade deadline excitement around the team.