Finally a breather.
Well, as much of a breather as an undermanned, over-worked Bulls roster could ask for these days, with the next two opponents being lottery-bound teams Cleveland and Dallas, and both traveling to the United Center.
A little different than playing five of their last six games against playoff teams, and doing so crammed into 10 nights. That’s meant very little practice, and a lot of trying to tidy up glaring holes in shootaround and walk-throughs.
So the fact that coach Fred Hoiberg was able to get a full practice in on Friday, well, he was hoping the timing would be perfect.
“We’ve got to execute better, we’ve got to get more consistent on the offensive end,’’ Hoiberg said of the 3-9 start to the regular season. “We’ve got habits that we need to break these next few days. [Friday was] the first time to practice in a long time. First time with two days in between games since we started, so it’s a great opportunity to get out here on the practice court and hopefully correct some things.’’
Oh, and there’s a list.
First, it’s about making sure that leading scorer Zach LaVine stays in a rhythm, but also doesn’t get caught up with trying to carry the team. Not an easy tight rope to walk all the time, especially with LaVine fourth in the NBA in scoring with 27.4 points per game, but of the top four also having the lowest shooting percentage (.461).
“I’m doing what I have to do,’’ LaVine said. “I don’t know if I have to score 30 for us to win. I think we won one game where I didn’t.’’
LaVine was right about that. But they needed all 27 of his points in Atlanta to pull that victory out. In the double-overtime win in New York, LaVine put up 41 and in the first win of the season against Charlotte he dumped in 32.
“I’ll do whatever I gotta do to try to put points on the board or help us win,’’ LaVine said. “If that’s scoring, facilitating, rebounding, whatever it is. It’s scoring for right now. I’ll continue to do that until we need something else.’’
No clarity on when they will need something else, with Lauri Markkanen (right elbow) really the only injured Bull starting to work his way back to the lineup, but that’s still at least a late November return now.
VP of basketball operations John Paxson said in New Orleans that Denzel Valentine (left ankle) was downgraded to being out “indefinitely,’’ while Kris Dunn (left knee) and Bobby Portis (right knee) were still over a month away at least.
“We go out there with what we have and we play hard and we give ourselves an opportunity to win,’’ LaVine said of the mental fatigue of being short-handed. “That’s what we can pat ourselves on the back for. If we go out there and execute and do everything we can to be in the game at the end and have a fighting chance, I think we did our job.
“It’s a little tiring. But this is our job to go out and do this.’’
As for the rest of what Hoiberg was looking to clean up?
Back-up center Cristiano Felicio has been awful, so could lose minutes to Robin Lopez, and then there’s the starting point guard spot where Ryan Arcidiacono has been outplaying Cam Payne in two of the last three games. And there’s always the defense.
“If we keep the effort going, we’re going to be fine,’’ Hoiberg said. “My job is to keep the spirits up, keep the morale up through some of these tough times.’’
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