MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Even though the Chicago Bulls are trying to back up their promise that the current roster can compete with the NBA’s best, Thursday night wasn’t off to a promising start.
Vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas spent most of the basketball operations. afternoon post-trade deadline press conference He reiterated that the team can be “competitive” in the Eastern Conference and is “really good.”
However, the Bulls had difficulty supporting this claim a few hours later against the Memphis Grizzlies, who were in the bottom three of the Western Conference and had won only 18 games.
The Grizzlies long ago abandoned the concept of competitiveness after a series of injuries disrupted their season, most notably the season-ending loss of superstar Ja Morant. There were 10 missing players on the injury report for the game, including Desmond Bane, Marcus Smart, Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard. Besides star center Jaren Jackson Jr., the starting lineup was relatively unknown.
The Bulls were able to pull out a 118-110 lead but struggled to gain the upper hand until late in the fourth quarter and fell behind for most of the game. They improved to 25-27 and remain in ninth place in the East.
DeMar DeRozan stood out with 30 points, while Coby White played with 20 points and 8 assists. If one thing is clear after a second straight win, the Bulls’ two big rosters may be here to stay.
Coach Billy Donovan rolled out a new look against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, starting Nikola Vučević and Andre Drummond in hopes of disrupting the potent combination of Karl Anthony-Towns and Rudy Gobert.
The Bulls did not open with Drummond and Vučević on the court in Memphis, opting to start Ayo Dosunmu instead. However, Drummond entered the game with 4 minutes and 47 seconds left in the first quarter and quickly took a place in the rotation alongside Vučević.
Bulls, Grizzlies, Jackson Jr. and even when he defeated Santi Aldama he used two big lineups. And they opened the second half with Drummond and Vučević on the field, reflecting their growing comfort in the pairing.
Vučević finished the game with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Drummond came off the bench and recorded 21 points and 13 rebounds.
“They’ve got to pick their poison,” Drummond said after Tuesday’s win. “Either you let me beat you in the paint or he shoots a three or beats you in the paint. “They are a great duo.”
The pairing of veteran centers seemed natural and required more adaptation from the three guards on the floor rather than the big men in the paint. Drummond and Vučević exchanged passes and fed each other seals throughout the game.
Donovan stated that Vučević, who felt that his teammates missed him this season, was especially keen to find the position in the lower block.
“Because Vooch is a big guy, he’s probably the guy who looked at the post more than anyone else,” Donovan said. “Sometimes we miss Vooch, we miss Andre in the post. Vooch doesn’t miss anyone in the post. He throws it there. He sets a good example. ‘Okay, when I get there, drop him there. See what I did?’ ”
Drummond said he didn’t practice two big looks with Vučević until Tuesday morning, and even that was short-lived. But he felt they could figure each other out in a live game.
While Drummond admitted they still had room to grow, he wanted to earn more minutes alongside Vučević.
“I don’t see why that wouldn’t work by practicing and spending some real time together,” Drummond said. “Vooch has played with big men throughout his career, and I’ve played with other big men throughout my career, so it’s not a shock factor. All the same.
“I’m really starting to work. He’s a smart player, I’m a smart player too. “I stay out of his way and do the same.”