With two 2022 stars Zach Lavin And DeMar DeRozan and former All-Star center Nikola Vucevicof Chicago Bulls They were hoping to become a serious contender in the Eastern Conference and build on their 6th seed finish from last season. But as this season continues, the Bulls now sit at a woeful 11-18 and are playing without their star point guard. Lonzo Ball Due to knee injuries, serious questions have been raised in the locker room about whether their two star wings will be able to click together at the highest level on the court this season and beyond.

The Bulls have held several team meetings to address their issues, and that included one-on-one, face-to-face meetings between DeRozan and LaVine, according to team and league sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. He is empowered to speak publicly on group dynamics. DeRozan and LaVine have always had a strong mutual respect for each other. Just 10 months ago, during All-Star weekend in Cleveland, the Stars recognized themselves as the NBAThe best couple will maintain a good personal relationship. But their meeting has yet to produce an in-game result, on the court level, with Stylistics simply getting worse throughout the season and thriving due to a winning record.

“I think like every team, everybody goes through ups and downs,” Lavin said. The athletics When asked about the matter on Tuesday. Obviously, if we’re not winning games, everyone can’t be happy. It doesn’t look as good as it used to. It’s all shiny when you win games. But when you’re losing games and trying to do the same things, it’s chaos. Everyone has the right to their own opinion. For me, I keep my head down. I will work on my game and try to help my team. I help lead the team. That’s where I stand. I will take it day by day and try to assess how we are doing.”

Moreover, multiple league sources and sources close to the organization say LaVine and the Bulls are not seeing eye-to-eye. Over the past few weeks, there has been a feeling in various quarters of a disconnected franchise over LaVine’s situation in Chicago. All this happened while LaVine was in his first season. Five-year, $215 million max deal Signed this summer.

“There’s some frustration with people trying to figure out what we can do to right the ship,” Lavin said. The athletics. I think with the players we have, we try to push each other to right the ship. We have those types of guys, that type of mindset where we’ve each been first options on the team before and then we all come together. One does not take. He is going to take us all as a unit. I think it’s something guys are trying to figure out how to help the team.

As the saying goes, winning cures all. A year ago, DeRozan, LaVine and these bulls were clicking on all cylinders. Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Celtics They were struggling to find their way. The roles appear to be reversed a year later, and it jumps when you look at the ranks.

In the third season of Billy Donovan’s tenure, doubts about the head coach and coaches in the locker room have also increased. For Donovan, the challenge of fitting DeRozan and LaVine together in terms of execution, accountability and teamwork is huge. Donovan’s job is currently safe, however, as The athletics He reported A multi-year contract extension has been signed Before the start of this season.

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Bulls coach Billy Donovan set the tone for next season: ‘We’ve got a lot to prove.’

The Bulls season started on a bright note. They brought back 12 players from last season’s roster, and the hope was continued chemistry and better results. The Bulls are a more complete and dynamic team with Ball healthy, as his ability to push the pace and set the table for DeRozan and LaVine was essential to last season’s team.

But even with Ball’s status up in the air as to when he will return, Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas laid out expectations for this season at the team’s media day in September.

“It is clear that we want to see progress,” he said. “Once you get to the playoffs and get healthy, I think a lot of things can happen. So I think we have to do better than last year. When you get into the playoffs, like always, things happen. A certain team is missing one or two key players and they can get them around. So the expectations are there.” These are.

But from the start, the Bulls faced a bumpy road.

LaVine unexpectedly sat out the team’s first two contests this season, with the team saying his occasional absence will be part of planned maintenance focused on managing offseason arthroscopic knee surgery. LaVine battled through a nagging knee issue in the second half of last season, showing great strength and stamina to stay on the floor for the first season of his career. LaVine could have had knee surgery during the offseason, but opted to wait until after the Bulls’ playoff run to ensure his availability for the team.

DeRozan arrived at the Bulls in the 2021 season expecting to be the second option behind LaVine on most nights and giving LaVine support to win more games. In that role, he emerged as one of the league’s best performers, but with clutch moments, multiple game-winners and consistent leadership.

“It’s time to figure out how to make this work for the whole team. I haven’t played as well as Zach on the wing. He’s one of a kind. I want to put everything I’ve been through in my career and share with him and win together.” DeRozan said last October.

The duo had a breakout season after a 27-11 start and the best first-half record in the East to lead the Bulls to a 46-36 record and their first playoff appearance in four years. They seemed to genuinely enjoy each other’s presence. Ball is clearly the engine for these Bulls: The team went 22-13 with him in the lineup and 24-23 without him. DeRozan and LaVine seemed to have established the foundation for their partnership last season — except this season, everything in the organization came into question.

For Karnisovas, the best move of his tenure was getting DeRozan, who made the All-NBA second team and was voted MVP a season ago. DeRozan has played fantastic basketball since joining the Bulls. He averaged 27.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists while shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 88.1 percent from the free throws in eight games. As a quarterback, he ranks among the best in the NBA.

DeRozan joined the Bulls on an $85 million contract in 2021 and will be eligible for a maximum four-year, $153.7 million extension this summer. Do the Bulls see DeRozan as their center for years to come?

LaVine chastised the idea that the weight of expectations from the maximum contract allowed affected him.

“It’s not difficult for me. I don’t understand how that fits into context,” Lavin said. The athletics. “Just because you signed an agreement, should weight be added to it? I think every time you go on the court you have more weight if you don’t work or play the right way. But everyone is open to their own opinion.

“I’m coming back from injury and improving. If you’re losing, you won’t see that. Obviously, when you lose and all these other narratives come out. It does not come from us. It is coming from outside sources. It’s just what you have to deal with. It comes with the territory. I understand. I think the team understood. I don’t care. I think that’s what comes with it.

Vucevic is also eligible for an extension of up to four years and $118.2 million, but is expected to enter free agency this offseason.

The direction of the bulls that go forward is still dark with debt Orlando Magic A top-four protected first-round pick in the 2023 NBA draft. Shifting from competing for a playoff and playoff spot to a full-on rebuild, the Bulls’ front office can still afford to drop out of the top four and thus give Orlando the pick.

And if these bullpen continue to go this way anyway, it will leave the organization with no choice, even with all this talent.

Goran DraghiThe veteran and experienced player of the team did not cover the problems of the team after losing 150-126. Minnesota on Sunday.

“We’re not playing each other,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

The Patriots point guard’s comments echoed Donovan’s in the postgame interviews. Donovan’s star has publicly challenged the trio in the media, but he was more so than ever on Sunday.

“We’ve gone from a mindset of just worrying about scoring goals to how we’ve been offensively,” Donovan said. A goal is scored if the ball moves and passes the goal scorer.

Donovan echoed Dragic’s comments that the Bulls are playing too individually and the results won’t start to change until the team comes along.

“When we get the mindset that I feel like he’s going to do it. And I will do it for him, and I will do it for him. And I’m not going to let him humiliate anybody that’s out there,’ Donovan said.

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