Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen aren’t coming through those doors.
After Thursday night’s 112-100 loss at home to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Chicago Bulls are now on a season-long, six-game losing streak. The defeat dropped the Bulls to 26-33 on the season and they sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, two games out of the play-in tournament with 23 regular season contests to go heading into the All-Star Break.
Chicago needs a break and a spark.
Perhaps the NBA’s All-Star festivities and midseason intermission will provide the rest and refocus, but it will be tough to find a player on the roster who can spark a turnaround. Anyone hoping to see a glimpse of injured point guard Lonzo Ball is either fooling themselves or far too optimistic about the lingering issue that has played a major role in bogging down the Bulls’ 2022-23 season.
A report on Ball’s recovery from persistent knee issues is said to be coming after the All-Star break, but at this point, why would anyone believe the 25-year-old will be playing this year? It’s been more than a year since he played an NBA game and the reports we’ve heard from Bulls management have been anything but promising.
The latest from Vice President Artūras Karnišovas:
“I don’t know regarding Zo [Lonzo]. I think he’s making small improvements. But, we’re still going to have more information for you probably post-All-Star weekend. And we’re going to inform you about that.”
As I said, anything but promising.
With all due respect to second-year point guard and Chicago native Ayo Dosunmu, the Bulls need a more talented, stronger presence at the 1.
That explains the interest in now-former Los Angeles Lakers guard and current Utah Jazz veteran Russell Westbrook. The Bulls are said to be interested in signing Westbrook on the buyout market, per Turner’s Chris Haynes.
The Lakers dealt Westbrook to the Utah Jazz in a massive three-team deal that also included the Minnesota Timberwolves. L.A. came away with D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt in the swap that has seemingly injected some life into the stagnant veteran roster.
The Jazz and Westbrook aren’t a long-term marriage. In fact, Utah has given Westbrook permission to speak with potentially interested teams who want to sign the future Hall-of-Famer to a deal for the rest of the season.
The Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat are believed to be interested as well.
At 34, Westbrook is no longer the dynamo he used to be, but he has proven he can still be effective if he’s surrounded with shooters. On a Lakers roster devoid of that level of shooting, Westbrook still averaged 15.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game in just under 29 minutes of action per contest.
While he still struggles to find consistency from beyond the arc (29%) or at the free-throw line (65.5%), Westbrook would check a few needed boxes for a floundering Bulls team.
Westbrook would provide the Bulls with a presence at point guard who is capable of running an offense, creating for himself and others. We might see a jump in the production from players like Patrick Williams and even Zach LaVine who thrives in catch-and-shoot situations (46% on catch-and-shoot threes this season).
Westbrook is still a maniacal rebounder from the guard spot who pushes the pace, and can get Chicago into more transition opportunities. He is averaging 0.75 points per possession in transition, and that’s without playing with capable shooters in L.A. to spread the floor.
While there are some obvious areas for Westbrook to help the Bulls when it comes to hardcore hoop factors, there is one key intangible the roster is missing that the former MVP oozes, and that’s toughness.
The Bulls are a soft bunch at this point and they are in desperate need of some fire. After Thursday’s loss to the Bucks, head coach Billy Donovan said the team’s goal was to still make the playoffs.
Quite honestly, Chicago’s only prayer of accomplishing that goal–no matter how pointless that may seem–might lie in the hands of Westbrook, whose decision to join this sinking ship is yet to be determined.
The Bulls need Westbrook more than he needs them.
Chicago doesn’t offer him a realistic chance to win a championship. He’d have a better chance to accomplish that goal if he signed with the Clippers where he’d also get to potentially haunt the Lakers. Are the Clippers as interested in adding Westbrook as the Bulls? Maybe not. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski called Chicago the frontrunners to land Westbrook, should he choose a buyout from the Jazz.
That said, the lure of reuniting with Donovan, for whom he played four seasons (2015-16 to 2018-19 in Oklahoma City), might be too much to resist. Per Haynes, Donovan has reportedly expressed his desire for the Bulls to sign Westbrook.
The Bulls and Donovan should hope Westbrook chooses them, as the latter’s arrival could be the only thing that prevents this season from being a total disaster, and saves his former coach’s job.
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