By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Bulls guard Denzel Valentine spoke solemnly Friday night, his tone a reminder that a full-throttle rebuild is better in theory and best consumed from afar than in the trenches.
“It’s pretty tough,” Valentine said quietly after the Bulls’ 107-106 loss to the Kings at the United Center. “We’re 3-18 right now. We’re the worst team in the league right now.
“It really doesn’t matter what you do, how many you score, nobody cares because you’re losing. If you’re putting up numbers and you’re winning, that’s better. That stands out. But nobody cares about a losing team.”
The Bulls continue to be the worst of them, as they showcased Friday night. Chicago entered the evening with a league-worst -13.1 net rating. Sacramento entered with the second-worst mark at -11.5. In that sense, the one-point Kings win in which they shot nearly 53 percent was about true as can be.
The one-point Bulls loss was their second in as many nights after falling to the Nuggets on a layup with three seconds left Thursday evening. It was in many ways the ideal result amid a rebuild. The Bulls displayed good effort, made 13 3-pointers, got their youngsters crunch-time experience and … took a key step toward acquiring more lottery ping-pong balls against another bad team.
That made it eight straight losses for the Bulls, their most since losing 10 in a row in February/March 2010, the final year of the Vinny Del Negro era. And it left coach Fred Hoiberg trying to explain postgame how to judge development.
“The biggest thing is learning from mistakes that are being made right now and building on the things we’re doing well, watch a lot of film with this group, go out and try to correct things,” Hoiberg said. “But again, we’ve got to find a way to string together stops. Teams are scoring too easy on us right now.”
After a loss to the 7-15 Kings who have long been marked by dysfunction, it’s unclear when the Bulls’ next win may come. They host LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Monday before road games against the Pacers and Hornets and then home games against the Knicks and Celtics. To date, the Bulls are 1-11 on the road. And Zach LaVine is still about a month away from returning.
For now, the Bulls tasked with taking the floor and roaming the sidelines are still zeroed in on the micro. Asked pregame how uncomfortable he was with the fan sentiment that losing a close game while big-picture building blocks Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen play well is a good night, Hoiberg had a quick response.
“We don’t consider it good,” Hoiberg said.
While the front office can compartmentalize the team’s abysmal record from its evaluations of individuals as it focuses on the big picture, it’s tougher on the players who are tasked with adhering to a team-first culture on a losing squad to embrace that mindset. So what’s left at present is a subdued Bulls team that continues to maintain the right attitude truding forward undermanned, inexperienced and at a talent deficit.
“I do know you have to be positive through that time,” Justin Holiday said. “I think a learning curve for the young guys to have to go through that as well, unfortunately. Going through losing can end up being something valuable for you later. But we’re rolling together, and that’s the main thing through all this.”
“Hopefully, somehow, some way, we can get that done. But again, I’m proud of how the team’s played. Those guys have fought. We’ve improved in areas we’ve needed to improve in. We don’t really have the problem right now of not coming to play and not showing the energy and effort. We’re doing that right now, and that’s great for us.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.