Bulls guard Zach LaVine on team morale during a 6-game skid. (K.C. Johnson / Chicago Tribune)
The Bulls remain active in the trade market after their sixth straight loss Saturday, a 113-103 clankfest against the Clippers in which the Bulls shot 36.1 percent.
Unfortunately for coach Fred Hoiberg, his staff and the players, if management makes a move, it will be for the future and not immediate help.
Yes, the good vibes that seven-game winning streak and 10-6 December created are as gone as Nikola Mirotic, who was traded to the Pelicans on Thursday. Buckle up for the painful part of rebuilding.
With Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen in Chicago, there’s not even a development of the core happening save for Zach LaVine, although Markkanen is due back against the Kings on Monday in Sacramento.
“We’re playing makeshift lineups and (we) have guys playing who haven’t had much of a chance this year,” Hoiberg said. “You have to stay positive but learn from the mistakes.”
There were plenty of those. The Bulls failed to score in the game’s first 4 minutes, 4 seconds, missing their first seven shots and committing two comical turnovers that featured Paul Zipser rifling a pass into the stands and Jerian Grant bobbling a ball out of bounds.
“It’s not difficult,” LaVine said, when asked if keeping morale high is challenging in light of management’s plan. “Win or lose, we’re going to battle.
“We’re not down on ourselves. We’re still a very confident group. (Dunn and Markkanen) are coming back soon. We’re going to change this thing around again real soon.”
LaVine went scoreless in his first-quarter stint, missing all four of his shots. But he closed the first half with a dunk and 3-pointer and finished with 21 points in a season-high 31 minutes. That’s back-to-back 20-point games for LaVine, who Hoiberg said has been cleared for roughly 32 minutes.
“I was surprised,” LaVine said about the extra workload,” but I felt good. I’m just happy to be back playing. I’ll take all I can get.”
Hoiberg thinks LaVine, who shot 6-for-18 with nine rebounds, will get better.
“He’s still trying to find his rhythm,” Hoiberg said. “He has had stretches when he has shown what he can do. But I think he’s turning down some pretty darn good looks and turning them into tough, contested midrange shots.”
Rebounding from his poor performance in Portland, Ore., on Wednesday, Zipser finished with 16 points that included four 3-pointers.
Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari each scored 24 points to lead the new-look Clippers, who traded Blake Griffin to the Pistons on Monday.
Hoiberg said he has been in contact with executive vice president John Paxson every day on this trip. League sources said the Bulls and Thunder have engaged in talks with at least Tony Allen’s expiring deal involved. Grant has been available for weeks.
“If you can get a young player you feel fits the direction the team is heading, then you obviously have to look at that,” Hoiberg said. “To acquire a first-round pick in the trade for Niko fits the direction.
“Obviously, we’re going to have our pick, which will be a very high pick. And then (we’ll) see what happens with that New Orleans pick.”
The Bulls are just three games clear of the league’s worst record. Hoiberg often wore the vacant death stare that he sported frequently during the Bulls’ 3-20 start.
“It’s going to be fun when we get Kris to play with Zach as Zach’s minutes continue to go up and also get Lauri back in the mix,” Hoiberg said. “It’s exciting to acquire a couple more young pieces (who) will hopefully be with us for a long time.”