DeMar DeRozan is ‘beyond frustrated,’ but he and other Chicago Bulls veterans aren’t pointing fingers at the front office

DeMar DeRozan hit a new low point Friday night.

The Chicago Bulls had been drubbed by his former team in Toronto. DeRozan had been ejected in the final two seconds of the game for shouting at the Raptors bench. The Bulls were now 5-12, stuck in a pattern of sluggish starts that has begun to feel like a recurring nightmare. And a third consecutive loss had dashed their slim hopes of advancing in the In-Season Tournament.

Even after a demoralizing loss, DeRozan tends to reach for optimism. But he couldn’t sugarcoat things Friday: This is the most frustrated he has been since joining the Bulls.

“I mean, I can’t fake it,” DeRozan said. “I’m frustrated. Beyond frustrated. I feel like it’s rightfully so as a competitor. Everybody in this locker room is frustrated, but it’s from a good place of just being a competitor and wanting to figure it out that bad.”

It’s unclear when — or if — the Bulls will hit the type of breaking point that ruptures a locker room past the point of no return. But any questions about the roster have been answered in the first four weeks of the season.

This group doesn’t work. For all of its promise, this project is a bust. And the Bulls clearly are entering another rebuilding — or retooling — period as reports of a potential trade of Zach LaVine dominate their season.

Yet DeRozan and the team’s veteran core remain insistent the Bulls have enough in the locker room to turn this season around.

“That’s the frustrating part about it,” DeRozan said. “I never look at (the front office making drastic changes) as a result or as a go-to. We can do it. That’s why I think I’m so frustrated now. It’s not that I think we can’t do it. We’re not playing against the ‘96 Bulls every single night. We can go out there and compete with anybody, beat anybody.”

DeRozan never ventures into front-office conversations publicly.

“I put on a jersey, I don’t put on a suit,” he said a week ago after an In-Season Tournament loss to the Orlando Magic.

That’s a common thread among Bulls veterans, who refuse to openly criticize the front office or call for roster changes even as the team’s slump deepens.

Having arrived in a trade-deadline deal in 2021, center Nikola Vučević has watched the front office attempted to construct this project around himself, LaVine and DeRozan.

The process has been visibly frustrating for Vučević, who struggled through growing pains during his first two seasons as he adjusted from being the primary scoring option in Orlando to a playmaking piece for the Bulls. But Vučević echoed DeRozan’s sentiment, refusing to blame the makeup of the roster.

“The front office has been really good about (the roster) since I’ve been here,” Vučević told the Tribune. “That first summer, they made big moves and they were really aggressive. They made the best moves they can for the team. At the end of the day, we’ve got to play better on the court.”

LaVine is the only player who has come close to outright criticizing the current roster.

According to reports by The Athletic and Yahoo Sports, LaVine has lost faith in the trajectory of the Bulls this season, leading to his interest in a trade. Even publicly, LaVine has been blunt about his assessment of the roster.

“Do I think we’re a championship team right now?” LaVine said after a Nov. 15 practice at the Advocate Center. “No, I don’t.”

So where does this leave the Bulls? It’s clear that change has to come from the top. But outside of LaVine’s gambit to exit via trade by February, players haven’t reached a point of full-on calling for change. What’s less clear is whether veterans will reach a point when they no longer hew this closely to the front office.

For now, DeRozan and his fellow players are fully shouldering the blame for the poor start to the season.

“We’ve got to challenge ourselves,” DeRozan said. “We’ve got to challenge each other to leave it all the way out there. That’s a good thing, to be challenged, to really ask something from yourself more than you ever have at this point, myself included. It’s got to be that.”


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