The Chicago Bulls held a players-only meeting after their first game of the 2023-24 season Wednesday, a 124-104 blowout loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It is not the start that Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine expected or wanted after reaching the play-in tournament last year.

“We just didn’t respond once they did that run in the second half,” LaVine said after Wednesday’s game. “Wasn’t a great showing from us. Didn’t shoot the ball well. Don’t feel like we played with enough heart. And that’s on us. Terrible way to come out and start the season, but it gives us opportunity to bounce back the next game.”

Lavine, who shot just 4-for-16 from the field in the contest, was not the only player who struggled in Chicago’s 2023-24 debut. The team as a whole shot 41.5% accuracy and the defense failed to curb Oklahoma City on a number of fronts, trailing significantly on defensive rebounds and allowing the Thunder to make nearly half of their three-pointers. Oklahoma City point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was unstoppable all night, scoring 31 points with ten  assists.

Things did not appear much better for Chicago off the floor, as tensions on the bench rose to the point of a verbal altercation in the third quarter. Center Nikola Vucevic, one of the team’s better performers in the game, was seen yelling at coach Billy Donovan and receiving a similarly energetic response. Donovan addressed the incident after the game.


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“I got all the respect in the world for Vooch,” Donovan said. “He felt a certain way and I said what I felt. And he’s probably not wrong for feeling the way he did, but how do you channel that in a way that galvanizes the group and lifts them up? In the moment, maybe I could’ve handled it better with him and maybe he could have handled it better with me. It wasn’t anything disrespectful or anything else. I think he was just kind of frustrated with the way we were playing, and I didn’t blame him.”

Specific details from the players-only meeting are naturally unclear, but several players expressed satisfaction with the team’s vision going forward. Besides a few minor roster changes, the Bulls have maintained most of their roster from last year, one that went 40-42 and snuck into the play-in tournament as the tenth  seed. Donovan is happy that the team is communicating following the loss and is hopeful that things will improve with more time on the floor.

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