Pacers Bulls Basketball

Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen drives for a layup past Pacers forward Thaddeus Young during the first half Friday in Chicago.

Jeff Haynes, Associated Press

Is effort simply enough to get you through life?

It will in school if you bother to pick up a book.

It will at work if you do the job to the best of your ability without slacking.

It will in personal relationships, if you don't make it all about you.

But if you're an average athlete, which the Bulls have plenty of, is effort enough to excel?

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg certainly hopes so during this total rebuild where many "experts" are predicting 22 wins at best.

There are 82 games in the regular season.

The Bulls have a 2-9 record after losing 133-94 to San Antonio on Saturday night after getting their ears pinned back by the Pacers the night before, 105-87.

Hoiberg had to file a missing persons report, regarding the lack of effort. Only Bobby Portis and rookie Lauri Markkanen seemed to be busting it against the Pacers.

"If they continue to go out there and battle defensively, and do everything we ask of them, we're gonna have a chance most nights," Hoiberg tells us after every game.

Other than lopsided losses to Oklahoma City (101-69), Orlando (105-83) and Indiana, the Bulls have scrapped and scratched their way through games on most nights.

Problem is, they sorely lack a true go-to player in crunch time like a Jimmy Butler. Zach LaVine is a leading candidate but his return from ACL surgery is still weeks away.

The 7-foot Markkanen is a budding superstar who needs to take 20-25 shots a game, and Portis is out to prove the world wrong as to his talent level.

Even against a legitimate contender, neither of these players scare you a lot.

So it all comes down to effort, sadly.

There are bigger concerns this young season. The Bulls don't go to the basket enough, settling for jump shots and 3-pointers. It makes little sense when you're ranked 30th in points (93.6), 30th in field goal percentage (40.4) and 29th in 3-point shooting (32.2).

They struggle getting points in the paint when center Robin Lopez isn't on the floor, which usually happens late in games.

Their transition defense is non-existent against very athletic teams. They have no established point guard, with Kris Dunn and Jerian Grant prone to turnovers in tight games.

Backup center Cristiano Felicio looks lost, like he just missed the last bus out of town.

Paul Zipser can't buy a shot, Justin Holiday is often out of control and Denzel Valentine hates to pass.

If Hoiberg deserves credit for anything, it's not letting the Portis-Nikola Mirotic feud become a distraction for the team.

Portis has returned from an eight-game suspension for punching Mirotic in practice and the 6-foot-11 Bearded One, still sidelined, wants the Bulls to make a choice — either he or Portis.

Judging by their actions thus far, it’s probably the more popular Portis and Mirotic could be gone.

"Bobby is the epitome of energy," Lopez said. "We're excited to have him back."

The United Center crowds haven't tapered off yet.

They're willing to pay big money to see effort.

Question is, can these 2017-18 Bulls bring it every night and then hope for the best?

And will that be enough at the ticket window?

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This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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