February 29, 2024

All through this week’s stretch of house video games, DeMar DeRozan’s locker was adorned with a brand new acquisition — a duplicate of Thor’s hammer emblazoned with a Chicago Bulls brand.

It’s a prized possession, one DeRozan had been eagerly awaiting an opportunity to brag about after a win towards the Atlanta Hawks.

“I don’t know the way they hold rating or how they go about it with numbers, however I bought the hammer,” DeRozan mentioned. “That’s all I do know. I’m Thor for the week.”

The hammer is a brand new custom that displays the Bulls teaching employees’s need to award particular person enchancment on the defensive finish of the courtroom. It’s awarded to a participant after every five-game stretch of the season primarily based on quite a lot of defensive statistics.

Assistant coaches John Bryant and Josh Longstaff got here up with the concept through the offseason, presenting it to teach Billy Donovan and the gamers as a solution to encourage defensive enchancment all through the season.

The important thing to the system is monitoring and displaying defensive and hustle statistics on the observe facility day by day, which retains gamers conscious of their output on the defensive finish.

“We’re simply attempting to maintain defensive charts on deflections, assist (protection), all of the issues we’re attempting to emphasise,” Donovan mentioned. “All people will get a rating after 5 video games. It’s not a lot the whole scores, it’s who’s bought the best share from 5 video games to the subsequent.”

For DeRozan, incomes the hammer got here after a very sturdy defensive stretch, the kind that may be missed by an informal viewer extra intrigued by the group’s current offensive surge. DeRozan, who averages 1.1 steals and 0.8 blocks per sport, is having a robust defensive season.

The number of the participant worthy of the hammer is decided by enchancment, not outright efficiency. Donovan laughed whereas acknowledging that in any other case, defensive star Alex Caruso possible would maintain the prize hostage for the whole lot of the season.

“It’s a kind of issues the place you’ve bought to take a look at your self when it comes to the person enchancment you make as a result of it’s the proportion of enchancment you make in a five-game stretch,” Donovan mentioned. “Guys have an opportunity to markedly enhance over a interval of 5 video games.”

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It’s a little bit goofy. The gamers understand it. However the system additionally works.

“All of us make enjoyable of it with the hammer and every thing, however I’ve been bragging about it ever since I bought it,” DeRozan mentioned.

Protection is a key for the Bulls, particularly as their offense struggles to soak up the lack of key starters equivalent to Zach LaVine and Nikola Vučević.

The Bulls (15-19) — who defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 105-92 on Saturday on the United Heart — have improved defensively all through the season, elevating their score to eleventh within the league within the final 10 video games and second over the past 5. They’ve moved to seventh within the league in steals, averaging 8.1 per sport.

It is a acquainted sample. The Bulls began final season with a bottom-10 defensive score and ended within the prime 5.

Particular person defensive performances aren’t the one piece of limiting opposing groups’ scoring — the Bulls have realized that group protection in rotations and assist conditions outweighs the person heroics of prime defenders equivalent to Caruso. However the emphasis for every participant to lift expectations has been necessary in holding the group accountable after a sluggish defensive begin.

“We see our numbers day by day after we go into the observe fitness center,” DeRozan mentioned. “You need to be higher for your self and on your teammates. You tackle that problem.”