CHICAGO – A year ago was the start of the rebuilding of the enthusiasm around the Bulls and the new core that had been built in the summer of 2021.

After 14 games, the team was 10-4 on the season and playing some of the best basketball since the 2014-2015 season. That start would lead to a strong first half, and even though a tougher schedule brought the Bulls back down to earth a bit, they were able to make the playoffs for the first time in five years.

The start of the 2022-2023 season hasn’t been as clean, with a more elevated scheduled and inconsistent play by the team leading to a 6-8 start to the campaign, which is off their pace from a year ago.

Their stretch over the last week has been their most difficult of the season so far as they’ve dropped four of five contests. That included arguably their worst loss of the season on Sunday against the Nuggets: A 126-103 defeat in which they were down by 12 after the first quarter and weren’t able to recover.

Most discouraging was the fact that the team had four days off before that contest with Denver but still showed up flat for the match-up with one of the NBA’s best teams.

Head coach Billy Donovan said after the loss on Sunday that a key improvement he’d like the team to make is to respond better when things go wrong. For instance, when the Bulls fell behind early to the Nuggets, they had three quarters to make it up, but couldn’t get it to work.

“There’s always some form of adversity that hits the game and we’ve got to be better thriving in that, we’ve got to be better at thriving in the struggle,” said Donovan. “I think what happens sometimes is when there is a struggle, sometimes for us, it can snowball, and we’ve got to be able to embrace those kinda moments.

“I just never believed that you can ever get better, improve with smooth sailing. There has to be a struggle to find a way to dig deeper down inside to be better.”

The good news for Donovan and the Bulls is that he’s got time to make that work.