The Bulls face the Wizards Tuesday for the third of four meetings between Tomas Satoransky's old and current employers.
In his fourth NBA season, Satoransky is a full-time starter for the first time. He's averaging career-high numbers in virtually every statistical category. And he's losing a lot of games.
Does Satoransky have any regrets about signing his three-year, $30 million deal with the Bulls last summer?
"No, definitely not. I feel great on this team," he said. "This is the role I've always wanted to have."
Don't mistake Satoransky's answer with complacency. This is someone who dislikes losing so much he ripped his shorts in frustration as he exited a recent road loss in Toronto. Luckily for Satoransky, the game had moved to mop-up minutes so he could hide the damage with his warmup pants.
But Satoransky is balancing an individual season that has played out as he envisioned against team fortunes that have underwhelmed.
"I thought the expectation was kind of really high for us. Everyone talked about playoffs. We have a lot of players who have never been on a winning team. That's a hard thing to do. It's not going to change like that," Satoransky said. "We didn't have a great start. I think our games were getting better and better and then injuries happened. That's not an excuse. But I saw progress playing alongside Lauri [Markkanen] and Zach [LaVine]. I felt much more comfortable. And hopefully we'll see it after All-Star break, as well.
"I can tell you we will need this break. We are in a moment of struggle on the season."
The Wizards are scuffling along as well, so it's not like Satoransky is missing much where he used to play. Still, while Satoransky isn't the problem, he also hasn't fully solved the Bulls' longstanding need for a point guard.
Satoransky is a wonderfully versatile and useful player. He's able to guard and play multiple positions. And his averages of 10.1 points, 5.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 28.6 minutes are solid.
But he's not a lead guard who breaks down defenses on his own to set up teammates. He's more of a complementary player.
"If you take a look at my stats, and the NBA is always about numbers, I have my career highs. But I don't look at it that way because this is the first time I've really played constant minutes and starting minutes. The first thing I look at is how the team does. I didn't help the team win more games, which is always disappointing," he said. "I've had ups and downs. It's been tough for me physically. I think January was one of the toughest months for me ever. I'm glad I didn't get injured. My ankle wasn't 100 percent. But I played through it. I'll need that break for sure."
Indeed, the Bulls slogged through 17 games in 31 days in January. And this is on top of Satoransky's extensive commitment to his Czech Republic national team last summer.
Still, with Tuesday's finale before the All-Star break, Satoransky and Zach LaVine are the only Bulls to start all 54 games. Coby White has played in all 54 games as a reserve.
"That's me. I always take pride in not sitting down games. In my career, I have never done it much. But I have to knock on wood that I've avoided big injury," Satoransky said, breaking to actually knock on a wooden bench. "I take pride in it. I just want to be there for the team because that's what a professional does. Signing here was such an honor for me that I have to do everything possible to be available every night."
Like management and the coaching staff, Satoransky is eager to see if the Bulls can get healthy and finish strong. Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. are trending towards a post-break return, while Markkanen also is due back at some point. Kris Dunn's status will be updated after the break.
"I'm the guy who is always positive and sets high goals. Obviously, the goal was the playoffs. We still have a chance, which is kind of crazy the way we haven't won against good teams. I'm still optimistic we have time for the playoff push when everybody becomes healthy," Satoransky said. "But I'm my biggest critic. I can play better and so can we."
Tomas Satoransky is staying positive amid conflicting season for Bulls originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago